Thursday, October 27, 2016

Daniel 1: Strangers In A Strange Land

Can you imagine being conquered by another country and then taken away from your homeland to live in exile?  For young Daniel and his three friends, this fate was their reality.  Their lives were completely upended when they were removed from all that was familiar and brought to the foreign nation of Babylon.

These young men faced immediate choices about how much to compromise with their new culture.  Should they maintain the "old ways" of Judah, even though such practices hadn't done anything to prevent their nation's defeat at the hands of the Babylonians?  Or should they embrace the "new ways" of their captors, adopting new customs and even a new religion, and go along in order to get along?  How would you resolve such a dilemma?

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah opted to remain true to the faith of their fathers in a homeland that was now hundreds of miles away and out of reach for them for the rest of their lives.  They made the decision to live as foreigners and strangers in the world, to continue their identities as Jews in a land hostile to such separation.

The first test was dietary.  Would they defile themselves with the rich food and wine that was impure for them to eat?  Or would they stick with a kosher diet?  Chapter 1 describes the appeal that Daniel made to the palace master to be tested: Give the young men ten days to eat vegetables instead of the unclean food, and see what effect it had on them.  "Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master" (vs. 9).  So the palace master agreed.

Following the ten day trial period, it was seen that Daniel and his friends were healthier and in better shape than the others who were eating the rich food.  They had passed the first test, in more ways than one!

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