Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
How much do you know? (Answers at the end of the lesson)
God’s presence and the release of His power in the midst of His people distinguished Israel from all other nations. Moses understood this truth, asking, “For how then will it be known that your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth” (Ex. 33:16). The LORD Himself had affirmed this truth to His people: “And He said: ‘Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you” (34:10). He follows this statement with an admonishment, “For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (34:14). In this passage, in the Hebrew the Lord’s name is Jehovah Qanna' - God Who Is Jealous. The Lord reveals Himself through His Name and His Name alone and He will share worship with no one or nothing else. He will not share His glory with other gods that are only in the imagination of wicked people.
That connects to the Lord Jesus Christ and our choice to accept or reject redemption. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). We must believe in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ! And just like Israel, God’s presence and the release of His power in the midst of His people, the Church, distinguishes believers from all other people.
Israel’s idolatry costs them greatly! By worshiping nonexistent gods they, themselves caused their removal from the land of promise and were taken into captivity. Daniel and a few contemporaries, however, walk in the fear of the LORD even in the land of their captivity. God strategically positions them in servant-leadership roles in Babylon. All four men experience God’s presence and power.
This lesson highlights four foundational truths about the lives and success of Daniel and his contemporaries during the early years of their captivity.
At the conclusion of this lesson, students will examine Daniel’s secret to living righteously in the midst of unrighteousness and discover truths that apply to life today.
God employs both captivity and serving roles to develop, test, and use those who belong to Him.
Convictions developed early in life prepare God’s people to make crucial decisions later in life.
When the LORD grants King Hezekiah another fifteen years of life following a near-death sickness, the son of the king of Babylon hears about Hezekiah’s recovery and sends a delegation with letters and presents. Hezekiah rewards the delegation with a tour of his treasure house, and Isaiah rebukes him for his foolishness: “Hear the word of the LORD: ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon’” (2 Kings 20:16-18). Sadly, the book of Daniel begins by describing the Babylonian setting in which King Hezekiah’s descendants find themselves held captive, including Daniel.
Here is something interesting: As did many authors in the Bible, Daniel refers to himself in the third person in the first part of the book. But for some reason, in chapter 7 Daniel begins referring to himself in the first person. I can’t help but wonder what significance that must have. Also, did you know that Jesus quoted Daniel concerning the end times? When the Lord Jesus spoke to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, He speaks of the abomination of desolation standing in the Temple as the sign of the beginning of “great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matt. 24:21). He uses Daniel as His Scriptural reference. Jesus mentions Daniel or practically quotes him in several verse (Matt. 24:15; compare with Dan. 11:31; Dan. 12:11). The Lord refers to Dan. 7:13 in Matt. 24:30 and Matt. 26:64 as well.
Daniel was probably about seventeen years old when he is carried away into captivity. As we study Daniel and his friends, all of whom stayed true to God, we will see that these young men had received enough spiritual leadership and education to stay true to the Lord even in the darkest of times. They are a testimony to their parents and others who helped raise them. These boys were taken away from their moms and dads and had to endure hardship, training, education, become servants and stand up for what was right all by themselves. Here’s a question for those who have children or teens at home: If you were no longer in your child’s life tomorrow, would they continue to stand for what is good and right in the Lord’s eyes? How well are you preparing them? Everyone thinks it could never happen to my family. I bet that those Jewish boy’s families never thought it would happen to them either…
1. Daniel Embraces the Importance of a Secular Education - Daniel 1:3-5
Daniel, along with three other captive young men, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were selected for a three-year language and literature program to prepare them for service in the king’s household. This intensive training equips Daniel to understand and interact with his peers in Babylon and to function effectively.
The Apostle Paul understood the importance of a secular education in his interaction with the Greek philosophers. He engaged them in their language and quoted from their own scholars.
Angie and I attended Memphis State University (University of Memphis now) for one year. I took Anthropology from a professor who was a world class anthropologist. Needless to say, secular anthropologists do not believe in creation. But I studied and I memorized and I took the test. Also needless to say, I could not keep my mouth closed! I argued with the professor and the rest of the class every time we were together. But I knew I needed to learn what others believed about the origins of mankind in order to be able to hold a conversation in which I had earned the right to be heard. Guess what grade I made? Yep! An A! You said F didn’t you!!! I learned it. I spit it back out on the test and I made an A. By the end of the semester, the professor had gained some respect for me and I respected him. He was wrong, but I respected him! If we want to be listened to, we cannot ignore what is being taught in the modern educational system. That is why it is so important to teach kids about God’s Word at home and keep them in Sunday School and Wednesday nights and any other church related thing that can help train them to be ready to face the world even if it is at a younger age than we would like. One more thing… When I left that class, I believed more than ever in what Genesis teaches us about where we come from. They would say, “See! This is clear evidence of evolution!” And I would say, “Have you never read the Bible? God talks about that!” And everyone would laugh! But I loved every minute of it!
