We're hearing a lot these days about the Middle East, aren't we? Saddam Hussein, most of us never even knew this guy's name before about six months ago, never even heard of him. Suddenly he's become probably the most popular name in all the world next to President Bush, perhaps, or Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Persian Gulf War, although it's not a declared war, it's still a war. Israel, the rebuilding of the Temple, the Battle of Armageddon, the return of Christ, these are themes that we hear all around us these days, it seems. People at work are talking about it. People on the streets are talking about it. People around us are looking at the events of the Middle East and asking, what's going on?
I was sitting with some folks last night at the Young Mary's Valentine Banquet, and they were telling me how at their work. People are coming up to them because they know they're Christians and saying, what about the Battle of Armageddon? What does this have to do with the Battle of Armageddon?
I mean, these people probably don't have any idea, frankly, what the Battle of Armageddon really is, but they know enough about it to have some idea there might be some kind of a connection here. In order to answer that question, what's going on, some people are turning to political analysts, some people are turning to cultural experts, but a lot of people are coming to Christians and are taking a new look at the Bible to try to see how all the events of 1991 are fitting into biblical prophecy and into what the Word of God has to say about the end times. Now, when we think about the Bible and we think about the end times, immediately there is one book of the Bible that comes to mind, and that is the book of the Revelation, and with its graphic pictures of the final days of this age and its symbolic language that has challenged biblical scholars for 19 centuries to figure out what it's talking about. The truth is, however, that there's another book in the Bible that speaks with great specificity to God's plan for the ages and to the events of the end times, and that is the book of Daniel. Many people have called it the Revelation of the Old Testament, because biblical scholars will tell you, and I agree completely with this, that you really can't understand the book of the Revelation if you don't understand the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel is really the key to unlocking and placing into proper perspective the entire book of Revelation. And so beginning this evening, I want us to start studying the book of Daniel, and I've entitled this large series, Daniel, the Middle East, and the Return of Christ. And we want to take this book, the book of Daniel, one chapter at a time. The goal is not to dissect every single verse to the fullest.
If we did that, we would spend about as much time doing Daniel as we spend doing our stuff in the morning. I don't want to do that, but I do want to move through one chapter at a time, and I want us to get a basic grasp on the prophecies of Daniel and how they relate to the Middle East today, and how they relate to the return of the Lord Jesus in the future. Tonight, I want us to take a little bit of time to introduce this book, because it's an important part of understanding the book, to understand the context of the book and the way it's been attacked by critics and how it stood its ground. That's important, because if we're going to read these prophecies and interpret them as though they're true, we need some confirmation in our hearts that the book of Daniel has integrity, and that it can stand the test of the critic. And then this evening, we also want to look at chapter one, and I've entitled chapter one, Those Who Honor Me.
They say, well, Lon, really, that's very nice, but I didn't come here for that. I came here to hear about Saddam Hussein. I came here to hear, is he the Antichrist, and is Babylon going to be rebuilt again, and is the Antichrist Empire going to be Iraq, and is the Battle of Armageddon right around the corner? And that's what I came to hear tonight. Well, I'm sorry, but that's next week. You'll have to come back next week. I didn't promise you I was going to talk about that tonight.
If you read the title and thought that's what I was going to talk about, I didn't promise that. I told you this morning I was going to talk about chapter one. But we are going to talk about that next week, and I hope you'll come back, because it is true that Babylon and modern-day Iraq, in my opinion, fit very significantly into the events of the end times. And we'll tell you more about that next week when we get into chapter two, which is the king's dream and Daniel's prophecy of the kingdoms of the ages, going all the way through down to the kingdom of the Antichrist and the return of the Lord Jesus. Next week, chapter two.
Tonight, we want to talk about chapter one, and please don't sit there and go, oh, shoot, I can't believe I showed up tonight. Listen, chapter one is a great chapter, and God's going to use it to really deal, I hope, with our lives and challenge us for Christ. So let's pray. Ask the Spirit of God to be our teacher tonight, and then we'll dig in. Thank you, Father, that the Word of God does not return void, but it accomplishes that which you send it to accomplish. And, Lord Jesus, we pray that you would help it this evening accomplish in our hearts and in our lives what you wanted to, that you would not only instruct us in your Word, but that the Spirit of God Himself would challenge our hearts with biblical truth tonight. And, Father, that we would walk out of here having heard the voice of God. And, Lord Jesus, we would walk out of here saying, yes, Lord, whatever it is you're asking me to do, because you're Lord, I'll do it. And so, Father, have your way in each one of our hearts tonight. Use the Word of God to deal with our hearts as you see fit. We commit our time now in the study of the Word of God to you. Be honored in it, we pray, Father.
In Jesus' name, amen. Let's talk a little bit about the book of Daniel. No other book in the entire Bible has been attacked the way the book of Daniel has been attacked. For over 1,600 years, beginning way back with the Syrian church father, his name is Porfiry.
