Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Daniel, chapter 1, verse 8. I trust everybody had a great thanksgiving. I was thinking about this, if the rapture were to occur today the Lord’s going to have to work extra hard to pull us off the earth with all of that turkey and everything that we inhaled.
Daniel 1:8; the title of our message this morning is The Blessings of Overcoming the World, Part 2. I want to thank Jim McGowan for subbing in last week; and I have just come off a travel schedule that almost killed me (to be honest with you). My wife said are you looking at your calendar, this was late October, and I said no. She says well you need to look at it because it’s going to be kind of rough. So here we go; I went to Minnesota, a conference there, then I went to Oklahoma City to do an interview on Bible Prophecy, from there I went to Albuquerque, New Mexico, another conference. And last week I was in Boston, Massachusetts so I’m tired, let’s close in prayer. [Laughter] I told people I was going to Boston, Massachusetts and they said what are you doing there, is anything spiritual going on in Massachusetts?
And it’s funny how the Lord works; you know the least places you’d expect Him, this is a group of Haitian believers and I was asked to speak at their 19th anniversary for their church, it must have been a church of 2,000-3,000 people. And somehow they had gotten my videos online about the book of Revelation so they had been watching those, they had been using those in their leadership class and I thought to myself, now I could not have orchestrated anything like this; here I am in Massachusetts, you know, the blue with the blue states, if you know what I’m getting at here, and here is this group of Haitian believers, I had to speak through an interpreter and they all love the Bible, they love Bible prophecy, they knew about me and so I’m like WOW, Lord, You really orchestrated this well. [clapping] To me it’s neat, and I kind of went up there with sort of a Jonah grumbling attitude, you know, and I have to have my attitude corrected, like Lord forgive me for shrinking You. So you just never know what God is going to do.
Well, here we are in the book of Daniel and we are in our third lesson in the book of Daniel. Of course the book of Daniel is really about a terrible period of time for the nation of Israel. They have been torn out of their homeland and they’re plummeted into a time period that the theologians call the times of the Gentiles. The temple is about to be destroyed, they have no reigning king on David’s throne. They have been exported about 350 miles to the east and they are in a place of captivity. And how do you live for God in the midst of those circumstances? What is the prophetic blueprint of God during these circumstances. And this is why God raised up the prophet Daniel, to explain this time period prophetically, and also to teach Israel how they are to live in the midst of paganism.
So the whole point of it is to encourage Judah by emphasizing the fact that God is sovereign and God is in control during this time of captivity. So you may feel like that in your life, you’ve been ripped out of comfortable circumstances, or you’ve been laid off from a job, or maybe there’s some kind of economic or income shortfall in your life and you want to know, is God still there? And what we discover in this book is God not only is there but this is His opportunity that He seeks to show up in our lives in terms of His sovereignty.
The book of Daniel, as we talked about, has two parts to it; chapters 1-7 is the history; chapters 8-12 is prophecy and we are just inching our way into the first section of the book (history) where we come to chapter 1 which is really an introductory chapter. The rest of the book really doesn’t make sense until we understand the crisis that God’s people are in in chapter 1. So we have Daniel’s circumstances, verses 1-2; Daniel’s selection, verses 3-7; Daniel’s dedication, verses 8-16; Daniel’s blessing, verses 17-21. That’s sort of a rough outline of the chapters as we go through it.
We’ve already studied verses 1-2, Daniel’s circumstances. There is a man named Nebuchadnezzar who is running Babylon at this time; this guy, as we’re going to see, has major anger management issues. He is a dictator and his goal is to come against Jerusalem in three waves; the first is in 605 B.C., the second is in 597 B.C., the third is in 586 B.C. So when we open the pages of the book of Daniel the first wave, there in 605 B.C., has happened . Nebuchadnezzar has come, not to destroy the city in the sanctuary yet, he will do that, but he’s come for the best and the brightest. And he basically takes the best and the brightest of Judah and he begins to brainwash them; he begins to indoctrinate them into Babylonian thinking, because his strategy, as we have seen and will see, is to get the best and the brightest on his team. And if you get the best and the brightest on your team you can talk the rest of the group to coming along peaceably.
So Nebuchadnezzar was nobody’s fool, he knew exactly what he was doing and there is a specific strategy that he is at work implementing. The year is the third year of Jehoiakim, Daniel 1:1, which makes Daniel about 15 years of age when he is taken into captivity and he begins to be brainwashed by this man, Nebuchadnezzar. [Daniel 1:1, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.”]
