the Court of Babylon
children of Israel who were carried captive to Babylon at the beginning of
the seventy years' captivity were Christian patriots, men who were as true
as steel to principle, who would not be corrupted by selfishness, but who
would honor God at the loss of all things. In the land of their captivity
these men were to carry out God's purpose by giving to heathen nations the
blessings that come through a knowledge of Jehovah. They were to be His
representatives. Never were they to compromise with idolaters; their faith
and their name as worshipers of the living God they were to bear as a high
honor. And this they did. In prosperity and adversity they honored God,
and God honored them.
The fact that
these men, worshipers of Jehovah, were captives in Babylon, and that the
vessels of God's house had been placed in the Temple of the Babylonish
gods, was boastfully cited by the victors as evidence that their religion
were superior to the religion and customs of the Hebrews. Yet through the
very humiliations that Israel's departure from Him had invited, God gave
Babylon evidence of His supremacy, of the holiness of His requirements,
and of the sure results of obedience. And this testimony He gave, as alone
it could be given, through those who were loyal to Him.
who maintained their allegiance to God were Daniel and his three
companions--illustrious examples of what men may become who unite with the
God of wisdom and power. From the comparative simplicity of their Jewish
home, these youth of royal line were taken to the most magnificent of
cities and into the court of the world's greatest monarch. Nebuchadnezzar
"spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring
certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the
princes; children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful
in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and
such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace. . . .
among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and
Azariah. " Seeing in these youth the promise of remarkable ability,
Nebuchadnezzar determined that they should be trained to fill important
positions in his kingdom. That they might be fully qualified for their
lifework, he arranged for them to learn the language of the Chaldeans and
for three years to be granted the unusual educational advantages afforded
princes of the realm.
The names of
Daniel and his companions were changed
representing Chaldean deities. Great significance was attached to the
names given by Hebrew parents to their children. Often these stood for
traits of character that the parent desired to see developed in the child.
The prince in whose charge the captive youth were placed, "gave unto
Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to
Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego."
The king did
not compel the Hebrew youth to renounce their faith in favor of idolatry,
but he hoped to bring this about gradually. By giving them names
significant of idolatry, by bringing them daily into close association
with idolatrous customs, and under the influence of the seductive rites of
heathen worship, he hoped to induce them to renounce the religion of their
nation and to unite with the worship of the Babylonians.
At the very
outset of their career there came to them a decisive test of character. It
was provided that they should eat of the food and drink of the wine that
came from the king's table. In this the king thought to give them an
expression of his favor and of his solicitude for their welfare. But a
portion having been offered to idols, the food from the king's table was
consecrated to idolatry; and one partaking of it would be regarded as
offering homage to the gods of Babylon. In such homage, loyalty to Jehovah
forbade Daniel and his companions to join. Even a mere pretense of eating
the food or drinking the wine would be a denial of their faith. To do this
would be to array themselves with heathenism and to dishonor the
principles of the law of God.
they risk the enervating effect of luxury and dissipation on physical,
mental, and spiritual development. They were acquainted with the history
of Nadab and Abihu, the record of whose intemperance and its results had
been preserved in the parchments of the Pentateuch; and they knew that
their own physical and mental power would be injuriously affected by the
use of wine.
his associates had been trained by their parents to habits of strict
temperance. They had been taught that God would hold them accountable for
their capabilities, and that they must never dwarf or enfeeble their
powers. This education was to Daniel and his companions the means of their
preservation amidst the demoralizing influences of the court of Babylon.
Strong were the temptations surrounding them in that corrupt and luxurious
court, but they remained uncontaminated. No power, no influence, could
sway them from the principles they had learned in early life by a study of
the word and works of God.
Had Daniel so
desired, he might have found in his surroundings a plausible excuse for
departing from strictly temperate habits. He might have argued that,
dependent as he was on the king's favor and subject to his power, there
was no other course for him to pursue than to eat of the king's food and
drink of his wine; for should he adhere to the divine teaching, he would
offend the king and probably lose his position and his life. Should he
disregard the commandment of the Lord he would retain the favor of the
king and secure for himself intellectual advantages and flattering worldly
did not hesitate. The approval of God was dearer to him than the favor of
the most powerful earthly potentate--dearer than life itself. He
determined to stand firm in his integrity, let the result be what it
might. He "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself
with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he
drank." And in this resolve he was supported by his three companions.
