The below sermon on Daniel 1 teaches us to resolve not to compromise. These free inductive notes are intended as supplement to your own study, not a replacement. Feel free to copy, print, or share them. These notes can be helpful for individual study of the Word or for small group Bible studies. We hope your understanding of God’s Word is deeper from them.
Resolve Don’t Compromise – Daniel 1
Resolve: Don’t Compromise!
When was the last time you faced peer pressure? When was the last time society around you tried to squeeze you into its own mold? When was the last time your friends or your family tried to influence you to do something you knew is wrong? When you faced that pressure, how did you respond?
Today, we are starting the book of Daniel. We are going to see that Daniel also faced powerful forces trying to influence him. He lived in a dark and pagan culture that had no respect for God. And he faced people who tried to force him to live in the same worldly way which they did. We are going to learn how Daniel responded to this pressure and how we can learn from his example.
- Prophecies of the exile as punishment – Show OT timeline. For decades prophets had been warning Judah that God was going to punish her for her gross sins and rebellion against the Lord. See Isaiah 39:6-7. However, Judah did not listen. The prophets were ignored, or worse, thrown into prison and cut in two. Jeremiah wrote a warning message from the Lord to Jehoiakim. What did he do with it? Jeremiah 36:29. He burned it. See also Jeremiah 25:12. God was going to use a 70 year exile as punishment for the Jews. The goal was to bring the people to their knees and turn them back to Himself. Although His judgment was severe, He still never forgot His promises to David and always preserved a remnant of the nation and a remnant who was faithful to himself. We studied the book of Ezra before and that is the story of the return to Jerusalem. But Daniel is about the exile period.
- His chosen instrument: Babylon – Show map. In the book of Habakkuk, the writer (Habakkuk) is confused how God, who is infinitely holy, could use an evil kingdom like Babylon to punish Judah, who though sinful, was still better than Babylon. God’s answer was that He would one day to knock down Babylon. When you look at the history of Babylon, it is easy to see God’s sovereign hand. They were just a small group of people with little influence and a little kingdom. But somehow, they suddenly popped almost out of nowhere to take over much of the known world. Their rise was fast and amazing. Their downfall was equally fast. God raised them up for the purpose of disciplining Judah and once their purpose had been complete, tore them down again.
- Babylon conquers Jerusalem three times – Show timeline. In Daniel 1 we see an account of the first conquest of Jerusalem. This occurred in 605 B.C. During this conquest only a small part of Jews were exiled. Some of the best and brightest noble youth were taken. Later Judah would rebel two more times. Each time they were defeated and more people were exiled until after the final time very few of very poorest remained in the land.
I. Nebuchadnezzar’s Plan: Brainwashing (3-7)
A group of Judean youths were taken. The word “youths” is normally viewed to denote young men between 14-18 or so. This makes sense because we know Daniel lived at least 75 or so years after this. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to take young men likely because he thought they would be easier to influence. We learn that they were physically and mentally the cream of the crop. They are handsome, fit, strong, with good posture and good bearing. They are good in all kinds of academics as well as wisdom to solve problems. And they are very good socially. Neb took back the best and brightest for his own uses. What was his goal? Why did he take them?
These were not to be prisoners. They were not thrown in jail. They had great potential. The Babylonian kingdom was vast and they needed people like this to serve as sub-rulers over their people and areas, administrative puppets if you will. Knowing both languages and cultures they would be perfect bridges between the Babylonian conquerors and the Jewish subjects. While they would speak Judean and understand its culture, the hope was that they would be loyal to Babylon and faithfully serve its king. But this transformation could not be achieved overnight. They were going to go through a three year assimilation program at the “University of Babylon.” They were to learn the language, the history, the literature, and the religion of the Chaldeans. And they were also to develop the lifestyle and habits. This plan was ingenious.
Take the young, who are easy to influence.
Remove them from their own authorities and positive influences.
Isolate them in a foreign environment.
Give them a free education, teach them, train them; make them feel indebted.
Give them good food and tempt them with the riches and power that could be theirs.
Wipe out all vestiges of their past belief and practice by giving them new names.
This plan was well thought and well executed and normally must have worked to perfection. This would have allowed the Babylonians to make use of not only the natural resources of other countries, but also the human resources, and turn the leaders of those countries slowly in favor of Babylon. It is information propaganda, brainwashing. If you can change their minds to accept you, then you don’t have to fight them anymore.
Note their new names:
Belteshazzar –From God is my judge to Bel, protect the king.
Shadrach – From The Lord is gracious to Command of Aku
Meshach – From who is like the Lord to who is what Aku is
Abed-nego – From the Lord is my helper to servant of nebo
It is clear that the goal was to wipe out their religious identity and convert them to worship of Babylonian gods. This policy would not have only been applied to these young Jews, but to all captives they hoped to press in to service. Later in chapter 3 all of the other officials in the kingdom do bow down and worship the idol Nebuchadnezzar sets up. So generally it was a very successful strategy.
