I keep looking for a little dirt on Daniel, but I find nothing. At some point nearly every person in the Bible is shown to have feet of clay, but Daniel was squeaky clean. God said to the prophet Ezekiel that even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were to strive to deliver Israel, they would be able to deliver only themselves—no one else (Ezekiel 14:14). Even so, Noah got drunk and Job tried to argue his case before God. But Daniel? While he may have had some chinks in his armor, the biblical record is quite kind to him.
This exiled prophet who served in two different political regimes and whose name means “God is judge” had a most sincere faith. We start our year with four lessons from the book of Daniel. The first seven verses of the book give us the historical context. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem. He deported many young men without blemish, of good appearance, and skillful in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding from Jerusalem to Babylon (Daniel 1:4). Daniel was among them. Nebuchadnezzar ordered that these young Hebrews submit to a regimen of education and diet. He even changed their names in an effort to change their identities.
A Sincere Faith Lives by Resolution
Our printed text begins with, “But Daniel resolved.” The Hebrew word suwm, translated “resolved,” means “to put, make, ordain, establish, or determine.” To serve God effectively takes more than human resolve. But rarely do God’s people ever progress in their faith without a strong resolution to do so. Daniel was not about to allow a pagan king to compromise his identity or faith. So, he decided not to defile himself. The Hebrew word ga’al, translated “defile” (mentioned twice in our text) means “to pollute, stain, or desecrate.”
The context of this resolution has to do with food and drink. This was not just any food and drink. This was the king’s food and drink. Scholars differ as to why Daniel made this decision. Was the food first offered to the idols (see 1 Corinthians 8-10)? Was the food unclean by the Levitical dietary code (see Leviticus 11)? Or was this some kind of self-imposed resolution in light of the recommended test that would follow with Nebuchadnezzar’s official? This official was concerned for his own head if Daniel did not look as good as the other captives. Daniel was confident that God would honor his sincere faith.
A Sincere Faith Is Willing to Be Tested
Paul told the church in Corinth to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Daniel’s resolve gave him the confidence to suggest a test. This was one way he could put the king’s official at ease. Daniel suggested to the guard, whom the official had placed over him (and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—their Hebrew names), that they be given a test (from the Hebrew, nacah, meaning “to prove, tempt, or try”).
The test was a 10-day (a number that occurs four times in our printed text) experiment. The Daniel diet was nothing but vegetables and water. This allowed him to bypass any questions of conscience with the king’s royal food. After 10 days a comparison would be made between Daniel and his three friends and the others. The word compare (Hebrew ra’ah) is translated “to see, show, behold, or observe.” Once the comparison was made the results were obvious. Daniel and his friends were healthier and better nourished than the other young men. The test succeeded. The guard then allowed them to continue with their preferred diet.
A Sincere Faith Looks for God’s Providence
This was a success story all the way. While Daniel was to be commended for his sincere faith, it was God who brought about this success. The narrator already tipped the reader off in Daniel 1:9 when he wrote, “Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel.” Now God’s role in these events was even more pronounced.
God not only caused the official to show favor to Daniel, he also gave Daniel and his friends knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. In addition to that, God gave Daniel understanding of visions and dreams. When Daniel and his three friends were presented to Nebuchadnezzar they were found to be ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters. God’s providence extended even into the next political regime, that of Cyrus of Persia.
A sincere faith will help us stand strong. Philip Bliss put it this way: “Dare to be a Daniel; dare to stand alone; dare to have a purpose firm; dare to make it known.”
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2017, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.