this decision, the Hebrew youth did not act presumptuously but in firm
reliance upon God. They did not choose to be singular, but they would be
so rather than dishonor God. Should they compromise with wrong in this
instance by yielding to the pressure of circumstances, their departure
from principle would weaken their sense of right and their abhorrence of
wrong. The first wrong step would lead to others, until, their connection
with Heaven severed, they would be swept away by temptation.
brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the
eunuchs," and the request that he might not defile himself was
received with respect. Yet the prince hesitated to grant it. "I fear
my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink," he
explained to Daniel; "for why should he see your faces worse liking
than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger
my head to the king."
appealed to Melzar, the officer in special charge of the Hebrew youth,
requesting that they might be excused from eating the king's meat and
drinking his wine. He asked that the matter be tested by a ten days'
during this time being supplied with simple food, while their companions
ate of the king's dainties.
though fearful that by complying with this request he would incur the
displeasure of the king, nevertheless consented; and Daniel knew that his
case was won. At the end of the ten days' trial the result was found to be
the opposite of the prince's fears. "Their countenances appeared
fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion
of the king's meat." In personal appearance the Hebrew youth showed a
marked superiority over their companions. As a result, Daniel and his
associates were permitted to continue their simple diet during their
entire course of training.
years the Hebrew youth studied to acquire "the learning and the
tongue of the Chaldeans." During this time they held fast their
allegiance to God and depended constantly upon His power. With their
habits of self-denial they united earnestness of purpose, diligence, and
steadfastness. It was not pride or ambition that had brought them into the
king's court, into companionship with those who neither knew nor feared
God; they were captives in a strange land, placed there by Infinite
Wisdom. Separated from home influences and sacred associations, they
sought to acquit themselves creditably, for the honor of their
down-trodden people, and for the glory of Him whose servants they were.
regarded with approval the firmness and self-denial of the Hebrew youth,
and their purity of motive; and His blessing attended them. He "gave
them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had
understanding in all
visions and dreams." The promise was fulfilled, "Them that honor
Me I will honor." 1 Samuel 2:30. As Daniel clung to God with
unwavering trust, the spirit of prophetic power came upon him. While
receiving instruction from man in the duties of court life, he was being
taught by God to read the mysteries of the future and to record for coming
generations, through figures and symbols, events covering the history of
this world till the close of time.
When the time
came for the youth in training to be tested, the Hebrews were examined,
with other candidates, for the service of the kingdom. But "among
them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah."
Their keen comprehension, their wide knowledge, their choice and exact
language, testified to the unimpaired strength and vigor of their mental
powers. "In all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king
inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians
and astrologers that were in all his realm;" "therefore stood
they before the king."
At the court
of Babylon were gathered representatives from all lands, men of the
highest talent, men the most richly endowed with natural gifts, and
possessed of the broadest culture that the world could bestow; yet among
them all, the Hebrew youth were without a peer. In physical strength and
beauty, in mental vigor and literary attainment, they stood unrivaled. The
erect form, the firm, elastic step, the fair countenance, the undimmed
senses, the untainted breath--all were so many certificates of good
habits, insignia of the nobility with which nature honors those who are
obedient to her laws.
the wisdom of the Babylonians, Daniel and his companions were far more
successful than their fellow students; but their learning did not come by
chance. They obtained their knowledge by the faithful use of their powers,
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They placed themselves in
connection with the Source of all wisdom, making the knowledge of God the
foundation of their education. In faith they prayed for wisdom, and they
lived their prayers. They placed themselves where God could bless them.
They avoided that which would weaken their powers, and improved every
opportunity to become intelligent in all lines of learning. They followed
the rules of life that could not fail to give them strength of intellect.
They sought to acquire knowledge for one purpose--that they might honor
God. They realized that in order to stand as representatives of true
religion amid the false religions of heathenism they must have clearness
of intellect and must perfect a Christian character. And God Himself was
their teacher. Constantly praying, conscientiously studying, keeping in
touch with the Unseen, they walked with God as did Enoch.
in any line of work is not the result of chance or accident or destiny. It
is the outworking of God's providences, the reward of faith and
discretion, of virtue and perseverance. Fine mental qualities and a high
moral tone are not the result of accident. God gives opportunities;
success depends upon the use made of them.
