Daniel: Walking with God through trials

Daniel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:43
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Today we are going to start another series of sermons in Daniel.
I know we have not yet finished John. We will return to John. However, at this time, I believe it would be good for us to spend some time with Daniel.
The book of Daniel takes us along with Daniel to Babylon, where he served for about 70 years.
The book of Daniel can be somewhat broken into two parts. The first part, chapters 1-6 is an historical part, in which we see a bit of the history, the accounts of some of the major events through which Daniel and his friends walked with God.
The second part, chapters 7-12, are primarily dealing with visions and insight into the future of Israel which God gave to Daniel.
A major theme of Daniel is that God is sovereign. Even though Babylon conquered Judah, God is sovereign. The kings of the nations are not sovereign; God is. And, God in His sovereignty is walking with his people through the trials of this life.
Today, we are going to look at Daniel chapter 1.
Please open your bibles with me to Daniel chapter 1.
Daniel 1:1–2 NIV
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

Why did God allow the defeat of Jerusalem?

God has always had one standard for his people—that they walk in faith and obedience to Him.
Back when God brought the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, He told them to walk in faith, and to obey Him. He made a covenant with them when they said they would walk in faith and obedience.
Later, when the Israelites were ready to go into the land, Moses recorded the Lord promising blessings on them and the land as long as they walked in faithful obedience. He also swore that when they did not walk in faith and obedience, that they would be conquered by other nations, and carried off into captivity.
Unfortunately, Israel did not always walk in faith and obedience. After Solomon started worshipping false gods, many people started turning away from the Lord.
The northern tribes broke away into a separate kingdom, and they abandoned the Lord through all of the reigns of their different kings until the Lord had Assyria come and conquer them, and carry most of them away in 722 BC.
The southern tribes, referred to as Judah, had some good kings who followed the Lord, and some bad.
The last few were bad, and the Lord allowed Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Judah, and take the capital, Jerusalem in 605 BC. That is the event to which this verse refers.
They were in this situation, because even though God had warned them, the king and majority of the people had forsaken the Lord. They did not walk in faith and obedience.
Let’s continue reading in Daniel 1:3.
Daniel 1:3–7 NIV
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

What trials did they face?

I would like you to imagine, with me, what these young men went through. I want us to think about the trials that they faced. What struggles did they have?

Taken from home and family

These young men were taken from their homes and families, to never see them again. Think about that? How would you deal with someone coming, and forcing you to leave your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, cousins, and many other friends to never see them again!
Remember, this was way before telephones, and internet. They were not going to be able to facetime, or video chat. They could not pick the phone to call. This was an abrupt removal from their homes. I wonder if they even had time to give their mothers a hug goodbye?
Being separated from one another like we are today is hard. But imagine what it was like for them.
And, consider how old they were. We know from Daniel 10:1, that Daniel lived at least until the third year of King Cyrus. That would be 536 BC. Daniel was taken from home in 605 BC. That means, that if he was 16 years old, he would have been 85 when he died! The bible does not tell us, but I believe Daniel was likely 16 years old at the most! He could have been younger, like 12 or 14!
Can you imagine being ripped from your family at that age, and marched for weeks to a new land, a new home?
That had to be difficult for them. It had to be a real trial.

Forced to learn a new language and culture

Once they arrived in Babylon, they were forced to begin school for three years. This would have been intense, because they had to not only learn the lessons, they had to master a new language and culture. Granted, they likely knew some Aramaic since Daniel did talk with Ashpenaz. But did he have the mastery of the language to be able to study mathematics, sciences, astrology and all of the other subjects? Can you imagine trying to go to school in another language, even if you are a little familiar with it? That had to be hard!
But that is not all they faced. They were also...