Daniel doesn’t resist learning about his host culture. Understanding the language and literature of others enables cross cultural workers to become acceptable outsiders.
2. Daniel Knows Who and Whose He is - Daniel 1:6-7
Daniel may have been connected to the royal family of Israel (Dan. 1:3) or he may have been a son of a prominent family, probably born in or near Jerusalem about 622 B.C. during the reign of Josiah. In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, about 605 B.C., the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar, besieged Jerusalem, looted the original Temple that had been built by Solomon and took a number of the people of Judah away into exile in Babylon. (The total destruction of the city and Temple would come later, about 586 B.C.) Daniel was probably living a comfortable life in Israel, but when he arrives in Babylon, his whole life changes! But, bitterness does not seem to be present in the lives of Daniel and the three other young men, even though they were ripped from their home land, would not see their families again, had been given Babyloanian names and had been made eunuchs. In fact, their heritage and their future had been taken from them but they did not see it that way.
Daniel’s name means, “God is my Judge.” His name is changed to Belteshazzar. Belte is a Babylonian title given to a female deity and would have been considered the wife of god (Bel). Daniel’s name becomes "May our lady (the wife of god) protect the king". Hananiah’s name means, “Yahweh has been gracious,” and is changed to Shadrach (“I am fearful”). Mishael’s name means, “Who is like unto God?” and is changed to Meshach (“I am humbled”). Azariah’s name means, “Yahweh has helped,” and is changed to Abednego (“Servant of Nego or Nebo, the Babylonian god of wisdom”).
The name changes of all these men reflect their change of status from free Judeans to servants and eunuchs of a foreign king and nation. Though Daniel and his cohorts are given Babylonian names, those names cannot erase their identity as Judeans and God-fearers - a simple name change cannot cancel their roots, their identity, and their relationship with Yahweh. You may ask why not? The answer seems clear... They were already godly young men trained in spiritual matters and the Word of God before they were carried away. As stated above, someone had prepared them!
3. Daniel Develops Personal Convictions - Daniel 1:8-10
Even as a teenager, Daniel already has personal convictions regarding defilement - about what he will and will not do: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (1:8). That is: He knew what he believed about what was right and wrong in God’s eyes and he stuck to his convictions!
Personal convictions that Daniel had developed earlier in his life have emboldened him to request an exemption from eating the food and wine set before him. Personal convictions based on the holiness of God, the awareness that God was always with him, and the Word of God distinguish Daniel and his Judean contemporaries from all the other eunuchs in the king’s household. We can understand not eating the meats that God had forbidden Jews to eat, but why not drink the wine? God did not forbid that except to the Levites and Daniel was from the tribe of Judah (1:6). Perhaps Daniel recalls Moses’ words to the Levites, “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Lev. 10:9); the law of the Nazirite, “He shall separate himself from wine and similar drink” (Num. 6:3); or Hosea’s words, “Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart” (Hos. 4:11). He certainly remembers Moses’ words regarding unclean meats (Lev. 11; Deut. 14), and in order to ensure that he does not eat the wrong meats, he requests only vegetables. Regardless, Daniel possesses convictions about personal and spiritual defilement, so he requests an exemption from that which threatens defilement.
Daniel becomes known as a wise man and it is likely that he was already thinking along the lines of being wise. Daniel would most likely have known Prov. 20:1 (NLT): “Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise”. Wisdom is not education. True wisdom comes from the Lord. Following the Lord and His precepts are what makes one wise.
4. Daniel Operates from a Biblical Worldview - Daniel 1:11-21
Daniel recognizes that God has placed him under the authority of the chief of the eunuchs, and he isn’t defiant or rebellious, but he does offer his direct supervisor an alternative. The supervisor agrees to Daniel’s appeal and grants him and his three friends ten days to demonstrate how an exemption from the diet of the other eunuchs will not cause them harm.
Daniel demonstrates how people with convictions don’t need to be obtuse or difficult; they can appeal graciously and offer acceptable alternatives that keep their convictions intact. When the ten days end, Daniel and his friends are in better shape than their contemporaries, and the chief of the eunuchs grants Daniel his request and changes their diet.
Three years later, the king interviews Daniel and his three friends and finds them “ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in his realm” (1:20). For the next seventy years Daniel experiences numerous promotions, further testing of his convictions (along with deliverance), interprets the dreams of several rulers, and has visions from heaven as he serves Nebuchadnezzar and the kings who succeed him.