That's spelled P-O-R-P-H-Y-R-Y, Porfiry. Beginning back 1,600 years ago with this Syrian church father, ever since then, Daniel has been in the critics' den. Porfiry proposed the notion that instead of Daniel being written by the prophet Daniel in about 530 B.C., the way the Bible claims, that the book of Daniel is actually a forgery. Written somewhere around 168 B.C., that is about 350 years after the Bible claims it was written, and that it was written not by Daniel at all, but it was written by somebody who borrowed Daniel's name in order to give the book some authority, in order to give the book some credence in the mind of the Jews. The book was written to encourage the Jews, who at that time were undergoing great persecution at the hands of a fellow named Antiochus Epiphanes.
You say, who? Well, he was the king of Syria, he had desecrated the temple, he was making life miserable for the Jews, and the Feast of Hanukkah, where the Maccabees overthrew his rule and cleansed the temple, were all the events that came from the time of 168 B.C. when the Jews were fighting with this fellow named Antiochus. The important point I want you to get is that the opinion that this fellow porphyry put forward is that the historical accounts in the book of Daniel were fiction, and its so-called prophecies were not prophecies at all, but rather history that had already happened that somebody went back and wrote as though it was prophecy. In other words, there was no real prophecy for telling the future involved in the book at all.
It would be, for example, like if you were today as a 20th century person to look back on the events of the Civil War, and then as though you were to then go back and write a book in the name of George Washington, who lived a century before the Civil War, and in this book, in the name of George Washington, you were to predict or you were to prophesy all the events of the Civil War, supposedly 100 years or 200 years before it happened. Do you understand what they're saying happened here? That somebody in 168 looked back, it was all history, he took the name of Daniel, wrote a book, claimed it was prophecy, but it wasn't.
Do you follow what I'm saying? In other words, the book of Daniel is a forgery and a fraud. And ever since porphyry's time, there has been no shortage of skeptics, many of whom call themselves biblical scholars who have avidly taught and believed this same thing. Now, in response to this attack on the book of Daniel, we, the believing church, have firmly stood and defended the integrity of the book of Daniel.
Until recently, I've got to tell you honestly, our defense has been based more on faith than it has been on a preponderance of extra biblical facts that we could look at to prove the book. We would point to the fact that the book of Daniel was included in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which took place about 250 B.C., and we would say, well, how could it be included at 250 B.C. if it wasn't written until 168? The critics would say, well, we've got later copies of the Greek translation.
It was added later. We would point to the historian Josephus, who records the tradition that when Alexander the Great was threatening Jerusalem in 332 B.C., the high priest of Jerusalem went out to meet Alexander and took out with him the book of Daniel. And he opened the book of Daniel to chapter 8 and showed Alexander the Great, where he was in Daniel chapter 8 as the great conqueror, and in response, Alexander the Great was so impressed that he spared the city. Now, how could that have happened in 332 B.C. if the book wasn't written until 168 B.C.?
But the critics say, well, that's just tradition. We have no proof that happened. We would look at the Lord Jesus. And as believers, we would look in Matthew 24, where Jesus said, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, fleeing in the mountains, and we'd say, look, the Lord Jesus Christ obviously believed the book of Daniel was legitimate, and for us as Christians, that meant everything.
But for the critics, that meant nothing, because they don't really trust him either. So before recent archaeological discoveries of the last 50 years, frankly, friends, our defense of the book of Daniel was more by faith than anything else. Thank God for archaeology. If you know an archaeologist, write him a letter and thank him, because archaeology has been our best friend in the defense of the Word of God. Let me tell you a little bit about what's come in the last 50 years that give us some solid ground archaeologically to defend the integrity of the book of Daniel.
I won't give it all to you, but let me give you a little bit. The book of Daniel was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Copies of the book of Daniel were found dating to 100 B.C. There were many of these scrolls found and many fragments of the book found, and they were interspersed with the holiest and most revered books of the Old Testament, like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Now, it is positively indefensible for people to say that this book, the book of Daniel, could have been written only 50 years before as a fraud, as a forgery, and somehow could have made its way all the way out into the extremes of the Judean desert, way up into the mountains, and have been revered along with the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and that all that could have happened in 50 years.
It just doesn't make any sense. In fact, even critics who are not willing to accept the integrity of the book of Daniel admit in print that this is very difficult to explain. Thank God for the Dead Sea Scrolls that established the authenticity and the age of the book of Daniel. More than that, archaeology has shown that whoever wrote the book of Daniel had a knowledge of Babylonian history and Babylonian politics that somebody writing 400 years later in 168 B.C.
could never have had. One example, Daniel chapter 5. You remember in Daniel 5, the king's name is Belshazzar? And the writing on the wall, we'll talk about it in chapter 5, the handwriting came and wrote on the wall, and Belshazzar was in there partying with all of his friends and his nobles, and he calls Daniel in and he says, Daniel, if you can interpret this, I'll make you third ruler in the kingdom.
