Friday, May 05, 2006

More Sermons on this blog

I’ve started to make some of my recent sermons available on this blog. I’m sorry about the way in which the fonts change in mid post. That seems to be something to do with the Blogger plug-in for MS Word that I am using. I’ll see if I can sort it out for future posts.

What is here is my basic script, and thy don’t tend to have been extensively proof read – you have been warned!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Daniel Chapter 3 "A long way from home" Sermon 3

Daniel Chapter 3
“A long way from home”
We have had a break for a few weeks from Daniel, but this morning we return to Daniel chapter 3, and to our theme “A long way from home.”
You remember that the book of Daniel describes the experience of some of God’s people living in exile in Babylon. They had to work out what it meant to live faithfully in a land a long way from home.
I suggested that increasingly as Christians, our situation is like theirs. We live a long way from home. They were surrounded by people who didn’t know their God, didn’t worship as they did didn’t understand their values and beliefs, and didn’t hold the same things as being of value , and so do we.
This morning as we turn to Daniel 3, we will see for the third time God’s people coming under pressure. Will they remain faithful?
In chapter 1 we saw them take a stand on a fairly minor issue. It was about sharing in the luxury of the kings table and eating food, but Daniel felt that this would defile them. (Dan 1:8) SO they respectfully ask to be excused and God honours them
In chapter 2 the pressure is turned up quite a bit. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and demands that the wise men of Babylon not only interpret it, but tell him what it was. When they can’t N demands that all the wise men, including Daniel and his friends are to be dismembered. So D and his friends S,M & A plead for mercy from the God of heaven. And God reveals the dream to Daniel and he goes and tells N, and D and S,M & A are promoted and placed in positions of responsibility.
Now in Chapter 3, we are going to see God’s people living a long way from home have to confront the spiritual idolatry insisted on by N. As we see this we will ask ourselves how we can honour God in a society where there are different spiritual values and idolatrous belief systems.
When you are a long way from home:
1) You will find huge pressure to conform to the spiritual values and world views of society.
Read Dan 3:1-7
N erects a giant golden statue, as high as a swimming pool is long, he gets a full worship band, and commands everyone to bow down and worship. The consequence of disobedience is death by furnace.
You know before we go on, I want to just make an observation about N. He underlines for us the important reality that there is a difference between a spiritual experience of the true God and conversion.
Did N have a Spiritual experience in Chapter 2? Yes. He has a prophetic dream, that is prophetically interpreted by Daniel and spoke of the coming of the king of kings.
Was N’s spiritual experience legitimate? Again the answer was yes. Daniel says that it was God who had shown N what will take place in the future. (2:45b)
So was God behind N’s experience? Yes!
But was he converted? Absolutely not. There was no lasting change in his attitude to God, No worship of the true God, no mark of God’s work in his life, and now we find him indulging in idolatry and you have to wonder if the dream had anything to do with it. Has he warped and distorted what God showed him? He saw an enormous dazzling statue with a head of pure gold, now he builds an enormous statue and it’s all gold.
And so God’s people face the pressure to conform with N’s state sponsored idolatry.
What was wrong? They were only being asked to bow to a statue. I can imagine someone saying “It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not real after all and it’s what’s in my heart that counts.”
We have a God who hates idolatry, because in it his people sell themselves short and deface his glory. They settle too easily for a short term hit and miss out on a lasting weight of glory.
You know I wonder again if actually God’s grace is shown to Gods people in the clear cut nature of the dilemma. The reality was that every Jew would have known that N could not be obeyed, and radical disobedience was the only option.
I fear that for us, very often it is not so clear cut and the devil’s persecutions are more subtle, and we can buy in without realising sometimes that we have done so.
That said what are the spiritual pressures for us? To what idols are we pressured to bow down? Well I’m going to talk about four that bother me, and that I believe are out there and subtly pressure us to bow to them.
  1. The militant pressure of secularism. On Good Friday, the Guardian published an editorial entitled “Fight the good fight” A good title for Good Friday you might think, but the article was a strongly worded argument for secularism. The good fight was the fight to free society from the influence of religion. That’s what secularism is. Religion is OK in private, but must be kept out of schools and legislation and government and public life and morals. The irony is that those who believe this are far more evangelical in spreading their dogma than many Christians, and that’s why I called it “militant.”
So how are we pressured to bow the knee to secularism? Here I would suggest the great temptation is to bow by going silent.
When we will not open our mouths and speak publicly gospel truth we have bowed to their idol. There is a pressure to serve and not speak, and yet the gospel is public truth and God is over our nation and the nations whatever the Guardian editorial team think.
Here is a challenge for us in this. In Mat 10:32-33 encouraging his disciples in that they will be put under pressure to disown him says Jesus says “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
  1. The endemic pressure of universalism. What do I mean by universalism? I mean the idea that all religions are equally valid and true. All religions lead to God. That is not what Christians believe, and indeed if you have struggled with that, you need to think on why we uniquely preach a crucified God if it is possible to earn God’s approval by religious works.
Now I mention this because it is very prevalent, and for example, there is a very real possibility that your children will be taught this in school, and we as parents need to help our children see the foolishness of such claims.
The pressure is to bow the knee and cease to insist on the uniqueness of Jesus and let go of convictions of truth, and friends we must not do so.
