Wine, Steak and Lobster?
Daniel 1: 1-21 (NIV)
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[c] food and drink.Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Almost every Sunday School curriculum contains a lesson on Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah’s refusal to eat the King’s choice food. Most versions of the text use the word defile to describe the dangers of their eating the king’s food. What I find interesting is that defile basically means to dirty or tarnish something that is sacred or special. Despite being captive survivors of a tremendous of vicious military battle, Daniel and his friends still saw themselves as special in the eyes of God. So much so that they chose to eat vegetables and water when they could have had wine, steak and lobster.
Sin and obedience don’t seem to be the primary issues at play in eating the king’s food. Nothing bad happened to the boys who chose to eat the king’s food. Nor is there any indication that God was displeased with those who ate the king’s food. Daniel and his friend’s believed and behaved as if they were special in the eyes of God. According to the scriptures, God noticed Daniel and his friend’s faith and affirmed their specialness with favor. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah all become trusted advisor’s to king Nebuchadnezzar all because they chose to eat food consistent with their religious beliefs.
During Lent many Christians bond together and give up things to show their appreciation of God. Most of the times it things we do not like or know isn’t really good for us. After Lent is over, will we deny ourselves some of the finer things in life if they put us in conflict with spiritual maturity? Will we make sure that TV watching never compromises our Bible study or prayer time? Will we make sure to never let our spending compromise our tithing? Will we make sure to never let our political or social affiliations compromise our spiritual practices? Will we make sure to never let our employment obligations overtake our church obligations?
Their is nothing wrong with steak or lobster. It just that God often has much for us that we will never be able to see if we remain more focused on secular treasures like steak and lobster.
Just think Daniel’s extraordinary career and ministry in the kingdom Babylon all started with refusal to drink wine and eat steak or lobster?