Well, the critics for centuries looked at that chapter and said, see, this is proof that the book of Daniel is a fraud. First of all, we know that the last king of the Babylonian empire was not named Belshazzar. And second of all, why in the world would the king offer him the third place in the kingdom?
That doesn't make any sense. You'd offer him the second place in the kingdom. Well, recent archaeological discoveries have confirmed that the last king of the Babylonian empire was not named Belshazzar. He was named Nabonidus. But we know now that Nabonidus had a weakness. His weakness was his hobby. He had a hobby.
Isn't that nice to know? He had a hobby. His hobby was archaeology. He was an amateur archaeologist. And Nabonidus would leave Babylon for long periods of time. We know that now from Babylonian records and go out in the desert and dig.
He would go on archaeological digs. And while he was gone in the desert, he was gone so much and so long and so often from Babylon that he felt that he had to leave somebody in control back in Babylon. So he took his son and made his son his co-regent, his second in command. You want to take a guess what the name of his son was? If you say Belshazzar, you're right. You know why Belshazzar offered Daniel the third place in the kingdom? Why? Because he was second.
That's right. He couldn't offer him second. He was second.
The best he could offer him was third. Up to 50 years ago, we didn't even know that. How could anybody writing in 168 B.C. have ever known that if the person had lived in Israel all his life and was making this up?
Only someone who was intimately involved in Babylonian history, Babylonian politics, who knew every in and out of what was going on in the court could have ever known that. And instead of therefore Daniel Chapter 5 being a proof that the Book of Daniel is wrong, it's an incredible proof that the Book of Daniel is right, absolutely right. And so the point is, let me summarize, that I believe the Book of Daniel stands in a stronger position today than it has for 1,600 years. Hardcore critics still won't accept its integrity.
They never will. But the evidence won't support the notion anymore that the Book of Daniel is a fraud. Today the evidence strongly supports our taking the Book of Daniel to be exactly what it claims to be, a book written in 530 B.C. by a literal man of God named Daniel who walked with God and saw God do some incredible stuff, including giving him some prophecies of the future that apply even to our situation today. And that's how we're going to approach this book as we study it. We're going to approach it with the assumption that the Book of Daniel is what it claims to be, and we've got the evidence to back it up.
Thank God for that. Now, as we get ready to dig into Chapter 1, we need a little historical background. We've got to put Chapter 1 into a context of what's going on in history. So listen carefully, class, because there's going to be a little quiz, but you can't leave if you don't at least pass. We're going to have guards at the door. So listen, all right? Hold on.
I'll try to make it as simple as I can, but this is important. Let's take a little history lesson. When King Solomon died around 900 B.C., the kingdom of the Hebrews split into two nations.
You remember this? The northern ten tribes called Israel. All right, maybe you'll do better on the second one. And the southern two tribes called? Oh, very good.
That's good. Now, the southern two tribes called Judah because they consisted of Judah and Benjamin. The northern kingdom, Israel, was captured by the Assyrians in 721 B.C., carried away into captivity, and for all practical purposes ceased to exist. However, God in his mercy delivered Judah from her sister's fate, and that was because of God's covenant to David in 2 Samuel 7. In 2 Samuel 7, God promises David that there would never be a situation where David didn't have someone to continue on his throne. There would never be a time where God would totally wipe out David's descendants and his kingdom. And so in his mercy and in fulfillment of his covenant, Judah escaped their fate. However, in 2 Samuel 7, God also told David that if his descendants sinned, God would punish and discipline them. He wouldn't destroy them, but he would chastise them.
And that's exactly what God did. After repeated appeals for Judah to repent, which went unheeded, God sent the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar to carry out this disciplinary action upon the nation of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar actually captured Jerusalem three different times.
You may not know this. Three different times he took the city. He took the city first in 606 BC. And when he took it in 606 BC, he left the city intact.
He left the temple intact. He looted the temple of all of its gold and all of its silver, but he didn't burn it to the ground. And he took some of the nobles and some of the craftsmen of the people of Israel to Babylon, not the whole population, just a few, including Daniel and his three friends. Daniel and his three friends went to Babylon in 606 BC when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time. Now in 597, roughly nine years later, the Jews revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, and he came back and he captured the city a second time.
And this time, once again, he was gracious. He didn't burn the city. He didn't burn the temple. He put a new king on the throne. He instructed this king, don't do this again.
And he went home. Well, 11 years later in 586 BC, the Jews revolted against Nebuchadnezzar again. And by this time, Nebuchadnezzar was up to the gills with these people. And this time, 586 BC, he came back to Jerusalem for the third time. And this time, he captured the city, burned it to the ground, ripped the temple to the ground, tore every brick down, burned the entire city up, and carried away virtually the entire population of Judah to Babylon and made them slaves. Okay, are you with me?