Stripped of their identity

When they got to Babylon, they had their names taken away, and they were given new ones.
Our names are important aren’t they? They are our identity. To take our name is to take our identity. And that is what was done to these boys. Their identities were taken from them.
In the case of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, their families had likely been part of a remnant that remained faithful to God. for their names were all related to God.
Those names, which were a part of their heritage, as well as their identity, were taken from them, and new names were given—new names that were meant to change not only what they were called, but who they were!
Look at this with me.
Daniel (God has judged) - Belteshazzar (Bel guard his life)
Hananiah (Yahweh has been gracious) - Shadrach (Aku is exalted)
Mishael (Who is what God is?) - Meshach (Who is what Aku is?)
Azariah (Yahweh has helped) - Abednego (Servant of Nebo)

Stripped of their Identity

These young men were given new names to strip them of their identity, and their God. They were given new names to bring them under allegiance to new gods, the gods of the Babylonians.
How would you like to have your identity stripped away? Your heritage removed from you, and be called fearful, and contemtpible?
This had to be hard for these young men. How could they as young men stand up to this kind of treatment?
But that isn’t all. There is more.

Made to be eunuchs

Where do we see this?
Those who have studied archeology and the culture, have found that often those taken to be officials in the kingdom were made eunuchs. But, what is more is that we find this in scripture.
Back when Hezekiah was king of Judah, God told Hezekiah that He would protect him and Judah during his reign, because of his faithfulness. But God also foretold how in the future, Babylon would conquer Judah.
Look with me at 2 Kings 20:16-18.
2 Kings 20:16–18 NIV
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
God foretold how Babylon would conquer Judah, and how even some of the young men from the royal family would be carried off, and become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
Not only were these young men taken from their families, forced to learn a new language and culture, and stripped of their identity, they were also emasculated.
They had everything taken from them! Was this a trial? Was there suffering? Yes. This had to be the hardest thing they had ever gone through in their lives.

How did they respond?

How would you respond if this was happening to you? Would you be destroyed and fall apart? Would you be broken by this point? Would you just give in?
Would you question if God was with you? Would you give up on God?
What would these young men do? Remember, they were no longer with their parents and families. Would they believe when they were told that the Babylonian gods were obviously more powerful because Judah was defeated? Would they align themselves with the Babylonians, their teaching and their gods?
How did these young men respond?
Let’s read some more of what Daniel recorded for us.
Daniel 1:8 NIV
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

Daniel resolved not to defile himself

Daniel determined in his heart that though they removed him from his home, from his family, from his language and culture, from his manhood and his identity, he would not defile himself! He would remain true to God as far as it depended on him!
What I find interesting is that Daniel and his three friends were just four among those young men taken to Babylon from Jerusalem. They were just four. The others all accepted what came. They all gave in. They all turned their backs on the Lord, and took on this new identity, this new allegiance.
But Daniel resolved in his heart. He made up his mind. What happens to us on the outside does not define us. What we are on the inside defines us. Daniel knew that. So, he resolved in his heart to continue to follow the Lord.
This reminds me of what Jesus told us,
Luke 12:4–5 NIV
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Daniel resolved not to defile himself

Daniel knew what the Babylonians were doing could only effect him externally, his body. They could not do anything to his soul.
Daniel chose to fear the Lord!
How did he choose to not defile himself?
He resolved not to eat the food from the king’s table.
What was wrong with that food?
The food from the king’s table was likely unclean, and against the laws that God had given to Israel. First, it would have been prepared by gentiles, or non-Jews, who would not have followed the proper practices in preparing the food.
Second, it was likely a mixture of clean and unclean foods, including meat that was not properly drained of the blood.
Third, the food from the king’s table was likely offered to one of the Babylonian gods, and eating it would be participating in that idolatry.
Fourth, the Jews typically diluted their wine with water, never drinking it straight to avoid ‘strong drink’ which was prohibited. The Babylonians did not dilute their wine.
Lastly, to eat from the King’s table was to give full allegiance to the king. Daniel and his friends knew that only God could have their full allegiance.
Daniel resolved to not defile himself, and to continue in his allegiance to the One, True God.
So, Daniel went to Ashpenaz.
Daniel 1:9–10 NIV
Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
Daniel went to Ashpenaz, but he was more afraid of the king. So, he wouldn’t help Daniel.
Did Daniel give up?
No! Daniel was resolved! He tried again.
Daniel 1:11–14 NIV
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

Daniel did not give up

Daniel tried again with the guard that was over him and his three friends. He even came up with an idea to help get what they wanted. A test.
I love that Daniel did what he could to make sure that he and his friends could remain faithful to God in a very hard situation. It was not up to them. They were at the mercy of their captors.
But, Daniel also knew they were not alone.

