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Sunday, June 2, 2019

posted Jun 2, 2019, 4:02 PM by Site Administrator



Daniel 1:1-21 

Key Verse 1:8


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.


We thank God for granting us this chance to study the book of Daniel. Daniel lived in a very tumultuous generation - super power nations - Egypt and Assyria were crumbling down, Babylon was rising, his own country was about to be destroyed, and he himself was a captive in a foreign land. It was very confusing, and at the same time, it was very dangerous. The key theme of the book of Daniel is that while, on the surface of human history, kingdoms rise and wane, the history of the kingdom God establishes, the kingdom of God Jesus established through his death on the cross and resurrection, continues on quietly and steadily like the deep current of the fluctuating oceans - it never stops, but ever grows and increases until it covers the whole world - this is the kingdom that will never end. Daniel's life resembles this ever steady and ever increasing kingdom the book itself is talking about. While the world politics was fluctuating, while kingdoms came and were gone, Daniel remained the same serving so many kings and empires - 7 kings of Babylon, Darius of the Medes, and Cyrus of Persia, as a high ranking government officer. It was because he was serving God. Through studying the book of Daniel, let's pray that we may come to have the sense of history of this everlasting kingdom as its citizens; also, let's pray that we may learn from Daniel of his life of faith so that we too, can live as influential and reliable people of God in this very rapid changing and fluctuating world. 


First, “The Lord delivered Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar” (1-2). Look at verses 1 and 2. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. "In the third year of Jehoiakim king of Judah" was 605 B.C. In 612 B.C., the Babylonians conquered Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, but the Assyrian empire, with the help of the Egyptian empire, settled in Haran, modern day Syria; of course, if the Assyrian Empire was destroyed, then, the balance of power in the Palestine would be gone, so the Egyptian Empire supported the Assyrian Empire. Since then, there was war between the Babylonian Empire and the Assyrian Empire in Haran. The Egyptian army under their Pharaoh Neco, was on their way to Haran to join in this battle. They asked Josiah, king of Judah for permission to pass through the territory of Judah, but he rejected it; instead, he marched against them and fought in the plain of Meggido, and Josiah was killed (609 BC). People buried him and appointed Johoahaz, son of Josiah king and he reigned three months. Three months later, Neco Pharaoh of Egypt put him in chains in the land of Hamath, imposed on Judah a levy of 100 talent of silver and one talent of gold. Pharaoh took Eliakim son of Josiah king and changed his name to Jehoiakim, and carried off Jehoahaz to Egypt, and there he died. In 605 B.C., the two Empires had the final battle near Carchemish in Haran, on the banks of the Euphrates, and the Babylonians under the leadership of their crown prince Nebuchadnezzar, defeated them; thus, the Assyrian Empire was gone forever, and Neco was also defeated; at this battle, the Babylonians killed all the Egyptian soldiers that not even one soldier escaped to his own country. Since then the Egyptian Empire never came out of its territory again, losing its influence in the Palestine area. 


The same year, Nebuchadnezzar was enthroned, and in that ascension year, he marched out against the Palestine area - that was "the third year" of Jehoiakim king of Judah. At that time, Jehoiakim surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and became his vassal, and Nebuchadnezzar took some of the people of Judah to Babylon - it was the first deportation (605 BC), and among them was Daniel. Jehoiakim remained faithful to Nebuchadnezzar for three years. In 601 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar mustered his troop and marched to Egypt, and there, both armies suffered losses. When Jehoiakim heard this, he changed his mind and rebelled against the Babylonian Empire, despite Jeremiah’s warning. Then, Nebuchadnezzar and his army came to Jerusalem and besieged it, and the people of Judah fought against them. Around the end of 598 B. C., Jehoiakim died, and his son Jehoiachin succeeded him as king and reigned for three months and ten days. In 597 B.C., the city fell in the hands of the Babylonians. The Babylonians removed all the treasures from the Jerusalem temple and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles of the temple. Jehoiachin was taken to Babylon, together with many other officers and leading men, fighting men, strong and fit for war, and craftsmen and artisans - among them was Ezekiel. That was the second deportation. And Nebuchadnezzar made MattaniahJehoachin's uncle king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah (2Ki 24). 8 years later, at Zedekiah's rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. The city was kept under siege, and in 586 B.C., the city was captured, and the Babylonians destroyed the Jerusalem walls, the temple, killed many, and took most of people to Babylon - that was the third deportation. Thus, the first temple period was over, and the monarchy in Israel ended. That was the beginning of the exile in Babylon, which lasted for 70 years until the temple was rebuilt in 516 B.C. as Jeremiah, the prophet, had prophesied. 


