Daniel 1 To Conform, or not to Conform, that is the question.

Conforming is not always bad but many times to conform means that you are giving into the pressure that others are putting on you. When we conform and to do so goes against our beliefs then we conform for the wrong reasons. What we need to find out is how we can stay strong when everyone else is encouraging us to give in to the ways of the world and when we are being encouraged to surrender our beliefs and convictions. Our society, similar to what Daniel faced, encourages us to fit in with the majority of society by encouraging us to not allow our own beliefs and convictions to hold back or restrict what the rest of society wants to do.

Daniel is a book that is mainly about three things; God is in charge, God Cares for His people and God knows what is going to happen in the Future. Remembering these three things is important if we are not going to conform to the pressure of the world. Throughout the book of Daniel we will see that God is the one who is in control of what is happening and He has His reasons for allowing them to happen even when it seems that evil is prevailing. We will also see how God continually cares for His people by intervening on their behalf so that people will believe in Him. God’s intervention always leads to God getting the glory and therefore pointing more people to Him and not toward His servants.

The book of Daniel is also about future events and how God knows exactly what is going to take place before they happen. Many people including some Christians struggle with this because they do not believe that God intervenes through miracles or prophecy. Because of that some people try to discredit  that Daniel was the true author of the book because he was  able to name future kingdoms and Kings perfectly.  For 1,800 years no one thought another person wrote the book of Daniel but if you do not believe in miracles and that God already knows the future then you have to develop a story that fits your narrative. I am writing about Daniel believing that the miracles and the interceding of God on behalf of His people are real stories and therefore we can believe the last part of the book that tells us about what will happen in the future.

Although there are many cases that can be made to disprove those who do not believe the stories and the miracles in the book of Daniel I will only sight one source that confirms that Daniel was not only the author of the book but that we can trust what is written in it. My only source will be Jesus Himself when He said to His disciples. “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”(Matthew 24:15) Jesus lets us know that what is written in the book of Daniel can be trusted so if we trust in Jesus than we can trust that what is written in the book of Daniel. To say that the writer was not Daniel is to say that Christ is a liar and that the whole book is nothing but a hoax.

With all that being said lets look at why we tend to conform to those around us.

  Conform: to do what other people do: to behave in a way that is accepted by most people

Read Daniel 1:1-2

1)   We Conform because of unfamiliar surroundings

Judah

Nebuchadnezzar will attack Judah three times and it is during the first attack that our story of Daniel takes place. God had been warning His children through the prophets that if they did not stop disobeying Him that He was going to punish them with another Kingdom. (Isaiah 39:6; Jeremiah 36:30-31) God delivered the King into Nebuchadnezzar hand to punish His children. Daniel was not at fault for the Kingdom of Judah but he would suffer the consequences of the sins of those around him. Christians should be the calmest people on earth knowing that no matter what is going on in our world that God is still in control. 

  Nebuchadnezzar was an evil who was a combination of Hitler and ISIS rolled into one. He did terrible things to people simply because his mood changed. God can use even the most evil person to accomplish His will and in fact He uses Satan to do that all the time.

Daniel was anywhere from 14-17 year old when Nebuchadnezzar had his army siege Judah and take many of the young men. A king would take some of the children as a way of showing dominance over a nation but also to hold them hostage to assure that the Kingdom that was just captured did not rise up against them. Being taken to another country with unfamiliar surroundings, different language and different religions, as well as, taken away from your family is pressure that most of us cannot understand. Think about how you would feel being taken right now away from your family, your home, your country and placed in another country and had to learn another language, and a different way of life. This is what Daniel had to go through as they would try to conform him to their way of life. 

Unfamiliar surroundings are difficult for all of us and it can make us act out of character and do things we said we would never do. Think about when you are put in with new people and a new environment and all you want to do is fit in and be accepted. Many teenagers and adults will cave to the pressure simply because the environment they are in puts pressure on them to conform to their ways.

Read Daniel 1:3-7

2)   We Conform Through Indoctrination

Most of us do not realize that every day there are messages being put in our minds that tell us how we should live and how we should act. I am not talking about some weird conspiracy theory but about how media and education teaches us certain ways to live and what to believe. Our society is putting more and more pressure on us to conform to a certain way of thinking and the problem with most people is they do not recognize it.

