Children of the Bible, Part 11 by Allan McGuirl
As we move through our series on children of the Bible, we come next to a teenager living in Jerusalem with his family. He grew up in the Jewish culture until something terrible happened in 606 B.C. – King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem. A terrible battle ensued, many lives were lost, the city was taken, and suddenly Daniel and a number of his friends were captured and carried off to the city of Babylon.
Did you know that Babylon was 60 miles in circumference? The walls around the city were 300 feet high and 80 feet thick – wide enough for houses to be built on top and a roadway as well. Wow! Here were Daniel and his friends, captured and held in a fortified city, in a strange culture, a foreign language, under guard at all times, and miles from their beloved homeland.
What made matters worse was that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were even given new names. Daniel became Belteshazzar, Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael was renamed Meshach, and Azariah became Abednego – all named after Babylonian gods. What a humungous change in their lives. How would you have reacted in a similar situation if you were thrust into a totally different lifestyle by no choice of your own?
Daniel’s reaction was, in Daniel 1:8, to “not defile himself with the royal food and wine.” He was thinking, “This is not good for me. How can I deal with this situation?” Daniel did not kick up his heels, or act self-righteous. Instead he asked permission to have an exception extended to him and his three friends. In verse 9 it says, “Now God had caused the official to show favour and sympathy to Daniel.” How did that come about?
How do you win favour with a superior? It is obvious that Daniel was co-operative, hardworking, and was willing to live under adverse conditions. The official in charge could easily have said no, but Daniel’s proposal was reasonable, doable, and acceptable to him. Daniel proposed a 10-day test where he and his friends would eat vegetables and drink water. At the end of the 10 days, the official could judge for himself if there was any difference. This wisely left the decision in the hands of the officer; a test of only 10 days that could easily be undone and would not pose any risk to the man’s position. He certainly did not want Daniel and his friends to be less healthy than the others or he would bear the consequences.
Now at the end of the 10 days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than any of the other young men. God graciously honoured the stand these men took under extenuating circumstances. This reminds me of the second verse of a hymn I used to sing as a young boy:
Many mighty men are lost,
Daring not to stand,
Who for God had been a host
By joining Daniel’s band.
Dare to be a Daniel
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm
Dare to make it known.
When I think of these men, it reminds me of a missionary to Colombia, Russell Stendal. In his 20’s he was flying his plane in a dangerous part of the country. He touched down in one area and was soon surrounded by gun-wielding guerillas. He, too, against his will, was taken to a remote jungle area unfamiliar to him, away from his family and loved ones. At least he knew Spanish. As a young person, he could have thought God had abandoned him and become rebellious and uncooperative, but he knew God was with him. He began to talk to these captors and over his six months of imprisonment; travelling from jungle camp to jungle camp, he wrote a book. The guerillas were very curious about what he wrote. After a period of time, his friendship with the guerillas grew and, like Daniel, he won their favour. God was with Russell and he was eventually released with a very moderate ransom payment.
You know, I have to say that in the day in which we live, in the conditions of the world around us, we could find ourselves in a similar situation. How would you react? I think too of Corie ten Boom. She understood that God was still with her, even in the deplorable conditions of a WWII prison camp. She demonstrated love and forgiveness because of God’s grace in her life, just as in the life of Russell and Daniel and his friends.
Dear friends, remember that if you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, God is always with you no matter what you may face. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them for the Lord thy God goes with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.”