Now we have to get this right. I should have respect for my Muslim friend, and I should show him love and defend his religious freedom, but I don’t agree with him and should seek to show him Jesus. (Christians should stand up for religious freedom. It was weird to see the EA and Secular society standing up against the religious hatred bill.)
We may be pilloried for refusing to bow. We may be called arrogant, intolerant and worse.
  1. The cultural pressure of materialism. Friends, this one and the next one are huge pressures for us, and they are related. What do I mean by materialism? Let me have a stab at a definition and see if it rings any bells. Materialism is a world view, that says that the purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness through the acquisition of stuff. And it is the state religion of most western democracies. The problem with that view is that it is wrong. You were not created by God so that you could acquire stuff, and it will not make you happy, and it foolishly ignores the pressing question of eternity, and one day you will stand before God, and he will not be impressed that you got an Xbox 360 a BMW, a flat screen TV or a holiday home.
And against that way of thinking, 1 Timothy 6:6 says “But godliness with contentment is great gainbut you have got to believe it, and you have to have discovered that there is another treasure of infinitely greater value.
You will find that there are daily pressures to bow and worship at the altar of stuff, and the tragedy is that doing so deadens and dulls the desire of our hearts for God himself.
You need stuff, but if you dull your sense of longing with stuff you will spoil your appetite for God. The pursuit of meaning and joy with a credit card rather than with a Bible and in prayer and worship and God honoring service is a fruitless pursuit that tragically will keep us from finding joy where it really may be found.
  1. The subtle pressure of narcissism. If materialism is a world view that says that the purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness through the acquisition of stuff, Narcissism is a world view that says the purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness by the pursuit of happiness It’s all about me! This is so prevalent in our society and so tragic because it doesn’t work ultimately. May explain partly why our society is so unhappy.
And this one is so dangerous. This one infects and infests evangelical Christian faith and perverts it and distorts it and so easily worships a God who is most interested in me and my happiness. And it’s so subtle because you can come to think “I’m worshipping God” and yet you are only worshiping him because you believe him to be centred on you.
The treatment is a radically God centred faith founded on a worshipful vision of the glorious God centeredness of God.
We need to search our own hearts and ask ourselves: “Am I in this for me or for God? “
So when the pressure to bow the knee comes how will you remain faithful.
2) You will need to remain faithful to God.
Read 8-18
In the first instance when placed under pressure to conform S M & A it seems decide on a quiet path of non conformity with society. They become and odd group that don’t join in with everyone else.
But that strategy doesn’t last for long, as the astrologers (Demonically originated?) decide to tell on them. (v8) and S, M & A are brought before  a furious N, and the crunch moment comes. And we want to know how to remain faithful in such situations.
  1. They recognise a higher authority than N. v16
For them God comes first. “We don’t need to defend ourselves before you in this.” They recognise and believe that there is a higher authority than Nebuchadnezzar. We need to own Christ as our king. Even though N doesn’t v15 The powers that be will not recognise God’s authority, but that is evidence only of their foolishness and doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it.
  1. They have confidence in the power of God. v17
What a vision of the power of God! Their God is as we sing with the children “a great big God.” He is able to save us from it. Where do you think this confidence comes from? These young men have been though other trials, and they have discovered that God is able. In fact if you think about it the tree trials in the first three chapters of Daniel escalate in their severity. It’s in the trials that you learn that God is to be trusted. We must discover confidence in the greatness of God.
  1. They are submissive to the will of God. v18
These men say even if he doesn’t rescue us, we will not serve your God or worship your image. You know God doesn’t always rescue his people from fiery furnaces. Sometime he has higher purposes.
Trusting in the will of God and treasuring Jesus over life itself.
Illustration: In oxford there is a memorial to Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. These men stood for truth together; were imprisoned together; were martyred together bound to the same stake. While bound to the chain with Ridley, Latimer cried out, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day, by God’s grace, light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out.”
N is furious and demands that they be thrown into the furnace and that the furnace be made extra hot.
Read 19-30
Conclusion: In faithfulness you will discover that you are not alone.
As these young men are thrown into the fire so in the mercy of God they are protected, and N is shocked to see four figures walking about in the fire.
You kind of think wow that must have been an experience! Walking around in the furnace – with whom? One looks like “a son of the gods” I don’t believe that it is fanciful for us to suppose that the fourth man was the pre incarnate Lord Jesus. (One as a son of the God’s)
The consequence of faithfulness and loyalty is that in the fire they know fellowship with the Lord. Why is it do you suppose that some of the most vibrant churches in the world are some of the most severely persecuted?
Do you remember Jesus’ words to Saul / Paul, the persecutor of the Church on the read to Damascus. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) It almost seems that Jesus identifies in a special way with those who pay the price for identifying with him.
So what happens next? S, M & A are promoted and preserved for another day. N is not converted despite another spiritual experience and God’s people are free to worship him.
Will we bow and worship at the images that our culture celebrates and pressures us to celebrate? Or will we refuse to bow and worship anyone  or anything other than the one true God? Are we prepared to pay the price for fidelity and faithfulness? If we are then we may discover the preciousness of his presence with us