It was God's temple; it was God's people. Then, why did such a tragedy happen to Judah, God's chosen people? Why should God's temple be desecrated by the Gentiles like this? It was not because of their failure in politics that instead of allying with the Babylonians, they allied with the Egyptians. Daniel 1:2 shows that it was God who delivered Jehoiakim into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Why then, did God let his own people, his own temple be destroyed? 


God said to Jeremiah the prophet, "When you tell these people all this and they ask you, 'Why has the LORD decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the LORD our God?' 11then say to them, 'It is because your fathers forsook me,' declares the LORD, 'and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. 12But you have behaved more wickedly than your fathers. See how each of you is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying me. 13So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.' (Jer 16:10-13) Their sin was "following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying God.How easy it is to go by our own desires and plans, instead of carefully obeying God’s commands! That’s what the people of Judah did, while calling God, “the Lord our God.” As God-believing people, when they did so, they felt guilty, but they kept on doing it. That was the stubbornness of following their evil heart instead of obeying God. What is important in our Christian life is to live the life of keeping God’s commands. Jesus says that those who have God’s commands and obey them are those who love him. We must not just do some Christian things; we must not just offer a lip service to God, saying, “I love the Lord,” or “I believe in Jesus.” We must not insist our own desires and plans. Instead, we must obey God, denying our own dreams and desires, and doing what God wants us to do. That’s the real Christian life.


God also points out another reason in Jeremiah 17:19-27God had Jeremiah stand at the gates of Jerusalem and deliver a message. Jeremiah shouted, "This is what LORD says: Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers.... 27But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.'" It is very interesting that God specifically points out that because they had not kept the Sabbath day holy, he would bring such disasters on them. God is not legalistic or religious. But then, why? This was just one example showing what kind of attitude they had toward God - so casual ignoring God's words in their convenience. They ignored God's commands and took them casually in their convenience; they didn't show any reverence to God. When they did so, they thought that they would make more money, but they didn't know that once they didn't keep the Sabbath day holy, they would be destroyed. We live in the Post-Modern Era; people deny anything absolute, but take everything relatively - no absolute truth, but whatever you feel right, it is right. In this environment, even Christians take relativistic attitude toward God, and one symptom is their relativistic attitude in keeping Sunday worship service. To many people, their family gathering is above God's Sabbath law - so they conveniently arrange their time of worship around their family gathering; to many others, their trip schedule is more important than keeping the Sabbath holy; even churches have worship service on Saturdays or early morning Sunday so that people can go to golf after quick worship service. Even many people these days refuse to come to church for worship service, saying that they have worship service online. But we must heed God's warning here; Sunday worship service is our life line; if anyone does not keep the Sunday worship service, he dies. 


In Jeremiah 2:20-23, God shows us why they wanted idols than God. "Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, 'I will not serve you!" Fundamentally, they considered God's laws and regulations, their duties and due respects to God such as the Sabbath laws and offerings as something burdensome like a yoke. At this message, some of them protested, saying, "I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals." Because they never openly said, "I deny God," or because they never said, "I am a Baal worshiper," they thought that they had not denied God. But God said to them, "See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there." Their practical life showed that they were looking for satisfaction and happiness in something else than God. Their practical life, what they did in their day to day life spoke more loudly than their motion of worship or empty words of faith. Because of these sins, God was going to destroy Judah.


They say that history repeats; what happens today has already happened before. It is because people do not learn a lesson from history. We must learn a lesson from the failure of Judah so that such a tragic thing may not happen to us. Don’t follow the stubbornness of your evil heart; instead, live the life of keeping God’s commands, being careful to do what God wants you to do. Keep the Sunday worship service holy. Don’t consider such duties and responsibilities you have as God’s people as a burden; instead, do all those things out of thanks and love for God.  


Second, "Daniel resolved not to defile himself" (3-21).Look at verses 3 through 5. 3Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service. As a politician, Nebuchadnezzar was very wise. He had a vast empire to rule and the ruling strategy he took was appeasement, giving the conquered people a chance to work for the empire and be successful. He had many young, smart, talented, and even handsome people from Israel be enrolled in the best national university with the full scholarship from the government and let them learn the language and literature of the Babylonians, and serve the empire. He would rule the empire through them. When their own people ruled them, people would feel more comfortable and not show too much hatred against the Empire. Moreover, young men from many different countries under the Babylonian Empire would strive to be successful in Babylon - simply, they would become Babylonians. Now, these young men were given such a great chance for success in the super power nation. After three years' curriculum, they would enter the king's service, working at the White House. It seemed that their future was now really promising in the land of captivity. 


