Notice that Daniel's choice began with inward conviction. It says he purposed in his heart. That is, he made a choice deep inside. After soul searching, he came up with his choice.
This is really good news. All the indoctrination, all the intimidation, all the isolation, all the redesignation is met by Daniel's determination. Daniel in the Bible determined to live his life for God alone, giving us strength to do the same. Today on Connect with Skip Heitzig, Skip begins a series called Hunting Giants and shares how you can withstand pressures to conform to the world's standards. But first, did you know that Skip shares important updates and biblical encouragement on social media? Just follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get the latest from him and this ministry. That's at Skip Heitzig at Skip H-E-I-T-Z-I-G. Now, we're in Daniel chapter one as we dive into our study with Skip Heitzig.
I'm going to throw something up on the screen. A quote, religion must die in order for mankind to live. These are the words of TV host and atheist Bill Maher. In 2008, he put out a documentary that was designed to make religious people, people of faith look like utter idiots.
In fact, he called them terrorists. Look at the quote again, religion must die in order for mankind to live. That is not very different from what Karl Marx famously said in 1843, religion is the opium of the people.
I'm believing that you have probably seen that or heard of that before. That's the philosophy of Karl Marx, the founder of Marxism. After Marx came on the scene and people were dazzled by him in Russia, the followers of Karl Marx yanked all the religious teaching from the school system and they outlawed criticism. Anybody who would speak against atheists or agnostics was punished. They then burned 100,000 churches in Russia. And so the clergy of the country demanded religious freedom as you might expect. And because they demanded religious freedom, they were sentenced to death. Now don't think this happened a thousand years ago. Between 1917 and 1935, 130,000 Russian Orthodox priests were arrested and 95,000 of them were executed by firing squads.
That's recent history. I've told you before about my first day of college, I've told you this story in many occasions, how my professor found out that I was a believer and he stood and in front of the class said, pointing at me, my aim in this class is to dismantle your belief system. It is this dismantling of our belief system that happens to be the aim of people both outside the church and inside the church, sadly. On one end of the spectrum, you have progressive liberals on the left and on the other end of the spectrum, you have Christian deconstructionists, all who want to marginalize us as being sheer idiots.
If we believe in this book, if we teach our children the truths of the Bible, and what they want is basically for us to shut up and go away. That's their agenda. They want to remove our voice from the public square.
In short, they want us to conform, just shut up and do what we say. A psychologist by the name of Nicholas Humphrey was lecturing at Oxford University and he admitted in his speech, his goal, and I'm going to quote it, his goal is to argue in favor of censorship against freedom of expression. And then he even admitted who he was aiming at in particular. Again, he said, moral and religious education, especially the education a child receives at home. I want you to see what he said in that speech, made a shocking statement. He said, children have a right not to have their minds, not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, then we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.
Interesting that he would equate teaching your kids the Bible child abuse. That is the same ideological stance as communist Russia. That is the same ideological stance as any totalitarian regime. But you need to know that there's a method to their madness.
It comes in stages. First, they will redefine vocabulary. They use words you're familiar with, and they'll on purpose choose noble, lofty sounding words that nobody would argue against. I mean, who would dare oppose equality?
Who would dare speak out against freedom or science? Problem is, the meaning they pour into those words are vastly different from the understood meaning of those words. So they'll use vocabulary that you're familiar with, but they begin redefining it. Second, they will stigmatize their opponents. If you don't agree with them, they will label you. They will vilify you. They'll call you names. They'll call you homophobic. They'll call you xenophobic or Islamophobic or misogynistic or sexist or the big one now is racist. And the reason they do this is they just want you to shut up. Don't say anything at all.
Because if you can label somebody as phobic or unscientific, you can then perhaps take away their first amendment right of free speech and even get them banned, canceled from Facebook or Twitter or any big tech platform. The apostle Paul said, I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
A better translation, I think, is the Phillips version. Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold. Well, how do we do that?
How can our little voice and our presence stand up to the giant of conformity? Fortunately, a little kid by the name of Daniel shows us how in Daniel, chapter one, I don't have time to read and comment on the whole chapter, but we are going to read sections of it. And I want to begin with the predicament that Daniel was in.
Now, let me let me give you the long and short of it. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has gained power. He has taken over the known world, the world of the Middle East. He has taken captive Jerusalem, and he has brought people with him to Babylon, including Daniel and his friends. And he is looking for servants for his palace in Babylon. That takes us into verse four, where we read, 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, to Azariah, Abednego. He gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar, Abednego.
I'm going to fill in a couple of the gaps. A battle had just taken place, one of the most famous battles in history. If you're a history buff, you'll know of this. The Battle of Karshemesh happened in 605 BC.
Karshemesh is an area today in present-day Turkey. It is where Babylon defeated the combined armies of Assyria and Egypt. When that battle was won, Nebuchadnezzar was large and in charge. He was the new sheriff in town.
