Among the children of Israel who were brought to Babylon at the beginning of the seventy years of captivity, there were true believers, men who were faithful to the principles, who will not be rotten by selfishness, but who will honor God even at a great loss. While in their captivity, these men had a task to do, letting the pagans to know God, it was an opportunity for evangelism. In this we see that sometimes God permits some situations for a higher good, so others may know God and be saved.
These men couldn’t yield to all the requests coming from the pagans, but to consider as a honor to defend their faith as worshipers of the living God. And that’s what Daniel and his friends did. They honored God when everything was fine, and when things turned into difficult situations as well. In those moments, God honored them as well.
First temptation, the loss of identity : Changing names
The names of Daniel and his friends were changed for other names in remembrance of Chaldean pagan divinities. Hebrew parents usually named their children with a very special name, with a signification. Frequently those names expressed the wished character those parents wanted to see in their children. The prince in charge of the young captives changed their names. Daniel was named Belteshazzar; Hananiah was named Shadrach; Mishael was named Meshach; and Azariah received the name of Abed–nego (Dn. 1:7).
The king did not forced the young hebrews to renounce to their faith and become idolaters, he rather expected to obtain that little by little. By giving them names of pagan expression, the king tried to set these young men in touch with idolatry and its feelings. And with the seduction of these feasts and banquets dedicated to the pagan cult, he expected to subdue their will and see them renouncing the religion of their parents, and to start participating in the Babylonian cult. Nowadays it could be certain activities that seduce the youth, more attractive than assisting to church, for example.
We do not stop going to church suddenly. It is a matter of time, little by little, when other things start to attract us more than coming to the church for worshipping God. When we start to change our names or our identity, we will start to spend more time with those with whom we identify ourselves the most.
Second temptation: For their own life
In the same beginning of their career, their character was tested in a very decisive way. They had to eat and drink food from the King’s table. By this, the king thought they would perceive his goodness and care for their wellbeing. Probably the most of the food was good, but not ALL of it. They could have thought, “we might try a little bit, just a bit”. But part of the food was offered to the pagan gods, the food was consecrated to the false gods, and to participate would have been considered as participating in the worship of those gods from Babylon. Their loyalty to God prohibited Daniel and his friends to render such homage. Even pretending to eat but not doing it in fact, just to pretend, would have been an act of denial of their faith. Sometimes, pretend is to deceive. We want to be unnoticed, we do not want others to know we are believers.
If Daniel would had willed to fid any excuse, he would had found plenty of them within the circumstances surrounding him to compromise his temperance. But Daniel did not hesitate. He cherished more God’s approval rather than the favor of the most powerful man on earth, even more than his own life. He decided to stand firmly for his integrity, at any cost. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (Dn. 1:8). This decission was seconded by his three friends.
Which excuse do you have in your circumstances to stop doing something you know that is a must? The three young hebrews acted trusting firmly in God and His promises. The first step on the wrong direction would had driven them to other worse steps.
Third temptation: For the Eunuch’s sake
“Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (Dn 1:9) and the request of different food was respected. Nevertheless, the prince hesitated before accepting. He explained to Daniel: “ I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king” (Dn. 1:10). Daniel could have had here another “excuse” even stronger. “IF I do not do as they ask me to do, this man could be killed…”
Then Daniel appealed to Melzar, who was specifically responsible for the young hebrews, and asked to be excused from eating the food and drinking the wine from the table of the king. He asked to be tested for ten days. During those ten days they would eat and drink healthy food while other young men would eat from the table of the king. While there are options, we should not surrender. We have to fight for God and with God. We can always ask humans and God for a try. In this case, it was a try for 10 days.
Melzar accepted. He feared his acceptance would displease the king. Daniel knew in that very moment he won his cause. At the end of those 10 days the results were the opposite that Melzar feared. “And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (Dn. 1:15).
God always answers prayers. It might take longer than we think or expect, days or weeks, even years. But God always answers and in the best way, IF you put all your confidence in Him. But you have to trust in Him until the last consequence, and He will act until His last effort to help you.