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Faithful in Babylon

Faithful in Babylon

Daniel 1 – “Faithful: God’s Character, Our Calling” – Oct 3, 2021

Introduction

Reading Daniel 1:1–7 (Claire Talbott)

Chuck Colson Part 1

  • The life story of Chuck Colson is fascinating.
  • Air to President Nixon.
  • com testimony…

This morning we begin a series from the book of Daniel.

  • “How we respond?” Look at Daniel to learn how we should.
  • Daniel, 1 Peter, Ruth this year…
  • But…Daniel
  • Series Title/Theme: Faithful: God’s Character, Our Calling

Acclimated to the book:

  • Daniel 1–6, 7–12
  • Hebrew OT Daniel wasn’t grouped with the prophets but “the Writings” and between Esther and Ezra/Nehemiah (court narratives).
  • Greek OT the Septuagint placed it with the other prophets.
  • Placed with the Major Prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah/Lam, Ezekiel, Daniel.
  • These are in chronological order—only Daniel entirely in Babylon.

This morning chapter one:

  • Enslaved in Babylon, Indoctrinated in Babylon, Faithful in Babylon
  • Sermon: Be faithful even in Babylon because God will be faithful even in Babylon.

Prayer

I.  Enslaved in Babylon (1:1–2)

The setting of Daniel is the city of Babylon right around 600 BC. We need to get our bearings.

Babylon today? Basically non-existent. A few ruins in the Iraqi desert.

  • City about 700 miles east of Jerusalem, east across Jordan and Iraq.
  • Distance from here to Memphis, TN.
  • Babylon was b/t the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Mesopotamia, “between the rivers”).
  • 50 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq.
  • A few ruins left of the ancient city but virtually nothing.

But “Babylon” in the Bible has a long and infamous history.

  • First mentioned in connection with Noah’s son Ham (the cursed one).
  • Ham’s son Cush is the one who founded “Babel” or “Babylon (Gen 10:11).
  • “The tower of Babel” in the land of Shinar (11:9) is where Babylon was built.
  • In the 600s BC Babylon grew in power and eventually conquered Assyria.
  • In the late 600s BC, Babylon would be the nation God used to punish his people for their sinfulness.
  • Under Nebuchadnezzar it would happen.
  • The attitude of the Israelites toward Babylon.
  • See it in Psalm 137

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion….
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us! (Ps 137:1, 8)

  • Prophecy fulfilled & Babylon conquered—in 539 BC by Cyrus the Persian King.
  • In New Testament name is used metaphorically—Peter speaks of Rome as Babylon (1 Peter 5:13).
  • John in Revelation uses the name Babylon to depict all the worldly systems and governments and cultures of men in opposition to God, all attempting to seduce God’s people and steal their affections.

But why would God use a people like the Babylonians to punish Israel?

  • Because Babylon too powerful and Israel too weak? No.
  • Not about military strength or political skill.
  • It was because of Israel’s sinfulness.
  • Decades of turning away from God.
  • Even Isaiah warned them about the coming judgment—over a century before.

They’re here because they sinned against the LORD.

  • They were warned in the Law of Moses.
  • Leviticus 26 blessings and curses

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,…I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. (Lev 26:3, 11)

But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments…. But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me…. I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. (Lev 26:14, 27, 33)

  • The final chapter of 2 Chronicles summarizes well what happened as Israel’s history unfolded and why captivity in Babylon came:

All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the LORD that he had made holy in Jerusalem. 15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers,

because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chr 36:14–16)

  • This is what has happened in Daniel 1. 

You can see just how big a deal it is by looking at the first chapter of the NT.

  • Genealogy of Jesus — Matthew 1:17:

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. (Matt 1:17)

APPLICATION: Bible records God’s judgments against sin so we will take seriously the judgment to come.

  • QUESTION: Are there areas where you’re playing around with sins?

II. Indoctrinated in Babylon (1:3–7)

When Kings conquer they plunder—treasure and anything else they think will benefit their kingdom.

