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Daniel 1:8; The Importance of the Trivial

05/16_Daniel 01:8; The Importance of the Trivial; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210516_dan01_8.mp3

God gave Jerusalem into the hands of their enemies, and he gave the sacred vessels from his sanctuary over to be taken away to the city opposed to God to be put into the treasury of a false God. Some of the youth of the nobility of Judah, God’s people, were taken captive. The most promising were to be fully indoctrinated with the ways of the Babylonians, to be assimilated, to become Babylonians. Daniel and his three friends were taken to be re-programmed, re-educated, stripped of their identity as God’s chosen people, given a new identity, new names, a new culture, new foods, a new world view. They were to be educated for three years, with the promise of a good life, with position and power and influence if they performed well.

Daniel 1:1 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 vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. 8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.

Daniel’s Heart Resolution

The Judean nobility were assigned ‘a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.’ They were exiled from their homes, carried off captive and against their will, but they were not thrown in the dungeon and treated harshly as slaves. Pleasure is much more persuasive than raw power. They were given opportunity, and they were shown what could be gained by cooperation with their new king. They were given the best food, the best wine, the best education.

It seems Daniel and his three friends ‘Yahweh is gracious,’ ‘who is what God is?’ and ‘Yahweh will help’ did not object to their new names. Although continuing to maintain their identity, they answered to ‘Bel, protect his life,’ ‘command of Aku’ ‘who is what Aku is?’ ‘servant of Nebo.’

They did not argue against learning the language and the literature of the Chaldeans, that no doubt would have included cult and possibly occult practices of interpreting dreams and visions, astrology, ways to predict the future. They would have been taught the myths and legends of the Bablyonian pantheon of gods, Bel, Nebo, Aku and others. Although they learned the material, that didn’t mean they embraced the false gods or adopted their false ways.

Drawing the Line at Food

But Daniel drew the line at food. He ‘resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.’ Why did Daniel draw the line here? This is a more difficult question than it may appear.

Kosher Law

Daniel was an Israelite, and he was under what we now call the Old Testament dietary regulations or kosher food laws, so he was not permitted to eat things like pork or seafood, or animals that had not been properly slaughtered to drain the blood. This could explain the vegetable diet, because there may not have been any meat available that was both clean and prepared in a kosher way. But this would not explain his rejection of the wine, as wine is not prohibited under the Jewish food laws, and is a regular part of many of the Jewish feasts and celebrations.

Idolatry

We could look to the New Testament warnings against the danger of eating food sacrificed to idols in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10.

Paul points back to the Israelites worshiping the golden calf;

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” …14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 10:19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

It is quite likely that the meat and the wine in Babylon would have been first offered to their gods. But that would likely have been true of the grains and vegetables also.

Later in the book, Daniel writes:

Daniel 10:2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. 3 I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.

To say that he abstained from delicacies, meat and wine, indicates that it was his normal practice to enjoy these foods. So either Daniel lost his resolve not to defile him later in life (which is clearly not the case), or what would have defiled him in this context of his Babylonian training was no longer considered defiling later in life.

We see others in Scripture who seemingly make no issue of foreign food; some 1200 years earlier Joseph, and then Moses in Egypt, and a century later Esther under the Persian empire. We read of King Jehoiachin, also a captive in Babylon at the time of Daniel, in 2 Kings 25:29-30 who dined at the table of king Amel-Marduk (son of Nebuchadnezzar, 561 BC) without being condemned for it.

Conscience

Paul concludes in 1 Corinthians 10 that we as Christians are free:

1 Corinthians 10:25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” …28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— …31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

For Daniel, it could have been a matter of conscience; it could have been a refusal to put a stumbling block in front of his brothers.

Allegiance

No doubt Daniel was familiar with the Psalms of David the King.

Psalm 141:3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! 4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!

There is a heart issue at stake. Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s delicacies. And maybe even more applicable is the wisdom of Solomon:

Proverbs 23:1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.

There is potent danger in pleasure. To receive the king’s delicacies would be to become obligated to the king, to become dependent on him, to trust in him as the one who supplies your needs, your desires, your joy. As the Psalms so richly communicate, God is the only source of lasting and true joy that satisfies the soul. To receive the king’s food would be to shift allegiance from God alone to the king. For Daniel this may have been primarily an issue of defiling his own heart. This was an issue of idolatry, not toward the gods of Babylon, but the gods of pleasure and ease. This was an issue of betraying his allegiance to God alone.

The Danger of Diet

We might think, ‘What’s the big deal?’ ‘Why draw the line at food?’ Isn’t the risk of losing your identity more serious? Isn’t the danger of an education that threatens your world view more comprehensively dangerous and destructive? Why choose food as the hill to die on? We can understand the stand the three took not to bow down and worship an image; we can even understand Daniel’s open refusal to pray to the king, but to make a big deal about food and drink? It seems trivial. But that is the very danger. It seems so small, so unimportant; surely it can be overlooked. What’s the harm in eating?

