In the Book of Daniel, we now enter upon a most interesting part of Scriptural prophecy; and it demands our highest attention, affection, and regard. It is indeed a short Book, but there is so much in so few chapters concerning the Person of our Lord Jesus and His Church that we can never be sufficiently thankful to the Holy Spirit for the fact that this precious record of inspiration has been preserved and handed down to His people – even to our present hour!
The opening scene of this Book takes place in the city of Jerusalem, shortly before the final days of the Kingdom of Judah. “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah” – that is, around 606 BC – “came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, into Jerusalem, and besieged it.” In order to warn the whole Jewish nation before He finally destroyed their city and Temple, the Lord delivered the princes of Judah, the vessels of the Temple, and the treasures of the nation into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried these away with him; and as a trophy of his victory, he placed the precious treasures in the temple of his idols. But this was not all. In order to give a greater luster to his victory, and in order to get into his possession hostages against the Jews; Nebuchadnezzar commanded Ashpenaz, the governor of his household, to select the most handsome, noble, and intelligent young men from among the Jewish youths. Then he was to transfer them to Babylon to serve as slaves in his royal palace. Among these young men, there were four who were more remarkable than the rest; and their names were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These Hebrew names all had a particular meaning. Daniel means “God is my judge,” Hananiah means “the grace of the Lord,” Mishael means “the strong God,” and Azariah means “the Lord is my help.” But now that they were slaves of the Babylonian king, Ashpenaz gave them Babylonian names that had references to idolatry, in order to encourage them to forget the God of their forefathers and the Guide of their youth. To Daniel, he gave the name of Belteshazzar, which signifies “the keeper of the hidden treasures of Bel.” Hananiah was given the name Shadrach – or, “the inspiration of the sun,” which the Chaldeans worshiped. Mishael was renamed Meshach, a derivative of the name of the goddess Shach – under which title, Venus was worshiped. And Azariah received the name Abednego – that is, “the servant of the shining fire,” which the Babylonians also worshiped.
So we see that while he was yet a mere youth, Daniel was exposed to the severest trials; he was torn from the arms of his parents, and carried away captive into a foreign land. But the love of God was in his heart; he had given himself up to Him, and his whole desire was to manifest that faithfulness which he felt that he owed Him. This poor young man had no one to open his mind to or share his heart with, for he was surrounded only by armed guards, strangers, and heathens. Yet he “purposed in his heart” to take the Lord for his portion, and to show himself a faithful child of God in all things. It is indeed true that it is not what we eat and drink that defiles or purifies us; for “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Why, then, did Daniel refuse to partake of the king’s meat and wine? It was because the delicate meats which were served upon the table of the monarch, and the luscious wines which were poured into his cup, were all consecrated to his false gods before they came into the royal banqueting-room! Hence, Daniel could not have partaken of them without appearing to be just like a child of the world, a heathen, and an idolater; he could not have dined on these things without having fellowship with the idols of Babylon, and thereby defiling himself. And so he determined to let it be known – from the earliest moments of his arrival in Babylon – that although he was only a young slave, yet he was a servant of the living God. He purposed in his heart that he would live faithfully before his God; or in other words, he purposed in his heart that he would rather die than sin against Him!
Such was the conduct of Daniel. How was it rewarded? We are told that the Lord inclined the hearts of all Daniel’s masters so that they were favorable to him. God inclined the heart of the heathen officer who had been set over the young man to grant him his holy desire; he allowed him to have a trial-period of ten days’ abstinence from the king’s meat and wine, to see what the outcome would be. And Daniel was so full of love to his God, that he exercised a sacred influence over his three young companions – Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – for he induced them also to live faithfully like himself. These three young men, therefore, formed the same resolution in their hearts; and they also requested to be put upon the same trial. And it turned out just as they had anticipated! At the end of ten days, they enjoyed such a peace in their minds, and such an inward joy from feeling that God was their portion and their confidence, that this happiness was reflected in their countenances. And this rendered them more handsome, more fresh, and more pleasing than before; they looked more healthy than those who had partaken of the portions from the king’s table. And when these four young Hebrews appeared for final examination before the illustrious king, they were found to be ten times wiser than all the heathen magicians and astrologers in the kingdom! It is only in a relationship with the Lord Jesus that we are brought into possession of that true knowledge which makes us wise unto salvation. May the Lord bless us with this knowledge, even if we are uneducated (by the world’s standards) in all other matters!
Lord, we pray for grace so that we may imitate Daniel and resolve in our hearts to never allow ourselves to become defiled by willfully sinning against You! Amen.
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