Around 605 BC, after God gave Jehoiakim, the king of Judah at the time, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (a weighty statement in its own right), Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were taken from their homeland to be trained in Nebuchadnezzar’s service. For three years, God did not save them from the situation, did not return them to their homeland. For three years, they were surrounded by a different culture, different gods, different teachings. They were trained to serve the very people who’d uprooted them, to honor a king who’d overwhelmed their own and who’d taken “some of the vessels of the house of God” (Daniel 1:2).
We don’t know how Daniel and his friends felt about this situation, but we can speculate. Fear, discomfort, frustration, despair, hopelessness, defeat – perhaps these plagued the four. We can’t be sure; Scripture doesn’t give us a look into their emotions in chapter one. Instead, it shows us their actions.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.
In the midst of change, Daniel remained faithful to the Lord, maintaining disciplined devotion in spite of his circumstances. And he did so while also honoring those in charge over him. When we read of his actions in this chapter, we see humility, not defiance. And in the midst of the change and the test, God blessed him, sustaining his servants for his glory and their good.
When we face difficulties, we can easily focus on the changes themselves and cry for God to return things to normal. We miss the comfort of how things were, and we long to return to a time before the pain, before the questions, before the fear. And as we wrestle through the shifting seasons, we can easily let discipline slip through the cracks. We can grasp at whatever comforts we still have and forget to hold fast to the only sure foundation for our souls. We can forget the greater reality of God’s sovereignty in the midst of temporary storms.
What strikes me about Daniel’s story is his persistent faithfulness to God in the middle of a situation that didn’t end. I freak out and question God when a trial lasts more than a few days. Daniel’s life changed for a period of three years. And at the end of three years, he and his friends entered the king’s service and continued on. One season passed away and a new season took its place, and still they were far from their homeland. Yet they remained faithful.
We can’t control our circumstances. No matter how hard we may try, we simply don’t have the power to keep things always as we’d like them to be. What we can control, however, are our responses to the changes of life. And as changes come, we must face some difficult questions. Do we trust that God is in control? Do we believe he is still worthy of worship even in the midst of change and hardship? Is our worship contingent on our mood or comfort?
Again, God didn’t save these four from the situation. They may have prayed for deliverance, but they remained in Babylon. And they served the Lord and honored their captors there. They reflected a hope and a peace that surpassed their earthly circumstances. They were unshaken in their discipline and devotion. Let the same be true of us. We do not know what will come to pass before the day ends. We can’t see what new seasons await us tomorrow. But we know one who remains in control throughout the changing of seasons and the loss of normalcy. We serve a Lord who will never be overthrown though earthly powers rise and fall around us. And we rest in a God who does not change with the seasons but whose love and power and goodness stand through every generation.
Photo by Philipp Schlabs on Unsplash