Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday, February 28th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Leviticus 27; Psalm 43; Mark 15
Today's scripture focus is Daniel 1:9-20

Daniel 1:9-20

English Standard Version (ESV)
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel hadunderstanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: An Uncompromising Life, The Consequences of an Uncompromising Life Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying Ray Pritchard sermon: Dare to Be a Daniel

In today's passage we see Daniel's uncompromising life.
MacArthur: [the Babylonians] wanted these young men brainwashed and first they decided to change their names to cut them off from their heritage. And then they, of course, removed them from their country so that they wouldn't have any roots or connections there. They then wanted them to be educated and learned in all the Chaldean information. They wanted them to be attacked from every angle with Chaldean identification. And the final thing was to brainwash them by feeding them the food of the king so that their life style would become adapted to that of the palace of the pagans in Babylon. And that, of course, is where Daniel drew the line. Why? The Old Testament didn't say anything about taking a foreign name and the Old Testament didn't say anything about learning information from foreign teachers, but the Old Testament said - Don't eat food offered to idols and don't eat food that isn't properly prepared according to God's dietary laws for His people. And the bottom line for Daniel was the Word of God. And when eating the king's food violated the Word of God, because all of the food that was offered in the palace was, at one point, offered before the gods, Daniel couldn't do it and that's where he drew the line. He drew the line at the Word of God. This is true conviction. This is the character that is so admirable in Daniel. At a young age, he and his three friends, out of all of the 50 or 75 young men, and we don't know how many, but we only know four who took a stand. And later on when all of them appeared before the king, down in verse 18 and following, there were only four that the king noticed as different. The rest of them in this three year education had bought the bag, had eaten the king's meat, had adapted the life style, had become Chaldean and in so doing they had lost that unique place that God would have given had they been obedient to His law. And so, Daniel is a tremendous illustration of conviction, especially in a young man.

Living an uncompromising life requires unashamed boldness.  Daniel didn't beat around the bush, hem and haw, or try to come up with some lame excuse for not wanting to eat the King's food.  In v8 he straight up tells the chief eunuch that it would defile him.  That's boldness!  Do you and I speak up for God's standards with unashamed boldness?

Living an uncompromising life means rising to an uncommon standard.  God's standard was not to eat certain unclean foods, and not to eat meat that had been offered to idols.  Daniel went a step above and ate no meat at all.  He didn't meet the bare minimum, he didn't play around at the edges, he chose the highest standard he could - like leaders were called to do (priests, Nazarites, etc).  A cut above, an extra step that set him apart.

Taking such a stand often results in divine protection. You don't have to compromise to get what you want.  When we are uncompromising, we invite the protection of God himself.  And here He blesses Daniel for his uncompromising stance by granting him favour with the prince of the eunuchs.  Who would you rather have on your side - the king, or God who can control the heart of the king?  God will honour such uncompromising obedience.

An uncompromising person is persistent, they never give up.  Daniel does't give up when the chief of eunuchs nicely refuses his request.  He goes lower down the food chain (which is interesting!) and talks to the steward, who was less threatened by the king and was willing to grant Daniel's request.  Daniel didn't give up at the first sign of resistance, claiming "well, I tried".  He was persistent!

He also had unshakeable faith.  He knew God would come through for him on this.  Holiness produces somewhat a sense of invincibility - you trust that God will deliver.

Do you believe that if you live an absolutely uncompromising life, no matter who gets angry at you for taking such a firm stand, no matter who gets upset at you because you will not compromise, no matter how many people are offended for your lack of love-quote-, if you take your stand, God will honor it. Do you believe that? Do you believe that if you take your stand against sin and evil, God will fill your life with joy and happiness? Do you believe if you take your stand with honesty, God will fill your life with all those things you need for sustenance and support?
Well, if you really believe it then you won't compromise. You'll take God at His word. 

When you commit to taking such a stand, what usually happens?  It gets tested.  For Daniel the test was 10 days long.

