Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
The Church @ Hamilton
Pastor Ben Marshall
Key Goals: (Know) Things don’t always go according to plan, but we can be faithful. (Feel) Desire to be found faithful. (Do) Pursue God where you are.
Introduction: Sometimes you find yourself in a place you didn’t plan to be. My wife, Connie, and I found ourselves in that place last year. We were on vacation, driving back from the U.P. It had been a wonderful relaxing day. We went to a waterfall, hiked around, and just hung out. Now it was time to head back to the hotel (because we aren’t campers). As we headed back, the gas light came on. When the gas light comes on, it isn’t usually an absolute emergency. Most of the time, you’re driving in places where gas stations show up pretty often. But not so much in the U.P. The gas light came on, and there were no gas stations. We kept passing exits on the highway, thinking, “Okay, the next exit has to have a gas station sign…the NEXT one has to have a gas station.” Nope. Eventually we just decided to just take an exit, because certainly in one of these little towns there had to be a gas station! We drove. And we drove. And we drove. Miles and miles. No gas station. Gas light still on. Eventually we drove around this tiny town and stopped at a business that seemed to be open. We talked to a lady there and asked her where the nearest gas station was. Her response? “Get back on the highway…” What?! We couldn’t make it that far! We were trying not to panic, but there really was no way we were going to make it to the next town down the highway.
We were in a place we didn’t plan to be. We didn’t really have many solutions. Our plan A of waiting for the next exit turned to plan B for the NEXT exit turned to plan C for taking an exit and going for a town turned to plan D getting back on the highway. All the while the gas light was on! This sweet lady in the small town must have seen that we were city folk. She kindly came out with a gas can and poured some drops of gas in our tank. She was a God-send; I really don’t think we would have made it without her. The end of the story is we DID make it to the gas station before we ran out of gas. But life doesn’t always have a resolution, does it? Sometimes we find ourselves in a place we didn’t plan to be, faced with circumstances we didn’t prepare for. That’s where we find Daniel and his friends in Daniel chapter one.
1. God brings Daniel to Babylon (1:1-7)
Jeremiah 25:8-14 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words,9behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. 13I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.
Let’s read verses 1-7.
This was not an accident. This was not about the lack of military prowess or power in Israel. God didn’t make a mistake. He purposefully brought Daniel to Babylon. Daniel, a nobleman—a good-looking, competent, skillful, wise, understanding, knowledgeable young man—probably had a different plan for his life. He certainly could have been planning on having an easy life, being a good nobleman, and maybe a wise and caring leader. He probably would have planned to stay in his home country and live out the script of his life. Daniel certainly didn’t plan to go to Babylon, but God did. King Nebuchadnezzar comes into Judah, takes over, and removes Daniel from his home and everything he’s ever known. Daniel wakes up in Babylon, likely confused, wondering why…why was he here? What did he do wrong? What hope was there now?
As Daniel and his friends are in Babylon, the Babylonians are doing what they normally do with slaves: they are teaching them, training them, really brainwashing them so they reject all that was Israel and become fully Babylonian in thought, speech, custom, wisdom, knowledge, and worship. But, as we will see next, that is something Daniel is not willing to compromise.
2. God gives Daniel favor (1:8-16)
Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food. Now, we have to ask the question: “Why would eating the king’s food defile Daniel and his friends?” This is not about food. This is not about a diet. This is about worship and faithful obedience. Israel found themselves slaves to Babylon because of their infidelity and failure to obey the law. Daniel and his three friends determined in their hearts they were going to make it a point to obey the Law and be faithful to their God. The problem with the food was that it had been offered to the idols of the Babylonians. “To partake thereof would be to recognize the idols as deities.” It would have to worship and celebrate the deity and power of the Babylonian gods. Daniel and his friends could not do that, so they resolved not to defile themselves, regardless of the consequence.
Daniel and his friends didn’t compromise. They lived out the all-important understanding that compromising now would most likely lead to further compromises down the road. That’s how it works with sin. If you get away with it the first time, it makes it easier the second time. Then, somewhere down the road, it has become a habit. You no longer feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit because you have gone against it so often. And now your life is set up for compromise instead of conviction. Start now. Start saying no now. If you’ve already been saying yes, stop it. Restart as a new creation in Christ, able to say no, not because of your ability or your strength, but because of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Daniel’s plan of resolving not to defile himself sets the tone for the rest of the story. Daniel experiences God’s blessings as he remains faithful and obedient even when things don’t make sense. Daniel has this grand plan to not eat of the food from the king’s table (and very graciously and wisely handles that conversation, by the way). Now what? They don’t eat the food, and the chief eunuch tests them. At the end of ten days, they actually appear better off than everyone else who was eating from the king’s table. Why? Because God gives them favor.
