(Today’s post by Chris Queen)
Every good hero has an origin story. For James Bond, it was Casino Royale. For Luke Skywalker, it was Star Wars: A New Hope. For Mitch Rapp, it was American Assassin. And of course, the various superheroes have their own tales that set up their narratives.
Today’s reading plan is the origin story of one of the Old Testament’s most fascinating heroes – Daniel. Of course, the story of Daniel is a little bit different and not quite as dramatic or earth-shattering as some of these other tales.
We begin with King Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of the tribe of Judah, carrying the last of God’s chosen people off into exile. The king decides to take some of Israel’s best and brightest for his own use:
3 Then the king told Ashpenaz the chief of his officials to bring in some of the sons of Israel from royal descent and nobility— 4 youths without any defect, handsome, proficient in all wisdom, knowledgeable, intelligent and capable of serving in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king allotted them a daily portion from the king’s delicacies and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end they were to stand before the king.
Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (whom we’ll meet later as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) chose to remain faithful to God rather than to allow themselves to take in the rich, literally sinful foods the king set out for them to eat. Daniel told the guards:
12 “Please test your servants for ten days, giving us just vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s delicacies, and treat your servants according to what you see.”
14 So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days their appearance looked better and their bodies healthier than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the guard took away their delicacies and the wine they were supposed to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
Daniel and his buddies’ gamble of obedience paid off.
17 Now as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and proficiency in every kind of wisdom and literature, and Daniel could understand all sorts of visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 When the king spoke with them, he did not find among all of them anyone like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s 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 astrologers throughout his realm.
Now, of course we know it wasn’t just veggies and water that made Daniel and his crew the best and most appealing of the youths of the court – it was their obedience to God.
Our disciplines – prayer, time in the Word, fasting – are all good in and of themselves, but they are nothing if they’re not accompanied by obedience and surrender to God. Ask yourself these questions: how would a greater obedience to God make you better at home? At work? At church? Among friends? What are some ways you can increase your level of obedience?