Original Secession Magazine
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…
At the first epoch of the captivity of Judah, when Jehoiakim was King in Jerusalem, a goodly number of the scions, or younger branches, of the royal family, and of the Jewish nobility, were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar. Of the handsomest and cleverest of these, a selection was made by the conqueror's orders to serve in his palace as chamberlains or attendants. Thus was fulfilled the word of the Lord, spoken by Isaiah fully a hundred years previously to Hezekiah, that the descendants of his own body should be led away captive, and become eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon (2 Kings 20:18). Of the noble captives thus chosen to serve as attendants upon Nebuchadnezzar, four are specially named — Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Daniel was perhaps the handsomest, and certainly he had the greatest natural talents of the whole, besides being their leader in all that was amiable and pious. The first manifestation of their earnest desire to obey the laws of Jehovah was in regard to the food appointed for them. Rather would they have poorer food by far, if thus they kept the commandments of their Creator, than indulge in dainties without having the blessing of heaven. Not only on the bodily condition of the young men did the blessing of heaven descend, but Jehovah smiled upon their mental powers, and endowed them with knowledge and ability beyond all their contemporaries. No doubt the simplicity of their style of living would help rather than hinder their studies. Plain diet and abstinence from wine would leave their perceptive faculties unclouded. They would know nothing of the miseries of indigestion, or of the lassitude that follows indulgence in intoxicating beverages. For more than seventy years afterwards Daniel lived in Chaldea, an honoured servant of Jehovah. Let us consider some practical lessons deducible from the brief portion already surveyed.
I. "MAN'S GOINGS ARE OF THE LORD;" AND HIS OVER-RULING IS ALWAYS GOOD. Was it so in the case of Daniel and his three friends of royal and noble blood? To be dragged far away from their dear native land, and held captive amidst idolaters, surely such an experience could not be good? Without doubt it was for the glory of God, and the eternal benefit of these pious young men, that their lot was cast in Babylon. The lifework of a flower is to blossom and shed its perfume, wherever its Maker may plant it, whether in a lovely garden or in a desolate wilderness. Its sweetness is never wasted, though no eye but that of its Creator look upon it. And so with the children of heaven. At home or abroad, in congenial company or amid the prejudiced and the scoffing, in crowded city or in solitude, their eyes are turned to their Father's face, and they muss ever be about their Father's business. Was the Divine over-ruling good for that poor black boy whom the Lord permitted to be snatched from his wild but free home on the Gold Coast of Africa, and sold as a slave in Jamaica? Oh! the bitter tears he shed for many days, the curses he poured upon the head of his purchaser, and invoked on the cruel task-master that drove him daily to work on the sugar plantation! By-and-bye, however, he found his way to a chapel where black people worshipped. There he heard of One who, though God over all, was, nevertheless, in human form, scourged am a slave, and crucified as a malefactor, that He might make our peace with offended Deity. The love that sent the Saviour to ransom lost sinners, the love that led the Redeemer to endure the wrath due to our transgressions, filled the poor black boy's heart. Peace that passeth understanding, from that hour, kept his mind night and day, and he "felt like singing all the time." It was easy for him then to work, for he had a rest remaining for him above; and even in the midst of his toils he was as happy as man can be on earth. So far from fretting thereafter against the Providence that had permitted his being sold into slavery, he thanked God for it every day of his life; and continually did he pray that his father and mother, too, might be brought as slaves to Jamaica, there to learn about the love of Jesus. Let us delight ourselves in the Lord and in His will. Let us sweetly submit ourselves to His disposal, and seek only how to walk worthy of Him in the path he chooses for us.
II. WE SHOULD DARE TO BE SINGULAR WHEN GOD CALLS US TO BE SO. For quiet and comfort most people have occasionally to conform to customs that do not meet their own taste. Singularity is often the characteristic of a weak or erratic mind, and sometimes the result of mere self-conceit. Where no moral principle is involved, and where deviation from the fashion would only occasion gossip about us, it is generally best in some measure to follow the crowd. But when the following of the customs of our place and time leads to questionable doings, or to positive transgressions of God's laws, there comes into operation our Master's general order, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Yes! it is a cross we are called to carry, but we bear it in worthy company. Balaam prophesied of the children of Israel that they should dwell as a people alone, and should not be reckoned among the nations. To promote this separation from the idolaters who surrounded them was one special object of the ceremonial law. Mingling with the heathen, they learned only evil. "Israel shall dwell in safety alone," said Moses, in his farewell words to the much-loved tribes that sprang from Jacob. Daniel and his friends, even when placed by Providence in the very midst of idolaters, forgot not where their safety lay. They therefore stood aloof from everything which was in opposition to God's law. Happy the man who faithfully follows their example! (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).
III. MAN LIVETH NOT BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDETH OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD. It is not the abundance of our dainties that sustains life, but God's blessing. If we would but taste and see that God is good, if we would but accept His love freely offered in Jesus, and let Him make us altogether His own, ah! then, plain food and humble circumstances would render us happier far than the rich and great who know Him not. On ourselves, and on all we have, His blessing would evermore abide; and "life in His favour lies."
(Original Secession Magazine.)
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.