Among them were some people from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah, Shadrach, to Mishael, Meshach, and to Azariah, Abednego. The name, "Daniel," means, "God is my judge," but the new name "Belteshazzar," means "Bel, "another name for the major Babylonian god Merodach," protects the king." It was terrible for Daniel to lose his godly name and was given such a disgusting idolatrous name involuntarily. The name, "Hananiah" means, "gift of God," but the name "Shadrach," means, "servant of Sin," a Babylonian god. The name, "Mishael" means, "Who is equal to God?", but the new name, "Meshach" means, "Who is like Aku, a Babylonian Moon god?" Azariah means "Yahweh has helped," but the new name, "Abednego," means, "servant of Nebo, a Babylonian god." These four young men were zealous for God, but they were given such disgusting idol-related names; it was great disgrace; it was really painful. But as captives in a foreign land, there was nothing they could do. They had to swallow the sense of humiliation. Now, as this name change showed, the intention of the government was clear: they didn't just want to give these young talented Israelites a chance for success in the Babylonian Empire. Instead, the government intended to destroy their national identity as God's chosen people and make them Babylonians. Babylon was like a melting pot, in which all kinds of people lost their identity, but just struggled to survive and secure their life. It seemed that these Jewish young people had no other choice but to become Babylonians losing their identity as God's chosen people, because they were helpless captives in a foreign land and because they had to survive first. Yet, Daniel came up with his heart’s resolution. Look at verse 8. Let's read this verse together: 


8But 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 royal food was offered to their god, Merodach first, for the protection and blessing of the royal family, and then, was given to them. Such food that was sacrificed to the idol was defiled, and thereby, was not proper for any God-believing people to eat. “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Already, his country was destroyed; his name was changed into such a disgusting name; he could not keep the Sabbath day holy; he could not bring sacrifices to God; he could not keep the laws in a foreign land; it seemed that the survival was the most important thing in that foreign land. Yet, what did it mean for him not to defile himself? The expression “not to defile himself” came in regard to his relationship with God. Even when he had lost everything, even when he could not keep the Sabbath or other laws, even when there was no place for worship, he still wanted to keep his identity as a God-worshiper; he wanted to keep his purity before God. In that way, when the challenges of the world came to him like the tsunami of worldly success and temptation, he was determined not to be swept away by it, but to remain as a God-worshiper. Out of this desire, what did he do? Did he scream at the king, saying, “I serve God alone, not you”? Or did he refuse to go to the palace saying that it was an evil place? Or did he try to evangelize the Babylonian Empire, saying that they must keep the laws? Or did he fast 40 days? Or did he memorize the five books of Moses so that whenever people talked to him, he would respond with Bible verses? No. He didn’t do such things. Instead, he decided not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. Basically, it was a small decision that instead of eating the gourmet food, he would eat vegetables and drink water. But it was his whole hearted struggle to not be blown away by the challenges and temptations of the world, but to remain as a God-worshiper. 


Daniel lived during a very difficult and tumultuous time; the world history was fluctuating. He too could have melted in Babylon like so many others. But he fought all challenges and difficulties with this small decision – not to defile himself with food. It was a small decision; just he would be a vegetarian. But when he kept this one thing absolutely, this one small decision enabled him to overcome all challenges and temptations in Babylon and to remain as a worshiper of God. Moreover, God saw his sincerity and accepted his decision and established him as a very useful, effective and inspirational leader for his purpose. Surely, with this small decision, he overcame the world and grew up as a spiritual giant. 


In AD 70, Jerusalem was destroyed and all the Israel people were scattered throughout the surface of the earth - they were even not allowed to visit Jerusalem for the next 300 years. And wherever they went, they were persecuted by everyone. But still, they remained as the Jews - one people. All other nations were gone long ago, without leaving any trace - Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans,... But the Jews have remained as the Jews. So, people asked the Jews for their secret of survival. Then, a Jewish Rabbi said, "When we kept the Sabbath absolutely, the Sabbath kept us." Keeping the Sabbath was their life line, and as they held on to it absolutely wherever they were, they could keep their identity as the Jews.


