January 3rd Devotion

People of Principle

At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. (Daniel 1:15 NLT)

In ancient Israel, the people had a penchant for idolatry. They turned to false gods again and again. So, God raised up prophets to warn them. But they ignored God’s warnings. As a result, God’s judgment came. He allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to conquer the southern kingdom of Judah and carry the people away captive to Babylon. Interestingly, idol worship was rampant in Babylon. In effect, God was saying, “You want idols? You’ve got idols.”

King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to find the brightest and best of the young men from among the captives, so he ordered his chief of staff to bring them into his court and school them in the ways of Babylon. In doing so, the king could use them to influence other Jews. In some ways, it would have been a great honor for them to receive a summons to the palace. But in another way, it meant exposure to great temptation. In the end, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah became a part of the king’s court.

This essentially changed their world overnight. King Nebuchadnezzar ripped them away from their families and friends and placed them in an environment that was hostile to their faith. It is not unlike people who grow up in Christian homes and suddenly realize they’re in a hostile work or school environment. They discover they’re among people who have no interest whatsoever in the things of God.

Not only did the environment change for these four young men, but the king changed their names as well. Daniel’s name, for instance, meant “God is my judge.” But his new name, Belteshazzar, was attached to a false god, Bel. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah received the names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, which also were connected to Babylonian gods. Although the king could change their names, he could not change their hearts.

These four young men faced heavy-duty temptation. They had the finest education at the most prestigious school, not to mention access to the most delicious food and wine in the world. King Nebuchadnezzar also immersed them in a system of false gods and idol worship. But he didn’t consider the fact that they had character. He thought they would cave in and do what everyone else did. But they were young men of principle.

Here’s what the Bible tells us about Daniel: “But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods” (Daniel 1:8 NLT). We don’t know exactly why Daniel refused to eat from the king’s table. It may have been because the foods were offered to false gods. But for Daniel, it was a matter of principle. He didn’t want to do anything that would hinder his fellowship with God.  Daniel and his friends could have compromised very easily. Instead, they made a stand. And by standing their ground in a seemingly small area, it enabled them to stand their ground in a much larger area later in life.
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