So Ash begins to train Daniel for his royal duties over the course of three years. There were many others like Daniel that were chosen and they are given the finest of meats, foods, and wines by Ash so they can stay healthy and fit for their coming service to the King.
But Daniel has a problem. The meat and wine that everyone else is eating were probably sacrificed to one of the many Babylonian gods. That would make the meat and wine defiled and connected to idolatry. He was in a predicament. He couldn't just leave Babylon. As a slave, he couldn't exactly ask to see the menu. This was the food provided to him, what else could he eat? Besides, everyone else was eating and drinking this stuff. Why should he be different? He was in a new place with new people, why not just try to be normal? Wouldn't God understand?
Can you relate? Do you ever find yourself in a place where the "norm" is just not pleasing to God? Do your classmates or co-workers say or do things that you think God wouldn't want you to do? Do you ever find yourself tempted to just quit being the weirdo and just be normal like everyone else? Do you ever try to convince yourself that God will understand?
Whether its swearing like the rest of them, laughing along at the racist jokes, or following the trend of not-so-upright business practices. . . we've all been there. We've all been in Daniel's shoes. And sometimes, the issue seems so trivial like in Daniel's case. Its just food. He's eaten meat and drank wine all of his life. Why should he suddenly go vegetarian now?
"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." -- Daniel 1:8
"Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink." -- Daniel 1:12
I'm sure Daniel thought going vegetarian stunk. If I had to give up tacos, hamburgers, steak, my wife's old bay chicken and . . . bacon . . . I'd probably cry every now and then. But he decided that honoring God was worth more to him than any of that. He decided that he would be the weirdo who didn't eat what everyone else was eating if that's what would please God. He understood that there is something more important than getting to be normal like the rest of the world. He knew being holy for God was better.
As Christians, we will live in this world among many who are not believers and do not share our morals or values. Its understandable for us to want to fit in and be normal. But God calls us to be more than normal. He calls us to be holy. God wants us to honor Him, not the culture. God calls us to set an example, not follow the crowd. God calls us to reflect Jesus, not our peers.
As you start this new school year (and for all of us no longer in school), let me encourage you to follow the example of Daniel. Would you resolve in your heart to honor God rather than do and say what everyone else does and says? In the end, God blessed Daniel. While the sacrifices he made weren't easy, I don't think he ever once regretted them. What is it God is calling you to give up? Or perhaps He's asking you to start doing something. Be like Daniel. Go beyond the "norm" for God and you won't regret it. Be more than normal. Be holy.
Questions to reflect on
- What "normal" things do people say or do around me that just aren't pleasing to God?
- What "normal" things do I do or say that God wants me to change?
- In what ways do I try to convince myself God will understand?
- What does God's Word say about what I'm doing?
- What am I afraid will happen if I honor God rather than being normal? What will happen if I'm the weirdo?
- Is it worth honoring God?
- How can I begin to change?