Daniel 1:1-21

 

We Serve in Godís Kingdom

 

I.                In all circumstances

II.              Guided by Godís Word

III.           Confident of his blessings

 

I have been a pastor for 8 years. In that short amount of time I have had conversations with people that I never imagined I would have. These conversations revolve around some terribly difficult situations for people. There have been the expected events, death and illness for older people. There has been death and illness for younger people. There have been family and relational turmoil. People have been sinned against in ways that leave you speechless. People have been impacted by the sins of others and they were really in a helpless situation.

            So what is a pastor to say? What do you say? We know the promises from Godís Word. ďSurely I am with you always.Ē ďI will never leave you or forsake you.Ē ďCome to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.Ē ďWe know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.Ē  We often paraphrase these promises by saying, ďGod will be with you.Ē ďGod will work this out.Ē ďGod is in control.Ē ďGod has a plan.Ē But those oft repeated and treasured promises of God seem to come into conflict with what we experience and see. Yet Christians cling to those promises, share those promises and serve our God in response to them.

            Whatever our situation may be, whatever has happened to us we recognize and believe that God is still in control. God is still ruling and we are here to serve in Godís kingdom. He is in control and he is reigning for the benefit of his people, even when the earthly evidence does not seem to support those truths. This morning we have before us the life of Daniel and his friends. For the next few minutes we will walk through these verses and find them in terrible times. But as we see them in Godís Word, may the Holy Spirit encourage us as ďwe serve in Godís kingdom; in all circumstances, guided by Godís Word, confident of his blessings.

            The first few verses of Daniel chapter 1 give us Daniel situation. ďIn the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.  2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobilityó  4 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 kingís palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the kingís table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the kingís service.  6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Ē 

Imagine Daniel serving God at that time. The kingdom of Judah had fallen. The temple of the Lord had been desecrated. Daniel and his friends were taken into captivity. These gifted young men were forced to serve the very government that had destroyed the home and place of worship and enslaved them. At this point there was no earthly evidence of Godís control. There was no reason for joyful service in Godís kingdom. Daniel must have thought that it was all over. I canít imagine trying to comfort him and his friends. But Daniel knew Godís promise to bring his people back to the land of Israel. He knew the promise that God would send the Messiah from his people and for his people. He held tightly to these promises in this most difficult, maybe even impossible situation. He served the king faithfully and he served his God faithfully.

            Are you in one of those impossible situations this morning? Has something happened recently, or not so recently that is causing you to question your serving in Godís kingdom and Godís control of this world and Godís control of you life? Who here this morning would not look at this world and consider the earthly evidence and say, where is God in all this? Who here this morning has not experienced turmoil in life and church life that seems completely in contrast to Godís clear promises of guidance, control and love for his people? Are you thinking about your life of serving in Godís kingdom or are you wondering how you will get by in life? Are you worried about life in Godís kingdom or unconcerned about life in Godís kingdom? 

            Wherever you are at spiritually, we are all here this morning listening to Godís promises of comfort. These promises and words of comfort are not said in a vacuum. They are in the context of Godís Word, of all that he has done for us. All of Godís promises revolve around the work of Jesus. He did not look to be in control. But it was his plan. The situation for Jesus seemed awful and it was for him. But in his suffering and death Godís plan was accomplished. Godís kingdom was advancing. Godís control was clear and we receive all the benefits. The work of our Savior, which earned us forgiveness of sins, an eternal life in heaven and open access to our heavenly Father moves us to serve in his kingdom no matter our earthly circumstances. The forgiveness of sins and promise of heaven are there no matter what our life looks like.

That is why to serve in Godís kingdom in all circumstances we need to be guided by Godís Word. Godís Word guides even when our service seems unclear. Daniel was guided by Godís Word even in a difficult spot. He was given the kingís food. This food was unclean for him to eat. God had prescribed a diet for his people and he expected them to follow it no matter the situation. Daniel resolved not to defile himself even though it would be easy to excuse disobedience. But Daniel was guided by Godís Word and therefore he had to speak and act according to Godís Word.

            Listen again beginning in verse 8. ďBut Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel,  10 but the official told Daniel, ďI am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.Ē  11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,  12 ďPlease test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.  13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.Ē  14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.  16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

The temptation to give in and eat the food would sound like this, ďwhat does it matter if I eat this food? At least I will be better off than others. I can still serve God even if I compromise my belief and stray a little bit from his Word. After all this is a unique situation. God will understand.Ē But Daniel knew the first commandment. You shall have no other gods. In this difficult circumstance it still came down to the question, does God come first, or does earthly comfort and ease come first. As we serve God it is always a first commandment issue for us. Does God come first or do I come first.

