There are a lot of North American parallels with Babylon.
“At it’s worst, today’s western culture is indulgent, distracted, idol-following, and hedonistic. The time and place may be different, but the tension of living in-but-not-of lives describes the challenge of the faithful both then and now.”
– David Kinnaman
The entire Jewish system of religion and worship was irrelevant given their dislocation an uncertainty. Their nation was gone.
Christianity is no longer the center of our culture.
“The experience that faced the Jewish exiles mirrors the church’s experience today. In fact, the biblical metaphor that best suits our current times and faith situation is that of exile. Just like the Jewish exiles, the church is grieving its loss and is struggling with humiliation.”– Michael Frost
“Every generation faces a changed culture, different social problems and challenges, new patterns of work, evolving economic and political conditions. Much of what a Christian community in each generation does is learn together how this is done in its particular circumstances”– Eugene Peterson
New International Version (NIV)
Daniel’s Training in Babylon
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carriedoff to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
This was God’s doing. He delivered them into the hands of the Babylonians.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table.They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
They were to be indoctrinated. They were given names that honored Babylonian gods and magic.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[c] food and drink.Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
They did not refuse to learn language or literature.
They stepped out in faith – see what happens to us when we follow God’s laws.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
God gave Daniel a very specific gift, because the king would have a very specific need.
Where did Daniel get this ability? Certainly not from the Babylonians.We know this because…
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
They had better understanding than whom?
They were admired for being something they were not.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Welcome to Babylon. We live there. Because God put us there. Now what?
We have to make decisions about our faith and purpose – what to hold on to and what to negotiate (default positions are, in this new context, alien).
We have to “balance the act of submitting to an earthly authority that is set against God while, at the same time, trusting God to sustain us.”
These Hebrews were willing, in order to serve God, to be fully in this foreign culture, even as they figured out how to not be OF it.
In what ways is our current situation like that of the exiles in Babylon. In what ways is it different?
Do you think some people saw their actions as compromise or even sin?
When you think about the path American culture is on, do you believe our society will become more open or less open to the Christian faith?
Can you think of a time you have been “elevated” in the eyes of those outside your faith specifically because of your faith (or known someone who has)?
How can we be more like Daniel and the Boys?