Topical Sermon on Daniel
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 9/17/2022
©2022 by Maylan Schurch
To watch this entire service, click the following link:
Please open your Bibles to Daniel chapter 1.
As many of you know, this year I’ve been encouraging us to read through our Bibles, and I’ve been challenging myself to preach on a section of each week’s Bible reading range. If you’ve been reading along with me, you may be as relieved as I am to have emerged from strenuous books like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Now we’re into Daniel.
Daniel, of course, has been a popular boy’s name in Christian families. Just for the fun of it, raise your hand if you yourself are named Daniel. Does anybody have a relative named Daniel? Do you have a child named Daniel?
Cesia Munoz as a husband named Daniel, and we had the pleasure of watching a stop-motion animation she created about one of the stories we’ll be looking at this morning.
In fact, the chorus of our closing song – “Dare to Be a Daniel” – summarizes Daniel’s life in four lines: “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known.”
This morning I’d like us to spend a little time looking at what I think we could call “The Daniel Dare.” One of the deeply interesting things about the Bible is, even if you think you know one of its stories well, just read it over again. Each time we read our Bibles, we are a little bit more “grown-up,” a little bit more mature. We see things we missed when we were reading it at a younger age.
And why do we need to look at Daniel again? I’m actually more hungry than I’ve ever been for stories like Daniel’s, and Joseph’s. Both men were young adults, both were taken captive against their will, and both dared themselves “The Daniel Dare.” Joseph, of course, never knew Daniel, so Joseph could have called his stance “The Joseph Dare.”
What is the “Daniel Dare”? I’m going to ask the audiovisual team to project just the first line of our sermon points right now, the line that says, “The “Daniel Dare” is to follow God will without compromise.”
In a few minutes we’ll see two examples of how to put this dare to work, but right now let’s get acquainted with the young Daniel himself. This young man – and a lot of young people and old people in the city of Jerusalem – have not had an easy time of it.
Daniel 1:1 – 2 [NKJV] : In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.
Now, as you and I hear these words, we might murmur, “Wow, that’s too bad.” But can you imagine Daniel’s emotions as a young man when he saw this happen personally, and later as an older man when he wrote these words?
I mean, the king of Babylon came to besiege Jerusalem. That means that they arranged their armies around it, and didn’t let anybody go in or out, and didn’t let food supplies come in. And the Babylonian army just waited until the people of Jerusalem got so ravenously hungry that they surrendered.
That meant that when Daniel and his friends began the long march to Babylon, they were starving. They were probably skin and bones. Yet they had to totter along and endure the jeers of their captors. But finally, hundreds of miles later, they shuffled into Babylon.
Verses 3 – 7: Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.
Imagine what Daniel and his friends are thinking. Their boyhood city has been captured. The house of God has been pillaged, and its sacred treasures have been put on display in the temples of Babylon’s idols. And now even their names, each of which contains parts of either “Yahweh” or “Elohim,” have been stripped from them, and replaced with names of Babylonian gods.
Until I read these chapters again this week, I hadn’t really given much thought to the emotional distress Daniel and his friends must’ve been in. These were young men whose God knew how to cause a mountain to quake and smoke, and how to speak 10 Commandments aloud in a voice of thunder, and brush aside water to make a riverbed dry.
So where was this God now?
Well, Daniel and his friends knew exactly where God was. God still existed. And God was using the nation of Babylon to show the nation of Judah what it was like to live in a culture ruled by the gods they had been so fascinated with for centuries. Daniel knew his Bible—specifically the book of Jeremiah, who had predicted a 70-year captivity. Because he knows his Bible, Daniel sees the bigger picture.
But now, these young men are part of a group of trainees who will be treated very well, and will use their talents for a heathen king. They will be serving the enemy, but like Joseph, they have resolved to be good servants.
Except there are some things they will not surrender.
Verse 8: But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
If you’re following along in the Andrews Study Bible this morning, take a look at the footnote at the bottom of the page. I’ll read it to you. Commenting on verse eight, the footnote says, “Because Daniel resolved to remain loyal to the Lord, he could not allow himself to be absorbed into Babylonian culture in ways that conflicted with holiness, including eating the meat of ‘unclean’ species of animals. There were probably additional problems with the Babylonian diet: meats may have been slaughtered without properly draining its blood, and food and drink may have been offered to idols.”