Daniel 2 "A long way from Home" Sermon 2

A long way from Home.
Daniel 2
How can God’s people change the mind of governments and rulers, and perhaps more importantly how do you show the world the greatness of your God?
When you live a long way from home in a land that doesn’t share or respect your beliefs, where you are a people in exile, where you are an insignificant people, and those around you have strange religion beliefs, they don’t share your values or morals, how can you influence society for the glory of God?
It seems to me that those are questions that we face, but we are not the first of God’s people to face them. As we look at Daniel Chapter 2 today we are going to see how Daniel and his friends managed to do just that and influence a king and glorify God in a strange land a long way from home.
Here is what we are going to see this morning. Even when you are a long way from home God reigns, and works through his people.
The king has a dream (and a problem). 1-13
Here we have a disturbed King with a nightmarish dream and a whole bunch of spiritual advisors whom he cannot trust. So he summons them and proposes a solution. “I have had a dream” he says “and it troubles me and I want you to tell me what it means.”
“Fair enough” say the spiritual advisors, “Tell us the dream and we will give you the interpretation.”
Here is the King’s solution. “No” he says, “if you are as wise and spiritual as you say you are, you tell me what the dream was.” And what’s more he says “if you can’t tell me what the dream was … I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into pile of rubble.”
And so the spiritual advisors ask again. “Tell us the dream and we will interpret it for you.” And again the king insists that they must tell him the dream.
And the spiritual advisors are bewildered and confounded. “No one can do this… it’s too difficult.” “No-one can reveal it to the king except the gods and they do not live among men.”
The tragedy is that that these spiritual people believe in god’s who are powerful but not interested. Praise God that we know that that is not true. That there is a God in heaven and he will live among men and he will act.
And so the spiritual advisors are under a death sentence. Here is the problem. While it seems that they were not involved in the showdown in the courtroom, Daniel and his friends are under the death sentence too.
But what is the relevance of this situation for us?
An ancient king with a spiritual problem and a distrust of his advisors. A tricky situation for the people of God…..
Well there are rulers in our world too, and they make laws and edicts that increasingly impinge on our freedom to worship and express our faith. And where there are not laws there are cultural expectations. Don’t talk about your faith. There is the rise of secularism. The great religion of our age. Public life must carried on without reference to God, and spiritual dogmas mast be kept away from the public realm and we must insist that that is a spiritual dogma too. And what do God’s people do?
They Pray! 14-23
So the King’s guard come to take Daniel and his friends to the place of execution.
What do God’s people do in these crunch times? Organize a march? Have a protest? Write letters to the Babylon Times?
They do two things. First they act graciously. Daniel spoke to Arioch with wisdom and tact. V14 and an interview is arranged with the king. You know I think there must have been something very special about Daniel’s words because the spiritual advisors got accused of playing for time and when Daniel asks for time (v16) he gets it.
You know we should ask God for wisdom and tact in our dealings with the world.
But notice with me the second thing that they do: They pray.
I wonder if you have ever thought or said in a kind of shrugging the shoulders way almost as an excuse “We can only pray.” You know we ought to repent of that attitude that almost says “There is nothing of real value that I can do so I’ll pray.”
What do these friends do? Daniel explains the situation and “urges them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven.”
Have you ever pleaded with God for anything? There are two things that bring Daniel and friends to that place. The first is an utterly helpless situation and the second is a faith that there is a God in heaven.
Now don’t we need, living as we are in our world where every day there are approaching challenges to our freedom to worship God to learn to pray like that? Don’t we need to learn what it means to plead for mercy? Notice that they do it together. This is God’s people together pleading for mercy.
You know I wonder if it was the grace of God to Daniel and his friends that there was little else that they could do other than pray. I find myself wandering if we don’t learn to plead for mercy from the God of heaven when there is something we can do. These guys prayed like that because there was nothing else to do.