These first commandment decisions always come up in our life, especially when challenges are in our lives. Times are tough right now, should I put off my offering for the Lord and keep it in case of an emergency? I cannot possibly give extra time for God right now. I have too much going on in my life. I may even need to cut back a little bit, God will understand, he knows what is going on. I can compromise my beliefs a little bit when I am dealing with people who donít believe, after all, they wonít know anyways and at least I am trying. The temptation for the believer has always been to place our self over our Savior. We commit these sins. We are guilty of not being guided by Godís Word in every circumstance of life. God does know our situation and does know our lack of being guided by his Word. We deserve to be cast out of Godís kingdom because we canít even do the little things like pay attention to his Word and at least try to follow it.  

But being guided by Godís Word means that we keep seeing our Savior in Godís Word. We heard Jesus talk about serving faithfully in every circumstance when he said ďgive to Caesar what is Caesarís and God what is Godís.Ē In the Word see Jesus submit to arrest on false charges and become obedient to death, even death on a cross. We see him serve faithfully and die obediently as a payment for all our sins. Jesus was guided by his own Word. That Word promised salvation to a world of sinners through his sacrifice on the cross. Being guided by Godís Word meant that Daniel clung to that promise. We cling to and rejoice in the same promise of forgiveness. That is how Godís Word guides us as we serve in his kingdom in all circumstances. This makes us confident of Godís blessing.

In Danielís situation the Lord caused his boss to look favorable on him. Daniel probably did not know that, but he witnessed the impact of it. The last few verses of this chapter record more blessings that God brought into the life of Daniel and his friends. ďTo these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. 18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.  19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the kingís service.  20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.Ē God blessed these four men in miraculous way not because of their faithfulness, but because of his grace. This blessing would continue as they served the king in Godís kingdom. They often had to live according to Godís Word and face the consequences of fiery furnaces, hungry lions and a king that had a bit of a temper. They did not always see how God was working but they were confident of his blessing.

We can look at the whole book of Daniel and see how God worked to bless. We can look at all of scripture and see how God worked to bless. But we canít always look at our whole life and see how God is blessing. But what we see has nothing to do with what God is doing in our lives. On a pretty regular basis I have no idea and I donít think I am alone. We canít explain why bad things happen to good people. We donít know all the reasons that tragedy and sin impacts our life. I donít know all the plans that God has for you. But guided by Godís Word we are still confident of his blessings because God blesses his people even when we donít see how that blessing comes. 

For this life, maybe it helps to think less about how a situation me and more about how it impacts other people. There are two other people in this chapter that were impacted by Daniel, the court official and the king. How did Daniel and his friends impact them? The king is especially interesting to think about. In the next chapter Daniel interprets a dream for him. In Daniel chapter 3, Danielís three friends were forced to make a decision; bow down and worship an idol or serve God. The confessed their faith before the king. They were saved from the furnace. In chapter 4 Daniel interpreted another dream and that dream was fulfilled. Why would God allow them to be put in that situation? Was it so that their confession of faith would have an impact on King Nebuchadnezzar? It is certainly possible that God used Daniel and his friendsí godly life to bring this king to faith. We donít know, but Godís Word is always working.

We are already blessed. We know what Christ has done for us. We have his word to guide and comfort us. We trust Godís blessings as we serve. We now pray that God would use us to bring others in contact their Savior. In those difficult circumstances may we think less about ourselves and more about others! It goes against our sinful nature, but our life is all about fighting against our sinful nature. God equips us to fight in every circumstance with guidance from his word, promises from his Word and a life of blessing now and more importantly in heaven.  

When the circumstance is personal and we just donít know why, or what God is doing, we still serve him in confidence. Not because our faith is so strong, but because Christ loved us so much. We cling to the certainty of forgiveness and eternal life found only in the death and resurrection of Jesus. That is why pastors and Christians can quote those passages and can serve joyfully knowing that God is in control. We believe that God does have a plan and it will work out. Jesus is the evidence that all those things are true. And that is why we have joy is all circumstances of life and serve in Godís kingdom no matter where we are at in this world and no matter what conversations we are having. God bless us in this service. Amen.

Pastor Matt Brown

 

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (WELS) of Union City, Tennessee,  Rooted in the WORD