But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”
Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
Daniel 1:8-14 New Living Translation
Daniel and his friends were brought to Babylon in the first captivity of prominent Jews captured by Babylon. He was probably very young when he was taken captive and then pressed into the service of an enemy king. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had plenty of reason to be defiant and bitter toward their captors. As the story of their lives unfolds, though, they were very respectful to their captors and often looked out for the needs of those different from them, even when they had to set boundaries of how far their submission to these foreign kings would go.
This story at the beginning of the captivity is very illustrative of that. As part of their training to serve in the king’s court, the Jewish captives were given a portion of food from the king’s kitchen to make sure they were well fed and taken care of. Daniel was concerned that the diet provided by King Nebuchadnezzar would include food prohibited in the law of his people, so he asked that an exception be made.
Even though God had given Daniel favor with Ashpenaz, the chief of staff, Ashpenaz had concerns about approving this request. If he approved Daniel’s request and Daniel and his three friends did not develop as well as those who had eaten the king’s food, he was in danger of being executed. Daniel didn’t become belligerent or rebellious. He proposed a simple compromise. He asked for a 10-day test of how he and his friends would perform on a diet of vegetables and water. The attendant agreed to this test and God showed himself faithful by giving Daniel and his friends more strength than those who had eaten from the king’s food.
Many in the American church today compare our current cultural setting to the experience of the Jews during the Babylonian captivity. It’s debatable if that is the case. Even if it is true, though, we need to see the attitude of Daniel and his friends as instructive to what our attitude should be. We need to show respect to those we see as our opposition and avoid the tendency to have an “in your face” attitude toward those who oppose us. We need to be willing to listen to the concerns of those who have a different approach to life than us and find ways to create win-win situations for all involved. We shouldn’t compromise truth but we can seek peaceful ways to take everyone’s needs into consideration.
Lord, help us to have the attitude of Daniel when we need to disagree with those who are opposed to us.