The word tolerance use to mean that we could disagree but still be able to function in a society together but now tolerance means that we have to accept other peoples beliefs and  lifestyles as equal to our own. The young men that were taken to Babylon were going to be taught in the Babylonians schools which would teach them to leave behind their old ways of thinking and to grasp onto a new way that went against what they were taught about God.  

  Nebuchadnezzar wanted young men at a teachable age because indoctrination begins early in life. The earlier you start then the more acceptable things will become when people get older. He wanted them to be smart and good looking  and he would have them in the best schools and even eat the meals the King ate in order to bribe them to believe that this new life they are living is much better than the life they lived. Many people have given in on their principles simply because they were rewarded with and easier life that had more perks than before.

They had their names changed to reflect the Babylonian ways and to remove anything that reminded them of their God. Part of indoctrination is to make sure that any reminders of what you used to believe are gone. God had a strategy to make sure that they would not forget and that was to train their children to have the truth written on their heart and in their minds. A country can take every Christians symbol down yet we are to train our children to have these things where they cannot be touched and that is on their hearts and their minds.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Daniel: God is my Judge changed to Belteshazzar which means Bel protect His life

Hananiah means Lord Shows Grace  changed to Shadrach which means command of Aku (the moon god)

Mishael means “Who is Like God?” changed to Meshach “Who is as Aku is?”

Azariah means “The Lord is my help” changed to Abednego which means “Servant of Nebo”

Nebuchadnezzar wanted people to know that his gods were the ones that should be worshiped and he would  even consider himself a god.  The removal of anything resembling the true God is nothing new and we should not be shocked by a world that wants no sign of anything that reminds them of Christianity and that they have a creator that they should submit to. World wide you are seeing Churches destroyed and crosses removed from church buildings. In America evolution is taught to our children because with evolution you do not need a God who would have created the earth  and evolution allows man to be the center of the Universe. Colleges and Universities are doing their best to break down students who call themselves Christians and some of this has moved into teaching at the High School level.

It’s time to stop bemoaning the exodus of students from our churches and start doing something serious about it. The world is certainly serious about stripping students of their Christian faith.” (A New Kind of Apologist, Sean McDowell, Pg 95) 

  In His book Breaking the Spell :Religion as a Natural phenomenon Daniel Dennett says, “They will see me as just another liberal professor trying to cajole them out of some of their convictions, and thy are dead right about that- that’s what I am and that’s exactly what I am trying to do.” (breaking the spell pg 53)

We are now being indoctrinated that there is  no absolute truth, God is a mythical creature that we do not need because we have science, gender does not exist and  marriage is what one believes it to be. All the traditional things that have been taught in America are being systematically removed so that there is not trace of the God that this country was founded on.

3)   We Conform Through Pressure

These foreigners were given the very food the King ate to bribe them  to enjoy their new life. Pleasure is something we all struggle with because we just want life to be easy and comfortable. The King wanted these young men to not only serve him but he wanted them to join his side to the point that they would share information about their own people so that the King could control them. This would be the first test for Daniel to see if he would give into how the Babylonians did things. 

  Think of the pressure that they would be under to not give into a command that could cost them their life. Foreign land, foreign language, foreign customs and now the pressure to conform to what the society ate. Was Daniel and his three friends the only ones to say no to the kings demand? Seventy people were taken  from Judah but only four are ever mentioned in the next couple of chapters as to not giving in to the ways of the world. Everyone else was literally doing it so the pressure to conform had to be intense.

On top of the pressure Daniel could have felt that God had let him down by allowing him to be taken to a foreign land. Daniel could have determined that since God did not care about his welfare then he was not going to do the things that God wanted him to do. When you believe the lie that God has not come through for you then you have a tendency to give into the pleasures of sin a little easier. We are selfish people and many people serve God only for what He will do for them and not for serving God because He deserves our service and praise.

So how do we not give in to a world that is pressuring us to be just like them?

