Many people know the basic bible stories of Daniel. We know of Daniel being taken from Israel to Babylon and how he was trained to be a servant to the king. We know about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (their Babylonian names) and the stand they took even while facing the fiery furnace. We all know the dramatic story of Daniel in the lion’s den. What we often overlook is the first choice Daniel made that allowed him to rise to such an important place in the government of a pagan king.
I heard Andy Stanley talk about this passage several years ago at Catalyst, but as I was reading the passage again this morning the depth of Daniel’s actions seemed to jump off the page. Daniel 1:8 says, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.”
Daniel was an upright Jewish young man who did all he could to follow God’s design and law. When he was taken into exile he could have easily given up and followed the commands of the pagan king and eaten food forbidden by God and participated in the pagan lifestyle in front of him. He had the perfect excuse to disobey God. His life literally was on the line.
But Daniel “resolved” not to defile himself. He made a heart commitment to stay true to God’s plan, God’s design and God’s purpose for his life. The scripture indicates that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the only ones who made this decision. All of the other young men taken into exile compromised their faith in order to fit into the lifestyle of Babylon.
How often do we make the same decisions? How often do we make a slight compromise here or a “course adjustment” there and find ourselves blending in to the landscape of our culture? It is so easy. We have the perfect excuse. We want to blend in, adapt, and participate in order to influence.
But Daniel made another choice. Daniel 1:17 says that because of their choice “God gave knowledge, and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.” God made them outstanding because they chose to take a stand.
I worry sometimes that in our struggle to influence we give up our core values of holiness and separation. I am not a legalist. I am not talking about whether certain actions are right or wrong. I am simply asking a question. In our effort to reach the culture are we losing the resolution of our souls not to be defiled or defined by the culture?