|Vol. 12 No. 11 November 2010||
Approximately 3,000 years ago, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, conquered the kingdom of Judah and took captive young men – probably late teens to early twenties – to serve in his palace. These men were descendants of royalty, handsome, well spoken of by their peers, smart and capable of learning the Chaldean language and sciences (Daniel 1:3-4). For three years, these young men were to be served a portion of the king’s meat and wine ending with their meeting and spending time with King Nebuchadnezzar for his evaluation of their appearance and training.
Daniel determined that he would not eat the meal provided (Daniel 1:8). Albert Barnes describes this food as:
The word “meat” here means “food,” as it does uniformly in the Bible, the Old English word having this signification when the translation was made, and not being limited then, as it is now, to animal food… means delicate food, dainties; literally, food of the father, i.e., the king; or, according to Lorsbach, in Archiv. f. “Morgenl.” Litt. II., 313, food for idols, or the gods; in either case denoting delicate food; luxurious living. …And of the wine which he drank] Margin, “of his drink.” Such wine as the king was accustomed to drink. It may be presumed that this was the best kind of wine. From anything that appears, this was furnished to them in abundance; and with the leisure which they had, they could hardly be thrown into stronger temptation to excessive indulgence.
In addition, it is possible that the meat provided was from animals that were considered unclean or that it was improperly prepared according to Jewish law. For these reasons Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah refused to eat the daily provision that came from the king’s table. They requested that they be exempt from this food since eating such would defile them.
The eunuch in charge of the care and education of the captives of Judah heard Daniel’s request; he immediately declined their request out of fear for his own life. He supposed that a diet consisting of something other than the king’s food would have an adverse effect on the appearance of these four young men when compared to the other youths brought as captives from Judah. When King Nebuchadnezzar saw the differences, he would assume that the eunuch in charge had failed to comply with the king’s orders and have him killed.
Daniel did not give up on his request and proposed a solution to the problem. He suggested a ten-day test in which Daniel and his three companions were to be provided pulse – something sown for food, a vegetable – and water while the rest of the captives would eat the king’s food. At the end of the ten days, the eunuch could evaluate the appearance of all the captives and determine who had the best diet. Daniel and his companions would then abide with the decision of the eunuch as to their diet. At the end of the trial period, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah appeared healthier than the others held captive in Babylon did. Thus, the eunuch demanded a diet of pulse and water instead of the dainties and wine for all the youths of Judah (Daniel 1:8-16).
Let us observe a few points from the biblical exchange between Daniel and the eunuch. (1) Daniel determined that he would not eat the king’s food. (2) Daniel went to the one with authority to request a different diet. (3) Daniel simply and logically stated his reason for refusing the food presented before him. (4) Daniel considered the concerns of the eunuch and offered a solution.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Christians today are faced with many difficult situations as we interact with worldly people in the workplace, at school and while shopping. We must stand firm on our convictions of our belief in God, Christian living and Christian service. This can be especially hard for young people and new Christians. However, the lesson taught by Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah when they stood firm in their refusal to participate in the rich diet of the king teaches us how to stand firm and oppose the evil surrounding us.
When opposing error, we should state our concerns in a calm, simple manner. Quietly listen to the response of the one to whom we are talking, evaluate his words and make a logical reply with a possible solution. This formula will serve the Christian student as he or she deals with the evil of humanism and evolution that is taught so prevalently in our school systems. You probably will not convert the teacher to the truth, but you will have made your convictions known in a kind and loving manner, possibly easing tensions in the classroom.
This method will also serve the Christian as he or she objects to working Sundays, thus missing opportunities to worship God at the appointed times and fellowshipping with other Christians. Remember, if you offer to work all Saturdays in order to have Sundays off, you must keep your end of the agreement. Or, if you ask to take your lunch break at a time that would allow you to attend worship services, be sure to return on time and do not try to take another break when you are not entitled to one.
It is possible that one of the reasons for which Daniel refused the king’s meat was that it had been offered to idols, and by Daniel eating it, he would have condoned the practice of idol worship. As Christians, we may find ourselves in a congregation of the Lord’s Church that is not practicing New Testament Christianity in the God approved manner. If this happens, we are burdened with the problem of knowing the truth, wanting to practice the truth, and wanting all our brothers and sisters to practice the truth in order that we all might reside in heaven together one day. Following Daniel’s formula for conflict certainly will help today’s Christian solve the dilemmas in which we occasionally find ourselves. We should go to the elders, with Bible verses showing the error kindly, lovingly and logically discuss our concerns. Just as Daniel listened to the concerns of the eunuch, we should listen attentively to the words of the elders who have the authority to watch for our souls (1 Peter 5:1-2; Hebrews 13:17). Then, we should try to provide a solution to the problem. However, it is possible that with our best efforts to correct error, the leadership will not listen to our pleas to correct the error confronting the church. When this happens, we must decide if continuing to worship with this congregation appears to offer acceptance of the error being taught or practiced and evaluate whether or not we should quietly place our membership elsewhere.
The Old Testament is filled with lessons that will help the 21st Century Christian live godly lives in an immoral, ungodly world. Daniel is just one of those examples of how to live a righteous life under difficult circumstances. If we follow Daniel’s example – stand firm in our convictions, approach the one with authority, state our concerns in a kind and loving manner, and offer a possible solution to the problem – most conflicts within the Lord’s church, at the work place and at school will be resolved in a positive manner. Remember, all Christians face conflicts and difficulties, but how we handle these situations determines the outcome. An argumentative, “my way or no way” attitude creates more conflict; a loving Christ-like attitude will resolve many difficult situtations.
Barnes’ Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1998.