Daniel the Exile

October 3, 2021 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Living as Exiles

Topic: English Passage: Daniel 1:1-21

1 John 2:15-17 says: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Those are some pretty direct words from the Apostle John, and ultimately from God Himself. “Do not love the world or the things in the world.”

How could a God of love give us that kind of message? How could we be told not to love? The answer to that question comes from understanding what love means and what John means when he refers to the world.

With regard to love, Scripture tells us that love seeks that which is good. Love, according to 1 Corinthians 13, does not rejoice in unrighteousness.

With regard to the world, in this case, “world” is not a reference to every single person who lives on this planet. This isn’t saying you’re not allowed to love your spouse or your kids or your neighbor. The word “world,” as John is using it here, is talking about a worldly system that opposes God and Jesus Christ.

This world system is currently under the dominion of Satan. This world is not neutral. You need to understand the severity of what we’re facing, and you respond accordingly. This world is not neutral; it is in open rebellion to God.

Satan is known as the ruler of this world, the god of this world. This world, Jesus said, hates Him and His followers. The spirit of this world rejoiced when Christ was put to death.

Ephesians 2 tells us that, apart from Christ, we all walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air. Satan is a spirit, and he is now working in the sons of disobedience. So, again I say, this world system is not neutral. This world system will not motivate you to live for the glory of God.

Like many of you have seen in Romans 1, the unbelieving world is in a downward spiral toward its own sinful desires. And that is exactly what we are seeing more and more of in this nation and around the world.

People are fighting for the freedom to kill babies in their mother’s womb. They’re fighting for the right to rebel against God’s design in creation. These are not political battles, ultimately. Don’t simply see them as that. These are expressions of a culture that rebels against God. This is the world we live in. This world is opposed to Christ, and Satan is doing everything he can to make sure more and more people do not give God the glory.

And so, as followers of Christ, what does that mean for us? It means we need to remind ourselves that this world is not our true home. This world is not our true home. That doesn’t mean we ignore what’s happening. We need to be prepared to live in this world.

One important part of that preparation is understanding what you’re up against. This is battle for truth and for holiness. Another part of that preparation is the recognition that our true hope is not in the things of this world. There is no earthly solution to the world’s problems. Having the right employer, or governor, or president, is never going to fix what’s wrong with the world because, again, this is not a political issue primarily. This is a spiritual issue.

The final solution to the real problem of this world will only come from God Himself. We are not of this world. We are, as the Bible puts it, strangers and exiles. Those are the words Peter used in his letters. An exile is someone who is not in their homeland.

Regardless of where you live and regardless of your national citizenship, if you belong to Christ, your true home, your true place of rest, is not in this world. Philippians 3:20 says: our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As exiles, that means we live with a certain level of frustration and grief. We live in a constant battle against the forces of this culture and the desires of our sinful flesh.

One example of that would be Lot who lived for a time in Sodom and Gomorrah. Second Peter 2:7 says Lot was righteous, and he was “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked.” Verse 8 adds, “as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.

That’s what it means to live in this world. There’s a frustration and a grief. There’s a patience and a perseverance as we wait for our final rest.

Living in this world also means that we need to be ready to respond to the world. As a reminder, this is what 1 Peter 3:15 says: in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

Living in this world requires preparation. You need to be prepared to fight for holiness in your own life, and you need to be prepared to speak up for the truth.

To that end, now that we’ve finished our study of First Peter, I’ve decided to dedicate this next series of sermon to the idea of living as exiles. That may be the title we choose for this series: Living as Exiles. That topic will allow us to address issues of the day from a biblical perspective, and also to address issues of practical holiness

For our time this morning, and to help us introduce this topic, I’d like us to look at a real life example of an exile. So, turn with me, if you would, to Daniel, chapter 1. Daniel chapter 1.

The book of Daniel is part of what we call “The Major Prophets.” It’s one of the larger prophetic books in the Bible. It’s not as long as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, but it’s not as short as the Minor Prophets. Look with me at Daniel chapter 1. The opening verse there says:

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

Now, we need to stop there and get some background to where we are. And that’s especially helpful if you’re not very familiar with the Old Testament. After Israel was redeemed from Egypt, they wandered around in the desert for 40 years, until they finally came to the Promised Land. And under the leadership of Joshua they conquered most of the land and divided it up against the tribes.

But after Joshua and the elders of his time died, there really wasn’t anyone who could unite the nation. The nation was supposed to be obedient to God as their king but they wanted a human king as well, so they could be like the nations around them.

Well, the first official king for Israel was a guy named Saul. The second king was David. And the third king was David’s son Solomon. Sometime during Solomon’s reign, Israel took a drastic turn away from God. As a result, the nation was split in two. The northern portion kept the name Israel, and the southern portion was called Judah. In the north, there were only evil kings, and generally a man became king by killing the king before him. It was a mess.

