But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank…
Judah had fallen utterly before the power of Babylon. The holy city was burnt, its walls broken down, the Temple destroyed, and its sacred vessels devoted to the service of the heathen gods. Those that escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon. Amongst these was Daniel, evidently of princely birth and noble appearance. He, a youth probably of some seventeen years, together with three of his companions, was reserved for the highest service of the State. Far happier were they than most of their countrymen. The king had seen his children slain, and then, his eyes put out, he was led, blinded and bereaved, in chains to Babylon. Most of the captives would be made slaves. The historians tell us that every Babylonian brick in the British Museum represents the anguish of some slave. It is needful for us to remember that this was at best the fate that awaited Daniel and his companions if they offended those who were set over them or if they refused in any way to fulfil the purposes of the king. To him and his companions are given new names indicating their consecration to the gods of Babylon. To the Hebrew a name was much more than a convenient distinction. It was sacred; there was in it a Divine meaning. And he was to be trained in all the learning and science of the Chaldeans. This training was not only of the mind, but of the body too, and secured for these students the luxury of daily supplies from the king's own table. Let us stay, to look at the captive, to look at the circumstances, and to look at the authority that was over him. His action in the matter could be so easily misunderstood, was indeed so difficult to explain. Object to food that came from the king's own table! There is nothing that we are more touchy about than a complaint of the food that we provide for others, especially if we think it good enough for ourselves. Who is this youth, who cannot conscientiously taste of the food that is good enough for Nebuchadnezzar himself? Very well, take him where most of his countrymen are. Let him share their fare for awhile. They are not troubled with costly meats and dainty drinks. See if that will suit him. And if Daniel complained that his objection was a religious one, that made the matter worse. What, refuse, reject, despise the meat that is sanctified to the gods of Babylon! Where, indeed, was the God of Israel now? The Temple burned, the golden vessels adorning the service of the gods that made Nineveh great! This were an insult past forgiveness. Such an offence were enough to provoke the wrath of these outraged deities. Let the young man pay the penalty that the gods themselves might well exact. Such were the perils that threatened him. And there was Nebuchadnezzar, proud conqueror of the nations. All the forces of that vast nation waited to fulfil his bidding, whose word was law. Daniel, a lad of seventeen, purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat nor with the wine which he drank. All within him, his devotion to irk God, the influence of his house, the hopes and memories of his nation, became a great resolution and refusal. He could not, would not, dared not — cost what it may. Daniel purposed in his heart. How grand a thing is that majesty of the will, that knitting of the man as master of his fate more than circumstances! You have seen the driftwood flung along the coast, hither and thither, — swept by the changeful tides, chased by the waves. But fronting the great seas has stood the rock, firm whilst thundering billows break on it in thunder and dashed their spray to the heavens. So the man who is rooted and grounded in right, as if he were become part of the solid earth, one with the round world itself. The man who stands for goodness stands in God. He who sets himself for the right has God at his back. Let the world laugh, or sneer, or smile, right is might. The purpose of the heart is the beginning of life. There is the helm; nay, it is the hand of the helm. Fools wish; men will. Wishing never got a man out of a difficulty, but a right will would have kept him out. And do not think of this will as a matter of nature only. Do not begin to be cast down because that is just what you lack. Do not turn away saying, "Alas! I am foolish, fickle, cowardly; this is no example for me." Honestly ask yourself, What is the good of preaching, of the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, what is the good of God Himself, unless somehow or other there can come into us a right will? Is not this the promise ever set before us — a new heart? And what is a new heart but a new will, a new purpose? Take hold of these words: It is God that worketh in us to will and to do. Think of some old warrior who takes the lad and puts upon those slender fingers his own sinewy hands. And thus they bend the bow together, and thus they hold the feathered arrow on the string: And the man with keen sight and unerring aim lets fly the string, whilst the lad with parted lips watches it strike the centre of the target. So is it that there comes upon us the might of God with purpose resolute, and strength unfailing, to make us more than conquerors, strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. We are apt to think about the will of God as something outside us to which we must be conformed. God's will is apt to be only that which He has spoken in His word. But the will of God is that which Upholds the universe. God's will is God's might. It is a long way from this youth in Babylon to the Apostle Paul, but this makes them one. He declares himself an apostle by the will of God. He had opened his heart to the mighty force, had let himself go under its constraint. I can do all things through Him which strengtheneth me. Daniel himself gives us the secret of his power. The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits. (Daniel 11:32.) Turn to the story again for another lesson. "Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs." His way was greatly smoothed for him because his ways were so winsome. He was so likeable, so loveable. A man who calls himself a Christian has no business to be us prickly as a hedgehog or as ugly to touch as a stinging nettle. A man may be resolute without being as stubborn as a mule or an ass. The ugliest thing in the world is an ugly religion — that kind of assumption of superiority, that suspects everything, that carries its head as if sniffing heresy, that looks its condemnation at everybody and everything. We are to please men with edification. Strength is much, but it is not all. God's graces go in pairs, and strength is to be wedded to beauty. Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Do not forget that the Bible teaches us to pray that God would make us beautiful. "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Because Daniel could not go all the way that those about him wanted him to he would go all the more gladly where he could. They may not have liked his religion, but they could not help liking him. It is a poor religion that acts like a thunderstorm, and turns the milk of human kindness sour wherever it goes. As true as steel, yet out of steel sun do not fashion only swords, but things as delicate as the hair-spring of a watch. Be gentle, be courteous, be ready to help, be quick to do anybody anywhere a good turn, and make that as much part of your religion as it is to be honest. Then turn for a moment from Daniel to think of his companions, I do not mean in the least to reflect upon these brave youths when I say that it is certainly possible that we might never have heard of them if it had not been for Daniel His bold stand made it easy for them to follow where he led. We are responsible for our influence, and that we can never measure, never know. If you will be true to your God and be true to your better self there are many about you who will take a stand because you do. And note the prudence of his proceeding. He requested the prince that he and his companions might have simple fare, just pulse to eat and water to drink — porridge you may call it if you will. It was a courteous request and courteously received. But the prince of the eunuchs feared to grant it. "What will the king say when he sees your faces so much more woe-begone than those about you?" "Well," said Daniel, "let us put the matter to the test. For ten days let us have this simple fare, and you shall see for yourself as to our looks and see if we are sadder than those about us." So it was settled. And at the end of the time they were found fairer and fatter than those about them. One is reminded of what Dr. Johnson said in Scotland. Said Boswell, "Men here eat what we give horses in England." "Yes," replied Johnson, "and where will you find such men or such horses?" "Nature," says old Matthew Henry, "is content with little, grace with less, but sin with nothing." Nobody will believe in a religion that makes people sadder than those who are without it. The sunshine of God's favour must shine forth from the face if men would bless the world. A cheery face preaches a sermon seven days long, and nobody tires of it. As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom. So let us listen to the words of the grand old Book that here find a living picture: "My son, forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my commandments. For length of days and long life and peace shell they add to thee. So shalt thou find good understanding and favour in the sight of God and man."
(M. G. Pearse.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
WEB: But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's dainties, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.