But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
The book of Daniel is a difficult read, on dreams and of prophecies and of end time prophecies. However, Daniel also houses some of the most memorable stories in the Bible, especially in the early chapters of the book. King Nebuchadnezzar was an intelligent ruler. Daniel and his three friends were part of the first batch of captives from Judah – young, outstanding nobles, and joined the Babylonian equivalent of today’s Exchange Programme. They take you away from your home, give you a Babylonian education, call you by a Babylonian name, embed in you the Babylonian culture, feed you Babylonian delicacies, and sooner or later, you’ll become a Babylonian in spirit. In today’s study, we examine how Daniel made a choice when he had no choice and showed exercised his faithfulness to the Lord.
But Daniel – the context here is simple: The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table [Dan 1:5]. If it had been anyone else – even you or me, it would have been an amazing lifestyle. This was Daniel and his three friends’ first test of faith. The king’s delicacies! Daily! What more could one ask for? Most people wouldn’t even think about rejecting it. Most people wouldn’t even want to reject it. Good food was something people steal and kill for. Furthermore, besides the point that it was the king’s goodwill, and something that supposedly will definitely benefit them; it was the king’s orders! As much as King Nebuchadnezzar was a brilliant man and the most famous Babylonian king ever, he was also known for his viciousness. Defy me and die. You don’t go against the King’s orders, and certainly not when it was a reasonably good one. In other words, these young men, taken away from their families and their homeland, had absolutely no choice.
resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine – resolved. One word, but a world of difference. In a situation where he had absolutely no choice but to obey the king’s orders, Daniel thought about what’s most important first – God’s law is more important. Daniel had no problem with the Babylonian culture, education, and even name. God law had nothing on them – but it was specified what one could and couldn’t eat. Surely part of the king’s menu would have been things that the Jews were banned from eating, by law, back then. Surely Daniel can eat some of the other food though? While it’s obvious that much of the king’s delicacies would be meat and unclean food that goes against the law of Moses, which will defile Daniel by making him unclean as well; however, surely there must be food that’s on the safe list? We can infer that most of the king’s food was first offered to his god, Bel, before being served. Hence, even if it is food that Daniel can eat, he will be defiled anyway.
It was a situation of no choice, and yet they still made a choice. This is a breakthrough brought about by the clear understanding of God’s words. The word of God gives us the ability and power to make game-changing decisions. With God, there is certainly a way out. There are only two steps to Daniel’s secret of this personal victory:
Times will change, but God will not change [Mal 3:6]. Environment will change, but God is still here. Kings can have strong reigns, but God still reigns sovereign over them. Kingdoms die and people die, but God lives eternally. Drawing strength from the Lord, Daniel and his three friends were able to make this resolve. In fact, we must consider that this resolve was not made at that moment when they were tested, but long before that, before the test came, in good days.
and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way – Despite his resolve, Daniel still asked and pleaded. It wasn’t as if he resolved and everything just fell into place. Daniel ate the humble pie, and still took a humble approach. He didn’t get proud even though he knew that he had God on his side. He didn’t make a fuss, threaten to not eat, become obstinate and demanding over it. Instead, what he did was to rely on his faith to move forward, bit by bit; he proposed a way out, he negotiated with the chief official – with whom he had found favour with. Certainly not because he was good-looking, but most likely because of Daniel’s outstanding behaviour over time, which found favour in the eyes of his supervisors.
Many times in life we find ourselves being forced into situations where we have to do things that may betray our own principles. We often compromise, and later on we return to the Lord and beg for forgiveness. We lack Daniel’s resolve. We lack his faith, his faithfulness to the Lord. Sometimes when we face a problem, we simply look at the problem, and forget about God. Daniel did it the other way round. He first looked to God, and reminded himself of the Law, and hence he was able to overcome. Like Daniel and his three friends, may we find the courage to make choices in situations where we have no choice. That, is faith.