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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:The coming of Christ's kingdom proceeds
Text:Daniel 1:1-21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Added:2015-05-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Old Book of Praise

Ps. 93: 1, 4

Ps. 1: 1

Ps. 119: 4, 12

Ps. 119: 14, 15, 37, 38

Ps. 4: 2

 

Scripture reading:       Dan. 1: 1 – 21

Text:                         Dan. 1: 1 – 21

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Daniel shuns Defilement                                      29 January 2012

Ps. 93: 1, 4

Ps. 1: 1

Ps. 119: 4, 12

Ps. 119: 14, 15, 37, 38

Ps. 4: 2

 

Scripture reading:       Dan. 1: 1 – 21

Text:                         Dan. 1: 1 – 21

 

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The coming of Christ’s kingdom is a theme that runs through the whole book of Daniel.

Think for example of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream where the kingdoms of this world is portrayed in the image of a man, with a head of gold, chest of silver, belly of bronze, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and partly of clay.  

While the kingdoms of this world are rising and falling, and each new empire is found lower than the previous one, decreasing in quality – from gold to clay – the one eternal kingdom of Christ is constantly and steadfastly making progress.   Everything in history is working towards the great day of Christ’s final coming in glory.  

 

His kingdom will come and grind all the kingdoms of this world to dust.

His kingdom will fill the whole earth.

It is an eternal kingdom that will last forever.

And nothing can stop the coming of this kingdom.

 

Yes, Christ’s kingdom is coming, and the whole history of this world is pressing on towards that great day when Christ will appear in glory.

 

All the kingdoms of this world will be destroyed, and Christ will reign forever.

 

But now, how is His kingdom coming?  

God’s kingdom is indeed making progress in the midst of this world, but the power and the greatness of Christ’s kingdom is not according to man.   It is not according to this world.   When we read this book, Daniel, the power and the glory of God’s kingdom is not seen in great armies.   Instead, we see God’s power in preserving for Himself a small remnant.  We see His almighty reign in the faithfulness of a few humble servants in the midst of suffering.  

 

God’s kingdom is making steadfast progress, even there in the midst of Babylon.  God’s people seem to be trampled down, a defeated people in exile, but God’s kingdom is made manifest even in the midst of severe trials and temptations and persecutions.

The greatness and the glory of His kingdom do not consist in worldly splendour, or in vast numbers, but in righteousness and holiness.

 

Yes, the kingdom of Christ is coming, while its citizens seem to be a trampled people in the midst of Babylon.

 

God’s kingdom progresses and grows and proceeds when a youngster decides not to defile himself with the food of the king.

The kingdom grows and increases when three young men refuses to bow the knee before the image of a man. 

The glory of this kingdom excels when Daniel refuses to close his window, or to decrease the frequency of his prayers.

 

Yes, it is all God’s work; it is Christ preserving His church, but the glory and the power of His kingdom becomes evident in the faithful obedience of God-fearing men in the midst of many trials and temptations and persecutions.

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

The coming of God’s kingdom proceeds

 

We will note...

  1. That the Lord judges His people
  2. That the Lord preserves a remnant
  3. That the Lord blesses faithful obedience

In the first place we note that...

The Lord judges His people

 

It is the start of the Babylonian exile.  

According to the prophecy of Jeremiah the exile would last 70 years (Jer. 25: 11, 12; 29: 10).

That judgement of the Lord has now come.

 

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.   And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand...” (verses 1, 2)

 

Scripture describes Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with that sad refrain:

 

“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings. 23: 37)

 

With much patience the LORD has sent His prophets to Jerusalem to call His people to repentance.   He has done so for hundreds of years.   But now, finally, the hour of her visitation has come.

The 70 years of her Babylonian exile has begun.  

 

However, at this stage, Jerusalem and the temple still stands.   At this stage only some of the people were taken captive, and only a part of the articles of the temple has been carried away.

Jerusalem and the temple were not yet destroyed.

The wicked king Jehoiakim continues to reign in Jerusalem for another six years while Daniel and his companions are already in exile!

