Daniel: Being a stand up person in a bow down world (week 2)

Daniel: how to make a stand for God when your freedoms are removed. 

Daniel 1:8-21


Life is made up of a series of smaller decisions. We may find ourselves situated in life and wonder how we got there but perhaps not realise all the smaller decisions that we have made along the way that have made us who we are today.  Daniel finds himself at a critical moment in his faith journey and identity.  Will he succumb to the prevailing culture or will he maintain his commitment to Yahweh?

Daniel and his friends are currently experiencing the assimilation program of the Babylonian empire. Learning new languages, indoctrinated to Babylonian literature and lore, their Hebrew names that remind them of their God taken from them in place of Babylonian names that emphasize the Babylonian gods.   Daniel exercises incredible wisdom when he realises that he and his friends are at a critical moment; they are in danger of losing their identity as God’s set apart people chosen to display His glory.  And hence he makes the resolute decision to not defile himself with the food and wine from the king’s table. The first thing we notice about Daniel is that his action begins with an inner resolution of the heart. A resolution to not defile himself and in so doing maintain his commitment to serving God as his true King and Lord.  As John Lennox writes, “David knew that defilement could spoil his relationship with God and undermine his personal testimony.”

There are many reasons put forth by commentators as to why Daniel made the decision to abstain from food in particular.  One of the reasons related to the Levitical laws of food considered unclean including food that had been offered to idols. Another reason was that Babylon’s had a trend of luring people away from their old life was through indulging them in luxurious and comfortable living.  And yet another reason could have been that to accept food from the King’s table was to also acknowledge your allegiance to that King.  Whichever the reason, Daniel along with his friends decided that this was the time to make their stand and to demonstrate outwardly to those in positions of authority over them who they were truly committed to.

And God responds to Daniel’s commitment. Firstly God grants them favour with those in authority over them so that they can carry out their commitment to abstain. Secondly, He gives Daniel and his friends remarkable wisdom, learning, knowledge of literature and to Daniel in particular God gives the ability to interpret dreams.  A large selection of Babylonian literature was dedicated to dream interpretation. Clearly it was a valued and sort after skill within Babylonian culture.   And so God equips Daniel  with a gift that will open doors for him to be able to bear witness to God at the highest level of society. Thirdly, God positions Daniel and his friends within the epicentre of Babylonian society by making them ten times better than any of the other trainees.  God is at work.  And why could God work through Daniel?  Because Daniel made the decision to not defile himself.  The writer of the book of Daniel finishes out this chapter with a cheeky little postscript, “And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.”  Daniel will remain in the highest courts of the land through the rise and fall of four different kings  (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus). The author of Daniel is cheekily reminding the reader that Kingdoms come and go but those who are faithfully committed to God will remain.

If you would like to go deeper with the book of Daniel we would recommend reading John Lennox book “Against the Flow”


Listen to the sermon here

FOR DISCUSSION IN COMMUNITIES:

Question to open discussion:

We have been noticing how the Babylonian power tried to squeeze it’s captives into the Babylonian mould through language, literature, learning, world view and luxurious living. Romans 12:2-3 in the JB. Phillips version reads: 

1-2 With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

Brainstorm together as a group, in what ways does our culture or context try to squeeze us as Christians into it’s mould?  How do you personally feel that squeezing?

Read together Daniel 1:8-21.

Q1. What do you notice about the way Daniel goes about exercising his commitment to not defile himself?  What could we learn from his example?

Q2. How does God respond to his and his friends commitment?

Q3. Read verse 9-10, notice the officials reaction to Daniel’s request, what does this tell you about the nature+ implications of the request that they were making?

Q4.  Undoubtedly Daniel and his friends decision to not accept food from the King’s table came with it’s risks, and they more than likely would have experienced some fear. over the uncertainty about how their resolution would be met.  How do you think they overcame their fear?

Q4.  Do you ever experience fear /anxiety of appearing different to those around you who don’t acknowledge God?  How do you deal with your fear?

Q5. Think about Daniel and his friends, what would have they meant to each other as they faced the reality of exile together?  Have you ever experienced this kind of accountable friendship?

Q6.  “When we commit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness, we need to ensure that our commitment is actually to God, not simply to a holy lifestyle or a set of moral values … offer yourselves to God, and in doing that commit yourselves to the pursuit of holiness in order to please Him.”Jerry Bridges.  How might the practise of abstaining lead to the pursuit of God and pleasing him? When might it become about morality instead of pursuing Him?

Pray as a group inviting the Holy Spirit to show you where in your life is the light of Christ being inhibited from shining through because you have adopted ways of the world instead of the ways of Christ.

FOR ACCOUNTABILITY + PRAYER:

You can use these discussion questions either in smaller prayer and accountability groups or as a part of your own individual devotional life.


Q1. Share with each other deliberate choices or decisions that you have made that were contrary to popular opinion because of your commitment to Christ?  Perhaps they made you unpopular, perhaps they meant sacrifice – why did you do that and what did it look like?  How have you seen God work through that?
Q2. Are there area’s in your life where practising the discipline of abstinence might be really helpful in terms of protecting your heart from idolizing other things above God?
Q3. How might you go about exercising that abstinence this week?  In what ways could your friends help you or support you?

Prayer together for the wisdom to know how to stand up for Christ within your unique context this week.

FOR PERSONAL DEVOTION + STUDY:


Monday:  Take a moment to meditate upon and memorize 1 Peter  3:14-17
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[a]; do not be frightened.”[b] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.


Tuesday: suffering for doing what is right. 
We live in a culture that wants us to conform to it’s mould and so living with Christ as Lord will mean at times experiencing the anxiety associated with not conforming and we will at times suffer for it.  But what will strengthen our courage and resolve will be if we have truly set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord. If we have really made him the director of our lives.


Wednesday:but even if you suffer, you are blessed.
In what sense are we blessed even if we  suffer?  Peter seems to be suggesting that there is a reward to be had in pursuing what is right even if that is accompanied with suffering.  The reward is found in the greater communion and intimacy to be had with God.  The word “blessed” literally means happiness.   Unfortunately we live in a culture that tells us to indulge ourselves on every front but we also live in a time of unhappiness on a grand scale.  From a biblical perspective this is not surprising.  For we were made for communion with God and anything else will always disappoint.


Thursday: in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Meditate upon this one line.  What do you think it looks like to revere Christ in your heart?  What does it mean for Him to be Lord?  Do you feel as though you have sufficient reverence for Christ?  What could you put into practise so as to build a reverence for Christ in your heart?


Friday: be prepared to give an answer  
Lately I have been asking myself the honest question do I ever get asked why I live my life differently?  Do people notice I am a Christian by the choices that I exercise?   And when asked am I prepared to give an answer?  Daniel really challenges us to consider our own lives and what kind of witness we are being unto the world.


Saturday: but do this with gentleness and respect. 
There is a difference between making a compelling argument for Christ and just being plain argumentative.  Whilst speaking the truth is incredibly important, often how we say it will be the measure of whether it is heard or not.  When asked about our faith, Peter encourages us to exercise wisdom in answering honestly with gentleness and respect.  Pray for opportunities to share Jesus with others this week and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom to know not only what to say but how to say it.