Well, going as far back as Moses, God had promised the Israelites that if they continued in rebellion against Him, He would discipline them by giving them over to their enemies. They would be invaded and overrun.

Well, because of Israel’s wickedness, God used the kingdom of Assyria to invade the northern kingdom and scatter the people. Assyria was a major world power at the time, and the year that Israel finally fell to them was 722 B.C.

Well, once Israel was destroyed, God turned His attention to the southern kingdom of Judah. Through the prophets, God said, “Don’t be like Israel, or you’ll be destroyed as well.” Well, the kings in the south followed the line of David for the most part, but they were mainly wicked. There were, however, some good kings.

The last good king of Judah was named Josiah. In the earlier years of His reign, He brought Judah back to the Lord. But toward the end of his life, Josiah’s pride got the better of him and he was killed by the Pharaoh of Egypt.

This led to Judah becoming ruled by a foreign nation. Josiah’s son Jehoahaz was king for only 3 months, and the Pharaoh took him out and replaced him with his brother Jehoiakim. This was part of Egypt’s plan to make Israel weaker, and it worked.

Jehoiakim was an evil man, and so God continued His discipline of the nation. Egypt backed off to the southwest, but a new empire had stepped in from the east. This was the Babylonian Empire led by King Nebuchadnezzar.

About 8 years into Jehoiakim’s reign, Babylon began to attack Judah. And the main assault came in the capital city of Jerusalem. This is what verse 1 is talking about. King Nebuchadnezzar took control of Jerusalem. This took place around 605 BC, which is about 115 years after Israel in the north was destroyed. The same thing is now happening in the south.

Let’s continue with verse 2: And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

Notice, again, this wasn’t just a demonstration of Babylon’s power. This was part of God’s discipline on Israel. He gave them over. And Babylon began to take the gold from the Temple in Jerusalem and made it part of their own treasury in worship to their own gods.

But Babylon wasn’t just after gold. They wanted to destroy and conquer Israel. Verse 3: Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.

Babylon transplants some of the best people in the land. He took the young men who were educated. These are good-looking, able bodied men. And he gives them, what we might call a re-education—three years of Chaldean curriculum. Chaldean is just another term for a Babylonian.

Some of you might know someone who went off to college and came back as an entirely different person because of that education. That’s the goal here. These young men will be a type of slave, but they will have an exalted status. They will serve the king. So, they are given good food and wine. They’re taken care of.

Now, think about that. These are young men somewhere between 13 and 17 years old. And their homeland is attacked and they are taken as prisoners to a new nation to learn a new culture and a new language. And they are going to serve a foreign king.

We’ve got plenty of members here who can sympathize with that a little bit because they came to this country sometime around that age.

These young men are now going to live as exiles, and they are expected to serve the king who stole them from their home.

And then, in verses 6 and 7, we get introduced to four of them: Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

This is not some kind of advanced learning intended to build on what these guys already knew. This was intended to reshape them. You might even say it was a kind of attempted brainwashing. This was designed to give them a new identity and a new culture. They’re not going to be seen as Israelites anymore; they are Chaldean. That’s the significance of the name change.

Rather than have names that honor the one, true God, they are given names that honor the pagan gods. “Daniel” means “God is my judge.” His new name Belteshazzar is a reference to a female deity. Hananiah and Mishael mean “Yahweh shows favor” and “Who is like Yahweh,” but they were changed to Shadrach and Meshach, both of which refer to the god Aku the moon god. Lastly, Azariah, which means “Yahweh is a helper” has become Abednego which means “a servant of Nego, the god of vegetation. So again, this is an attempt to completely alter their culture, their language, their religion, their complete identity.

Now, it might seem a lot more direct in this example, but the same thing is still happening today. Romans 12 instructs us “Do not be conformed to this world.”

If you aren’t being intentional you are going to be conformed by this world. That can happen in an intensive time, like college, or through your friends and entertainment. This world, as an instrument of Satan, will shape you to turn away from God.

That doesn’t mean you and I are supposed to be hermits or monks, absolutely detached from the world. God has placed each of us in a specific place at a specific time. And you and I need to recognize that.

In terms of living as an exile of God’s kingdom, here is one important lesson we can learn from Daniel’s life. We need to embrace God’s sovereignty. We’ll get a few lessons today from Daniel, and the first lesson is this: Embrace God’s sovereignty. The sovereignty of God means that He is in charge and in control of everything that happens, whether big or small, good or bad.

Up to this point, we don’t get any evidence that Daniel’s resisted going to Babylon. Evidently, he trusted God. He understood that Judah was being disciplined by God, and he trusted in God’s sovereignty to guide and watch over him.

