Book of Daniel, part 3

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The narrative of Daniel 1 is comprised of Four Moves:

  1. Setting (1-2)
  2. You Will Be Assimilated (3-7)
  3. Food Fight (8-16)
  4. Rising to the Top (17-21)

Key Questions – Daniel 1

What is the royal food and wine?
“The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table.” (1:5)
This is the king’s provision and hospitality.
The king is their host. He provides for them. To share from his provision is to be a part of his court. It raises the question of whom we trust.
This is about more than food choice. They live in a world of simple starvation, famine, and no refrigeration. When you depend on someone for food, you are closely aligned with him.

Why is the food defiling?
There are four options:

  1. Daniel is ascetic or fasting (suggested by Josephus). Problem: There’s no evidence for this. None in the text or otherwise.
  2. It’s not kosher. It is unclean or improperly prepared. Too much blood. But wine isn’t un-kosher. And nothing is said of the nature of the food – it couldn’t have been pork for three years!
  3. It is not healthy. Why not? What do we mean by healthy? We should be careful not to read our sensibilities about food back into the ancient world’s concepts of health. Food was kept differently and processed differently. Fat was needed keep people alive. What is healthy for a starving person or a person who rarely gets to eat isn’t necessarily the same thing as what is healthy for an overfed person.
  4. Accepting the food means losing identity and freedom. They already had their name changed and they were already going to learn the language of the natives. But to accept the food was to declare their total dependence on the graciousness of King Nebuchadnezzar which compromised their dependence on God. It means becoming “the king’s man.”

What is Daniel’s alternative diet?
What is “pulse?” (KJV) Answer: Seeds, vegetables, beans. This is inferior food. It would not be considered part of a well-balanced breakfast or any other meal for that matter. Daniel’s alternative is what he gets for turning down the king’s food. It is simply that which he can scrape together. It isn’t his health-conscious secret diet.
Don’t miss the point of the story.
Why do Daniel and his friends end up healthier and heartier?
They choose not to defile themselves and God vindicates them.
They do well in spite of their diet and not because of it. The story is indicating that God gives them health and wisdom.

In God We Trust
All the stories in Daniel 1-6 will set up situations in which Daniel and friends find it difficult to trust in God. In every case, God proves trustworthy. Daniel and friends are vindicated.

So What?
Who am I? Whose am I? - Perhaps we don’t ponder enough what it is that defines us. What gives us our identity? What gives us our freedom? Memorial Day is a good example of a time for reflection that often is given up to nothing more than recreation.

We are in a changing culture. The values we have appreciated are changing and that creates crisis. Do we have to change everything back to the way it was to establish our identity? What if we cannot change anything? How do we assert our identity? Daniel and his friends maintained their independence and freedom by keeping their integrity, they didn’t have to launch a revolution. They didn’t get anxious. They stayed true to God.

We can place our trust and security in many things that less dependable than God. And we can revere some things even more than we revere God. Israel learned to remain true to God even though they lost some of their symbols and rituals. Can we do the same?

And finally, our trust may be best reflected by our attitude of thanksgiving. We live in a culture that thinks of food more in terms of what we do not eat rather than what we cannot eat. (When you are poor you eat what is available). When we give more thought to whether or not our food will make us fat, maybe we are missing the point of being thankful.

Of course this text is about more than food. It is about remaining true to God and not accepting the compromises of culture that will cause us to lose our integrity and identity as God’s person. Sometimes that is difficult, but who do you trust?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 27 May 2007

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