I tend to think that my blog posts on Mondays are the overflow from my small group discussions the night before. Every other Sunday night, some of the best people I know gather together in a living room and open up God’s Word together. We don’t all agree theologically on every point of discussion. We don’t all interpret God’s Word the same. But we each bring something to the table, and for that, I am a better person. We sharpen each other. Last night was no different.
Our study last night took us to the book of Daniel, and as we unpacked chapter 1, a few things rose to the surface for me, things that I somehow missed in my previous study of this book. Daniel 1:1 gives us a pretty good reference as to when Daniel’s story takes place in history. The third year of Jehoiakim’s reign would have been right around 605 B.C. Daniel 1:21 tells us that Daniel remained there (under Babylonian captivity) until the first year of King Cyrus, which falls around 539 B.C. What this means is that Daniel, along with all of the other captives of Israel, were essentially slaves to Babylon for 66 years. Now, if you just read the first and last verses of chapter 1, that fact isn’t all that difficult to accept. It’s just a number, one that doesn’t appear to affect us much. However, if you take a closer look at the 19 verses sandwiched in between them, this fact might become a bit more difficult to swallow.
Why? Because throughout chapter 1, we’re not only introduced to the person of Daniel, but we see one defining characteristic of his life on display: Integrity. He was a man who loved and feared the one true God, and despite the influence of Babylon, he refused to be swayed from his convictions. In short, he went against the king’s orders (see Daniel 1:8), and in return, God blessed him and his friends for it…just not in the way that they might have hoped. You see, they were being obedient to God and the commands that He had given them in spite of the new rule that they were under. They could have been killed for taking such a stand against the king, but they weren’t. They were shown favor in his kingdom…as slaves.
This got me thinking. How do I respond to God when He doesn’t reward my obedience with changed circumstances? Do I continue to walk in obedience, even when things don’t change, or do I fold my arms in defiance and demand my way? I can only imagine that Daniel and his friends preferred their freedom in Israel to their captivity in Babylon. I can only imagine that they might have hoped for release from captivity as a reward for their obedience to God. But they remained slaves to Babylon for nearly 70 years.
One thing that you and I must come to grasp is that God is always at work, and His plans are always good. They may look drastically different than our plans, but make no mistake about it – His plans are always better. So, how do we respond when faced with similar situations? Even when things don’t change, do we still choose obedience because it’s right and good? Even when the difficulty doesn’t go away, do we still walk in obedience? Even when our circumstance remains challenging at best, do we still remain on the path of obedience? Even when things didn’t change for Daniel, he remained faithful. Will you?