EXAMPLES FROM THE PAST
By Orville Freestone
Daniel – A Purposed Life
“But Daniel purposed in his heart” – Dan. 1:8
When the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah they exiled the Jews to Babylon in three separate deportations. They left only a small population in Judah that soon fled to Egypt. (Jer. 43:7 & 52:16) The first to go into exile were the princes and prominent persons. Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were among these. It was the policy of the Babylonians to “pick the brains” of the conquered peoples for their own benefit. Daniel and his friends were thus picked. Their “education” was learning the Aramaic language, the lore of the “wise men” and various government responsibilities. Such positions, some with considerable power, brought pressure to conform to the society, to assimilate. Thus began the twenty-six hundred years of Jewish resistance to “assimilation.”
The first problem Daniel faced was the matter of food. He “purposed in his heart” not to “defile himself” with the kings food. (Dan. 1:8) The reason for this was the kings food was not kosher. The wine and the flesh had been dedicated to the gods of Babylon. By courtesy and diplomacy he and his friends were excused from this requirement. This meant that their diet was of necessity vegetarian. A second problem was idolatry. Israel was the only nation that was not idolatrous. The third chapter of Daniel is about Daniel’s friend, not him. They too were true to their convictions, ready to face death in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace rather than to conform. Doubtless Daniel faced like pressure. Another problem arose over the matter of prayer. Daniel’s non-Jewish peers were jealous of his success. They observed that he was a man of prayer. Daniel openly prayed in the manner Solomon had prescribed. (I Kings 8:46-53) His enemies succeeded in making this illegal, but Daniel had the courage to continue to pray for his people. He did not fear the lions den. God assured him that his prayers were heard, (Dan. 10:12) but He had plans for his people and they were very long range plans.
Because of Daniel’s courage and faithfulness he was in a position to influence the government for good concerning his people. He also was entrusted with revelations concerning the future. Thus he ministered to those of his time and also to us. Daniel lived in an alien society, but not of his own choosing. He realized that he must live apart from the world around him. He was faithful to his responsibilities, but would not comfort to the spirit of the age. We also are in this world but not of it. (John 17:14) We, too, must not be conformed to this world. (Rom. 12:2)