Sermon: Living as Exiles in a Strange Land
Summary: We belong to the Kingdom of God, which is not of this world. One of the challenges to face from the world is the pressure to conform against the will of God. To be faithful to God in this world, we need to be firm and resolute in our identity and faithfulness as his people, recognizing that we ultimately serve God who is always on the throne and always reigning.
Text: Daniel 1
Scripture Reading: 1 Pet 2:9-12
1. Brand new teacher, injured his back before first day of school
a. Got plaster cast around his chest, fit under shir, no one could see it
b. Assigned to the rowdiest, unruliest group of students in school
c. First day, window open, wind blew his tie, so stapled it to his chest
d. No problem from any student in that group that year
2. Lots of stories about school. Our story begins in another kind of school – “Kings University of Babylon”
3. Starting a new series on Daniel. Why Daniel?
a. Have to admit, this is NEW – I have never preached through Daniel
b. Setting – God’s people living as exiles in a foreign land
i. Babylon became the world power under General Nebuchadnezzar
ii. Increase in learning, prosperity, building projects,
iii. International language became Aramaic
iv. Babylon had its own gods with their own value system
c. Challenge for God’s people – How to be faithful living in a foreign land
d. Daniel gives perspective from earthly (1-6) and cosmic viewpoint (7-12)
4. Isn’t this a timely message for us today as Christians?
a. Jesus clearly said that his Kingdom is not of this world
b. This is why Bible calls us aliens, sojourners, foreigners
c. We must learn to navigate through life in two worlds - living in one, but faithful to the other
d. Daniel speaks into this setting
i. Gives perspective and encouragement to strengthen faith
ii. Will find these to be timely and encouraging lessons
5. How do you remain faithful to God in a foreign land?
I. Remember Who You Are (Dan 1:1-7)
A. The challenge God’s people faced was losing their identity
B. Several indications in the text about the Babylonian plan for integration
1. Time – Third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (3rd to the last King of Judah)
a. Were several Babylonian deportations
b. The big one in 586BC with destruction of temple did not happen yet
c. This was 605 – Nebuchadnezzar wrested control of Israel from Egypt
d. Nebuchadnezzar left Jehoiakim as a vassal/puppet king to Babylon
i. Plan was not to brutalize them, but transform them
ii. What better way to do this than to let them have their king, and bring Israelites to Babylon as connections to Judah and Babylon
iii. Notice, he brought those of the royal family and nobility
2. Nebuchadnezzar’s Plan
a. Educate these Youths in Babylon University
i. They were to learn the literature and language of the Chaldeans
ii. Learn the history, philosophy, stories, values of Chaldeans
iii. Chaldeans – Older name for Babylon, but also became word used of men skilled at reading omens, astrology, etc.
iv. This was a 3 year education (probably no summer break)
b. Change their names from Hebrew to Babylonian names than honored Babylonian gods
i. Daniel – God is my judge / Belteshazzar - May Bel protect the king
ii. Hananiah – Yahweh is gracious / Shadrach – Command of Achu
iii. Mishael – Who is what God is / Meshach – Who is what Achu is
iv. Azariah – Yahweh helps / Abed-nego - Servant of the shining one, or Nebo
3. Why did he not take the adults?
a. Adults harder if not impossible to transform inwardly – stick to values
b. Youths are impressionable, can mold their values, outlook on life
c. Easier to “Babylonianize” kids than it is adults
4. ILL: Ever notice that those who want to change a culture aim at schools and young people?
C. ILL: Can change a youths name, but harder/ impossible for adult
1. In Texas, rented entire VHS series, “Roots” and watch with boys
2. Story began with Kunta Kinte in Africa, kidnapped and enslaved
3. His owner changed his name to Toby
4. But Kunta Kinte made up his mind to NEVER forget who he is
a. Even though they called him Toby, inwardly he was still Kunta Kinte of the Mandenka people by the River Belongo
b. He would say it out loud, and even passed it on to his children and children’s children
c. Story passed on until Alex Haley, a descendant wrote the book which became a movie series.
