Daniel-Wayne Barber/Part 5
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|Daniel and his friends, before they packed their suitcase and left their land, they made up their minds they would not defile themselves. And I think we need to understand that: it wasn’t a decision they made when they got there; they made it before they ever left home.|
Will You Please Make Up Your Mind – Part 2 (Daniel 1:6-8)
Turn with me to Daniel 1, as we continue a message we began last week entitled “Will You Please Make Up Your Mind? Part 2.” Will you please make up your mind? Now, if we were teenagers from upper-class families in Jerusalem in 605 BC, we would be living in some very difficult times. Now verses 1-4 help us to get the setting as we looked at it briefly last week. Verse 1 says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.” This was the first of three sieges that he made upon the city.
Verse 2 says, “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar [another name for Babylon] to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.” Now they’ve taken the gold and silver vessels right out of the temple and have taken them over to their pagan idols, and what a defacement had happened to the people of God.
Verse 3 says, “Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel [notice the next phrase], including some of the royal family and of the nobles.” They wanted the sharpest youths and one of the areas they looked in was the upper-class young people. These were all teenagers about 15-17 years of age.
Verse 4 says, “Youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking [physically they were healthy specimens], showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge [they had to be mentally alert], and who had ability for serving in the king’s court [the kind of personality that would be serviceable to the king in his own court. And they were to be sent to school]; And he ordered him to teach them the literature and the language of the Chaldeans.” That was to go on, verse 5 tells us, for three years. Then if they were approved they were put into the king’s personal service.
Now imagine this morning, young people particularly, being jerked out of your home, being taken out of your homeland, parents nowhere around, by a pagan king into a pagan land, and there they are going to brainwash you. They’re going to make you learn their literature and language and they want you to conform to being what they are and what they want you to be. This is the setting we have on Daniel 1. Not too far removed to what happens to a lot of our young people when they go off to school. They go off to a school that perhaps is not a godly institution in the sense of teaching the Word of God.
And that doesn’t mean that education facilities are wrong, going to universities or secular schools. I’m not saying that. And so often I’m heard as saying that; that’s not at all the point in mind. But what I am saying is that when you go off, young people, learn to eat the chicken and throw away the bone. There are a lot of things that are taught today from the humanistic side of this world, the ABC’s of the way the world thinks. But if you know the Word of God, learn to choose between the two and make your stand. Don’t become a clone to what they want you to be and the way they want you to think. Think on your own two feet as governed by the Word of God.
Well, we’ve already seen just four teenagers are mentioned in the book of Daniel as to not giving in to the system. They were not willing to defile themselves. They were certainly going to honor God at any cost. They were not wimps at all. They said, “No way, Jose!” You know, any old dead fish can float downstream; it takes a live one to swim upstream. And you’ve got four of them, only four mentioned, out of all these Jewish kids that were taken over to Babylon. Only four of them made their stand, but praise God there were four.
Well, in verse 8 we see it. We looked at it briefly last week. But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself. Now, when it says Daniel you know it also includes his three friends, because as chapter 1 shows, all four of them had come to this conclusion. Now, before they packed their suitcase and left their land, they made up their minds they would not defile themselves. And I think we need to understand that: it wasn’t a decision they made when they got there, young people, they made it before they ever left home. “We will not defile ourselves.”
So we want to look at what happens now, and we want to look at chapter 1. The narrative in the Old Testament is so much easier; it doesn’t take as much time as it does when you’re preaching through the New Testament. But, first of all, let’s look at their problems. And I doubt very seriously we’ll get any further than this. The first problem they face, the plot begins to thicken; they’ve made up their minds not to defile themselves.
They made up their minds not to defile themselves
Look at verse 5, “And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank.” Now we mentioned some of this last week, and I want to make sure you understand it. First it seems to be no problem. What could be the problem with having the best food? By the king’s choice food, by the wine which he drank, it meant from the very table they served him, they were going to serve these youths. Now, to a teenager being jerked out of his homeland, put into a foreign country, into a pagan land, but being given the best of all the food in the land, I mean, what’s the problem?
What could be wrong in having the best food in the land? I mean, after all, what’s the big deal? Well, very obviously there was something wrong, because it does say in verse 8 that Daniel chose not to defile himself. Something about what the king was serving was going to defile them. Now what could that be? We made some suggestions last week. Let’s go back to them this morning and let’s document them in scripture. History teaches us that the habit of a lot of these pagan kings was that what they would do is they would sacrifice their food to idols before they would eat it. In other words, if they had their food sacrificed to idols and then they would eat it, they would gain favor with their false gods and somehow their gods would be good to them. And so they would do this.
