Monthly Archives: February 2010

OUTRAGEOUS FAITH (Part three)

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. 

Outrageous,Courageous, Contagious Faith (part two)

(Please read the first chapter of the book of Daniel in connection with this chapter) 

               When thinking about Daniel and his friends, I view their lives in the context in which they lived. Their world had been turned upside down. Their country had been overrun by a dominant force, wrecked and ruined. Israel was simply wiped off the map. Natural national boundaries were erased and the country ceased to exist from that time until the nation of Judah (Israel) was able to claim any land as its own after World War II had ended.  

               The Jews’ experience as a nation has been filled with nothing but grief, loss, and a faith which refused to be erased, even when enslaved or sent efficiently en masse to their execution. No people in history has ever been so brutally abused, so severely and relentlessly persecuted, so widely scattered. Nor has any people held so tenaciously to their faith and their identity as a “chosen people.”

                The young men who are introduced in the first chapter of the book of Daniel must have been traumatized. All their youthful plans had been knocked into a cocked hat by the Babylonian invasion. Evidently each of them was pretty sharp. Chapter one, verse four points out they came from nobility, were quick to learn, handsome, and in peak condition physically. But they were led away to Babylon, enslaved, and picked for training to serve in the King’s court.

               They were assigned new names and placed under guards (vs. 11). They were given new names, “slave names.” Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all names assigned by their captors. They were expected to do as they were told and to eat what was served. . . despite the fact that their religious beliefs had strong prohibitions against certain kinds of foods, or eating or drinking any thing which had first been sacrificed to idols. They took their faith so seriously that it made others uncomfortable. If got them into deep trouble.

               As the story of Daniel begins to unfold, apparently all four of the young men are recruited, “fixed,” and trained to be a part of the castle’s “eunuch detail.” (Aside: I have no idea how large the king’s harem was, but already we see several with the responsibility of watching over them. Some of these ancient monarchs may have embarrassed Hugh Hefner!). These young men were Jews. Therefore, they’d already endured circumcision. Now, this! Eunuchs have to be emasculated. I’m wincing and thinking: “Ouch! And double Ouch!” No wonder some of those ancients rued the moment they’d been conceived and cursed the day they were born!

               But that wasn’t the worst of their problems. Enslaved in a strange land, they were under pressure to conform to the rules and customs of the strange religion of the Babylonians. Demands were made, not choices offered. And clear, cruel consequences could quickly follow even the slightest hint of resistance or rebellion. In those days, in those times, rulers had absolute authority and ruled with iron fists and unrelenting fury.

                Your only option was to do or die. It was an outrageous situation. It demanded an outrageous, courageous faith if there were even the slightest chance to survive.

                While most of us, fortunately, have not been captured and forced against our will to serve a merciless tyrant, we can surely understand something of what these young men were facing. They hadn’t caused a problem, yet a huge burden was placed on their shoulders. The pressures we face today to compromise principle, or surrender faith may be less obvious, a bit more subtle. But you’ve faced them, haven’t you, in school, or in the workplace?

              Have you read their story in Daniel? Do you know what happened to them and how they dealt with it?

               How do you deal with the demands and pressures placed on you by an unfriendly world? How do you react when you’re required to choose between being “accepted” and doing what is right?

               God’s son and servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student ~donkimrey

 

Outrageous, Courageous, Contagious Faith

In trying to figure out how this blogging bizness works, everyone is saying: “Be brief. People are bizzy. Their time and attention span are limited.”

So, in my attempt to identify some more of “God’s Comeback Kids,” let me sprinkle in a bit of brevity. For a little while I’ve been thinking about Daniel (you know, the one who almost wound up in a Lion’s belly) and three of his young buddies (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who almost got themselves barbecued because of their faith.).

In my attempt to understand how those young fellas got into and out of such messes, and if I were thinking about writing a story about these guys and the events, I’d probably entitle it: “OUTRAGEOUS, COURAGEOUS, CONTAGIOUS FAITH.”

Do you think that may have had something to do with their survival or success? Have you read their story? Do you think their experience has any relevance today? What clue(s) can you pick up that explain why they got into so much trouble? And what was the key to their comeback?

The context is the book of Daniel. Is the post short enough?

God’s son and servant, your friend, brother and fellow student ~donkimrey