Everybody with me? So Daniel didn't go to Babylon in 586. He went 20 years before that in 606 BC, the first time Nebuchadnezzar took the city. And he was actually in Babylon for 20 years before the temple was ever burned or before the city was ever sacked and ruined. The Babylonian Empire lasted for another 50 years after the destruction of Judah, but God made a great promise to the Jews even though he was disciplining them, and I want you to see that here in Jeremiah 25. He says in Jeremiah 25 verse 11, And the whole land, he said, shall be a desolation and a horror, talking about Judah. And these nations shall serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. And it shall come to pass, verse 12, when 70 years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, says the Lord, for their iniquity. And I will make of the land of the Chaldeans a perpetual desolation. And I will bring on that land all of my words, which I pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against the nations. God promised the Jews they would only be in Babylon for 70 years. And later on when we get to Daniel chapter 9, we're going to find that Daniel 9 begins with Daniel praying as these 70 years are coming to an end, realizing that God has made a promise and that the return of the Jews to the land is imminent, and that's going to figure in the events of Daniel chapter 9. So they were only in Babylon for 70 years before they were allowed to return. Babylon fell in 539 BC. Now remember, 606 is the first time Judah was taken. And in 536 BC, after Cyrus the Great had taken Babylon, the Persian Empire had taken over, Ezra chapter 1 tells us, and I'd like to read it to you.
Listen to what it says. In the first year of Cyrus, the king of Persia, so that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, we just read that, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, and he made a proclamation throughout all the land, saying, Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia, the Lord God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build a house for him in Jerusalem. Who is there among you of his people who desires to go up to Jerusalem and build the house of the Lord?
Let him go. And so in fulfillment of the word of God, 70 years later, 537 BC, Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to leave Babylon, those who wanted, go back to Judah, and rebuild the temple. Now, that's all the history lesson we need for tonight.
Let me summarize. When we pick up in Daniel chapter 1, let's make sure we remember where we are. Nebuchadnezzar has just captured Jerusalem for the first time. He has left the city standing, he's left the temple standing, he's left the bulk of the people there, but he decided to carry off to Babylon some of the choicest citizens of Judah, and among them were Daniel and his three friends.
Now, did I lose everybody, or are you with me? Okay, now let's go to Daniel 1, and we'll actually start looking at Daniel. Daniel chapter 1.
Let's begin at verse 1. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim the king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged him, and the Lord gave Jehoiakim the king of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar's hand with part of the vessels of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar into the house of his God, Nebuchadnezzar, and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his God. And the king spoke to Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, and said that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, of the king's seed and of the prince's, young men in whom there was no blemish, but who were well favored and skilled in all wisdom, and gifted in knowledge and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
Let's stop there. Nebuchadnezzar captures the city, and after he captures the city he turns to his friend Ashpenaz, whom the Bible calls the chief of the eunuchs. The Hebrew word is rapsaris here, which is merely an attempt to translate a Babylonian word.
Again, this is another case where critics pointed and said, see there, the Bible's inaccurate. But just recently we found a Babylonian brick on which the word rapsaris appears, meaning the chief of the eunuchs. So Daniel got it right. So Ashpenaz, this fellow, is told by Nebuchadnezzar to pick out a bunch of guys who really, who Ashpenaz feels are really the cream of the crop.
And let's bring them to Babylon, let's train them how to speak Chaldean, let's train them in all the ways of the Chaldeans, and we're going to make them servants to me, the king, Nebuchadnezzar said. And so Ashpenaz did this. And we learned that Daniel and his three friends were among these young men that Ashpenaz chose. Verse 5. And the king appointed for them, for these young men, a daily provision of the king's food and of the wine that he drank, so nourishing them for three years, that at the end of that time they might stand before the king. Now among these were the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, unto whom the prince of the eunuchs, Ashpenaz, gave different names. He changed their names to Babylonian names. Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called our friend Shadrach, he called Mishael our friend Meshach, and he called Azariah our friend Abednego. We know him as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
That was not their Hebrew name, that was their Babylonian names that their names were changed to. But we read here and we learn that Daniel and his three friends went to Babylon and they were sequestered for three years to be trained to work in the palace. Now during their sequestering the king provided for them the very best rations that they could possibly get. Verse 5 says they had the king's choice food and they had the very wine that the king drank.
Now it's here that the problem begins for Daniel and his three friends. Verse 8, but Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's food nor the wine that he drank. Now the king's food was no doubt appetizing. I'm sure the king ate the best, you know what I'm saying?
