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DANIEL, GOD’S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART 1)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
2 JULY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Preparation: (Luke 4:3-4)
3. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4. And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’ ”
Today we are going to embark on a somewhat different kind of spiritual
adventure from what we have been on before.
We are going to begin a journey that began some 2,600 years ago and is still not over, but one in which we can see the end.
However, it is also a journey that in many ways should reflect things about our own lives, for we have all been called to be God's ambassadors in the field.
We are not to sit back and let God or others do everything.
We are to help make this a more loving, compassionate, and peaceful world for
the whole of creation (every other human being, every other animals, and the
environment in which we all live).
This journey was given to the prophet Daniel, who was God’s man in the field during all of the Babylonian captivity and part of Mede and Persian captivity – and, as we said, this journey is similarly given to us through the words recorded in our Bible.
The Jewish theologians didn’t recognize the Book of Daniel as a prophetic writing, but rather as just one of the writings; but as we shall see, it is most definitely prophetic.
Jesus Himself spoke of the importance of Daniel's prophetic message, as He was explaining the signs of the end of the age.
Note what He said as recorded in Matthew 24:15:
15. “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) ...
Then Jesus goes on to explain what those who see this should do; but for our purpose here and now, let it be sufficient for us to understand that Jesus wanted us to understand that Daniel was a prophet to whom we are to listen.
In the year 605 B.C.E. during the reign of Jehoiakim, Daniel, as a youth, was one of
the remnant of Judah who believed in God. This was when Nebuchadnezzar came to
besiege Jerusalem, and shortly thereafter Daniel was led away into captivity in
Babylon as one of the hostages.
God protects those who love and obey Him; even if it isn't in the way that we
think He should protect us.
The Israelites didn’t obey God; thus God removed their protection in order to get them to come back to Him. But they still didn’t respond, so He sent other nations to remove them from their land.
To really understand what is taking place, do your best to place yourself in the lives and times we will be looking at.
Let’s begin by going back 2,600 years to the year 605 BC, and see what is taking place. We will begin at chapter 1 verse 1 of the Book of Daniel:
1. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
2. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.
Not only has God given Israel and Judah into the hand of their enemy, but now he has removed the symbols of His presence in the land. The vessels of the temple, with which the people served the Lord, are being removed.
This act was to finally show the people that God had had enough.
And as I look around the world today, with all its violence, suffering, death, corruption, and injustice, I wonder if God is again nearing that point of having enough.
This act was also a symbol of power for the Babylonians, for it represented to them that their god had power over God.
And we see people in this world, today, that seem to think that they are also above God.
We know that there is only one God; but even today most people in the world live their lives not recognizing Him and going after other so-called gods, such as money and power.
But just as God was preserving His remnant of believers in Babylon, in the plain of Shinar, He is also preserving the vessels of the Temple; and we shall see this protectiveness further on in our study of this book.
And even though many of the vessels were used for animal sacrifices, we will see that this is not God's desire.
3. Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles,
4. youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.
The order given to Ashpenaz had a two-fold effect: it gave an opportunity for the saving of the youth, and it would also set godly people in the court of Nebuchadnezzar.
It is obvious that the hand of God was in this action, for it fulfilled a prophecy given by Isaiah many years before.
Note what it says in Isaiah 39:7 as prophesied to King Hezekiah:
7. ‘And some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ ”
Unless we read the entire Bible, we could not completely understand this portion of the Book of Daniel and understand the ways of our Lord.
God sees the beginning and the end of everything.
Our vision is limited, but we can see much more if we begin to think and reason as God shows us He thinks and acts.
And what we see unfolding here is a very important lesson for us all.
Even if everyone around us has turned away from God, we should stand fast and
hold to what we know to be God’s heavenly will, which has no place for pain,
suffering, death or corruption, and He will do what is best.
5. And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service.
What is being offered to these captive youths is more than the common Chaldeans had, and they could not come into the presence of the king as these youths will shortly be able to come.
6. Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
7. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed-nego.
It was not uncommon in Middle Eastern custom to change the name of someone when they were entering a new life.
God Himself changed the name of Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Jacob
But what is interesting to note is the fact that each of these Hebrew youths had Hebrew names that referred to our true God, and that they had their names changed to ones that referred to a false god of the Chaldeans.
But it doesn’t matter what name we are given on the outside, if the name of our Lord is on the inside.
And when it is, God will take care of us.
Hymn 47 – God Will Take Care of You
Yes, outwardly it appears that God has taken care of everything for the captives; but is everything that is happening from God?
Remember that God is consistent in everything. He does not say something at
one time and then tell us the opposite at another time.
Daniel knew this, and he probably weighed everything that was happening
according to God’s word, just as we are about to see beginning at verse 8:
8. But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
Much of what was in the king’s food was probably against the dietary laws handed down through Moses, and Daniel knew in his heart that God was not changing His mind.
Peter had a similar problem in Acts chapter 10, when he was being sent by God to preach the Gospel to Cornelius and those gathered with him.
The Lord knew that Peter would not eat with Cornelius, or even enter his home, and that this would cause a stumbling block to be placed between them; thus He showed him in a vision that he was to eat with him.
In the case with Peter and Cornelius, the Gospel was more important than the form.
However, this would not have been a problem for Daniel, the Chaldeans, Peter, or Cornelius, if they all ate plant foods according to God original and heavenly intent.
But in the case with the Babylonians, standing firm in the word of God was more important; for they believed in their false god and that it had conquered God and His people.
Cornelius was seeking God and was covered by His grace.
Furthermore, Cornelius’ food would not be sacrificed to idols as would the food of the king of Babylon.
The Chaldeans were not seeking God, thus the power of God had to be shown to them; and in this knowledge, Daniel stood firm.
9. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials,
Notice that it wasn't Daniel who had to beg for a favor.
God had put into the heart and mind of the commander the thought that he should grant favor to Daniel’s request.
God will do most of the work, if we would just learn and truly desire to live in His will.
10. and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.”
Man’s fear of fellow man is greater than his fear of God.
Daniel recognized this and set a test that he knew that God would honor.
11. But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,
12. “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13. “Then let our appearance be observed in your presence, and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.”
To the Chaldeans this request must have sounded foolish. Why would anyone refuse the king’s food?
Yet the request was reasonable, for in ten days there could be no harm done; but if this diet was better, as Daniel had suggested, then it would be noticeable.
But the key was not just the diet.
The key was that God was showing the Chaldeans that the food and drink sacrificed to idols could not do any more for them than the pure, undefiled food of God’s creation and, in fact, the king’s food would do less for them, and could actually do harm.
14. So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days.
15. And at the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food.
16. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.
Most of the youths seem to have gone along with eating and drinking what was provided for them by the king.
They were very much like the members of most of the churches today.
They think it is easier to go along with the mass of people, than to make a firm stand for God.
Next week we will see the added blessings of this obedience of Daniel and his friends.
In the meantime, listen to what we are told in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13:
1. For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2. and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3. and all ate the same spiritual food;
4. and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
For those who love Him and follow His commandments, God provides of Himself all which is good and desirable.
5. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
Following along with the ways of the world may seem expedient at the time,
but we will always end up with less in the end.
6. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.
Sure the food that was offered to Daniel and his friends looked like the food we will find in fine restaurants. It was being offered to the king, wasn’t it?
But they knew that partaking of it would defile their witness, for they would
have appeared the same as all of the idolaters of Babylon.
7. And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.”
8. Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
9. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.
10. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
11. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Yes, my beloved, these things were written for us, each and every one of us; and unless we read what is written for us, it will do us no good.
12. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
13. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.
Daniel knew this more than six hundred years before Paul wrote it.
He knew it because he sought God and His word.
And we will know the same thing, if we stand firm upon Jesus Christ and His word.