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In our continuing investigation of Matthew 5:8 and its application, we are taking a closer look at some individuals who evidenced a pure heart. Daniel, the prophet of God, provides a case study in the challenge of sanctification. As such he gives us a good look at how one keep his heart pure in an impure environment.
I. Daniel, the Exile: Daniel was a Hebrew who lived during the period of the Babylonian and Persian captivity. He was a teenager when he was taken from Jerusalem into captivity by the Babylonians in 605 B.C. Most scholars believe that Daniel was in his 90’s when he was thrown into the den of lions by the Persian King, Darius. In the years of his life in Babylon, Daniel faced many challenges with increasing courage and faith.
A. We know very little about Daniel’s personal life. He was probably from an upper-class family in Jerusalem. It seems unlikely that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, would have selected a trainee for his court from the lower classes. He was forced to personally serve the King.
1. We tend to think of Daniel as a prophet because of the prophetic dimension of his book. But he also served as a successful advisor in the courts of foreign kings. He was involved in the very heart of world power in his time.
B. Nebuchadnezzar was not satisfied with just giving Daniel and his companions tasks to perform for him. He wanted to inculcate these young Hebrews into the Babylonian culture. Daniel 1:3-7 – 3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. 6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.
1. The young men taken to serve Nebuchadnezzar were the best in appearance, knowledge and learning capacity.
2. Everything was designed to make them Chaldean.
a. special education – language & literature of the Chaldeans
b. They were given special provisions of the king’s food and drink.
c. They were given new names. Names were indicative of allegiance and attachment. Their new names were apparently given to honor Babylonian gods
- Daniel (God is my judge) – Belteshazzar (a servant of Bel)
- Hananiah (the Lord is gracious) – Shadrach (inspired by the sun god)
- Mishael (who is what God is?) – Meshach (who is what the moon god is?)
- Azariah (the Lord helps) – Abed-Nego (servant of Nebo)
II. The Challenge of the Culture – How would these young men respond to pressure to become Chaldean? Where would the culture clash with their faith in God? How do we respond to similar temptations? How can we keep our heart pure in an impure world?
A. Daniel “purposed in his heart” – Daniel 1:8 – 8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. He made a commitment. Possibly unclean food according to Levitical restrictions, or food used in idol worship which would cause one to be a participant with such worship.
1. There were some things associated with his job that he did not resist:
- His new education: He was educated in the language and literature of the Babylonians, v.4) One author gives this description: “The students in a Babylonian school had to master a broad curriculum. Besides sign lists and word lists, they studied moral fables, proverbs, and literary classics (such as the Epic of Creation and the Epic of Gilgamesh), as well as works on history, law (such as the ancient Code of Hammurapi), and mathematics (6). The Babylonians were proficient at solving problems in astronomy and engineering at a level comparable to modern high-school algebra. They solved them intuitively, however, without recourse to abstract equations (7). Much of what was taught in Babylonian schools would today be classified as occult science. The texts that students were required to read included many dealing with omens, astrological phenomena, or methods to combat evil spirits (8).”
- His new name: there is no evidence that Daniel refused to be called Beltshazzar.
2. Daniel had to make choices concerning these things. What would defile him? What did God want him to refuse?
3. Doubtful practices must be rejected if they fail certain tests:
- Is it contrary to Scripture? In other words, is it expressly forbidden by Scripture or is it inconsistent with a moral principle based on Scripture?
- Is my motive pure? Am I doing this because it is profitable to me, or will bring glory to me, rather than God.
- Will I and others escape defilement? Will it lead to disobedience? Will others be encouraged to do wrong?
III. Daniel’s Approach to Remaining Pure in an Impure World. Daniel took a stand on the unclean diet.” He purposed in his heart.” Purity demands that one live by principles. He came to the decision and then marshaled his emotions to comply with that decision.
A. He counted the cost: Daniel recognized that his refusal could mean his execution. When the king was enraged against the wise men of Babylon, he condemned them to be cut into pieces (Daniel 2:5). When Daniel’s three friends refused to obey the king’s order to bow down before a great image, the king cast them alive into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:15-20).
B. He respected God’s law: Daniel’s objection to the diet was probably based on an explicit prohibition in the Word of God. (Lev. 11) He was surely well versed in the Scriptures available in his day. His early education probably emphasized the five books of Moses and the Book of Proverbs. The latter seems to have been passed down through the royal family for the instruction of young princes. Perhaps scrolls of these and other books of the Bible were tucked away in Daniel’s belongings when his captors carried him to Babylon. Daniel may have recalled the words of the wise man in Prov 23:1-3 – 3 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you; 2 And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, For they are deceptive food.