This is the situation Daniel and his friends faced. On the one side, you have the might and strength of the most powerful empire in the world. On the other side, you have a few teenage boys alone far from home and everything they are familiar with. It doesn’t seem like they have much of a chance to resist the inevitable, does it?
Application: We chose this book because it very practical to our lives today. Daniel lived in a place that had no respect for God. There were temptations all around him. The education system was brainwashing people to believe in lies instead of the truth from God. There was great pressure to conform to society and be like everyone else. We too live in a society like this. God is not honored. The education system not only here but around the world brainwashes people to accept lies, lies of evolution and atheism. There is great pressure to conform and be like everyone else. We will see from Daniel how to face these pressures and live as a light in a dark place.
II. Daniel’s Resolve (8a)
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself (x2). Daniel resolved. What a powerful statement this is. We see the might and strategies of the Babylonian ruler on one side. On the other side we see a teenage boy. He is far from home. He is lonely. He is surrounded by pagan culture. Temptations and sin are on every side. And when he is faced with a temptation, he draws a line in his mind, and resolves himself that he will not cross it. He was commanded to eat this food. Why would he refuse? He did not object to the schooling he would refuse. He did not even object to his name change. Both of these things were external and neither was technically forbidden in the Mosaic law. He did refuse to eat the food. In Leviticus 11:4-20 there is a list of foods which were unlawful for Jews to eat. Some include pigs eels, ravens, camels, and bats. While wine was not expressly forbidden it was warned against in Proverbs 23:31-35. There is also a warning in Proverbs about blindly eating food a king sets before you (23:1-3).
So notice where Daniel draws his line in the sand. It is not based on his own opinion. It is based on tradition or customs or culture. It is based on the Word of God. God’s Word clearly forbid him from eating this food and therefore he resolved not to. He made up his mind to do what was right without compromise and without offering excuses. Even in the face of overwhelming pressure, he stood on the truth and wouldn’t budge. Exodus 23:2 says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” So he didn’t. Was this an easy decision for Daniel? I am sure he knew that the potential consequence of disobedience is death. What use would the king have for captives who wouldn’t obey? Think about what kind of justifications/excuses a person may come up with for eating this food. Here are some potential excuses he could have offered:
Bitterness toward God – God abandoned me to this foreign country. Maybe He isn’t real or maybe I don’t need to serve Him anymore.
I have no choice. If I don’t eat it, they will kill me.
I am willing to die for it, but if I don’t eat it, they will get angry with all of us Judah boys, and then I will be responsible for the punishment the rest of them receive.
It’s not really that big of a deal. It’s only food. God knows my heart.
The spiritual justification – God must have brought me here for a reason. He wants me to be an influence for Him. If I don’t fit in, I will never have the position or the chance. Once I get to power, I can use my influence for Him.
You know what would have happened if Daniel made an excuse and ate the food? We wouldn’t even have the book of Daniel. Eating the food would be the first foot going down the slippery slope. One compromise would have led to another and would have led to another and Daniel would have been just one more of the flattering, manipulation wise men we will see around the king’s court later in this book.
Application: What would you do if you were in Daniel’s situation? Many people would say, “I have to do it.” “I have no choice.” There is no choice, right? You are alone in a foreign country. They have all the power and you have none. Your life is in their hands. It seems like resistance is futile, but it is not. Daniel had a choice. We always have a choice. Are you listening? You always have a choice!!!! No one can make you sin. No pressure can cause you to cross the line. The world desperately needs believers like Daniel, believers who will refuse to give in to peer pressure. Believers who will make up their minds and resolve in their hearts that they will not do the same sinful thing as those around them.
When all of your colleagues cheat on their taxes, resolve that you will not.
When the world around you treats women as a sexual object, resolve that you will not.
When the people around you are telling lies and view lying as normal, resolve that you will not.
What is the temptation that you are struggling with? Is anyone pressuring you to do something you know you shouldn’t? Think about it for a minute. Does anything to come to mind? Perhaps no one knows but you. Perhaps no one will find out if you give in. Perhaps you may try to justify it in your mind. Today my message for you is simple. Resolve before God right now that you will not give in. Make up your mind that no matter how much pressure is put on you, you will never cross that line. Then pray for strength. And consider telling a brother and sister so that they can encourage you. Even Daniel wasn’t alone. He had three good friends around him who supported him.
III. Daniel’s Plan (8b-14)
Let’s look at how he handled the situation. Although he made up his mind, he didn’t just flaunt it in the official’s face and arrogantly declare that he wasn’t going to do it. He didn’t say, “Old neb can stuff the food in his own fat face for all I care, I’m not going to eat it.” He displayed:
Humility – He asked for permission. He was bold and assertive. He took initiative to find a solution. But these qualities do not equal pride. You can be bold and firm in your convictions without being prideful.
Wisdom – He proposed a test. He knew how the world works. It is geared towards results. He proposed a solution that would be acceptable on all sides.