 

At first this seems unfair.   The wicked Jehoiakim and his men are spared, while Daniel and other faithful men have to go into exile!   

But, when we consider that Daniel and his three friends were among the first to go into exile, we are reminded of another passage where the Lord says:

 

“…if they do these things to the green wood, what will be done to the dry?” (Luke 23: 31)

 

Sometimes in this life the Lord throws His children into the furnace to purify them like gold, while He preserves the ungodly for a later date of total destruction.

And thus it also happens here in our text.

 

Daniel was among the first captives at the very start of the 70 year Babylonian exile, and he remained in exile for the full period of 70 years.

We read at the end of this chapter that Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.   Yes, also after the first year of King Cyrus Daniel continued in Babylon – as we learn from chapter 10: 1 – but here the first year of King Cyrus is mentioned because that was the year in which king Cyrus granted the captives permission to return and to rebuild Jerusalem.  

So then, the 70 years of the Babylonian exile ended in the first year of king Cyrus.  

When our text then mentions that Daniel continued until that date, it means that the Lord was with Daniel during that whole period of 70 years, and that Daniel continued in his task and calling until the day that God’s people was finally delivered again.

 

Although the Lord sorely chastened His people, and although He brought upon them all the calamities and punishments of which His prophets have spoken, to sanctify His children and to destroy the ungodly amongst them, He did not forsake His people.   Also there in Babylon the Lord was preserving a remnant for Himself.

 

We note that in the second place, that...

The Lord preserved a remnant for Himself

 

The captives are taken to the land of Shinar.  

That is: Babylon.

 

It is not without significance that Babylon is here described as the land of Shinar – verse 2.

Shinar – that is the land of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel!

It forms the antithesis that runs as a theme throughout the book of Daniel: God’s kingdom over against the kingdom of this world; Jerusalem over against Babylon; the city of God over against Babel.

 

Now, among the captives of Judah some boys, teenagers, were chosen to be trained in the wisdom of the Chaldeans.

Our translation calls them, in verse 4, “young men”.  

However, the Hebrew text calls them “children”; boys.  

At the age of 20 they would be called men, but now they are called children, boys, which means that they were still under the age of 20.   They were still teenagers.

 

Among the captives the most promising lads were chosen, boys who where gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.  

This requirement makes clear that they were not small boys; they were youngsters who already excelled as excellent and gifted students.

 

Now, among them were also Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

But the chief of the eunuchs gave them different names.

By the way, our translation speaks of the chief of the eunuchs, but the Hebrew word which is here translated as eunuch, is also used for married men who are not eunuchs but simply officers in the court of the king.

The same Hebrew word was for example also used for Potiphar who was a married man (Gen. 37: 36).

Anyway, the chief of the eunuchs – or rather: the chief officer – gave these Jewish boys different names.

Daniel means: God will judge.   But now he receives the name Belteshazzar.   In chapter 4: 8 Nebuchadnezzar makes the comment that the name Belteshazzar is “according to the name of my god”.   The name Belteshazzar is composed of the word Bel, which refers to the chief idol of the Babylonians. 

 

Hananiah means: Jahve is gracious.   But now he receives the name Shadrach, which refers to the moon-god of the Babylonians.  

 

Mishael means: who is like Jahve?    The meaning is that there is no one comparable to the LORD.   The LORD, Jahve, is so great that no one can be compared to Him.   But now Mishael receives the name Meshach, which means: who is like Aku (one of the Babylonian gods)?

 

The third companion of Daniel is Azariah.   Azariah means: Jahve helps.   His name is now changed to Abed-Nego, which means: servant of Nebo.   Nebo was, after Bel, the second greatest idol of the Babylonians (compare also Isaiah 46: 1).   Thus: Abed-Nego, a servant of the Babylonian god, Nebo!

 

Daniel and his three companions received from their own parents names with specific meaning.   It is the kind of names that godly parents, who trusted in the LORD, would give to their children.   These names speak of trust in the LORD, and speak of the greatness and mercy of the LORD.

But now they receive heathen names.  

The Babylonians call them after their own gods.

