But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. (Da 1:8-19)
Daniel gives us such a great model for understanding how to view culture. He and his friends are, by the providence of God, placed into the culture of Babylon. While there, they are asked to do things that violate their conscience. Rather than snub their noses or simply refuse, they ask for an alternative in such a way that wins the favor of those dealing with them. They had a view not to retreat, but to engage, and ultimately to serve. The passage ends with them standing before the Babylonian King, a man opposed to their God. And yet, through their integrity, humility, and faithfulness to the Lord they serve in a manner that blesses the king.
Daniel wasn’t perfect by any means, but he paints an early picture of someone living “incarnationally”, that is, as someone in the world with the attitude of serving the world. At the same time, he maintains his identity and thus does not compromise with the world. In today’s culture, he is a great model for us. Christ, of course, is the ultimate picture of this. He came “in the flesh”, walked in our shoes, learned and spoke to us in our language, and gave his life to bring us both the wisdom to live but also the power to live that way.
Lord, would you grant my family a vision of living in the world and for the world, while remembering we are not of the world.