And the king's wine was no doubt the best. And I'm sure it was particularly tantalizing to Daniel and his friends after having just gone through a siege. You remember it says in the beginning of the chapter that they've been going through a siege. Now when you go through a siege, food gets short. That's how you take a city.
When you besiege it, you starve people out. And so people go from eating steak and then before long they're eating just bread and water and before long they're eating lots of other things that are kind of, you know, gruesome that if you've read much of the Bible you've read about. And so now to come and be offered the king's food, I mean, it's kind of like being offered lobster tails and shrimp after you've been eating hot dogs and beans.
So I'm sure it was a temptation. The problems with the king's food was threefold. Number one, it wasn't kosher. It was forbidden by the Old Testament law.
I'm sure the king ate ham and bacon and barbecued pork and all kinds of good stuff that these people couldn't eat. Second of all, it wasn't killed in the biblical manner. You know, biblically you had to kill an animal in a certain way for it to be edible. Even the good animals, even the kosher animals had to be killed in a right manner. You had to slit their throat and let all the blood drain out because the Old Testament says you don't eat blood. Well, I'm sure Nebuchadnezzar didn't do it that way.
He probably just took an old sledgehammer and hit them over the top of the head and cut them up and that's how they did it. Well, you couldn't eat that kind of food and be a good Old Testament Jew. Third, not only was the food not kosher and was it not killed right, but third, there is no doubt that most of this food had first gone through an idols temple and had been dedicated to one of the Babylonian idols. And so knowing all of this, Daniel knew that to eat this food was to defile himself before Almighty God. And he made up his mind that regardless what the consequences were, he wasn't going to eat it.
Now the consequences frankly were liable to be great. I mean Nebuchadnezzar was not exactly what you would call a tender man. I mean James Dobson, he wasn't.
You know what I'm saying? Nebuchadnezzar had quite a reputation. In Daniel chapter 3 you're going to see that when the three Hebrew boys come safely out of the fire, do you remember what he did? He took all of his officers and threw them in the fire.
The Bible also tells us, and you don't have to turn there, but you might want to jot it down in Jeremiah 29 verse 22. It tells us that Nebuchadnezzar roasted in the fire the last king of Judah, Zedekiah. He roasted him like a marshmallow. Just put him right in the fire and roasted him to death. Moreover, before he roasted him to death, Jeremiah 39 tells us that when he took Jerusalem for the last time, he was so fed up with these people that Zedekiah the king, he got Zedekiah, and he took Zedekiah out into the open square of the city, Nebuchadnezzar did, and he marched all of Zedekiah's sons in front of him, and in front of Zedekiah's onlooking eyes he killed every single one of his sons, and then he gouged out both of Zedekiah's eyes so that the very last thing this man would ever remember seeing were his own sons being put to death.
Look, this guy makes Saddam Hussein look like a puppy dog. You know what I'm saying? This was a ruthless guy, and when you were going to tell this guy that you were not going to eat his food and you didn't care what he did, we're going to see later in the book telling Nebuchadnezzar no was not in your best interest if you wanted a long life. Nebuchadnezzar was a bad guy, and when Daniel made up his mind to defy Nebuchadnezzar and to face the price, whatever that might be, he knew the price was liable to be real high, but the point of this chapter is Daniel didn't care.
You understand? The point of the chapter is Daniel didn't care what the price was. He was going to do what he thought God wanted him to do, and he frankly didn't care what Nebuchadnezzar did, and that's the whole point. Daniel had a higher concern that he was worried about, and his concern was that he stay faithful to Almighty God.
So let's see what happens. He said, I'm not going to eat it. Chapter 1, verse 8. Therefore, he requested of Ashpenaz that he might not have to defile himself. Now, God had brought Daniel into favor and compassion with Ashpenaz.
Isn't that a neat thing that God did? God had worked in the heart of this fellow Ashpenaz, where for whatever reason, humanly speaking, he liked Daniel. He probably didn't even know why he liked Daniel, but he liked him.
Why did he like him? Because God the Spirit was working in this man's heart and giving Daniel favor, and Ashpenaz frankly was saying, well, gee, I'd like to help this kid. Verse 10. And so Ashpenaz said to Daniel, look, I am scared to death of the king, and well, he should have been, and the king appointed your food and your drink, and I'm scared to death that if this king sees you in a couple of weeks and you look worse than you look now, and you're all haggard and your face and your color is bad, man, it could be the last official act I ever make to not let you eat this food. I'm scared to death.
You're going to endanger my head, he says. This guy knew Nebuchadnezzar pretty well. Now, at this point, Daniel could have given up and said, oh, well, good try, but he didn't. Daniel proposed a creative alternative to Ashpenaz. Look what he said, verse 11. Daniel said, he said, look, do me a favor.
