We have written a lot about the “exile” over the last month or two as we have been going through the Old Testament. The first 5 verse of today’s reading explain what happened to the two Southern tribes, known as Judah (The 10 northern tribes “Israel” are long gone, intermarrying with pagan locals to become by Jesus’ time the Samaritans). The why is that the nation has sinned a lot and they are being judged. Hence “the Lord gave…” in v2. The city is trashed, the Temple is plundered and the best young people are taken to Babylon to work there. God’s hand is in this suffering – there is a purpose (just like in Gen 50:20 Joseph was able to say “You planned evil against me, God planned it for good”)
Daniel and his three friends are selected for 3 years of training before entering the King’s service. They didn’t resist and their names had been changed. They submitted to authority and got stuck in just like Jeremiah had exhorted the exiles in Jer 29:7 “Seek the welfare of the city.” The challenge for us is to have the same poise and confidence in the midst of darkness that can be ever so attractive to non-Christians. “Why do you smile all the time?”, “How come you have such peace?”
In v8-16 they make a stand to refrain from the King’s food – this passage is not a vegan apologetic! If Daniel ate the king’s food, it would show that their strength is coming from Babylon and not God. As Tremper Longman III points out “Their robust appearance, usually attained by a rich fare of meats and wine, is miraculously achieved through a diet of vegetables. Only God could have done it.” They didn’t have Vitamin B12 supplements in those days. The point is not the virtues of a vegan or omnivore diet, the point is trusting in Yahweh rather than Babylon. Where is your trust?
The Hebrews 11 hall of fame points out what an example Daniel is – of course we must turn our eyes to the greater Daniel and gaze upon Him. Jesus went through greater suffering, forsaken and abandoned as the sin of the world was laid on Him on the cross. By trusting in Him alone we can be holy and useful to God in our times of suffering and exile.