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October 8, 2017 Undefiled

 

 

Scripture reading: Daniel 1:1-21.

 

[I. Introduction] For those who are over 40, and especially if over 50, you must know that we live in a drastically different time than we did two generations ago. Two generations ago, we came of age during a time of perceived Christian consensus in our nation. Even though genuine Christians were still a minority, American society held to Christian principles, to God’s law generally. Premarital sex  - fornication – happened, maybe more than some like to admit, but just about everybody recognized that it was wrong. The abominations that are all accepted by society now, sins like homosexuality and transgenderism, were recognized as great perversions even by unbelievers. The next generation matured in a time when Christian young people could only perceive of themselves as a small minority in a pluralistic culture. Now, almost anything goes.

 

The book of Daniel is relevant for us today because Daniel and his friends find themselves in a culture that is hostile to the true and Living God. They are young people forced by a Babylonian invasion to leave their culture of majority faith and, as captives, live their faith as a minority in a culture that is pagan pluralism.[1] How will Daniel and his friends be faithful among the faithless? In answering this question we will find the answer to how we, too, can be faithful! The short answer is that they kept themselves undefiled. And so must we.

 

We in the church today have grown accustomed to assuming that, by and large, our youth live out their faith in a half-hearted way. There are exceptions, of course. And when we see those exceptions our hearts rejoice. But many of us have observed that the youth in many churches just attend because they must. They may avoid the “big sins” because they know how much trouble they will get into, moreso than a conviction that these sins are truly wrong. At least that is the impression that many have.

 

Our young people, and maybe we ourselves, are tempted to “go through the motions” – to merely act like we have faith – rather than to exercise genuine faith with conviction.

 

But Daniel and his friends were young people, probably in their late teens, and they lived out their convictions with undefiled courage.

 

Young people! Daniel was one of you! You can be like him. Not just young ones. All of us! Whether you are 17 or 71 you can see something in the lives of these young Israelites that can enlighten you and motivate you to be undefiled.

 

Verse 1 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in the third year of King Jehoiakim. That would have been in 606 BC.[2] In 722 BC the Northern kingdom, called Israel, fell to Assyria and the inhabitants were taken into captivity. The Northern kingdom was more rebellious than the Southern kingdom (Judah) and they fell first. Except for Hezekiah and Josiah, neither the kings of Judah nor the people of Judah learned from the sad example of Israel, for they persisted in their own rebellion against the Lord. For 116 years the Lord gave Judah an opportunity to repent, but they stubbornly refused.

 

In verse 2 we read:             And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. [3]

 

Invasions by an enemy have always been and will always be a terrible event. A great many people die. For those who survive, families are often separated. In ancient times the people of the conquered nation are taken prisoner and made slaves. In fact, this still happens in parts of the world where the invading forces are Muslim. The women and children are taken prisoner and forced to convert to Islam. Usually, they are made slaves.

 

The siege of Jerusalem in 606 was a terrible thing. Notice what verse 2 says: “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah” into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand.

 

We must see that God is on the throne and he allows, even directs[4], the affairs of men including terrible and murderous events. The Lord gave Jehoiakim to Babylon. A few years after this first siege there would be another, in 587, and Jehoiakim would be killed. The Lord gave Jehoiakim to be killed!

 

A common reaction to tragedy is to blame God and to defile oneself with murmering and a feeling of animosity towards the Creator and Giver of good things, the true and Living God.

 

Daniel did not defile himself in this way.

 

[II.] For us to live out our faith with conviction we must not defile ourselves with grumbling. We all know what grumbling is. It is just another word for complaining. And, complaining is just another word for blaming.

 

Daniel was taken from his home, taken from his family, taken from his country, taken from everything that he had known and become familiar with, and forced to learn a new language, to read it, and become proficient in it. Many would become bitter at such an experience. Some would blame God.