Study and Application - Finding Jesus on Every Page! : (by: Mike Anderson)
His name is changed to Belteshazzar. Daniel means "God is our judge". It is important to note that Daniel does not rebel when the people around him begin calling him something else. He knows who he is! Do you know who you are? I heard one of the wisest statements I think I have ever heard from a teenager in our group. This teen was together with other teens and some were saved and some were lost. The lost group was not acting in a good way, and the teen wanted to leave. But this teen would have liked to go and hangout with them and be friends. And this statement was made to me… "I knew if I did, I might forget who I really am!" Wow! Daniel accepts the secular education. This education will allow Daniel to interact with those around him and receive respect and maybe even a chance to speak into others’ lives! But! Daniel did not participate in the same things they were participating in. At least not the thing that could have made Daniel forget who he was!
The Scriptures tell us we are to study to show ourselves as approved workmen! That is: we are to gain knowledge so that people will listen to us when we speak about the Lord. Paul obviously had studied Greek and philosophy and he used it on Mars Hill and probably often as he traveled. I have studied geology in college and was told by an atheist I was witnessing to that he could not believe I could speak on an educated level with him about tectonic plates and volcanism as a Christian? Geology teaches that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. The Scriptures teach about an All Powerful God who did not need 4.5 billion years to create the earth and He did not need millions of years after the flood to move the continents! If He did, then He is not God! And we know He is GOD! But at least I was able to discuss this with someone on a level that might make sense to them. As I stated earlier, because of the biological anthropology course I took at Memphis State (that is the study of the development of man – evolution), I left that class more convinced than ever that Genesis is true! Ye, it was a secular course and it teaches against the Word of God contained in Genesis, but at least I can discuss it with someone who does not believe or doubts God's Word as absolutely true! These are just examples of why an education is important - it could be history, math, science, or even English! A Christian should be able to speak in a proper way in order to communicate well. But the most important part of an education is a Biblical education of TRUTH! Children and adults need to arm themselves with the TRUTH of God's Word! Scientific truth changes almost daily but HIS TRUTH never changes! We must have a Biblical worldview! Not because it is the Christian thing to do, but because it is THE TRUE WORLDVIEW! I believe Daniel and his friends knew this!
Daniel is concerned with his relationship with the LORD! He humbles himself before God and before the people around him who disagree with him! He was patient, waiting on God to give him what he needed. He knew the Scriptures and trusted in God's wisdom to reveal the truth to him. His wisdom becomes known and his words became known as the Word of God to people everywhere even while Daniel was still alive! In the Book of Ezekiel (who lived at the same time as Daniel), God's Word talks about Daniel and it places him in a group of three men, all of whom apparently lived in the same area of Babylon during their lifetimes: Noah, Job and Daniel. (See: Ezek. 14.)
Some liberal scholars try to claim that the Book of Daniel is made up from older tales. Satan is always attacking the Word of God! But the proof is in the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ himself! “‘Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’" (Matt. 24:15). Jesus confirms the truth about Daniel being a real person and the Book of Daniel as the Word of God when He speaks of the Antichrist!
Just an interesting note: In 1947, the first of the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered. They contained fragments of all the books of the Old Testament except the Book of Esther. Among them is a copy of Daniel - Dan. 2:4-7:28 and it was written in the ancient Aramaic language known as Chaldee (the language of Babylon), the same language used in documents of the seventh century B.C.
Jesus confirms Daniel as a prophet and gives his words authority. Jesus not only confirms the book, but He is actually in the book! Can you think of where that is? An angel did come down to the lion's den, but I believe that the Lord Himself came and went through the fire with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the furnace! Nebuchadnezzar said, “‘I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God’” (Dan. 3:25 NKJV). Who was the fourth man? I believe it was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is an Old Testament appearance of the Son of God coming down from Heaven in bodily form.
There is also a Great Stone not cut out by human hands in Dan. 2. This Stone is the same that was with the Israelites in the wilderness (see 1 Cor. 10:4) and the Rock that Peter is named after in the New Testament, Jesus! “...upon this rock I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus is definitely in Daniel! Look for Him!
Application - What does this lesson teach about God? Man? Sin? Grace?
God speaks through providence as He allows particular hardships to occur in the lives of those He plans to use greatly.
God acts on behalf of those who graciously resist personal and spiritual defilement by granting them favor with others.
God reveals His sovereignty over believers’ difficult circumstances believers and reveals His interest in their spiritual development.
Name areas where believers today compromise biblical convictions for the sake of blending in with this world.
How do believers sometimes use worldly force to push their convictions on others? What does Daniel’s example teach?
Answers to: How much do you know?
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