The location of where the children of Israel are taken to is in that circle to the east, 350 miles to the east, a place called Shinar in Hebrew. The Greeks called that place Mesopotamia, which means between the rivers. It’s an area of an infamous past, the tower of Babel once stood there. It’s an area of an infamous present, Daniel and his friends are taken there, and when we get into the subject of the book of Revelation and we discover the destruction of Babylon yet future, a great topic which we won’t be getting into today, we discover it’s an area of future destiny as well.
So there is a selection process, verses 3-7, where Nebuchadnezzar there in wave one comes for the best and the brightest. Daniel is a teenager, along with his three friends, are taken into that first wave and they’re put through an intense program. There are entrance requirements into this program; he came, Nebuchadnezzar did, for the best looking (physical), the smartest (mental) and those with social skills because they had to be fit for serving in the king’s court.
Verse 4 describes the course of study that these folks went through; they are being brainwashed, not in the Law of God, not in Genesis through the end of the Old Testament, not in the things of God but in the literature of the Chaldeans, a pagan education. And this is to go on for three years. And Nebuchadnezzar, actually during this time period, verse 5, provides finances, financial support, tuition free education, we might put it that way, for these youths as they are going into this system where Nebuchadnezzar is seeking to alter their worldview. [Daniel 1:5, “The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service.”]
And Nebuchadnezzar is so arrogant that he actually takes the name of Daniel and his three friends and he gives them different names. Their original Hebrew names, and this is why I had Ed read this, I wanted to see how he pronounced all these. Here’s the original Hebrew names. Daniel, which means God is my judge. Hananiah, which means Yahweh is gracious. Mishael, which means who is what God is? And Azariah, which means Yahweh has helped.
And you read that and you immediately know something about these four youths and the families they came from. Every name that these youths were given reflected something of God’s character, so obviously these youths came from homes that took God very seriously. They were homes that honored the great Hebrew Shema, which means listen, where God told the nation of Israel all the way back in the time of Moses, Deuteronomy 6:6-7, that they are to teach truth to their children, when they rise up, when they lie down, when they walk along the way. [Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”] They were probably parents that were building their hopes on Proverbs 22:6, which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart thereof,” from that path.
So the pattern of God is for spiritual truth to be passed from one generation to the next, through the parent/child relationship. There’s nothing here about a youth pastor doing it, although we love youth pastors. There’s nothing here about a Christian college doing it, although we love Christian colleges. The pattern of God is for truth to be disseminated, not just in content but in terms of role modeling from parent to child. And if that’s not happening in somebody’s home a church or a Christian college is just playing catch up. The only thing a church, a youth program, a college, a Christian college, can do is reinforce what is happening in the home. You see, this is the job that parents cannot out source. This is something that God gave to the family structure.
And obviously these families had done just that, as is evidenced by the name of these four youths. And now payday is coming because these youths find themselves in a circumstance where they’re going to have to stand for God. They’re not in Sunday School any longer, they’re in a pagan environment and are these youths going to stand for God in the midst of hostile circumstances. Payday comes as we see these youths standing for God in difficult times.
You can think of the pride, it’s not recorded in the Bible but the pride that those parents and grandparents felt as these children are not out making their own decisions. Maybe it’s university, sitting under professors with PhD’s telling them that the Bible is filled with myths, being around their peers saying let’s go party let’s go drinking, let’s go do drugs. And they’re not acquiescing to the world system.
Nebuchadnezzar, though, comes along and he does not like these names at all so he renames these youths; we don’t really know the names, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; those are Jewish names. For whatever reason those names haven’t stuck with us as remembering these youths but we do know these pagan names for some reason. They’re given there in verse 7. Daniel’s name is changed to Belshazzar, which means lady protect the king. Then the names of the three youths, his three friends, are changed to Shadrach, which means I am fearful of God, not respectful of God but fearful of God. Meshach which means I am of little account. And then Abed-nego which means servant of Nebo. Nebo was part of the Babylonian pantheon. The Babylonians were polytheistic and one of the key gods that they served was this god, (little g) named Nebo.
And you see very clearly what Nebuchadnezzar is doing; he’s saying I don’t like your roots, I don’t like your family, I don’t like your tradition, I don’t like where you came from so I am going to get you completely on my team and I’m going to do so by even claiming ownership of you. Because in the Bible when somebody names something that is a sigh that the person doing the naming owns the very thing being named. That is the whole significance of God allowing Adam to name the animals in Genesis 2:19. [Genesis 2:19, “Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.”] It talks there about the animals that God brought to Adam; Adam was given the task of naming these animals.