If God didn’t answer prayer they were done for. But you know that is just as true for us. We might not see the urgency but it is still true that if God doesn’t answer prayer we are done for. Without mercy from heaven there will be no supernatural component to anything we do, and we will descend into good intentions empty of divine power.
Application: Maybe, one of the things that we need to learn a long way from home is to pray like Daniel and his friends prayed pleading for mercy from the God of heaven. Hard work, faith filled desperate and God dependant prayer..
And then Daniel praises God. 20-23. This is Daniel’s God! He is a god of wisdom and power, who sets up kings and deposes them, A God who gives wisdom and knowledge and reveals mysteries. You know Daniel’s God is our God. Our God is a God who sets up kings and deposes them, A God who gives wisdom and knowledge and reveals mysteries.
Daniel Speaks to the King 31-45
And so Daniel is brought before the King. “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” asks the king.
And what does Daniel reply? “No!” Wouldn’t you have liked to see the look on Belteshazar’s face when Daniel began his reply.
Here is the point. Daniel, wise man, spiritual advisor to the king publicly confesses the private reality. So many would have been tempted to just tell the king his dream, but not Daniel.
27 Daniel replied, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.
Here is a Jerusalem boy made good, with amazing opportunities advising the king. I wonder how many would remain quiet about God and think that it wouldn’t be right to risk my position. Daniel refuses to hide his divine dependence.
Comment on work environments – and it doesn’t apply in the staff room or in
Application Don’t we need to publicly own our private dependence. If it’s an answer to prayer say that’s a real answer to prayer to your Christian and non Christian friends alike. Offer to pray for you non Christian friends as you would for your Christian friends.
Here is the sobering observation. If there had been no public owning of the private reality it would have achieved absolutely nothing. Do you see what is at stake here. Because of what Daniel says God gets the glory!
The outcome 46-48
So what happens? Nebuchadnezzar falls prostrate before Daniel v46 But the honoring of Daniel is incidental in a way. Look at verse 47. The King glorifies God.
But… Here is something that I feel I need to say. You know this chapter doesn’t have a and they all lived happily ever after ending. I mean it’s not as though Nebuchadnezzar gets born again and learns to play the guitar. Theologically he has a lot to learn. God is not adored as the true God, just a superior God, and in the next chapter he is up to his old tricks again.
When you are a long way from home you may see the world getting glimpses of glory, but it not really changing very much.
We will need to remember that Daniel gets another day and God will be glorified again, but it’s not all going to get better straight away. From time to time someone will come along and say “this is the thing that will make a difference” If you believe them and it doesn’t get better, you may be disheartened. Remember what happened on Mount Carmel? Shouldn’t that have turned the nation back to God?
Daniel and his friends are not disheartened and they are still faithful as you read on and so must we be!
Application: What does happen is that Daniel and his friends get promoted. Here is one last question. Why would God raise someone to prominence? It’s an important question because it could happen to some here and you will need to remember why God has put you where he has put you. As we go on through Daniel we will see that God does this for the good of his people, for the working out of his purposes and for the sake of his glory.
We missed out the dream. What I’ve wanted to stir your faith to believe is that God reigns over kings and kingdoms. Even though he is not recognized as such Jesus is king of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you need that underlined again, notice that God used an unbelieving pagan king to bring a prophecy that spoke of the kingdom of the King of Kings! 44-45
Secondly I want to stir you to think about prayer and to wonder if God might call us find our what it means to plead for mercy.
Thirdly I’ve urged you to own the private spiritual reality in the public sphere. Be a public witness of the private reality.
Finally I’ve reminded you of the reason why God raises to prominence. Daniel could have had a good career, and a good life and a nice income, but he knew why God had put him where he had put him and we will see that he is willing to put it all on the line.