  • TREASURE—into “treasury of his god” (Daniel 1:2).
  • Ralph Dale Davis calls this = media campaign.
  • Post to Instagram treasures from Israel’s temple into our temple.
  • Message = Which God is greater? Ours.
  • Time will prove the opposite.
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s god collects treasures—but requires N’s help.
  • Israel’s God raises and lowers kingdoms and needs no one’s help.

Collects TREASURE + BEST AND BRIGHTEST YOUNG MEN.

  • Benefit Babylon & weaken Israel.

Who is chosen? (Daniel 1:3–4a)

What are they chosen for? (Daniel 1:4b–5)

  • 4 Israelite young men chosen and then given new names
  • 4 had names connected to El (Dani-el, Micha-el) or YHWH (Hananiah, Azariah). New names in attempt to give them new identities.

Attempt was a comprehensive transformation, what one commentator called “a Babylonian makeover.”

  • “Literature and language”—science, history, philosophy, virtues, values
  • SUMMARY = WORLDVIEW
  • Eventually A RELIGION.
  • A sense of identity: “TO STAND IN THE KING’S PALACE” (1:4)=impress anyone

All this comes with slick packaging—wealth, physical comforts, military power, all your needs provided for.

APPLICATION: Beware of the identity-shaping of the culture

John in Revelation speaks of “Babylon” as “the great city” who is also a “harlot”—trying to seduce the people of God by her wealth and power and identity.

  • John reminds that Nebuchadnezzar’s project hasn’t stopped.
  • Just takes on different names.
  • A culture wants you to use their words with their definitions.
  • Get indoctrinated by their teachers and politicians and “INFLUENCERS.”
  • Get sucked in by wealth / creature comforts—elite jobs in elite companies
  • Ultimately giving you an IDENTITY.
  • All they ask is COMPROMISE—Don’t go too far bearing the name of Christ.

Daniel will show us a better path—To be in the culture but not of the culture—in the culture but KEEP YOUR IDENTITY IN TACT.

QUESTION: How well are we bearing the name of Christ? Calling him Lord?

III. Faithful in Babylon (1:8–21)

Verses 1–7 no sense of the responses of the young men. Now we do. Read Daniel 1:8–21.

1:8 captures so much.

  • “Daniel resolved” = “set his heart” (As “chief” “set” new names on them).
  • Not to “defile” = a religious word.
  • Not clear why Daniel felt he would be defiled.
  • No obvious laws that would forbid both the meat AND the wine.
  • Best guess is a personal decision of conscience.
  • Saying, “You can take me out of my land, make me learn your culture, but I won’t grow soft by eating from the king’s table.”
  • Maybe it was fear that if we went this far, he’d never find his way back to who he was.
  • Aware that indoctrination by way of education is tempting.
  • But even more tempting to be given unending comforts.

I think this is a small way of Daniel declaring, “YOU DON’T OWN ME.”

  • I will do as you ask, but MY IDENTITY DOESN’T COME FROM YOU.
  • That lands.
  • We live our lives and honor our employers, schools, government.
  • But we BEAR THE NAME OF CHRIST.
  • That’s our IDENTITY.
  • To our employers, government, schools we say, “WE’LL DO AS YOU ASK, BUT YOU DON’T OWN ME.”
  • “I BEAR THE NAME OF CHRIST.”
  • That’s WHO I AM.

Based on that…he goes forward with a MAJOR TEST—learns that even in Babylon God is faithful.

  • Appealed to the “chief of the eunuchs” (1:8).
  • With chief: “God gave Daniel favor (hesed) and compassion.”
  • But still, chief denied his request.
  • Daniel didn’t give up. Appealed to “the steward” (Daniel 1:11).