Well, why did God assign that task to Adam? For the simple reason that when God originally created the human race He gave them authority over the animals. The animals are not there to listen to, they’re not there to worship, they’re there to be ruled over, not on a belligerent way but in a stewardship way. And that is the whole purpose of allowing Adam to name these various animals. So when Nebuchadnezzar comes in and renames these four youths what Nebuchadnezzar is saying is God is not in control, I’m in control. The rest of the book of Daniel simply says this: Nebuchadnezzar, you’re wrong, you’re not in control of anything. You may think you’re in control but you have so little control over things, heaven understands it but you don’t understand it.
Now when we begin to get into a subject like this people say well, why doesn’t the pastor talk about something relevant? I mean, who cares about this naming and who cares about what happened way back in the 6th century B.C. Who cares about Nebuchadnezzar? Who cares about this renaming? And the reason that this is relevant is because this is the very claim that the world system is placing over you as I speak. We are living in the devil’s world. That will not change until the Second Advent of Christ, when the kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of our God and His Christ. This is why Satan is called the ruler of this world, John 12:31; the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4; the prince and power of the atmosphere, Ephesians 2:2, the whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one, 1 John 5:19.
[John 12:31, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” [2 Corinthians 4:4, “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” John 12:31, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” 2 Corinthians 4:4, “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Ephesians 2:2, “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. I John 5:19, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”]
In fact, Jesus was offered, by the devil, the kingdoms of this world, Luke 4:5-8, and the devil said this: I will give you all this domain and its glory for it has been handed over to me and I can give it to whomever I wish. [Luke 4:5, “And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  ‘Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.’  Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’”]
And Jesus never said to Satan well, that’s not true, because it is true. So we are living, to a very large extent, in a world system that is hostile to God, exactly the kind of circumstances that Daniel and his three friends found themselves in.
How does this world system operate. How does it operate in the life of the child of God? And here is the strategy: the world system seeks conformity. John describes the world system this way in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” The world wants you to think the way it thinks in the area of lust of the flesh, lust of the eye and the pride of life. And every single day of my life as a Christian the world is trying to conform my thinking to its pattern of thought.
This is why Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world,” I personally like the Philips translation of this, it says, “Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Every time you watch TV, every time you pick up the newspaper, many times in conversation, many times you surf the internet, what is happening is the world is seeking to change the way you think. And the world wants to conform us into its image. And guess what happens to the child of God when we become conformed to the thinking of this world; our effectiveness is neutralized. What made Jesus so attractive to people was that He was different. His thinking was different. His speech was different. His philosophy of life was different and people were attracted to Him on account of that.
Think if Jesus just fit in with everybody else; think how His ministry would have been short-circuited. I’m reminded of Lot, how’s this for a sermon title: Are your lot like Lot? Lot, we know was a believer, it says it there in 2 Peter 2:7-8. [2 Peter 2:7-8, “and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men  (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds).”] But he just fit in with the crowd there in Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, there’s very little difference between Lot’s life and the practitioners of all of the immorality that was taking place in that terrible city that God was destroyed called Sodom and Gomorrah. And then Lot learns that the city is going to be destroyed and Lot gets spiritual. He starts to preach a sermon of sorts; he tells his in-laws get up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city. And this is the reaction that his in-laws and family had towards him. “But he” that’s Lot, “appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.”
[Genesis 19:14, “Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, ‘Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.’ But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.”]
Oh, there he goes again, goofing around again, kidding around again, even though the man is dead serious and talking about spiritual things. He had no lifestyle to back up his claims spiritually and consequently he was molded into the attitude of the world and he lost his authority to speak to the world. Beloved, when we’re just like the world we lose our prophetic voice to the world because the world sees no backup or lifestyle to accommodate our teaching and our sermons. And this is why Satan’s strategy in the life of the child of God is conformity.
This is why the book of James tells us, in James 1:27 that we ought to keep ourselves unstained by the world. [James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”] Does that describe your life? Are you under God’s providence and resources keeping your resources unstained by the world. That’s what God wants. Satan, of course, orchestrating the world system wants the opposite.
And you say can you be a little bit more specific? I mean, how does Satan exactly do this? And here’s his target over and over again; it is the mind, because the Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” If Satan can control the mind and maybe you won’t give him all of your mind, maybe you’ll just give him 50% of your mind, or 10% of your mind; he’ll take whatever he can get because he knows that if he has an inroad into the mind he has great influence and sway over the course and direction of your life because of the power that God has given to the human mind.
