Welcome to Babylon

Posted: January 12, 2017 in Daniel, Uncategorized

Daniel 1, “Welcome to Babylon”

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” or so the old phrase goes.  The idea is to make the best out of a bad situation.  We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our response to our circumstances, and we might as well make the most of it and glorify God.

Such was the case with Daniel, and particularly so as the book opens in Chapter 1.  Daniel and his friends have been handed a bunch of lemons, and he makes the purposeful decision to make God-glorifying lemonade.

But before we get there, we ought to take a brief overview of the book itself.  (See Route 66, August 6, 2015 – timburns.wordpress.com)  In Christian terminology, the book of Daniel is the last among the five Major Prophets, “major” simply being the difference in length between something like Isaiah vs. Nahum.  Jews actually do not categorize Daniel among the prophetic books, but group it with the general “Writings” (Ketuvim, כְּתוּבִים ) primarily due to its later authorship (according to their tradition) and abundance of Aramaic.  Either way, it is still Scripture to them, and there’s no doubt of its prophetic significance.

Author: Daniel.  The first-person is used in Chapters 9 & 10, although the majority of the book is written in third-person.  However, if there are any lingering doubts, Jesus also affirmed Daniel’s authorship in referring to the abomination of desolation (Mt 24:15).  The book was probably written (completed) circa 530BC, after the fall of Babylon to the Medes & Persians.

Liberal theologians take issue with this date, due to the exact detail given in some of the prophetic declarations – particularly the latter information of Chapter 11.  The writing is incredibly precise in regards to the struggles between the Seleucid and Ptolemy kingdoms (which struggled for power in the wake of the death of Alexander the Great), and the specific information given regarding the desecration of the Jerusalem temple by Antiochus Epiphanes is so on-point, that liberal scholars simply cannot believe it was not written after the fact.  The problem is that historical evidence does not agree with them.  Some of the discoveries among the famed Dead Sea Scrolls were fragments from the book of Daniel (including that of Chapter 11), showing that it was already in Jewish circulation at the time, thus predating Antiochus Epiphanes.  There can be no doubt that Daniel’s prophecies were written early, before the recorded events took place.

That may cause a problem for liberal theologians, but it isn’t one for God.  An eternally existent, all-knowing God has no problem inspiring prophets to write of events far into the future, and the book of Daniel stands as a marvelous testimony to that fact!

Who was Daniel?  That’s exactly what his book is going to tell us.  We never receive a family history for him, so we don’t know his background other than the fact that he was brought us from Jerusalem (presumably) with the first wave of captives.  His name was mentioned (along with Noah & Job) in the book of Ezekiel, with God proclaiming their righteousness in contrast to the sin among the Jews.  Thus he was well-known among his countrymen, most likely due to his influence with the Babylonian king.  Apart from that, we know nothing of him beyond what he himself tells us.

General outline of the book of Daniel:

  • Introduction (1).  The relevant background is given, and the reader finds out how Daniel receives his position of prominence.
  • God over the Gentiles (2-7).  Mostly written in Aramaic, these are basically the narratives of Daniel among the Babylonian royal court.  The prophecies given deal with God’s interaction among the nations of the world, pointing towards His sovereignty over all of it.
  • God over the Jews (8-12).  The language reverts back to Hebrew, as do the focus of the prophecies.  Daniel is given visions of the far future end-times, as well as other events nearer (relatively speaking) for his people…again, culminating in the sovereignty of God and the promise of the Messiah.

Overall, the message of the book is clear: God is sovereign over the world, and He wasn’t done with the Hebrews.  As was so often the theme in Ezekiel, God needed His people to know that His plans for them were still in effect.  The Babylonian captivity did not mean that God had forever cast away the Jews – God had a purpose and plan to not only restore them, but to bring about the long awaited Messiah.  Nebuchadnezzar may have sat on the throne of the Babylonian empire, but God sits on the throne of the universe!

