Series on Daniel, i Context, D Blessing, Text: 1:17-21, Title: What Are You?

Introduction

in looking at the context of the book of Daniel as it is given in chapter 1 we have seen how God's servant can sing the Lord's song in a strange land. in spite of his isolation, in spite of the king's attempt to make him a Babylonian by education, by diet, and by renaming him Daniel has bravely resisted and the result is God's blessing as rehearsed in our text for today. In verses 17-21 we read, To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. Note the reference to “All kinds of literature and learning.” Archeology has revealed what the four young Jews must have studied. This would include spoken Chaldean; cuneiform writing in Chaldean and Akkadian; spoken and written Aramaic; and a great mass of Sumerian religious, magical, astrological, and scientific writings. When commitment to God is strong, a pagan education in a pagan society need not corrupt us. This not inconsiderable blessing comes as a result of the faithfulness of Daniel and his friends and that's why I ask the question what are you? You see the blessing of God does not come because of who we are or where we are, but because of what we are. As Sinclair Ferguson says in his commentary on Daniel,“Faithfulness, not reputation or situation is what counts in God's kingdom.” I am asking us today to look at three components of this faithfulness that brought God's blessing: acknowledging God’s person, accepting His discipline, and advancing His kingdom.

I Acknowledging God’s Person

Prosperity is the enemy of the soul. Over and over again the Bible records the fact that sinful men forget God in good times. In fact, in prosperity God becomes a kind of Cinderella; the poor little sister you leave home and forget about. We do not acknowledge Him. Now in the case of Daniel we have a young man and his friends who ate a limited diet of vegetables instead of the king's dainty delicacies. The overseers expected them to look thin and emaciated.Our text reminds us that they were better and fatter than all the others. How did Daniel believe this was going to happen? Because he acknowledged God. He knew that God enables the food to nourish our bodies and God could make the vegetables do a better job than the food from the king’s table. There is a principle here. We need to acknowledge God in all that we do. We need His help and strength not only for our food to nourish us, which is why we say a blessing at mealtime, but we need that help and strength in every thing we do. We need it in  our marriages, our work, our school, and our recreation. True faithfulness is rooted in acknowledging God. Do you forget to thank Him for small things or to ask His help in small things? It is a mistake to do that. Listen to God's words through Moses to ancient Israel in Deuteronomy 28:47, Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore 
in hunger and thirst in nakedness and dire poverty you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you.

II Accepting God’s Discipline

Faithfulness begins in acknowledging God but it is nurtured by accepting His discipline. Daniel and his friends were blessed with wisdom from God because wisdom is what we acquire when we obey in the midst of temptations and trials. James 1:2-5 as translated by Weymouth says,  Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance. Only let endurance have perfect results so that you may become perfect and complete, deficient in nothing. And if any one of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask God for it, who gives with open hand to all men, and without upbraiding; and it will be given him. Notice that wisdom follows immediately upon this golden chain of perseverance which is to make us so that we lack nothing. Wisdom is the first thing mentioned that we might lack because we have not found it through the testing of our faith. The blessing of God came to Daniel and comes to us all through faithfulness in temptation and trials. We learn so much about the character of temptation, the weakness that is in us, the strength that is in God and the dependability of His promises which by the way were soon to be tested even further by Daniel's three friends in the fiery furnace. If you look at the book of Isaiah 43: 1-3 you see a promise, But now thus says Jehovah that created you O Jacob, and he that formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by thy name, you art mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire,you shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you. For I am Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel,your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. What you do may not see unless someone tells you, is that the burden of Isaiah's prophecy is to prepare the people for the exile in Babylon. He is talking here about what they will go through in Babylon. A few months ago my wife and I painted our living room. We picked out colors that looked fine on the card. When we painted one section it was the worst color we had ever seen. It was garish, tasteless, awful. So terrible was it that we here embarrassed that someone would see it before we could get to the store and buy paint to cover it. My point is that it looked alright in the store. It was a different perspective. So often we see our trials as out of place like the paint in the room, but God sees the whole spectrum in which that color belongs and has its rightful place and to him it is beautiful. Therefore accepting his discipline is a part of faithfulness. The last part however is advancing God’s kingdom.

III Advancing God’s Kingdom


Again Sinclair Ferguson in his excellent commentary on Daniel brings up a very thought provoking point here. Daniel and his friends were rewarded for their faithfulness with great wisdom. This shows us that wisdom, intellectual development and true success can be achieved without spiritual compromise; the godly may master and employ the learning of the ungodly. God makes foolish the wisdom of the world and perfects His strength where his people seem weakest. In this the life of Daniel is similar to that of Joseph who also persevered in obeying God through many trials, and like Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon continued to exercise this wisdom for many decades. At the end of chapter five we are told that Daniel is proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom of Babylon. His fame and renown were certainly great and his influence widespread. it is not therefore too hard to believe Ferguson's mentioning Matthew 2 where we are told that wise men came from the east, possibly the region of Babylon, seeking the one who was born king of the Jews. Just think about where they got the idea. Quite possibly from the traditions left by Daniel. Babylon was in the east and the Babylonians were great astronomers and they said, “Where is he, for we have seen his star and have come to worship him. Listen to Daniel 7: 13, I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. Was it remembered? I think so. But in any case throughout the Bible and the history of the Church we may read of those who advanced the kingdom by faithfulness in small places and small things. After all it doesn't matter who or where you are, but what you are, faithful.

Conclusion

Look again with me at the book of Hebrews in chapters 2 and 4. Hebrews 2:17 and 18 says, Because he (Jesus) suffered he is able to help. Actually because he suffered he is able to save and to help. And chapter 4:15, He was tempted in every way that we are except he did not sin. My friends He is a Savior because He was faithful in temptation and trial, and when He hung upon the cross dying there for our sins paying the price for our iniquity, suffering in our place it would have meant nothing unless He was spotless and pure. And He was spotless and pure because as the God man he acknowledged the father, accepted his discipline and advanced the kingdom above all. This is God's rule. I began with a question, what are you? The correct answer should be faithful. Let me end with another question. If we are not seeking first the kingdom of God, what is it we are seeking,  and will it bring the blessing of God which Daniel and his friends received?