This is why Romans 12:2 says we ought to renew the mind. Ephesians 6:17 says we ought to put on the helmet of salvation. What does the helmet guard? The head or the mind. [Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Ephesians 6:17, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:”]
And how critical this is, to be in a process where your mind is being renewed day by day as the Bible says. You know, the 9-11 hijackers, they didn’t have to get control of the whole airplane; they just had to get control over the place where the pilot sits and controls the vehicle. They don’t have to control every square inch of the airplane; you just control the place of influence or the center of influence and you control the plane. See? And this is why the devil is targeting the mind because once the mind is under his sway or influence he controls you to a large extent. And that’s why there is so much in the Bible about guarding the mind and protecting the mind. And how important it is to have a church atmosphere body where you can come and sit under the teaching of the Word of God and have your mind renewed, reprogramed.
I was there in Boston, Massachusetts driving around, having a sense of direction is not necessarily my spiritual gift, let’s put it that way, and I had the Google maps and when I got off course it just shouted these words to me, or word, “recalibrating,” take a wrong turn, “recalibrating.” And I started to think about that, that is pretty good instructions for the Christian, “recalibrating,” because before I got saved my mind thought a particular way and I dragged a lot of baggage into my Christian life and how significant it is to get into the Word of God and have my mind recalibrated, reprogramed so that it thinks the way God thinks. I can’t get that in and of myself; it has to be through a perpetual exposure to the Word of God. That should be happening in our daily devotional life; it should be happening in this church; I pray that it’s happening now even as I speak. This is why the book of Hebrews, chapter 10 and verse 25 says, “not forsaking our own assembling together…” because in church the spiritual gifts are in operation, one of which is the gift of pastor-teacher which is the ability to explain the Bible in a way that’s meaningful and understandable to the average Christian and that contributes to the recalibrating process.
What Nebuchadnezzar and Satan indirectly through Nebuchadnezzar is going after in these four youths is their minds. And I want you to understand something: the youth of America are under today tremendous propaganda. I graduated from high school in 1985, it was bad when I went through school and yet it’s nothing compared to what the youth of America are facing… perpetual propaganda. And I don’t put these slides up here to belittle public school teachers; my mother was a public school teacher, my aunt was actually the Texas teacher of the year out here in Texas a few years back. I understand the difficulty and the hard work that goes into being such a teacher. But what I’m here to tell you is that the system itself is a mind-controlled system. And there are good people in that system, no doubt. But that doesn’t change the philosophy that is being dictated to them constantly.
Abraham Lincoln, a quote typically attributed to him puts it this way: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” The power of education! This is exactly what Nebuchadnezzar is tapping into here in Daniel 1.
Charles Francis Potter, in 1930, a humanist, said this: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism.” Humanism, of course, is the worship of self instead of God. “…every public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-school teachers, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?” [Charles Francis Potter, Humanism: A New Religion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1930), 128]
It’s interesting that those that are on the other side of the issue than ourselves telegraph to us what they’re going to do. I would say that this was the blueprint outlined by Charles Frances Potter, the humanist, back in 1930. We are going to take over public schools and we are going to use those schools as indoctrination mills to steal away your children. And you look at a church like this and we have a lot of gray haired people, don’t we. Amen to that, at least we still have hair; we ought to respect the gray head. But in church after church after church that I go to I always wonder where are the young people? Where is the youth. Well, there’s an answer to that: there’s a strategy that Satan has been at work at for many, many decades. That’s the name of the game. I’m bringing this up to contemporize the book of Daniel. The very conflict that Daniel was in is the same kind of conflict that the youth of America are in today.
Here is a quote from Chester M. Pierce, a Harvard psychiatrist and he says: “Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill” why is that, “because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well by creating the international child of the future.” [Chester M. Pierce, Harvard psychiatrist, speaking as an expert in public education at the 1973 International Education Seminar.]
That’s an astounding quote, isn’t it? These kids that are coming to us, they are mentally ill. Why is that? Well, they love mom and dad; they love Jesus and they love the United States so you school teachers fix them. A quote from 1973.
Another quote, John Dunphy wrote in a humanistic magazine, he says: “I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classrooms by teachers who correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call the Divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers.” [John Dunphy, “A Religion for the New Age,” The Humanist (January/February 1983): 26] It won’t be a Christian fundamentalism, it’s be a secular fundamentalism.
