A prison chaplain noticed an inmate who had been tasked with mending uniforms. Greeting the man cheerfully, he said, “Good morning, friend! Sewing?”
“No, sir,” replied the inmate with a grim smile. “Reaping!”
As the book of Daniel opens, the southern kingdom of Judah is about to reap a bitter harvest for long years of disobedience to God’s Word. Judgment should not have come as a surprise, for as far back as Moses, somber warnings had been clearly sounded regarding the price of departure from God (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).
When judgment came, it was for two clear reasons. First, the Mosaic Law specified that every seventh year the land was not to be farmed since it was a sabbatic year, a year of rest for the land, symbolizing that “the earth is the Lord’s.” But apparently the Israelites had not observed this law for 490 years, because the writer of Chronicles states that the captivity was 70 years in length because: “As long as [the land] lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years” (2 Chronicles 36:21).
God’s judgment also fell on Judah for the sin of idolatry. The northern kingdom of Israel had been swallowed up by this evil practice in the forms of Jeroboam’s calf worship and the worship of Baal. While Judah resisted it for a time, eventually the sordid story was repeated and there were even idolatrous orgies in Jerusalem. No wonder we read in Daniel 1:2, “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand.”
With this, we are introduced to the great theme of the book of Daniel, that is, the sovereignty of God in the affairs of the nations. We are taught here that God is the Master of the situation. Of course, He often uses human instruments to accomplish His will—Nebuchadnezzar in this case—but God is always in control and the outcome is assured.
Daniel was about sixteen when Babylon’s armies stormed through Judah and besieged Jerusalem. It was then that Daniel’s world crumbled about him, for he was captured and deported to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was looking for choice young men who could occupy important positions in Babylon, particularly in the administration of Jewish affairs.
The requirements for selection were high (Daniel 1:4), but Daniel, along with his three friends, met them. We learn that Daniel had no physical blemish, was intelligent, and poised. Daniel was an unusual teenager, and stands as a striking model for today’s young people!
If Daniel and his friends were to be of any value to Nebuchadnezzar, they had to be re-educated so that they would no longer think or act like Judeans, but like Babylonians. For three years they were taught “the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4). They were exposed to Babylonian education at its very best, or rather at its pagan worst. The goal was clear-—change their way of thinking!
God’s people today must be aware of the Enemy’s brainwashing program. Satan would, if at all possible, change our patterns of living and thinking until we are conformed to this present age and culture. Not only do Christian young people face this problem in school, but so do Christians of all age-groups because of the pervasive and powerful influence of the media.
Let us learn from Daniel how the Enemy can be defeated. “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8). The food set before him was from animals that were slaughtered ceremonially and offered to the Babylonian gods. In addition, the food no doubt often included meat the Mosaic Law declared unclean (Leviticus 11).
Daniel could discern the fact that the Babylonian culture was in conflict with the Word of God, and he had the maturity and moral courage to say a firm “no” to cultural pressures. Involved in this is the clear implication that Daniel was a keen student of the Scriptures and that he had the ability to apply what he knew to the problems of his daily life.
God vindicated Daniel and honored him greatly because he stood by his convictions. God always does!
Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known!
—Condensed from Daniel: God’s Man in a Secular Society by Donald K. Campbell.