In capturing these select young men, he had one of his chief servants prepare a training program for them. He took the cream of the crop from Jerusalem and gave them a thoroughly Babylonian education. Their names were changed, they learned a new language, they were schooled in the worldview, religion, and sciences of this foreign conqueror. In essence, Nebuchadnezzar was brainwashing the cultural elite and erasing their national and religious identity. He was assimilating them and using them to influence others in order to stifle the prospects of rebellion against his rule.
Among those taken were Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were isolated, indoctrinated, and given new identities. Part of the process included their being given Babylonian names and instructed in the worldview of a pagan society. Another measure taken to assimilate them was to change their diet. They were offered the best food available at the time – food from the King’s Table. They ate like royalty. This living the privileged “high life” was seen by Daniel as his friends as a compromise.
These defiling delicacies were dedicated to pagan deities. They were not a violation of the dietary laws of the Old Testament but were defiling in that Daniel recognized that he and his friends were being seduced by the pleasures of the world. To have the best and to be treated as a special class would undermine who they were and Who they served. Ultimately they served God, not Nebuchadnezzar.
To accept this provision would be to accept that which would desensitize them to their captivity – they were after all, slaves. It would also blunt their conscience as they sought to worship God alone. Sin is seductive. It appeals to our pride and our selfish lusts. To fulfill these lusts dulls our sensitivity to the Spirit of God. A life of ease is a serious danger to the life of faith.
We face the same dangers today. So often we are isolated from the community of faith throughout the week, we are indoctrinated on every side by the world with its pagan influences and secular worldview, and we are constantly encouraged to build up our self esteem and change our image and our identity if we are discontent with anything about the way God has created us. Today we are all too often slaves to the fashions and fads of the world – but we are not taken by force of arms – we go willingly as we want to fit in and not be different. We do not want to stand out, fearing that some might think we are some sort of religious nut. After all, we are not members of a cult. We are members of churches that are seeking to be relevant to the times!
The defiling delicacies of the world are all around us, seducing us daily to follow the broad way away from the narrow path that leads to life. We are tempted to live in a way that outwardly seems holy and right but allows us at the same time to fulfill our lust, always thinking that it will take just a little bit more to be truly happy.
So what are we to do? What did Daniel do?
He stood alone. He did not compromise. He appealed to the one overseeing his training. He offered another plan for his daily provisions and was willing to bear the responsibility and the consequences of his choice fully. Daniel purposed in his heart to do what was right and every step of the way through the process he did what was right. He was humble, obedient, respectful, thoughtful, and thorough. He had a plan, was prepared, and he was committed to his course. He would not defile himself. He would glorify God. He would be holy.
As a result, God honored Daniel and his friends. He blessed them. He proved Himself strong on their behalf. In this text we see a literal fulfillment of Jesus promise, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:33).
Join us at 10:30 AM Sunday for this week’s message “The Danger of Defiling Delicacies” (Dan 1), the second message in our series through the Book of Daniel “Living for God in Ungodly Times.”