The purpose of this lesson: To emphasize that the way God spreads His influence is not always the way we would spread His influence.
Situations are never as simple as they seem. Most occurrences are like a rope with many strands (each separate strand plays a significant part in the ropes strength and directly contributes to the use/function the rope can serve). Even today, we understand situations are complex. Thus we ask, Have you heard the other side of the story? or state, There is more to it than that!
Most happenings are the result of several influences, and not just a single influence. Never forget in your Bible study that most of the time more than one influence is at work.
As the result of the continued evil of Judea, Judeas failed political dependence on the Kingdom of Egypt, and the ascendancy of the power of the Babylonian Kingdom, Judea entered the period of captivity to Babylon. Judahs dependence on Babylon began before Jerusalem was destroyed.
The primary reason that Jerusalem was destroyed was the wickedness of the people. However, that wickedness was expressed in a number of ways.
The captivity actually occurred in three waves under the Judean rulers: Jehoikim, Jehoichin, and Zedekiah. In the first wave (not the last) were men such as Daniel. Daniel and other intelligent youths known for their status and achievements were sent to Babylon to further Babylons interest and power (they included persons like Hanniah or Shadrack, Mishael or Meshach, and Azariah or Abednego).
The Jewish people went into Babylonian captivity in three separate waves. The first wave took the elite people who would have been among Judahs future leadership.
The first thing called to your attention is this fact: Jerusalem was not known for generations as a place characterized by people of conscience. In fact, it was known for generations as a wicked place (see Jeremiah 5:1-9; 7:1-20; 18:1-17). Surely, Jerusalem needed men of conscience like Daniel!
The way that many of todays godly people reason, if the need for godly influence was created by the wickedness of Jerusalems society, Daniel and his friends should have remained in Jerusalem to influence people toward God as they endured the consequences of their evil actions. We often reason that the greater likelihood of godly influence would be in Jerusalem where God was known, not Babylon where God was unknown.
Since, at its foundation, this was an act of God, why deprive Jerusalem of Daniels influence and leadership by separating him and other men of conscience from Jerusalem in the first wave of captives? Why not leave these men until the last group of captives? Why not let these men function as Gods influence in Jerusalems society as an evil society began to face the consequences of its behavior?
In the reasoning of today, Daniel and his three friends should have been left in Jerusalem until the last wave of captives instead of being among the first wave of captives.
The determining factor in Daniels behavior was his conscience! He remembered and responded to Gods expectations. Though he was a captive, completely dependent, in a strange land with strange customs (Daniel 1:8-13), his conscience (look at Numbers 11) moved him to make an unusual request. Though he had no rights and was to prepare as instructed, Daniel did not forget his conscience commitment to God.
Because Daniel was removed from his home environment did not result in his ceasing to be a person of conscience. It is simple to think that we should leave our conscience at home when we go elsewhere.
Second, your attention is directed to the fact that the captivity was Gods willDaniel was in that situation because it was Gods will (Daniel 1:2, 9, 15, and 17). God wanted Daniel as a major influence for God in this rising gentile kingdom that did not know God. Through Daniel, God, for years, would have a courageous, godly voice that lived and spoke in a godless nation that was a powerful force in the region.
This all happened because of Gods intent. It was Gods wisdom that placed Daniel in Babylon instead of Jerusalem.
Who were these people? They were gentile idol-worshippers. Amazingly, God placed a godly voice/influence in the highest level of government of a gentile kingdom. Though these people were not Gods people, they had the benefit of Gods advice.
Remember, Daniel went from an undesirable Jewish environment to an undesirable gentile environment. Were it just a simple comparison, the environment he left (though undesirable) was likely superior to the environment he went to.
Third, consider this fact. Daniel went to Babylon as a young man. He never saw his country again. Though he lived a quality life, it was not home. He would live and die and never see Jerusalem again. There is no mention of his father, mother, or relatives. It is possible after he was taken to Babylon, he never saw his family again. To never see home or family again is no small thing! Things and a good lifestyle never replace home!
Stress the fact that the physical cost to Daniel was likely enormous.
What is convenient for Gods purposes might not be physically desirable! It requires enormous faith in God to be in an undesired situation and continue to serve Gods purposes. When it comes to Gods purposes, our preferences are not Gods priority. Gods priority is the eternal well being of His people, not our physical desires.
It is critical to personal faith that we understand that God seeks our best interest in eternal blessings, not in physical desirability. That understanding is essential in physically stressful times. That understanding is essential to enduring and remaining godly during difficult times.
The beginning story is simple. Daniel and other Jewish young men from elite status in Jerusalems society were taken to Babylon. There they were prepared to be a part of the kings advisors. The advisors were composed of intelligent, well fed people who knew Chaldean literature and spoke the kings native language. These young Jewish men spent three years preparing for their responsibility. They were to eat the kings choice food and drink his wine. (The physical condition of people who were advisors declared the king ruled a well fed people who were not in need.)
The incident at its core is simple and easily understood.
Daniel requested that he and his Jewish friends be allowed to eat vegetables and drink water. Because the commander feared the consequences of such behavior, Daniel proposed a period of testing. The end result was Daniel and his Jewish friends gained more on vegetables and water than the rest gained on the kings choice food and wine.
Stress the courage AND the commitment to God that it took to make Daniels request. For a captive to be so bold was completely inappropriate. Daniel would not have received a compassionate, understanding response if God were not active in the situation.
In all that happened, God was active. The good that happened was the direct result of Gods involvement. However, in this instance, God was involved because Daniel trusted Him. As a result of that trust, God made the four of them the most knowledgeable, wise, and impressive in the group. Even the king was impressed!
The good that resulted was due to Gods involvement. Daniels trust invited and encouraged Gods involvement. Yet, what occurred was due to Gods powerful interaction, not Daniels courage. Daniels trust could have been courageous, but, without Gods involvement, nothing would have happened.
That likely is not the way we would spread Gods influence! God truly sees situations differently than we do!
We would have spread Gods influence differently.
For Thought and Discussion
1. Relate the incident of Daniels trip to and initial preparation in Babylon.
Include the following in the discussion:
(a) The incident occurred because Jerusalem was wicked.
(b) The objective was to strengthen Babylon.
(c) Daniel was a person of conscience.
(d) Daniel was a person of courage.
(e) Good happened because God was active.
2. State the three things you were requested to consider in this lesson.
(a) Jerusalem was a wicked place.
(b) The captivity was Gods will.
(c) The situation was costly to Daniel.
3. How was Gods influence injected into this gentile, idol-worshipping kingdom?
God placed Daniel in the highest level of government as one of the advisors to the king.
4. In this incident, discuss the relationship between trust in God and Gods activity.
Daniels trust was his invitation/encouragement to God to be actively involved.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 3
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