Monday, August 25, 2014

Daniel: Part 1: vol 02 August 25, 2014

A study on the book of Daniel.
We will divide the study into two major parts:

Part I: A History of the Times...And the Setup for Coming Attractions:

Part II: Events Prophesied...Prophecies Fulfilled. 

... These two parts will be broken down and delved into in detail.

A Young Man of Influence

Whether the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar knew it or not, young Daniel, probably no more than seventeen years old at the time of his capture, was a teenager beyond reproach. No evil motives are ever attributed to Daniel in Scripture. Daniel had great influence on his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. His moral rectitude rubbed off on them, and they, too, began to demonstrate the purity that God desires for everyone, young or old. With wisdom well beyond his years, Daniel had become a mentor to his three friends.

The Scripture tells us in Daniel 1:4 that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were already intelligent fellows, but mere knowledge is a far cry from a mature understanding of how to apply that learning where it truly counts. But because of Daniel’s daily influence, the Hebrew boys demonstrated much more than the accumulation of facts; they knew how to rely on God and to use those facts because the Spirit of almighty God was upon them. They were also fulfilling a prophecy written in Isaiah 39:7, which revealed that the offspring of the royal family of Judah would be taken as prisoners to Babylon, where they would hold high offices in the palace of the king. And this is exactly what was happening.

Can’t Have Those Jewish Names, Boys

But Nebuchadnezzar had a problem. He had Jewish boys, with Jewish names, in a Babylonian palace, and he figured he'd better do something about it-especially since their very names shouted out their allegiance to their God. The name Daniel means "God is judge." When someone would call for Hananiah, that person would be shouting "Jehovah is gracious." Michael’s name asked the provocative question, "Who is what God is?" And Azariah’s name was a constant reminder of God’s mercy, meaning "Jehovah has helped."

Nebuchadnezzar couldn't allow these names to be echoed in his great hall, so he changed their names to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar was the master of the quick fix. His kingly logic was, if he changed the name, he would change the person. What the king did not realize, however, was that you can change a person’s name as many times as you want, but you will not necessarily change that person’s heart. So the name changes were purely cosmetic, and I've got a feeling that when the boys were in their quarters, in the privacy of their conversation, they still called each other Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

These brilliant young Jews loved their God and, as we’ll look at in more detail later, boldly proclaimed His presence in their lives three times a day in prayer-with the windows wide open. They didn't care who heard them pray. They didn't care who saw them with their heads lifted to heaven. They loved their God, and they would honor Him at all costs. They remained respectful to the king, but they had a greater God to serve. In one of the great "passive resistance" protests in history, they agreed to remain unwavering in their beliefs, even if it meant taking certain life-threatening risks.

Daniel 1:8-16 8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. 11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. 14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

An Unlikely Training Food

The first challenge was what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Imagine the incredible feasts available to Daniel and his friends. Delicacies galore. Meat, fowl, wine, and fruit served in gold and silver vessels. The king’s best. Who would have refused that kind of lifestyle? Well, for starters, four young men with the names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They determined in their hearts they would not eat the rich, fatty, high-cholesterol foods from the king’s table.

But there was another reason they refused to defile their bodies: The king’s food had already been offered to the Babylonian god Marduk, and to eat the king’s food would be to break the second commandment. They knew what Exodus 20:4-5 said:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.
But this conviction created a problem. These four boys were in training-and Nebuchadnezzar and his trainers were in charge. They were under strict orders to follow Babylonian rules, not Jewish rules. Nothing kosher here. But-and this is why I hope young people are reading this book, because this in so many ways is a young person’s book-Daniel still found favor with the prince of the eunuchs. Character is what counts. Sticking to your guns when everyone else says to do something that dishonors God is what wins the day.

Now it was Melzar, the eunuch-in-charge, who had the problem. His job and his life were on the line. He had a specific assignment-to make his charges obey the rules, follow the instructions, color between the lines, do what they were told, and eat the king’s food like the other Jewish boys. What could be so bad about that! "Come on, guys, please," I can almost hear him say. "I like this job, and I really don't need to get into any trouble with the head eunuch." I’m sure that Daniel and his buddies listened to their eunuch friend with hearts of compassion for the predicament he was in, but they still remained faithful to God’s agenda for their lives.

Acting Like Gentlemen

Now here’s a part I love. Rather than giving Melzar a tongue-lashing, Old Testament lecture on the evils of giving good food to bad gods like Marduk, Daniel did something much more effective: He provided an alternative. He presented the eunuch an option by suggesting, "Let’s just check this other idea out, and see what happens." Daniel came up with a "ten-day plan." And what was the essence of this plan?

To eat only pulse-another word for beans. Beans. Not meat, fish, exotic game from the forest, rich desserts, wine flowing by the flagons-but beans . . . and water. I can just see Melzar’s face turn ghostly white as he gently touches the side of his neck, wondering how long it will remain attached to the rest of his head. "Beans! Surely you jest. We have beef, and you want beans?"

Daniel and his friends confirmed their resolve, and the diet plan was approved. While the rest of Jewish captives were being wined and dined in the palace dining hall, Daniel and his three friends ate beans-and amazingly were growing stronger and healthier in mind and body day by day. They trusted their God to make them healthy and strong. They remained obedient to God when all the odds were stacked against them. And when the ten-day experiment came to an end, we read that
"their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse" (vv. 15-16).

And the palace scoreboard read: