Pastor Don Gettys: I would like to tell you that our speaker today is Elder Bernie Baerg. Bernie and Jean are members of the McDonald Road Church. Bernie just retired from pastoring in Northern California Conference where he pastored nineteen years in that one conference. We're glad to have him here in our pulpit this morning.
This morning I would like to invite you to read with me from the first chapter of the book of Daniel. As we open our Bibles I'd just like to invite you to pause with me for a moment of silent prayer.
As Pastor Gettys announced last week, we're beginning a series on the book of Daniel, and I've been asked to make the first presentation. I'm honored and privileged to do that. We're going to begin by reading Daniel 1, and perhaps to set the tone of the book of Daniel, we need to have a little historical background about this book.
It begins in Daniel 1:1 by saying, In the third year of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. This third year of the king Jehoiakim was 605 BCE. For our purposes, this is the beginning of our understanding of the book of Daniel. This book, of course, I believe was written by Daniel. Jesus Himself in the book of Matthew states that Daniel I the author of this book, and the name, Daniel, itself give us an ideal of the theme of the book. Daniel means, 'God is my Judge.' So, we can expect to find judgment in the book of Daniel. And the time prophecies in the latter part of the book bring us down to the hour of God's judgment.
For example, for Israel in Daniel 9:24 it tells us that four hundred ninety years were given for Israel until they were to be judged. Then in Daniel 8:14 we have the well know prophecy of the two thousand three hundred years when the whole world was to stand before God in judgment. You and I are privileged to live in that time of earth's history today, when the whole universe is deciding who will be fit to stand in God's sight.
Thank the Lord for the promise in Daniel 9 that the righteousness of Jesus will cover every saint. Every one who knows that they're a sinner and depended on Jesus Christ for salvation will be accounted worthy of standing in the judgment and worthy of eternal life.
So this book of Daniel is wonderful in that it gives us great assurance as we look to the future. It also talks the giving of awards at the second coming of Jesus in Daniel 12:13, when the resurrection of the righteous takes place.
This book, interestingly enough, is not just written in one language but in two languages. It shows the bilingual education that Daniel had, and what a scholar he was. Daniel 2:4-7 was written in the Aramaic sun and Daniel 1 to 2:3 and chapters 8 to 12 was written in Hebrew. What a great man Daniel was, to be able to easily switch tongues and write in one language and then write in another language.
This book has some natural divisions. The first six chapters have to do with the history of Babylon. I believe that in these stories that we find in the first six chapters of the book we see how God's people are to get ready for judgment, how God's people are to live in this great judgment hour. And so it's crucial that we understand the messages of chapters one to six because they tell us how to live so we can receive the latter rain which God had promised in the days in which we live. How important it is that we understand the stories of the first six chapters.
The last six chapters, chapters seven through twelve, tell us when the judgment is to take place, when God is going to come, when the coming of the Lord is at hand, and when we can know that we're in end-times. The depict the struggle between good and evil. And they're illuminated, Of course, as we study the book of Revelation. In fact, God has counseled us to study the books of Daniel and Revelation together. That's why I was so thrilled last Wednesday night when I came to Prayer Meeting and discovered that Pastor Carlson was going to be talking about the book of Revelation the next few weeks. So, we get an opportunity on Sabbath to hear from Daniel, and then in the mid-week we will hear from Revelations. If you're not able to come out to the prayer service on Wednesday night, you might want to take time to read two chapters in the book of Revelation every week so that you can get the balanced picture that Daniel and Revelation give to us.
These were difficult times for God's people when Daniel and his friends were taken captive. Let's read again Daniel 1 and go to verses one and two. Daniel 1:1,2. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god. This was, of course, blasphemous to any loyal follower of God because his god was not the God, the Creator. His god was Marduk, a heathen god, and a god, which of course, Daniel and his friends could not honor.
We notice, also, that he took some people captive. Notice Daniel 1:3 and onwards. Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. What a marvelous opportunity. Scholarships to the greatest university the world knew at that time, and the ability to have housing, food and everything you needed free of charge. Wasn't that wonderful?
Well, maybe it was and maybe it wasn't. It was a mixed bag. They not only received the finest education, but they were educated in idol worship. They were educated in the customs of Babylon. As we will see, later on the delicacies of the king's table were not really the best food available even though Nebuchadnezzar thought it was.
In Daniel 1:6,7 we read, Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hannaniah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-nego. So were they not only educated in idolatry but they received the names of idols. You can imagine the effect on these young people. Surrounded by idolatry, living in a nation given to idolatry, even having names so that when the are called they were beckoned by the names of heathen gods. What a challenge to Christian living.
Fortunately not everybody wanted to go along with the program. We find in verse 8 that it says, But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine that he drank. Therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Do you remember a time when you had to stand up for truth? Maybe you had to face a job that required you to work on Sabbath and you had to stand up to the boss and say, "No, I can't do that." Perhaps your life was threatened because you refused to violate your conscience. The theme of this chapter I've entitled 'The Power of One.' The power of one person top make a difference. Not only was Daniel ready to exercise the Power of One, but his three companions also were ready to stand with him. You see, when God created Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, He gave them the power of choice. And that power of choice did not cease to exist when they sinned, but they carried that with them from the garden of Eden. And so, God declared that they would continue to be able to choose to do and to be.
I believe that that power of choice is summed up nicely in a little phrase. Actually it's a ten-word phrase of two letters each. "If it is to be, it is up to me." If Daniel and his friends were going to stand for truth they had to remember that "if it is to be, it is up to me." They had to make the choice.
