1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2And 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 and put in the treasure house of his god. 

3Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—4young 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. 5The 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.

6Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

8But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

21And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Daniel 1

Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the conquering king’s rich food. That seems like a good thing…but notice how he went about it. I was quite taken with it when I read this chapter. Put yourself in Daniel’s place. His nation has been conquered. The priceless things in the temple of the Lord have been taken and placed in temples before other gods. Daniel, his friends and other Israelites were taken to serve the conquering king, King Nebuchadnezzar. They are given new names and are being taught a new language so that they can serve a new king.

Somehow I don’t think I’d be feeling very charitable. I would probably be  struggling not to feel resentful and angry…unless I’d given up the struggle and just settled into the anger and resentment. That’s certainly not God’s way of handling the situation, I’m just saying…

I was so impressed with Daniel’s response.

  • His heart remained pure – he made a commitment to not becoming unclean by eating the choice food the king offered.
  • He remained humble. This is what captured my attention as I read the passage. I was amazed at Daniel’s attitude. Instead of standing up for his religious practices or God’s way of living – “I refuse to defile myself with this pagan’s food” – he humbly asked the guard if he may not eat the food. He didn’t arrogantly stand up to the guard, declaring that his ways were better than the guard’s ways. He didn’t resentfully refuse to eat the food. He didn’t quietly eat the other food leaving the “choice” food on his plate. He “asked the chief official for permission.” That, my friend, is humility – displayed in a place and at a time when humility would not be a natural response.
  • He remained confident in his God and his God’s ways. After not demanding his own way (or the way he believed God wanted), Daniel asked the chief official for a trial – “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”  Daniel was so confident in God’s ability to sustain them that he gave the official an opportunity to prove it to himself. Again, the suggestion was delivered with humility, not arrogance. In offering to let the official decide what is the best approach at the end of the trial, Daniel wasn’t saying “You’ll see – our ways are better than your ways.” Rather, he was saying “You can decide which is best.” His attitude was humble, but his heart was confident that God will honor and bless Daniel’s actions.

Notice that it was Daniel’s humility that peacefully opened the door to negotiations that allowed Daniel to eat the foods that he believed honored God, which then led to God’s blessing Daniel and his friends with supernatural favor and wisdom.

I’d like my life to be characterized by an attitude of humility and a heart of confidence. What an excellent picture of living our faith.

The Christmas season is upon us and you and I are likely to find ourselves in gatherings of people with whom we sometimes have difficulty – perhaps a parent or an in-law, a sibling or a competitive cousin. I wonder if practicing Daniel’s humility might help us gain favor with these people and open doors for the Gospel. As you think about upcoming gatherings, think about the conversations that often develop that end in conflict or frustration. Are there ways your behavior might mirror David’s? Are there ways you can practice humility while maintaining a heart that is confident in God’s power to change the situation? I’m praying there are because practicing Daniel’s humility just might be the way to bring those challenging people in your life closer to the Lord. Let’s give it a try!

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