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Making Up Your Mind

Making Up Your Mind

The first invasion of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. served as a vehicle for deporting young Jewish men—in particular, Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

These four youth were along way from home, with no parents around and were brought to one of the most beautiful cities in the world at that time. To indoctrinate the best of Jewish life into his political system, the king gave implicit orders that some of the young men with increased intelligence should be given specific instruction and special interests and, therefore, should be served savory foods–foods not favorable to God.

The aspiration of the king was to get them accustomed to the good life. By enticing these youth with the finest of food, the king hoped that these youth would forget about their teachings of old and favor the traditions of Babylon.

To further his ambitions, Nebuchadnezzar stripped them of their names. We must bear in mind that names were both important and integral in Jewish culture for they often defined and displayed a certain characteristic about an individual.

Daniel when defined means God is my judge; Hanniah interpreted means God has found favor; Mishael infers Who is what God is; and Azariah indicates that Jehovah has helped. Notice that each one of these names signifies and symbolizes God’s signature upon His people. To Nebuchadnezzar and for Nebuchadnezzar this was unacceptable—so Nebuchadnezzar changes their names from Daniel to Belteshazzar which means, “the treasure of Bel” or more specifically, the holder of the treasures of Bel, from Hananiah to Shadrach which means “Aku’s command” from Mishael to Meshach, which means He who belongs to the goddess Sheshach, and from Azariah to Abed-nego which meant the servant of Nebo.

By changing their names, Nebuchadnezzar sought to strip the four lads of their identities. That’s exactly what Satan desires to do with you this morning, change your identity as a child of God, to becoming a child of the world. When you compromise your integrity, that’s exactly what happens, you loose your identity. That’s why so many today don’t really understand what Christianity is all about, because they have yet to see a true Christian.

Can you possibly imagine the fear that swept through the souls of these four young men—to be stripped of their shelter, their safety, and their security? Everything that was once solid has now shifted to sinking sand. Imagine—to be taken from your parents, to taste strange provisions, and to have your personhood stripped? These four youth could have easily succumbed to the many challenges entangling them only to eventually submit to the many conveniences enticing them.

Daniel could have said, “Hey, I’m just a kid, why should I turn down the good life?” Or he could have said, “Everybody else is doing it. The other Jewish boys from the youth group are doing it. Why should I be denied?” Or he could have thought, “Mom and Dad are not here, the preacher is not here, who is going to know?” Someone once said that the true test of character is what you do when you know absolutely nobody else will found out.

Integrity Finds Purpose:

Daniel could have compromised his position by conceding to the king’s petition, but he didn’t. Instead, he faced the challenges before him and faithfully committed himself to follow the teachings of old. In Daniel 1:8 we read:

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:

The word purposed comes from the Hebrew word suwm {soom}. It means to put, set, ordain, establish, or determine. Daniel determined to make a decision. Though the king sought to strip Daniel of his identity, he could not steal Daniel’s integrity.

What a decision! For us to understand the impact of Daniel’s decision, we must remember that Nebuchadnezzer was not a man to be trifled with or a man to tick off. The Babylonians were a cruel people, ruled by a cruel king.

From what we know about the king, he was very prone to loosing his temper. From chapter three, we learn about Nebuchadnezzer’s frenzy when Daniel’s denied to worship him—so infuriated was he that he had the fiery furnace heated up 7 times hotter. So mad was the king at the Babylonian wisemen, that he was willing to kill everyone of them. One of Nebuchadnezzar’s favorite ways of torture was to slowly roast someone over a fire pit. The king took Zedekiah’s children and had their eyes put out with a red-hot sword.

Daniel’s refusal to follow the king’s edict is a reminder to us that we don’t have to bend the rules to be blessed of God. It’s interesting to note that those who struck a compromise in the Bible also suffered the consequences. Adam compromised in the Eden’s garden, and lost paradise. Abraham compromised the truth and lost his testimony in Egypt and almost lost his wife. Sarah compromised her faith and sent Hagar to Abraham and even today peace is lost in the Middle East. Aaron compromised with idolatry and lost the privilege of seeing the Promised Land. Samson compromised his devotion as a Nazarite and lost his hair, his strength and his victory. David compromised his moral standards and committed adultery and lost his children. On and on it goes, but compromise always results in a loss.

Daniel purposed he was not going to compromise his allegiance to God and everything that follows in this book is an answer of that decision. It is important to see the causal chain of events consequent to Daniel’s determination. This causal relationship occurs between verses 8-9. In verse 9, we read that:

Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.

Did you see the connection? In verse 8 we are told that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s table. With determination, Daniel decided his duty and devotion to God. In verse 9, we see God’s response to Daniel’s decision—God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.

We wonder sometimes why God is not more involved in our lives. Maybe it’s because we’ve not fully decided that we’re going to follow His plan. When we are outside of the will of God, so often we’re on our own, but if we are committed to His plan, then He is committed to us. If we won’t commit ourselves to the Lord, God will search until He finds someone else that He can used for His glory. This upcoming year, I challenge you to make the decision of integrity, “I’m going to serve God”.