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Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries

 

Surviving the Education System  audio (5MB)
Daniel 1

There’s lots to be excited by in the book of Daniel.  Daring stories of young men standing up to mad kings.  Fiery furnaces, strange dreams of statues and trees, men turning into beasts, hands appearing out of nowhere writing on walls, let alone Daniel being throne into the lions den, perhaps one of the most well known stories from the bible, thanks to Sunday school and kids clubs.  All that’s just in the first six chapters!  Then there’s all the dreams and visions in chapters 7-12.  We’ll get to those next year.  About all it’s missing is a damsel in distress and a dragon.  Although if you read the Apocrypha, both of those are associated with Daniel. 

But when you stop and think about it for a moment, Daniel and his friends are an unlikely bunch of heroes.  Sure 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.  Daniel’s the kind of boy you hope your son, or grandson, or great grandson might be.  What’s more he’s studying on exchange, might be a humanities degree, but he’s got good job prospects!

 

But, in another sense he’s just a political prisoner, an exile.  King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t take Daniel and his friends out of the kindness of his heart.  He captured Jerusalem and took Daniel captive back to Babylon, along with a number of the other best and brightest from Jerusalem.  King Nebuchadnezzar was ruthless and smart.  He wasn’t offering these young people a place in a cushy exchange program.  His plan was cunning.  It was to take the best and the brightest from Jerusalem, so that they could serve him, and his kingdom.  It’s a good plan.

And what else does it do?  Well, 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 you 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?  Dirty, defiled?  Confused?  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?  It gets worse when you realize just where King Nebuchadnezzar’s capital is, when you understand just where he’s taken the exiles and the vessels from the temple.  The city of Babylon lies on the plains of Shinar as verse 2 says.  It’s a pretty significant Old Testament site.  It’s the location of the first skyscraper, it’s the place humanity first gathered and attempted to build the Tower of Babel.  (Babylon).  We’re back at the site of the first battle between man and God.  The deeper reality the book of Daniel addresses is this.  The real kingdoms in conflict aren’t the Kingdom of Babylon and the Kingdom of Judah.  The real conflict is between the Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God.  Who will win?  This is the question the exiles would’ve been wondering. 

As they asked themselves, 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?  These are the issues that the book of Daniel addresses.

And for Daniel, and those living in exile, the question is, what now?  Is there any point continuing to live the way God had wanted?  Should they just assimilate, should they do whatever is needed in order to survive?  What now?

We see that King Nebuchadnezzar has a plan for them.  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.

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.  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!

What else does he do?  Look in verse 7!  He gives them new names!  So Daniel becomes Belteshazzar, Hannaniah becomes Shadrach, Mischael becomes Meshach and Azariah becomes Abednego.  Now this isn’t that uncommon.  When I was at school my closest friends where Simon, Charles, Andrew and Steven.  But we never called them that!  They were Fly, Horse, Mixmaster & Ernie.  Almost without exception, everyone in the boarding house had a nickname. But there’s something slight more sinister in what’s going on here.  Names mean something.  George means farmer, or worker.  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.  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?  It might be he doesn’t want to owe the King anything.  Breakfast with Devan.

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?  Here’s a challenge as big as the one he faces in chapter 6.  Don’t want to give too much away, if you haven’t read it.  But 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.

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.  Goes first to the palace master, but that doesn’t quite work.  What do we do if our requests are thwarted?  Go up the food chain!  Demand to see the manager.  Ask to speak to the boss, the person in charge.  But Daniel does the opposite thing.  He goes down the ladder.

At least one faithful man in exile.  He’s a hero for us to follow, for all the exiles to emulate. 

But wait, who is the real hero of the story?  Daniel!  No.  God!

God is the one who handed Jerusalem over to King Nebuchadnezzar.  He’s the one who allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take Daniel.  God wasn’t defeated, it’s all part of hisf 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?

We 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!   They’re ten times better than the competition!  And there’s another little hint of God’s presence in the very last words of Daniel 1.  Daniel remained until the first year of King Cyrus of Persia.  Daniel outlasted Nebuchadnezzar.  He outlasted his successors.  Kings came and went, but Daniel remained!

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?


Theres lots to be excited by in the book of Daniel.  Daring stories of young men standing up to mad kings.  Fiery furnaces, strange dreams of statues and trees, men turning into beasts, hands appearing out of nowhere writing on walls, let alone Daniel being throne into the lions den, perhaps one of the most well known stories from the bible, thanks to Sunday school and kids clubs.  All thats just in the first six chapters!  Then theres all the dreams and visions in chapters 7-12.  Well get to those next year.  About all its missing is a damsel in distress and a dragon.  Although if you read the Apocrypha, both of those are associated with Daniel. 

 

But when you stop and think about it for a moment, Daniel and his friends are an unlikely bunch of heroes.  Sure 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.  Daniels the kind of boy you hope your son, or grandson, or great grandson might be.  Whats more hes studying on exchange, might be a humanities degree, but hes got good job prospects!

 

But, in another sense hes just a political prisoner, an exile.  King Nebuchadnezzar didnt take Daniel and his friends out of the kindness of his heart.  He captured Jerusalem and took Daniel captive back to Babylon, along with a number of the other best and brightest from Jerusalem.  King Nebuchadnezzar was ruthless and smart.  He wasnt offering these young people a place in a cushy exchange program.  His plan was cunning.  It was to take the best and the brightest from Jerusalem, so that they could serve him, and his kingdom.  Its a good plan.

 

And what else does it do?  Well, 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.  Hes leaving those left behind feeling depressed, hes discouraging rebellion, and hes taking away the future of the nation.

 

Now along with the people, can you 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 Nebuchadnezzars plan too.  In some ways its more damaging than taking people.  These were things from the Holy Temple, from Gods dwelling place on earth.  They were holy, sacred objects!  King Neb hasnt just defiled them, hes taken them away!  And hes put them in the temple of one of his idols.

 

How would that make the Jewish people feel?  Dirty, defiled?  Confused?  Theyre probably wondering, where is God, and how could he let this happen?  Doesnt 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?  It gets worse when you realize just where King Nebuchadnezzars capital is, when you understand just where hes taken the exiles and the vessels from the temple.  The city of Babylon lies on the plains of Shinar as verse 2 says.  Its a pretty significant Old Testament site.  Its the location of the first skyscraper, its the place humanity first gathered and attempted to build the Tower of Babel.  (Babylon).  Were back at the site of the first battle between man and God.  The deeper reality the book of Daniel addresses is this.  The real kingdoms in conflict arent the Kingdom of Babylon and the Kingdom of Judah.  The real conflict is between the Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God.  Who will win?  This is the question the exiles wouldve been wondering. 

 

As they asked themselves, 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?  These are the issues that the book of Daniel addresses.

 

And for Daniel, and those living in exile, the question is, what now?  Is there any point continuing to live the way God had wanted?  Should they just assimilate, should they do whatever is needed in order to survive?  What now?

We see that King Nebuchadnezzar has a plan for them.  King Nebuchadnezzars plan is to reprogram Daniel and his friends.  He sends them back to school, to learn the language and literature of the Chaldeans.  Its the first step.

 

Studying the language and the literature of the Chaldeans?  Well, it wouldve 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 mightve been a bit of mathematics and medicine mixed in, along with all the important things youd need to know to serve in the Kings palace, like how to set the table properly.  But there was also a lot of tablets to memorise.  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 Kings court.  Of course if you didnt do well, you got served up to the lions!

 

What else does he do?  Look in verse 7!  He gives them new names!  So Daniel becomes Belteshazzar, Hannaniah becomes Shadrach, Mischael becomes Meshach and Azariah becomes Abednego.  Now this isnt that uncommon.  When I was at school my closest friends where Simon, Charles, Andrew and Steven.  But we never called them that!  They were Fly, Horse, Mixmaster & Ernie.  Almost without exception, everyone in the boarding house had a nickname. But theres something slight more sinister in whats going on here.  Names mean something.  George means farmer, or worker.  Their old names spoke of Gods character, his promises, his deeds.  Their new names are perversions of the Babylonian gods.

 

Theres one more thing that King Nebuchadnezzar does.  What is it?  He gives them a share of the royal rations.  He lets them eat the food from his table!  They get to eat the good stuff!  Its a pretty good perk.  Its better than what the other exiles would be eating.  In fact its probably better than what a lot of the guards got to eat!

 

But what does Daniel do?  He refuses to eat from the Kings table!  Why does he refuse?  It might be he doesnt want to owe the King anything.  Breakfast with Devan.

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?  Its likely that the meat and wine had been offered to the Babylonian idols.  As a good Jewish boy, Daniel didnt want to defile himself in this way.  He cant refuse his new education, he cant 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?  Heres a challenge as big as the one he faces in chapter 6.  Dont want to give too much away, if you havent read it.  But the only way he could refuse to pray to the King, even though it meant being thrown in the lions den, was because hed been practicing every day.  Every day, hed refused to eat the Kings food, hed 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, well look at that in more detail.

 

So Daniel stands up to the King.  He refuses to eat from the Kings table.  Takes a little bit of wheeling and dealing to arrange that, but he does.  Goes first to the palace master, but that doesnt quite work.  What do we do if our requests are thwarted?  Go up the food chain!  Demand to see the manager.  Ask to speak to the boss, the person in charge.  But Daniel does the opposite thing.  He goes down the ladder.

 

At least one faithful man in exile.  Hes a hero for us to follow, for all the exiles to emulate.  But wait, who is the real hero of the story?  Daniel!  No.  God!

 

God is the one who handed Jerusalem over to King Nebuchadnezzar.  Hes the one who allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take Daniel.  God wasnt defeated, its all part of hisf plan to teach the Israelites a lesson.  To remind them that hes in charge and that hes serious about sin and judgment.  For decades hed 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 heres the real education thats going on.  The question isnt how will Daniel survive the Babylonian Education system, but how will Gods people respond to Gods education?  Will they learn their lesson?

 

We see how serious God is, when hundreds of years later he sends his Son to die on the cross.  God is serious about sin.  Hes serious about how he wants his people to live.

 

Where else do we see God in control in this passage?

Thats right, in verse 9, Gods the one who allowed Daniel to receive favour and compassion from the guards.  Daniels plan not to eat the food from the Kings table wouldnt have gotten anywhere if God hadnt 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.

 

Theres one more place we see God in charge.

Its 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.  Theyre 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!   Theyre ten times better than the competition!  And theres another little hint of Gods presence in the very last words of Daniel 1.  Daniel remained until the first year of King Cyrus of Persia.  Daniel outlasted Nebuchadnezzar.  He outlasted his successors.  Kings came and went, but Daniel remained!

Were 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 were 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 thats 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?

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