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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.

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

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