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Deep Dive into Daniel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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-Let me read a historical summary that is not original to me, but I though that it was very poignant:
Neville Chamberlain was known for his policy of appeasement. As the prime minister of Britain before World War II, he knew that the country was still weary from the first World War, and wanted to avoid a European war at all costs. The problem was that at the same time Hitler was planning to overrun Europe, including Britain. Chamberlain did not want Britain to have to confront Hitler and his army, so in September of 1938 he reached an agreement with Hitler that resulted in the Munich Pact. Italy and France joined Britain in agreeing to surrender parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany in return for Hitler’s agreement not to invade any other European countries. Chamberlain confidently came home proclaiming, “Peace in our time.” They really believed that by giving into Hitler’s demands he would stop, or limit, his aggression. And, at that point, America was standing back hoping the whole thing would go away. But Hitler arrogantly ignored the pact, taking most of Czechoslovakia and invading Poland. It became obvious that France and Britain were in his sights as well. The Munich Pact is now a universal symbol of the failure of the policy of appeasement.
-You see, the problem was that these people actually thought that evil could be reasoned with. They thought that if you compromise just a little bit, then evil will leave you alone. But it didn’t. It constantly will try to gain new ground. And that is what I think so many Christians think. If I give in a little bit here and a little bit there evil will leave me alone. If I give in to some of evil’s demands now, it will make things better in the long run. But it never will. Evil will not stop unless people stand strong against it.
-Let’s bring it even more to our day and age. Some Christians might think that if we concede on the abortion issue, then maybe we can accomplish a greater good down the road. If we concede to LGBTQ demands now, then maybe we can salvage some things down the road—they’ll just stop where they’re at, they won’t ask greater perversions to be accepted. That’s not the way it works. We can’t compromise on the public level to these things. But neither can we compromise on the personal level—thinking that if we personally give in then we can stop greater evils.
-Daniel and the boys ran into this. King Nebuchadnezzar had brought them to Babylon in the first wave of the captivity, and was training them to be part of his bureaucracy. Not that in and of itself working for the Babylonian government would be a bad thing. God can use His people anywhere. The problem was Nebuchadnezzar was trying to get Babylon into the hearts of these boys—meaning he was trying to take away their identity in God so they would find their identity in Babylon, it’s king, and it’s gods. He wanted the captives to compromise who they were in God and what they believed. How would they respond?
Daniel 1:8–16 ESV
8 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. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
-I first want you to see that we have to resolve in our hearts that we will not compromise in any area of our faith. It has to be something that we settle in our hearts before the temptation to compromise comes upon us. Our passage said that Daniel resolved he would not defile himself. But to make this resolution here, he had to resolve to follow God and His Word long before this point.
-To understand a little that is going on here, in the verses before this passage, it said that these trainees were being fed food that was served to the king himself. From a purely aesthetic standpoint it would have been the best of the best food. But there was something about it that would have caused Daniel and the boys to compromise their faith in some way. Now, the passage does not specifically tell us what it is. However, we could take an educated guess that it either involved food that was unclean according to Jewish law and/or it included food that was offered to idols or somehow connected to idol worship. Or possibly they didn’t drain the blood out properly.
-Whatever the case may be, they were in some way asked to compromise their commitment to their God, but Daniel didn’t do it because he had already resolved that he would not do it. It was already a boundary that he had set up for himself. He may have thought that he would be good with trying to get along in his new environment, but he would not break God’s law or bow the knee to an idol. God’s Word said what it said, and he was going to abide by it.
-Dr. Stephen Miller names several reasons why this was such a courageous act:
Daniel ((1) Daniel’s Decision (1:8))
(1) To refuse the royal diet could have been taken as an insult to the king and as an act of direct disobedience to Nebuchadnezzar’s orders. (2) Pressure from Daniel’s peers most certainly made the decision difficult. Everyone else was doing it. By choosing this course of action, Daniel and his friends were setting themselves apart from the others. Now they were different, strange. (3) Such unorthodox behavior could have jeopardized their chances for advancement. (4) The quality of food would have been attractive. It was the best in the land. (5) Their new location may have tempted them to be unfaithful. Judah was nine hundred miles away; parents and friends would never know whether or not they kept God’s laws. Yet Daniel and his friends were aware of a very important fact. Other people might not know their actions, but God would know, and someday all will give an account of themselves to him. (6) It would have been natural to argue that since God had not protected them from captivity—this horrible situation—they did not have to be careful to obey his commands. They could have become bitter toward God during this time. Sometimes believers fall into this trap. All of these factors could have caused some people to compromise, but Daniel and his friends remained faithful to their God.
