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Faithfulness in Exile

Strategic Faithfulness

may 19, 2024 | PASTOR chris winans | daniel 1:1-21

Sermon Questions

  1. ______ your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and ______ with your servants according to what you see.”
  2. From the message from Pastor Winans, what are the four strategies that Babylon used to indoctrinate Daniel and his friends in Dan 1:1-21?

  3. Daniel 1:8 says “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food”.  Read 2 Cor 9:7 and indicate the similar thought these two verses contain.
  4. TRUE or FALSE: Daniel’s most famous legacy to Christians can be found in the diet which Daniel followed which is found in the Apocryphal book “The Diets of the Bible”. 
  5. What two ancient cities is America compared to by commentator Tremper Longman?
  6. TRUE or FALSE: “When you take communion, you are saying your allegiance is to Jesus. It is not just I recognize he has died for me I actually give myself to him.”
  7. What character qualities of Daniel did Pastor Winans highlight in his message?
  8. From Pastor Winans message, for what purpose did God give Daniel these character qualities?
  9. Bonus Question: In the original Hebrew what is the meaning of the names of Daniel’s friends?

Discussion Questions

  1. Commentator Tremper Longman made this statement, “America is more like Babylon in Daniel’s Day or Rome in Jesus’ Day than Israel”
  2. Take a moment and discuss the ways that America is more Babylon, than Israel.
  3. Because our country is more like Babylon, we are to be “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet 2:11) in this world
  4. Discuss why we need to be “sojourners and exiles” in this world
  5. What makes you a “sojourner and exile”? 
  6. What about your life looks like you making this world your home?
  7. Pastor Winans discussed in his message the meaning of Dan 1:8: 8But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself.”  2 Cor 9:7 says “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”
  8. It is common in our day to speak of being “intentional” or “purposeful”. About what things in your life have you set your heart on or you are intentional about?
  9. How do you determine what to be resolved (or set your heart on) about like Daniel?
  10. Discuss in your group what you have resolved as a Christian.
  11. Discuss what risks Christians face if we let the world set our hearts.
  12. Commentator John Goldingay said in his commentary on Daniel: “Just as Daniel has taken a stand and kept himself pure; so we are challenged to recognize that there are points at which we have to draw a line.
  13. Are all the lines that we draw the same as Christians?
  14. Read the following passages and discuss the biblical principles involved:
  15. 1 Cor 10:23
  16. 1 Cor 10:31-33
  17. Are there points that you would draw the line on but not expect other Christians to do the same?
  18. Discuss the lesson(s) from the verses in Daniel 1:1-21 and the message from Pastor Winans.
  19. Pastor Winans detailed what God did:
  20. The Lord gave Jehoiakim into the hands of Babylon.
  21. The Lord gave Daniel favor and compassion.
  22. The Lord gave Daniel learning, skill, and wisdom.
  23. Which means God is sovereign over every detail of you. God knits you together in the womb of your mother. God gave you the circumstances of your life. You are who you are because God made you that way.
  24. Discuss this question: Are you allowing God to glorify himself through you?

Sermon Outline

As believers, we need to recognize that we are in exile. The Bible addresses us as sojourners and exiles. If this is not our home, then we are exiles and sojourners, we are pilgrims on a journey to heaven coming home. We see this through scriptures where the Apostles address the believers.

1 Peter 2:11 - 11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Peter is recognizing when you come to the newness of life in the Messiah, you become an exile, and having citizenship in a heavenly country, awaiting our savior to come that we would also be incorporated into the fullness of belonging to him and his inheritance brought with him. We are in exile.

We need to remind ourselves that no modern nation, whether America, England, Korea, or whatever, is in a situation like Israel. America is more like Babylon in Daniel’s Day or Rome in Jesus’ Day than Israel. – Tremper Longman Daniel

We are in exile in this country and would be in exile if we were in any other country because no modern country is our home. This makes Daniel very alive to us and allows us to relate to Daniel to see ourselves in Daniel's situation.

·        If we are going to be faithful in the midst of our sojourn in the midst of our exile, we need to be strategic in that faithfulness following Jesus, is not something into which we necessarily will stumble.

·        It is something we need to be purposeful about to be strategic in our approach to be faithful to the Lord. We will see that this strategic approach towards life is important because the world that we live in the context of our exile there exists an agenda that comes against us. Babylon had a strategy, and where we are today is like Babylon or Rome or the world.

·        If we are going to swim in the waters of the world around us, we need to be strategic in our own approach or we will be swept along and become more like the world.

·        As we look at Babylon and the strategy outlined in Daniel 1, it does not mean that there is one way that the world operates. Babylon would have operated a bit differently than Syria or Rome or America or any other places where we find ourselves. We can see some patterns and ways that the way that Babylon was approaching Daniel and his friends, and their strategy has something to say to us about our world today. Babylon had a very intentional strategy.

Pastor Chris examines Babylon’s strategy and to see how Daniel navigates their strategy with his own strategy.

