This article is adapted from the Fall 2015 issue of Bible Studies for Life: Adults. It is part of a study called Game Changer: How to Impact Your World that examines passages from the Book of Daniel. Learn more about Bible Studies for Life and preview three sessions for free at biblestudiesforlife.com.
The Bible Meets Life
Ever notice how our behavior changes depending on where we are?
- We’re quiet and deeply respectful when we visit a memorial like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
- We’re loud and boisterous at a sporting event.
The setting—the culture—often defines our behavior. But what do we do when the culture calls for us to act in a way that’s just not right? In this study we will look at four young men who were taken against their will to a new country and culture. They were expected to embrace the new culture in every way. But how did they determine when to “go against the flow”?
Nebuchadnezzar placed Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in a special program to prepare them for service to the king, which included assimilating them into the Babylonian culture.
Not all assimilation is bad. It appears that Daniel did not fight the name change; in fact, he continued to refer to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah by their new names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They learned the culture and language and went on to serve.
We assimilate to changing culture all the time: food choices, fashion trends, and technology. Missionaries learn the language and adopt cultural elements in order to build a bridge to people for Christ. Churches in our own country learn the interests and lifestyles of those in their community so they can build relationships. (See 1 Cor. 9:20-22.)
Not all assimilation is good. Daniel stood his ground when it came to his diet. The king’s officials planned to give the young Jewish men “daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank” (v. 5)—rich foods that likely included pork, horsemeat, and other foods forbidden by the law (Lev. 11:3-47). Furthermore, the king’s food and wine were likely offered to their pagan gods before they were sent to the king’s table.
We are taught to submit to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1), but the point of separation comes when we’re directed to violate God’s Word. To eat foods prohibited in the law was to act in direct disobedience to God. To eat meat offered to idols was to acknowledge the Babylonian gods. Daniel and his friends were unwilling to do either.
When our convictions are put to the test, how should we respond? We can take a cue from Daniel:
- He made a compelling appeal. He stood with decided determination. He didn’t refuse, throw a fit, argue, or demand his rights, like people often do today. Instead, he appealed reasonably yet firmly.
- He was committed. His decision was do-or-die. We yield when we’re not committed or our convictions are not strong. The best way to beat compromise is to get committed before you are challenged.
- He was confident. Daniel and his friends would eat as the Lord had directed and trust God for the results. Verses 14-16 show that, because the guard allowed Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to eat simply and avoid the prohibited foods for 10 days, they “looked better and healthier” (v. 15) than the others who had eaten the king’s food.
We’re often going to be challenged to compromise our Christian convictions, but we can stand before authority figures, friends, and peers in a loving way that glorifies Christ.
Excerpted from Bible Studies for Life: Game Changer © 2015 LifeWay Press®. Used by permission.