This quote is so bad I don’t even know if I should read it, but here we go: this is from Lawrence Krauss, he’s an ASU Physics Professor, this is what he said on you tube regarding parents that homeschool their children and teach their children that evolution is not a scientific fact. What is the attitude of the educational establishment towards such parents. He says, “Sure, it is mild child abuse…We need to encourage our children to question freely and try to think for themselves.” Which I’m in favor of, by the way. “Anything we do that counters that is unfair to them… If you’re introducing it as reality, if you’re telling your kids the world is 6,000 years old, and they shouldn’t believe scientists because there is no way humans are related to other animals, and don’t believe any of that stuff you learned in school, or take your kids of out of school because they are learning something, then it is like the Taliban at some level, which is an extreme form of child abuse…The Taliban doesn’t want girls to be educated or people to be educated because if they do they’ll understand the myths that they are learning are all” and I won’t give you that last word there because we’re in church. [Lawrence Krauss, ASU Physics Professor, www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_ZDH5JzgPY
What am I trying to get at here? What I’m trying to get at here is not to get kids to think freely. I’m not trying to argue education in and of itself is wrong, I’ve got more degrees than a thermometer. I’m a pro education guy. What I’m getting at is there is an agenda to take one set of absolutist beliefs and replace them with another. That’s what’s happening. That is brought up because I’m trying to contemporize Daniel chapter 1. And by the way, in the minds of many of these people do you know that your kids don’t belong to you? They belong to us.
This is Melissa Harris Perry, a former contributor to MSNBC, she says, “So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole” what? “communities.” [Melissa Harris Perry, MSNBC host www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qtpdSQox0] Because after all, what does it take to raise a child, according to one politician? A village. This is an attack over and over again on the authority structure of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 that God established. [Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”]
Now I do have a legal background, (don’t hold that against me) so I read a lot of law journals. And I share some of these quotes with you just to show you how these people think. This is Kimberly Yuracko, who is a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law. Look at what she says about home schooling. “There must be legal and constitutional limits on the ability of homeschooling parents ‘to teach their children idiosyncratic and illiberal beliefs and values”… [Government control must be exercised against] “parents [who] want to teach against the enlightenment. …Parental control over children’s basic education flows from the state (rather than vice versa). States delegate power over children’s basic education to parents. . . .” [Kimberly A. Yuracko, “Education Off the Grid…”, California Law Review 96 (February 2008) (She is a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law)]
It’s not you parents that are in control; “we” as the enlightened ones are in control. And just as you want your parents to honor the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we’re trying to reduce that, we’re trying to annihilate that, we are trying to replace it with a second set of creeds of humanistic orientation.
Another law professor, Catherine Ross, Professor at George Washington School of Law. She says: “This essay explores the choice many traditionalist Christian parents (both fundamentalist and evangelical) make to leave public schools in order to teach their children at home, thus in most instances escaping meaningful oversight….society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine toleration of difference….If a parent subscribes to an absolutist belief system premised on the notion that it was handed down by a creator, that it (like the Ten Commandments) is etched in stone and that all other systems are wrong, the essential lessons of a civic education…often seem deeply challenging and suspect….Such ‘private truths’ have no place in the public arena, including the public schools.” [Catherine Ross, “Fundamentalist Challenges to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling”, William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 18 (May 2010) (She is professor at George Washington Law School)]
We don’t want the Ten Commandments here; we don’t want the Bible here. We don’t even want you to think that our kids belong to you anyway. This is the same circumstances that Daniel was under. This is what the youth in the United States of America are living under as I speak.
One more quote, Martha Fineman and Karen Worthington, law professors, say this: “The risk that parents or private schools unfairly impose hierarchical or oppressive beliefs on their children is magnified by the absence of state oversight or the application of any particular educational standards….Public education should be mandatory and universal.” [Martha Fineman and Karen Worthington, What is Right for Children? The Competing Paradigms of Religion and Human Rights (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2009).
Have you noticed they want the kids at an earlier and earlier and earlier age, always. That’s always the push, we’ve got to get them when they’re young; we’ve got to get them when they’re impressionable because this much we know, he who controls education controls the future.