Well now, you know immediately that God’s child cannot recognize those false deities. Look in Exodus 34 and it’s very clear. Exodus 34:14-15. It’s very clear they were never to eat food that was sacrificed to idols. Verse 14 says, “for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous [remember that; He’s jealous, He’s a jealous God] is a jealous God—lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they play the harlot with their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invite you to eat of his sacrifice.” And so it’s very clear from the Word of God they were never to eat food sacrificed to idols. That could have been the problem.
But if you’ll look in Leviticus 11:44-47 we find that there were certain clean foods and certain unclean foods that they were to eat: “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate ourselves therefore, and be holy.” Boy, what a tremendous phrase, because we’re going to look at that later in the New Testament. Consecrate yourself. Set yourself apart. The word “holy” there means to be set apart for God’s use. These were His people, they were in covenant with Him and it was the Law that separated them from the way pagan people would live, and how they would eat and how they would live. Well, it says, “for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy. This is the law regarding the animal, and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters, and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.”
So there were certain foods they could eat, there were certain foods that they could not eat. Certain animals were clean, certain animals were unclean. But you know, we’re not under that covenant anymore. But you have to understand where they were. There were certain foods they could eat, there were certain foods they couldn’t eat. And evidently, part of the king’s diet happened to fit into those Levitical laws and they were not supposed to eat it. Of course, Numbers 6:3 gives us the Nazirite law. You know, the word “Nazirite” comes from the word that means separation, and it referred to a lay person who would make a consecrated vow to God which would include several things. One of them was they could not touch wine. So somehow, all of this was involved. And Daniel made up his mind he would not defile himself. He would not eat of this food; he would not drink of this drink.
Now you’ve got to get into the feel of this thing. If you miss this, you’ve missed the whole thrill of Daniel 1. Here are these teenagers over in a pagan land, here’s a pagan king. Look at this in verse 5, “And the king appointed for them a daily ration of food.” That word “appointed” means he commanded. Folks, listen, Nebuchadnezzar is no nice guy. You’ll see later on when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to do what he tells them to do; he throws them into a fiery furnace. This is a pagan king with a pagan mindset. And here are these youths that have come over into the land. Momma and Daddy are not around; they can’t lean on them. And here they are faced with the biggest problem of their life. Are they going to obey God or are they going to obey man?
That’s a tough one. That’s a tough one for an adult that’s been around for awhile, much less for a 15, 16, 17-year-old teenager. Quite complicated; this was their problem. Well, what did they do? Well, I’m not going to tell you. That’s what we’re going to talk about next time. How they went about it, their procedure, and not only that, but how God prospered them because of their willingness to stand for Him. But you’ve got the setting; here’s the problem: they’re going to have to go against what God’s Word has to say in order to obey the king. Are they going to obey the king or are they going to obey God? This is a tough one.
Folks, we are told to be holy. I want you to look at that with me in 1 Peter. We’re going to go to the New Testament for awhile as we finish out the message. And in 1 Peter 1, I want you to see that holiness for the believer as well as for that person under covenant in the Old Covenant is no option. We don’t have an option when it comes to obeying God or obeying man, if in fact they conflict. Now remember that: Whenever they conflict we have to go to a higher law. Very rarely does that take place; however, there are times when it does. First Peter 1:14-16. Now notice this: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” Now remember, he’s writing to the most persecuted believers in all of Asia Minor, in all of the New Testament. They’re being martyred for their faith. And he says, “Now you’re obedient. Stay obedient. Don’t be conformed to former lusts that were yours in your ignorance.”
Verse 15, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in [in how much of your behavior?] all your behavior.” The Greek word for “all” there means “all”! Hard to understand, isn’t it? “In all of your behavior.” Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s at work, whether it’s at school, whatever you do, you be holy unto the Lord. And then it says in verse 16 as he quotes from what we read awhile ago, “because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am Holy.’” You see, this is the imperative of the Word of God. When it comes to a choice between what man says beyond what God has to say, then we have no choice. There’s no debate. We must be holy. We are in the world, but not of the world. Do you realize that a boat in water is by design, but water in the boat is disaster? God has so programmed us and made it possible for us to be in this world but not of this world. His Holy Spirit lives within us. We have the Word of God. In John 17:17 Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer, He said, “Father, sanctify them in the Truth.” And the word “sanctify” means “set them apart from this world.”And then He says, “Thy Word is Truth.”
