October 7, 2012
"In Complex Settings, Obey God"
Read Daniel 1:1-21.
Today's Bible lesson teaches us how we can obey God in complex settings. It reminds
us that God honors faithful obedience.
First, consider the times (the settings in which the events took place) (1:1-7).
1) Daniel and his three companions were taken from their homes in Jerusalem to Babylon
as hostages when they were about 14 or 15 years old (1:1-2). 2) They were selected
for three years of training before beginning public service. 3) The selection process
included physical appearance and intellectual aptitude. 4) After the training, at
17 years of age, they would enter public service.
Second, they were put through a test (1:8-14). 1) They resolved to be true
to their Biblical convictions (Biblical convictions vs. religious preferences)
(1:8). Matthew Henry commented "They had changed their names, but couldn't change
their nature." The Lesson: people become so immersed in the culture of their day
that they worship the cultural gods, accept the cultural values and adopt the lifestyle
of the culture. 2) Daniel's decision was not based on asceticism (self-denial)
or health reasons. It involved the concept of defilement (see 1:8) which was a growing
issue in their day. It became a major issue in the Maccabean period and later in
the time of Christ (cf. Mark 7:5-23). The Apostle Peter addressed this issue in
Acts 10:9-16 and the Apostle Paul wrote about it in Romans 14:13-18.
Third, Note the triumph (1:15-21). 1) In spite of such poor fare, God honored
their loyalty by bringing about an unexpected result (1:15-16). 2) Also God gave
them the ability to learn and excel (1:17-20).
A more recent illustration of obeying God in a complex setting is Eric Liddell
whose story was told in the prize-winning film "Chariots of Fire." The film depicted
this Scottish athlete's devotion to Jesus Christ and his refusal under severe pressure
to violate his spiritual convictions – even at the expense of Olympic glory. He
refused to compete on Sunday which he honored as "the Lord's day."
Ian Charleston, who played the role of Eric Liddell in the film, had to learn to
run with his head tilted back in the style of that Olympic champion. On the sixth
day of filming, Charleston concluded that Eric's unconventional running style was
inspired by trust. He "trusted to get there," said Charleston. "He ran with faith.
He didn't even look where he was going."
That trust carried over into Eric's spiritual life. It was trust that took him to
China as a missionary. Head up, trusting his Savior, he died young in a Japanese
concentration camp, still faithfully serving God.
Lord Jesus Christ, in complex settings, convict us to stand firm on the principles
of faith in Your Word in the confidence that You will bring about unexpected results.