Babylon’s Strategy

Babylon had a very intentional strategy to re-identify or bring within its scope of influence Daniel, and his friends. There are four different strategies that chapter one of Daniel exemplifies.

1. Strategy of Separation

Dan 1:3-4 - 3Then 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.

·        They are removed from the environment which reinforces their identity and put into a new environment separate from each other, to have another kind of influence to change who they are.

·        This strategy of separation is still very much alive and well today in the world. The evil one knows that if you remove someone from a context where they are being influenced by Christian community, Christian friendship, and Christian family, they become much more vulnerable to the influence of the world, which is why one reason the Scriptures say things like let us not neglect the meeting together with one another.

·        It is important because it reinforces who we are. It reinforces who God is and it is a call as we spur one another on to be faithful. When we move ourselves from those environments, we make ourselves vulnerable. If we never gather together, if we are not a part of Christian community, then we become susceptible.

2.      Strategy of Indoctrination

Daniel and his friends are brought into Babylon University to learn the literature and language of the Chaldeans, which is the Babylonians.

Daniel1:4-5 – 4...they taught them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5...They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.

·        Learning and presented with a worldview which would have been quite different from the worldview they grew up in, they would have been presented with things like divination. Daniel and his friends were part of what they would call the Wise Men, advisors to the king. If the king said, should I go to battle the advisers would be brought in to tell what the gods say. Whatever they did, Daniel would have learned all that stuff.

·        Daniel was presented with a very different worldview than what he would have known growing up, and that can also be a strategy of the evil one. When we are plugged into and find that our main input of information is media, social media or otherwise, and not from the worldview of the scriptures, do not think that you are not being taken by that.

·        The world is going to seek to indoctrinate you, to see things from their point of view and not from the point of view of the scriptures. The main source of how we see the world needs to be the truth found in the infallible word of God, not from other sources.

3.      Form of luxury

They are fed from the very table of the king. They eat the king's food, and they drink the king's drink.

Daniel1:5 - 5The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.

·        Babylon was a place of luxury. The city itself was the largest city on the planet at the time. Over 250,000 people lived in Babylon, it was impressive. It was a place of great wealth as a place of great culture, lots of opportunities to pursue illicit pleasures. Herodotus, who was a Greek historian, the father of what we call modern history, visited Babylon at the time of Daniel and said this...

“In magnificence there is no city that approaches to it” – Herodotus Histories.

·        Many of what we call the wonders of the world were found in Babylon. At this time Daniel and his friends are being brought here and they are given some of what it means to participate in the luxuries of Babylon, and that can be a temptation as well. Do you think the world does not come to us and offer its luxuries to us? “If only you will compromise, I will give you this”: Does not the evil one do that with the Lord Jesus, showing him all the kingdoms of the earth? This I will give you and their glory if you will only worship me. We need to be ready with the strategy to say my heart does not belong there.

4.      Whole new identity

The chief of the eunuchs gave them new names.

Daniel1:1-21 - 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.

These new names have resonance, both their original names in the Israelite society, and their new names within Babylonian society.

Daniel in Hebrew “God is my judge.”

Belteshazzar “Bell protects his life” Bell is another name for Marduk, the God of the Babylonians.

Hananiah “Yahweh is gracious”

Shadrach “The command of a Aku” Another Babylonian god.

Mishael “Who is what God is?”, who is like the Lord now.

Meshach “Who is like what Aku is?” Who is like Aku, a play on words with their names.

Azariah “Yahweh is my helper.”

Abed-Nego “Servant of Nebo” Another Babylonian god.

There is an attempt to reassign their whole identity by giving them new names. All of these things together constitute a strategy to totally reorientate Daniel and his friends, and their allegiance to who they belong to. The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, said this...

“The world will ask you who you are and if you do not know, the world will tell you.” – Carl Jung

·        This is important to think about. We need to be reminded who we are, who we are in Christ, what we are called to as disciples of Jesus. If we are not constantly reminding ourselves who we are, the world is ready to tell you who you are and to have that identity put upon you.

Daniel’s Strategy

Daniel was a teenager, and his friends would have been young men. The wisdom of Daniel is striking as he navigates Babylon’s overwhelming tidal wave of influence.

The first thing that Daniel does is something inside himself.

Daniel1:8 - 8But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.

This word resolve in the original language, is a combination of two Hebrew words. The first word means to set, like set something on a table. The second word means like the inner core of yourself. Sometimes in scripture you might see the inner being. This can be in reference sometimes translated as the mind or translated as the heart. Some translations say this better by saying, set in his heart that he would not defile himself. If we are going to resist the influence of the strategy of the world around us, it starts with the resolve. It starts with us setting in our hearts that we will resist.

Daniel1:8 - 8But Daniel set in his heart that he would not defile himself….”

You have to decide that you are going to be faithful to Jesus. You need to wake up each morning and say I will be faithful to Christ with my life, so that I am not taken by the influence of the world that is so ready to tell me who I am. We need to start there as Daniel does.