Since God was sovereignly judging Judah, He is the one, ultimately, who placed Daniel and his friends in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar. In the same sovereign way, God has placed you where you are today. It might not be some form of judgment, but it is still an expression of His sovereignty.

In Acts 17:26, Paul tells the people, “[God] made... every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”

God sovereignly controls the nations and the empires of the world. He set the borders, and He sets the time. And what’s true at a global level is true on a personal level as well. God put you here, like I’ve said before, “for such a time as this.”

Psalm 139 says that even before you were born, all your days were written in His book. So, rather than resent where we are, or grumble about our circumstances, or wish God had placed us somewhere else, we need to embrace God’s sovereignty with where we are. No matter who the governor is, or who the president is, or which political party is in control, or who the leaders are all around the world, accept where God has placed you at this moment in human history. Don’t resent where you are; accept it in humility before a sovereign God.

Daniel didn’t fight back or rebel against the Babylonian Empire. He came as a slave, willing to serve. But there were areas in which he was unwilling to compromise. And this brings us to our second lesson for living as an exile. Lesson number 1 was “embrace God’s sovereignty.” Lesson number 2 is “obey God’s commands.” Obey God’s commands.

Daniel agreed to go to Babylon, but that doesn’t mean he abandoned his convictions. Look with me at verse 8—But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

We don’t get a lot of detail here, but there are a couple reasons why Daniel might have refused to eat the king’s food. One possibility is that the food itself violated Israelite laws about which animals were clean to eat. So, maybe it included shrimp or pork, which were unclean for the Jews. Another reason could be that eating the food was part of some pagan worship, which was part of that culture. Group meals were tied to idolatry and false worship. Whatever the motivation, Daniel saw the appetizing food as an enticement into Babylonian culture, and he wanted to remind himself that he wasn’t from Babylon. He was an exile who served the Lord.

This is not Daniel being picky or unnecessarily disagreeable. This is Daniel, a young man in his teens standing on the truth. He will not disobey God.

That’s amazing to me. How many high schoolers do we think would stand on the truth of God and refuse to give in even when the culture is pushing them to do something? How many of us adults would do that, knowing that it could cost us our lives?

Well, because of Daniel’s obedience and courage, God rewarded Him. In His sovereignty, similar to what happened with Joseph and Esther and Nehemiah, God gave Daniel favor with those around him. Verse 9—And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”

The guy in charge of caring for and training the captives says, “I’m responsible to get you ready to serve the king. If you look malnourished, I might die!”

Daniel, however, like we’ve been told was wise and God gave him favor. So, he gives a counteroffer. Verse 11—Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12“Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

It’s a simple plan. Daniel asks for a trial period. “Vegetables” here is talking about stuff planted and grown in the ground, so it would also include seeds and grains. And again, in the grace of God, the guy over him agrees. Verse 14—So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. 16So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

In just ten days, Daniel and his friends looked noticeably better than the other guys. Common people back then didn’t enjoy all the rich food we have so easily accessible today. So, when it says someone is fat, it doesn’t mean the exact same thing as when we might use that word today. It means to be healthy rather than scrawny.

So, Daniel and his buddies looked so much better than the rest that the guy in charge puts everyone else on the same diet. And now, Daniel doesn’t have to sacrifice any of his convictions. Again, this is God’s blessing on his life. This is God’s reward for his righteousness.

As we finish this chapter, we are told that God continued to bless these young men. Verse 17— As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Based on how we see God’s goodness in the life of Daniel, here’s a final lesson we should take to heart living as exiles. Lesson number 3 is Trust God’s goodness. Trust God’s goodness.

There is no guarantee for us in the New Testament that everything is going to work out for us in this world if we stand for holiness and truth. In fact, way more often, we’re told the opposite. We will be persecuted. We may be put to death even, like Stephen and the Apostles. But even if the world rejects us, we should be motivated by our hope in God’s reward. We should be motivated by God’s goodness.

That’s something we kept seeing over and over again in First Peter, wasn’t it? We have a living hope. We have a faithful Creator and Shepherd who watches over us, and He will give us the final victory. Let’s trust in His goodness.

If you stand up for righteousness and holiness and truth, you might lose your job. You might lose your friends. You might miss out on a promotion or some other benefit. But even if that happens, Peter reminded us, as did Jesus, we will be blessed. God gives grace to the humble, and He rewards obedience.

I don’t know exactly what it is you’re going to face this week or the rest of your life, but as exiles in this world, we need to encourage one another with these simple truths and these simple commands. God is sovereign and holy, and we’re called to obey Him and trust in Him.

The main character of Daniel is not Daniel. It’s God. He’s guiding this story. And as Daniel recognizes that, He will be used by God in a powerful way. God will do the same with us as we live as faithful citizens of heaven who are currently exiled in this fallen world.

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