God was with Daniel

We see that God was with Daniel in verse 9 when Daniel recorded that God caused Ashpenaz to show favor and compassion on Daniel.
We do not know exactly what Ashpenaz did for Daniel and his friends, but Daniel knew that God was working for him when he saw Ashpenaz’ favor and compassion.
In the midst of this huge trial, Daniel saw God was with him, and that God was at work. It may have been something small, but Daniel recognized it!
Have you seen God at work in the midst of the trial you are facing? It may have been something small, but it was meaningful! It means a lot when you know that God is for you, when God is with you!
I saw something. I had no idea how to get an online service going last week. I ordered what I read online, and heard from others. I tried some things, and praise the Lord, last week it worked!
This week, I learned some more, and one of the cables I used last week shouldn’t have worked. And sure enough, I tried it this week, and it didn’t work! So how did we record the service last week? God! God made it work! God made that cable work that one time!
Be looking for how God is working in the midst of trials you go through. Often it is something little, but He is letting you know He is there! He is for you! Not against you!
Daniel saw that. And even though Ashpenaz was too afraid of the king to help him in this way, Daniel did not give up. He tried again, and God gave him success with the guard!
What happened next?
Daniel 1:15–16 NIV
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
God allowed these four young men to be healthier and better nourished than all of the other boys who abandoned the Lord! God took care of them physically!
What is more,
Daniel 1:17–21 NIV
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

God gave them success!

I love the way Daniel recognized God at work. Daniel did not say, “Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and I studied hard and came out on top!”
Daniel realized that God gave them understanding! God gave them success! God even gave Daniel the ability to understand visions and dreams!
When the king tested them, he found them 10 times better than all of the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom! That means these 19 year olds were wiser than all of the older men who had been around longer, and experienced more life! Wow! God certainly gave them success!
This reminds me of what God told Joshua.
Joshua 1:8 NIV
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Daniel had God’s word in his heart. He knew what was right. He knew who the True God is. He knew he could trust God. He knew that others could do what they may to him on the outside, but they could not touch who he really was on the inside.
Daniel knew that by walking in faith and obedience to God, he would be successful! So he resolved in his heart, and he did not give up!
He kept persevering through the trial, knowing that God was walking with him through the trial to give him success!
The God of Daniel is still the same today. He wants us to walk in faith and obedience.
If we will resolve in our hearts to walk in faith and obedience, if we will keep his word on our lips and be careful to do what He says, God will give us success!
Whatever trial you are facing today, take encouragement from Daniel. No matter what is being done to you. No matter the outward difficulties you are facing, resolve in your heart to walk with God in faith and obedience.
Look for God in the midst of your trial. He is not leaving. Look for how He is at work providing what you need. Maybe not the way you think at first, like when Daniel first thought the help would come through Ashpenaz. It may not come the way you think, but God is at work. He is walking with you through the trial.
I hope you enjoy looking at how God walked with Daniel through this trial.
We will continue to see how God walked with them through trials next week.
Let’s close in prayer.
Deuteronomy 18:9–14 NIV
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so.
Daniel 1:8 Rejecting the King’s Food

They draw the line at some point. They avoid being fully assimilated and resist total conformity. In a sense, they are citizens of two worlds. They accept involvement in the Babylonian world, but they will not surrender loyalty to their God, which includes keeping God’s covenant and any dietary rules in force.

Daniel Daniel, Joseph, and Esther

Daniel, Joseph, and Esther make the point that God is with his people, guiding and preserving them wherever they are.

Daniel Daniel, Joseph, and Esther

The success of Daniel, Joseph, and Esther lies in the way they fear and obey God.

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