From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

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?

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One response

  1. (www.stempublishing.com/authors/darby/synopsis/daniel/daniel.html)

    At the end of this reply I pasted a part of Darby’s
    explanation from the link above on your questions on why Daniel refused to eat the King’s food and why he did not confront the pagen King, as other prophets probably would have done. I think Darby is saying that God revealed to Daniel the divine knowledge that Daniel needed to fulfill God’s will in this pagen land. I assume each prophet was given the divine knowledge they needed according to God’s plan for each situation. Here is what Darby says:

    “Chapter 1 sets before us the royalty of Judah, formerly established by God over His people in the person of David, falling under the power of Nebuchadnezzar; and the king, Jehovah’s anointed, given up by Jehovah into the hands of the head of the Gentiles, on whom God now bestowed dominion. That which was announced by Isaiah (chap. 39: 7) falls upon the children of the royal seed; but God watches over them and brings them into favour with those that kept them. This was especially the case with respect to Daniel; The two characteristics of the faithful remnant in captivity are prominently marked in this chapter: — firstly, faithful to the will of God, although at a distance from His temple, they do not defile themselves among the Gentiles; secondly, their prayer being granted, understanding is given them, as we see in chapter 2 in Daniel’s case, even the knowledge of that which God alone can reveal, as well as His purpose in that revelation. They alone possess this understanding, a token of divine favour and the fruit of their faithfulness through grace. This is the case with Daniel in particular, whose faith and earnest fidelity marks out the path of faith for his companions. This did not interfere with their subjection to the Gentiles, whose power was the ordinance of God for the time being. But this is a most important element: the place of true knowledge, of intelligence of the divine mind, what is called the secret of the Lord, in the days of Babylonish corruption and power, is the thorough keeping oneself undefiled by the smallest contact with what it gives, with the meat with which it would feed us.”

    I am struck with how calm and worry free Daniel and his friends were all through the exile, which lasted 70 years. What amazing faith and trust they had in God! God satisfied their needs through his grace and at the same time used Daniel and his friends to fulfill His will and eternal plan.

    May 29, 2008 at 11:42 pm

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