-So, here is the principle. They resolved to follow God’s Word no matter what. And you have to think that the consequences were going to be dire. If he refused what the king said, it could lead to his death. But Daniel stood strong in the pressure to compromise. Are we going to resolve to do the same? Will we settle in our hearts right now that, come what may, we are going to honor God by following His commands no matter the circumstance that we find ourselves in or the consequences we might face? The earthly consequences pale in comparison to the spiritual consequences that we would face should we choose to compromise.
-Now, a second principle to consider here is to act gracefully when standing on your convictions. You notice how Daniel made his convictions known. He didn’t stage a protest. He didn’t go on social media and air out all his complaints. He didn’t cuss out the king or the government. He respectfully made known his concern to the chief eunuch, and then he offered an alternative that allowed him to follow his convictions and yet still accomplish what they were trying to accomplish. They stood strong within the system, without completely acting against the system.
-Dr. W. A. Criswell shared one time, saying:
Daniel: The Man of Loyalty (1. The Courtesy in the Proclaiming)
“I remember one time that a dedicated, gifted theologian said to me, ‘It is a tragedy that the men who are the most fundamental are for the most part most caustic, rasping, and brackish in their spirit.’ Is not that a shame? That firmness turns into obstinacy, and commitment turns into bigotry, and a great devotion turns into cantankerousness? That is a tragedy. Of all the people in the world who ought to be gracious, loving, kind, and generous, they ought to be the people who love God the most.”
-I guess to add in a phrase that seems to be one of my catchphrases around here—you can hold on to your convictions, you can refuse to compromise, but you don’t have to be a jerk about it. Here’s the thing, when you stand strong on your convictions but do it in a winsome and loving way, you gain a hearing and consideration. Because of the way Daniel approached the chief eunuch, he listened to Daniel and eventually agreed to put Daniel’s idea to the test. A more theologically accurate way of saying this is that by standing strong but doing it in a loving way, God gave Daniel grace in the eyes of those around him. God will not give His children grace in the eyes of others if they are acting like loud-mouthed jerks.
-We want people to hear the good news of Jesus Christ, but they won’t listen if we are jerks in person or jerks on social media. Why would they want to listen about a great Savior whose people then just turn out to be some of the meanest, orneriest people on earth. Where’s the new heart after being born again? Most definitely stand strong on Scriptural belief, but do it as salt and light, not vinegar or pickle juice.
-A third principle is that the strong stand you take on your convictions can help encourage others to do the same. You notice that because Daniel so resolved in his heart and took his stand in a bold but loving way, it encouraged Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to do the same. They were able to help each other out and lift each other up, and together they resolved to obey God.
-And we have to wonder if our strong stand and the way we take that strong stand will do the same. Will the way we live for God encourage others to a holy life? Will the way we articulate ourselves peek the interest of others in the truths of the gospel? Will the way that we stand strong encourage other Christians to follow suit.
-It is so easy for people to think that they are all alone in the battle, but when they see other people standing strong they will gain the confidence and courage to do the same. Wouldn’t you like to be a leader in that?
-And then we see how God blessed them because of their obedience and the stand that they took
Daniel 1:17–21 ESV
17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
-In no way does this mean that we will always be earthly rewarded for standing on Godly, gospel convictions. Many people have stood up for the gospel and the Word of God and been killed for it—and then they received their reward.
-But, when you refuse to compromise and stand on the promises of God, He will put you right where He needs you and you will have an impact. Even through martyrdom you have an impact—you are bearing witness of the greatness of Christ and the gospel message, demonstrating that it is something worth dying for. While we expect God to reward our obedience with greater comfort or greater fame or greater influence, our reward might be none of those. God might have a different purpose that will nevertheless bring about advancement of His Kingdom purposes. And we have to be OK with that.
-Daniel and the boys stood strong when pressured to compromise. We need to pray that we would do the same so that the gospel is lived through us and proclaimed through us. And thank God that when we do not stand strong, and when we do compromise, we have a Savior who died for that sin and forgiveness is available.
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