But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Here we see what it seems like is the active call to ministry of the prophet Daniel, along with his three friends: Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. These fine young men, the finest specimens of the captive Israelites, had clearly been lifelong believers in the true God but it is in our story that Daniel is first brought into prominence in the Bible. As I said, this was basically his call to active ministry. Daniel was….ready. His readiness and his response is the backstory for a couple of brief thoughts on the matter.
We all know the story, I believe. King Nebuchadnezzar had called for the finest of young men in his kingdom to be brought into his palace, provided all the best the King had(particularly the King’s food,) and be turned into a showcase for Babylonian superiority and domination of the world. This was a problem for those young men, as to comply with this program would have violated many of the Jewish dietary laws from the Law of Moses; this was a problem. How Daniel approached it is a good lesson to us all. The basics of his reaction are contained in our key passage.
Daniel was ready. He had purposed in his heart that he would not partake of this sinful behavior. It seems evident that this was likely not a surprise that this request was made of the young men. Daniel was ready. He understood the environment in which he lived and understood some of the temptations he would likely be facing. I like to think he had thought out his response before the temptation ever actually showed up. How many of us do that in our own lives? How many of us are seemingly caught by surprise by the temptations that beset us and quickly succumb, then claim we “just couldn’t help ourselves?” Maybe if we paid more attention to where, and among whom we live, we might likewise respond in a firmer, more intentional way to these things.
Daniel responded with reason and caution. My friends, we can speak our opposition to things and refuse to partake of things without being random and seemingly unhinged. I don’t see anywhere where Daniel screamed and lectured at the powers in place regarding the sin of eating the Kings’ meat. I am NOT saying that he would have been wrong to do that, and that might have been another’s calling. But, in this case, Daniel was clearly only responsible for his own behavior. So his response? He requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. We see later in the story that he laid out in a calm rational manner exactly why he had an issue with it; he also asked for the opportunity to show that his way(God’s way, actually,) could work. Without becoming PART of the system, Daniel worked within the system to live out a positive testimony of his faith in a faith hostile world. Daniel had credibility with the existing powers because outside of his faith, he was a good and loyal servant. “Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.” Daniel 1:9. Friends, there is absolutely a time and place to rail loudly against sin, but there is also a time and a place to simply live out the example. God grant us the discernment to know when to rail, and when to just stand on our own example.
The real takeaway in total here is to note that Daniel was never random or reactionary in his response to this serious dilemma. He had clearly spent time in Scripture and understood in his own mind how he was going to carry himself when this temptation presented himself.
Maybe we ought to try that ourselves.