Let’s pause and lay down Sermon Point One. What is one way the “Daniel Dare” challenges us?
The “Daniel Dare” is to follow Gods will without compromise – in your lifestyle.
These verses don’t say exactly what it was which might have been defiling about this food, but Daniel wasn’t going to take any chances. And as we’ll see, he must’ve dared his “Daniel dare” to his friends. Watch what happens.
Verses 9 – 10: Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”
So Daniel makes another dare—this one to the chief of the eunuchs:
Verses 11 – 16: So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
Veganism comes to Babylon!
Over the years I’ve wondered just how much this was the natural benefits of healthy food, versus God’s miracle of making the young men look healthier.
But now I can look back on the Black Hills Health and Education Center. Many years ago, Shelley and I sponsored my parents to travel West across South Dakota and attend a 12 day session at the Adventist-owned Black Hills Health and Education Center. For years, Dad’s blood pressure had been horrendously high. He also suffered from angina pectoris, “a condition marked by severe pain in the chest, often also spreading to the shoulders, arms, and neck, caused by an inadequate blood supply to the heart.”
Dad was in serious condition. Mom knew it, and even dad knew it. It was Shelley who had the idea to send them to Black Hills, but I was pretty pessimistic, for a couple of reasons. First, dad was the shyest person you will ever meet. And here he would be having to hobnob every day with 15 to 20 fellow-guests, maybe even more.
In the second reason I wasn’t expecting much was his blood pressure. Dad had always had a bad heart. I didn’t really think they could do much for him.
But lo and behold, 12 days later – about the same amount of time Daniel dared his supervisor to let him eat vegan – dad’s blood pressure was down to normal! When I heard that, it was very impressive. And I put a bit more faith in the idea that maybe the success of the “Daniel Dare” 10 day experiment was truly a response to the water and the vegetables.
So, what can you and I take away from the “lifestyle” part of the Daniel Dare? Is our lifestyle really important to God?
Some people think it isn’t. And these people are often the same ones who believe that the human body is merely the vehicle, or the shell, or the transportation device, of an immortal soul. The logical conclusion would be that, who cares what happens to your body? It’s your soul that will rocket up to heaven the instant you die, if you’re saved.
Well, the Bible never says that the body and soul can be split like this. Genesis 2:7 says that “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” And the word being is the Hebrew word nephesh, which is also translated “soul.” When Christ returns and presides over the resurrection, He raises living beings—re-created bodies—in which the soul and the body are together.
And I am living testimony – and many of you are living testimonies – that how you treat your bodies makes life better. Sadly, after Black Hills, dad slipped back to his old ways. Though he never drank alcohol, or smoked, he ate meat, and drank coffee, and ate all sorts of processed foods. And by the time Dad had reached the age where I am now, he had died.
Several years ago, because of some atrial fibrillation problems I was having, the doctors decided to do a little angiogram on me. And while I was recuperating from the anesthetic, the doctor came and told Shelley that he and the other staff devoutly wished that they could have arteries like mine. This, by the way, is Shelley’s doing. Shelley’s cooking has scoured my arteries clean.
I think that we as Adventists need to be careful that the general health-conscious world doesn’t pass us up when it comes to healthy living. We believe in a God who created the earth, and several times during that creation pronounced that what He was creating was good, and very good. And in the last couple of verses of Genesis 1, He mentions that the animals and humans of Eden were vegan.
I had planned to take a look at the “fiery furnace” story in Daniel three, and if you get a chance, read that story. Daniel’s three friends refuse to join all the others of a sort of United Nations ceremony of that time, and while everybody else bowed down to a gigantic image, these three men took the Dare (following God and refusing to compromise) and stayed standing. And God not only miraculously rescued them from a holocaust of flame – but He made devastatingly sure that all those national leaders, plus the king, saw exactly what the true God could do.
But let’s look at just one more “Daniel Dare.” You saw a delightfully creative retelling of the story a few minutes ago during Children’s Corner. Thank you, Cesia Munoz, for devoting your time to that.
The Lion’s Den story happens in Daniel chapter 6. Babylon has been defeated by the Persians, and Darius is king. Daniel is an old man by now, but he still serves in the royal court. In fact, will see just how valued he is in these next verses.
Daniel 6:1 – 3: It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.
