“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Daniel.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
Daniel begins with the greatest disaster in Jewish history (up to that time): the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. This terse summary can’t possible capture the horror, misery, and total devastation the Jewish people must’ve felt at seeing their city — and their God — desecrated in this way.
And if that wasn’t bad enough:
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring [certain] of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom [was] no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as [had] ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
Ouch. Not only would parents be sundered from their children, and those left behind lose the benefit of their brightest youth, but they’d all be haunted with the specter of the next generation being filled with occult knowledge and bowing to a foreign god.
That said, Nebbie certainly took good care of his new acquisitions:
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
Though — as we’ll see — that carried its own price.
Having set the stage, we at last meet our heroes:
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel [the name] of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
And quickly discover why they are heroes:
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank:
Now, I don’t know exactly what Daniel — or God, for that matter — thought about the king’s meat and wine. Was it merely about keeping kosher, or avoiding meat sacrificed to idols? Did he feel guilty feasting in luxury while his countrymen starved?
In some sense, though, the details don’t really matter. The important thing is that Daniel wanted to honor his God, and so he drew a line — though he did it very humbly:
therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Who was sympathetic, but (understandably) concerned:
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which [are] of your sort? then shall ye make [me] endanger my head to the king.
Which, to be honest, seems a perfectly legitimate counter-argument. But Daniel has one more card to play:
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
I love this! I get enormously frustrated at how readily Christians hide behind scripture to defend their actions to a pluralistic world. Would that we had the faith of Daniel, to trust that our God is strong enough to meet the legitimate tests the world places before us. Or perhaps it is Daniel’s discernment that we need, to separate the realistic goals from the unholy means.
Of course, the most important point is not merely that they submitted to the test, but that they all passed it with flying colors:
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
And thus not only did they win the right to control their diet:
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
But they also won God’s blessing on everything that they did:
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
And this wasn’t just the author’s opinion, but Nebbie’s as well:
Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom [and] understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians [and] astrologers that [were] in all his realm.
thus securing Daniel a permanent position in the service of the king — any king!
And Daniel continued [even] unto the first year of king Cyrus.
Not a bad payoff for a 10-day vegetarian trial!
God, I am amazed at the faithfulness of Daniel and his friends in the midst of despair. I am also humbled by how he both held true to his inner compass while exceeding the expectations of his superiors. Lord, make me a man like Daniel. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, that I may manifest your glory to all those around me. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is (obscurely) a play on the idea of “Board” meaning “Food” (as in “Room and Board“).