“Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. (Danial 1:4, 6)
Relate: Nearly thirteen years after the project was first proposed, it was declared complete. It took a decade of work, tens of millions of dollars, and a large team of scientists, technicians, and researchers dedicating years of their life to see it through. It was called one of the greatest scientific undertakings in the modern era. The potential benefits of what they have accomplished with regards to knowledge and medicine are immeasurable. The mapping of the human genome was complete. What did the team do upon the moment of completion? According to the head of the team, Francis Collins, he pulled out his guitar, his band of scientists (The Directors) played a rewritten worship song for the occasion, and everybody sang along. Yes, one of the greatest scientists of our day is without question a very vocal Christian.
In the same way, some of the greatest minds in all of Babylon were devout Jews. The first few chapters of the book of Daniel talk about the impact this one man had on the greatest civilization of his time. He had the ear of two kings and later the mayor of this illustrious city. He was given positions of administrative and legal power equaled by few others. His words are still read and quoted by many today and portions of his life story are retold frequently to children throughout western civilization. Lions throughout jungles everywhere are still ashamed that their ancestors failed to best him in that den. OK, so maybe I made that last fact up. But I challenge you to find me a lion who would refute the claim.
React: One thing that seems to always get overlooked in the telling of this story is exactly how and when Daniel became who he was. Most often I hear the story begin with verse 8: “Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.” Yes, Daniel made a bold and important decision here. He threw down the “veggie” challenge and won. He and his friends remained pure when others chosen among the exiles did not and accordingly faded into obscurity. All this is true but it does not begin at the beginning.
There were actually many other godly Jews who also chose to remain pure and not defile themselves with Babylonian idolatry. In fact, the general tone of pretty much all the scripture from this point in time is that the Jews in exile were on the whole a much more godly group than the Jews who remained in Israel. What separates Daniel from the crowd is less about the fact that he threw down the veggie challenge to remain pure but rather that he had the opportunity to throw down this challenge. Daniel was chosen among a select few who were “versed in every branch of learning” and who also were “gifted with knowledge and good judgment”. In other words, Daniel did not embark on his path to fame and influence in the Babylonian court but rather the moment he first stepped foot in a classroom. Likewise, David did not start down the road to kingship the day he confronted Goliath but rather the moment he first picked up a shepherd’s staff.
What are we doing today? How insignificant does it seem? Watching sheep day in and day out seems like such a waste of our talents doesn’t it? Hitting the books hour after hour when what we really feel we should be doing is getting out there and doing something seems like a pointless exercise, doesn’t it? Do I want to be a world changer? Do you? Then we need to do the things we are doing for God today with excellence. Do you want to change your life? John Maxwell said the way a person changes the trajectory of their life does not come from major decisions but rather from the change in their daily habits. What small daily habits could I change today that will move the direction of my life from obscurity to influence?
It is so easy in the moment to do the smallest amount required. It is so much easier to watch a mind numbing show than to do some mind stretching study. It is easier to follow the path of least resistance. After all, it is only… whatever. It is so easy to see what I am doing day to day as insignificant and therefore unimportant. Help me to see with your eyes. Help me to learn that the sheep I watch today are preparing me for kingship. Help me to recognize that the things I study today will be so that I can use it to change the world tomorrow. Help me to have uphill, hard habits that will make me, and everyone I impact a better person.