Test us, verse 12. Give us ten days and let us eat nothing but veggies. Give us veggies for ten days. No meat, just give us cauliflower and broccoli and green beans and cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
Would you like that? Okra, collard greens. Now, if you're from the south, you're sitting there going, man, I could live on that, but you northerners can't live on that stuff. Well, anyway, us southerners could have made it. And maybe Daniel was a southern Jew, I don't know, but that was the kind of stuff he wanted to live off of. And the king said, Ashpenaz was worried to death because he said, my goodness, if I give you that kind of stuff to eat and I'm feeding all these other people lobster tails and steak and pork roast, well, you're going to look awful compared to these guys. Daniel said, I tell you what, he said, you give us ten days. You give us nothing but water to drink and you give us nothing but vegetables to eat and at the end of ten days, you look at our countenance and compare it to the countenance of all these other guys eating the king's food and you see if we don't look as good as they do.
Give us a chance, just for ten days. And because God had worked in Ashpenaz's heart and given Daniel favor, Ashpenaz put his own head on the line and said, all right, I'll give it a try. And so we did. Now, friends, what I want you to see here, this is a great thing because it tells us something very important about Daniel. It tells us something very important about Daniel's conception of God and this is really the point of our evening. And that is that Daniel's offer, this ten-day offer, was based upon the fact that he believed he had a big God. Listen now, a God who was so big that God was able to suspend the laws of nature and suspend the regular laws of human dynamics and God was able to make them look great off veggies if he wanted to. Moreover, in Daniel's mind, not only was God able to do that, but Daniel believed God would do that in response to Daniel's commitment to honor God and put him first.
You with me? He believed that he could count on God to back him up powerfully whenever he made the commitment to put God first and that God was big enough to meet any test that God was put to. If you miss this, you miss the whole message of the chapter. This is the way Daniel saw God. I don't believe Daniel had the slightest doubt that at the end of ten days he was going to look great because he knew God could do it and he knew God would do it because he put God first.
What happened? Well, let's look. Verse 14. So Ashkenaz consented and he tested them ten days and at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the youth who ate the lobster tails and the t-bones.
And so they said, all right, if this is the way it is, we'll take away your meat for good and take away your wine for good and you can have vegetables the rest of your life if you want them. I'm telling you, this is exciting. Ashkenaz at the end of ten days found that these four guys had the oil of Olay look. You know? Man, their skin was so beautiful. They said, good night. If they were healthy, Ashkenaz himself might have gone to eat in Brussels sprouts in Oprah. Who knows? Exciting what God did.
Anyway, let's finish it out. Verse 17. And these four youth, as for them, God gave them knowledge and skill and learning and wisdom and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams and at the end of the days that the king had said that they should be brought in, three years later, the prince of the eunuchs, Ashkenaz, bought them all before Nebuchadnezzar and the king conversed with them and among them all was found, none like Daniel and Hananiah and Mishael and Hazariah. When the king compared them, these were the smartest guys in the whole bunch.
Therefore, they stood before the king and in all matters of wisdom and understanding that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times smarter than all the magicians and all the astrologers that were in his realm. And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus. God not only gave Daniel the oil of Olaylok with the food he ate, but he did much more. It says here in verse 17 that God mightily honored Daniel for what he had done. God gave him, verse 17, great wisdom and intelligence.
God gave him, verse 17, great understanding of dreams and visions. God gave him, verse 19, a place of honor and a place of high position in the kingdom of Babylon. God gave him, verse 20, great honor in the sight of the king. God gave him, verse 21, long life. Remember, King Cyrus doesn't show up until 539 B.C.
Daniel was probably close to 80 years old, maybe even 90 by then. On top of everything else he gave him, God gave him a great, long, prosperous life. Daniel set his heart to honoring God, and what I want you to see is that God honored him right back. As we're going to see in the whole rest of the book, God honored him back in many, many ways. Well, you know, I teach us that whenever we study a passage, we always have to answer a question, and that is, so what? Yeah. All right, Lon, so what? This is great. I really appreciate it. I'm glad, Daniel, ate vegetables, looked healthy.
I'm not interested in becoming a vegetarian. So what? Here's the so what. There's a verse of Scripture that says, 1 Samuel 2, verse 30, They who honor me, many of you know it, I will, what? Honor, saith the Lord. And that was said over 3,000 years ago, but it's just as true today as it was then. It's been true down through the ages ever since God said it, and even before the principle held true. It was true for Daniel.
We've just seen it. Daniel made up his mind, verse 8, that he was not going to defile himself with the king's food. He said, I'm going to put God first, I'm going to honor God, I'm going to place God number one, and I don't care what the king does, that's the way it is. And look at the way God honored him back. I don't think you would have predicted this outcome if you had been in Babylon. You would have predicted the king probably would have cut his head off, but look what God did for him. And he's not the only one that God has ever done that for. How about Joseph? When Potiphar's wife came and got, you know, what we used to call in the south, a hankering for Joseph, you know what I'm saying? Joseph said, no way.