Daniel Chapter 1 "A long way from home" sermon 1

A long way from Home.
Daniel 1
In 1953 When the Queen was crowned,
the Moderator of the Church of Scotland handed a Bible to the new Monarch With these words “This book is the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the Royal law; these are the lively Oracles of God.”
I wonder if there were to be a coronation in 2006 if the same would happen. The world in which we live has changed. Within living memory, the church has had great influence in this nation, but now that influence is in decline, and more and more Bible believing Christians are regarded as anachronistic and irrelevant.
This morning we are going to begin a new series which I am going to call
“A long way from home.” We are going to be looking at some of the OT passages that describe the experience of God’s people when they were “A long way from home” because I believe that those passages of Scripture have something significant to say to the church in our generation.
So what was the exile?
If you would like to take a Bible I’d like to just do a few minutes sketch of the History of Israel in the Old Testament.
  1. Creation: Adam and Eve

  2. Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob & Joseph

  3. Exodus: Moses

  4. Conquest: Joshua 1400BC

  5. Judges: Deborah, Gideon, Samson, Eli, Samuel: 1375-1040BC

  6. Kings: Saul, David and Solomon. Division of the kingdoms Israel and Judah.

  7. Exile:

  8. Return:
Key premise.
That the experience of the church in the West in our day is not dissimilar to the experience of God’s people in the period of exile in the OT, and that there are therefore important things that we can learn by looking at the passages of scripture that come from that period.
What will we look at?
Daniel, Esther and we may finish by looking at Jeremiah’s letter to those who have been taken into exile.
Read Daniel Chapter 1
The book of Daniel begins with some historical information. It tells us that In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. What we know is that this was the beginning of the end for Jerusalem and Judah. Over one hundred years before in 722BC Israel had fallen to Assyria.
Then in around 5 years before the beginning of Daniel Babylon had defeated Assyria, and later Egypt and had become the dominant world power.
At the beginning of Daniel Judah becomes a vassal state, an outpost of Babylonian power and over the next twenty five years it will rebel and fall, and then later be utterly destroyed.
And so Daniel begins with shocking history. That Jerusalem, God’s city, where the temple was, where God met with people, the centre of Jewish worship is defeated, and worse, some of the vessels of the house of God are taken for use in the temple of a Babylonian deity.
And anyone caught up in this might be expected to think “what has happened? Has God lost his edge? How can the holy city be under Babylonian rule? How can the holy things from the temple be stolen and used in idol worship Has God gone away?”
This brings us to the first thing that we need to notice in the passage:
God still reigns.
When you are a long way from home, the temptation will be to forget that God reigns.