 

We saw, from verse 2, that it was indeed the Lord’s doing that Jerusalem was invaded and people taken captive. Here is the reality of life. Our sins do not only affect us. They affect those around us. Daniel and his friends were obedient servants of the Lord. Yet, they suffered because of the sins of their nation. Do not be surprised if you must suffer because of someone else’s sins!

 

But Daniel did not succumb to the temptation to blame God for his misery. For his part, he resolved that he himself would remain faithful.

 

No one likes complainers. A guide at Blarney Castle in Ireland was explaining to some visitors that his job was not always as pleasant as it seemed. He told them about a group of disgruntled tourists he had taken to the castle earlier in the week.

"These people were complaining about everything," he said. "They didn't like the weather, the food, their hotel accommodations, the prices, everything. Then to top it off, when we arrived at the castle, we found that the area around the Blarney Stone was roped off. Workmen were making some kind of repairs." "This is the last straw!" exclaimed one lady who seemed to be the chief faultfinder in the group. "I've come all this way, and now I can't even kiss the Blarney Stone."

"Well, you know," the guide said, "according to legend, if you kiss someone who has kissed the stone, it's the same as kissing the stone itself." "And I suppose you've kissed the stone," said the exasperated lady. "Better than that." replied the guide. "I've sat on it."

 

Even though complaining will lose you friends and make you even more unhappy, the most dismal aspect of it is that it displeases God. It is an expression of mistrust in God’s provision and God’s purpose in your life.

 

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27             “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28             Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29             your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, [5]

 

God despises complaining. So much so, that he killed those who did.

 

Daniel did not defile himself by complaining. Rather, he made the best of his awful situation and God’s favor was upon him.

 

For us to live out our faith with conviction we must not defile ourselves with grumbling.

 

[III.] For us to live out our faith with conviction we must not defile ourselves with the ways of the world.

 

            “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.” [6]

 

Daniel was faced with temptation. He was away from his country and his family. So what if he ate the king’s food. It would have been sumptuous. In all likelihood, Daniel thought that he might never return to Judah. He might as well “do as the Romans do,” as the proverbial expression goes (Of course, Rome did not even exist yet.).

 

Is this how some of our young people act? When they are with mom and dad, or when they are with church folk, they usually behave well. But, what happens when they are with their friends from school. Do they keep the values that they have been taught? Or, do they succumb to peer pressure and try to fit in with the crowd? Do they try to be “cool” in the eyes of the world or do they try to obey the Lord?

 

We do not have to ask this question just about young people. In the early 1980’s several people were murdered because they took Tylenol that had purposely been laced with cyanide. No one was ever charged with the murders. Whoever contaminated the Tylenol got away with it in this life but will face God on Judgment Day.  Thirty years later a couple was attending Covenant Theological Seminary right here in St Louis.  He was pursuing his degree and she was supporting him through seminary, working as a quality control inspector for a pharmaceutical company. One day a large order of syringes were accidentally contaminated and would not pass inspection. When she reported the contamination to her boss, he quickly computed the cost of  reproducing the order and made the cost-effective decision: ship the order. He ordered her to sign the inspection clearance. She refused.

 

Because of government regulations, she was the only one who could sign the clearance.  So the syringes did not ship that day. The next day the wife got a visit from the company President. He gave her two days to think it over and he made it clear that her job was in jeopardy. It was more than just her job that was in jeopardy. She was the only means of support for the whole family. The ministry future of her husband was in jeopardy. If she were fired he would probably have to withdraw from seminary.

 

All the high-minded doctrine they had been learning about God boiled down to one decision in the daily grind of life. Was the witness of obedience worth the cost?

 

She refused to sign and was fired.

 

We must face the reality that there is a risk to holiness. There is a risk to faithfulness.

 

The way of the world is that whatever gets me the most is the way to choose. Whatever was cost effective for the pharmaceutical company was the way to go.

