The Teenager Who Said “No”

As a teenager Daniel was taken captive to Babylon. In very difficult conditions and changing circumstances he remained faithful to God, and became an effective witness for Him in the corrupt court there. His influence began to be felt when he was a teenager and continued throughout his long life. Joseph, Samuel, David, Josiah and Timothy are but a few Biblical examples of others in whose fives God was at work when they were young and who later became men of God. What about you? Is God at work in your fife? Are you a witness for Him in your school, college of place of work?

Daniel’s Preparation

Daniel was a youth of ability and intelligence. These qualified him for selection, along with his three companions, for a three year course of studies in the University of Babylon, Dan. 1. 3-7. Nebuchadnezzar was a very proud king and saw to it that he had the best brains in the land about him for advice and to enhance the splendour of his court. In one sense he idolized ‘brains’ as, alas!, many still do. It is possible, of course, to have brains but no wisdom. Daniel had both. He was a young man who feared the Lord; his wisdom therefore came from the right source. Look up Proverbs 1. 7. We shall see presently how a crisis arose in Daniel’s experience that called for the use of this wisdom. Daniel’s secular education involved him in learning the culture and the language of the Babylonians. Doubtless there would have been much in their philosophies which he could not accept, but this did not cause him to object to the university course. Neither did he object to the use by others of his Babylonian name, Bel-teshazzar, in place of his Hebrew name, Daniel, although neither God nor he ever used it.

By means of this academic training, the king must have intended to indoctrinate the Jewish youths into the Babylonish way of fife. Changing their names was another means to try and make them forget their Hebrew origin. In addition, they were made to feel at home in the land of captivity by a daily provision of food from the king’s own menu. After all, were they not much better off and far more comfortable in Babylon than back in Jerusalem with its desolation and economic gloom?

Young Christian, beware the world’s allurements. Do not let the world press you into its mould of outlook and behaviour. Remember the words of John, “Love not the world”, 1 John 2. 15. It is much better to set your heart on things above, Col. 3. 2.

Daniel’s Purpose

Daniel had to adjust himself to changes in his environment but his faithfulness to God and His Word did not change. This is illustrated in the matter of the menu provided from the king’s table and over which he raised a genuine conscientious objection, Dan. 1. 8.

We must remember that Daniel lived in Old Testament times. The law of Moses prohibited the eating of certain kinds of meat and imposed stringent regulations which differentiated between clean and unclean flesh. The eating of blood, too, was strictly forbidden; see Lev. 11. Evidently the meat from the royal table did not comply with all these requirements and Daniel was not prepared to be ceremoniously defiled by eating it. Also, in all probability, both the meat and the wine had first been offered to a pagan god. Daniel’s objection therefore sprang out of conviction. This conviction was not so much one which he held but one which held him. Note four things:—

  • Firstly, it was based on the Word of God. He acknowledged the supreme authority of God’s Word over his life and determined to obey it at all costs. Do you hold the Scriptures with the same reverence? By taking heed to them you will be kept pure, Psa. 119. 9.
  • Secondly, it was formed in his early youth. It is often the case that what a person is in his early years largely determines what he will be in later life. How important, then, to make the most of your youth for the Lord.
  • Thirdly, it went against natural inclination. How much nicer must the king’s fare have been than the vegetables and water which Daniel requested. It was not that he was a vegetarian, for at other times he freely partook flesh and wine; see Dan. 10. 2-3. For the sake of a scriptural principle he was ready to give up what was pleasant and naturally desirable. Are you prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of obedience to the Word of God?
  • Fourthly, it influenced others. Only of Daniel is it said that he resolved not to defile himself; but his three friends were later associated with him in the abstinence. Again, it was Daniel who made the request to be excused, clearly on their behalf as well as his own. It is probable that his courage and godly example influenced and encouraged them in the same path of obedience. Is your commitment to the Lord such that your friends are influenced by your example?

Daniel’s Prudence

The situation Daniel faced needed wisdom and a trust in God. He did not adopt a fanatical attitude so as to endanger his own life or the lives of others. He made no unreasonable demands. Rather, he simply requested that the menu be changed. Humanly speaking, this was asking the impossible but obedience to God was involved and He could bring about the impossible. When his request was refused by Ashpenaz, Daniel did not give up. He made a proposition to Melzar, the steward, that they should be put on a pulse and water diet over a ten day trial period to test whether or not this would have an adverse effect upon their appearance and health. Melzar agreed, and God over-ruled—for instead of looking worse they appeared much better than all the rest who fed on the palace diet. Consequently, they were allowed to stay on the diet of their choice. Still more remarkable is the fact that after three years, their mental powers were in no way impaired. Their exam results were ten times better than those of everybody else.

The secret of Daniel’s spiritual success was that he put God first in his affairs. Do you allow your education, career, courtship or any other interest to take priority over spiritual things? May Daniel’s example provide us with the challenge to seek first the kingdom of God.

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