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…
Very much of our future life will depend upon our earliest days. I like a remark of Mr. Ruskin's. He says, "People often say, 'We excuse the thoughtlessness of youth,'" but he says "No it never ought to be excused,! had far rather hear of thoughtless old age, when a man has done his work but what excuse can be found for a thoughtless youth? The time for thought is at the beginning of life, and there is no period which so much demands, or so much necessitate, thoughtfulness as our early days." I would that all young men would think so. If there is any time when the farmer should think, it is surely in the early stages of the ploughing and the sowing. If he does not think then, it will be of small avail for him to think afterwards. Daniel was a young man, and he did think. It was his glory that he so thought that he came to a purpose, and he purposed, not with a kind of superficial "I will," but he "purposed in his heart," and gave his whole self to a certain definite purpose which he deliberately formed. But, though they might change Daniel's name, they could not change his nature, nor would he give up anything that he believed to be right. Captive as he was, he had a right royal soul; and he was as free in Babylon as he had been at Jerusalem, and he determined to keep himself so, for he "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." Now, it was because Daniel, while yet a youth, a captive, a student, was so decided in what he did, that his after-life became so bright. God help you, who are beginning life; for, if God begins with you, and you begin with God, your life will be one of happy usefulness, which will have a truly blessed end!
I. THERE ARE TEMPTATIONS TO BE RESISTED. — There never was a man yet who had faith, and who had not trials. Wherever there is faith in God, it will be tested at some time or other; it must be so. It cannot be that the house shall be builded, even on the rock, without the rains descending, and the floods coming, and the winds beating upon that house. Now, first, look at Daniel's temptations.
(1) In his case, the temptation was very specious. He was bidden to eat the portion of food that, every day, came from the king's table. Could he want any better? He might have fared like a prince. Could he have any objection to that? He had no objection except this, that it would defile him. There were certain foods used by the Babylonians, such as the flesh of swine, the flesh of the hare, and of certain fish, that were unclean, and when these came from the king's table, if Daniel ate them, he would be breaking the law of Moses given in the Book of Leviticus, and thus he would be defiled. Remember that the food which was allowed to Israel was to be killed in a certain way. The blood must be effectually drained from the flesh, for he that ate the blood defiled himself thereby. Now, the Babylonians did not kill their beasts in that way, and the eating of flesh which had not been killed according to the law would have defiled Daniel. More than that, usually such a king as Nebuchadnezzar, before he ate food, dedicated it to his god. Bel-Merodach was greatly venerated by Nebuchadnezzar as god, so that a libation of wine was poured out to Merodach, and a certain portion of food was put aside, so that, in fact, it was offered to idols; and Daniel felt that he would be defiled if he ate of meat which might be unclean, and which was certain to be offered to idols; it would be breaking the law of God, so Daniel would not eat it. But the temptation to do so must have been very strong, for somebody would say, "Why, what difference can it make what you eat, or what you drink?" Others would say, "Why is Daniel so particular? There have been other Jews here who have unhesitatingly eaten the king's meat."(2) Then, the temptation seemed the road to honour. They would say to Daniel, "Surely, if you begin by objecting to what the monarch sends you from his table, you will never get on at Court. People with a conscience should not go to Court." Somebody would whisper in Daniel's ear, "It is the law of the land." Yes, but whatever the law may be, and whatever custom may be, the servants of God serve a higher King, and they have but one rule, and one custom, "We ought to obey God rather than man." In Daniel's case, if he had done what it was proposed to him to do, it would have been giving up the separated life. This is the temptation of the present day. Profess to be a Christian, but float along the common current of the world. Take the name of a Christian, and go to your place of worship, and go through your ceremonies; but do not bring your religion into your business. Act as other people do. This is the temptation of the time. Now, in our own case, what are the particular temptations to which we, as believing men and believing women, are exposed? I cannot go into the question of individuals; but I can imagine some one here who is in a position where he is asked to do what it is not right for him to do. But he says, "I shall be discharged if I refuse to do it. I know others do it, and I must do it." My dear young fellow, allow me to put before you Daniel, who purposed in his heart that he would not eat the king's meat. Sometimes you will find that to be out and out for the right will be the making of you. Any man who speaks the truth will find it the best thing in the long run. So to-day, again, there is the temptation of love for intellectual novelty. And, besides this, we have, nowadays, the temptation to general laxity. People do, even Christian people do, what Christian people should not do; and they excuse themselves by quoting the example of other Christians, or by saying, "We are not so precise as our fathers were." Has God changed? Christians have meat to eat of which the world knoweth not.
II. THERE ARE RIGHT METHODS OF RESISTING TEMPTATION.
1. And the first is that the heart must be set. "Daniel purposed in his heart." He looked the matter up and down, and he settled it in his heart. Before he asked Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego anything about it, he had made up his own mind. Oh, for a made-up mind! Oh, for the man who knows how to look at his compass, and to steer his vessel whither he ought to go! The grace of God is a great heart-settler.
2. The next thing is, that the life must be winning. Daniel was helped in carrying out his resolution by his own permortal character. God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. Whenever a man is brought into favour and tender love, and is a good man, there is something about him that has commended itself. There are some who have carried firmness into obstinacy, and determination into bigotry, which is a thing to be shunned. Yield everything that may be yielded; give up mere personal whims and oddities; but as for the things of God, stand as firm as a rock about them.
3. Then observe that the protest must be courteously borne. While Daniel was very decided, he was very courteous in his protests. Firmness of purpose should be adorned with gentleness of manner in carrying it out.
4. Next to that, self-denial must be sought. If you will be out and out for God, you must expect self-denial, and you will have to habituate yourself to it. Be ready for a bad name; be willing to be called a bigot; be prepared for loss of friendships.
5. And then the test must be boldly put. Daniel showed his faith when he said to Melzar, "Feed me and my three companions on this common fare; give us nothing else." I think that a Christian man should be willing to be tried; he should be pleased to let his religion be put to the test.
III. THERE ARE CERTAIN POINTS WHICH WILL HAVE TO BE PROVED BY EXPERIENCE. I speak now to you Christian people who hold fast by the old doctrines of the gospel, and will not be, led astray by modern temptations. Now what have you to prove?
1. Well, I think that you have to prove that the old faith gives you a bright and cheerful spirit.
2. Another point that we shall have to prove, is that the old faith promotes holiness of life. There are some who say, "Those people cry down good works." Do we? If you bring them as a price to purchase salvation, we do cry them down. God help us to prove that we are more truthful and more godly than those who have not like precious faith!
3. The next thing is that we must prove that the old faith produces much love of our fellow-men.
4. And then let us prove that the old faith enables us to have great patience in trial. He who believes the doctrines of grace is the man who can suffer.
5. What is wanted is that we who hold the old faith should be in a better state of spiritual health. May every grace be developed.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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.