Did you catch the organizational chart there? There were 120 satraps (a satrap was the governor of the province), and they all reported to just three presidents. Daniel was one of the presidents, and it says that “an excellent spirit was in him.”
In other words, Daniel didn’t seem to have any unpleasant characteristics. He doesn’t seem to have been power-hungry. The fact that the king was thinking about putting him over the whole kingdom meant that Daniel was someone the king could trust absolutely.
But this didn’t sit well with a lot of the governors and satraps. These people are about to cause Daniel some serious trouble. They don’t have the excellent, selfless, humble spirit that he has. It’s possible that his high morals and dependability were making them look bad.
Watch what happens.
Verse 4: So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.
Nowadays, there are a lot of resources we can use to dig up dirt on an opposing politician. But that’s only if that politician truly has some dark places in his or her resume, and doesn’t want these facts to come to life.
But do you see how powerful an attitude like Daniel’s can be? If you and I can live our lives, and work our work, and reside in our neighborhoods so that people will see an excellent spirit in us, think how powerful a witness to the God of heaven this would be.
Because that’s exactly what happened in Daniel’s case. Daniel did not hide his faith. People did not need to wonder whether Daniel was a believer or not. They knew that he was.
Verse 5: Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”
Isn’t that interesting? These idolatrous administrators knew that Daniel believed in a certain God, and they knew that this God had a law, and they knew that Daniel was faithful to that law. And they knew that for Daniel, this law took precedence over any other law.
So now they knew what they needed to do.
Verses 6 – 9: So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: “King Darius, live forever! All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” Therefore King Darius signed the written decree.
In probably just 24 hours, the king is going to deeply regret that signature. But as soon as those plotters get that signature, off they go to Daniel’s house and park themselves outside.
Let’s pause to lay down Sermon Point Two.
The “Daniel Dare” is to follow Gods will without compromise in your lifestyle, and in your worship.
That’s actually what also happened in the “fiery furnace” story. Daniel’s three friends refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image, and chose to worship God instead.
And that was an example of public worship. Right out there in front of everybody, they took a stand – literally – for their God. And their God’s Son took a stand – literally– with them, inside that blazing furnace.
But here in chapter 6, the issue is Daniel’s private worship. And Daniel has a choice to make.
Verse 10: Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
Daniel could have easily compromised, couldn’t he? He could’ve told the Lord, “My three friends were standing up for one of Your 10 Commandments, the one about not worshiping other gods. But Lord, nowhere in Your word does it command us to open our windows toward Jerusalem and pray three times a day. So I’m just going to keep those shutters closed and do silent prayer until the danger passes.”
But Daniel understands what is truly at stake here. It’s not Daniel’s personal safety. That’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is that all of these governors and satraps see someone who is willing to sacrifice his life to follow the God of Heaven. They know Daniel has a God—and they need to know just how fervently Daniel believes in Him.
That takes faith, of course. But when your faith understands how important God’s reputation is, and how people need a powerful tutorial in this kind of faith, it’s really a no-brainer. Daniel’s three friends – their faces warm already from the distant furnace’s heat – told the king that even if God did not choose to rescue them, they would still refuse to compromise.
So Daniel gives his enemies exactly what they want – proof that he is a traitor. So they go right off and tell Darius.
Verses 11 – 15: Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king’s decree: “Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” So they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”
This is a perfect example of someone in high position who all along should have been humbly asking God for wisdom. Daniel would never have fallen for a trick like this. Darius is sorry that he himself was caught in the trap, and does his best to free Daniel, but can’t do it.
But notice how much Darius has learned about Daniel’s God. Daniel has not been secretive about his faith. And now it turns out that the king is the one who encourages Daniel.
Verses 16 – 23: So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed. Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.” Now the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.
And of course, as we saw in Cesia Munoz’s drama, the evil plotters got their punishment.
How can the “Daniel Dare” work in your life this coming week? How can you and I follow God’s will no matter what, in our lifestyle and in our worship? Are there things we need to get rid of in our lives that are like Daniel’s tricky enemies, trying to diminish our influence?
I keep coming back to that challenging song: “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm – and dare to make it known.”
Let’s sing this song together. It’s not in the hymnal, but the words will be on the wall behind me. Let’s sing all the verses, and let’s sing them thoughtfully. And let’s let them help us resolved to respond to the Daniel Dare.