That theme is already in play as the book opens with Chapter 1.  God is the One who put Israel into the hand of Babylon – God is the One who gives Daniel favor with the palace officials – God is the One who gives Daniel favor with the king.  What outwardly looked to be a terrible situation for Daniel and his friends ends up being a situation in which they could greatly glorify God.  All they needed to do is set themselves to seek Him.

Daniel 1

  • Setting (1-2)

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 gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.

  • Right off the bat we’re told all of the relevant chronological information we need to understand the setting.  Depending on one’s reckoning, verse 1 refers to 605BC, with the first wave of Babylonian invasion and conquest of Judah.  At that time, Babylon rose to power in the vacuum left by Assyria and Egypt, and Jehoiakim became a vassal servant of Nebuchadnezzar.  Jehoiakim’s loyalty didn’t last long, and after three years he rebelled, only to be crushed by the Babylonian army (2 Kings 24:1-2).  There were be two other waves of Babylonian conquest to follow: one in the reign of Jehoiachin (who actually lived to eventually serve as an advisor to the king), and the last most violent one in the reign of Zedekiah.  During each of these invasions, more plunder was taken from the Jerusalem temple until the point that it was totally destroyed (586BC, 2 Kings 25).  Considering Daniel mentions the first of these waves, it seems likely he was taken in the first, whereas Ezekiel was taken in the second, and Jeremiah lived through the third.
  • The point is that the Jews were totally defeated.  As Daniel writes this, the picture isn’t that of a Jewish Kingdom stubbornly hanging onto what little independence they had left; it’s one of utter defeat.  The Jewish king was in the hand of the king of Babylon, and even the Jewish God seemed to be at the mercy of the Babylonian god.  As we’ll quickly discover, that was certainly not the case in reality, but it was what it would have appeared to be on the outside.
    • Sometimes we don’t quite understand everything that God allows to happen.  There are days that it looks like Satan and this world is winning.  Christians are routinely persecuted, sin runs rampant, abortion and murder increases, etc.  We wonder what’s going on & where is God in all of this?  God hasn’t left us – God hasn’t been defeated.  God is still on His throne, and He knows what He’s doing.  Some of the things we experience in this life are simply part & parcel of living in a fallen world.  Other things are the natural results of our individual & corporate sins.  Nations can only move away from God for so long before they start reaping what they’ve sowed, after all.  It doesn’t mean that God is defeated – it means that we should have listened to His warnings.  We don’t blame the electric company when someone ignores a warning sign & grabs hold of a live wire – that’s just the consequence.  So are many of the things we face in our society.
    • The good news is that although God lets people face some of these things today, we know that eventually it is coming to an end with His final judgment.  Thus as bad as things might seem to be, every “bad” day is still another day in which we can share the gospel with someone that they might be saved.  Any additional day is a day of God’s mercy.  Take advantage of it!
  • Introduction (3-7)

3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.