 

Daniel and his three companions are God’s people, sons of Abraham, and their very names reminded them of their God, the living God, who is all-powerful and faithful.  

But now their names are changed.

The intent is that they forget their identity as covenant children of Jahve, and become true Chaldeans, citizens of Babylon.

 

Furthermore, in the mind of the Babylonians these gifted youngsters have become trophies of the Babylonian gods.

We see this already in verse 2 where we are told that Nebuchadnezzar brought these captives together with some articles of the temple of God into the house of his god.

The meaning is clear.

These heathens, as we know from the rest of Scripture, ascribed their victories to the power of their gods (compare for example 1 Kings 20: 23).   A victory in war proved the power of their gods.

When Nebuchadnezzar returned victoriously from Jerusalem, the Babylonians thought that their idols, Bel and Nebo and the rest, had the victory over Jahve.

Therefore the treasures of Jahve, of His temple, were brought into the treasure house of the Babylonian god, Bel.

And thus Nebuchadnezzar does not only honour his god with the treasures from Jahve’s temple, but also these young men became trophies for Bel – at least: that was what the Babylonians thought, and thus their names were changed accordingly.

The intention was that they may no longer be servants of Jahve, but servants of the Babylonian gods.

 

Dear congregation, we see here Satan’s attack on covenant children.   He wants to rob them of their identity as children of Jahve and make them part of this world, citizens of Babylon.

 

These new names must have been a terrible burden to Daniel and his friends, for they refused to deny their God, as we will shortly see.  

 

But there was also another temptation, or rather a snare, set for them: the king commanded that they be fed from his own table!

Now, is that not a great privilege, if such a mighty emperor makes you part of his household and allows you to eat the food of his table?

Why would Daniel refuse this?

 

Now, for some this may seem to be something quite insignificant, something really trivial, where Daniel could really have made some adjustment and compromise.  

Why did Daniel make such a fuss about it?  

Was he maybe just that kind of person who was unable to adjust himself to new circumstances; some kind of misfit in a progressive world?  

Was he maybe a bit too radical?

Or was he maybe just a fanatic who thought it important to cling so strictly to his Jewish traditions?

 

No, brothers and sisters, he was simply obedient.
 

The seemingly insignificance of the case enhances the great faithfulness of this youngster.   He would not compromise God’s law; not in the least.

 

In the first place God’s law spoke about clean and unclean food.   And much of the food of this heathen king would be unclean according to the law.   And apart from the laws about clean and unclean animals, there was also the law that God’s people may not eat blood; and this law also regulated the way in which animals were to be slaughtered.   The animal’s throat had to be cut in order that all the blood could drain from the bodies – for example Lev. 17: 10 – 14.   God forbid His people to eat any meat of any animal that was strangled instead of throat-cut.  

 

It is noteworthy that this law is repeated also in the New Testament.   The apostles, together with the elders in Jerusalem, sent a letter to the believers who were of the Gentiles, saying:

 

“…it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.  If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well…” – Acts 15: 28, 29.

 

These were typical things among the Gentiles.

Moreover, at the Gentile feasts they also sacrificed a part of their food to the idols, so that all who ate from that table ate and drank in honour of the idol.

Such sacrifices to the idols included also drink-offerings of wine; wine libations.  

 

And therefore Daniel solemnly resolved not to defile himself either with the food or with the wine of the king’s table, and requested the chief officer over them that he might not defile himself – verse 8.

 

Our translation says that he did not want to defile himself with the delicacies of the kings table, but the Hebrew text simply speaks of the portion of the kings table, referring to the food which the king ate.   

Daniel did not want to defile himself with the table of this heathen king.  

 

Furthermore, our translation says in verse 12 that Daniel asked for vegetables, but the Hebrew word is seed, or: what is sown.   Give us what has been sown; give us crop.   It is not limited to vegetables; it includes for example grain and fruit.   It may even mean: give us bread; give us normal food, but not the defiled portion of the king.