D. This is what Daniel and his friends did
1. Must have been a remarkable challenge for these young people
a. Can you imagine the pressure to conform?
b. They were immersed in Babylonian language, culture, and religion
2. Instead of going with the flow, inwardly they remembered who they are
a. They could call them Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
b. But inside they are still Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
3. What about us?
a. We wear the name of Christ – Christians. Belonging to Christ
b. Whatever title you have, it will pass away with the earth
c. We serve him who is eternal…
II. Remember Who You Serve (Dan 1:8-16)
A. Even though Daniel and his friends worked in the King’s court, they never forgot who they ultimately served and were loyal to
B. They stood on in their integrity in every way
1. They served the kings and officials admirably
a. The excelled in their education above all
b. We know that Daniel always rose in rank to the top
c. At one point, people tried to find accusation against Daniel, but couldn’t
d. Faithfulness and integrity are what you could count on
2. But there were clear lines they would not cross
3. V.8 – But Daniel “resolved”
a. Definition: To come to a definite or earnest decision about, to come to a determination, make up one’s mind
b. Synonyms: Decision, firmness, steadfastness, purpose, determined
c. Antonyms: Indecision, weakness, fear, wavering, flexible
d. Daniel determined where the line was ahead of time
4. Would not defile himself with the King’s food or wine. What was wrong with it?
a. Perhaps sacrificed to idols before serving – did not want to fellowship in the altar with idols
b. Perhaps it included prohibited food, like pork
c. Perhaps it was not prepared according to law – drain blood
d. Perhaps due to act of eating at King’s table implies acceptance of a covenant with him
i. Text is not concerned with the specifics
ii. Point: Daniel had a clear line, and would not cross it – no compromise
C. ILL: Heard about Jack, who wanted a boat more than anything
1. His wife said no. He kept on her, she said no. Couldn’t afford it.
2. He went ahead and bought it anyway, she was mad.
3. He said, “How about this. In the spirit of compromise, I bought the boat, and you can name it. How about that?” She said yes.
4. She went and painted on the side of the boat: “For Sale”
D. God’s people are not “for sale” and will not compromise on what God has commanded.
1. (1 Cor 6:19-20) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
a. Our Lord freed us from sin and redeemed us to him
b. We belong to him, and no one else
2. (Rom 12:2) Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
a. We do not go with the flow, but we swim with purpose for God
b. Our transformed mind tests all things, and knows where the lines are that we will not cross
3. (Mt 6:24) “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other
a. We do not have divided loyalty
b. We serve God in all we do
4. No matter who is on the earthly throne, or in office, we know who is in charge…
III. Remember Who is in Charge (Dan 1:17-20)
A. It would be tempting for Daniel to think that Nebuchadnezzar was in charge
1. He conquered much of the east and established a world power
2. His building projects were considered some of the wonders of the world
B. Look at all the mentions of God and the role he plays
1. V.17 - 17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
a. Was it because they had a higher IQ? Jews were better students?
b. No, it was God that made them excel
2. V.15 - 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food.
a. Was it because vegetables and water are better than the kings food?
b. How could they be fatter if get so little protein?
c. Obviously – It was God
3. V.9 – 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,
a. The reason the chief of the Eunuchs allowed the vegetable test is because God gave Daniel favor and compassion
b. God can work his purposes in anyone and anything
4. See God even in the names of the Hebrews
a. Daniel – God was their judge, not Babylon
b. Hananiah – Yahweh was gracious to them, not some dead idol
c. Mishael – Who is who God is? No one. He is the only living God
d. Azariah – Yahweh helped them. No one else can.
C. ILL: What this means – There is no such thing as accidents
1. Nebuchadnezzar’s sack of Jerusalem and the exile was no accident
a. God told the people through the prophets he would do this due to generations of rebellion, wickedness, exploitation, and disobedience
b. God also promised that he would not remain angry forever, but would gather them again
2. ILL: Story about the Cowboy that went to go buy Life Insurance
a. Agent asked if he had any accidents in the last year
b. No, but I was kicked by a horse, chased by raging bull, bit by snake
c. Agent asked, “Weren’t they accidents?” / Cowboy said, “No, they all did it on purpose”
d. Recognized there are no accidents
D. In Daniel, we will continue to see that there are no accidents in history
1. This perspective is not unique to Daniel and the prophets
2. See similar message in the book of Revelation as well
3. (Rom 8:28) 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
a. Does not say that each individual act is good or bad
b. ILL: Like the individual ingredients to a cake, not good by themselves
i. Flour, sugar, shortening, eggs, baking powder, salt, etc.
ii. But when put all together, it is fantastic
c. It says all events together work together for good for God’s purpose
d. That means nothing is an accident, historical events are purposeful
4. This is just the first look at this perspective in Daniel
1. We live in a world that is destined to be destroyed due to sin (inv)
2. If you have obeyed, remember that you now part of his kingdom which is not of this world
a. Remember who you are, who you serve, who is in charge
b. Also remember Jesus said Gates of Hades will not prevail against his church