June 1, 2008 – Daniel 1
This is the start of an eight week series from Daniel. Early on it became apparent to me that I couldn’t take just a few verses to preach from. The first 6 chapters are stories, each taking a whole chapter. So starting this Sunday we’ll be reading only one Scripture reading, and that being a chapter from Daniel.
Chapter 1 is an introduction to the entire book. Daniel’s taken into captivity, trained up and educated by the Babylonians, decides eating the king’s food would defile him, then finds a way to maintain his purity while not confronting the king or the powers that be. At the end of chapter 1, Daniel winds up pleasing both God and man.
Several things strike me about Daniel 1:
- however metaphorical we want to get, we white middle class north Americans are NOT in exile. As a middle aged white guy, this story of exile speaks to me as I consider this society and how increasingly strange it’s becoming to me. But even that’s a far cry from being a “stranger in a strange land”, and having to deal with an overtly hostile culture (as Christians are doing in other parts of the world today). But even though the text may not relate directly to my life situation, I can still learn from it about the ways of God.
- If you think of Daniel as a prophet (and it’s not clear that the ancient Israelites did), it’s strange that Daniel doesn’t confront the heathen Babylonian king. Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah, Hosea – all took a head-on confrontational approach in speaking to the powers that be. But not Daniel. At least, not in chapter 1. Here Daniel is submissive (what a dirty word in our world!) – he asks permission to fast from Babylonian meat, he doesn’t go public with a hunger strike, he doesn’t insist on his “rights” but rather on his purity. He’s not “going along to get along”; but he is finding ways to maintain his relationship with God (purity) and with the king (politics). In chapter 1 God blesses this effort.
In the commentaries I’ve read, there’s been no consensus about exactly why Daniel won’t eat the meat from the king’s table. Some say Daniel’s keeping kosher – but kosher rules don’t apply to wine, which Daniel also abstains from. Others say it’s because the food has been offered to idols – but Daniel has no problem eating the vegetables. Perhaps we’re not getting all the details here. Perhaps it’s not important to know precisely WHY Daniel abstained, but that he did – he drew a line and said “beyond this I won’t go”. Have I ever done that? Have you?