You have been taken into captivity, separated from family, friends, your home, and the place where you grew up. You are transported hundreds of miles away. You are placed in a special training school, to serve a conquering king. Everything is strange. You now live in a city where temples to gods and goddesses abound. You know you are likely never to see your family or home again. You are given a new name, in an effort to complete the separation for what you have known.
You continue as well as you can to pray and worship God. And then a day comes when the food you are given is better than fine from your captors’ perspective, but is unclean from how you were raised. Do you give in, since everything has changed? Do you rationalize this as something obviously God wants you to do? Do you accept and enjoy the food with gusto?
What if you decide that remaining faithful to God is what you will do? Do you protest? Do you argue? Do you challenge your captors? What if you’re dealing with a totalitarian regime, which will not likely take kindly to disobedience, civil or uncivil?
That is the situation Daniel faced in the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar. He tells the man in charge of the students, who’s the chief of the eunuchs at court, that he cannot eat the foot.
How he does it, though, is instructive.
Daniel is respectful. As John Lennox points out in Against the Flow: The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism, “We can be sure from what follows that Daniel had behaved in a friendly and respectful way towards the official and earned the man’s trust.”
Second, Daniel offered the man a solution – let him eat only the vegetables that were served and avoid the meat.
Third, Daniel had the confidence to follow through. The solution worked; Daniel had provided the chief eunuch with a way out of the problem.
Why didn’t the eunuch simply force Daniel to eat the food? Because Daniel’s behavior and achievements had already set him apart. He was an A+ student. That he of all the students would have objected required the eunuch to take his problem seriously.
Daniel’s behavior throughout the issue was godly. And the problem was resolved. Problems came later that wouldn’t be resolved, and Daniel would be prepared to pay the price for faithfulness. But he always behaved consistently.
In an earlier post, I referred to a time years ago when I was part of a community protest. Meeting after meeting we addressed a public board. We were always polite, gentle, and respectful. But we were also firm. What the board was allowing was wrong; the board was even illegally discussing the problem in closed sessions. The board didn’t really care one way or another, but elements within the community did and kept pressure on the board to reject our petition. What the board really wanted was for us to go away; a tax vote was looming, and the board was afraid that enough voters would reject the tax.
A showdown finally came. The board acted, harshly and viciously rejecting our petition. The meeting resembled a lynch mob, packed with people friendly to the board. It was ugly and an awful experience to go through.
What the board didn’t know was that our group was the moderates. When the word got out what had happened, the more radical and vocal people moved in. The next meeting started with hundreds of people in front of the board office shouting – and using megaphones. The board ultimately ignored them as well.
But the proposed tax went down to defeat.
Sometimes a gentle and respectful approach doesn’t work. Daniel would ultimately find that out. But whether it works or not is not our decision nor our plan.
The lesson is that we remain faithful.
Photograph by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.