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 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 [a] and put in the treasure house of his god.

You see verse 1 on it’s own is purely secular history. If you had just verse one on it’s own you could be forgiven for thinking that “stuff just happens” History swings from one moment to another, nations rise and nations fall and that’s the way of the world.
Verse 2 however tells us why it happened. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand. The book of Daniel begins with a conviction that God is in charge, things do not happen by accident. This is the beginning of God’s judgment on Judah, that Jeremiah and other’s had spoken about.
This is such an important idea for us to get our heads around. The idea that even in exile; even in Babylon, God is in heaven and he reigns. Nebuchadnezzar may think that as ruler of Babylon he determines what happens but he will find out that there is a God in heaven who reigns.
You see in the crisis moments of life, when the awful things happen when there is bereavement or broken hearts or sorrow there is a temptation to dethrone God.
I was speaking with a friend this week who has been through such a dark place the last couple of months in a way that was just such a shock when it came along. He was able to say that he feels that he has come out of that experience with “his belief in the sovereignty of God intact,”
Sometimes we don’t know why, sometimes we are left with great questions
What the world will do to you
When you are a long way from home the world will try and squeeze you into it’s mould.
Notice with me verses 3-7. There is a temptation here to see this as the benevolence of Nebuchadnezzar. He was a nice guy who liked to think of himself as a bit of a philanthropist so he gives some bright young guys from Judah a bit of a start in life….
Except that is not what is going on here. Nebuchadnezzar has just conquered Jerusalem. He now has the problem faced by any winning general. How do I maintain order, and how do I keep Jerusalem in it’s place as a part of the Babylonian Empire.
And in these verses we see that he has a cunning plan. It is a plan to brainwash the brightest and best from Jerusalem. It is a plan to change their world view, and turn them into Babylonians.
What do I mean by world view? I mean that set of attitudes that we have formed in us by the culture to which we belong. The values and priorities that we have that shape who we are and condition us and what we believe.
So what is Nebuchadnezzar’s plan? And what can we learn from it about the world’s attempt to form our world view. How can we avoid becoming Babylonians? How can we avoid being squeezed into the world’s mould.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility- 4 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. [b] 5 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. 6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
Notice what happens. First he isolates them
from their piers and their families from the temple and the regular worship of God. (v3) He takes them out of the environment where a God centered world view is nurtured and instead isolates them so that they can be filled with a Babylonian world view.
We need to guard against becoming isolated as God’s people because we are in such peril on our own. When we drift from being together in fellowship we are so vulnerable to “becoming Babylonian.” Not just being together. Hebrews 10:24 says:
24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Secondly he has them indoctrinated.
(v4) They are to be taught the language and literature of the Babylonians. Why teach Israelites Babylonian poems? Because we are what we are because of the stories that shape us and help us interpret the world around you. What stories did these young men learn as they grew up? They would have been taught about Adam and Eve and Abraham, and Moses and Joshua, and David and Bathsheba. God centered stories that formed the foundation for faith. What would Babylonian literature teach them? I don’t know, but not that there was a God in heaven who invited people to have faith in him, A God who redeemed people, A God who gave victory, A God who honored worshipful obedience, and hated sin.
What literature do you get most of? What stories shape you. Television and Film? “The triumph of humanity” Human centered thinking. Are you staying rooted in the literature of home? I just this week finished the OT again. And I’m so pleased that I can get into the stories again! Read Abraham, Moses, Caleb, Joshua etc. Let these stories shape your life. Read Jesus, Read Paul let that shape how you see the world.
Thirdly he gives them the best that Babylon has to offer.
(v5) Just look at this! They get offered food right from the table of the king. And they don’t want to eat it! Some of you are thinking: “they are mad!”
Why? Maybe they knew that it had been consecrated to a Babylonian Deity, It’s clear that there is an issue, eating and drinking would have meant defilement, but here Daniel draws a line. He resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. And with graciousness and tact and diplomacy, Daniel asks for an alternative which he gets.
There are so many who go Babylonian over this issue. Give them the very best says Nebuchadnezzar shower them with luxury, see if they prefer Jerusalem then!
We need to be so careful don’t we. There is no doubt that wealth and luxury can be like a bucket of water on the fires of a passionate heart. What a tragedy it would be to have a big house and a nice car and a cold heart. One of the texts that bothers me, and should bother us is Luke 8:14 where Jesus explaining the parable of the sower says: The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. Maybe you have hankered for more. Have you ever thanked God that he has given all that you needed.
Fourth he messes with their sense of who they are.
(v7) The chief official renames these young men. There are some commentators who will tell you that this was just because the Babylonians found it hard to pronounce words like Daniel. I am sure this wrong.
Listen to the meanings of the names that their parents gave them. Daniel means “God is my judge.” Hananiah means “Yahweh (or God) is gracious” Mishael means “Who is what God is” and Azariah means “Yahweh has helped!” Now do you notice a theme developing here? They have God centered names. And instead they are given names that relate to Babylonian God’s Abednego for example means servant of Nego.
The community of faith, flawed though it was, that these young men came from was a God centered community. When they had kids they named them in ways that honored God, and that acknowledged that life was lived out under his care, in response to him and with his help. And now they are given new names, new identities by those who care for them now that exalt the God’s of Babylon. Babylon says now you are Abednego, now you are a servant of Nego.
So how do we avoid becoming Babylonian? Who tells you who you are? God’s tells you who you are in his word, and the world will tell you all the time who you are. Whose voice will you listen to? Listen to the voice of truth!
Faithfulness despite what the world will do to you
When you are a long way from home you may need to take a stand on things that matter.
Let’s draw out attention to verse 8-16. As Nebuchadnezzar’s plan unfolds we have seen the resolve not defile themselves with the food and wine from the king’s table, and so Daniel speaks with diplomacy and offers an alternative.
8 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. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your [c] 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."
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 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." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