The rest of the world was easy pickings. So he could pick off less powerful kingdoms, including the kingdom of Jerusalem. So in that same year, 605 BC, he attacked Jerusalem. He did it again in 597 BC. He did it again in 586 BC. The last time he did it, he destroyed the city, burned the temple with fire.
But on that first date, 605 BC, is when Daniel was kidnapped from his home and taken 1600 miles away to live now in the courts of the Babylonian king. I've told you on a few occasions that I've been to Iraq a few times, the area of Babylon. The first time I went was in the Gulf War, the first Gulf War. And we were trying to get in. Planes could not fly into Baghdad. So we had to take a taxi from Amman, Jordan, all the way across the Jordanian and Iraqi desert to get to Baghdad. It's 25 hours one way and 25 hours back one way. So we did this drive and we hired a taxi driver who was a chain smoker.
I just want you to feel for my predicament. One cigarette after another, after another, after another, all day long. And his favorite music was Madonna. So he had a stack of Madonna tapes and a carton of cigarettes. I felt like I was in the Babylonian captivity. It has nothing at all to do with this text.
Just wanted to throw that in free of charge. Nebuchadnezzar had a four-tiered process to get to these kids. Number one, he isolated them. He took them from their home, took them away from their friends, took them away from their parents, took them away from their temple, their worship, their religious influence, and sequestered them in a new environment.
He isolated them. Second thing he did is he indoctrinated them. He re-educated them. Notice it says they were taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans. Now you read that and go, that's not so bad. That's like a free college education.
The government's paying for that. Language and literature, the Chaldeans signed me up. But the goal was not just academic. The goal was to reorient their way of thinking to a Babylonian worldview.
It was a three-year program. The literature of the Chaldeans promoted the Chaldean worldview of many gods. There's not one god like they were taught in Israel, in Jerusalem.
There are many gods. And so the worldview changed their thinking about God, about life, about mankind. Archaeology also has shown us that the Babylonians practiced divination. They looked at the stars to predict the future.
They took the livers and entrails of animals and put them on a plate and let them wiggle around. And somehow they looked at that and could predict the future. All of that Daniel and his friends would be taught in school. Basically, it was a three-year cultural assimilation course to get them to forget everything they learned as kids. I don't know, that sounds to me a lot like college.
I don't want to poke fun at college, but a lot of you know how true that can be that, like in my case, you'll get professors who are paid to teach integrated zoology or biology or whatever is the discipline, and they'll go out of their way, not to teach that, but to undermine what you taught them, actively so. So they were isolated, they were indoctrinated. Third thing that Nebuchadnezzar wanted to do is intimidate them.
They were intimidated. In verse 5, we read that they were given a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank. Now, again, that doesn't sound bad at first blush. You're in college and you get free food, right?
Sign me up for that. Especially this food. If you're a Jewish kid eating falafels in Jerusalem every day, and now you're in the biggest city in the world, given delicacies, those are perks.
That's like desserts and fine meals and all the wine you can drink. Leo Oppenheim, the scholar said, but the food that was offered in the Babylonian court was first offered to Babylonian gods and then brought to the king's table. So all of that would be would be used to intimidate these young Jewish minds.
And they would start thinking thoughts like, well, why should I believe in my God? First of all, I never ate like this in Jerusalem. Second, my God couldn't protect me from all of this. And Babylon itself was intimidating. The Greek historian Herodotus says the walls of the city of Babylon were 80 feet thick, 320 feet tall, and 56 miles long. If you walk through the opening to the town called the Ishtar Gate, which I have done in its rebuilt ruins, you're on a street that's 65 feet wide, made out of limestone, flanked by red tiled sidewalks, ornately decorated.
The river Euphrates runs through the center of town parallel to that street. You would see the most magnificent palace in the world and one of the seven wonders of the world called the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Any Jewish teenager would drop their jaw at wonder, wow, where am I?
This is awesome. He'd be enamored by it. And then the fourth thing Nebuchadnezzar did is he redesignated them. He took away from them their most personal, private possession, their name, and gave them new names.
It's basically social engineering. So the name Daniel, his Jewish name, is a name that means God is my judge. His new name given by Nebuchadnezzar is Belteshazzar, which means may Bel protect the king. Bel is one of the chief deities of Babylon. Hananiah meant beloved of the Lord, but his new name was Shadrach, which means illumined by Aku, the moon god. Mishael means who is like God, but the new name, Mishek, means who is like Aku, the moon god. And Azariah means the Lord is my help. That's his Jewish name, but he was given the name Abednego, which means servant of Nabu.
All of these are pagan deities, and they had so many that they worship. But what I want you to latch onto is that they are banning words. They are banning foreign names, and the only words allowed is the words this new culture has provided for them.
Sound familiar? So that's the predicament they were in. Now the predicament takes us to the second phase, that is the protest. So we read what we read, but look at verse 8. What's the first word in the verse? But.
Ah, that's a good sign. But Daniel. See it doesn't say and Daniel, or so Daniel, or therefore Daniel, but but Daniel.
