Tuesday, July 4, 2017, was the 241st birthday of the United States of America, a country founded on Christian principles. In the early days the USA was considered to be a Christian nation, whose citizens conducted themselves in such a manner that the nation has been greatly blessed by God.
Though the USA has only 4.65% of the world’s population, it has 32.9% of the world’s GDP, and has by far the most powerful military. It is the richest and most powerful nation in the world.
Alas, it has become one of the wickedest countries in the world, and under God’s ever increasing judgment. Probably the most glaring evidence of our decadence is that in 1973 the Supreme Court, in a case called Roe versus Wade, made it legal for babies to be murdered in their mother’s womb. This unbelievable and monstrous act has resulted in the murder of over sixty million babies and counting. The babies, of course, had no say in whether they would be killed or not.
A more subtle, but equally or more dangerous hazard is the replacement of our Judeo-Christian worldview by a secular- humanistic worldview. This worldview has almost completely taken God out of our educational system, our moral standards and our political system.
The concern of this blog is in regard to the danger posed by our educational establishment and climate of immorality to our children (those who aren’t aborted and grow up to become adults). These have an advantage over the aborted babies, who had no choice as to whether they lived or died. Hard though it may be, THEY CAN SAY “NO” TO THE PEER PRESSURE! THEY CAN DARE TO BE DIFFERENT!
To show the importance and benefit of daring to be different we can do no better than to study the lives of four young Hebrew men of the Old Testament. Daniel 1:1-6 will set the stage, “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 gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god. Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.”
Let us examine the situation in which these four young men found themselves:
- Judah had followed the evil ways of the northern kingdom, Israel, and God judged them by giving them captive to Egypt. Pharaoh Neco set Jehoikim as Vassal-king over Judah. He was a wicked king, in contrast to his godly father, King Josiah.
- Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, defeated Pharaoh Neco at the battle of Carchemish and also took over Judah, whereupon Jehoiakim became Vassal-king to Nebuchadnezzar. In the third year of his reign (605 BC) Jehoikim rebelled.
- Nebuchadnezzar put down the revolt, and brought many captives, including our four young men, to Babylon, a walk of about 900 miles.
- After they arrived in Babylon and got settled, our four young men found out they had been chosen as candidates to serve in the King’s court, and it would entail eating of the King’s delicacies and drinking of the wine he drank (both of which were probably dedicated to Bel, the god of the Babylonians, and certainly weren’t kosher).
Let us pick up the story in Daniel 1:7-8, “To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego. But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”
This raises a question. Why did Daniel and his three friends, coming from the evil court of King Jehoiakim, have any religious scruples about defiling themselves with non-kosher food? The answer is pretty apparent when we consider that all of them had spent their childhood and early teens under the influence of Jehoiakim’s godly father, King Josiah, who brought sweeping reforms to Judah by zealously reestablishing the Law of Moses as the pattern for behavior in the land. Our four young men were no doubt among those who made true and lasting commitments to God’s word.
So here they were, their parents and many friends left back in Jerusalem, torn away from their hones, their possessions and worshiping in the Temple, in a strange foreign country, whose king expected them to eat food that would defile them and violate their conscience. Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the king’s delicacies and wine, and asked the eunuch in charge if he could have vegetables and water instead (no doubt speaking for the others as well).
Fortunately, as we read in Daniel 1:9, “Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.” So the chief of the eunuchs allowed Daniel and his friends to prove by a ten day test that vegetables and water would keep them healthy, and that diet became permanent. They had dared to be different so as to please God, and He had protected them.
During their three years of training, “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams,” (Daniel 1:17) in preparation for their final exam by Nebuchadnezzar, about which we now read.
Daniel 1:18-20, “Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.” Hooray!
The next time we hear of Daniel and his friends was when Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. He commanded his magicians and astrologers to tell him what he dreamed and then give the interpretation of the dream. They protested that it was unreasonable to ask them to tell him the dream, but if he would tell them what he dreamed they would interpret it. The king replied, “Tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation,” Daniel 2:9b.
Daniel 2:10-11, gives their anguished reply, “The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” Nebuchadnezzar was furious, and ordered them all killed.
When Daniel heard about it he dared to be different, “So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation,” Daniel 2:16, to which the king agreed.
Daniel went to his house where he and his three companions had a prayer meeting, asking God to reveal the dream and its interpretation to Daniel. God answered and revealed the secret to Daniel in a night vision, whereupon they had a praise celebration.
When Daniel met with the king he was asked, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?” (Daniel 2:26b) His lengthy answer from Daniel 2:27-45 follows: “Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, ‘The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart. You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength and glory, and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all — you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold — the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.’”
As a result of daring to be different Daniel was used by God to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar (and everyone else since) the prophetic future till God’s final, eternal kingdom will be set up. The king’s immediate reaction and treatment of the four young men are described in Daniel 2:46-49, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. The king answered Daniel, and said, ‘Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.’ Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. When these “foreigners” were promoted over the native leaders, the demoted ones became bitter enemies of our four young men.
To be continued…