Daniel 1:1-7 – 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia [a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility- 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. [b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
God calls his people to be men and women of courage and excellence.
Webster’s define courage as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Excellence is defined as exceptionally high quality; a quality that gives something special worth.
In looking at the life of Daniel…and specifically zeroing in on Daniel 1:1-7…we see the opening story of Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. These young men of excellence were captured by Nebuchadnezzar and taken off to Babylon. As we’ll see later in the book of Daniel…these young boys remained steadfast in their faith and uncompromising…even when faced with the threat of a fiery end.
Their faith did not fail them…they did not waver…they did not compromise. How is that…how did they do that? These were young boys…estimated to be between 13 to 17 years old. They were separated from their families and taken to a foreign land. The temptation to compromise must have been something fierce. Yet…they remained steadfast and unyielding in their commitment to God. To the one true living God…the Lord God Almighty.
They were in a land of idol worship and false gods. Wouldn’t it have made their life easier and more secure to just go with the flow…and not buck the system? That way they wouldn’t risk offending anyone. But that is not the path Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah chose.
They were tempted to be prideful and think highly of themselves…to think that they were better than others. After all the king chose the best of the best, the cream of the crop…and they were among the chosen. They were going to get the best education and be fed the best food…that which the king ate. And yet…they didn’t allow themselves to go down that path.
Why? Could it be that when they were young…their parents rooted and grounded them in their faith…faith in the one true and living God, Jehovah…God of Israel? Could it be that they were so firmly planted that even being uprooted and sent to a foreign land could not shake their faith? Could it be that their eyes and ears and hearts were so focused upon God that when tempted with pride, or self accomplishment, or when temped to look to men for help, praise and recognition they chose to focus solely on God?
If we look at their names…we can see the seed of courageous faith being planted early on by their parents.
Daniel = God is judge
Hananiah = God is gracious
Mishael = Who or what is like the Lord
Azariah = The Lord is my help
Their parents must have shared their faith…and witnessed to these boys about the faithfulness of God in their own life. Regularly from an early age taught them the word of God. So much so that it became second nature. That when faced with temptation or the lies of a false god…the truth was apparent and the temptation to choose anything other than that which was pleasing to God was not even an option. Faith so strong that it would bear up being separated from their families, in a foreign land. Faith…in Jehovah God…their Lord…that they were not tempted to rely on their own good looks, intellect, talent and abilities…that instead they trusted God. Faith so courageous that when facing a threat of death…they did not back down.
I’m afraid that we Christians today stumble, fall and waver under much less dire circumstances.
So what can we do to insure that our faith continues to grow? That our faith will be strengthened in the Lord our God? So that in our time of testing…we will not fail…but instead remain strong and courageous. How can we do that?
First and foremost…by having a saving faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Second…knowing the Word of God. Regular study in God’s word. When you know the truth of God’s word…the lies coming at you from all directions will be evident. It becomes easier to reject that which is a known lie…when we have the truth. Hand in hand with these two…is having a relationship with God…that includes daily communication with God through prayer.
When you have a relationship with someone…you communicate with them regularly. When communication dwindles down to nothing…that’s not a healthy relationship. God loves us and desires that we come to him and share ourselves and our lives. Just like a parent loves their child and wants to know what’s happening and what’s going on with them…so too God desires to know us in this same way.
Yes…God is all knowing. He knows what’s happening in our lives…whether we tell him or not. But our telling him…our revealing ourselves and our lives to God is a way to open up. It’s a pathway to relationship…one in which there is trust expressed and given to the One whom deserves our trust.
So how will you continue each day to grow your faith? How will you work to ensure that when you are faced with a fiery trial that you too will be a man or woman or courage? A person who is pleasing to God…and brings glory and honor to His name? Will you choose courage over compromise…and what path will you take to get there?
Heavenly Father…I lift up my brothers and sisters in Christ to you. I ask that each one of us will examine ourselves before you and see where we need to make different choices and draw close to you. Father, give us the courage to act on that which the Holy Spirit reveals. In your Son’s Holy name, Jesus Christ, we pray.