 

Daniel was no fanatic who refused to eat certain kinds of food; he simply did not want to defile himself.   The defilement refers especially to three things: firstly, the meat of unclean animals; in the second place meat with blood, and in the third place the meat and wine sacrificed to idols. 

 

Daniel was determined to keep God’s law.  

The food of the king’s table would defile him, because it was unclean in God’s eyes, and forbidden by God.

 

Now, Daniel was the first to make this firm decision to stay faithful to the LORD and to keep himself undefiled.   Verse 8 mentions only Daniel.   Afterwards, in verse 12, his companions are also included.   Daniel took the lead in this, but he also acted on behalf of his three friends: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

 

Dear congregation, Daniel’s request to the chief officer was no easy request to make.  

In fact, the request could cost him his life. 

It would have been quite normal if the chief officer responded by saying: “Who are you, Jewish captive, to call the table of the king unclean?!”  

And it would be normal that the chief officer would report him to the king – this captive who refuses to obey the king’s command, who also leads others to despise the table of the king, who also refuses to honour the idols of Babylon, or to drink their wine libations!

 

Therefore Daniel’s request is preceded by the comment:

 

            “…God had brought Daniel into the favour and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.”

 

Therefore the chief officer did not become angry, or reported Daniel, but simply gave Daniel the reason why he could not comply with his request.   It was as if the chief officer said to Daniel: I would gladly have granted you your request, but I’m afraid that it might cost me my head, therefore the answer is: “no!”

And the answer was clearly: No!

 

But Daniel did not give up.  

It would have been easy for him at this point to say: “I’ve tried my best.   I spoke to the chief officer and even risked my life with this request; now I can do nothing more but to comply with the kings command.”

But no!  Daniel was determined not to defile himself.

It was not simply a treasured tradition of Jewish culture that he tried to uphold, or something that he “preferred” not to do.

No, it was a matter of obedience to God’s law.  

 

Therefore he does not give up.   He now turns to the servant who is in direct oversight over him and asks him that he put Daniel and his three companions to the test for a period of ten days.

And he trusted the LORD for the outcome.

And his trust was not put to shame.

 

In spite of the more sober diet, he and his friends looked healthier than all the others who ate from the king’s table.

The LORD did not fail His servant.  

 

Daniel simply obeyed the Lord, without compromise, and the LORD blessed him.

 

Now, when we look at this in the broader context of the whole book, this was the first of many trials.   The trials would even become greater.   Think of the burning furnace.   Think of the lions’ den.

In all these trials, Daniel and his three companions, refused to make any compromise.  

They would not bow their knee once to an idol, not even in the face of a burning furnace.   Daniel would not shrink back from praying in front of an open window, and would not even reduce the frequency of doing so, even when the lions’ den has been prepared for him.

 

Yes, in the midst of Babylon the LORD preserved for Himself an undefiled remnant.

 

Dear congregation, this brings us to the consideration of our own day.

We are in this world, which is spiritually called Babylon.

The spirit of our time is one of so called tolerance and compromise.  

We can so easily justify all our compromises with as many arguments!

We are in this world, and if we are in Rome we have to do as the Romans do, should we not?

But here we see a faithful servant of the LORD, who refused to depart one step to the left or to the right, who firmly resolved in his heart to obey the LORD in all things, and to keep himself undefiled in the midst of this world.

 

Yes, a young servant; a teenager.

 

Are the youth not vulnerable in this world?   Can they not easily be influenced by the world?

Yes, they can.  

But here we see a few youngsters in the midst of Babylon, who kept themselves pure.  

Their names testify that they had God-fearing parents who trusted in the LORD, who would therefore also have raised them with the teaching of the Law and the Prophets.

The LORD blessed the fruit of their parents, even when they were torn away from their homes at such an early age. 

Yes, the LORD gave Daniel and his friends a steadfast heart and discernment and insight and wisdom, not only to be clever students, but first of all the wisdom and discernment of His word and His law; and above all: the fear of the LORD which is the most basic principle of all wisdom and knowledge.

 

Daniel feared the LORD, therefore he shunned defilement.

