Surviving the Education System (Youth Service) audio (5MB)
Good morning class. (Good morning Mr. Hemmings). I believe Mr. Appleby was filling in for me last week. He should’ve told you that there would be a test today. So I hope you’ve all done your homework reading and have prepared. Quick quiz. No cheating please. Mr. Mason, I’m looking at you. I don’t want to have to send you to the principal’s office, again. Alright is everybody ready? Here we go:
What book are we studying at the moment?
And who is it about?
What sort of person was Daniel?
Well, we read in verse 3 that he was from the royal family or nobility. Young, without physical defect, handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight and competent to serve. He was a lot like you. Well, some of you!
Where was Daniel from?
But where does all the action happen?
Plains of Shinar.
Tower of Babel – humanity rebelled against God.
Have they won in the end?
And when did Daniel go to Babylon?
In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah.
When was that?
Around 604 B.C.
I can see some of you will have to brush up on your Jewish history in your small groups this week. You might want to refer to the notes in your booklets.
What was Daniel doing there?
He was on exchange!
You could say that he’d gotten into an exciting exchange program I suppose, and that he was studying at the university of Babylon. It was a 3 year course on the literature and the language of the Chaldeans.
(_________________ puts up their hand)
Yes,___________________ , you have a question?
What does that mean?
Studying the language and the literature of the Chaldeans? Well, it would’ve involved a number of things. Learning how to read and write Sumerian and Akkadian, the highly complicated cuneiform script that they used in ancient Mesopotamia. They would have to relearn all their history. There might’ve been a bit of mathematics and medicine mixed in, along with all the important things you’d need to know to serve in the King’s palace, like how to set the table properly. But there was also a lot of tablets to memorise. Not tablets like the ones you play Angry Birds on ______, but stone tablets. We know there were at least 77 tablets dedicated to astrology, 23 of which focused on the moon. And there were at least 110 tablets on the interpretation of dreams.
It was a bit like a humanities course. But unlike humanities today, this course had great job prospects. If you did well, you got to serve in the King’s court. Of course if you didn’t do well, you got served up to the lions!
But, to get back to your answer _____________, it wasn’t really like an exchange program. Daniel didn’t really choose to be there. King Nebuchadnezzar had forcibly taken Daniel and his friends back to Babylon with him after he conquered the kingdom of Judah.
Just imagine for a minute how you would feel if you were Daniel. Your home had been over-run and you’d been effectively kidnapped. Now you’re being forced to study, in order to serve a foreign king. What would that feel like?
He didn’t take Daniel and his friends out of the kindness of his heart. King Nebuchadnezzar was ruthless and smart. He wasn’t offering these young people a place in a cushy exchange program. His plan was to take the best and the brightest from Jerusalem, so that they could serve him, and his kingdom. It’s a good plan.
What else does it do?
Imagine what it meant for the people of Judah. What would it be like to lose your brothers or sisters? Maybe not that bad! What about your sons and daughters? Your best friends? It would be pretty demoralizing wouldn't it?
And imagine what it meant for the future of Judah. Imagine what would happen if someone came to Australia and took all the best and brightest students from the top university (Melbourne) or from the best school (__________).
What would that do to the future of Australia, if all the leaders of tomorrow were taken away? How would it affect our economy, our politics, our prospects as a nation?
What about if someone went to Ridley and took the students there? If they were all kidnapped and taken to Paraguay, where instead of learning about leading the church they were made to learn how to make shoes? What would that do to the church in Melbourne, in Australia? How bad would it be if the best and the brightest, the emerging leaders of tomorrow, were taken away to serve the interests of our enemies, or the Paraguayan shoe industry!
By taking the best and the brightest people with him King Nebuchadnezzar is crippling the nation of Judah. He’s leaving those left behind feeling depressed, he’s discouraging rebellion, and he’s taking away the future of the nation.
Now along with the people, can anyone remember what else King Nebuchadnezzar took with him?
Verse 2 from our passage says he also took with him some of the vessels from the temple.
This is part of King Nebuchadnezzar’s plan too. In some ways it’s more damaging than taking people. These were things from the Holy Temple, from God’s dwelling place on earth. They were holy, sacred objects! King Neb hasn’t just defiled them, he’s taken them away! And he’s put them in the temple of one of his idols.
How would that make the Jewish people feel?
They’re probably wondering, where is God, and how could he let this happen? Doesn’t he care anymore? Has he abandoned his people? Or worse, has Nebuchadnezzar and the gods of the Babylonians defeated YHWH? Has the Lord of the Universe been beaten?
What hope did they have, living in a foreign land. No longer in the land that God had promised them. No longer did the city of Jerusalem stand, no longer did the temple stand. All was lost. Or was it?
One of the questions on your final exam will be on what the exiles felt, living in Babylon. You might like to read Psalm 137, to get some ideas. (_____ don’t just listen to the audio version!)
Enough hints for the final exam, let’s get back to Daniel!
King Nebuchadnezzar’s plan is to reprogram Daniel and his friends. He sends them back to school, to learn the language and literature of the Chaldeans. It’s the first step.
What else does he do? Look in verse 7!
He gives them new names!
Great. What were those new names?
Rack, Shack & Benny
Daniel becomes Belteshazzar
Hannaniah becomes Shadrach
Mischael becomes Meshach
Azariah becomes Abednego
Their old names spoke of God’s character, his promises, his deeds. Their new names are perversions of the Babylonian gods.
There’s one more thing that King Nebuchadnezzar does. What is it?
He gives them a share of the royal rations.
That’s right, he lets them eat the food from his table!
They get to eat the good stuff! It’s a pretty good perk. It’s better than what the other exiles would be eating. In fact it’s probably better than what a lot of the guards got to eat!
But what does Daniel do?
He refuses to eat from the King’s table!
Why does he refuse?
He doesn’t want to owe the King anything?
That might be it __________________. It could be he wants to avoid a sense of obligation. If at morning tea recess someone buys you a plate of the tasty treats the CLAY youth group made on Friday night, you might feel obliged to buy them a plate in return. Actually you should do that anyway! So it could be to avoid sharing fellowship with King Nebuchadnezzar, or to ovoid being obligated to him.
But it could be something else couldn't it?
It’s likely that the meat and wine had been offered to the Babylonian idols. As a good Jewish boy, Daniel didn’t want to defile himself in this way. He can’t refuse his new education, he can’t help being called by a new name, but he can draw the line here. He can refuse to eat something that God has told him not to eat.
This is a big challenge! Will Daniel give in? Will he live the way the King Nebuchadnezzar wants him to? Or will he remain faithful to God the King?
Excuse me ____________. I can see you passing that note. Give it here please. What did you think was so important that the whole class should know?
What was Daniel’s favourite song?
The lion sleeps tonight!
Very funny. But you’re jumping ahead a little bit. That doesn’t happen until Daniel 6! But actually the two are connected.
The only way he could refuse to pray to the King, even though it meant being thrown in the lion’s den, was because he’d been practicing every day. Every day, he’d refused to eat the King’s food, he’d refused to live the way the world, the way the King wanted him to live. So when the time came, when it really mattered, he had the strength to say no. Daniel built up his character every day, he took baby steps, so that when it came to the big issues, there was no question of how to respond! When we get to our unit on Virtue in Term 4, we’ll look at that in more detail.
Alright, so Daniel stands up to the King. He refuses to eat from the King’s table. Takes a little bit of wheeling and dealing to arrange that, but he does.
Now, second last question for our exam. Who is the hero of the story?
God is the one who handed Jerusalem over to King Nebuchadnezzar. He’s the one who allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take Daniel.
He wasn’t defeated, it’s all part of God’s plan to teach the Israelites a lesson. To remind them that he’s in charge and that he’s serious about sin and judgment. For decades he’d been sending prophets to Jerusalem, calling the people to repent of their sins, to turn from their wicked ways and their idols and to come back to him. But they kept refusing to listen. So here’s the real education that’s going on. The question isn’t how will Daniel survive the Babylonian Education system, but how will God’s people respond to God’s education? Will they learn their lesson?
See how serious God is, when hundreds of years later he sends his Son to die on the cross. God is serious about sin. He’s serious about how he wants his people to live.
Where else do we see God in control in this passage?
That’s right, in verse 9, God’s the one who allowed Daniel to receive favour and compassion from the guards. Daniel’s plan not to eat the food from the King’s table wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if God hadn’t allowed it. And at the end of the ten day trial period, God ensures that Daniel and his friends appear better and fatter than everyone else, even though they only ate vegetables.
There’s one more place we see God in charge.
It’s right at the end, in verse 17. God gives Daniel and his friends knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gives Daniel insight into visions and dreams. God blesses Daniel and his friends and makes them straight A students. They’re at the top of their class! In fact, at the end of their degree, no one is found to be as gifted and skilled as Daniel and his friends!
Mr. Hemmings, what’s the point of all this stuff?
That’s a good question ______________________.
Does anyone have any answers?
Eat your vegetables!
We’re fortunate enough not to face persecution and like Daniel, and the rest of the Jews faced at the hands of the Babylonians. Or the persecution that millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ face each and every day.
But we’re all strangers and aliens living in a foreign land. We all face the same temptations, to just give in and live like the world does.
But that’s not what Daniel does. Because he knows the truth. He knows that God is in control. This chapter reminds us that no matter where we are, even in the darkest place, God is still in control. God still cares and God still wants us to live faithfully to him. Will we have the courage to stand up like Daniel does?
Now I’ve got some homework for you all. Grab one of these books when go home, read through the passages, think about the questions, and how you’re going to live.