As I give myself to this book, as I surrender myself to the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the only way to work out that holiness to which I’m commanded. Yes, I was made holy when Jesus entered into my life. That’s a positional truth. But now I must be experiential with it. I must choose moment by moment by moment to do what God tells me in my life. There’s no option whatsoever. Now, let me make sure we understand something here. When we start talking about separation a lot of people have different ideas about that. It is not that we separate ourselves, but that by obeying God, that obedience separates us. Do you understand what I’m saying? Many people think that what they do externally somehow separates them from the world.
For instance, people say that if you have long hair, you’re giving in to the world. Therefore if you have short hair, you’re spiritual. That’s about as dumb as anything I’ve ever heard. You may look at me this morning and my hair’s above my ears. So then there must not be sin in my heart. You know they have an unwritten rule around here that says that if you have hair over your ears, you have sin in your heart. You’ve heard us say that many times. I’ve changed that: if you have hair over your heart, you have sin in your ears. Well, people think that! If your hair is short, it must mean that you’re separated from this world.
Women don’t wear slacks to church or don’t wear slacks anywhere because that’s going to keep you from being separated from the world. Not necessarily. Now listen: when you do what God tells you to do, it may mean that He’ll tell you to cut your hair. It may mean that He’ll tell you not to wear slacks. But you let Him tell you that; don’t let man tell you that. You see, what men go through, thinking they’re separating themselves, many times is far beyond what the Word of God is teaching. It’s not external first, it’s internal. It’s the motive of your heart. You may think, “Well, you sure look spiritual to me this morning with that short hair.” Do you know why I don’t wear long hair? Because it irritates me. My hair frizzes and I would look like I had an afro, really! If I let it get wet it just curls up. And when it gets too long, it just curls up. Now you don’t walk around pointing to somebody because they’ve got long hair and say, “Boy, that person’s living in the world. He’s of the world.” You forget that! You just check him out with his heart. Find out where he is, find out his lifestyle. And if somebody wears a pair of shorts on your block, don’t go around thinking they’re giving in to the world. Man, it just might be hot!
I went to a camp one time and they said you could wear shorts only if they were so many inches above the knee. And that’s fine if you’re 5’11” like the guy who made the rules. I buy shorts for everybody else, but find shorts for my legs which are just a little bit longer. I went out to play softball, and I was teaching for the camp and here comes a guy up with a ruler and he measures it off on my leg and makes me go back and put on a pair of long pants to play in 100 degree temperature so I could be spiritual on the ball field. Good grief, how stupid can we be? Holiness is not doing something on the outside so we can prove anything on the inside. It’s doing something on the inside. Now, that may mean all these other things may take place, but it’s a total thing of a relationship with the Lord in your life. If God through His Word convicts you to do that, I’m not here to offend you or to judge you. If God doesn’t convict me, don’t you point your finger at me. Man, each one of us is free in the Lord Jesus Christ and needs to discover where it is that He’s going to set us apart. But sanctification is not what we do; it’s what He does as a result of our obedience to Him and our obedience to His Word. Do we understand that?
Secondly, look in Ephesians 5. We have no option but to be holy. But holiness is simply doing what He tells us to do. Ephesians 5:25-27. It’s very interesting. It’s in the context of husbands and wives, but it gives us a picture here of the end purpose of what sanctification is all about. What holiness is all about: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Why did He do that? That He might sanctify her. There’s your word: set her apart. It has the idea of cleaning something that has been in the mud and washing it and setting it on a shelf for a different purpose. Not on a shelf in the sense of passivity, but to put it over here for another purpose. “That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” as verse 25 says, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory,” here’s the overall goal, “having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and blameless.”
You realize the decisions we make every week? I try to tell my kids, listen; all you’ve got today are choices! You’re free to make your own choice; you can’t decide the consequence of that choice! And we must be redeeming the time with the collateral of choice, making the proper choices, doing the things God’s telling us to do so that we can be holy and walk blameless before Him. This is the whole purpose of our salvation, among many others. This is the end result so that one day Jesus can present us holy and blameless before His Father. For a person to be in here this morning and to be living a double lifestyle, to be living one way during the week and another way on Sunday, you’re going against the very purpose that God has for your whole salvation. Why do you think the Holy Spirit lives in you? Why do you think Jesus washed you and gave you the Word? So we can live in the world but not of the world.
What’s happened I think in the 20th century is that we’ve become so used to the world that the world has slowly and silently crept in and got a part of our behavior. Now we laugh at what they laugh at, we watch what they watch, we think like they think, and we’ve forgotten the admonition that there’s no option to be holy, and that’s the end result and purpose of our salvation.