And what did God do?
God poured out blessing. It's a tremendous thing, people, to realize this, but here brings together the two wonderful truths of God's sovereign blessing and man's total commitment. God blessed sovereignly when they were totally committed to live an uncompromising life. From their viewpoint, the whole thing depended on their own commitment...from God's viewpoint, the whole thing was entirely in His hands. You can't have one without the other....And so, God blessed them... immeasurably in knowledge and learning and wisdom.....Verse 21: "And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus." Seventy years...seventy years...and you know something? When I see Ezra chapter 1 and all the people going back to Jerusalem, you know who's behind that? Daniel. When I see the wise men coming from the east, I have to see lurking in the shadows...Daniel. God gave him influence...influence that led, I believe, to the decree of Cyrus to send the people back to their land. Influence that led to the rebuilding of the wall with Nehemiah. Influence that led to the reestablishing of the nation Israel. Influence that led the wise men to come to crown the King who was born in Bethlehem. He is behind the scenes of the history of the Messiah as well as the Messiah's people. He has an unlimited influence, for he it is who brings homage to the King who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, who reigns forever. Daniel has unlimited influence because Daniel has penned in his prophecy the history of the world till the reign of Christ

Do you think Daniel knew at the time how important that one decision would be?  I doubt it.  Our choices may very well impact the entirety of our lives! It may not have seemed so important at the time, but what Daniel decided changed the next 60-70 years of his life and, as MacArthur pointed out, influenced history to come.

Make no mistake, this was a hard decision.  This was tantamount to rebellion against the king.  He was truly risking his life over this.

But I like Pritchard's point...

You can always find an excuse when you don’t want to do right. But Daniel didn’t need an excuse. He had already decided to do right no matter what happened.

Verse 8 says that he “purposed in his heart” (KJV). That is, he made up his own mind. He couldn’t decide for anyone else, but he decided for himself what he would and would not do. And that changed everything. I don’t know if he tried to convince anyone else or not. It doesn’t matter. Daniel made up his mind, and his three closest friends decided to join him.....

The Babylonians could change everything—his diet, his location, his education, his language, even his name—but they couldn’t change his heart. Why? It belonged to God. When your heart truly belongs to God, you can go anywhere and face any situation and you’ll be okay. You can even live in Babylon and do just fine because your body is in Babylon but your heart is in heaven. So the question for all of us is, Where is your heart? Does it truly belong to God? Or is your heart fixed on the things of this earth?....

This story comes to an end on a very positive note. We discover in these verses that God always honors those who honor him. In this case the reward came very quickly. Often it takes much longer than that. And sometimes when we are faithful, our reward doesn’t come until we get to heaven.

I mention the timing because it’s possible to read this story and get the idea that every time we stand up for our convictions, we will be immediately rewarded. This passage proves that sometimes it does happen that way, but on this Sunday when we honor the Persecuted Church around the world, we ought to remember that God’s timing and ours are often quite different. In many parts of the world, our brothers and sisters are paying with blood for their faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

Therefore, I think it appropriate that we marvel at Daniel’s reward and also remember that God deals with us as individuals. Our call is to be faithful, knowing that in the end, whether on earth or in heaven, no one will ever regret standing up for Jesus.

Verse 17 informs us that God gave these four young men wisdom and understanding. That guaranteed they would stand out above their Jewish contemporaries and far above the Babylonians. Since cream rises, these four young men will soon find themselves in positions of enormous influence in a pagan government.

By the way, it’s important that we notice the order. First, the decision is made to stand up for what they believed. Second, God honored that decision. Third, God gave them wisdom and understanding. You can hardly ask God for wisdom while you are living in a state of spiritual compromise. Again, God honors those who honor him.

The world will always try to reprogram our thinking into society's worldview.  We need to decided in advance that we will be loyal to God.  We need to know His Word so that we will know where to draw the line, and we must not do what we know is wrong.

Monday's scripture focus: Daniel 2:1-30
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 1-2
Sunday's passage: Numbers 3-4
Monday's passage: Number 5-6, Psalm 44, Mark 16

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Good stuff! I especially liked the part in the Pritchard excerpt about your heart being in heaven.