  • What happened to the Jews once they arrived in Babylon?  Some of them were chosen and set apart for training within the royal court.  They were still captives, but there’s no question they were given an opportunity for a relatively luxurious life.  After all, if you’re going to be a prisoner, you might as well have a room on the palace grounds!  That said, this wasn’t necessarily an easy “gig.”  As was common among many royal courts in the Ancient Near East, it wasn’t only your livelihood that depended upon the will of the king; it was your very life!  If the king ever lost patience with his royal advisors, they could be immediately executed.  Thus, it was a position with promise, but it was also one that was dangerous.
  • That said, the young men didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter.  The “master of the eunuchs” (or as some translations put it, “the chief of his officials”) chose these men on the criteria of the king.  They were to be healthy, handsome, and intelligent.  The king of Babylon was open to advisors from the various lands he had conquered, but he wanted the cream of the crop – and he was willing to treat them as such.  They would receive the best of educations and diets in order that they might be in prime condition when the time came for them to serve the king.
  • Notice that part of the intent here is to remake these young Jews into Babylonians.  It may have been somewhat luxurious, but it was still a reeducation camp.  They would eat like Babylonians, dress like Babylonians, and even talk and think like Babylonians.  The Jews were a conquered people, and these representatives were now to shed their own identity & culture, and be assimilated among the people of Babylon.
    • We may have different roles in our culture, but we face similar pressures.  As we live in this world, we’re told that we need to do certain things to advance in this world.  If we just look a certain way, talk a certain way, engage in certain activities, and even change our way of thinking, then that is when we will be acceptable in the eyes of the culture.  In other words, we might have come from a Christian background, but as long as we shed everything dealing with our Christian faith, then we can be accepted as a part of this world, no problem.  Big problem!  There’s no doubt we are to be in this world, and to engage with it.  We don’t come to faith in Jesus Christ and then go off to live in a secluded monastery somewhere.  We’re to be in this world; we’re just not to be of this world.  Our culture may want us to shed our thinking, but our Lord does not.  Does it mean we’ll face opposition?  Yes.  Does it mean we might have difficulties advancing in our careers?  Possibly.  God-honoring morals don’t always match up with a corporate bottom-line.  But this is who we are.  If you are born of the Holy Spirit – if you belong to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, then that is who you are.  Don’t hide it – don’t push it down.  We don’t have to cram it down someone’s throat, but neither do we want to stop the light of Christ from shining.  Matthew 5:14–16, "(14) “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Don’t be assimilated and blend into the background; shine forth with the gospel of Christ!

6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

  • Among the Jewish boys chosen for this reeducation were “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,” though the latter three are more famously known by their Babylonian names.  Interestingly, this change of names was one more way the Babylonians intended the Hebrews to be constantly reminded of their conquered status.  Not only would their Babylonian names be Akkadian, rather than Hebrew, but they reflected submission and humiliation before the Babylonian gods.  Just look at the names they had, and to what they were changed:
    • Daniel = God is my judge. — Belteshazzar = Bel (a god), protect my life / protect the life of the king.
    • Hananiah = YAH has been gracious. — Shadrach = I am fearful (of a god).
    • Mishael = Who is what God is? – Meshach = I am despised (before my god).
    • Azariah = YAH has helped. – Abed Nego = Servant of Nebo.  (Nebo being a Babylonian god, the son of Bel.)
  • The whole idea was one of constant subjugation.  The Babylonians wanted to remake these boys into their own image, giving them the names of their gods – all while never allowing the Hebrews to forget they were conquered servants.
    • Isn’t this what the labels of the world do to us?  “Loser – Ignorant – Backwards – Fanatic.”  Those are the labels the world often puts on Christians.  Other times, we put labels on ourselves, constantly beating ourselves up for all of the times we’ve sinned & failed.  Either way, those are not the names given us by God.  In Christ, we are loved.  In Christ, we are the children of God.  In Christ, we are saved, justified, and sanctified.  You’ve been given a name…answer to the right one!
  • Initial test (8-16)