Well, one more Scripture came to my mind, in James 2:26. You know, to be holy you’ve got to obey. There’s no way around it. Holiness simply means the result of obedience. You don’t make yourself holy by carrying a thick Bible and wearing old clothes. That’s not what he’s talking about. Holiness comes as a result of obeying whatever God tells you in the Word. James 2:26 tells me something. It says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” You see, folks, how do you know you’re even saved if you’re not seeking to live a holy and blameless lifestyle in the sense of obeying the Lord Jesus in His Word in your life? If there’s no evidence of obedience then something may point back to the fact that you have a dead face and not a dynamic face. You may have joined a church, but you never joined Jesus.
Something about the seed of life that He puts within us that motivates us to want to walk separate from this world. And that doesn’t mean so much externally as much as it does internally, which affects itself externally. So I think that we need to come to the place that Daniel and his three friends came to. Before you get up tomorrow morning, you make up your mind: let me make up my mind. We will not defile ourselves! And I can tell you what, Jesus said, “Sufficient tomorrow is the evil thereof.” There’ll be enough opportunities tomorrow for you to choose against what God wants in your life. I guarantee you. Deal with the ones you’ve got today and make the right choices. And when you wake up in the morning, then let’s be Daniel. Let’s be like these four youths that were taken over into that land. It’s such a shame that we have people today that won’t walk holy before the Lord.
Well, in Daniel 1:6-7, they could change their names but they couldn’t change their minds. I love that. They could change their names, but they couldn’t change their minds. Look at verse 6, “Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.” You say, “Who in the world are those three?” Well, we always called them by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Watch: “Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them;” And I understand, and this cannot be proven, but it’s suspected here that they’re putting in their gods into each one of these names. Especially Daniel, spelled Belteshazzar. Bel was one of the gods of the people of that day, pagan gods. “And to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar.” Now, be careful; there’s a Belshazzar coming later on. This is Belteshazzar. “And to Hananiah Shadrach, and to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abednego.”
So each one of these have changed their names. They can change their names, but they can’t change their minds. Anybody like that this morning? They can call you anything they want to call you, brother, but they can’t change your mind. As we heard sung a while ago, “I am determined to obey my King.” I am determined to walk the way God wants me to walk. Well, our time always runs out on me, but there are two things I want to give you as an example this morning.
For several years I was in youth work and I’ve told you many times that those years were like my 40 years with the sheep. I guess I learned more then than any other time. Work with those young people. I had two kids that stand out in my life as Daniels. And I want to challenge our young people. I can’t get off of it. The whole theme here is teenagers standing up for God. How can you get away from it? I’m not trying to just pick on the teenagers. But I had two kids that stand out in my mind. One of them was named Debbie. She’s now married to a fellow who’s a doctor.
Debbie came to me early in her teenage years and she said, “Brother Wayne, I’m about to start dating. Would you give me some guidelines? I want some biblical guidelines for dating.” I said, “Debbie, who am I to tell you anything, but I want to give you some advice I think will help you though.” I said, “Listen, whenever a boy calls you up and asks you out, why don’t you get hold of your dad (he’s a wonderful Christian), and why don’t you have him over for dinner, and why don’t you let your Dad sit around the table with him. Because, Debbie, you’re not going to be able to tell what a boy’s thinking as much as a man will be able to tell it. Just like a woman can tell more what a woman thinks. Why don’t you invite him over for dinner one night and just find out where he’s coming from?”
Well, one of the few kids I’ve ever known who did this. And so her father was telling me not long ago what a ministry this was to him as a father. Man, I tell you what. When your daughter comes to you and says, “Daddy, I want you to tell me who I ought to date! I want you to put your stamp!” I’ll tell you what it’ll do for you, Dad. It’ll make you get right with God real quick, to make sure you’re giving proper discernment. Her father said, “I began to have a relationship with my daughter Debbie that I never had before.” And Debbie would make this statement to these guys when they’d come to date her, “Listen, if you don’t like my standards, there are plenty of other people that you can date. But this dating relationship is not going to be based on anything physical. I will not defile myself. I’m going to honor God in my dating relationship.”
And I remember when sharing that with her she said, “Well, Wayne, if I do that I’m not going to have many dates.” And I said, “Well, what’s the big deal?” She said, “Well, what are the people going to say to me? Some of my friends have already started dating and they’ve already gotten into this physical stuff and what are they going to say to me?” I said, “Debbie, listen. You can point your finger to them and say, ‘Listen, I could be like you any time I choose. But because of your unwillingness to honor God, you can never be like me.’” Why in the world is it, young people, we let other people lead us. Why don’t we stand up and be Daniels and lead them, set the standard ourselves? Buddy, she did it. And to this day she’s got the purest relationship with her husband and her family and her Dad and Mom, they walk around beaming all the time because of the purity of a teenage daughter that was willing to not defile herself just so she could have a date, just so she could be popular.
