First John 2:15 warns or rather commands Christians not to love the world or the things of the world. But what does it mean to love the things of the world? Doesn’t God love the world? Well yes…but 1 John is not referring to the people of the world who are created in the image of God. It is referring to the fleshly things of the world. It is referring to the kingdom of this world, which is directly opposed to the Kingdom of God. So to love the things of the world is to actively give our hearts over to those things rather than to God. Behind the command is a question: to which kingdom are you pledging allegiance? Daniel was confronted with this question as well and his response proves helpful for us.
Wednesday, January 29th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Daniel 1
Focused Passage for Reflection - Daniel 1:8-9
Reflecting on the Text:
While it is an old, old story, the story of Daniel is also a very modern one. It is the story of clashing kingdoms. It is a story that puts a young man’s allegiance to the test. It is a story of resolve, and ultimately of favor. And it is a story which draws us in asking of us the question put before Daniel: How will we live for the Lord as an exile in a foreign land?
Before getting to that question, though, we need to see a shocking statement that led to Daniel finding himself in this predicament. Verse 2 tells us this was the Lord’s doing! “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into (Nebuchadnezzar’s) hand.” The story of Daniel is the story of God..a bigger God than many of us practically comprehend. The Lord God is the One who purposed the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of His people, ultimately for His glory and their good. Before we consider how to live as exiles in a foreign land, we must consider that our God is bigger than we have imagined.
Though he was but a youth, Daniel seemed to grasp this truth. He had been carried off, along with the other promising young people of Jerusalem, to essentially be indoctrinated into Babylonian culture. He was to be educated in the Babylonian ways and fed the Babylonian food. But the food and drink were where he drew the line. Why?
It is hard for us to understand the Old Testament food laws, particularly for those of us who see pork as one of God’s good gifts. Some think the food laws were an early dietary guide to help protect us from dangerous foods. But if that were the case, why did God lift those restrictions in the New Testament? Did He no longer care about the people’s health? No. There was more going on with the food laws than diet. For reasons that we don’t need to comprehend, the Lord God in His perfect wisdom chose to use the food laws as a way to set His people apart from the godless nations which surrounded them. They were a sign of God’s holiness.
For Daniel, he could learn the Babylonian culture and be taught by the Babylonian teachers, but it was too much to actively indulge in the food which was prohibited by the Lord God. So he resolved or purposed in his heart not to eat the unholy food. But in his resolve, he was respectful of his captor. He asked. And again, God moved in the story, showing once more that He was the One who was providentially caring for His people and working for His own glory. God showed favor to Daniel.
Fast forward to the end of the chapter and we find that Daniel was proficient in his studies. He grew in understanding and learned the Babylonian culture. He did not remove himself completely, but he remained true to the Lord his God. He kept himself free of worldly defilement.
What about us? How do we learn from Daniel and apply his lessons to our lives? Is our lesson simply that we should avoid certain food and wine so that we can remain holy to the Lord? Colossians 2:20-23 (among other places) seems to tell us that this mere outward, self-made religion is of no value. Jesus fulfilled and became our holiness by virtue of His perfect obedience and atoning death. So does our obedience matter at all?
Yes! The issue of food and wine may be different for us who are in Christ, but the issue of the heart is not. The real issue for Daniel was the issue of worship. Would he trust in the Lord his God (his spiritual act of worship - see Romans 12:1-2) or would he succumb to the pagan gods of the land? It is the same for us. Will we worship the Lord our God, or will we worship the fleshly desires of the world? The test of our true allegiance does not depend upon a litmus test of what we will eat or drink. It is a question of where are we abiding.
Daniel abided in the law as a sign of his ultimate trust in the Lord. His obedience authenticated his trust. We are given the great privilege of abiding in Christ who fulfilled the law on our behalf. Our turning away from actively walking in the desires of the flesh authenticates our trust in Him.
Questions for personal reflection:
Where do you feel the tug of worldliness? Do you find yourself in the battle against worldliness or have you embraced it?
Do you have a fellow believer who will walk with you in the struggle? If not, are you willing to seek one out?
Do you actively pray to ask the Lord to protect you in the struggle with worldliness? If not, are you willing to pray specific prayers for protection?