The conflict in prophecy
If you haven’t read the previous post introducing the players in biblical prophecy, I suggest you do so now.
Biblical prophecy shows one main conflict throughout the Bible, and it’s not as simple as God vs. Satan. Rather, biblical prophecy centers on our struggle, which is one of worship and obedience. This whole conflict focuses on this one issue, and that is what God and Satan are struggling for: our worship and obedience. God rightly deserves it and Satan is trying to usurp it by any means necessary. He will deceive, coerce, threaten, entice, set up counterfeits to make us believe we are following God while we follow his commandments instead.
The book of Daniel exhibits no less than five examples of this struggle while Daniel was alive:
- Daniel and his friends and the king’s food
- The statue of gold
- Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity (Daniel 4:25)
- Belshazzar’s defiling of God’s property (Daniel 5:23)
- Daniel’s refusal to stop worshiping God (Daniel 6:11)
We see this theme also in the prophetic dreams in this book. We see in one dream a leader who will speak against the Most High and think to change the time and the law; issues of worship and obedience.
Daniel and his friends and the king’s food
Today we’re going to explore the first of these examples. The book of Daniel opens with Nebuchadnezzar besieging Jerusalem and capturing it (Daniel 1:1-2). God allowed this to happen because the people of Judea had stopped worshiping God and were being disobedient to him (Jeremiah 2:11-13).
Out of Judea, Nebuchadnezzar exports the best and brightest that they have to offer. These were the royals and nobility of Israel (Daniel 1:3). They chose the most beautiful, wise, discerning, knowledgeable and competent young men from among them and led them off to Babylon to be trained for service to the king (Daniel 1:4).
For three years they were to be taught to speak the king’s language, to understand their methods, and to eat their food (Daniel 1:5). The account in Daniel 1 follows four of these youth in particular: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Part of the process was for them to be renamed. You see, their old names all said something about their God.
- Daniel means “God is my judge”
- Hananiah means “Beloved of the Lord”
- Mishael means “Who is as God”
- Azariah means “The Lord is my help”
So they rename them to:
- Belteshazzar meaning “Bel protects the king’s life”
- Shadrach refers to Marduk
- Meshach refering to another Babylonian god
- Abednego meaning “servant of the god Nabu”
They renamed them to show their new imposed allegiance.
So, after being force marched across the desert from Israel to Bablyon (about 900 miles to get around the Euphrates river), probably eating spoiled rations along the way, they arrive in Babylon, are cleaned up and given the king’s food to eat and wine to drink (Daniel 1:5). But Daniel and his three friends had grown up studying God’s word. They knew that it is not wise to drink alcohol (Proverbs 20:1, Proverbs 23:31), and they could not be certain of the meats, many of which were probably unclean (Leviticus 11:2-8). So Daniel (and his friends) decide then and there not to eat the food offered (Daniel 1:9). Think of what a temptation that would have been after their journey!
Instead Daniel and his friends strike a bargain with the chief eunuch (put in charge of them). Daniel, as a slave, asks the chief eunuch (in charge of his life and death) to break from the protocol set by the king. A risky proposition. But something made the chief eunuch look on Daniel with favor (Daniel 1:9) so when Daniel proposes a test to set aside the chief eunuch’s fears (Daniel 1:10), he accepts.
Daniel suggests that for 10 days he and his three friends drink only water and eat only plants (Daniel 1:12), the same diet Adam and Eve had in the garden (Genesis 1:29). After 10 days, the chief eunuch could judge for himself. After all, what was 10 days out of three years?
So Daniel and his friends eat a very simple diet for three days while their countrymen gorge on the new food. After 10 days, Daniel and his friends have regained more of their health than the others and were looking better (Daniel 1:15). Because of Daniel’s faithfulness, God gives them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom and Daniel was able to understand and interpret visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17). With these new skills and wisdom, Daniel and his friends stand out far above the others and are assigned to serve the king personally (Daniel 1:19) where they outshine the other wise men advising the king by a factor of 10 (Daniel 1:20).
This is the first of the 5 examples in the book of Daniel about worship and obedience. Everything was set up to make them fail. The captivity, the forced march, the food under penalty of death, and yet, Daniel and his friends prevailed, because they decided to follow God, regardless of the consequences, and were rewarded for their faithfulness. This matter of obedience and worship will come up again and again, as you will see. They point to issues in our own life, where we will need to make sacrifices, to follow God, regardless of the risk. It already exists in our world, even where you think it’s safe. If you don’t see it and feel it in your own life…perhaps you’ve been deceived more than you know.
The next post we’re going to deal with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue. We’re going to go through it like you’ve never seen before. You’ll be amazed at how detailed this prophecy is and how much has already come true. There’s only one piece not yet fulfilled.