Rarely do we see a combination of power, ambition, money, deception, ruthlessness, hypocrisy and overall nastiness as we see in the run-up to elections. Unfortunately, believers get caught up in all the hype and we often see Christians struggling with how to live the Christian walk in a way that primarily honors God but also follows His command to respect our rulers, whom he has put in place for his purposes. The life of Daniel teaches a very important principle about the conduct of the believer in this alien planet.
We are not of this world but we are in it and, as residents here, we cannot isolate ourselves from it. Holiness means separation but separation does not mean isolation. Daniel and his friends resolved to not conform to the sinful lifestyle of Babylon. They refused to eat the food placed before them by their caretakers/captors. One must note this wasn’t an act of defiance for defiance’s sake. The bible states they refused to eat the food offered in order to not become defiled. It is likely that the Babylonians were eating food forbidden by the Law of Moses. This is significant because the nation of Judah had all but abandoned the Law of God and had broken the covenant but now, in their captivity, these young men turn to God and his statutes. In their time of trial these young men chose separation, or holiness, from the sinful norms of their new home in order to glorify God.
This turning to God resulted in a miraculous work from His hand. They ate an inferior diet but God sustained them. Daniel and his friends trusted God would sustain them and lived their lives in Babylon in a way that put God before men or culture. That does not mean however, that they ran from the culture or from the rulers of the land. In fact, God placed them in positions of authority in the culture where they could reveal God to the people. It is interesting that Daniel let himself be used by the king as a sort of soothsayer-astrologer type. We would have a tough time accepting being mischaracterized in that way. Think about it. You are summoned by a high level official to consult on spiritual matters and, as you look around the table, you see Ms. Cleo, Walter Mercado (for my Latino brothers and sisters), Jonathan Edwards (the psychic, not the preacher) and a whole host of spiritual charlatans claiming to speak to the spirit world. And you! Daniel never left the room in disgust. He trusted God had placed him there so the name of God would be glorified and lifted above all other names. Of course, note that in Daniel 2, as he prepares to meet with the king about a dream he had, Daniel spends time with God in prayer. Since our war is not against flesh and blood, we cannot fight it on our own. We go to God to fight our battles.
Daniel was a model citizen of Babylon. He respected his king. Daniel 4 says when the king had another dream and asked Daniel for the interpretation, he hoped the dream wasn’t for the king but for one of his enemies because the dream did not bode well for his king. Why would Daniel care about this heathen who conquered and exiled the people of God? Was he a sell-out, putting his well-being above his people? Absolutely not! Daniel knew that by being honest and faithful to his legal duties, he was honoring God. But when he had to choose between honoring God and honoring man, he always chose God. Those are the moments were we see God work supernaturally in the lives of Daniel and his friends.
Daniel 3 tells us about the 3 friends being persecuted for their refusal to worship man. God intervenes, literally. The word intervenes mean “to come between”. As the young men are being thrown into a furnace to be burned alive, the king sees a divine figure in the midst of the 3 in the furnace. In Daniel 6, certain jealous men set out to frame Daniel. The word says they could find nothing on which to accuse him. Think about that. This man is devoted to honoring God but yet, he does nothing contrary to the law of this pagan land. The men then set out to attack him by making Daniel chooses between the law of the land and the Law of God. Daniel chooses the Law of God and God, of course, goes to battle for Daniel for the sake of His own Name. The word says the custom of the people was that no law passed in the land could ever be overturned. The word of the king was final and unchanging but, when confronted with the eternal word of the one true sovereign King of the universe, Yahweh, the law of the land could not stand. Daniel went back to his official duties and continued to serve God. He lived the rest of his life in exile, presumably a model citizen, undoubtedly a faithful follower of God. May that be our testimony.
*A side not here; I understand a well-known ministry has been promoting something called the Daniel diet. The adherents eat vegetables like Daniel and this is done to encourage a healthier lifestyle. I do not know of any claims on the part of the ministry that diet is good because it’s in the bible. We all understand eating vegetables is a good thing. However, please know that this diet didn’t work for Daniel and his friends because of anything having to do with the food. This diet worked because God sustained them. I am convinced if Daniel and his friends had nothing but dirt and rain water to eat and drink, they would have thrived on it because God was their sustainer and not the vegetables.