I can remember when I was inducted into the armed forces of the United States along with many of you, also. We were called conscious objectors, non-combatants. We were guaranteed the idea that we wouldn't have to carry a rifle. But our service organization in the Conference told us that we were never guaranteed our Sabbaths. We had to ask for that. I'll never forget the first Friday evening in the armed forces. We were instructed by the Conference Youth Director that when you came to that place, you had to know what to say beforehand before you went into the army. We had been told that we were to ask for our Sabbaths.
I went to my barracks sergeant. I said, "Sergeant, I'd like to have the Sabbath off."
He looked at me as if I were somebody from outer space. He asked me what that meant. I said, "Well, it means I go to church, I don't stand formations, I don't do any duties on the Sabbath." He started to curse and to swear and to turn the language that I had been used to into a perversion.
Finally he said, "No, you may not have your Sabbaths off."
Well, I had been taught about something called the chain of command. So I said, "Let me talk to the captain."
He could not refuse that. So after some more profanity I went to see the captain. The captain was a gentleman, and he said, "Yes, you may have your Sabbath off and be free from all duties and formations."
I breathed a sigh of relief, I was so grateful. He gave me a pass to go to church.
Many of you have had similar experiences; willing to stand up for what you know to be truth, and what you know God wants you to face. And Daniel and his friends were that way.
We read in Daniel 1:9,10; Now, God brought Daniel into favor and good will of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, "I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king." When Daniel requested a different program, he was denied. Then he made another request: So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah, "Please test your servants for ten days and let them give us vegetable to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the kin's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants." So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
I wonder what Daniel's diet would look like in the twenty-first century? Dr. Hans Diehl has published what he calls, 'The Dietary Decalogue.' I think it might look like this, Dr. Diehl says that in his 'Decalogue' of ten commandments for diet that there are things to avoid, and things to freely use. Things to avoid consist of five of his commandments. The first one: Avoid all visible fats and oils. The second one: Avoid all sugars. Three: severely limit cholesterol. Fourth: Severely limit salt. Fifth: Avoid alcohol, black tea, and caffeinated drinks. Then he gives five things to freely use: Freely use whole-grain products; Freely use tubers and legumes; Freely use fruits and vegetables; Drink plenty of water; Eat a good breakfast daily.
How is that going to be translated in our own lives? Well, if it is to be, it is up to me. We have to make those choices, just like Daniel had to make the choices.
The results of following God's plan: Well, I believe it's summed up over here in Daniel 1:14. So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.
And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. Wasn't that wonderful?
While visiting West Minster Abbey in London, I noticed many important people buried there. Kings and queens of the great British Empire. Inventors, statesmen. But it wasn't until I asked the warden that I discovered the tomb I was looking for. A simple plaque in the floor that might be easily overlooked. It was the tomb of a very unpretentious man. His name was Thomas Par, an English farmer. He was allegedly 152 years old when he came to the attention of the king, Charles the First. Church and legal records appear to confirm that he was quite an elderly person. Because Par was such a lively fellow, such an amusing wit, and with endless stories to tell, King Charles asked him to move into the royal palace in September in 1635. Par accepted the invitation. But, unlike Daniel, he failed to make any decisions beforehand, of what he would do when confronted with a change of circumstances in his lifestyle. As a member of the king's household Thomas Par went with the flow. He abandoned the simple lifestyle that had sustained him so many years and began enjoying the rich food and drink served during the king's four- hour banquet. Two months later in November, 1635, in the middle of one of the feasts Pat toppled from his chair and died.
An autopsy performed by the royal surgeon, the famous Dr. William Harvey, decided that an acute indigestion brought on by indulgence in unaccustomed luxury had been the cause of his death.
King Charles ordered Par buried in West Minster Abbey where today he lies, a self-indulgent curiosity among England's kings and queens.
Just think of Thomas Par and of Daniel. Two men, two choices, two outcomes. When faced with a choice between what tastes good and what is good for me, what will I choose? If it is to be, it is up to me.
Let's read the rest of the story in Daniel 1:17-20. As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.
What a wonderful testimony to what a balanced diet and healthful living will bring about.
Ellen White, in Counsels in Diets and Foods, page 82 sums it up. "Daniel's clearness of mind and firmness of purpose, his strength of intellect and acquiring knowledge were due in a great degree to the plainness of his diet and connection with his life of prayer." What a challenging inspiration for us today.
If it is to be, it is up to me.
Cary St. Claire, a young lady tells as a physical therapy student studying for a written comprehensive examination. She was really scared. She had so much material to cover and always had a tough time expressing herself on examination day. So she asked herself, 'What could make a big difference as I study to complete these exams?' She remembered a tape her mother had given her several years before by Dr. Eldon Chalmers on how to make better grades. One of the things he mentioned was not to eat any sweets for five to ten days prior to exams. Cary says, "I prayed for God's strength because I really loved good tasting food. My husband encouraged me and never once tried to entice me to sample what I had chosen to not eat. It was a time when we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years. Just sticking to my resolve was an incredible miracle."
Did it make a difference? She says, "My mind was clear and I was able to concentrate on my studies for longer periods of time. I went into the exams with a confidence I had never possessed before. And passed them all."
What happened to Daniel? We read in Daniel 1:21, Thjus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus. That was the year, 537 BCE. Sixty-eight years of service to different governments.
1 Corinthians 10:31 sums it up by saying, Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Remember, if it is to be, it is up to me.
Hymn of Praise: #462, Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine Scripture: Daniel 1:6-9 Hymn of Response: #524, 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
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last updated 7/7/06 by Bob Beckett.