8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

  • In verse 5, we were told one of the ways that the king tried to remake the boys (or young men – we don’t know their precise ages) into Babylonians, and that was through their diets.  On one hand, this was an act of gracious provision.  Not every Jew was invited to eat from the “king’s delicacies,” nor to drink his wine.  These young Jews were given quite a privilege from the king.  At the same time, this privilege came with a price: defilement.  How so?  The meat that came from the royal kitchen was almost surely meat sacrificed to false gods, killed in a manner inconsistent with teaching in the Hebrew Torah.  Thus, it wasn’t kosher.  We’re not told exactly what the kitchen practices were, but Daniel knew them, and he knew that he could not in good conscience engage with them, so he chose to abstain altogether.
  • This provides one of the two keys to the passage.  Key #1: Daniel’s purposed purity.  To say “Daniel purposed in his heart,” is to literally say, “Daniel set/put in his heart.”  There was intention there.  Daniel knew the right thing to do, and he set himself upon the work of doing it.  He didn’t just wait for things to happen to him, or hope for a different outcome; Daniel planned to be pure. 
    • Quite often, this is where failure begins.  People fail because people fail to plan.  Christians fall into temptation because Christians do not purpose in their hearts to remain pure.  When we leave ourselves open to every breeze of temptation that blows by, it’s no wonder that we end up following it to its logical end.  We have to purpose ourselves to desire to follow Jesus in purity – that’s the first step to actually doing it.
    • Obviously, it can’t only be intentions.  As is often said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” – but the same might be said of purity.  We’ll never walk in purity if we do not desire to do so.  It starts with our intentions, moves with our reliance upon the power of the Holy Spirit, and continues through our obedience to the Lord Jesus.
  • Notice that’s what Daniel did as well.  He “purposed,” but that wasn’t all.  He made his intentions known when “he requested” to alter his diet.  Daniel was willing to speak up, which put his intentions into action.

9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.

  • This is the second key.  Key #2: God’s sovereign blessing.  We can only do what we can do; God has to do the rest.  Keep in mind that this history could have turned out very different, with Daniel still glorifying God, but doing so from prison (or even his execution).  God gave Daniel “favor” with the chief official – and not only with him, but eventually with King Nebuchadnezzar himself.  The emphasis here is on God’s sovereignty.  God was (and is) in control, and He desired to bless Daniel in his efforts, so God paved the way for him to be successful.
  • Why is it important to keep this in mind?  Because it would be very easy to read Chapter 1 as “How to gain worldly success and still be a Christian.”  Indeed, some Christians see it that way.  “Set your heart towards purity, trust God, and watch God bless you!  You will experience success if you just put the Lord first!”  As good as that sounds (and easy to preach!), that’s simply not the case.  We’ll find in Chapter 3 that Daniel’s three friends put God first, and they end up thrown into a fiery furnace (from which God graciously protects them).  Daniel experiences a bit of this first-hand when he stands steadfastly for God, and is thrown into a den of lions (from which he’s also protected – Dan 6).  But God doesn’t always physically protect those who are persecuted.  The prophet Jeremiah often physically suffered in his steadfastness for the Lord.  David (prior to ascending to the throne) often had to flee for his life.  In the New Testament, men like Stephen and James were killed for their faith, and of course Jesus suffered immensely upon the cross.  Do we put God first?  Absolutely – no question about it.  But do we do it in order to get something out of it?  Absolutely not.  Our worship of God is not a way to gain worldly success; it is what we give to God simply because He is God.
  • That being said, God does sometimes give us favor in these situations – and when He does, it is for His purposes.  That’s what happened with Daniel.  Because of God’s plan for Daniel, Daniel needed to (1) remain pure, and (2) remain alive.  God paved the way for all of that to happen.

10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”

  • This was a legitimate concern!  The eunuch/official has the responsibility of caring for these young men to present them to the king.  There was going to be a kingdom investment of three years into them, featuring the best that Babylon had to offer.  Should the king see Daniel & the others appearing weak & malnourished, it would be the eunuch who would be blamed.  His own life depended on the health & well-being of Daniel.
  • Hearing the concerns of the eunuch, Daniel took it upon himself to speak to his supervisor, absolving the eunuch from any responsibility.  Vs. 11…

11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.”