C. But he also had a Desire to Submit to Human Authority. There is also an important lesson in how he went about maintaining the purity and making his choice known.
1. He refused with politeness – (Dan 1:8b) – Note that “he requested” he did not “demand”, but respected the authority of those over him. He found a way to submit to the political authority without violating the authority of God. Compare this with his choice to pray despite the law against it when he was an old man. There was no political protest or marching in the streets. He just quietly obeyed God and trusted Him. But he knew he could not make a compromise.
2. He refused with persistence – Daniel 1:10-11- 10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.” 11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, – He did not give up after the refusal by the chief of the eunuchs he tried something else, going to the steward directly over them.
3. He refused with confidence in God. He was willing to be tested. – Daniel 1:12-15 – 12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” 14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies.
a. He was confident that God’s way was the right way.
b. He was willing to demonstrate the superiority of God’s way.
c. So he asked the steward to give him and his three friends just water and vegetables for ten days. (was this a confidence in a vegetarian diet, or in God’s power to help?
D. He made no excuses for defilement:
1. Nobody will know. He was a young person a long way from home. Luke 12:2-3 – 2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.
2. It’s not so bad. Daniel might have reasoned: The King is a wise man. I come from Jerusalem, the conquered city of an outlying petty kingdom. Maybe some of the things I have been taught are a little backward. I need to enlarge my thinking, broaden my horizons, take a first step out into the world of sophistication.” But Daniel did not hide sin under this sort of excuse. Satan relabels the defilement: dirty movie is an art film, classic cinema; God says wine is a mocker, Satan calls it a rare vintage of Chateau that will help your blood pressure. It is not gambling, it is harmless recreation. etc…
3. Everybody else is doing it. Daniel would stand alone here. “Nobody else believes it is wrong, so it must not be wrong.” But Daniel was a young man who thought for himself, who could shrug off the influence of others if it undercut his own convictions. 2 Cor. 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. . . .18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
4. God will forgive me. Daniel could indulged with the intent to repent later. Couldn’t he keep his relationship with God pure without making such a public and drastic refusal? But the O.T. Law said that those who sin with intention or presumption had no sacrifice available. This was the challenge of the purity of heart over the outward act alone. Heb 10:26-27 – 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
5. God has failed me, so I have no duty to obey Him. If anyone has had cause for bitterness against God, it is Daniel. While still a child, he was wrenched away from his own country and transported over a thousand miles into permanent captivity. Never again would he see his home or family. This can easily become an excuse to disobey. ? But our trouble and difficulty are nothing compared with Job’s, and look at what he said: “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
IV. God’s Response to a Pure Heart. Remember the last phrase of Matthew 5:8 – “he shall see God” . See God do what? We will look more closely at this later, but consider hw God reacted to Daniel’s choice.
A. Why did Daniel propose a test?
1. The test was not a test of God’s will. From Scripture, Daniel already knew God’s will concerning such food and drink. Yet how often are we prompted by dissatisfaction with what Scripture says into seeking additional guidance! Indeed, we accept guidance that is easily manipulated by the evil one—guidance from circumstances, feelings, or the advice of people who profess to be spiritual or not too spiritual. Then when we go off in the wrong direction, we think that just because God does not stop us cold in our tracks, we have His approval and leading.
2. Also, the test was not a last effort to obey God. Daniel never said to himself: “I will make every reasonable attempt to work out a way of keeping the law of God, but God can expect only so much of me. If the king won’t cooperate, and Ashpenaz won’t cooperate, and Melzar won’t cooperate, then what choice do I have but to obey the king’s order? Surely, God does not want me to lose my life over a question of food and drink.” He was fully prepared to die if the test failed. What then was the purpose of the test?
3. The test was simply an effort to gain his master’s cooperation through trusting in God for the outcome. He was not afraid to put it in God’s hands.
B. God’s Response: Daniel 1:15-16 – 15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. 16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. . God completely invalidated the reasoning of the king and the assumption of the culture. Daniel’s refusal changed everyone’s diet
1. God blessed Daniel and his three friends even more! – Daniel 1:17-20 – 17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Daniel’s pure heart served him well. He gave Daniel more opportunities to influence his world.
a. Daniel continued in the court of Babylon nearly seventy years!(Dan 1:21) Even to the first year of Cyrus of Persia (539 B.C.) eventually becoming provincial ruler and chief administrator over all others – Daniel 2:48 – 48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.
Conclusion: God expects us to remain pure in an impure world. We must be in the world, but not of the world. How are we doing?
Are you a Christian? Purity is not possible without the work of Christ, the pure one. Come to Him in faith.