Follow Daniel’s God

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. (Daniel 1:8)

Daniel’s choice to refuse King Nebuchadnezzar’s food and eat only vegetables is a well-known story. It is popular in Sunday school, and now it’s gaining notoriety as adults participate in “Daniel Fasts”. Last term, I was asked to talk to Year 7 students about integrity, and I decided to speak from Daniel 1. As I prepared to share with them, I saw something new that was a blessing to me. But first, let’s set the scene.

In Daniel 1:1-7 we learn how Daniel ended up in King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace—the story is pretty grim. He came from the tribe of Judah, where he had enjoyed high status as a member of the royal family or nobility. Then, everything changed. Judah was unfaithful to God, and so God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to besiege Jerusalem. God’s temple was destroyed, and sacred items were taken to the temple of an idol. Daniel, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were selected to go to Nebuchadnezzar’s palace—separated from their community. This must have involved significant suffering; I can’t fully imagine what Daniel saw and experienced. All of this was happening when Daniel was a young man, some scholars suggest he was around 17 years old.

So I asked myself, what could make a young man choose the difficult path of standing up for his beliefs at a time like this? His choice to ask for a different diet was difficult not only because he was forsaking delicious food but also because it carried the significant risk that he would be punished for his request. He could have been consumed by bitterness or anger towards God—why should he suffer for God when God had allowed him to experience so much pain? He could have been consumed by fear—having seen what the Babylonians had already done, he could have been in little doubt about what punishments could face him. He could easily have justified ignoring his conscience—he wouldn’t normally do this, but these were not normal times.

Living in cultures that do not respect God, we, too, have choices to make. Are we going to compromise and remain silent in the face of opposition—abandoning the word of God or silencing our God-given conscience? What about the children and youth in our church—how can they stand for Truth when surrounded by a hostile culture?

These were the questions I was asking as I reflected on how Daniel, at such a young age, was able to stand for truth and exercise wisdom in the process. As I did further study, I came across something that excited me: the meaning of the names of Daniel and his friends. I think these names hold the secret to their choices.

  • Mishael means “Who is what God is?” (God is unique, no one can compare),
  • Daniel means “God is my judge,”
  • Azariah means “God has helped,” and
  • Hananiah means “Yah has been gracious.”

I think it is no coincidence that the four friends had names that point to the gospel. Despite all the pain, defeat, and suffering, Daniel and his friends recognised that no one could compare to God—He is holy. God was greater than the Babylonians and King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel and his friends realised that God, not humans, was their final judge. Their healthy fear of God exceeded their fear of people—allowing them to stand for what was right despite the risk. Daniel and his friends also knew that God had and would help them. They knew God was not far off but the rescuer of His people. They knew that God was gracious—He would not abandon them despite the unfaithfulness of their tribe, Judah. It was this God they were willing to live for and rely on in the midst of opposition.

Sometimes, we hear people encourage others to “be like Daniel.” In some ways, this is fine—as much as Daniel reflects Christ, we can imitate Daniel. However, as I spoke to middle schoolers, I was excited to challenge them to follow Daniel’s God—to know this amazing God and look to Him for the strength they need to live with integrity in a culture full of opposition. It is the gospel that saves and strengthens us—our holy God, who has the authority to judge us, has chosen instead to help us and show His grace—this is our source of hope and strength!

How is this amazing gospel helping you to face your challenges and to stand for Truth?

By Jude M