*Good morning. I hope you are well on this Monday morning. This morning I checked the news as I always do every morning and was saddened to hear the devastating news coming out of Las Vegas. Again, lives have been lost and others shattered due to the violent acts of another individual. Please keep those folks in your prayers, and also keep our nation in your prayers as we certainly live in a world that is unstable.

Today we will begin a look at the Book of Daniel. As I glances over this book on preparation for our work I was amazed at how closely this book still relates to our day and time. Was the book written with our time period in mind (as many so-called modern prophets would have us believe)? No, it was not. But, God still speaks to our world today through the words that were written long ago. That's what makes the Bible so amazing. (One of the things at least) The Word of God speaks to whomever opens it up and reads it. If he world continues another thousand years those who read the scriptures then will, I'm sure, be convinced it was written with them mind. So, let's see what the book has in store for us.

"Then the king (Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon) ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility-young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king' palace." (Daniel 1:3-4a)

Keep in mind that those who were carried off into exile in Babylon were the ones who had something to contribute to Babylonian society. The rest were left in Judea. The king was taking in new "recruits" for his service. Judging from the description above I would not have had any chance of making it. These young men were going to be trained in "the language and the literature of the Babylonians." (Dan. 1: 4) The people were being assimilated into the Babylonian culture. The idea was to make them be Babylonian. The young men who were brought before the king were to be trained for a period of three years. (1:5) We are also told that "the king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table." (Daniel 1:5a) Wow! This sounds like a pretty good deal. How bad did these folks really have it? This is not necessarily a case of how bad or good it was, but something else was at stake.

"Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariaah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine..." (Daniel 1:6-8a)

Daniel and his three Hebrew friends are given Babylonian names. Their Hebrew names each made reference to the God of Israel. The Babylonian names each reference the Babylonian deities: Bel,Marduk, and Nabu. What is interesting is, the three Hebrew friends are known by their Babylonian names; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We do not know them by their Hebrew names. But, Daniel is always referred to by his Hebrew name.

"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine." (Dan.1:8) Daniel purposes not to violate Hebrew dietary laws. They would eat nothing but vegetables and drink nothing but water for a period of ten days, as opposed to those who would eat the king's food and drink his wine. "At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food." (Dan.1:15) God blessed these young men with knowledge and understanding.

This passage has often been used when dealing with peer pressure. It is about more than peer pressure. It is about remembering who you are and whose you are. These young men were not going to violate the laws of God. They were Hebrews know matter where they were. Here they were in foreign land, far away from home with no assurance they would ever return. It would have been easier and to their benefit if they would have just complied with the king. After all, the food will be "out of this world" and what will it hurt? So, here are four young men who, regardless of where they are, will not compromise who it is they are.

I'll close here for today, but continue tomorrow. It's already getting late and I'm not making much progress. So, join me tomorrow. -Pastor Rick

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