Day 1      Daniel 1 ... Enemy Employers

The prophets Daniel and Ezekiel had much in common. Both came from solid families in Judah, had first-rate minds, and showed leadership potential at an early age. They could have anticipated an outstanding future in Jerusalem - except for the rude interruption of an invasion by Babylon. Both were subsequently taken hostage and deported to the enemy capital, and there the similarity between their lives ends. Whereas Ezekiel spent his days preaching (and acting out) sermons to the Jewish exiles, Daniel was recruited for a job in the king's palace.

In fact, Daniel's life in the palace more closely resembles that of the ancient character Joseph, who also rose to a position of prominence in a foreign government. As this chapter underscores, Daniel achieved success without bending his own principles of integrity. Somehow he managed to thrive in an environment marked by ambition and intrigue, while still holding to his high-minded Jewish ideals.

The Babylonians did their best to purge the young Jews of their heritage. They forced on them new, pagan names, and plied them with wine and food that had been offered to idols. Even the study course for diplomats-in-training was distasteful to a Jew: It covered sorcery, magic, and a pagan, multigod religion. Daniel and has three friends overcame these obstacles and excelled enough to attract the attention of the king. He had to take notice: They were ten times more impressive than anyone else in the kingdom.

Taken together, the biblical prophets offer not one, but many models of how a person can serve both God and the state. On the one extreme stand men like Amos and Elijah, who, as outsiders, railed against the evils of society. Others, such as Jeremiah and Nathan, gave occasional counsel to kings, but kept a safe distance. Isaiah and Samuel, however, became the official advisers of kings. And in this book the prophet Daniel shows that a person can keep pure even while working within a tyrannical regime. For at least sixty-six years, Daniel served pagan kings with great diligence and resourcefulness. Yet he never once compromised his faith, even when threatened with death. The Bible offers no better model of how to live among people who do not share or respect your beliefs.

Point to Ponder: When have you taken a difficult or unpopular stand as a matter of integrity?