Read Daniel 1:8

If you do not want to conform to the world:

1)   Make up your mind ahead of time

“He resolved not to defile himself”

Resolve is to settle on a decision before you are faced with making a choice

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Daniel did not separate himself from the culture he just did not allow it to shape him into the mold they wanted him to become. We cannot be salt and light to the world if we totally separate ourselves from it (Matthew 5) but we can not make an impact on the world if we look and act just like everyone else.  Daniel said no to the food but not to the education of the Babylonian way because he knew that God had restrictions on what he ate but not on what he could learn. Since he knew what he believed then it was easy for them to learn what they were teaching and then discern truth from lies. Leviticus 11 and 14 give the restrictions that they would have had to follow and Daniel being a 14-17 already made up his mind. The problem was not eating meat it was how the meat was prepared and that it was sacrificed to idols before being eaten.

 In our culture many people would ask the question, “What is the big deal if they eat some of the food?” As we have already learned many of the captives that came with Daniel must have agreed with that statement because they are not mentioned as to not accepting the food. What we see as a small thing is really what separates us from the rest of society. Many Christians are not set apart from others because they live their lives just like the rest of the world. What seemed like a small thing was not that small and it separated Daniel from the rest of the captives and it allowed an opportunity for God to show that He is God.

The problem with most people is that they do not know what they believe or even why they believe it and when they do not know what they believe and why they give into whatever demands are put on them. Daniels training from his parents set Daniel up to be used by God. These young men were taught early on by their parents the difference between right and wrong. Our society is about allowing the government to train and teach your children but that is not how God established it. In fact voices like famous actor Bill Nye show that many do not want parents teaching things that go against the cultural norms.

And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can — we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.” Bill Nye

Students  have to know what you believe and why you believe it and being a teenager is not an excuse for not knowing. Daniel being between fourteen and seventeen was not an excuse. In America we live in a society that says that even twenty year olds are not grown men yet.

We do not know if things were said to them about the new diet they asked for but you can imagine there were comments and looks condemning them from some of the other captives and even the locals who may have thought they were too good for the local food. Sometimes our biggest critics are other believers who have already conformed to the way of the world. Do not wait to know what you believe because then it is too late. You must learn what you believe and why so that when the pressure to conforms comes you can stand up to the pressure.

They asked permission

Notice they were not jerks about it but just thought they would ask for permission and see if God would grant them favor with the King. I am not sure what would have happened if they would have been told no but we do know they politely went through the proper channels to try and not break this command of God. Many Christians are about demanding their rights instead of trying to go through the proper channels politely and see how God works. I am not saying that there are not times to stand up to the governing officials but when we do we must always be polite and respectful as we refuse to go against our beliefs.

Acts 4:18-20  So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

Read Daniel 1:9-21

2)   Trust God for the outcome

God had caused the official to find favor

We are getting our first glimpse at how God is intervening on behalf of His people as they follow His commands. The official had a legitimate concern to not go against Nebuchadnezzar because he was a king who did not hesitate to kill people. Too many times we think we have to do it the way the world does it and it is because we simply do not trust God for the results that we do not obey.  We live with the Motto “When in Rome live like the Romans” but God calls us to be salt and light in a dark world (Matthew 5:16) which means we are called to live differently.We cannot use the excuse that this is just how the world works because Daniel, Moses and Joseph are all examples of people who were raised in secular cultures but held onto the commands of God. 

They were found to be 10 times better

In a short amount of time God had the four young men looking much better than all the rest to the point that they were ten times better. Daniel and his friends left room for God to work when they trusted Him for the results and God came through by showing others that He can accomplish anything He desires. God not only blessed their appearance in ten days but God then gave them wisdom beyond what anyone else had that would benefit them in the years to come. They were faithful to live a small command of God to not eat meat and God was faithful to not only give them a way out but also blessed them to be used by Him in a more powerful way.

Luke 16:10 One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Everyone else did it the way the world did it but Daniel and his friends chose to do it God’s way and because of that they were able to show that their God was the true God. When Christians live like the rest of the world, hurried, worried and stressed we do not show the rest of the world that our God is the true God who is in control of all of our circumstances. It takes courage to say NO to our friends, coworkers, and sometimes even our family members but our first priority has to be that we are going to honor God with all of our heart, soul and mind. For the next 70 years Daniel would live a consistent life of challenges in a secular culture without being accused of any sins publicly.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

    How has the world influenced you to live that goes against God’s Word

Do you see areas in your life that you have given into friends and coworkers because that is just how the world works?

Do you know what you believe and why you believe it?

Do you trust God to come through for you when you try to live for Him?

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