In our study of Daniel chapter one, we will look at a great man of prayer and examine the prophecies that were given to him concerning the end times. In this first chapter, we will get a little background on the man and his character.
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In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 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 and put in the treasure house of his god.
Jehoiakim was a king that did not follow in the footsteps of his father who was a righteous ruler. Instead, he showed contempt for the word of God as was given by the prophet Jeremiah. Because of his lack of repentance, the Lord turned him and the city of Jerusalem over to the Babylonians. With the victory came spoils from the fallen city which were taken back to Babylon.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility - 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.
Along with other treasures was taken the best and the brightest of the children from the royalty of Judah. The purpose was to teach them to serve as slaves in the palace. This was a matter of pride in that, when people visited the king, they would see that the best and the brightest of Israel were brought down to the level of slavery by King Nebuchadnezzar.
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.
As we remember, the number three is associated with the display of God's will here on the earth. King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to train them for three years and then show them off like trophies. We may ask ourselves why God would allow His children to be treated like this. The simple fact of the matter is that He has a bigger plan and this is all a part of His will. We can remember this as we face the challenges in our lives and hold onto the fact that God is in control and His will is going to be done both here on the earth and in heaven.
Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
Among the men taken to be trained were four in particular: Daniel whose name means "God is my judge", Mishael "Who is what God is", Hananiah "Whom Jehovah has graciously given" and Azariah "whom Jehovah helps". All of these names give us the expectation of God about to do a mighty work.
The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
The first step in making these young men proper servants of Babylon was to make them forget their old identity. Therefore, they were given new names and each of them had a meaning: Belteshazzar "Bel's prince" Bel was the principal god of Babylon and it would have been an attempt to flatter Daniel by calling him a prince of their god. Meshach "little sheep" who was one they thought they could lead astray with this idolatry. Shadrach "rejoicing in the way" was an attempt to get them to see how they would prosper by turning their backs on the one true God. Abednego "servant of Nebo" really lets us see the purpose and that was to get them to join in idolatry. This is a good lesson for us today, in that, we must continually remind ourselves that our identity is in Christ or we can be enticed to forget.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
We see, here, that Daniel had a choice of whether to take the easy way or to listen to God. He chose to listen to God but we also see that he was not arrogant about it. Instead of flatly refusing to eat the king's food, he asked for permission from the chief official. That is a good example for us as well in that how we go about something can be just as important as what we are doing. Daniel honored God not only through obedience but also through his humility.
Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, 'I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your 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.'
The guard was worried because, if anything happened to those that were in his care, he would be killed.
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 'Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 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.' So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
The number ten is associated with the earthly completion and divine order and so it is no coincidence that this was the period of time for the test that is described. This young man of faith (Daniel) simply trusted God and asked his guard to look at the results. We can have that same confidence if we pray and seek God's will for each of our steps in our daily life.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
We see, here, that God took care of the men because they were obedient to His leading. It was obvious to the guard that God was taking care of them and so he showed them favor. The same type of thing can happen to any believer that is following the lead of the Holy Spirit. God can cause others to show the same kind of favor to us as well. A saying that I have heard is: "If it's God's will, it's His bill" meaning we can trust Him to take care of us while we are following Him.
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.
The men, led by Daniel, were obedient to God and He raised them up by giving them knowledge. Daniel, as the leader, was given a special blessing as He could understand messages from God. This verse reminds us that (1) God uses children sometimes to teach us adults a thing or two about Him; (2) knowledge and wisdom for all things is a gift of God; (3) God rewards His obedient children.
At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service.
At the end of their training period, they were brought before the king and found to be better than all of the others that had went through the training. So, they became the servants of the king. Although it may not seem like it, this was a blessing from God as they would have eaten better and had many other advantages over those that were not in the service of the king. That is a good example for us to remember as many times we find ourselves in positions that, at first glance, seem lowly but in fact are a blessing from God.
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.
The men were not just slightly better than the others throughout the kingdom; they were ten times better. Throughout the Bible, the number ten is associated with the earthly completion of divine order. We see in this, that, complete wisdom and understanding can only come from God. You can go and seek out all kinds of manmade wisdom but, in the end if you want to know about the things of God, it comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. On our own, we do not have the ability to understand the things of God but the Counselor knows the things of God and can guide us in His ways.
And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
We see that Daniel stayed in service to the king and, as we shall see, that is exactly where God wanted him to be.