The Babylonians are the new superpower of the world with a mission to gain more territory and assimilate more people. That’s what nations have always done, still do, and always will!!!!!! The Babylonians overrun Jerusalem in 605 B.C. and take the best and the brightest back to the City of Babylon. Daniel, a young Jewish man from a noble family, was taken on the 500 mile trip on the standard traveling route: north along the fertile crescent and then southeast along the Euphrates to modern day Iraq. Abraham had traveled this same route in reverse 1500+ years earlier when he was called to the promised land. The area is called the cradle of civilization… There was nothing like the great city of Babylon in the ancient world. A few facts: (On Screen show images from google of what Ancient Babylon looks like today)
- The city is a huge square, 14 miles on each side. The brick wall was 56 miles long, 300’ high, 25’ thick with another wall 75’ behind the first wall, and the wall extended 35 feet below the ground
- 250 towers each 450 feet high
- A wide and deep moat encircled the city. The Euphrates River flowed in the middle of the city.
- The "Hanging Gardens" ~ water was raised from the river by hydraulic pumps
- Eight massive gates that led to the inner city and 100 brass gates
- Streets were paved with stone slabs 3 feet square
- Golden image of Baal and the Golden Table (both weighing over 50,000 lbs of solid gold.)
Listen to Daniel 1:28: READ. In 539 B.C. Cyrus led the Persian army to victory over Babylon by diverting the Euphrates River during a Feast (see Is. 13-14). Daniel served in the palace of the King over 60 years, almost the entire time Babylon reigned as the world’s superpower. That’s a long time, but it’s a short time. When measured against history, the dominance of Babylon is a mere flicker. Kings and Kingdoms will go the way of the dinosaurs. 60+ years is a long time for humankind, but a short time for God! No Kingdom is greater than God. Right now the United States is vulnerable. It’s unbelievable to me, in spite of the rise of Muslims, in spite of wars around the globe, in spite of the increase of nuclear weapons, in spite of the infiltration of terrorists around us, we are a complacent and confused people. Our politicians seem to care more about their own power and legacy than serving. Babylon was overthrown when they became complacent. Do not put your trust for ultimate security in governments! The Babylonians lasted a mere 70 years. Another Kingdom comes and goes, but God reigns supreme.
Daniel remains faithful to the Lord. The story in today’s scripture is assimilating the Jews into the Babylonian Kingdom. The lesson: I don’t have control over the movements of this world, but I do have a measure of control in how I respond. The way to remain faithful is to draw a line on what I will and won’t do and follow the convictions of my heart as a child of Jesus Christ. A key thought is found in Dan. 1:8: “Daniel resolved not to defile himself…” I cannot control the results of elections, the decisions of states, but I can resolve in my heart to remain faithful. Daniel seemed to be fine with a new name. He willingly went to the best schools of Babylon. He did not resist the idea of being trained to serve the king in the palace. But he drew a line at the food of the King.
Why the food? we can only guess…. Centuries earlier, when Joseph is in a similar position as Daniel, Joseph serves at the pleasure of the King of Egypt. He drew the line at sleeping with Potiphar’s wife, that was an obvious line…. why the food? Perhaps because the food was sacrificed to idols, it would mean sitting at the King’s table, participating in the parties and the lifestyle of his new home. For whatever reason Daniel drew a line. Daniel proposes a different diet ~ after ten days is the test. Daniels diet is blessed by God (Dan. 1:8-16).
Follow the convictions of your heart as you seek to remain faithful to God. The world wants you to compromise… say no to the pressures of this world, the drugs, pre-marital sex, so many extremes that become additions like iphones and gambling.... do you have lines you won’t cross because it compromises your faith?
Life is about the series of choices we make. Saying no to food for Daniel is such a small thing. Yet amazingly that one decision paved the way for him to serve in the palace of the Kings of Babylon for over 60 years. For young people, the choices you make, the lines that you draw…. Drinking, pornography, character of the friends you make, music, do you have standards for movies, how will you keep yourself pure for God…. Where do you draw the line…and the most important decision of all: “Will I follow Jesus? Choices! The world is not as gray as the world wants us to think. “to each his own” is not a healthy philosophy. Following God, that’s the only way for the fullness of life ~ when it comes to serving God it is black and white. You either follow him or you don’t!
Daniel was no longer in the comfort of Jerusalem. So easy to give in and eat. I can hear the whisperings of Daniel’s peers:… “Everyone else is eating the food, don’t draw attention to yourself… “We’re already in captivity,” …“What difference does it make?” “God understands it’s only food. We can eat it with our fingers crossed. You can always find an excuse and put better choices off till tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes….