 

Therefore the LORD blessed him and his three companions even more abundantly, so that in the end, after three years, they did not only excel all the other students who received the same training, but they even excelled in wisdom and knowledge far above all the wise and learned men of the whole kingdom!

 

We note that in the last place, that…

The LORD blesses faithful obedience

 

Teenagers usually have a good appetite.

Imagine boys of about 16 or 18 who are offered the privilege to eat daily the food of a king – and not just food of any king, but of the most powerful king of the greatest empire on earth!

Would you not be overwhelmed by such a privilege, and with excitement look forward to taste the royal food and the costly wine of such a king?

 

This would, no doubt, be a great temptation, especially for healthy growing hungry hollow boys of that age!  

 

On top of that we have to consider what a great honour the king bestowed on them when he gave this command.   By allowing them to eat from his table they were placed in royal company, and were counted royal themselves!

Would such honour and such luxury easily be despised by a youngster who sees before him an open door to enter a royal life?  

 

Yes, how would a youngster stand in the face of such a temptation?

 

To Daniel obedience to the LORD and to His Word came first.

 

It reminds us of another passage where Scripture speaks about the faith and faithfulness of Moses:

“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebr. 11: 24 – 26).

 

The same can be said of Daniel.  

He did not forget that he was a covenant child of Jahve, or sought to be elevated above the trampled people of God.

He counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Babylon.

 

Therefore the LORD bestowed on Daniel and on his three companions gifts and honour in such abundance that they excelled even ten times all the wise and learned men of the whole kingdom.  

 

It was more than human gifts and human knowledge.   These gifts were clearly from God so that later even the king and all the Chaldeans had to acknowledge that the Spirit of the living God was dwelling in these men, and that the Almighty is with them.

 

The LORD established Daniel, so that he continued steadfastly as prophet of the LORD for the entire period of that 70 years of exile.   The one king fell and the next one rose until a whole list of kings came and went; and during all that turmoil and change Daniel continued steadfast in his task and calling.  

 

Here in chapter 1 it may seem as if the trial was not of great importance.  

Would it not have been a small insignificant compromise if he did eat from the king’s table?

No, the Lord also says:

 

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” – Luke 16: 10

 

Dear congregation, let us not compromise God’s Word to adjust ourselves to the world in which we live.  

Not even in the smallest things; for it is often in things that may seem small and insignificant that our faithfulness to the LORD is tested.   Our faith is tested in the normal course of everyday life, at home, at school, at the workplace.

Even your clothes, your choice of music, the kind of language you use, the way you spend your leisure time, will reflect your determination to remain undefiled in the midst of this world.

 

Is it still clear, when you walk in the streets of this Babylon, that you are a covenant child?   Or has the antithesis disappeared?  

 

The antithesis between church and world, between Jerusalem and Babylon, is slowly disappearing not only when members of false churches live secular lives, but also when members of true churches start to compromise with the world, and seek to please men instead of God, or when they compromise just as much as is necessary to avoid the shame of being called “radical”. 

 

Yes, when Daniel refused to eat of the king’s table, that was radical!

Think about it!  

 

Brothers and sisters, let us not seek to nestle ourselves in Babylon, but solemnly resolve in our hearts to flee the defilement of this world, in all things.  

And God will establish us.

 

We find this same teaching also in the New Testament where the apostle says to the Corinthians:

 

“…what accord has Christ with Belial?   Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?   And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?   For you are the temple of the living God.   As God has said: ‘Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.   Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.   I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty’.   Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 6: 17 – 7: 1)

 

Yes, Christ’s kingdom is coming, but the power and glory of His kingdom cannot now be seen in great numbers.   Instead, we only see a small and despised remnant.

His kingdom is growing and increasing when a few youngsters firmly resolve in their hearts not to defile themselves.

 

Yes, our Lord Jesus Christ is cleansing and preserving for Himself a remnant, a holy bride, who does not defile herself with the filth of this world.

The glory of Christ’s kingdom is now, in this world, not seen by vast numbers and great earthly power, but in the seemingly insignificant faithfulness of a small remnant who cling to the truth of God’s Word, and put their trust in Him.  

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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