The History of Food

It’s been said that “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it” (Churchill, 1948). We ought to heed the warnings of history. Let’s take a tour of the history of food.

God made every good thing for us to enjoy. But Adam and Eve traded paradise for a taste of the one forbidden fruit.

Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of bean stew. Jacob deceived his father Isaac and stole the blessing from his brother with some savory goat and some wine; “prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die” (Gen.27:4).

400 years of slavery in Egypt, and the people cried out to the Lord for rescue. After the Lord’s mighty demonstration of his awesome power to save, one month after leaving Egypt,

Exodus 16:3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

They would rather have died slaves in Egypt with their appetites satisfied. They were not satisfied with their freedom and the presence of God with them. God graciously provided them manna in abundance (Ex.16:4, 31), the bread of angels (Ps.78:25), bread from heaven.

But their appetites were still not satisfied. A year later,

Numbers 11:4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Shocking ingratitude of insatiable appetites. They longed for the good old days of slavery in Egypt so they could have cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic, and fish. Dissatisfied with God’s provision of simple bread from heaven, their grumbling about food stirred up the anger of the Lord. God promised to give them meat to eat ‘until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’ (Num.11:20)

Numbers 11:33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving.

Paul tells us:

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

All this is for our instruction. Do not allow your appetite to make you dissatisfied with God’s good gifts.

1 Corinthians 10:7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (Ex.32:6)

The idolatry before the golden calf started out with a meal.

In Ezekiel 16, God says that he cared for Jerusalem and provided her with all she needed, he fed her with fine flour and oil and honey; but she took his good gifts and used them in adulterous idolatry. Her sin was greater than the sin of Sodom, which he describes as this:

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Excess of food and prosperous ease are spiritually dangerous. We must be on our guard and learn from the failures of the past.

Be Faithful in Little Things

And small things matter greatly. Jesus said

Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

It would have been easy for Daniel to justify partaking, to make excuses, to explain the necessities placed upon him. ‘Is it not a little thing? It can’t be that big of a deal.’ It may have seemed trivial, nit-picking, legalistic, but if Daniel and his friends had compromised in this small area, there wouldn’t have been a fiery furnace or a lion’s den. We wouldn’t have the book of Daniel today. He who is faithful in the small things sets a precedent for also being faithful when it really counts.

Jesus’ Victory Over Temptation

Satan’s temptation of Jesus began with food.

Matthew 4:2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Where the first man, every need abundantly supplied, naked and unashamed, in paradise, failed; the second Adam, alone, in the wilderness, literally starving, stood firm. Where we failed, Jesus stood victorious in our place.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus understood where true nourishment is found. He knew from experience that:

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Jesus showed us where true life, true fulfillment, true satisfaction is found.

John 6:33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” … 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 19, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus – Primary Allegiance (Matthew 10:24-39)

05/10 Obey Jesus: Primary Allegiance; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200510_primary-allegiance.mp3

We are looking at what it means to obey Jesus. Jesus instructed us to make disciples who make disciples who obey Jesus in everything. So What did Jesus command? We’ve been looking at some of the commands of Jesus, to know what he expects of us his followers, and to equip us to better disciple those who become his followers. He commands that we come to him and believe in him, that we believe what he says about himself, that he is the I AM come down from heaven to give life to the world. We are to find him in all of Scripture, because he said the whole of the Scriptures point to him. We are to meet with him there in his word. We are to abide in him, stay connected to him in relationship, pray to him and pray in his name so that we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God.

A Servant Not Above His Master (Matthew 10)

Today I want to look at what Jesus says about our primary allegiances. In Matthew 10 Jesus is preparing his followers for what it is going to be like for them in this world. He said:

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

If we are following Jesus, we shouldn’t expect to be treated better than he was treated. If he was slandered and maligned, we should not be surprised if we experience the same.

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus talks to us about our fears. He knows our tendency to be afraid, and he reminds us who to fear. What anyone says about us falsely will be brought into the light, so we don’t have to lose sleep over it.

They may kill the body. Many of Jesus’ followers have been killed because of their faith in him. But he reminds us not to fear those who have the power to kill only the body but cannot touch our soul. He reminds us that God alone is to be feared. We possess an invincible hope, that even death cannot quench!

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Two sparrows were sold for one small coin. Luke 12:6 has five sparrows sold for two of these coins; they were of so little worth that if you buy four you got one thrown in for free. And yet not one insignificant sparrow falls to the ground apart from the sovereign will of their omnipotent Creator. He has numbered the hairs on your head, and he has numbered your days on this earth. You are of more value than many sparrows. So fear not.