  • The plan was a good one.  Ten days were set apart for a test.  It is doubtful that the Hebrew boys would be brought before the king in that short amount of time, but it would be plenty of time for the nutrition to run its course.  Our appearance can change over 5 days of feasting before & after Christmas…10 days was plenty.
  • Notice Daniel’s willingness to submit himself to the authority.  Not only was he extremely polite in his request (demonstrating that we don’t have to be a ‘squeaky wheel’ to get things done), but he gave himself over to the judgment of the royal officials.  He left it up to them to decide whether or not Daniel & the others maintained their health, and at that point they could decide what to do.  Presumably, they could force the Hebrews to eat along with the others, or perhaps Daniel is suggesting that he’d be willing to be jailed or killed for his conviction.  Either way, he’s submitting to the decision of those over him.
    • Sometimes, there are consequences for holding onto our faith.  It may not be easy, but it’s worth it.  Submitting to our governing authority doesn’t necessarily mean doing what they say (especially if it means committing sin), but it does mean receiving the judgment that comes with it.
  • At the same time, Daniel surely had faith that the judgment wouldn’t be necessary.  Although this is left unsaid, there is a confidence implied here.  After all, Daniel wouldn’t suggest a testing period if he wasn’t sure it would work.  He had faith that if he honored the Lord with his diet, that God would bless his health.  (A practical principle that is still true today!)

14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies.

  • It worked!  Ten days passed, and Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were healthier than every other young man who was present in the royal academy.  Again, this is due to the 2nd key: God’s sovereignty.  God intervened, and Daniel & the others found success.  It wouldn’t have changed their faith if God had chosen otherwise, but this was His plan for them, which was to their physical benefit.
  • As an aside, it’s rather humorous that there is a popular weight-loss diet called “the Daniel diet.”  Without question, eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, while drinking nothing but water is a great healthy plan for nutrition.  (In fact, it might be argued that this was God’s original nutrition plan for Adam & Eve before sin entered the world.)  Yet nowhere in the Scripture did Daniel engage in this diet to lose weight.  He specifically wanted to gain weight.  If he had lost weight, his ten-day test would have failed!  Even the Scripture says that he & the others looked “fatter in flesh” than the other young men.  It’s a good reminder to simply read the Scripture for what it says, rather than looking for hidden tips & faddish tricks along the way.

16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

  • The bottom line for Daniel was that he & his friends got their desire.  They remained on a vegetarian diet, allowing themselves to remain undefiled by the Babylonian meat sacrificed to idols.
  • Question: Why was this such a big deal?  Didn’t Daniel know that the Babylonian idols were false gods & didn’t mean anything?  Sure he did.  But Daniel’s desire was to honor God – not just in his own personal life, but (more than likely) also as a testimony to others.  Other people looking upon him would also know that the meat had been sacrificed to idols, and what would that say about Daniel’s faith in his God if he ate it?  Paul wrote about this very issue to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 8:8–10, "(8) But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (9) But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (10) For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?"  Basically, Paul says that food isn’t the issue & neither are imaginary false gods – but what about the conscience of the people?  What is our testimony to others when we engage in those pagan things, even if we ourselves do not believe in them? 
    • Obviously this goes far beyond meat, but culture in general.  It’s not likely that you’ll come across a restaurant serving meat that has been sacrificed to a false god.  But you might be invited to a gathering where people are getting drunk, or laughing at coarse jokes, etc.  There are certain things in which we might have freedom, but our participation causes confusion to the nonbelievers around us.  Far better to sacrifice our freedom for the gospel of Christ, in order that others might see the purity of Jesus!
  • So the four Hebrew young men had success in their dietary challenge, but that wasn’t all.  Vs. 17…
  • Success in Babylon (17-21)

17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

  • God blessed them immensely!  He had already blessed them physically, but He also blessed them intellectually & spiritually.  To say “God gave them knowledge and skill…and wisdom” is to say He gave them everything they needed from an intellectual standpoint.  Everything the Babylonians wanted them to learn, they learned.  After three years in the royal academy, they came out at the top of the class – summa cum laude, so to speak.  That’s what Babylon expected them to learn, but God gave up & beyond that.  To Daniel specifically, God imparted the spiritual gifts necessary to interpret “visions and dreams.”  Whether or not Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael received spiritual gifts, we don’t know – but we do know Daniel’s, and the rest of the book is a testimony to how those gifts were used.  With the king, Daniel interpreted his dreams.  When alone, Daniel received visions from the Lord God regarding the state of the world, the future of his people, and the Messiah to come.  This was the reason God gave Daniel the favor he had, and Daniel used it to the utmost.
  • We all have different equippings from God, but we have been equipped by Him.  If you have been born of the Holy Spirit, He makes spiritual gifts available to you, for which we can ask.  We don’t all receive the same gifting, nor do we have whatever one we want whenever we want.  The Bible tells us that God distributes spiritual gifts to each person individually as He wills (1 Cor 12:11) – but we do have gifts.  We just need the faith and power to exercise them.  Unused gifts are wasted…don’t waste yours!

