Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the children of Judah. 7And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names. He named Daniel Belteshazzar; Hananiah he named Shadrach; Mishael, Meshach; and Azariah, Abed-nego. But Daniel made a firm decision that he would not pollute himself with the king’s best food or wine, so he asked the chief of the eunuchs for permission not to pollute himself.
9 God gave Daniel kindness and compassion from the chief of the eunuchs. . . .
18 At the end of the time that the king had set aside before bringing them into his presence, the chief of the eunuchs took them before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king talked with them; and none were found among them like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, so they served before the king. 20 And the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers in all his empire in every area of wisdom and understanding he asked them about. 21 And Daniel lived up to the first year of king Cyrus. Daniel 1:6-9, 18-21 (HN, my emphasis)
– Henry Neufeld
I recommend reading all of Daniel Chapter 1 to get the whole story.
Daniel is generally considered someone favored by God. He has been held up as an example of faith. Most of us probably think it would be nice to receive God’s favor in the way that Daniel did.
But let’s look at Daniel’s life and try to see the bigger picture. He was a young man, probably in the upper class of Judea. He and his friends are taken from their homes and have to travel months to live in a foreign capital. The culture of Babylon was very different from the culture of Judea. The religion was completely foreign and largely consisted of beliefs and activities that were forbidden to Jewish young men. At the point when he went into exile, Daniel probably didn’t feel terribly “favored.” He might even have had some moments went he felt unfairly singled out for misfortune.
But God saw that Daniel was in the center of the enemy’s activity, and God saw something he could use. What was it?
Daniel made a firm decision that he would not pollute himself.
“A firm decision.” What a powerful thing that is! And look at the place where Daniel made that decision. There was nothing to support him, to help him. There was no church, no small group (except perhaps his three friends, but we don’t see them together with Daniel very much), and no 1st amendment to protect his religious freedom. He just made “a firm decision.”
After that firm decision he was found to be the best of the students in Babylonian; the best of the advisers. He remained in power through a change of dynasty, and then an invasion by a foreign power. He withstood giving bad news to that power, in telling Nebuchadnezzar that he would be insane for seven years. He was threatened with death, but was spectacularly preserved by God. All of this resulted from a “firm decision not to pollute himself.”
Today it’s often hard to tell Christians from the rest of our culture. That’s because we often behave pretty much like everyone else. We treat the outcasts, poor, and sinners much like everyone else does. We treat our families in the same way. We are about as trustworthy at work as the next guy. And then we wonder why we don’t see more signs of God’s favor in our lives.
God’s favor follows “a firm decision” to be God’s person in whatever circumstances.
Have you made a firm decision not to pollute yourself today?
I Have Decided written and sung by Amy Grant