The eighteen-year-old stood underneath the famous University of Texas tower. His high honors class tracing the history of ideas from Sumer in Mesopotamia to the Ivy League in present-day America had applied higher criticism to the Pentateuch and strongly presented that it was written long after the time of Moses. Four different authors had written their version of the Jewish Story and then an editor, maybe Jeremiah, had tried to stitch the four together in the 6thcentury.
This hypothesis called into question what he had learned in the home of a small-town pastor—a home that stressed the authority and inspiration of the Bible, beginning with the first five books, and the need for an authentic intimacy with Jesus based on the cross and the resurrection. His brilliant professor had challenged the idea that God had spoken through Moses to the children of Israel and to us. Mom and Dad were miles away, and anyway, he was now a man. He needed to decide for himself what his personal commitments would be.
In 605 BC Daniel faced a similar choice. Nebuchadnezzar had besieged his home city, seized him and several of his friends, and deported them to Babylon. It looked like the God of Moses was impotent before this new king claiming to rule the world. Why not forget about Moses and his divine commandments. Why not eat the diet Nebuchadnezzar bountifully supplied and forget about the I Am who appeared to Moses at the burning bush? In his core beliefs what would he believe about God’s revelation through Moses?
“But Daniel set it upon his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s provisions or the wine that he drank. So he requested from the chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s officials that he would not have to eat the prescribed diet.” Daniel 1:8
Babylonians ate pig, clearly unclean according to Leviticus 11:7, and their wine was often used as part of their worship of Marduk and Bel. The text doesn’t go into detail about these specifics, but it is clear that whatever was on Nebuchadnezzar’s menu, it would render the Jewish boys unclean and unable to worship their Lord.
It doesn’t tell us how Daniel was raised that led him to make this decision or what he read as a kid, although later in chapter nine he is diligently reading the prophet Jeremiah and discovered how long the Babylonian Captivity would last. At this point in the text it simply declares that deep inside Daniel at the core of his being he decided that even in Babylon he would remain true to the Lord God, the one who controlled history and life. The Book of Daniel is going to go on and tell us where Daniel’s decision led and whether or not it was worth it.
LORD, thanks that even under the most pressing pressures to reject you that you still have young people who resist and purpose in their heart not to reject you or your Word and not to defile themselves. Thanks that you’re still generating the fruit of your Spirit in the lives of students and use Truth Encounter to encourage them.
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