READ: Daniel 1
THINK: By all historical accounts, the Bible included, Nebuchadnezzar was an ingenious king and leader. One of his brilliant idea, bucking the trend that so many had set before him, was to not wipe out the royal family and the noble class of the peoples that he conquered. See, he realized that the nobility in any culture in the ancient world was likely to be comprised of the best educated, best fed, best looking, and smartest individuals in the society. And he thought, “Hey, if I bring the best and brightest and most beautiful people from all around the world to my capital then I can meld them together with our society and create an even greater Babylon for the future.” So, he did just that. And in 605 BC, he conquered Jerusalem, ransacked the temple, and took the best and brightest of Israel home with him. This is where the book of Daniel begins.
Daniel and the others were put into an intense training program where they were given Babylonian names (Belteshazzar means “Bel (a Babylonian god) will look after me,” given Babylonian haircuts, given a Babylonian education, and given some delicious Babylonian food. The idea? To indoctrinate them into the culture for the benefit of the nation. But there was a catch. Daniel saw right through the plan. He was wise enough and close enough to God that he realized if he wasn’t careful he would begin to blend in with his world so much that he’d stop holding on to the truth and start living like everyone else.
It would have been easy to compromise. It would have definitely been safer! But Daniel saw something that most of us completely miss when it comes to the flow of culture: that compromising truth doesn’t erase the tension we feel, it only weakens our resolve. We tend to think that if we just give in and blur the lines of truth a bit that we’ll feel less tension and won’t have pressure anymore. Daniel knew better. He knew that compromise is a slippery slope. If you do it once it only becomes easier and easier to do it again. If you don’t believe that’s true, ask me about my attendance record in college sometime. The tension never goes away, only the resolve to stand.
So Daniel took a stand. He said, you can put weird clothes on me and cut my hair and call me whatever you want, but I will not eat your food. God has laws about what is clean and unclean and I simply refuse to compromise those. I think, thousands of years later, we can’t even comprehend how bold this was. It was literally crazy. The people in charge had every right to put him and his companions to death – and without Divine intervention probably would have.
And here’s the crazy thing that I want us to see because I think it’s the challenge for all of us: Daniel made that declaration before he knew how it would play out! We have the benefit of hindsight. We know that it worked out awesome for him. But he didn’t know that would happen going in. Here he is, a teenager surrounded by the most powerful people in the world with every right to expect that he’d be put to death for his stand. He didn’t know what would happen if he did it God’s way, but he knew what would happen if he didn’t. He knew that everything would slip away if he compromised God’s truth. So he told them he wouldn’t defile his body.
This uncompromising decision set the course for the rest of Daniel’s life. Had he not made it, rest assured that we’d have one less book of the Bible. We would not be reading about Daniel because he’d have blended into the culture – one small compromise after another – just like everybody else. So, I challenge you today to refuse be uncompromising when it comes to who God is and who he has called you to be in this world. That may be scary and you may not know exactly how it will play out, but you can guess how it will end if you compromise truth. It’s not easy as a teenager in America. But it certainly wasn’t easy for Daniel. Let’s allow his courageous example to inspire us today.
ASK: Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their betrayal.” Where am I tempted to compromise my integrity? In what areas of my life have I betrayed truth because I thought it would be easier?
PRAY: Confess to God the times you’ve compromised truth and the areas of your life where you’ve blended in to culture. Ask God to give you the courage to stand for what is right, and trust that he will work through you to change the world – in big ways or small – just as he did with Daniel.