Scripture Text – Daniel 1
Abraham called God “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25), and King Hezekiah prayed, “You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.” – 2 Kings 19:15. In Daniel’s day, King Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way that “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth.” – Daniel 4:32 (NIV).
The first chapter of Daniel’s book gives ample evidence of the sovereign hand of God in the affairs of both nations and individuals.
God Gave Ability and Success To Daniel and His Friends
Please read Daniel 1:17-20 for the background to this section.
If you want to have a ministry for God, you must have divine gifts and divine help. Training and education are important, but they are not substitutes for the ability and wisdom that only God can give.
God’s special blessing (Daniel 1:17). These four Hebrew youths had to study and apply themselves, but God gave them skill to learn the material, discernment to understand it, and wisdom to know how to apply it and relate it to God’s truth. As students, all of us need to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) and then work hard to do our very best. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), and fervent prayer can never replace faithful study. Both are necessary.
What studies did these young men pursue? Surely they were taught the religion of Babylon as well as the system of astrology that formed the basis for both their religion and their science. The king’s official counselors had to be able to interpret dreams and various omens, because understanding the times and knowing the future were both important to the king’s success. The young men were given what we would call a “secular education” steeped in the superstition of that day.
But should the people of God learn “the wisdom of this world” when they have the inspired and infallible Word of God to instruct them? Some sincere believers think that all “worldly education” is sinful, while others, just as sincere, believe that God’s people should understand the mind-set of the world but not be controlled by it.
Moses was an example of one “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), and the Apostle Paul read the classics and even quoted from them in his letters. In 2 Timothy 4:13, he asked Timothy to bring him his books and parchments, which were probably copies of some of the Old Testament Scriptures and possibly some of the classical writers. The point is that Paul knew the classics and sought to use what he knew to reach people with the truth of God’s Word. “Beware of the atmosphere of the classics,” Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote in a letter to a friend. “True, we ought to know them; but only as chemists handle poison—to discover their qualities, not to infect our blood with them.”
By understanding the mind-set of the Babylonian people, especially the king’s “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers” (Daniel 2:2, NIV), Daniel and his three friends were better able to show them the superiority of God’s wisdom. The Lord gave Daniel a special gift of understanding visions and dreams. In the first half of his book, Daniel interpreted the visions and dreams of others, but in the last half, he received visions of his own from the Lord.
The king’s examination (Daniel 1:18–20). We don’t know how many students went through the entire course of study, but it’s interesting that Nebuchadnezzar himself took the time to examine them. Since the new graduates were to become his personal advisers, the king wanted to be sure he was getting the best. By adding exceptionally intelligent new men to the staff, the king would be assured of getting the best counsel available. He was familiar with the older advisers and possibly not too happy with all of them (see Daniel 2:5–13). Was he suspicious of a palace intrigue? As we shall see later, the addition and the promotion of these four Jewish boys created jealousy and resentment among the advisers and they tried to get rid of Daniel as recorded later on. As older men, they resented their youth; as Babylonians, they resented their race; and as experienced servants, they envied their great ability and knowledge.
Magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, astrologers and diviners were all men who dealt in the occult in one way or another. Of course, all of these practices were forbidden by the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:9–13). Daniel and his friends had to work alongside these men, yet they remained pure and gave a powerful testimony for the Lord.
The king not only questioned the graduates, but he also compared one with another, and in this way ended up with the very best. There’s no reason why Christian students on secular campuses today shouldn’t be among the finest students who win some of the highest awards to the glory of God. If we as believers don’t go where the secular is located, how will the lost ever hear about Jesus Christ? Going into “all the world” includes going to our pagan campuses and letting the light of Christ shine through us.
To Be Continued