There is no way I can sin and do this great thing against God. And they threw him in jail. And in the short term, you would say, man, God didn't honor him. He got the short end of the stick for honoring God.
Well, friends, you've got to read the end of the story. And at the end of the story, he comes out of the jail as prime minister of Egypt. He never even would have gotten to be prime minister of Egypt if he hadn't been thrown in the jail and he wouldn't have been thrown into jail if he hadn't made up his mind to honor God. And how about David? David refused to lay a hand on Saul and kill him. And when he was in the cave, all his men said, kill him, kill him. Come on, David, kill him, kill him. David said, uh-uh, not going to do it that way. When God's ready, God will take care of Saul.
And that's why God honored David the way he did. How about Ruth? Remember Ruth and her mother-in-law?
And she had another sister-in-law. And the other sister-in-law said, I'm staying in Moab. I'm not going back. But Ruth said, no, I'm going to go where you go, Naomi. I'm going to stick by you.
You don't have anyone. I'm going to love you. I'm going to go back and your people will be my people and your God will be my God.
I'm going to stick with you. And boy, did God honor her for doing that? Man, she ended up marrying old Rich Boaz and lived a tremendously comfortable life that she would never have lived back in Moab. And what's more, she ended up in the line of not only David but the Lord Jesus Christ, all because she put God first. How about Daniel's three friends? We're going to see a little bit later they refused to bow down to the king's image and how God delivered them out of the fiery furnace. And how about old Mordecai? Remember Mordecai who would not bow down to Haman? And what did God do? God honored Mordecai and they ended up hanging Haman on the very gallows he built for Mordecai.
And Mordecai took over Haman's place as prime minister. Down through the ages, every man and woman of God who's ever lived and has ever put God's promise to the test has found that God has always been true to this promise, those who honor me. I will honor, saith the Lord. And friends, God has no intention of changing that promise for you or for me. If he honored it for David and he honored it for Ruth and he honored it for Joseph and he honored it for Daniel and he honored it for Mordecai, he's going to honor it for you. What does it mean to honor God?
Very simple. It means to do what Daniel and all these other people did. It means to put God first.
It means to put devotion to God first, loyalty to God first, obedience to God first. There are all kinds of ways we can honor God. We can honor God by giving faithfully to the work of Christ the way the Bible tells us. We can honor God by forgiving others the way the Word of God demands us to. We can honor God by being a man or a woman of ethics and morals in our business, in our interactions with people. The way the Word of God tells us to. We can honor God by standing up for the truth of God and the truth of the Word of God like Daniel did, regardless of the consequences in our classrooms, in our offices, in our neighborhoods, in our families. On and on we could go, but I think the point is clear. When we honor God, God has a commitment to honor us back. I want to close with a story.
Some of you have heard me tell it before, but I don't know. I mean, this is the best example that I know of from my own personal experience to tell you how God proved himself to me on this account. A number of years ago I was at Johns Hopkins working in graduate study on my doctorate, and we had a seminar class every Wednesday afternoon. I was in Near Eastern studies, and most of the department had no commitment to Christ.
In fact, most of the department, frankly, were committed not to Christ, if you know what I'm saying. And in this seminar, every student was assigned a paper, and then you were given a number of weeks to work on it. And then you would come in, and you would read your paper in front of the whole department. All the professors would come in, and you'd read your paper.
And they'd ask questions, or they'd offer critiques, and that's kind of the way it worked up at that level of education. Well, the paper I was assigned was Isaiah 1.18, "'Come now, let us reason together,' saith the Lord, even though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." And my assignment was to decide, based on Hebrew grammar, is that really what the verse is saying, a promise from God, even though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, or was it, as many commentators say, the exact opposite, a rhetorical question? In other words, God was saying, even though your sins are as scarlet, shall they be white as snow?
No way! In other words, the exact opposite. And my job is to figure out which was right. So I went, and for weeks, weeks, I worked on that. I mean, I looked up every rhetorical question in Hebrew everywhere it met. I mean, when I came in, brother, I knew about rhetorical questions. I mean, that's all there was to it. And I wrote this paper, and I went in and read a paper that established that there is no way, based on grammar and syntax, that that verse can mean anything else but how the King James translates it.
It's a promise from God, even though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be whiter than snow. I was really proud of myself. I mean, I thought I'd really done a good job on this paper. Well, after I got through reading it, down at the other end of the table, there's this big, tall Texan. He was a professor. I won't tell you his name, but anyway—because this is on tape—but anyway, he was a professor from Texas. And he'd gone to a very conservative Christian upbringing in Texas, and then he'd gone off to Harvard University and gotten his doctorate and become a flaming liberal.
