That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thinking Positively ~ The Testimony of Daniel

The thinking positively trend continues...
The nice thing about thinking positively is that the more positively you think the more positive you feel!  

Life is pretty much made up of two things... problems and blessings.  We can all get overwhelmed by problems at times.  My problems are usually pretty puny, but sometimes those puny problems can make me feel downright miserable.  Sometimes when I have a problem, I think about a Bible character that had problems.  There are a few who had some MAJOR problems.  My problems are nothing compared to the things Joseph, David, and Jeremiah went through.  I've not been imprisoned, beaten, falsely accused, hunted down, thrown in a dungeon, or had my life threatened on a daily basis.  Don't get me wrong, problems are real, and they are serious.  However, I've often noticed that I sometimes have a tendency to make a mountain out of a mole hill.  Besides the Bible says that the "trying of [our] faith worketh patience" and to "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations."  JOY???? SERIOUSLY????  

My Mom and I were talking about Daniel the other day.   I think we often never get beyond the "Sunday school" lives of Bible characters.  What do I mean by that?  Well, in Sunday school we learn about Daniel and the Lion's Den, and how God miraculously saved Daniel's life.  Praise the Lord, end of story, let's go home and get Sunday lunch... :).  As children we hear all these stories, but do we ever stop to think beyond the "story"?  Do we ever stop to think about who these people really were, what they went through, and the lessons we can learn from them?  Are they just stories to us, or are they in fact REAL people?  Daniel was a real person;  two eyes, two ears, a nose, hands, feet, etc.  He had feelings, emotions, desires, likes, dislikes, passions, struggles, and victories.  Think about Daniel.  No, really think about him.  Are you thinking?  Daniel wasn't just the guy in the lion's den...

When we are first introduced to Daniel in the Scriptures he is very young.  For a young person, he has already experienced some horrific things.  Daniel is a captive of war.  His homeland was destroyed, his family probably killed, and he is a prisoner, lucky to be alive.  Before the war the land of Israel was entrenched in idolatry, wickedness, and immorality.  It was really not a nice place to live.  God sent prophets to warn of the doom that was about to come on the land for their disobedience, but no on listened.  Everyone hated God's prophets.  Just look at how they treated Jeremiah.  Daniel probably heard Jeremiah speak on more than one occasion.  Daniel chapter 1 tells us that Daniel was of the king's seed (vs 3).  That means he was royalty, from a wealthy family, he had a good upbringing, and he was well educated.  Many scholars and theologians place Daniel's age at his captivity around 16 or 17 years old.  The Bible doesn't tell us how old he is, but my personal feeling is that he is much younger than that; maybe 9 or 10.  Daniel 1:3-4 both mention "children."  

So, here's Daniel.  Regardless of his actual age, he is quite young.  Too young to be a prisoner, to have his family murdered, and to see his home destroyed by war.  No child should have to suffer those things.  But, not only has Daniel suffered all this, he is now about to be indoctrinated in the Babylonian culture.  Everything near and dear to his heart is going to be ripped away from him.  His memories, his learning, his language; everything must be erased from his former life in order to make him into a good Babylonian citizen.  The goal of the Babylonians is to integrate these "well favoured" children into Babylonian society.  They would be told that all the things they learned about the God of Israel were false, and they would be taught the heathen religion and culture of their new "home."  The choice?  Integrate into the heathen culture or die.  So, what does Daniel do?  What does this child who has lost EVERYTHING he ever knew do?  He refuses to give up his faith.  That in itself just stops me in my tracks right there every time I think about it.  Did Daniel know that if he didn't eat the kings meat he would die?  He sure did!  And even if he didn't the prince of the eunuchs who was in charge was certainly afraid of getting his head cut off if Daniel and his friends didn't follow along (vs. 10).  

I wonder how many children were there with Daniel and his three friends; twenty, fifty, hundreds, thousands?  I imagine that there were many.  II Kings 24:14 says there were ten thousand captives!  Out of all those people only Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael had the courage to do what was right.  Only four children out of hundreds or even thousands!!!  Doing right often means being few in number, or even being alone.  Taking a stand will probably mean loosing a few friends.  Was it worth it for Daniel and his friends to take a stand?  They were JUST CHILDREN!!!  They had their whole lives ahead of them.  They could have become prominent citizens in Babylon.  They were smart, good looking, and well educated.  They just had to go along with the crowd, stay alive, and they could have easy, comfortable, fulfilling lives... right?  I wonder what their lives would have been like if they had gone along with the rest of the crowd?  Well, do we ever hear about the "rest of the crowd?"  Are their names mentioned in the Bible?  Did they get saved from the firey furnace and the lion's den?  Who knows, maybe some of them were the other princes that got thrown into the lion's den after Daniel was saved.  Did any of the "crowd" ever get revelations from God?  Did they get to be third ruler in the kingdom?  Did they have the blessing of God on their lives?  

It's ALWAYS worth it to do right even if it means you are alone, and even if it means you might die.  Daniel had no way of knowing when he was a kid sitting at that table looking at that meat that someday God was going to deliver him from a horrible death of being ripped apart by wild beasts.  Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael had no idea when they refused to sin that someday they would be thrown into a blazing fire and NOT be burned to death.  What if Daniel had eaten the meat?  It was just a little thing.  It wasn't like he was going to murder someone, or commit adultery, or rob a bank.  It was just a little bit of meat.  But, God had commanded them in the law not to eat it.  ALL of God's commands are important.  Daniel and his friends understood this.  They knew that to break one part of the law meant they were guilty of all the law, and they took the stand.  

Probably the most amazing thing about this story is the way God blessed these four boys.  They grew up to be obedient, willing, servants of God.  They had OUTSTANDING testimonies among everyone in Babylon.  People knew who they were because they were willing to be REAL followers of God.  They didn't just SAY they followed God.  When push came to shove (and shove meant life or death), they acted their faith.  God honoured that!  He gave Daniel one of the highest, most respected positions in the kingdom.  But even then Daniel continued to obey.  He didn't compromise EVER.  Even though he served heathen kings in a heathen culture, Daniel's witness stayed intact!  

Today we live in a time that would encourage Christians to "blend in" to the world around them.  We need to "become like the culture" in order to "reach" the culture.  I think they call it "missional."  I wonder what would have happened if Daniel and his three friends became "like" the culture around them in order to "reach" that culture?  Hmmm... that would have meant eating the meat!   I think many Christians miss this point.  Being like the culture always means compromise, and compromise always means disobedience to God.  Maybe it's just a little thing like copying the world's fashion, or watching the world's movies.  All Daniel was told to do was eat a bit of meat.  Come on... how bad could it really be?  Do we really have to be like our culture in order to reach them?  Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael reached the heathen culture around them by being the COMPLETE opposite of that culture.  And they reached those around them in an amazing way.  Just look at what the heathen people said about Daniel, his three friends, and their God.

And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.  And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.  (Dan 1:19-20)

The king answered unto Daniel and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and  Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets... (Dan 2:47).

Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any God, except their own God.  Therefore, I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill; because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort (Dan 3:28-29).

Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied to you.  I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.  How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation  (Dan 4:1-3).  Also check out Daniel 4:34-37... WOW!

Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.  I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast forever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.  (Dan 6:25-26).

Daniel was able to reach people by staying faithful to God and His commands... the big ones AND the little ones.  Standing for right is ALWAYS right.  We need Christians today who will "Dare to Be a Daniel."  We need Christians who will STAND and be different.  Be what GOD wants you to be, not what the culture says to be.  The only way to be blessed is by obeying God's commands.  ALL of them.  Just like Daniel did.

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