The Book of Daniel was written to people in Judah in the middle of the Babylonian exile to encourage God’s people to seek Him. It reveals how to serve God faithfully and persevere in hope in the middle of world crises and hardship.
After the first invasion of Judah and the siege of Jerusalem, King Nebuchadnezzar captured a group of young Israelite nobles in order to ensure his continued success. He ordered his chief official to choose youths who were without defect, good looking, and intelligent. The goal was to educate them in the Babylonian culture and gods. One of the chosen was Daniel, a youth of integrity. When Daniel was offered the king’s food and wine, he resolved not to defile himself. Eating food prepared to Babylonian standards violated God’s laws concerning unclean foods (Leviticus 7:23-27; Leviticus 11). Also, it was a form of idolatry that would provoke a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5). At the age of fifteen, Daniel had faith to choose uncompromising adherence to the Law of Moses.
When Daniel chose to put God first, God gave Daniel knowledge, skills, and wisdom; he stood out among all the others, and eventually Daniel was placed in a leadership position the rest of his life. As a parent, I worry about our youths spending more time in social media and less time in Christian community. I hope that our youths are spiritually formed so they do not compromise the Word of God. Like with Daniel, God is more than able to do the same for our youth, but it is our responsibility, as followers of Christ, to teach them to never compromise the biblical principles of love, justice and discipleship.
Later, in the Book of Daniel (chapter 6), we learn that Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den. But he stood tall because he had faithfully knelt before the one true king - God. And it was the daily discipline of prayer that equipped him to face the big, scary test of the hungry lions and the peers who were attempting to destroy him. Being committed to a prayer life and then faithfully continuing it made Daniel’s story so rich that it has been told for thousands of years, and still counting.
True, Daniel was strong, wise, and courageous, but God made each of us to be all of those things as well. And we must never forget that the Holy Spirit living inside of us gives us a strength and spiritual discernment to persevere in hope.