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Daniel 1:8-16 Study Guide: 5 Ingredients for Living Faithfully in a Hostile World

Community Group Study Guide — Living Faithfully in a Hostile World
Daniel 1:8-16

Study Information:
Over the last 5-10 years it has become increasingly more conspicuous that our culture can be hostile to Biblical values. There is no single culture in the world that aligns completely with what the Bible teaches, but some are certainly more friendly than others. Many of us in the Bay Area have felt more conflict between what our culture affirms and what the Bible teaches. How do you live faithfully in a hostile world? Our situation may feel intense at times, but there are examples in the Bible of people living under greater hostility and pressure than we do. Daniel and his friends are one such example having lived in exile from the Promised Land and being raised from a young age to be conformed to a Babylonian worldview. The Babylonians wanted to remake these Hebrew adolescents into good Babylonians by squeezing out any godly formation from their lives. However, Daniel and his friends navigated their training and remained faithful to God. We even read that Daniel rose in the political ranks and was exceptionally wise and respected in that hostile culture. 

What can we learn by their example so that we can remain faithful to God and be a witness to place that God has us?

The Squeeze:
Daniel 1:3-5
One of the defining events in Israel’s history was the exile. The kingdom of Israel divided into two (Israel and Judah) after Solomon’s reign and would often be at war with one another. Over time both kingdoms gave into idolatry and rebelled against faithfulness to God. As an act of judgment and as a wake up call, God allowed for these kingdoms to experience exile which was a prophesied consequence for idolatry (Deut 28:64-68). The Northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria beginning in the year 722 BC and Judah was conquered by Babylon beginning in the year 597 BC. Both of these exiles happened in waves as groups were deported or moved around. Assyria had a strategy of intermixing people groups to keep revolt from happening. Babylon took a different approach and would often remove the influential and rich out of the land and leave the poor behind under a puppet government. We can see that strategy taking place in Daniel 1 as Daniel and his three friends were removed near the beginning of the exile and brought to Babylon to be culturally conformed and trained in the Babylonian court. Daniel 1:3-5 tells us that Daniel and his friends were from a royal family, without blemish, good looking and were wise. They were brought into the king’s court to be trained up as Babylonians where they would learn the language, culture and customs. They also faced the pressure of having heir names changed to Babylonian names. These new names carried religious significance, likewise they lost their Hebrew names which exalted God’s faithfulness (Daniel 1:7). The final pressure they faced was being fed from the king’s table which likely included a variety of foods that were unclean and part of Babylonian culture and was a way that the king tried to show that they only prospered because of his hand.

The goal was to make them into “new” people who could serve in the court. This pressure was likely a rigorous education to make them less and less Jewish in their worldview and more and more like the culture of Babylon. You may think this only happens today through schooling or university, but we would be naive to think that we are immune to the culture we are in. Regardless of what culture you find yourself in, you will find yourself being pressed by the world to become more like it. That is the warning of Paul in Roman 12:1-2 where we are commanded as followers of Jesus to present our entire lives as a living sacrifice to God and to not be “conformed” to the world. Being conformed is to be squeezed or pressed into the image or mold of the world; rather we are to be transformed in and through our new identity in Jesus Christ. We all face daily pressures to become like the world rather than to be transformed into the image of Jesus. We may be tempted to get out of this pressure by moving, switching jobs or changing how we do schooling, sports or hobbies. However, often we are just trading one pressure for another and the trick is not just changing the circumstances, but changing our posture towards these pressures. The early church was born in the Roman Empire which was hostile towards God and his ways, and they thrived as they took a faithful and counter cultural stance in the midst of that hostility. 

5 Ingredients to Remain Faithful:
Daniel 1:8-16
Daniel resolved to not eat from the kings table. Though the text does not tell us this was directly because of the food being “unclean,” the connection to not wanting to “defile” himself implies that it likely contained forbidden food (Dan 1:8). Additionally it is likely that Daniel wanted to draw a line in the sand in order to show the king’s court that he prospered because of God and not because of the king. It was a bold stance to take, but one that enabled Daniel to remain faithful and to stand out and show how God was his refuge and strength. 

What do we learn from Daniel’s bold stand?

  1. Commitment
Daniel was determined (Dan 1:8). 
Daniel observed the landscape of the culture he was in and determined that he needed to be distinct and different in some way. As followers of Jesus we are not just to go with the flow of the world around us. We live in a fast pace and pluralistic culture and it is easy to get caught up in the flow of the Bay Area by giving our lives to too many things, passive media intake, and a permissive attitude towards sin. If you were to observe your own life, what are you committed to and how are you determined to remain faithful to God when the world would push you in a different direction? This took a lot of spiritual maturity from Daniel considering he was really young at the time and had political and cultural pressure to conform.

2. Holiness 
Daniel would not “defile” himself with the food and drink from the King’s table. Daniel made a request to eat vegetables for ten days as a test, these vegetables would ultimately come from the king, but it wouldn’t be the “normal” course of food but rather a test for the Babylonian court to see that God was his provider. To be holy is to be pure and to be set apart. Daniel was expressing his set apartness as part of God’s family though this test and refusal to be defiled. 

3. Courage
It would be easier to go with the flow and not to make a big deal out of any of this. But notice that Daniel sought out the permission of the chief eunuch for this test (Dan 1:8). He was not passive, instead he respectfully and courageously sought out this opportunity to be holy and distinct. We may find ourselves in difficult situations where it is easier to just go with the flow even though it would be a compromise to our Christian values. It takes courage to make a stand or to even respectfully ask to opt out. It may be that this will come at a real cost of work opportunities, respect or prestige, but you’d be surprised how God may honor your courage or provide for you even though it is difficult. 

4. Grace
Notice in Daniel 1:9 who granted Daniels’ request. God gave him the grace to be faithful and distinct. God turned the heart of the chief Eunuch and Daniel received kindness and compassion. This came at a great cost to the Eunuch whose live was on the line if something bad happened to Daniel, but God was behind it. Grace is God’s unearned gift and we often apply that to our salvation, but we experience his grace in so many other ways in our lives. God’s grace is his expressed kindness and compassion to us. It could be that you’re in a difficult situation based on being a Christian in a hostile place, ask God to help you and ask that he’d show you his grace or give you the encouragement you need in this time.

5. Creativity 
The plea Daniel and his friends made was really creative. In Daniel 1:11-14 we read that Daniel proposed a plan for them to eat vegetables and water and to have a beauty contest ten days later to see who was doing better between them and the people who were eating the kings food. This is not a Biblical diet we should all keep, that would be to miss the point of the text. Rather, it was a creative plan to show how they were distinct and cared for by God. So many times we think that the only solution is to get out of the problem, maybe the solution requires prayerful creativity. 

In some ways we all live in a world that is hostile to God and his values, but Christ has not called us out of the world but we have rather been sanctified and sent out by Christ to be faithful and different so people can see and know God through how he is at work in our words and actions (John 17:15-19). Consider how God has called you and equipped you to be different and faithful where he has placed you. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read Daniel 1:1-16

What kind of cultural pressures were Daniel and his friends experiencing? What similarities do you see in our world today?

When you’re under pressure because of your Christian faith, do you feel like the solution would come from your circumstances changing, your “posture” towards the situation changing or a combination of both? What are some reasons you feel that way?

What gave Daniel the commitment and courage to take the stand he took?

Of the “five ingredients” to remain faithful in a hostile world, which is most important in your life right now and what are some action steps you can take in the next week?