…But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. – Dan. 1:8 NIV
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The Almighty God had finally ran out of patience with the yo-yo behavior of the Israelites of the Northern kingdom with regards to His laws and so handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Jehoiakim, king of Judah, together with some of his people were taken in captivity to exile in Babylonia – Dan. 1:1-2. On arrival in Babylonia, the king directed Ashpenaz, the head of the officials in the king’s court to make a selection of healthy looking nobles to serve as servants in his service. They were to meet the criteria of being young, having no physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand and fitting to be servants of a king – Dan. 1:3-4. Reading through the seven criteria, one would think they were being auditioned for the post of the deputy to the king, but no! They were to be engaged as slaves to serve the king after three years of undergoing training, which will include learning the language and literature of the Babylonians – Dan. 1:6. Some of them however, rose to justify their selection and training as they big adminstrative positions in Babylonia. Could this be the Almighty God auditioning for men that will fit into his future plan for the Israelites in exile? Probably yes, as the Almighty God had the antecedent of always training personalities He plans to use, before deploying them on their divine mission. Moses was trained in the house of Pharaoh (Ex. 2:1-10) just as David was trained in the Palace of King Saul – 1Sam. 16:14-23. The disciples got their training under the master Jesus (Mk. 1:14-20; 3:13-19) and Paul got his additional training under Ananias – Acts 9:6.
Although, the king had arranged special food allocation for them, to enhance their development, in other for them to further meet with the requirements of being worthy to be considered for this role, four of them namely; Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had been exempted from eating this special meal. The Bible specifically mentioned Daniel as the person that approached Ashpenaz for exemption to avoid being defiled by this meal of the king – Dan. 1:8-16. The four of them were to later in life, go on to become high ranking administrators in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:48-49) with Daniel in particular, becoming the most preferred of the three Presidents that were appointed, to report directly to the king on state matters under King Darius – Dan. 6:1-3. By their sacrifices at this early stages of life, they had avoided the life of a slave in the latter stages of their life unlike fellow exiles who decided on accepting the king’s offer, and remained that way probably throughout their stay in Babylonia.
Some life lessons can be taken from this experience of the four Hebrews in general and Daniel in particular.
1. The Almighty God is very much aware of all that is happening around the Christian. He waits to see those who will retain their identity and not succumb to pressures and deny Him by accepting offers or negotiating with the oppressors. The decision of Daniel and his three friends to avoid defilement by not eating the king’s good definitely went well as they turned out better looking than those that ate it – Dan. 1:15.
2. Oppressors, no matter how much they look successful in their act of oppressing the children of God are never people to align with as they remain only tools for achieving specific goals by the Almighty God – Dan. 1:2.
3. Personal discipline and a clear focus on divine principles remain the key to getting out of oppressive situations – Dan. 1:8.
4. No matter the number of people involved in an oppressive condition, God is able to separate individuals based on their conduct during such trying times. It was not about the number of people that came to Babylon or the number of those that were screened to be brought into the king’s service, but it was about individual relationship with God.
5. Your location should never be the reason for your lack of success. The four Hebrews arrived Babylonia as exiles and potential slaves and ended up in administrative positions.
6. Having the right attitude during those difficult times remain the main approach to overcoming that situation. They did not consider their family history as nobles or children of nobles. They quickly acknowledged the new situation they found themselves in and started working on how to get the best out of it after all they were not the only ones that were selected and trained.
7. There will always be the need to acquire knowledge or skills to get out of that situation as new or additional knowledge will always be required for that breakthrough to happen. This will only happen through training. The Christian will be better off spending time acquiring relevant knowledge to help in getting out of the situation rather than going into the self pity mode.
The Christian today is quick to quote events in and around the success of the four Hebrews but refuses to see the sacrifices they made for success or attempts to avoid making similar sacrifices. Valuable time is wasted in moaning and identifying people to blame for their misfortune or in prayer, seeking imaginary enemies that need to be defeated for success to come. Their unfavourable location is sometimes presented as the reason for not making breakthroughs in life, just as there is no sign of willingness to remain faithful in that situation as they shuttle from one small god to the other. It becomes mind boggling how the Christian who is not faithful in little would be expecting the faithful God to grant breakthroughs – Lk. 16:10. It is true that your ancestors may be the reason why you are in that situation, but your remaining in that situation is due to your attitude to it. You cannot spend all your life moaning about ancestral curses. Just make up your mind to come of it, after all Jabez escaped ancestral poverty – 1Chr. 4:9-10. Have the right attitude, remain faithful to the Lord and avoid compromising divine principles for your life. That is when you will not lose your identity, just as the four Hebrews did not lose theirs, to that situation and assuredly, an escape door will open for you to achieve victory. May God grant you the grace to fight your life battles successfully in Jesus name. Amen.