3. God blessed Daniel and his friends with all they needed to succeed where they were (1:17-20)
In the next phase of the story, we see God again at work. Not only did He bring them to Babylon, He showed them favor for their faithfulness to not defile themselves. Now God gives them wisdom and learning and skills, and to Daniel specifically, the understanding of visions and dreams. Notice that they were still in the same situation. God didn’t give them freedom from the Babylonians. He didn’t remove them from the situation. Instead, God gave them exactly what they needed to succeed right where they were. He gave them what King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to see, and then some. The king found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in his kingdom.
God has given you and me gifts and skills and abilities. We need to use them and use them well for His glory. Wherever we work in the marketplace, we should strive to excel and work for the glory and purpose of God.
Daniel found himself in Babylon, a place he didn’t plan to be, but he quickly found God had not abandoned him. What happens when we find ourselves in Babylon? There are three points I think we can take from this passage.
First, when you find yourself in Babylon, realize there is purpose. Sometimes we wake up and realize we are not where we planned to be. Daniel didn’t plan for Babylon, but he woke up and found himself there. God didn’t abandon him. God didn’t betray him. Daniel, as far as we know, had done nothing wrong. He wasn’t living in sin. This wasn’t his punishment. This was God’s plan.
Maybe you woke up this morning somewhere you didn’t plan to be. Maybe you woke up this morning and thought, “This is not how I planned my marriage would go...” or “My kids did not turn out the way I prayed and planned for them…” or “I didn’t plan to end up in this career, be making this little, and struggling to take care of my family…” or “I didn’t plan to be single for this long…” Maybe you’re living your Plan B (or C, or D, or Z) and you can’t even remember what Plan A was. Whatever area of “Babylon” you may wake up in, realize God is at work. It may not be the result of you doing something wrong, but rather God working out His purpose. The hope in Babylon is that God took Daniel there. God was walking beside him the whole time. If you’re in Babylon, realize that God has you. God’s got this. He has a reason and a purpose. Trust Him. He’s never surprised.
Second, when you find yourself in Babylon, be found faithful. What did Daniel do when he found himself in Babylon? He resolved not to defile himself. He was found faithful when the test got real. As you find yourself in Babylon, resolve to be faithful. Resolve that the world around you won’t be your influence, but Christ will be. Resolve not to be defiled by sketchy (but legal) business practices, or by looking and lingering with your eyes or thoughts (committing adultery in your heart), or by working your own plan because in impatience you don’t want to wait for God’s plan to work out. Instead, be found faithful. It’s hard. I get it. Life is hard. Babylon is hard. It’s not where I want to be. It’s not where I plan to be. But, wherever you find yourself, in Babylon or not, be found faithful.
Why? People notice how you handle yourself in trials. They see what you do and where your attitude is. The way we live out our faith communicates to others whether or not this faith in Jesus Christ is worth pursuing. The way we say yes to Jesus and no to the world reveals how much we value our relationship with God and how much we want it to remain undefiled.
Third, when you find yourself in Babylon, don’t look for a way out. God didn’t take Daniel and his friends out, but gave them gifts to excel where they were. Daniel will never go back home. He will never get out of Babylon. God gave him the gifts and tools he needed to excel in the place God had brought him to. When you find yourself in Babylon, reconcile with the fact that Babylon may not end. As you are found faithful, seek out how God wants to form and mold you more into His image, likeness, and example. Don’t look for a way out. Be faithful where you are. Use what God has given. Pray for wisdom and grace. Pray that God’s strength would be revealed in your weakness.
Imagine a world where, no matter what happens, you are found faithful.
- You lose your job, but you are faithful to tithe, faithful to worship and praise and glorify God, faithful to attend church and be surrounded by godly community.
- Your kids wander from their faith, but you are faithful to pray, to pursue them, and to keep an open door of unconditional love toward them.
- Your marriage is on the rocks, but you faithfully resolve to pray and do whatever it takes to win back your husband or wife.
- Your health takes a turn for the worse, or has been bad for an extended period of time, but you are faithful to praise God, to give thanks, to worship well, and to bring Him glory with your speech and attitude.
The world will notice. Daniel and his friends had an entire kingdom be witness to their countercultural faithfulness. When we are found faithful, the world notices. Let’s be the kind of people who resolve not to be defiled by the cultural “gods” we face, but instead make a decision to remain faithful.
© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Ben Marshall. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.