This is what Nebuchadnezzar is imposing on these four Hebrew youths. This is what is happening to your children, your grandchildren, and yet what is Daniel called to do in the midst of this? By the way, did you know that the average child, if they’re in public education, will receive eleven thousand hours of classroom instruction. Think about that; the devil has eleven thousand hours to alter somebody’s worldview. If there’s ever a time we need to be preparing our children, praying for our children, the time is now. Would you not agree? And Daniel and his three friends are called to stand for God in the midst of this.
And let me tell you something about the book of Daniel that we’re going to be learning. Do you know what kind of life God blesses is the sanctified life, the life that is separate, the life that is different. Satan’s agenda is conformity to neutralize your witness but what God blesses, what God uses is a life that doesn’t fit the pattern of the age.
Philippians 2:15 says this: “so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” How can you be a light in the midst of darkness unless you’re standing out in the midst of darkness. And yet that’s the calling on Daniel, that’s the calling on our children, that’s the calling on our lives as well.
I don’t like to wear showy ties but I wore this one today and this is what it says at the bottom: “This world is not my home,” and I saw that on the rack and I said that one’s for today, if anybody reads it or appreciates it, “This world is not my home.” We are called to live for God in Satan’s world, not to make the world our home but to reach the world. That’s the calling of the believer. That’s the calling on Daniel.
So Daniel, now, as we move into verses 8-16 begins to exhibit dedication. This is where all of the training that he had at home from his godly parental upbringing starts to pay dividends at the age of 15. Do you notice that the devil, or Nebuchadnezzar, doesn’t give these kids a break just because they’re young? He’s going after them because they are young, because they are impressionable. And yet a young person has the potential to stand for God. This dedication happens in two rounds; round one, verses 8-10, round two, verses 11-16.
Notice what happens there in terms of Daniel’s resolve. Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank;” notice that word “defile.” Why would eating Nebuchadnezzar’s diet in the mind of a devout Hebrew be defiling towards God? The answer goes all the way back to the book of Exodus, to the time of Moses, where God, through Moses said this in Exodus 34:15, “otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they would play the harlot with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice.” One of the things that you did not do as a devout Jew is you did not eat food sacrificed to idols, which is what the diet was that Nebuchadnezzar was giving to these youths. To do so would be to contradict what God Himself decreed, going back to the time of Moses, to the book of Exodus.
In fact, this issue of a Jew not eating food sacrificed to idols was so important to them that when the age of the church started and they discovered that they were not under law any more but under grace, many of them still adhered to this guideline, even though they didn’t have to, because it was part of who they were. And that’s the whole context of Paul’s teaching about the stronger brother not flaunting his spiritual freedom in the presence of the younger brother. Paul says I want you to understand that these Jews, they’ve been under the Mosaic system for 1,500 years, and you need to have deference and respect to them concerning this exhortation not to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Verse 8, “But Daniel made up his” what? “his mind…” where is the whole battle? The mind. How are you doing protecting your mind? [Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.”]
Philippians 4:8 tells us how to protect our mind. It says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things.” Should I read this book or not read this book? Should I watch this TV program or not watch this TV program? Should I take this class or not take this class? The Bible gives us a test; is it honorable? Is it right? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it of good report? Is it worthy of praise? Then go ahead and allow that into the arena of the mind. What a screening test that is.
And you say well, wait a minute, pastor, don’t you have bad thoughts? Of course I do, I have the same bad thoughts that you have. Well, how do you deal with those? As one theologian put it, you cannot stop the birds from flying over your head but you can certainly prevent them from building a nest in your hair. That’s my answer. I have bad thoughts, negative thoughts, carnal thoughts all the time, I don’t have a lot of control over that; what I have control over is am I going to entertain those thoughts? Am I going to dwell on those thoughts? Am I going to dismiss those thoughts or am I going to allow those thoughts to have entrance into the arena of the mind, because if that is happening then the battle is already lost.
Numbers 13:33, it’s a description of the children of Israel as they were about to take Canaan and they fell into fear because of unbelief and they lost a critical battle. They could have had Canaan within eleven days and yet God allowed them to wander around in the wilderness for forty years. Where was that battle lost? It was lost in the arena of the mind because this is what the Hebrews said in that generation. “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight,” there’s the whole problem, they stopped looking at their crisis from God’s point of view and they looked at it from the human point of view. And they saw giants in the land and rather than seeing those giants through the lens of an all-powerful God, which had just brought them out of Egypt, given them the Mosaic Law, performed the ten plagues, rather than viewing their problem through that lens they got their eyes off God. They started analyzing their circumstances through their own power and they fell into fear. A whole generation that could have had Canaan lost because the battle was in the mind.
