First Presbyterian Church of
Telephone numbers: (310) 677-5133 Fax (310) 330-8342
Electronic mail: PRESBYTS@SBCGLOBAL.NET
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
Daniel 1:1 - 16
THE KING’S MEAT
“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; therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”
On this communion Sunday, I want to preach from the subject of ‘The King’s Meat.’ And may the Lord bless our understanding of these words. The book of Daniel begins with a series of short stories concerning the youthful experiences of Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who had been taken captive along with many others, following the fall of Jerusalem in 605B.C.
In the year 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylonia, and In September of that year he swept into Palestine and surrounded Jerusalem, making Judah one of his many vassal states. And as was the custom of conquering nations, Nebuchadnezzar took many of Judah’s brightest young men and most beautiful young maidens back to Babylon as captives, in order that they might be indoctrinated to serve the empire.
This system fostered great loyalty from conquered nations and ensured a steady supply of leaders from the conquered nation who could be used by Babylon in maintaining control of the vassal state. The first chapter of Daniel concerns itself with King Nebuchadnezzar’s attempts to indoctrinate these four Hebrew boys into the ways of Babylon.
Verse 3 tells us that the king ordered one of his subjects to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility -- young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. Well, if you want to rule a people, find ways to capture the minds of the next generation who will become their leaders. So Nebuchadnezzar gave instruction that they were to be taught in the ways of Babylon. Verse 7 tells us that he changed their names. To Daniel he gave the name Belteshazzar. To Hananiah he gave the name Shadrach. To Mishael the name Meshach. And to Azariah he gave the name Abednego.
New names would help assimilate them into a foreign culture that knew not the God of Israel. With new names the king’s order was that they be educated, indoctrinated with Babylonian values, in that they might serve the king.
Nebuchadnezzar changed their names because he wanted them to forget who they were and whose they were. He wanted them to forget that they were Hebrews who worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He wanted to change their allegiance from service to the God of Israel to service to the gods of Babylon.
Yes, even in the midst of the alien culture of this world which does so much to destroy or make irrelevant the teachings and values of Christianity, in a world which seeks to squeeze us into its mold, the Christian has the responsibility and the calling like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “to be not conformed to this world, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove in witness for God to this world, what is the good, acceptable and prefect will of God.”
Jesus calls us to be in the world, but not of the world. Meaning the world doesn’t shape our values, but we are called to shape its values, by how we talk and how we live. The very word church itself in the Greek, ‘ecclesia’, means “the called-out ones”. Amen. But you are, writes Peter, “A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
When everyone else is doing what is right in their own sight, the believer says, “There is a way that seems right unto men, but the ends thereof are death.” When the world promotes value by the abundance of our riches, and prosperity by the measure of one’s success, the believer lives with the understanding that true peace, true riches, true prosperity comes as an investment in building a relationship with God. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added.”
Still not satisfied, Nebuchadnezzar ordered them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. Nebuchadnezzar’s goal was to change their way of living. The word says in verse 8, “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.”
The KJV reads of this same verse, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, not with the wine which he drank.” Daniel could discern that the ways of Babylon were in conflict to the teachings of his God. It doesn’t matter what the State rules, it doesn’t matter what popular opinion says, the will of God is not built upon the laws of man. When you read this verse, one of the first thoughts that come to the mind is that Daniel and his friends must have had good home training. Amen.
If we are going to save a generation, we have to reach them with the word of God and Christian values while they are young. If we are going to give children and youth something to hold onto in times of decision and tremendous peer pressure, we have to seed their hearts with the teachings of Jesus Christ. We have to find the resolve to develop the kind to children and youth ministries that help them navigate their way through a culture that does not teach values that are in their best interests.
You are more than your outward appearances. Our bodies are the sacred temples of God. We do have to mind the company that we keep. Money does not bring spiritual fulfillment. To “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” is not what God had in mind when he created humanity. My God, how many of us were pulled back from the brink of making some bad mistakes had it not been for the word of God planted in our hearts. The word of God acts as a restraint in times of indecision. God’s word will help us find the courage and strength to say ‘Yes’ when we need to say “yes’ and say ‘No’ when we need to say ‘no’.
They were thousands of miles from home, their parents were probably still back in Judah wondering what had happened to their boys, but the word was in them, God was in them; and so Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not eat the king’s meat. Meaning Daniel had a deep conviction about what was pleasing to God. He was determined to do what was right in the eyes of his God, rather than give in to the pressures of king Nebuchadnezzar.
The food that was set before him was from animals that were slaughtered ceremonially and offered in idol worship to the Babylonian gods. In addition this food included meat that the Mosaic law declared as unclean. The reference that Daniel purposed in his heart not to eat the king’s meat or drink the king’s wine relates to Daniel’s conviction not to compromise his values in breaking with Jewish dietary laws.
Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat. The meat and wine will not reflect my allegiance to God. The meat and wine will not honor this body as a temple of the Living God. We sometimes use the term Holy and Sanctified to describe a denomination of believers, but to be holy and sanctified is to purpose in one’s heart like Daniel, that one’s body belongs to God, one’s mind belongs to God, one’s gifts and talents belong to God, and all to Him we owe. We are far from perfect, but we strive to live by offering up ourselves to God in a holy fashion. Amen.
“I beseech you”, writes Paul, in Romans, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is,” he writes, “your reasonable service.” Meaning, because of what God has done for us in Jesus, we are to give ourselves back to God, in mind, body, and soul.
The text says, in
verse 12, that Daniel offered a wager to the guard: “Test us for ten days: Give
us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our
appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your
servants in accordance with what you see.” Well, God will bless our commitment
to live for Him. At the end of the ten days, they looked healthier and better
than any of the young men who ate the royal food. And I think that’s a way of
the scriptures’ communicating the fact that when you live for God, when you
honor God with your mind, body, and soul, your countenance will reflect it.
Just vegetables and water, but they had a glow. A radiance. They gave off some
spiritual vibes that you can’t get from worshipping the gods of
Just trust in Him, and we have a glow. We may not have all the riches of this world, but because we have Him, we have a glow. Spiritual health on the inside, should translate in some way to a glow on the outside.
Nebuchadnezzar was a king, and he had his own brand of meat, but there is another King. And His name is Jesus. Someday every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings. He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by the word of God.” The word of God feeds the human soul. The word of God grows us in the things of God. The word of God matures us in this Christian faith.
But not only is there this bread called the word of God; Jesus proclaimed Himself as the Living Bread. “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Hallelujah! I wish I knew how to make it plain.
From Him we gain our nourishment and strength. From Him we gain our spiritual health and wholeness. Said Jesus in John 4:34, “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.” I don’t know about you, but I am most filled and fulfilled when I’m doing God’s work. It feeds me. Anything else, and I’d be empty. The meat of God is more than Bible study and attending church, but our spiritual nourishment comes from doing God’s will. He feeds us with meat when we are concerned about giving back to others what he has given to us. Helping others in Jesus’ name feeds our souls.
We are not only nourished by what we take in from God, but we are also nourished by what we give out for God. Hallelujah!