© 2004 Joseph Perrello (Josprel)
The book of the Prophet Daniel is a companion book to the last book in the Bible - the apocalyptic book of Revelation. Though Daniel wrote some 600 years before the Apostle John received the Apocalypse from the risen and ascended Jesus, his writings nevertheless clarify John's Apocalypse. The imagery of the Apocalypse can only be properly understood by first making a study of Daniel's book.
Daniel wrote his book while a captive in Babylon. It was the policy of King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon to train specially selected young noblemen from various nations captured by his armies, in the arts and sciences of Babylon. He afterward placed them in responsible positions in his court. By this tactic he sought to minimize the dangers of a revolt by his subjects.
Daniel records the qualifications required for captive young noblemen to be considered for the court (Daniel 1: 4): handsome, intelligent, well educated, quick to learn, and free of physical defects. Those meeting these high standards were selected, trained and afterward commissioned.
Daniel records only minimal information concerning his own background and those of his three friends before their captivity; however their being chosen by Nebuchadnezzer indicates that they were among the nobility of Israel. Their families may have had royal connections. They were also committed to the God, as evidenced by their resolve to remain true to Him at all costs.
The first six chapters of Daniel exemplify that it requires courage to remain true to God when others are challenging your faith. A modern account of this type of steadfast courage is seen in the Christian girl at Columbine high school. With a gun was pointed at her and the young gunman challenging her to deny her faith or die, she chose to stand tall for Jesus Christ. Daniel and his three friends, living in a society that worshiped numerous pagan gods and where the emperor also was regarded as a god, manifested this caliber of faith. From the onset of their captivity, their faith was severely challenged, yet they stood tall.
Daniel chapter one records the first conflict confronting the four youths - that between the self-indulgent lifestyle of the Babylonian court and the self-discipline of the young captives. The young men understood that they could not eat of the king's food without violating their consciences. They asked the officer in charge to give them their own special diet. At first he refused, fearing that when the king inspected them, the four friends would appear less healthy than the other captive young noblemen. Nonetheless, at their request, he permitted a ten-day experiment of their diet. At the end of that period, he found them healthier than those who were eating the king's food; he permitted them to continue the diet.
As with Daniel and his friends, in every generation, believers are to stand tall for the Lord. Always, such a stand encounters horrific social challenges. For example, there is a current social philosophy that our bodies are our own and therefore we may do as we please with them. Among those who ascribe to it are the abortionists, who claim that a woman has a right to her own body. According to them, a pre-born child is part of the mother's body, therefore if the mother so desires, she has the right to abort her child. Drug addicts also subscribe to the my-body-is-my-own philosophy, claiming that they may take into their bodies whatever they desire.
Our society makes such claims, but those who follow Jesus Christ may not. Our bodies belong to God! The Apostle Paul teaches that we must consider our bodies to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit - the temples of God. "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in you and who has been given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves, but to God" (2nd Corinthians 6:19).
Paul's statement emphasizes that believers are to avoid all forms of immorality. In our walk through this world, we are to conduct ourselves at the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit and stand tall for God.
In Second Corinthians 5:10, the Apostle Paul wrote that all who follow Christ shall appear before Him to give an account of the things we have done while in our bodies, whether good or bad. Scriptures emphasize that we are not our own, we were bought with a price. That price was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary's cross. On that instrument of torture and death, He shed His blood fro our redemption.
It should be here noted that Daniel and his friends lived under a different spiritual economy than do we. Theirs was a religion of rituals, ceremony, gory sacrifices, and strict dietary laws, handed down to them though the centuries from their quintessential prophet, Moses. It was impossible for them to violate these dietary laws without violating their consciences. As a result Daniel and his friends held to a certain strict diet that for them was an absolute necessity and forbade to them many foods that Christians may now eat and that we now take for granted.
Both the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter wrote that the Old Testament dietary restrictions do not apply to those who follow Jesus Christ. God does not impose a special food diet on His people. He does, however, require us to care for our bodies as property that belongs to Him. We are not to abuse them is any manner. They do not belong to us - they are His!
In Babylon, Daniel and his friends experienced conflict between that ultra-permissive society and their loyalty to God. Such conflict, of course, besieges true believers in every society. This morning, Marie and I heard a report by a Russian Christian. He told of having lived through decades of ruthless persecution, visited upon the Bible-preaching evangelical Russian churches by the Stalinist regime, which even frowned upon the official Russian Orthodox Churches. The Stalinist martyred many Bible-preaching pastors and church leaders, confining others to concentration camps. The children of parents found to secretly attend evangelical services, were taken from them and brought up in state institutions. Such events also took place in other Communist nations, including China. In our era, reports are dispatched from Africa, the Sudan, the Middle East, and other locations that underscore the fact that true believers still suffer persecution and death for the sake of Jesus Christ.
American believers encounter a more subtle form of persecution. This however shall eventually change for the worse; the question of when depends on our national leadership and on how closely we scrutinize our government. We already are besieged by conflicts between the godly lifestyle taught in Scriptures and the liberal attitudes pervading our society, influencing our children and even invading our churches. It requires a close communion with God to stand tall for God at all costs, as exemplified by Daniel and his friends; however, there is no other alternative - we must stand tall!
In Babylon, Daniel was cast into a den of lions for insisting on praying only to God, though the king had commanded that no one was to pray to any god, but him, for thirty days. When Daniel learned of the decree, he went home and continued to pray to Yahweh, his God, just as he always had done. Yes, he was cast to the lions, but God delivered him.
The king also constructed a golden idol, ninety feet tall. He then convened a special gathering of all the officials of Babylon, who were commanded to worship the image. Since Daniel was not present at this gathering, it is speculated that, as an envoy of the king, he was away on a special assignment. But his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were there, and when the signal was given for all to fall down and worship the idol, they alone remained standing tall - refusing to the golden image.
The king offered them a second chance. Their answer is recorded in Daniel 3: 17-18: chapter three, verses seventeen THEY RESPONDED. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not worship the golden image which you have set up."
Their response infuriated the King Nebuchadnezzer! He commanded that the furnace be heated seven time hotter that it usually was heated, after which Daniel's three friends were cast into it. So hot was the furnace that those who threw them in were killed by the heat. But when the king looked into the furnace, he saw four persons walking around in the flames. Nebuchadnezzer was astounded.
"Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? . . . Look, I see four men loose; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Daniel 3: 24-25). When the three came out of the furnace not a hair was singed, not a garment affected, nor was the smell of fire on them.
Let's remain resolved to stand tall for God at any cost. It may generate ridicule and persecution, however, our lives are not our own; they belong to God. He'll empower us to stand tall for Him.
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