Not only was there Debbie, there was Robert. Old Robert, I led him to the Lord when he was 12 years old. Boy, has he ever changed since he was 12. He was just about going into that brain-dead stage, like 12 or 13. God did a wonderful thing. He spared me those first few years. What is it James Dobson said—when they get to the teenage years you want to put them in a barrel and feed them through a knothole. When they turn 16 you want to plug up the knothole. That’s where he was. God somehow in all His sovereignty worked it all the way around that I went to Mississippi, to the same church that Debbie was a member of. And Robert’s Dad had moved there, his family was there, and here I run into Robert again. And I had the privilege of discipling him through his formative years there and his teenage years in high school. And Robert made the same commitment Debbie had made. And he said, “I will not defile myself.”
He made up his mind, long before he ever went to college, long before he ever started his dating, he made up his mind. And today he’s pastor of a church down in Mississippi, just having a ball, looking forward to going to Zimbabwe in the mission field as soon as the Lord opens a door for him to leave. And when I sit with Robert today and I can remember back, that boy meant more to me because he’s a kid that listened. They didn’t sit in church and pass notes; they didn’t think it was funny. They sat there and they listened and they chose to follow God. Where in the world are Daniels? Where are the youth that will not defile themselves?
You know, adults, when we look back, doesn’t it grieve our hearts? If I could go back and relive my life, I’d do it so fast. One thing I wouldn’t change was accepting Jesus and the other was marrying my wife. But there’d be a whole lot of other things that I’d change. But I can’t do that. Thank God this is not a condemning message to people who have already come through their years, because God gives grace to match the sin and He gives mercy for us to deal with the consequences. But at least we can say it to tender young people that are just now in those times of making decisions. Young people, make up your mind. If anybody ever tells you it’s stupid to be a Christian, just write it off and back away about 30 feet, because they’ve just shown you their ignorance. They’ll answer to God for that statement.
Make up your mind. You think of the high schools that are in this area! Make up your minds. Be some Daniels. Man, stand up! How many kids do you sit next to in class that are going to hell? And here they are influencing you to do what they’re doing. Why don’t we make a stand so that we can start reaching out to those other kids? That’s the thing. And by the way, it was Daniel who made the decision before it ever mentions the other three. Somebody’s got to start it. Somebody’s got to drop anchor: “I’m going to be different. I am not going to be suckered into what this world tells me I ought to think.” When you sit in a classroom and you have a professor who is very obviously one who does not know the Word of God, sit there and respect him because he’s in authority. Sit there and listen to him, but don’t you buy everything he’s saying. You measure it to the Word of God. That’s what I’m saying. And don’t think that’s stupid. This Book will hold up. Listen, you can go to all the science libraries in the world and every one of them are out of date, because it’s changing every day. This Book has never changed, folks.
That’s my soapbox for this morning. I really love our young people. I guess even more so because I have two that’s among that age. And when I say these things to the young people, I’m also saying it to the adults. Folks, we went out to eat Friday night because my wife’s brother and fiancé had come by. We hadn’t really planned on doing that but we ended up doing that. That’s okay. And we were sitting in a restaurant here locally. Had to wait about 45 minutes to get in and it wasn’t great, either.
And we were sitting there and a man introduced himself to us. And he found out that I was pastor of this church. Here’s what he said, “I’m a member of a Methodist church,” and he told me the name of it. He said, “I’ve been wanting to meet you.” And I said, “Well, here we are. You can always find me in a restaurant.” Do you know what he said? He said, “Wayne, you don’t realize the impact your church has had on this community. We’re of another denomination and that’s all we can talk about, is what God’s doing at that church.” Well, you know, I appreciate those things, because sometimes you hear something positive and it’s really nice. Seem like sometimes all you hear is the other. But I went home and God’s really put that thought on my heart. Oh me, folks, do you realize the responsibility we have? God’s already raised up a witness and they’re going to watch us! They’re going to watch you where you work. You’re going to be sitting at work and somebody’s going to say, “Where do you go to church?” You’re going to tell them, and, buddy, you’ve become a fishbowl just like that.
And the choices you make and the choices I make are going to reflect what God’s doing in this whole building right now. No man is an island. It takes one to start messing it all up. Are we a Daniel this morning? Make up your mind, get off this fence. Whose side are you going to stand on? And let God take care of the rest and it’ll be fun to watch.