I’ve Made up my Mind
MY thinking on Daniel and his friends took a little different twist when I tried to “contemporize” it. That is, when I tried to imagine it in a current context and extract some meaning or current application. Times and situations change, but people don’t. A friend of mine, Brad Moore, has a blog which he calls Shrinkingthecamel.com. He’s a bright, very successful young business exec, and concentrates his writing energy on the challenge of living your faith in the workplace. I’d like to see him take on some of the challenges workday folks encountered in the Bible.
When I first met Daniel, he was at work. Admittedly, in this case, he was a slave, but he was going about his daily duties “at the office”. . . Which just happened to be as a slave in the court of the monarch whose kingdom had just captured and would later destroy his country completely. Talk about being “low man on the totem pole” or at the bottom of the food chain! His immediate supervisor, incidentally, was “prince of the eunuchs.” That may give you some idea of a typical day for Daniel at the office!
“. . . 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.” Daniel 1:8 NASB
There were, of course, the normal duties, but in this situation there apparently was not only pressure to perform, but pressure to conform. Daniel didn’t have a nine to five, five day forty hour, workweek. In his role, he was never “off the clock.” In addition to this encroachment on his time, there were demands about his diet. His personal convictions and preferences meant nothing to his “boss” or mid and upper management. Daniel was a possession. The company for which he was working owned him, literally.
A problem arose when the “boss’s” orders ran counter to Daniel’s personal convictions and his faith. In order to keep his job (and perhaps his life), it was expected of him to disregard his personal standards and tastes, and knuckle under. Conform. Fit in. “Get with the program.” “Don’t be a trouble maker.” You get the idea, don’t you?
One problem arose for Daniel around mealtime. It wasn’t simply that Daniel and his friends were offered a diet familiar and palatable to his captives. It had to do with eating food which was deemed “unclean” by his people’s teachings. Daniel was a Jew. An integral part of their religious teaching and culture is that you simply don’t eat food which isn’t kosher. On top of items which were restricted (such as pork. *), he was expected not to eat food which had first been sacrificed to the Babylonian gods.
For those of us who came up in a different religion and time, that may not have seemed to be such an important issue. “No big deal,” we’d say. But from the standpoint of a devout Jew, it was simply unacceptable.
Given a choice between compromising his principles, his faith, and playing to win the King’s favor, Daniel chose his principles. That, in his opinion, was more important to him than the King’s favor, or approval of his peers, or even his life. He chose to stand, even when it was the unpopular thing to do. Even when it could have cost him his life.
Predictably, the time came when he was tested. Would he remain true to the beliefs and principles he held? Would he “play to the crowd,” or curry the King’s favor? Would he dip the colors and surrender?
The writer of the book of Daniel gave a clue as to what the outcome of such a test might be: Before he faced such a trial of faith, he’d made a decision and a commitment. “He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” In his case, Daniel had a faith which was outrageous. It was courageous. And only then did it become contagious.
I once read a comment William of Orange made following the victorious outcome of a battle in the Netherlands: “Before I entered this battle, I formed an alliance with the King of Kings.”
Such a decision might not always result in a glorious victory
*In later years, scientists discovered that pork was a source of trichinosis. Then the law against consuming such meat made good sense from a health point of view. And long before obesity became a health problem, they discovered vegetables might make for an even better, healthier lifestyle.