Faith – He had faith that God would make the test work.
Perseverance – When the first guy rejected him, he didn’t give up, but went and asked another guy. After the first guy rejected him, he could have given up. He could have said, “God, I tried. You didn’t answer my request. So now I have no choice.” There is an old English saying, “When you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Can anyone recite 1 Corinthians 10:13? This verse promises there is always a way out. However, that way out may not be the first way that you try. The way out may not be easy. But if you resolve yourself and persevere to find it, God will lead you to it.
Application: We can learn a lot from this passage about how to solve problems. When the world wants us to wrong too often we simply just give up and do it or flaunt it in their face. I once knew a sister who quit three different jobs. Each time she said that the boss wanted her to do something that went against her conscience. I admire her for her willingness to stand up for what she believes in. At the same time, I believe she could benefit from this example of Daniel. She did not try hard to talk with the bosses and pursue a solution that would be acceptable to both sides. Instead she immediately quit.
We should try to stand firmly on the word of God without offending others. Is there a creative way to solve the problem? Can you propose a test to compare your solution with another solution? Sure, this will not “work” every time. If they won’t listen to reason, we still do what is right even if that is offensive. But if we take this humble, respectful attitude and ask for permission or propose another solution, many problems will be solved. “I quit” should be the last choice, not the first.
From a worldly perspective (your bosses’ perspective), a Christian employee has both some negative and positive sides. The negative is that the Christian employee will not blindly obey everything, even sinful things he his asked to do. The Christian accountant should not be willing to change the numbers. The Christian salesman should not be willing to exaggerate how good the product is. The employee who loves Jesus most may not be a slave of his work and work as much overtime as others. If your boss only sees the negative side, you will not last long in your job. But there is a positive side too. An employee who follows Jesus should be trustworthy. That means he will be honest to his boss and company. Just as he will not cheat the customer, he will not cheat the company either. Have any of you ever seen the movie “Flywheel?” It is made by the same people who produced “Fireproof” “Courageous” and “Prayer room.” Briefly share the story of the employee who was promoted because of his trustworthiness. Does your boss only see the negative side of your belief? You should be showing him the positive side. A follower of Jesus makes a good employee. Later in this book we will see that Daniel was a very good official for the king and helped the kingdom.
IV. God’s Blessings (15-21)
Note the result of the test:
After ten days they looked healthier.
Discussion Question: Why do you think they looked healthier after only ten days? Supernatural or natural explanation?
If we stand firm on His Word and take a “leap of faith” He will honor that. That doesn’t mean every time we will get what we want. Sometimes persecution or trouble will still come. The cost of obedience to the Lord may be losing your job. It may cost you a relationship. It may cost you money or materials. Jesus told his disciples that they must be willing to bear their cross. A disciple should be willing to give up anything for Jesus. Daniel was willing to give His life. We should say what his friends would later say in chapter 3, God can save us and we believe He will. But even if he doesn’t, we still won’t do this sin against him.
The guard sees the result of the test, and agrees to make the change permanent.
In verse 17, we see God blesses these four young men’s obedience. He gives them great skill and knowledge and wisdom. He blessed them with special gifts and abilities. The Bible says that He who is faithful in a little thing is also faithful in much. They had proven their obedience to God in this “little thing” in front of some low ranking officials. And because of that they would have many more opportunities to use their gifts and talents to serve God in kingdom altering events in front of the king of this empire.
So we see in verse 18-20 that they have an audience with the king. This is likely after the three years of their education program were up. And the king was very impressed by their wisdom and understanding..
An objective observer would conclude that not eating the food would destroy their political careers and possibly their lives. But amazingly, doing what seemed like political suicide from man’s perspective actually brought about power and political position. What seemed likely to kill their careers, jumpstarted them. Not everything is always what it seems.
We can learn from this that we actually don’t have to do things the world’s way. People think doing things like everyone else is the only way to get results, but it is a lie. Being bold and truthful and full of integrity often times brings more results long term. Give Victor’s example of being honest instead of lying to companies. Many times bosses/customers will appreciate it when they realize they are dealing with a person of integrity who will not cheat them or compromise his beliefs.
Conclusion: We live in a dark and pagan world much like Daniel did. The truth of God has been exchanged for a lie. The worldly around us tries to squeeze us into its mold just as it did with Daniel. Today we have seen the first of many temptations which Daniel would face. We too are constantly tempted and pressured to give in and be the same as everyone else. We are tempted to compromise what we know is right. Perhaps in the past you have faced this pressure. Perhaps in the past you gave in. But today you have a choice. Will you be like Daniel and resolve yourself to do what is right no matter what? Philippians 2:15 says, “That ye may be blameless and unoffending, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world”
Why do you think they looked healthier after only ten days? Supernatural or natural explanation?
Share several ways in which the world tries to conform us into its mold.
Pick one of these ways and discuss how you should respond based on what you learned today.
What pressure are you currently facing that your brothers/sisters can pray for you?