So immediately we have opposition to the pressure. The pressure represented in the first seven verses is met with a but Daniel, a negative conjunction. On the contrary, what we have going here is Daniel, young Daniel, young teenage Daniel, making a choice. And the choice he is making is, will I conform or will I not conform?
So look what it says. 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. Notice that Daniel's choice began with inward conviction. It says he purposed in his heart. That is, he made a choice deep inside. After soul searching, he came up with his choice.
But this is really good news. All the indoctrination, all the intimidation, all the isolation, all the redesignation is met by Daniel's determination. You have a young teenage boy who's been abducted saying at this point, nope, not going to cross that line. So he's determined, he purposes in his heart. Listen, the power to not conform to the culture around you is always an inside job.
It always begins on the inside. And it happens when your decisions become your convictions. Anybody can make a decision, a choice, but when those decisions and choices become your defined nature, your conviction, this is who I am, it's different. Now listen, the effectiveness of the rest of Daniel's life depends on this very moment. If he doesn't make the right choice, Daniel would not make the right impact. This choice that he makes that day will determine the man that he will become every day after this day. He's making a very, very important choice.
I want you to see what W.A. Criswell, he's been in heaven a while, but look at what he said about this. He said, all of life is filled with crises and decisions. There are right decisions, wrong decisions, high roads, low roads. And almost every day there will be a fork in the road where you are today is due to the turn in the road you took yesterday. You are the product of your choices. You are where you are because of the choices you have made.
And you have many more to make. So your decisions must become your convictions, purpose of heart, purpose of heart. So it began with an inward conviction, but notice something else.
It included a spiritual definition. Notice that Daniel doesn't see the delicacies offered him as delicacies. Daniel sees the delicacies offered him as defilement.
He didn't go, hot dog, I'm a teenager and I get all the wine I can drink and all the desserts I can have. He didn't see it that way. Look at verse eight. 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. I know you're still thinking, what's the big deal? Food is food. Not to Daniel, he's a Jewish kid. And according to his law, Jewish law, there's certain kinds of food you can eat and certain kind you can't eat. And when you can eat it, it's called kosher cuisine. And when you can eat it, it's unkosher.
And it's a practice still to this day. So according to Levitical laws, you certainly couldn't eat stuff that has been sacrificed to pagan gods. And the way the Babylonians prepared it evidently was not according to Jewish kosher law. So he just says, you can't eat it. You can't eat it.
Not going to do it. And then he said, I don't want the wine, because the wine had been poured onto pagan altars. That was their practice. And then the rest of the wine was taken undiluted. And the Jews didn't drink undiluted wine.
They would mix their wine 20 parts of water to one part of wine, because wine was basically used by the Jews to kill germs. So the idea of something foreign God that might give me an altered state of consciousness, as well as this pagan revelry, no, I'm not going to do it. So he called it a defilement.
And I know you might think, yeah, I still don't see what the big deal is. I mean, Daniel is not in Jerusalem. He's in Babylon. So, dude, accommodate, right?
I mean, when in Babylon, live like the Babylonians. Your parents aren't even around. Your friends are being around. The rabbis aren't here. Nobody's going to see, do what you want.
You got a lot of excuses. That's the deal. Daniel wasn't looking for an excuse, because Daniel was living with purpose. That's Skip Heitzig with a message from the series Hunting Giants. Right now, we want to share about a great resource that will deepen your knowledge of God's Word even more. Our lives rotate around crucial moments and decisions where everything changes.
We call them pivot points. Here's Skip Heitzig. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials. Do you think Peter is actually saying that there are times when God knows you need a trial? Is that what he's saying? Uh-huh.
That's exactly what he's saying. You can prepare for inevitable upcoming pivot points in your life. Receive your copy of Skip's pivot points collection of six messages. The pivot point package speaks to marriage, death, depression, recovery, fear of the future, and moving to a new location or job.
This package includes a personal message of direction on each topic from Skip. The pivot points package is our thank you when you give $50 or more to this teaching ministry by calling 800-922-1888 or give online securely at connectwithskip.com slash offer. We hope you'll help us take our messages into the top 20 population centers in our country. That's our vision for the coming year. Will you help us make it happen?
Please call 800-922-1888 or give online securely at connectwithskip.com slash offer. Thank you for partnering with us. Tune in tomorrow as Skip Heitzig shares how God blesses your obedience and devotion to live for Him. Easiest thing to do is go along with it. Everybody thinks and tells you to do.
Fit in. Don't speak up. That's easy.
Anybody. Everybody does that. Don't. Go against the flow. Be a live fish. Buck the system. Go against the flow. Stand up for Christ.
Don't be ashamed of the gospel. Make a connection. Make a connection at the foot of the crossing. Cast all burdens on His word. Make a connection. A connection. Connect with Skip Heitzig is a presentation of Connection Communications, connecting you to God's never changing truth in ever changing times.
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