Fitting in is a big deal for young punks. Not fitting in is an even bigger deal. That’s why peer pressure exists. You know that you’ve done dumb things because your mates were doing dumb things. Part of fitting in is working out who you are and where you belong. Daniel 1 shows Dan and his mates working out who they are and what it will mean for them to fit in or not fit in, in a foreign land.
Daniel 1:1-2 sets the scene for the rest of the book. We’re introduced to 2 kings and 2 cities. Jehoiakim and Nebuchadnezzar are the kings; Jerusalem and Babylon are the cities. These two cities are probably the most important cities in the whole of the Bible. They are in the opening and closing books of the Bible and everywhere in between.
Babylon is the city that represents human self-rule. In Genesis 11 Babylon tried to create a city that didn’t need God. There are Babylons all over our world today. But we know from Revelation 18 that the ultimate destiny of Babylon is destruction.
Jerusalem is the opposite of Babylon. It’s the city built by God. It is the Holy City. The future is certain and it’s good: the New Jerusalem will be inhabited by God and his people for all eternity (Revelation 21).
In part 1 we saw that Jerusalem had been taken over by Babylon. And now the King of Babylon has begun recruiting good looking young men to be part of a 3-year Babylon School Bootcamp (vv3-4). Dan and his 3 good looking mates were chosen to join the school and be part of the king’s posse.
The pressure to lose their identity was intense. Dan, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah’s names were changed from Hebrew names to Babylonian names (v 7). There would have been a whole bunch of other ways that they would have actually changed their identity now that they were in the Babylonian Bootcamp.
However, Dan resolved to know and keep his true identity (v8). He knew that ultimately he belonged to God, and so he refused to eat the royal food and drink the royal wine. Why? Chomping into the king’s food and wine would mean that his allegiance would be to the king. Dan knew that his loyalty belonged to the God of Israel. In the end, his vegetable diet proved a hit with the royal officials (v9-20). But even if it didn’t, as we’ll see again later in the book, Dan was loyal to God even if it meant risking his life.
As you read Daniel 1, it would be easy to think that God has been defeated. The city has been overtaken and the people deported. Yet God never lost control. God was in control of the Babylonians taking over Jerusalem (v2). God caused the temple official to show favour to Dan and his mates (v9). God is the one who gave them knowledge and understanding (v17).
What does this mean for us? You may not be hanging out with the King or Queen or Prime Minister or President. But you actually live in a city that doesn’t think it needs God. It’s very easy to forget who you are and who you belong to. You belong to the Kingdom that will NEVER BE DESTROYED, you belong to Jesus. He made you, he saved you by his blood. You are his. Your loyalty belongs to him. When you’re tempted compromise your loyalty to King Jesus, don’t do dumb things! Know your identity.