18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.

  • All of this knowledge and skill was put to the test when the four Hebrew men were brought to meet Nebuchadnezzar.  Apparently they stood out among the rest, being the very cream of the crop.  Not only were they superior to the other captive young men (be them Hebrew or otherwise), but they were also head & shoulders above the other “magicians and astrologers” employed by the king.  No doubt this fact not only left an impression upon the king, but upon the astrologers as well!  This sets the tone for some of the animosity to come, as they are jealous for the kingly favor that the four Hebrews received.
  • The point is that they stood apart.  Men and women of God ought to.  That’s not to say we’ll be the most skilled or most intelligent – but we ought to stand out in wisdom, love, and grace.  Christians ought to be the hardest workers, the most trustworthy employees, the most gracious neighbors, etc.  Whatever we do, we do it for the Lord, so we are to do it heartily, with passion. (Col 3:23)  We ought to give our very best, because God deserves our very best.  That sort of passion is going to be witnessed by others, and provides a natural opportunity for us to witness of Jesus.

21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.

  • Not only did Daniel have success; he had lasting success.  He remained in this position of prominence all his life.  Depending on the dating system used, this refers to either 539BC or 537BC.  Considering that Daniel first arrived in Babylon in 605BC, this is a timespan of 67 years!  We don’t know Daniel’s precise age when he was forced to leave Jerusalem, but he was certainly a young man – thus he lived in Babylon well into his 70’s or 80’s.
  • Daniel’s entire life was spent away from his homeland, basically as a captive prisoner of war.  Certainly he lived a comfortable life (compared to some), but without question he was forced to live where he lived.  Was he still able to glorify God in his situation?  You bet!  He served the Lord for almost 70 years as a royal advisor to the king.  He outlasted several men who sat on the throne in Babylon.  Daniel may not have been where he wanted to be, but he was right where God wanted him…and he flourished!

Conclusion:
For Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, the message was clear: welcome to Babylon!  They were expected to shed their Jewish identity, blend in, and get to work for the king who had captured them.  Instead, they remembered who they were, sought to honor the Lord first, and then served Him in whatever capacity was laid before them – in this case, as advisors to the king.  They made the best of a bad situation – they turned lemons into lemonade.  And God blessed it!  In His sovereign will, He had a plan for these young men, and He would be glorified through their future faith and successes.

Again, the lesson here is not a Christian plan to climb the corporate ladder – it’s not a nutritional plan to lose weight.  The lesson is about faith in God, and faith in God’s sovereignty.  Daniel & the others were young at the time, but they knew they had a desire to honor God, no matter what the cost.  That was a mindset that would follow them the rest of their lives…and rightfully so.  Daniel planned to walk in purity – he purposed to honor the Lord, and he followed through with solid actions.  God also had a plan for Daniel, and worked in ways Daniel couldn’t see at the time to see His plans come to fruition.

We have no control over the plan of God for our lives (we wouldn’t be equipped to deal with it if we did!), but we can control how we respond to the things God allows into our lives.  We too can make lemons into lemonade.  When challenges come, so often our first response is to whine and complain – but what would happen if we assessed it, and sought to glorify God in it?  Instead of asking “Why me?” ask “God, what do You want me to do with this?”  God may have a glorious plan in mind for whatever your Babylon might happen to be, but we need to be willing to seek Him and honor Him in the midst of it.

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