Starting young in taking a stand.
Daniel was a young man when he was taken from home – with other friends – and became a prisoner in a foreign, enemy land. The king had a plan for these people, and he wanted the fairest, the finest, the strongest, and the smartest to serve him. To do that, he had to get them ready.
This is what the storyline tells us:
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service 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. 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.
A new identity – but taking a stand
First, the king gave them new names. The names needed to be a part of his culture and not theirs. It was a way to take the Jewish culture out of them – even though he specifically chose descendants from the tribe of Judah. Somehow, he thought these descendants were braver and smarter than others.Daniel become Belteshazzar, which means “protect the King.”
Next, he put somebody in charge of these captives. His name was Asheron. The captives answered, not to the king, but to Asheron, and Asheron answered to the king. Small wonder then, that Asheron was concerned about the refusal of these young men to cooperate with the food he planned to serve them.
Third, the king ordered special food be served the men. This was the usual fanfare given to the king and his guests. The reason for this was that the king wanted them to be healthy, smart, and strong.
Fourth, the king planned to give the young men the best teachers to help them learn the language, the culture, and many other things. This was to prepare them to be his wise men in the future.
A bargain with a ruler
Daniel’s foray into standing alone – and eventually being thrown to lions – began the day he and his friends were given food ordered by the king. Their parents and Jewish leaders would never know how they responded because they were now in a foreign country. When Daniel saw the royal food and wine he (and his friends) were expected to consume, he did something smart. Instead of simply refusing, he bargained with Asheron.
“Let us eat the food we are used to for ten days. At the end of the ten days, come and evaluate us; see if we are healthier or less healthy than you expect. If we are healthier, we will continue eating what we always have; if not, then we will concede and eat your food.”
Who can argue with that? It’s a scientific experiment. There’s an hypothesis, a plan, and a result. It can be tested and proven true or false. Asheron agreed.
At the end of the ten days, the Asheron discovers these boys are fairer, finer, brighter, and stronger than all of the others. Is it because God blesses them? Certainly. Is it because they obeyed the command of Jehovah God? Surely.
These boys from the tribe of Judah are the fairest in the land. Wiser, braver, smarter, and the most educated. At the time of their examination by the king, he finds them to be ten times smarter and better than all the magicians in his kingdom. How’s that for a top-notch rating?!
Interpretations of dreams and writing on the wall
Because God gave favor to Daniel and his friends, Daniel finds favor with the king. He rises in rank in this foreign government, but Daniel never forgets who he is. He prays to his God three times a day – morning, noon, and night – always facing toward Jerusalem.
Over the course of the years, Daniel interprets dreams Nebuchadnezzar has. He saves the people from death when he deciphers and translates the writing on the wall for Belshazzar, the new king and son of the king who brought the captives to Babylon. Daniel refuses to accept gifts or payment because he recognizes his ability comes from Jehovah God. Belshazzar proclaims Daniel the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
That very night, Belshazzar dies and Darius becomes king. Darius doesn’t know Daniel like Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar knew him; yet he respects him and soon Daniel is promoted again. This time, however, there is trouble. The administrators and satraps who are under Daniel want to get rid of Daniel. Their problem is that they can’t find any fault in him.
Daniel has a track record of faithfulness to his God. Even his enemies know this. They recognize that the only way to get to Daniel is through the laws of His God. This is what they say: “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
The thirty-day law requiring people to pray only to Darius goes into effect. What does Daniel do? He stays true to who he is and to his God. The story tells us this:
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
We know the story. Daniel is lowered into the den of hungry, roaring lions. An angel shuts their mouths and no harm comes to Daniel. In the morning, King Darius (who has been awake all night) rushes to the den and calls to Daniel, whose God delivered him from the lions.
Taking a stand
Daniel ended up in the den of lions because he chose to be different when things were hard. This started when he first became a prisoner in a strange country. His new name, new language, new clothing didn’t change the person he was. Daniel remained true to Jehovah God. He kept doing the right thing even when it was not popular and when nobody else was.
Because Daniel took a stand in that first instance (about the food and wine offered by the king), he became stronger. He saw the blessing of God for his obedience to God. Because of their obedience, he and his friends became healthier and the smartest in the land. When Daniel knew others were watching after the edict about prayer was given, he didn’t change who he was. He kept on being who he was; he kept on taking a stand.
Throwing the window open facing Jerusalem, he prayed in his room, knowing others were watching. He knew the open window was proof of what he was doing, but he did it anyway. His years of remembering who he was brought him to this place and made it possible to continue taking a stand.
When it came time for Daniel to face the lions, he was ready. He had spent a lifetime of walking with Jehovah God. Daniel didn’t bow to the whims of others or give in to the demands of others. He kept praying and serving God no matter who was watching. That’s how Daniel got ready for the lions’ den.
Photo attributions go to Moody Publishers/Free Bible Images