Last night I kicked off a new Bible study in the book of Daniel. I thought I'd share some of the notes with you guys. BTW, we have some spots still open. Let me know if you're interested in participating (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Daniel 1 - [highlights]
==A little background ==
Israel had to deal with a succession of evil kings that pulled them away from being Godly. During that time, for about three years, they had a Godly king named Josiah but he died and another evil king came back to the thrown - Jehoiakim. During his reign God said, "ENOUGH!" And he allowed them to suffer the consequences of their sins. He gave the Babylonians victory over Judah - the southern kingdom of Israel.
It's really important that you understand this was God's plan. Here's what verse 2 says, "The Lord gave him (Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians) victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God." The reason Daniel adds this part is because he is writing this book to the captives still living in Babylon - those who had been taken captive in 605 BC when Nebuchadnezzar took over Israel. And no doubt there were many times when they wondered where God was. Daniel's point is that God is in control, even when it seems like He is not.
Even when you are living in a crap storm and you can't see God - or you have a distorted view of Him - that doesn't mean He has abandoned you or that He is not in control. He's still in control! And check this out. A lot of times we accuse God of hurting us when really we are dealing with the consequences of our own sins. God doesn't like sin and He deals with it harshly at times in our lives. You need to know that. You may overlook does not. God does not. But also remember that God hates sin but He loves the sinner. He loves the sinner so much that He deals with it.
1:8 "But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods."
Nebuchadnezzar wanted to make the people - Daniel and the others - Babylonian. So he did basically three things to try and accomplish that. He changed their names to change their loyalty. He gave them an education to try and change their minds. And he changed their diet to try and change their lifestyle. Daniel wasn't having any of the lifestyle change.
Think about how tempting that would have been for Daniel. Here's a young man in a pagan country - no parents around - and no priests. He could have completely indulged himself in all things Babylonian - the sex cults and all of it - but he didn't. He stayed away from the temptation. He had "predetermined" he would not live as the "Romans." You know the whole cliche of "when in Rome, do as the Romans." Well, he wasn't going to turn his back on God or defile himself by living the Babylonian lifestyle.
You avoid temptation before the temptation comes. You predetermine that you're not going to defile yourself and give into sin. Here's something I told a group of students one time that I think makes the point. You avoid sexual temptation before you are in the backseat of a car with your pants down around your ankles. It's too late then. You decide before you go on the date where the boundaries are.
God was at work behind the scenes. These four young men from Israel were immediately added to Nebuchadnezzar's top advisors after their immersion training. They had a great aptitude for learning the Babylonian language (aramaic), history, science, math, and magic. But what they had that none of the other "wise" men, magicians and enchanters did not have (that made them stand out so much - especially Daniel) - is that God gave them wisdom.
Listen, when you consecrate yourself to the work of the Lord - When you trust Him and depend on Him and give yourself to Him fully, He will give you His wisdom to keep making the right choices. He will give you His wisdom and knowledge. You may never become an advisor to a king but you can become the wise person among your friends and family and colleagues and co-workers. You can become a person of wisdom and influence to the people around you. There are plenty of folks out there making bad decisions based on bad advice. You can be the person in your group giving good - Godly - advice and wisdom.
In times like these, your "group" needs a Godly, discerning voice. You be that person!
Oh yeah, and God is in control of things - no matter how bad or tough or hard "things" might be in your life right now.
Thanks for letting me share....