The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament tells the story of a young man and his friends who were carried away from their native land to serve Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, a man who could have kept his country strong and prosperous but instead fell prey to the temptations of conceit and self-worship. After Babylon defeated the Jews and sacked Jerusalem over five hundred years before the birth of Christ, a select group of smart and attractive Jewish young men were sent to the King to compete for positions of service in an advisory capacity due to their high levels of intelligence. Daniel and his three friends were four of them and they would compete for the honor of being permanently a part of the King’s court based upon their training and how well they answered questions in an interview by the King. While they didn’t want to be kept in Babylon, they knew that God had a plan for them and that they should serve their earthly master loyally while never failing to maintain their own religious beliefs for the duration. They trusted that God would eventually return them to the Promised Land.
While the thousands of Jewish people were forced to serve in less attractive capacities, many as manual laborers for the King’s grand projects to enhance the Kingdom of Babylon, Daniel and his favored few were given food fit for the King and wine of the same quality. The King wanted these young men, plus the others being trained to compete for counselor positions, to be strengthened and made wiser by eating well and enjoying wine. Daniel, however, and his compatriots objected, with Daniel saying he needed to honor his past heritage by taking sustenance from their simple foods and avoiding the liquid spirits that would have an opposite effect. His argument was that following what God expected would make them stronger of body and mind, thereby better equipped to serve.
This created a dilemma for their trainer and head of the Staff, a Eunuch who was tasked to strict obedience to the King’s wishes. Eunuchs were selected for such leadership roles because in that state they were always compliant to the wishes of their King and had no natural disposition to challenge his wishes or abuse their power. So, the Eunuch was fearful of allowing Daniel to adjust the regimen scheduled, yet he understood the strength of Daniel’s argument. Knowing that these four young men were extremely bright and presented an appearance in the top of the competitive class, he accepted Daniel’s challenge, allowing those four in training ten days to honor their wishes. At the end of that period, they and all the others in training would be examined by Nebuchadnezzar where he personally would select those he thought best to continue their training.
When Nebuchadnezzar called all of the candidates before him, they were examined for physical appearance, strength and stature and verbally tested for answering questions and providing wise advice. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were so superior in all phases that they were immediately put into staff advisory positions while the others were all rejected or sent back for more intensive training. Daniel’s persistence in following God’s wishes resulted in their future, while not free, being one where they could use their influence to keep their Jewish faith in place while also serving the earthly King who had custody over them. We will see over the next few weeks just how this action was part of God’s plan and the ultimate reunification of the Jews with their beloved Promised Land.
What we can learn from this story is that God does indeed work in mysterious ways. But if we maintain our faith and trust in Him he will deliver for us. It isn’t always at the time and in the way that we wish, but it will be delivered in a way where we can serve Him best. Patience, persistence and faith are all part of allowing us to do these things for Him in response to His calling given to us.
Dear Lord, Thank you for the story of Daniel and what it teaches us and help us to take its full meaning into our hearts and use it to make us stronger, better and more devoted to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.