America is known as a Christian country; but many pastors already say that America is not a Christian country any longer; the general environment in the society is not spiritual at all; as a result, at school, people cannot talk about the creation, but everyone, even Christians must study hard the evolution theory as truth, memorize all the terms and expressions and its logic to gain good grades - it is real disgrace for all the believers. At school, students are taught homo sexuality as an alternative lifestyle, and talking against it is prohibited. The whole society promotes and suggests that luxury and pleasures are the most important thing in life. All the students pursue such things. At work, during lunch, everyone is talking about their career matter, better jobs, relationships and happy family dream. Then, after establishing their career successfully, they talk about retirement plan, investment, and travelling. They do important sports games during Sundays, and people are demanded to work on Sundays. Moreover, Satan works hard to catch young people with lust and immorality through internet. Surely, the enemy works hard to destroy our identity as God-worshipers. As Christians are not aware of all these challenges and attacks from the enemy, they come to lose their identity as believers of God slowly and steadily, and later, in their life, we cannot smell the fragrance of Christ at all. They live their lives just like all other people in the world do, and there is no difference, except they go to church once a week, or they sometimes, say that they believe in Jesus. Indeed, America is a melting pot. 


In this situation, how can we keep our identity as God-worshipers? How can we keep the purity of our faith before God? Daniel's resolution is a good example for us to follow. Maybe, there are not that many things we can do - we cannot tell all the companies to take Sundays off, or all the sports teams not to have sports games on Sundays; we cannot change the school system and laws so that students can only study the creation of God; surely, what we can do is limited in the given situation. But we can make our heart's own personal resolution to keep ourselves pure before God; we can make a small decision before God. One young man resolved not to lazily surf on the web - in that way, he wants to live a pious life before God. One sister cut her hair short with a decision that she would not live as a girl looking for boys, but as a shepherdess for God’s flock. A shepherd, as his work load increased, made a decision to eat daily bread first in the morning. Another shepherd made a decision to eat lunch quickly and then read the Bible instead of chitchatting with his coworkers about retirement plan, investment and travelingLet’s pray that we all may show our true integrity as people of God and overcome the world.


Daniel’s decision was small, but when he had absoluteness toward it, it became a big matter. Now he had to tell the chief official about his decision. The chief official received this direction from the king directly; he was really a high rankingofficial with authority. And the food was given to them by the king - it was great privilege. So, everyone should have accepted it with thanks. But now Daniel had to explain to the chief official that the food was defiled, and that he didn't want to defile himself with that food. Simply, Daniel told the chief official that the food the king gave him was not acceptable and that he didn't want to eat it; it was really a dangerous challenge. The chief official might say to him in anger, "How dare you,...?" and kill him. What about his promising future? Maybe, because of this challenge, Daniel might lose all the privileges and be kicked out of the palace. The risk was too high. But still Daniel asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself with the royal food. It was a small decision, but when he made it before God, now it was the matter of life and death - even if he would lose everything, his promising future, and even his life, he would keep it. At this, God intervened into the situation, and caused the chief official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel. What kind of favor and sympathy did the chief official show him? The chief official did not get mad at Daniel, but had pity on him, saying, "You suffer too much in this foreign land." But still, he rejected his request, because he was afraid that if the king found this, he might lose his life. Not killing him, not getting angry at him, and graciously rejecting his request – that was his favor upon Daniel. We can see how great the danger was for Daniel to ask the chief official not to defile himself with the royal food.


But Daniel still didn't give up. He then, asked the guard whom the chief official had appointed over him and his three friends to give them only vegetables and water for ten days and compare them with those who ate the royal food. Again, God intervened and the guard accepted this challenge. For ten days, Daniel and his three friends ate vegetables and water, while all other people ate the royal food and drank wine. At the end of ten days Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. 


Look at verse 17. Let's read this verse together:


17To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.


As they struggled to keep the purity of their faith before God, God also helped them with knowledge and understanding. Simply, God made them very brilliant and smart; as a result, during the three years' curriculum, they got all A's, and acquired PhDs in Babylonian literature and Politics. This is how we can become successful in the world. As we serve God wholeheartedly, and as we struggle to keep the purity of our faith before God, God makes us more wise and insightful than our teachers that we come to understand the school subjects better than our professors. Because of God's help, we come to graduate with good grades and acquire degrees. Glory be to God! 


Then, after three years' curriculum was over, the time for interview with the king had come. The chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. They were chosen to work at the White house, while others were to work at local offices. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. 


When we make our heart's resolution not to defile ourselves with things of this world, when we mean it, God accepts our resolution and blesses us. 2Chronicles 16:9 proclaims, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." When he finds such people whose hearts are fully committed to him, he is happy andhelps them and strengthens them so that they can live according to their heart's resolution. May God bless us to come up with a heart’s sincere resolution to live before him and not to defile ourselves with the things of this world. 


One Word:Daniel Resolved Not To Defile Himself