Main point summary
Since the pressure from culture is constantly luring us to compromise our holiness, we must be resolved to remain undefiled by it.
Thesis: True resolve to be undefiled in our culture is only possible if you are truly undefiled before God. "What's right is not always popular and what's popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein My former boss had this quote from Albert Einstein framed on his office wall directly behind his desk so that every time I walked into his office it was one of the first things that I would see. Every time I would walk in there, I couldn't help but be reminded of Daniel 1. In some ways, this quote captures the flavor of what occurs in the life of Daniel as we will see as we look at the text. We, like Daniel, face enormous pressure from culture to compromise our holiness. If you are a Christian, there is not a day that goes by where you do not feel the lure of culture beckoning you to follow in its footsteps. Many of our universities and schools are equipping and educating us with a specific purpose - to stand before and serve the ruler of this world (Daniel 1:5). In fact, I'm sure you have noticed that culture is constantly trying to desensitize its Christian exiles to its unholiness. Take for example the numerous movies and television shows that seek to normalize same-sex relationships. Culture is desperately trying to persuade everyone, to include its Christian exiles, that this kind of lifestyle is really not that bad after all. So the question becomes, "How do we resolve to be undefiled by the culture while at the same time live within the culture?" This question and its answer are one of the overarching themes that we see all throughout the book of Daniel. We see in this first chapter that Daniel and many of his Judean friends had been taken into captivity by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, what is so shocking about this is that verse 2 says that God responded by allowing this hostile takeover. Moreover, he even allowed the holy vessels of the temple to be seized and placed into the unholy temple of the Babylonian god. Why? In short, the reason is that God is holy and just. God had been telling his people for many years, through the prophets, to repent of their sin and to turn to him. His people chose to ignore this, which resulted in God's judgment. However, even though this was so, God had a purpose and a plan in all of this. In Jeremiah 29:5-6 he would tell his people in exile to settle in and live among the Babylonians. Why? It was to bring the presence of the God of Israel - to bring light - to the darkness of the Babylonian empire. In fact, if you were to read Daniel 4, you would see the impact that the light of God, through his people, would have on King Nebuchadnezzar. It even appears as if King Nebuchadnezzar repented of his sin and followed the God of Israel! Daniel 1:8 shows where the light pierces the darkness. We see in this verse that Daniel responds in a surprising way to his current situation. The author says, But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank... " Daniel and his friends had been trained in the Babylonian culture and the Babylonian way of life for 3 years. The sole purpose of their training was to assimilate them into the culture so that they would live out its values, in order to serve its king. But Daniel was resolved. He was resolved not to be defiled by it. He knew from his training and experience these past 3 years that the food and drink that was given to him from the king had first been offered to the Babylonian gods. Daniel knew that partaking of these meals would be a violation of God's law. He knew that it was unholy to partake in these cultural practices. Daniel stood with resolve and said, "I'm not doing it!" Can you imagine the pressure that he must have faced? Everything was on the line. His comfortable career would be in jeopardy. His comfortable living situation would be in jeopardy. His life was even in jeopardy. How did Daniel have the resolve to live a holy and undefiled life in the midst of such enormous cultural pressure? How can we stand up with resolve to live a holy life under the pressure of an unholy culture? The answer, of course, was because of his faith in his God. Daniel was not only trained at an early age in God's word but he also believed God's word. Not only that, Daniel believed the words of God through his contemporary fellow Jew Jeremiah. Jeremiah would write a message of hope and it was this message of hope that Daniel would place his hope. Jeremiah 23:5-6 “ Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord , when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ " Daniel believed in the promise that God would one day send a true and better King. He would send a King who was a righteous Branch from the lineage of David. This King would be without sin. This King would be holy and righteous. This King will would be the King who could actually save his people from the greatest thing his people would need salvation from - their unrighteousness and defilement. This King would have the greatest and most powerful name of all - "The Lord is OUR righteousness". There is only one King who could ever claim that name. That King was Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews (John 19:19). This King would wear a crown of thorns and would be called "The Lord is OUR righteousness" as he hung on his cross. He would be the only King who could save his people from the defilement of their sin. He would be the only King who could impute his righteousness to his people. He would be the only King who would die so that we might live. So you ask, "How could Daniel resolve to live a life of holiness and not be defiled by the surrounding culture? How can we likewise do the same?" He believed the promises of God. He put his faith in a God who would one day save his people. If there is one thing you should know to be true about Daniel and his resolve and likewise to be true for all of us, it is this: True resolve to be undefiled in our culture is only possible if you are truly undefiled before God. In other words, if God has saved you, he has graciously, through Christ, made you undefiled. You are able to stand before God not based on what you have done, but rather based on what Christ has done both for you and in you. And because of this, you are now empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life of true resolve for his glory and your joy. This resolve is not a white knuckling resolve. It is a resolve that rests in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It is a resolve that comes from the very heart of God Himself. This reality is what carried and empowered Daniel and his friends to stand up and to stand out as lights, bringing the invisible presence of God Himself, in the midst of an unholy, defiled and dark culture.
In the third year of a the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
In King Jehoiakim's thrid year as king of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon surrounded and captured Jerusalem.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of b the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to c the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, d and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.
And the surprising response from the LORD was, "You can have my people! In fact I will give them over to you! Furthermore King Nebuchadnezzar, you can even take the sacred items from my house and put them in the house of your god."
Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, e his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family 1 and of f the nobility,
Then Nebuchadnezzar told Ashpenaz, who was his chief eunuch, to separate out some of the best of the best men from Judah
youths without g blemish, of good appearance and h skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace,
In other words , these men should be young, perfect in appearance, wise, teachable, and fit to remain in the presence of the king.
and to i teach them the literature and language of the j Chaldeans.
with the purpose of teaching them their Babylonian language and the Babylonian way of life.
The king assigned them a daily portion of k the food that the king ate, and of l the wine that he drank.
Nebuchadnezzar also designated his "special food and drink" that had first been offered to idols to be given every day to these young men.
They were to be educated for m three years,
They were enrolled in the Babylonian University for three years where they would learn and live everything Babylonian.
and at the end of that time they were to n stand before the king.
And the purpose for all of this education (when they were fully saturated with the Babylonian culture and ways) was to personally serve the king.
Among these were o Daniel, p Hananiah, p Mishael, and p Azariah of the tribe of Judah.
Among these specially chosen few were Daniel, Hanaaniah, Mishael, and Azariah who were all of the tribe of Judah.
And e the chief of the eunuchs q gave them names:
And the chief eunuch gave these four men new names which was supposed to give them a new identity in Babylon.
r Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
Daniel whose name means "God is my judge" would now be called Beltshazzar which means "may Bel protect his life." Hananiah whose name means "God is gracious" would now be called Shadrach which means "Aku is exalted." Mishael which means "who is what God is" would now be called Meshach which means "who is what Aku is." Azariah whose name means "God is my helper" would now be called Abednego which means "the servant of Nebo." All of their names were changed to represent Babylonian Gods.
But Daniel s resolved that he would not t defile himself with k the king’s food, or with l the wine that he drank....
But Daniels surprising response to all of this was that he was firmly determined not to defile himself with the kings food and drink that had first been offered to these Babylonian gods. This food was unclean according to God's Law that he gave to his people through Moses.