This is the significance there in verse 8 which says “Daniel made up his mind.” Daniel 1, as we’re going to see in this book, because he had discipline over the arena of the mind. You’ll notice here that it says “Daniel made up his mind.” In other words, before the crisis hit he had an action plan. You know where you’re weak, I know where I’m weak. I know how Satan works on me; you know how Satan works on you. It’s the same thing he does all the time; he just brings the same weapon against you over and over again because he knows that’s where you’re vulnerable.
I think it’s time we smarted up a little bit; we have some action steps in place so when the satanic weapon comes forth I will know how to resist it. Well, gee, I’m really struggling with pornography; okay, then put some locks on your computer. Why don’t you get rid of some of your cable subscriptions? You have an action plan ahead of time so that when the temptation comes you’ve headed it off at the pass. Those who fail to plan, as the saying goes, plan to what? Fail! If you make a godly plan on how to protect your mind I guarantee the Lord will bless you, the Lord will help you. But many times we don’t have an action plan, we act as victims and we’re just hit with the same issue over and over again and before you know it we are neutralized.
Notice that Daniel didn’t just have a plan but it went into action. Verse 8, “Daniel made up his mind so that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine that he drank so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” We move from a plan to a course of action which begins to take the form of permission requested from the king’s officials. I don’t want to eat this food so here’s my plan that I’m implementing so that I don’t have to eat it; I will ask the commander’s permission to not have to eat the food. So that’s the resolve turning into the request and notice the commander’s response.
Verse 9, “Now” what? “God,” I love those two words. “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials,” God was with Daniel because the type of life that God blesses is the sanctified life. God wants us to win more than we want to win. God wants to use us more than we want to be used. And you start taking a few steps towards God and you’ll be astonished at how God will bridge almost heaven and earth to help us in the midst of difficulty. This is how God is going to preserve a remnant in this dark and difficult time called the times of the Gentiles. He’s going to bless and He’s going to work through sanctified vessels and sanctified lives.
You see, the Mosaic Law taught Israel how they were to live in the land; now they’re outside of the land. What do they do now? They follow the example of Daniel. They follow the example of Daniel’s three friends, which is simply this: you put God first, always. And you entrust the circumstances of your life to God. That’s how God is going to do this, this is how God is going to work.
Look at the concern of the commander, verse 10, “and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age?” Now the commander that’s in charge of Daniel has a crisis to face and he says you know, if I go with your dietary plan instead of Nebuchadnezzar’s dietary plan my job is on the line because Nebuchadnezzar is going to come back and he’s going to find you in a less healthy circumstance. And what this king is really asking is the very question that we ask all of the time when we have to make a decision: do God’s ways really work? Do they work or do they not work? God is telling me to do one thing, the world is telling me to do something else. All of my friends are saying sex outside of marriage and before marriage is the way to go. God is saying something different. And we have these crises where we have to make a decision and what is really in the back of our minds is, is God’s way right, is it going to work? And what we discover here is God’s ways work. Godliness works! Can I give you another phrase? Godliness is cheaper! Try that on for conversation sometime.
Notice verse 10, “Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.” This is life-threatening here; this is not a casual disagreement about diet. Daniel was stepping out in faith, not as an old man but as a very young person. And his life was on the line and the king’s edict was at hand and the commander’s life was on the line. Notice this second round here in verses 11-16. Let’s look at verses 11-13 first.
“But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,  ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.” Notice that Daniel is persistent, he doesn’t hit a little bit of resistance and say well, I guess it’s not God’s will, which is what we’re like many times. We pursue God and then there’s a little bit of resistance and we say well, I must be outside of the will of God. Nonsense! Every time you pursue God there’s going to be resistance because the devil doesn’t want you to pursue God so he’s trying to discourage you.
Daniel’s life is on the line; the commander’s life is on the line. There’s a crisis; are God’s ways best or not? And Daniel, you’ll notice, has complete confidence in the ways of God. He is not wavering, he is not, as the book of James says, “double-minded,” is it going to work, is it not going to work. No, God said it, I believe it and that what? That settles it.
And then we move from there to the commander’s response, verse 14, “So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days.” Why would the commander listen to a 15 year old? For the same reason a college professor will listen to a college student if God is with that college student. For the same reason an employer will listen to an employee if God is with that employee. We know from verse 9 that God was with Daniel; God’s favor was upon Daniel, just like His favor is upon you. And consequently the commander is now listening to a 15 year old.
