THE prophet Daniel was an illustrious character. He was a
bright example of what men may become when united with the God of
wisdom. A brief account of the life of this holy man of God is left on
record for the encouragement of those who should afterward be called to
endure trial and temptation.
When the people of Israel, their king, nobles, and priests were carried
into captivity, four of their number were selected to serve in the court
of the king of Babylon. One of these was Daniel, who early gave promise
of the remarkable ability developed in later years. These youth were all
of princely birth, and are described as "children in whom was no
blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in
knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them"
(Daniel 1:4). Perceiving the superior talents of these youthful
captives, King Nebuchadnezzar determined to prepare them to fill
important positions in his kingdom. That they might be fully qualified
for their life at court, according to Oriental custom, they were to be
taught the language of the Chaldeans, and to be subjected for three
years to a thorough course of physical and intellectual discipline.
The youth in this school of training were not only to be admitted to the
royal palace, but it was provided that they should eat of the meat and
drink of the wine which came from the king's table. In all this the king
considered that he was not only bestowing great honor upon them, but
securing for them the best physical and mental development that could be
Meeting the Test
Among the viands placed before the king were swine's flesh and other
meats which were declared unclean by the law of Moses, and which the
Hebrews had been expressly forbidden to eat. Here Daniel was brought to
a severe test. Should he adhere to the teachings of his fathers
concerning meats and drinks, and offend the king, and probably lose not
only his position but his life? or should he disregard the commandment
of the Lord, and retain the favor of the king, thus securing great
intellectual advantages and the most flattering worldly prospects?
Daniel did not long hesitate. He decided 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" (Daniel 1:8).
Not Narrow or Bigoted
There are many among professed Christians today who would decide that
Daniel was too particular, and would pronounce him narrow and bigoted.
consider the matter of eating and drinking as of too little consequence
to require such a decided stand--one involving the probable sacrifice of
every earthly advantage. But those who reason thus will find in the day
of judgment that they turned from God's express requirements and set up
their own opinion as a standard of right and wrong. They will find that
what seemed to them unimportant was not so regarded of God. His
requirements should be sacredly obeyed. Those who accept and obey one of
His precepts because it is convenient to do so, while they reject
another because its observance would require a sacrifice, lower the
standard of right and by their example lead others to lightly regard the
holy law of God. "Thus saith the Lord" is to be our rule in all things.
A Faultless Character
Daniel was subjected to the severest temptations that can assail the
youth of today; yet he was true to the religious instruction received in
early life. He was surrounded with influences calculated to subvert
those who would vacillate between principle and inclination; yet the
Word of God presents him as a faultless character. Daniel dared not
trust to his own moral power. Prayer was to him a necessity. He made God
his strength, and the fear of God was continually before him in all the
transactions of his life.
Daniel possessed the grace of genuine meekness. He was true, firm, and
noble. He sought to live in peace with all, while he was unbending as
the lofty cedar
wherever principle was involved. In everything that did not come in
collision with his allegiance to God, he was respectful and obedient to
those who had authority over him; but he had so high a sense of the
claims of God that the requirements of earthly rulers were held
subordinate. He would not be induced by any selfish consideration to
swerve from his duty.
The character of Daniel is presented to the world as a striking example
of what God's grace can make of men fallen by nature and corrupted by
sin. The record of his noble, self-denying life is an encouragement to
our common humanity. From it we may gather strength to nobly resist
temptation, and firmly, and in the grace of meekness, stand for the
right under the severest trial.
God's Approval Dearer Than Life
might have found a plausible excuse to depart from his strictly
temperate habits; but the approval of God was dearer to him than the
favor of the most powerful earthly potentate--dearer even than life
itself. Having by his courteous conduct obtained favor with Melzar, the
officer in charge of the Hebrew youth, Daniel made a request that they
might not eat of the king's meat or drink of his wine. Melzar feared
that should he comply with this request, he might incur the displeasure
of the king, and thus endanger his own life. Like many at the present
day, he thought that an abstemious diet would render these youth pale
and sickly in appearance and deficient in muscular strength, while the
luxurious food from the king's table would make them ruddy and
beautiful and would promote physical and mental activity.
Daniel requested that the matter be decided by a ten days' trial--the
Hebrew youth during this brief period being permitted to eat of simple
food, while their companions partook of the king's dainties. The request
was finally granted, and then Daniel felt assured that he had gained his
case. Although but a youth, he had seen the injurious effects of wine
and luxurious living upon physical and mental health.
God Vindicates His Servant
At the end of the ten days the result was found to be quite the opposite
of Melzar's expectations. Not only in personal appearance, but in
physical activity and mental vigor, those who had been temperate in
their habits exhibited a marked superiority over their companions who
had indulged appetite. As a result of this trial, Daniel and his
associates were permitted to continue their simple diet during the whole
course of their training for the duties of the kingdom.
The Lord regarded with approval the firmness and self-denial of these
Hebrew youth, 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" (Daniel 1:17). At the expiration of the three
years of training, when their ability and acquirements were tested by
the king, he "found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom
and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten
times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his
realm" (verse 20).
Self-control a Condition of Sanctification
The life of Daniel is an inspired illustration of what constitutes a
sanctified character. It presents a lesson for all, and especially for
the young. A strict compliance with the requirements of God is
beneficial to the health of body and mind. In order to reach the highest
standard of moral and intellectual attainments, it is necessary to seek
wisdom and strength from God and to observe strict temperance in all the
habits of life. In the experience of Daniel and his companions we have
an instance of the triumph of principle over temptation to indulge the
appetite. It shows us that through religious principle young men may
triumph over the lusts of the flesh and remain true to God's
requirements, even though it cost them a great sacrifice.
What if Daniel and his companions had made a compromise with those
heathen officers and had yielded to the pressure of the occasion by
eating and drinking as was customary with the Babylonians? That single
instance of departure from principle would have weakened their sense of
right and their abhorrence of wrong. Indulgence of appetite would have
involved the sacrifice of physical vigor, clearness of intellect, and
spiritual power. One wrong step would probably have led to others,
until, their connection with Heaven being severed, they would have been
swept away by temptation.
God has said, "Them that honour me I will honour" (1 Samuel 2:30). While
Daniel clung to his God with unwavering trust, the Spirit of prophetic
power came upon him. While he was instructed of man in the duties of
court life, he was taught of God to read the mysteries of future ages
and to present to coming generations, through figures and similitudes,
the wonderful things that would come to pass in the last days.