It may not be literal Babylon again, but there is a heathen world around us all. In fact, many would appreciate that it is not just around us, but is at times the very atmosphere of our schools, offices, and neighborhoods. Is it possible to stand and remain faithful under such pressing and ungodly influences? God’s Word provides examples of those who did. The account of Daniel’s early life especially reveals how one can be in the world but not of it.
Daniel could stand in a heathen culture, because he bowed before a greater Authority
It is interesting to consider that while the kings and many in Israel were far from God, there were young people with their eyes in His scrolls. At some young age Daniel committed and submitted himself to the God of Israel and His covenant laws. With God’s presence and Word before him, Daniel would have first stood faithful to God during the time of departure among his own people in his own land in the closing years of Jehoiakim’s reign. Daniel’s mind was made up and his convictions established in his formative years. God was with Daniel and Daniel knew this. Three times in Daniel 1 (vv2, 9, 17), events are directly attributed to God. Daniel saw God’s hand in the events in his life. No wonder he prayed faithfully and stood fearlessly in the face of kings and lions. In verse 2 (KJV) we read “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.” The Lord preserved Daniel at this tragic time for Judah and he was brought into the land of Babylon, but this preservation brought with it the trial not known by others who were left or lost: to remain faithful to God in a heathen land. How would Daniel and his friends respond as bondslaves in a foreign land? Daniel understood that God and His Word had not changed. As he honored Him in Judah, he would honor Him in Babylon. Daniel would fear God and honor the king – four kings in fact – over 70 years. As Daniel watched monarchs rise and fall, his ultimate allegiance to the eternal God was tested, proven, and was a preservative. Regimes changed and culture with it, but Daniel bowed to God and His Word.
Daniel could stand in a heathen culture because he moved within his own convictions
They no longer had the scrolls in their hands, but these young men had the scrolls in their heart. Convictions would not change as kingdom and culture did. God would not leave these men to stand alone. “Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (v9, KJV). It may be a person’s courtesy, abilities, and demeanor that are noticed, but it was God who brought Daniel into favor with this prince. This was grace to help in time of need, and Daniel’s resolve to be undefiled found an ally. Yet Daniel and these select students found themselves in perhaps a comfortable and opportune position in this new home into which they had been thrust. They had not just been preserved, but selected for higher and nobler service before the king. Theirs would be no mean servitude or bondage. Here were young men on the fast track to a place in this kingdom, but it would mean that they did what was expected and eat what was served. It was not what they would have chosen, of course, but didn’t God allow all this to happen? What’s an exiled Jew to do? Was there even any need to worry or wonder about defilement, with the temple in ruins and Israel scattered? This was now a future that was real, tangible, and visible to Daniel and to the other children of Judah. It wasn’t a distant hope in a promise made to former generations of his people. This was a personal and present opportunity for Daniel and his friends.
It may not be service for a king, but down through the ages and cultures opportunities have come to test the faithfulness of many. Moses could have chosen the pleasures of sin, and Esther the comfort of the palace alone. There were others, like Joseph, who were tested. What guides a Daniel when pressures and “opportunities” encourage worldly conformity? Daniel “purposed in his heart;” his convictions were firm, and set his course even in this potentially attractive time. It is interesting to notice that he abstains from both the king’s meat and wine. Both are substituted and the suggested diet has remarkable effects. At the end of 10 days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the youths which ate the king’s meat. Then, apparently, fatter was better (how cultures change!), so Melzar was happy and Daniel’s convictions and faith were rewarded. All this reveals another resource for the godly in this world.
Daniel could stand in a heathen culture because he strove for character and not image
Despite being torn from his home and forced into foreign service, Daniel’s attitude and aptitude were excellent. He was courteous to the servants and obviously applied himself in the three years of royal education. Whether with his companions, the king’s ministers, or later with other princes, all acknowledged an “excellent spirit was in him.” We are told, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (v17, KJV). Daniel’s grace and gift were apparent to all, and he was a valued counselor in each court he served. In Daniel’s case, kings were wise to give him rank and respect, which afforded him liberty in his principles (notably prayer) and the opportunity to influence instead of being influenced. Though envied at times, Daniel was preserved and was a testimony to the “Living God … steadfast forever.”
Daniel stood despite all the pressures brought to bear on him. He continued many years as kingdoms rose and fell around him. He is a God-given testimony to us that by grace we have the same resources, the same Scroll, and the same God to enable us to stand in our day.