We are learning that Daniel was taken hostage from Judah and selected from the group of hostages as one of the young men to be schooled in the University of Babylon. He was taught the language and academics of the Chaldean nation. He then found himself in a place where he must take a stand for what is right. The king of Babylon wants Daniel to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols and drink wine that was part of the worship of the wicked gods of Babylon. Daniel refused to participate in the eating of that food. He knew that God’s Word forbid him from doing that. God’s preparation of Daniel made him ready to take his great stand against the corrupting influences of Babylon. Please note that an uncompromising life results in a number very attractive characteristics or traits that will serve you very well in the most difficult and trying of circumstance:
Daniel discovered that when he took a stand and drew the line, it was like firing up the furnace of his own intestinal fortitude to take the next step and be firm. Daniel has a deep courage that allowed him to walk over to one of the kings most powerful servants and say, “Thank you for the invitation to eat at the king’s table but I have made a choice not to defile myself with the king’s food.” Let me remind you what kind of man Nebuchadnezzar was. I have already told you that good King Josiah had a son name Zedekiah. When Nebuchadnezzar attacked the city of Jerusalem, Zedekiah tried to escape through the king’s garden at the back of the palace. Nebuchadnezzar’s men went after Zedekiah and they captured him. Do you know what Nebuchadnezzar did to him? He got all of Zedekiah’s sons and grandsons together along with all of his cabinet members in the court. He lined all of those people up in front of Zedekiah and killed them one by one. And then Nebuchadnezzar took a red-hot sword and stuck it in the eye sockets of Zedekiah so that the last thing Zedekiah would ever see in his life was the vicious murder of his own family. That is the kind of man Nebuchadnezzar was. So when Daniel walked up to Ashpenaz and told him that the king’s food would defile or corrupt him, friends, that takes tremendous courage! From our viewpoint either Daniel is courageous or crazy. And we know that he was courageous.
Daniel went beyond the ordinary and adopted a high standard against all forms of evil. Daniel was never forced, nor was he required by the Word of God to eat strictly vegetables and drink water. Turn over to Daniel chapter 10. In Daniel 10:2-3 we read, “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.” The inference of these verses is that Daniel, under normal circumstances, would eat tasty food and meat. Daniel wanted to live way above temptation, so he refused the food at the king’s table and ate vegetables because the King’s food was involved in idolatry. He wanted to put his standard so high that no one would have any trouble understanding his convictions.
Sometimes we get the idea that to take a strong stand means you have to be mean and nasty about it. This is not true. When you read verse 8 it is very clear that Daniel stood up for what he believed, but he did it in a courteous and respectful manner. He made a dignified request, not an insulting demand. Let me point out that when you know you are in the will of God and that you are doing what is right you can be calm. There is no need for you to get all riled up.
You know, we are a conservative, bible believing church. I am not ashamed of that description for a minute. But I am ashamed by a great number of Bible churches. These churches stand for God’s truth but they do it in a way that is insulting and arrogant. And I can’t help but wonder if those who yell and make so much noise are doing so because they aren’t sure their right. When you know you are right you can be calm and courteous. There is never any need to be nasty.
I want you to see that Ashpenaz is very concerned about Daniel’s request to eat only vegetables and drink only water. Daniel 1:10-13, “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.” Even Ashpenaz knew what kind of a nut Nebuchadnezzar was. He didn’t want to do anything that would upset the king. Now, if you are using a KJV Bible you will note the name “Melzar” appears in verse 11. All other Bible translations do not have the name “Melzar” in verse 11. The reason for this is because “Melzar” is the Hebrew word for “steward”. It is not the proper name for a person. It is a description of person who was under the authority of Ashpenaz. In other words, when Daniel couldn’t get his request granted by Ashpenaz he went a rung lower and asked permission from the person who directly supervised him. And Daniel proposed that they test his request for 10 days. Neither he nor Ashpenaz could get in trouble for 10 days worth of eating only vegetables and water. If at the end of 10 days they are starting to look a little blue around the gills then they will eat whatever the court official’s request of them.
Daniel believed so much in the Word of God that he knew God could not possibly let him down. So with confidence he put himself on the line for what he believed. Daniel was living such a holy and righteous life, walking in the power that God had given him, that he wasn’t afraid to test his commitment before the whole kingdom. You see, holy living and having a clear conscience allows you to live life without ever looking over your shoulder or fearing what somebody may find out about you.
Consistency is the hardest thing in our Christian life. Most of us have our good moments and we love to live our lives like that, but it is a hard thing to live a consistently holy life day after day. I want you to notice verse 21, “And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.” What does that mean? This verse is telling us that Daniel was not just right in his life some of the time or most of the time. Daniel lived a consistently holy, righteous, godly life for more than 70 years in the Babylonian palace. After the Babylonians were gone, he kept right on living for God through the Persian reign. Daniel remained true to God throughout his life. Daniel was in the public, political eye for almost 80 years. Daniel was involved in the politics of nations from his youth to old age. He lived almost all his life in a culture that was utterly pagan. And Daniel is one of three men in the OT of whom there is no evil report given concerning their life. There is not one negative word said about Daniel in any passage in the entire Bible. The only other two OT men in that category are Joseph and Jonathan.
Let me give you a quick synopsis of Daniel’s entire life. Turn to Daniel 6:4-5. In these verses we read, “Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” In other words, the only way we are ever going to get Daniel in trouble is by causing a conflict between what his God requires and what the King demands. They knew he would never disobey his God. And if they could get the king to order something that they knew his God would not approve of that this would force Daniel to disobey the king.
This is the great challenge of living. To realize that you can spend a great many years in obedience to God and blow it all in a moments time. I think of Solomon. He is a man who lived the beginning of his life for God, but in his middle ages he corrupted his convictions. And Solomon died a broken, defeated, sinful man. Daniel remained true to God throughout his entire life.