Daniel and his friends
Read: Daniel chapters 1 to 6
Summary (New Living Translation): A stranger in a strange land, Daniel lived during a time when the Jewish people seemed to have little hope. They were living as captives in Babylon, hundreds of miles from home, with only promises from God that they would ever see their homeland again. In this book, Daniel and his friends are taken to Babylon as young men. Although they were captives, they received an excellent education and rose to high positions in the Babylonian and Persian governments. Because of their faith in the God of Israel, they were persecuted and even sentenced to die. God rewarded them for their faithfulness, however, and they were rescued from certain death.
I love the story of Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It’s one I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid and I’m sure most people are familiar with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. I think the story of Daniel and his friends is apt for this issue’s theme- Identity. These were young Jewish boys that found themselves in a foreign country, serving in the king’s palace, and being placed in situations that went very much against everything they believed in. Despite all of that, they stayed true to their themselves even when it meant certain death.
Let’s look at three situations in which these young men showed that they wouldn’t swap their faith in God for anything else;
1. The king’s food (Daniel 1): When the young men arrived at the palace, they were given the best of food and wine from the king’s kitchens. But, they refused to defile themselves by eating the royal food and wine, instead opting to eat just vegetables and water. They even dared the royal official looking after them to put them to a test;
‘Test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water…At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s rich food. Then you can decide whether or not to let us continue eating our diet (verse 12-13).’
Needless to say, at the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the royal food.
2. The furnace of fire (Daniel 3): The king had made a decree that anyone who refused to bow down to worship the gold statue that he had made would be immediately thrown into a blazing furnace. (Talk about an ego trip!) Well, the young men refused to bow down to the statue. For them, there was only one God that deserved to be worshiped, and that was the God of Israel. When the king found out, he was enraged. He offered them a second chance to obey his decree.
I love the response they gave him (verses 16-18);
‘…we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power...but even if He doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.’
Wow! What a response! Do you have such faith in God? If you don’t know how the story ends, I encourage you to read it for yourself. The men get thrown into the fire, and not only do they not get burnt, the Bible records that ‘they did not even smell of smoke’! Jesus Himself walked amongst them in the furnace.
3. Daniel and the lion’s den (Daniel 6): The new king, Darius, signed a decree that stated that for thirty days, anyone who prayed to or worshiped anyone, human, or divine, apart from the king, would be thrown to lions (I sure wouldn’t have wanted to live during these times, would you?!)
Daniel found out about the new law, but went about his business as usual, praying three times a day and giving thanks to his God. He was soon found out, and the king was informed. King Darius liked Daniel, but he had signed a decree that could not be changed, so he ordered for Daniel to be thrown into the lion’s den. I’m sure you know where this is heading. The next morning, the king rushes to see what has become of Daniel and Daniel says, ‘My God sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouth so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in His sight.’
It didn’t end too well for the men who had maliciously accused Daniel.
God honours our faithfulness to Him. Each time Daniel and his friends held fast to their beliefs, God showed up and rescued them. It would have been so easy to blend in with the crowd, and do what everyone else was doing. But these young men knew that they were different. They had been called to be different, and they had a purpose to fulfil in Babylon, even in captivity.
The story of Daniel and his friends presents a challenge to us- will we stay true to what we believe no matter the consequences? The answer is not always as easy as it seems. But the good news is that we don’t have to do it in our own strength. The Holy Spirit is there to help us in every situation, and God’s grace is abundant.