While God was
working in Daniel and his companions "to will and to do of His good
pleasure," they were working out their own salvation. Philippians
2:13. Herein is revealed
outworking of the divine principle of co-operation, without which no true
success can be attained. Human effort avails nothing without divine power;
and without human endeavor, divine effort is with many of no avail. To
make God's grace our own, we must act our part. His grace is given to work
in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort.
As the Lord
co-operated with Daniel and his fellows, so He will co-operate with all
who strive to do His will. And by the impartation of His Spirit He will
strengthen every true purpose, every noble resolution. Those who walk in
the path of obedience will encounter many hindrances. Strong, subtle
influences may bind them to the world; but the Lord is able to render
futile every agency that works for the defeat of His chosen ones; in His
strength they may overcome every temptation, conquer every difficulty.
Daniel and his associates into connection with the great men of Babylon,
that in the midst of a nation of idolaters they might represent His
character. How did they become fitted for a position of so great trust and
honor? It was faithfulness in little things that gave complexion to their
whole life. They honored God in the smallest duties, as well as in the
As God called
Daniel to witness for Him in Babylon, so He calls us to be His witnesses
in the world today. In the smallest as well as the largest affairs of
life, He desires us to reveal to men the principles of His kingdom. Many
are waiting for some great work to be brought to them, while daily they
lose opportunities for revealing faithfulness to
they fail of discharging with wholeheartedness the little duties of life.
While they wait for some large work in which they may exercise supposedly
great talents, and thus satisfy their ambitious longings, their days pass
In the life
of the true Christian there are no nonessentials; in the sight of
Omnipotence every duty is important. The Lord measures with exactness
every possibility for service. The unused capabilities are just as much
brought into account as those that are used. We shall be judged by what we
ought to have done, but did not accomplish because we did not use our
powers to glorify God.
character is not the result of accident; it is not due to special favors
or endowments of Providence. It is the result of self-discipline, of
subjection of the lower to the higher nature, of the surrender of self to
the service of God and man.
fidelity to the principles of temperance shown by the Hebrew youth God is
speaking to the youth of today. There is need of men who like Daniel will
do and dare for the cause of right. Pure hearts, strong hands, fearless
courage, are needed; for the warfare between vice and virtue calls for
ceaseless vigilance. To every soul Satan comes with temptation in many
alluring forms on the point of indulgence of appetite.
The body is a
most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed
for the upbuilding of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls
directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical
powers. His success here often means the surrender of the
to evil. The tendencies of the physical nature, unless under the dominion
of a higher power, will surely work ruin and death. The body is to be
brought into subjection to the higher powers of the being. The passions
are to be controlled by the will, which is itself to be under the control
of God. The kingly power of reason, sanctified by divine grace, is to bear
sway in the life. Intellectual power, physical stamina, and the length of
life depend upon immutable laws. Through obedience to these laws, man may
stand conqueror of himself, conqueror of his own inclinations, conqueror
of principalities and powers, of "the rulers of the darkness of this
world," and of "spiritual wickedness in high places."
ancient ritual which is the gospel in symbol, no blemished offering could
be brought to God's altar. The sacrifice that was to represent Christ must
be spotless. The word of God points to this as an illustration of what His
children are to be--"a living sacrifice," "holy and without
blemish." Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:27.
worthies were men of like passions with ourselves; yet, notwithstanding
the seductive influences of the court of Babylon, they stood firm, because
they depended upon a strength that is infinite. In them a heathen nation
beheld an illustration of the goodness and beneficence of God, and of the
love of Christ. And in their experience we have an instance of the triumph
of principle over temptation, of purity over depravity, of devotion and
loyalty over atheism and idolatry.
that possessed Daniel, the youth of today may have; they may draw from the
same source of strength,
same power of self-control, and reveal the same grace in their lives, even
under circumstances as unfavorable. Though surrounded by temptations to
self-indulgence, especially in our large cities, where every form of
sensual gratification is made easy and inviting, yet by divine grace their
purpose to honor God may remain firm. Through strong resolution and
vigilant watchfulness they may withstand every temptation that assails the
soul. But only by him who determines to do right because it is right will
the victory be gained.
lifework was that of these noble Hebrews! As they bade farewell to their
childhood home, little did they dream what a high destiny was to be
theirs. Faithful and steadfast, they yielded to the divine guiding, so
that through them God could fulfill His purpose.
mighty truths that were revealed through these men, God desires to reveal
through the youth and children today. The life of Daniel and his fellows
is a demonstration of what He will do for those who yield themselves to
Him and with the whole heart seek to accomplish His purpose.