Home is Where the Heart Is? – Daniel 1 – Pastor Josh
Our original conference and SanLo brothers and sisters knew what it was like to live as foreigners in a foreign land and one lesson we can learn from this is as Christians is that we too ought to understand what it is feel and live like foreigners living in a foreign land wherever we are, even in familiar places.
This leads us to our take home truth: Our home is with God not this world. We long for and look forward to a time where we can spend eternity in heaven with God face to face. No more fear, no more suffering, living in the wholeness of His presence. But while we wait for that time, though we are not face to face with God now, wherever we go, wherever we may find new homes in the new places of life, as long as we have God, we will forever be home with Him and now it’s our job now to learn how to do that well in the present.
So how exactly can we live out God’s truth from Daniel? Sure, our home is with God and not this world… but what does God teach us about it, why is that important and how can we respond? Well, our first truth and lesson is this…
1. This world is not our home, yet God will keep us in it. (Vv.1-7) Though we don’t belong in this world, God is going to keep us here until our time is up or till Jesus returns… but know this is not without purpose.
Jehoiakim, a not-so-great king of Israel, was ruling over the nation of Judah when Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king shows up to take over with his army around 605 B.C. And he wasn’t just a not-so-great king, according to 2 Kings (23:32), he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord just like his fathers had done. He was a bad king. And I believe that’s why we see this very noteworthy phrase, “the Lord gave Jehoiakim…” into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand along with some of the gold and silver treasures from Jerusalem’s temple. The Lord gave up Jehoiakim for his and Israel’s sins. This was ordained by God and it didn’t happen without reason but as discipline. We’ll see this theme of the Lord “giving” something recurring throughout the rest of chapter 1.
After plundering these treasures, Nebuchadnezzar commands his chief eunuch Ashpenaz to bring some of the young Israelites of nobility, royalty, good looks and wisdom over to Babylon in order to indoctrinate them in the ways of Babylon. Eunuchs, or castrated men, were common in royal courts as servants because they had no threat to the royal bloodline. So we see Ashpenaz go and gather a bunch of good looking and smart Jewish youth to indoctrinate them. Their aim was to make them culturally Babylonian and to serve the king. That’s why they even changed their Jewish names to Babylonian in an effort to get rid of their heritage.
Babylon would feed them, house them and teach them for 3 years then they would be placed before the king. Again, Babylon’s goal was to assimilate them into Babylonian culture while they were still young and in their teens.
We might not think it’s a big deal but Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah’s names went from “God is my judge,” “beloved by the LORD,” “Who is like God?” and “The LORD is my help” to Babylonian gods and phrases. Their names were forced from being all about God to all about Babylon. Though the author doesn’t explain these phrases, Hebrew readers would easily understand the significance.
Daniel and his friends were being led to abandon their God and their culture, but God had a better plan in mind.
2. This world is not our home, thus our faith mustn’t be placed in the world. (Vv.8-16) While we’re living here now, let’s not learn to follow the world but to follow Christ even in the trials.
Daniel and his friends are offered food from Nebuchadnezzar’s storehouses, but they turn it down. Now, this could have been for a number of reasons. The text doesn’t make it clear why but whatever Daniel’s thought processes were behind the decision, his purpose was to honor God.
In response to Daniel’s faithfulness, God responds by giving him favor with Ashpenaz the chief eunuch which makes Daniel’s diet possible. Again, notice God is “giving” something. Ashpenaz reasons with Daniel, “I fear Nebuchadnezzar may kill me if he finds out you’re in worse shape than the others.” But what does Daniel do? He works out a deal with the chief’s steward to test out the diet and see if they were worse off. And while one would assume they’d be worse off by just eating veggies, they actually turn out better than the others who were eating the regular food.
The same God who “gave” Jerusalem into Babylon’s hands is “giving” Daniel favor through Ashpenaz and his steward. Daniel realized that every aspect of his life, even his diet, impacted his relationship with God. So even when he was faced with potentially life-threatening circumstances, he along with his friends still chose to place their faith in God and step forward in faith.
It’s easy to look at what happens here and look at Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah as the object lesson here. An idea of, “oh! Let’s use these four as our example.” And yes, what they did was exemplary. But the purpose of the book of Daniel is not to highlight Daniel’s character but God’s character. Instead of telling ourselves to follow Daniel’s example, the greater thing we ought to be getting ourselves to do is question ourselves why would Daniel risk such a thing? Instead of “what would Daniel do?” the greater question is “who is God that Daniel would do such crazy things for?” “What does this tell me about God?” Because while people are imperfect, God is always perfect and much more worthy of our aspirations and affections.
So again, “who is God that Daniel and the 3 would risk their lives for him?” Remember again what we learned about God through their names. God is just, incomparable, gracious and rescues in time of need.
Ultimately, God will carry out His justice on this world. We know this especially well since we just finished our series in Revelation. And part of His judgment means that everyone will one day stand before His great royal throne. Daniel knows this. But because we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), Christians especially, we were destined for eternal separation from God. But it’s out of God’s incomparable grace that He sent His son Jesus to this earth to live the perfect life that we never could in order to pay the price that we deserved to pay with our lives by dying on the cross for both you and I. Jesus rescues us in our greatest time of need, the time before we knew God, so that as He rose from the dead conquering sin and death we may rise up together with Him and see just how much greater Jesus is than anything this world could ever hope to offer us even in the face of persecution and death.
So far we’ve learned of who God is as He continues to keep us here in this world and leads us to place our faith in Him as a result. Which brings us to our last point… This world is not our home, but God will care for the faithful in it. (Vv.17-21) While we wait for the next world or for Jesus to return to this one, God will sustain those who continue to pursue Him.
Again God is giving something. This time, God is giving the 4 learning and skills in all their studies and Daniel the ability to understand visions and dreams. The same God who gave the king of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands and gave Daniel favor with the chief eunuch is now giving the 4 wisdom and learning in addition to Daniel understanding visions and dreams. So not only are they the top of their class while holding to their faithful vegetable diet, God is blessing them with wisdom as a response. He even gives Daniel the abilities of a prophet and his ministry lasts for 60 to 70 years until the first year of King Cyrus – this is important for us later on in Daniel.
These were supernatural gifts. How else could Daniel and his cohort be that much greater than all the other advisors of Babylon as to become 10 times better? (Not necessarily meant to be an exact number but still used to display truly how much greater they were!)
Like Daniel was inspired by God to live for God even in his situation, what does it look like for you to be faithful to God in the midst of where you are right now? As you ponder these questions, please don’t lose hope. For our home is with God not this world.