And look at the results, I love this, verses 15-16, “At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter” now I like that kind of diet there, the fatter you are the more healthy you are, where do I sign up for that one? “At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food.” Do God’s ways really work? They did work. Let’s try it out for ten days and see how it works; those that follow God’s ways came way out ahead, which makes sense, doesn’t it? If God designed the world wouldn’t He understand something about diet, and food and what kind of foods are healthy and what kind are not healthy? God would certainly understand that having designed the digestive system, the dietary system as a whole. God’s ways worked! God’s commandments are there for us! Did you know that? God is not some big Meany in the sky trying to wreck your life; He’s trying to bless you.
Deuteronomy 10:13 says, “and to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” These laws are there for you. But what about people that live outside of the laws of God? How does it go for them? Living outside of the laws of God and the principles of God and the knowledge of God is like saying to a red light, I’m bothered by this red light; this red light is an annoyance and it’s an encumbrance on my lifestyle. I hate this red light. So you know what? Any time I see a red light I’m just going to run the red light. Well, we know how that’s going to end; you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to hurt somebody else because the red light is not there to make you feel good, it’s there for you own good. I can look at a red light and have my feelings hurt by it but that doesn’t matter, the red light is there for my benefit. The red light is there for my protection.
God, in His Word gives us sexual standards, financial standards, relational standards, and we look at these things as nuisances when in reality those are the very things that are there to benefit us and protect us. I can’t tell you how many things in my life I have been spared from simply because as a sixteen year old, at the time I placed my faith in Christ I started to try to live to the best of my ability according to the Bible. How many sexually transmitted diseases, financial nightmares, all kinds of things that I have been protected from simply by following what God says. And have you ever gone to those thirty year reunions, forty year reunions, fifty year reunions where you see all your buddies. Have you seen their lives? Suddenly you’re the envy of the room because they’re experiencing all of these consequences which could have been avoidable simply by following the dictates and the edicts of God.
Proverbs 13:15 says, “But the way of the treacherous is hard,” if you’re treacherous or a lawbreaker your way is hard because “the wages of sin is” what? “death.” Godliness is cheaper! Godliness is more efficient! Godliness is less expensive! In fact, listen to this, I ran into a study last night as I was preparing for this and this particular academic study tried to document the financial toll on the United States of America because of divorce and unwed pregnancies. And I’m not here to put anybody under judgment, if there’s a divorce or an unwed pregnancy in their background here’s simply to state a fact. This study tried to document what does it cost the United States of America every single year because of the reality of divorce and because of the reality of unwed pregnancies? Do you know what the conclusion is? It cost the United States… I was shocked to learn this, 112 billion with a “b” dollars annually…112 billion dollars annually in cost simply because of divorce, all of the costs involved, and simply because of unwed pregnancies, all of the costs involved. I mean, 112 billion dollars, you could practically balance the budget, couldn’t you, with some of that? I mean, that’s like real money, 112 billion dollars. Godliness works. Godliness is cheaper.
And then verse 16, I was hoping to make it down to verse 21 but time is escaping me so we will conclude here with verse 16, “So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.” The commander says this works, I see results. I’m in! to the point where he was even willing to risk his own life because he saw that the principles of God work. Others recognize it when we walk with God. When we walk with God and do things God’s way people are observing, people are watching. Your co-workers are watching. Your unsaved family members are watching. Your unsaved neighbors are watching.
What are they watching for exactly? The same question that the commander had, does this stuff really work? And as people see the principles of God working in your life that’s a pretty good advertisement for God, isn’t it? Do you know why God doesn’t use a lot of us? Because we’re terrible advertisements. Our lives are in rebellion many times against God; we have not submitted to God in certain things and God is simply embarrassed many times and so he doesn’t allow us to be the vessel or the vehicle or the evangelist that He wants us to be. God is blessing the sanctified life. He blesses Daniel.
How do you live for God in a pagan society? You put God first, you trust Him from crisis to crisis and you entrust the results of your life to God. Next week we’ll see three blessings that showed up in these four youths because they did things God’s way: knowledge, they passed their exam and God gave them longevity.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for the book of Daniel although it’s written back in the sixth century it speaks to our lives today. Help us to realize that the warfare that we find ourselves in; help us to trust Your ways as best and walk with You this week. Convict us, Lord, where we fall short and encourage us and empower us so that we might walk in your principles, precepts and statutes. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We lift these things up to You, in Jesus name. And God’s people said… Amen.