Daniel didn’t need an excuse. Daniel “purposed in his heart” is the way the KJV says it. his three closest friends joined him. Dan. 1:9 adds a crucial fact when it says “Now God.” God enters the picture after Daniel’s decision to remain pure, not before. By standing firm, even when it is unpopular, God will bless. God can bless before you stand firm, but generally he blesses us after we decide to remain faithful, or maybe more accurately, if we are not living for Him we are not prepared to receive his blessings.
Here’s a great story that came in my e-mail box as I was preparing this message: Relationships with Cuba and the U.S. have been closed for 50 some years. In 1954 Fidel Castro had a brilliant idea to destroy Christianity for good. He decided that only 12 people at a time were permitted to meet. He strongly stated: “There will be no more Christians in Cuba!” The Christians stood strong, remained faithful. You cannot control the world but you can control your response. Christians in Cuba drew a line and followed the convictions of their heart to remain faithful. In Cuba today, the percentage of people who identify themselves as Christians is 57%. (e-mail from International Christian Response based in Lynden, WA).
There is a blessing for those who boldly stand strong that the timid never experience. Every young person that grows up in the church at some point has to ask if the things they learned in Sunday School/family is credible. Are the things of faith for adults or is the more sophisticated and enlightened world the way to go….
Daniel drew a line, he is tactful, he is not fighting, he is reasonable. Daniel did not make demands. He did not tell other people what to do. He simply took a stand and declared this is a line I cannot cross.
This story comes to an end on a positive note. God honors those who honor him. In Daniels life the reward came quickly. Often it takes longer. And sometimes when we are faithful, our reward doesn’t come until much later, even eternal life with God! For Daniel, the stand he took was immediately recognized and Daniel was given wisdom. READ Dan. 1:17-20. Daniel followed the conviction of his heart, God honored him and gave him wisdom and understanding.
How to determine what lines you cannot cross:
1. Know what God wants of you. Daniel knew from his upbringing. He knew about the food. Let the Bible be your guide and the spirit of God. Choose carefully Christian friends and listen to the wisdom of more mature Christians that you trust…
2. Know what God wants of you and make up your mind in advance to be loyal to God. Decide ahead the situations you cannot put yourself in because you will crumble, the temptations that are likely to cause you to fall. Determine in advance to stay sexually pure, to not compromise in the things that matter, whatever it is. For Daniel, that meant not eating the king’s food at the king’s table. It doesn’t matter that we today don’t fully understand his decision. What’s important is that Daniel drew a line and said, “This far, and no farther.” Your line may be different from mine because my temptations and world is different from yours. There are also absolute principles. I hope we can all agree on a thousand behaviors that are not God honoring. If you don’t draw a line you will end up being just like the Babylonians all around you.
3. Follow the convictions of your heart. Decide what you won’t do. Then don’t do it! I’m talking about common sense thinking about Christian values. Not every hill is worth dying on, but some are! Young adults, believe it or not, I was young once too, and I know temptation. I know the guilt of compromise. I bet every person does in this room. And I know what it means to wonder how God can bless me when I wasn’t honoring him in my decisions. Decide ahead of time about language you will use, the friendships that cause you to compromise what you know is wrong, not giving into the pressure of the crowd, rebellion, the chains of sin. Say yes to Christ to live a life worthy of your calling to be a servant of Christ in the palace of the King. Honor him and he will honor you! You will receive wisdom and understanding.
Check this out: The book of Daniel is full of miracles and drama: the fiery furnace, dreams and interpretations, visions, the handwriting that appeared on the wall at a party, the Lions Den. But guess what. The crucial event that shaped the rest of Daniels life is not the miraculous, but a simple decision to not cross a line, a line that Daniel could so easily have excused.
When our lives are falling apart, overwhelmed, it is tempting to cry out to God for a miracle to change the game. That is not Daniel’s example. Daniel was taken away from everything he knew; he resolved in his heart to remain faithful to God. You cannot control your world, but you can control your response. Daniel thought about the lines he would not cross and stood firm. God honored him. God blessed him. God gave him wisdom and knowledge. Later came the miracles.
In this old world you must determine where the lines are. Kings and Kingdoms will come and go. Presidents and congresses will fade into history. But Jesus Christ remains on the throne. If you don’t draw the lines for yourself, the world will tell you where they are. In the conviction of your heart determine what the Lord is calling you to do and not do. Stand firm. Remain faithful. Dare to be a Daniel. Amen.