Not only was he a flaming liberal, but he was a flaming liberal who had a real bone to pick with conservatives like me, because he had used to been one, you know what I'm saying? And so he spoke up and said, well, Mr. Solomon, he said, I can't help but believe that there must be a rhetorical question somewhere in the Hebrew Bible that would support taking Isaiah 118 as a rhetorical question. And I said to him, doctor, and I called him by name, I said, I have been through every rhetorical question in the Hebrew Bible, and there is not one there. There is simply no evidence to take this as a rhetorical question.
It has got to mean what the King James Version takes it to mean. And the conversation heated up a little bit, and he said to me, well, I'm very sorry. He said, but you know, even if I cannot find any evidence grammatically to support that being a rhetorical question, he said, my theology demands that this has to be a rhetorical question, and that's the way I'm going to take it. Well, at that point, I probably should have shut up. But instead, I mean, we were into it, and I said to him, and I called him by name, and I said, Dr. So-and-so, if we're going to look at the grammar, and we're going to look at the syntax of Hebrew, and we're going to say that it supports one thing, and then you're going to come in and throw it out and say it doesn't make any bit of difference because it doesn't go with your theology.
Now, the whole department is sitting here. I said, it seems to me if that's the way we're going to do it, then we ought to stop studying grammar and syntax around here. We just ought to spend all our time studying your theology. Not the most PC way to do it. At that point, he took his Bible and he slammed it, like that, except it made a whole lot more noise than mine just made.
Put it down, like that. Stood up, and he was about 6'5", and had boots on. And he stood up, and he pointed his finger down the table at me, and he said, Mr. Solomon, so help me. As long as I'm at this university, you will never get a degree from this university.
He picked up his book, his son's arm, and he walked out. And everybody's sitting there going, including me. I came home and said to Brenda, you wouldn't believe what I did today, dear. If I told you what I did today, you're not going to believe what I did today. Friends, you want to hear something very interesting? I called a friend of mine, and I told him what had happened, and he said, Lon, God said those who honor me I will honor, didn't he?
I said, yeah. He said, just give it time. Give God time. He'll bring it around. You know, Johns Hopkins has a rule that when a professor comes as a brand new professor, he has to be given tenure within 11 years. And if he's not given tenure within 11 years, he has to leave. It's a very polite way of getting guys to go without firing them. You just don't give them tenure.
They sign the contract, and at the end of the 10th year, if they don't get it, they got to go. Well, this was the end of his 10th year. You'll never believe what happened.
Maybe some of you would. But even though he was one of the most well-respected scholars in the university, even though he had students and professors and people from all over the United States write letters suggesting that Hopkins give him tenure, do you know that because of budget constraints, they turned down his tenure? And come the next fall, September, guess who was still at Hopkins and guess who wasn't? And I got a degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Why? Because those who honor me, I will honor, saith the Lord. Now, I'm not suggesting you do it the way I did it. If I had it to do over again, I might have done it a little bit different now than I did it then.
But the point's the same. I was trying to stand for what I believed was the Word of God. And even though I might have done it a little bit stupidly, God's still honored because that's His promise. And my dear friends, may I challenge you, it may appear in the short run like you're losing when you live that way. You'll take some short-term losses, but that's all right because God's promise is a long-term promise, and God doesn't always bring it around the next day or the next week or the next month, but you can be sure God always brings it around, always brings it around. And if we'll operate on the same foundation Daniel did, that those who honor me, I will honor, God is big enough. Listen, God is big enough to intervene, and God is big enough to do exactly what He said He'll do if you'll put Him first.
And He'll do it. You'll never lose. You can never lose if you decide to live that way, not in the long run. And I don't know what it may be that God's calling upon you to honor Him with, but I wouldn't be surprised if almost every one of us here is facing some kind of struggle in our lives where God's asking us to put Him first and honor Him, and we're looking at the short-term loss and saying, God, I don't think that's a smart thing to do.
May I challenge you? Don't worry about the short-term loss. Worry about the promise of God. Put the promise of God on the front burner and do what God's asking you to do, and believe me, by the time it all comes out in the wash, God will do for you what He did for Daniel and what He's done for thousands of Christians down through the years. He'll honor you back.
You can't lose if you'll put Him first. May God help you do that. Let's pray. Lord, thanks for our time and your Word. Thanks for encouraging our hearts, and I don't know what it may be that different folks here may be struggling with, but Lord, I really pray that you would help every single one of them to deal with the Word of God, that those who honor me, I will honor, sayeth the Lord. And Lord, wherever it is that you're asking us to honor you, in our finances, maybe in our families, maybe in our standing for you in the office or in the classroom, wherever it is, Lord, that you're asking us to put you first, give us the confidence this evening to do it, not because it's smart on the human level, but because it's smart spiritually in light of the promises of God. And Lord Jesus, thank you for that great promise. We know you'll honor it. We thank you for how you did that with Daniel. We know you'll do it for us. Send us out of here this evening to put you first. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.
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