October 12, 2020
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.
Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
The first paragraphs of this passage set the context – we see Daniel and his friends pulled into captivity and forced into service to the king. They are given new names, new roles, and have left behind everything they hold dear. In the midst of all of that uncertainty, they determine that they will not defile themselves with the royal food and wine. They’ve drawn a line in the sand. But it’s the next sentence that captures my attention because it seems strangely out of sequence. In order to act on his resolution, in order to keep himself undefiled, Daniel asks the chief official for permission.
Permission? Think about that for a minute. Daniel sees himself at risk for being defiled. Not inconvenienced, not offended, not overlooked. Defiled. What synonyms come to mind when you hear the word “defiled?” How about polluted? Poisoned. Violated. Desecrated. Who, in the midst of being poisoned, decides to ask for permission? Yet Daniel does. What type of God did Daniel know that allowed him to ask for permission? It’s quite simple. Daniel’s God fought and won battles for him. So Daniel saw himself as negotiating for a holiness standard that wasn’t solely his responsibility to uphold. His mindset seemed to be, “Hey buddy. A powerful God wants me to remain holy. Are you going to help make that happen, or do you want to get in the way?” It’s this same assurance that allowed Daniel’s friends to say, while staring death in the face just a few chapters later,
“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”
Is this the God you know? Do you feel the freedom to negotiate for holiness, knowing that God is on your side? Or do you tend to see yourself as the solitary soldier, wearily fighting on and on? I hope you begin to see and know the God that Daniel knew – the God who fights for you. Your holiness is not your sole burden to bear. You can take a stand and choose the right thing as a minor player in God’s grand design. His authority and power will carry the day.