His appeal—Daniel 1:11:

  • YOUR SERVANTS” = Daniel doesn’t defy his civil authority here. He acknowledges it and makes a humble appeal.
  • Also Acknowledged difficulty of steward’s position & said, “TEST”
  • THEN… Do as think best — 1:13.
  • Again he says, “YOUR SERVANTS” (1:13).

Test successful, allowed to eat only VEGETABLES and WATER.

There’s something familiar in these scenes.

  • Remember Joseph sold into slavery in Genesis.
  • Went from one situation to another.
  • Along the way you hear this refrain, “LORD was with him” (Gen 39:3, 23).
  • The result? He “found favor” (Gen 39:21).
  • The result was that this Jewish young man ended up in the palace of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Now Daniel and his three friends are in the same situation.

  • Jewish young men in the palace of an idolatrous king.
  • But same thing happens: “God gave Daniel favor” (Daniel 1:9).
  • That favor continues to have an impact.
  • VERSE 17 – “GOD GAVE THEM…”
  • They worked hard, but “GOD GAVE THEM.”
  • They were exceptional young men, but “GOD GAVE THEM.”
  • Daniel – “understanding in all visions and dreams.”

GRADUATION DAY—3 years (1:18), tested by the king (1:19).

  • Daniel and three friends: “none was found like” them.
  • Author goes even further: “Ten times better” than the others (right there in the Hebrew!)

Even in Babylon God is proving himself faithful. Giving what is needed!

Final verse of the chapter is powerful in a very subtle way—Daniel 1:21.

  • This last verse turns the entire chapter on its head. It’s easy to read this as if it’s simply a statement of fact, like Daniel was born in the year 625 BC and died somewhere around 539 BC, which is probably right (living well into his 80s).
  • But verse 21 isn’t a date on a calendar, it’s a declaration.
  • The real power and real glory lies with God.
  • The key is this: King Cyrus isn’t a Babylonian king. He’s a Persian king.
  • Yeah, Babylon’s a big deal now. But Persia’s coming. Then, no Babylon.
  • But—Daniel will still be there.
  • Still serving in the palace of the King—only, the new King Cyrus.
  • Babylons of the world feel UNCONQUERABLE, ALL-POWERFUL.
  • But, they come and go.
  • God is the eternal one.
  • God’s people remain.

The chapter isn’t subtle about who’s really in charge.

  • “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand” (1:2).
  • God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (1:9).
  • God gave them learning and skill…” (1:17).

Faithfulness of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego even in Babylon a great story — But God’s faithfulness to them even in Babylon is the greater story.

Conclusion

For a godly Jew like Daniel, hard to imagine a worse situation.

  • Enslaved in a foreign, idolatrous nation
  • Daily indoctrinated
  • And YET—determining, RESOLVING to be faithful.
  • And the result was he will discover that EVEN IN BABYLON GOD IS FAITHFUL.

I didn’t read all the promises about Babylon in the Old Testament.

  • Jeremiah has a few chapters in the middle of his book.
  • They show two things.
  • One is that time in Babylon is a punishment for sin.
  • Second is that even when in Babylon God will be WITH HIS PEOPLE and BLESS HIS PEOPLE.
  • Receiving consequences for sin and yet—GOD WITH HIS PEOPLE AND BLESS HIS PEOPLE.

Some of us need to hear that.

  • Receiving discipline.
  • Or maybe consequences.
  • But God’s love is unchanged.
  • Don’t live your life thinking you’re in detention.
  • Receive what he’s giving you, but trust in his blessings.
  • His blessings will still be with you.

RESPOND?

  • Easy—Read Daniel. Read it again.
  • Harder—Where are you in danger of compromising?
  • We all live in Babylon—where do we need to “RESOLVE,” “SET OUR HEARTS NOT TO DEFILE” OURSELVES?
  • Gospel call—call Jesus Lord.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:9)

CHUCK COLSON, Prisoner 23226 at Maxwell Air Base in Montgomery, AL.

  • What happened?
  • Colson testimony Part 2
  • Breakpoint.org testimony

PRAYER

CLOSING SONG

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