Primary Allegiance

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Our allegiance to Jesus matters. To be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge him before people is to say that what they think is more important, more weighty than what God thinks. It is evidence that we don’t really believe in him. Jesus continues:

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Jesus is the great divide [this is fulfillment of prophecy from Micah 7:5-6]. Jesus polarizes people. You are either with him or against him. He tolerates no lukewarm opinions about himself. Jesus divides.

I know some of you know personally the cost of following Jesus, and have experienced exactly what Jesus says here.

Jesus says:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

For Jesus to say that we are to love him above father and mother is to affirm the value of those relationships; family love and natural allegiance run deep. But he is to take precedence over even the highest of natural affections, the deepest of natural allegiances.

This is strong language. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, son or daughter, more than our own skin. He picks our closest ties, our deepest allegiances and demands that we are committed to him above all.

It is worth noting here that this demand would be audacious and unthinkable if Jesus were not God. To demand our unqualified allegiance is a clear claim to be the only one worthy of that kind of allegiance. Jesus is demanding that our love for God (and thus for him because he is God) must supersede every other affection and devotion

Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves his own skin more than me is not worthy of me.

Not worthy of me; not worthy not in the sense of not having earned or achieved the right, but rather not fit, not equal to the task. Those who are not willing to put God above all other loves are not willing to be Jesus’ disciples. They are not believing that the Lord is worthy of our highest love, not believing that in order to love others rightly, they must be loved in their proper place under God; the Lord must be loved first and above all.

In Luke 14, he says:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is not justifying hatred toward family members. But some of our actions and decisions may be perceived that way, because of our overriding allegiance to him. When we put Jesus first, everyone else comes in second, and nobody likes to be second. This is not dislike or disdain, but a supreme loyalty.

What This Does Not Look Like

Jesus affirms that we ought to honor father and mother. He even rebuked the Pharisees who created a legal loophole so that children could get out of the responsibility of taking care of their parents. What they were doing, it seems was taking the resources that they should have used to support their parents, and declaring them as dedicated to God, to be given to the Lord at some future date. This was a hypocritical way to say they were putting God first, while really they were avoiding responsibility to their parents and keeping it all for themselves. Jesus

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (cf. Mk.7:9-13)

Jesus affirms that it is commanded by God to honor father and mother, but we must honor them under the Lord. Our loyalty must be to Jesus above all.

Government Submission

We can extend this to civil authorities, to states and empires. Peter tells us we are to

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Timothy tells us that we are to pray for those who are in authority over us;

1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And keep in mind that the context of these letters would have been the evil emperor Nero who was no friend of the cause of Christ.

Jesus answered a question about paying taxes:

Matthew 22:21 …Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Their coins had the image of the emperor on them. We bear God’s image. We are to give the government its due, but we must give God that which bears his image.

But when it comes to it, when the two are in conflict, our allegiance is to Jesus above all earthly allegiances. When the Jewish leaders rebuked the disciples

Acts 5:28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We are to pray for our leaders and be subject to our earthly governments as far as possible, but when the demands of these two collide, we must submit to the higher authority. We must obey God rather than men.

Gospel Community

In Mark 10, when Jesus pointed to the difficulty people have with following him, with giving him their undivided allegiance,

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus demands that we put him higher than every other love. Although the cost of following Jesus may be great, the reward will be far greater. Because Jesus demands our highest allegiance, this will mean that we seek to honor him above all. For some, this may actually mean walking away from a close relationship with an unbeliever, although in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul clarifies that it will be the unbeliever who wants out; so far as it depends on us we are to seek to live peaceably will all (Rom.12:18). But according to Jesus, whoever leaves family for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will receive a hundredfold now in this life, brothers and sisters and mothers and children. What does he mean by this? Although in some cases blood relatives may want nothing to do with a believer, as believers we are adopted into the family of God. Although these relationships man never replace a lost relationship, we become part of a much larger family with a depth of unity through our common allegiance to Jesus. We become family. It is a beautiful thing to meet a believer from another place, maybe another country and a different culture, and discover that depth of connection we have in Jesus.

Invited In

In Mark 3, there was such a crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. The religious leaders were saying he was possessed by a demon, and his family came to get him, thinking he was out of his mind.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is not negating the importance of family. But he is inviting us in to his own family. My disciples, those who obey me, those who do the will of God, you are my mother and sister and brother. That’s the depth, that’s the intimacy, that’s the loyalty Jesus invites us in to. He takes the closest relationships we experience and says that is the kind of relationship I want with you.

What about you? Jesus invites you in. He wants that kind of depth, that kind of closeness with you. He is inviting you in. But he wants you to count the cost. It is costly to follow Jesus. He demands your highest devotion, your undivided loyalty, your absolute allegiance. He requires that you take him for who he is, to acknowledge him as God, with absolute rights over you. He commands that you devote yourself to him above every other affection. Will you take up your cross and follow him and not look back? Will you follow him wherever he leads? Will you obey everything he commands? Will you be his disciple?

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 11, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment