Today’s readings: Daniel 1:1-2:23, 1 Peter 3:8-4:6, Psalm 119:65-80, Proverbs 28:14
As Daniel entered a harsh world where their lives could be lost at the whim of a king who was capricious in handing out the death sentence (see Daniel 2:5), he decided that he would follow God first and foremost. Here is a long passage from Daniel 1 describing his actions.
8 But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. 9 Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. 10 But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”
11 Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 12 “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. 16 So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.
Daniel decided to follow God’s ways, specifically the Hebrew dietary laws. It is clear here (see verse 9) that Daniel commanded sufficient respect that his captors listened to his request, even though he feared for his life at the hands of the capricious king. Daniel reasoned with him and arranged for a short-term test that enabled Daniel and his companions to continue following their dietary laws. Today we know the benefits of a vegetable-based diet, but I suspect this was not the case in ancient times. In fact, there is a program and book called The Daniel Fast, which includes both dietary prescriptions and spiritual direction. I have never done this, but I have a family member who does this at the beginning of each new year.
Later in this book we will see more of Daniel’s attitudes, actions and wisdom. Today I want to emphasize that those behaviors grew from Daniel’s determination to walk with God and his desire to follow God’s ways.