I find myself wondering at verses 12-13. There is such faith in God implied. This was a bold suggestion to make. Do you get the sense here that Daniel feels that they are not in this alone? This is one of the reasons why the idea of God reigning is so important. It brings with it the conviction in these moments when an individual or a church has to resolve not to defile itself the utter conviction we are not in this alone!
If the day comes when We need to take such a stand so as not to defile ourselves I pray that we will do it with the grace, wisdom and conviction of Daniel.
God honors faithfulness
17 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.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. 20 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.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
There is a sense in which you could say at the end of the story “So what? They didn’t eat dodgy food whatever does that achieve in the purposes of God?” By the end of Daniel chapter 1 not much has happened, but there has been a preparation for the future. Look at verse 17 God gives Daniel an anointing for the future to understand dreams and visions. This is central to the way in which God will use him.
In the day of “no big deal” obedience, God equips for the more moments days to come. Your obedience today may not shake the heavens and the earth, but it may prepare you for an anointing and a day that will.
In their refusal to bow to the pressure of conform they become excellent. You know the world’s way is not better. The superiority of Daniel and his friends is recognized by a pagan king
19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. 20 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.
There is one in the eye for Babylon! They had refused the whole reprogramming package, they had held on to the values of home. They had refused to defile themselves and the king found them ten times better than anything Babylon produced. Praise God that he honors his servants!
Where are you from? Where is your home? We may be a long way from home, but God is in heaven and he reigns. We may daily face the pressure to conform to buy in to a world view that displaces God. Don’t give in resolve not to be defiled, and Be with God’s people, read the literature of home. Be faithful in all things, be obedient in the small things and there will be a greater anointing for tomorrow.
Oh that we would be found to be ten times better than all the gurus, spiritual advisors and so called wise people of our generation.!