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Lesson 1: "To Eat or Not to Eat - That is the Question" *

Introduction: The memory of September 11, 2001, is burned into my mind. I had just walked up the stairwell to my office to find that the Pentagon was under attack. My fellow workers reported that they felt the shockwave from the Pentagon explosion. What world power had the ability to launch a military attack on Washington, D.C.? Certainly, it must involve nuclear weapons! As I sat in my office pondering the confused reports, I concluded that I might very well be living the last few minutes of my life. If I survived, life would probably never be the same - at least not for a long time. Our study today is about a young man who had those same feelings. Except in his case, his fears were realized. Let's dive into our study!

  1. The End?

    1. Read Daniel 1:1-2. What was the most important purpose of the capitol city of Jerusalem? (It was the historical center of worship of the true God. It contained the temple of God - prepared by King David and built by King Solomon.)

      1. What do we learn has happened to Jerusalem and the temple?

      2. Who has been (or will be) in the most holy place of the temple? (Soldiers of Babylon. Matthew Henry's commentary dates the destruction of Jerusalem as taking place 19 years later. Thus, the actual entry of the soldiers was probably not at this time.)

      3. What is the practical conclusion to reach seeing the articles of gold from Solomon's temple being transferred to the temple of the god of Babylon? (The God of Judah has been defeated by the god of Babylon.)

        1. Is that true? ( Daniel 1:2 tells us "the Lord" caused this to happen. The true God oversaw the defeat of His people and His temple.)

        2. But yourself in that place. Your country has been attacked and defeated. What does it feel like to have your life completely changed?

        3. Your God has seemingly been defeated and His temple - the place of His visible presence - has been robbed and shortly thereafter, destroyed. What are your feelings about the future? The city of God has fallen to the city of the world!

    2. Is it true that God would seemingly engineer His own "defeat?" The defeat of His city? (Read Isaiah 39:6-7 and Jeremiah 25:8-11.)

      1. Why did this happen to God's people? ( Jeremiah 25:8: "Because you did not listen to my words.")

      2. Is it possible for us to have this happen to us today? (It happens all the time. One example: A husband disobeys God and is unfaithful to his wife. Life completely changes. Some other man takes his place with his wife, his children, his dog and his home.)

  2. Lost Future

    1. Read Daniel 1:3-4 & 6. What do we learn about Daniel and his three friends? (They are the best and the brightest. They come from "high" society.)

      1. What kind of future did they have in Judah? (They would be the future leaders.)

      2. What have they lost? (Everything - at least so it seems.)

      3. One commentator said the Hebrew word used suggests that Daniel and his three friends were between 12 and 14 years of age.

    2. Read Daniel 1:5. What kind of future do they now have?

      1. What problems do you see with becoming the representative of the invading country?

    3. Read Daniel 1:7. I want you to look at the change in these names:

      1. Daniel "God my Judge" to Belteshazzar "Bel's Prince." ("Bel" being the chief Babylonian god.)

      2. Hananiah "whom Jehovah has favored" to Shadrach "illuminated by the Sun-god."

      3. Mishael "who is comparable to God?" to Meshach "Humbled before my god."

      4. Azariah "Jehovah has helped" to Abednego "Servant of Nebo." (Nebo was the son of Bel.)

        1. What was the purpose of their original names? (To honor God.)

        2. What is the purpose of these name changes? (When your name means something, you identify with what it means. The Babylonians gave the four Hebrew boys names that showed the triumph of the Babylonian gods over Jehovah. They would daily be reminded of this - and of their new mission in life.)

    4. What do you think was the not so subtle goal of all of this? ( Daniel 1:5: To change their views of life. To change their identity. To remold these young men into Babylonian leaders, servants of Bel, the god of Babylon.)

  1. The Test

    1. Read Daniel 1:8 & 11-12. Why would Daniel take a stand on vegetables? (This was not a "meat vs. vegetables" issue. Some commentaries suggest the problem was eating food sacrificed to idols. I believe the primary problem was that the meat was "unclean" (Leviticus 11) and improperly prepared ( Deuteronomy 12:21-25 - no blood allowed in the meat). This explains why Daniel 1:8 refers to being "defiled" by the royal food.)

      1. Should this have been an important issue to Daniel? Would it have been an important issue to you? (Read Ezekiel 4:13. God had predicted that part of His judgment against His people was that they would be exiled and eat defiled food in the land of exile. Daniel believed that this was a test of his loyalty to God.)

    2. Read Daniel 1:9-10. How did the chief official react to Daniel's request that they should eat only vegetables and drink water? (He was sympathetic, but worried about their health.)

      1. Why was he sympathetic? (God is intervening for Daniel!)

    3. Read Daniel 1:11-13. What kind of attitude does Daniel show towards his Babylonian captors?

      1. What lesson do you find in this for the time when you face religious freedom problems? (I have clients who think it is part of their witness to "punch" the "opposition" in the nose. Daniel shows just the opposite behavior. I think this is a Biblical principle and advise my clients to be as polite and as inoffensive as possible. No insults. No attacks. Seek religious accommodation with a kind spirit.)

    4. Read Daniel 1:14. Do you think the Babylonian official understood the religious nature of Daniel's objection to the food? (If he did, he should have been shot by Nebuchadnezzar for being so accommodating. After all, this whole complex training system was intended to remove the old religious beliefs and retrain these young men to the new religious order. I doubt this official understood the real issues at stake. This was not a nutritional issue, this was a loyalty contest. Daniel was literally defying the new order by his loyalty to God.)

    5. Read Daniel 1:15-16. Is this proof that a vegetarian diet makes you healthier and better looking? (I wish! I've been a vegetarian for over 40 years. If you can notice a distinct difference in 10 days, imagine what I should look like after 40 years - some sort of god! Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to wait until the Second Coming for my "make-over." Obviously, God intervened and rewarded Daniel's loyalty to Him with a miracle.)

    6. Step back a minute. God allows the destruction of their nation, the destruction of their home, the destruction of their place of worship, the destruction of their way of life and their captivity. Yet this same God performs small miracles in working on the heart of the official and with their looks. How would you explain God succeeding in the unimportant things and "failing" in the important things? (God is being consistent when we look at the larger picture. The disloyalty of the Hebrew leadership in big things causes the big "failures." The loyalty of Daniel in the "small" things of his life causes the "small" victories. Unfortunately for Daniel, he is caught up in the larger unfaithfulness.)

      1. What lesson is there in this for your life?

    7. Read Daniel 1:18-21. What is the outcome for those who are faithful?

      1. What do you say about them still being captives?

      2. How important is it that Daniel and his friends surpass all of the Babylonians? (Can you see the new battleground? The leaders of Judah were unfaithful, so the city of evil defeats the city of God. It is an apparent defeat for the true God. But, our God then takes the "remnant" who are faithful and through them "defeats" all the Babylonian leaders and the spokesmen for Bel.)

    8. Friend, how about you? Will you determine to be faithful to God in even the "small" things of life? Will you let God show His power through you?

  2. Next week: Nebuchadnezzar's Image.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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