It is interesting to see what he did not say no to. He did not say no to learning about divination. He did not say no to changing his name. He said no to the king’s food and drink. When you look at commentators, they have as many as 7 to 10 different reasons why Daniel did not say no. Three main reasons, and maybe a combination of these is...

1.      Dietary

There were certain food laws in the Hebrew scriptures. When you look at places like Leviticus and such, there were certain kinds of foods that were labeled as clean and certain kind of foods that were labeled as unclean. Daniel, recognizing that this would be a defilement to himself to participate in the consumption of these foods, says no. The difficult thing is there is nothing in there about wine and yet wine is somehow listed. So, it’s not totally dietary there.

2.      Religious

Meaning that oftentimes the food that came from the king's table had been offered to idolatrous gods like food offered to idols. Daniel may be saying I cannot partake in the food from the king's table because this had previously been offered to pagan gods, that is a defilement of me.

3.      Symbolic

Meaning that in a way I recognize you as my master and I am eating at your table in a way that demonstrates my allegiance to you. We do this every time we sit and have communion together. We are invited to the Lords table, we are eating from the table of the Lord, and that has a certain covenantal symbolic meaning in the ancient world. Whether we know it or not, when you take communion, you are saying my allegiance is to Jesus. It is not just I recognize he has died for me I actually give myself to him, and Daniel saying I cannot do that.

Just as Daniel has taken a stand and kept himself pure; so we are challenged to recognize that there are points at which we have to draw a line. - John Goldingay Daniel

Whatever it is, we have to recognize Daniel has drawn a line in the sand, and that is important for us to recognize. There are going to be times in our lives where we are going to need to draw a line and say I cannot do this; my conscience will not allow me to do this.

The challenging thing at times is when we draw a line, we expect everyone else to draw the exact same line. Notice that he did not draw a line with his name, he did not draw a line with going to school for three years learning about pagan things. He drew his line maybe for a whole host of reasons, but we need to recognize that if we are going to set in our heart to resist the world, we do need at that time, to say no. I will not do that and follow the leading of the Lord as he leads us. Daniel went about drawing his line by asking the chief of the eunuchs, Ashkenaz.

Daniel1:8 – 8...Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

The important thing to notice here is he goes to him personally, in private and with respect. He goes to him graciously in a way, and says may I do this, but he goes with a plan.


Daniel1:12-13 - 12“Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink 13...and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

He is very much exemplifying what we see in Colossians 4.


Colossians 4:5-6 - 5Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

This is why the Bible often uses the language of do not return evil for evil but return evil with good. What we want to do is to return evil with evil because that is what the world does. Daniel was gracious and respectful, and the Lord gave him favor and compassion. We need to live in a way where God gets the glory in our lives because we are living for God's glory and not our own.

We see from Daniel 1 that we need to be thoughtful; we need to resolve in our heart not to be assimilated by the world, but notice that Daniel engages, he does not withdraw. Daniel is in the world and becomes an extreme influence for good in Babylon because he allows God to receive glory through him. How does Daniel have the kind of wisdom and confidence to navigate Babylon the way that he does? We can say one of the reasons why Daniel is able to have such wisdom and such confidence in the face of the monster, which is Babylon, is because he knows his God. The one thing that is true in Daniel 1, is that God is showing himself in and through Daniel's life.

·        The Lord gave Jehoiakim into the hands of Babylon.

Which means that God is sovereign. When you look into the world, we get a little nervous about it. If God is sovereign, does that mean that terrible things will not happen? These things can happen and will happen. Sometimes people present the Christian life as come to faith in Jesus and you will not have any more tough times. All we have to do is live another five seconds to prove that is not true. We have the strength to go through it because we know who is in control. It does not mean that people will not invade each other, people will not be murdered and there will not be all these terrible things that happen. God is in control and I can sleep at night because I do not have to take on the burden- because God does.

·        The Lord gave Daniel favor and compassion.

Which means that God is sovereign over everything. When Daniel goes to Ashkenaz, the chief eunuch, he acts with wisdom, he is gracious, and he is respectful. God gives him the success; his confidence is in God. We can have the confidence to know God cares about the insignificant details of your life because God is in all those things.

·        The Lord gave Daniel learning, skill, and wisdom.

Which means God is sovereign over every detail of you. God knits you together in the womb of your mother. God gave you the circumstances of your life. Some are challenging and some have been wonderful. He is sovereign over everything, and he receives glory for every aspect of your life. The sovereign Lord is over everything, he is over every aspect, even the little intricate details of you and your talents. You are who you are because God made you that way.

The question for you is, are you allowing God to glorify himself through you? Daniel knew his God. He was facing a tsunami of influence from Babylon. He knew that his God was going before him, and behind him, and he allows God to glorify himself. God had good things for Daniel and God has good things for you. He wants to use you. He has made you. He is sovereign, submit yourself to him.