 

For Daniel, it would have been easier and less dangerous for him to go along and eat the king’s food. In the last part of verse 10 the chief of the eunuchs is quite concerned that Daniel will not partake of the king’s food and wine and be in poor health because of it. He says, “So you would endanger my head with the king.” In other words, if he didn’t do his job well he might be decapitated! The kings of the ancient world were ruthless. The same danger faced Daniel.

 

The king’s table must have included pork, types of seafood, and other forbidden foods that were unlawful for God’s people to eat under the Old Covenant.  Daniel refusing to drink wine is more difficult to understand since there is no such prohibition in the OT. It may be that it was common for those partaking of it to get drunk and Daniel did not wish to be associated with such practices.

 

[IV.] Keeping oneself undefiled brings the blessing of God. After verse 8, where Daniel resolved not to defile himself, we read in verse 9:

 

“And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.”

 

In verse 15,

 

“At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.”

 

“Fatter in flesh” is a Hebraism meaning healthier.  Modern day vegans may tell you that Daniel and his friends were healthier because they ate only vegetables. While I do not deny that there are health benefits to eating a vegetarian type of diet, there is more here than just a prescription for eating right. God was supernaturally blessing these youngsters because they had kept themselves undefiled. They put God and his laws first.

 

Verse 17,

 

“As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”

 

See that God blessed these four with favor in the eyes of their keeper, with health and a good appearance, with learning, with wisdom, and with the ability to understand dreams. God blessed them!

 

What of our quality control inspector? She was fired for refusing to lie. The order was not delivered to the customer in time. In fact, it was quite delayed. Officials of the company that had placed the order investigated the delay and discovered how this woman had protected them from the contaminated syringes, even at the cost of her own job. They were so appreciative that they hired her and increased her pay. Her husband finished seminary and they serve the Lord now.

 

Keeping oneself undefiled brings the favor and blessings of God.  This principle is true, but it is not a magic formula. When you make the hard decisions and suffer a loss because you did, do not expect the blessing to come right away. Sometimes it may be delayed for months or even years. Sometimes it does not come in this life. Sometimes, making the right choice leaves you in a worse situation career-wise, academic-wise, or moneywise and it is long lasting. Yet, God will favor you in other ways. Above all, all that we do will be reviewed one day.  Then we will regret those decisions that we made that defiled us. Then we will rejoice in those times we remained true to our convictions.

 

[V. Conclusion] Like Daniel, we live in a culture that is adverse to the commands of God.  A world that opposes God will oppose those who seek to live for him. We will find ourselves in difficult situations.

 

  • Let us live out our faith and not defile ourselves by complaining.
  • Let us live out our faith and not defile ourselves with the ways of the world.
  • When we walk in faith and obedience we will see the blessing of God. Wait for it. Even if you must wait a long time. It will come.

 

Finally, how do we resist the ways of the world? We do not do it by gritting our teeth and merely exercising our human will. We resist by the power of his indwelling Spirit. The will is the wrong source of power. The power comes from our human spirit where Christ has come to dwell.

 

Simply call upon the name of the Lord when we find ourselves in a temptation to succumb to the ways of the world. When we call, “O Lord Jesus!”, do you know who we get? We get the Lord Jesus!

 

The same God who upheld Daniel will uphold you.

 

The same God who granted favor to Daniel will grant favor to you.

 

The same God who loved Daniel loves you.

 

 

[1] This sentence, and the second part of this sermon, is taken from the excellent book, The Gospel According to Daniel, by Bryan Chapell, whom I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing when he lived in the St. Louis area.

[2] There were three sieges of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The first was in 606 BC when Daniel and his colleagues were taken captive. The second was in 597 BC when King Jehoiakin (not Jehoiakim) and Ezekiel were taken away. The third was in  588 BC when the city was destroyed and the last king, Zedekiah was taken away.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Da 1:2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] He directs in the sense that he allows the evil actions of wicked men to take place when he could restrain them.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Nu 14:26–29). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Da 1:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.