Thousands of Israeli captives were uprooted from their homeland and relocated to Babylon. In ancient times, POWs were often imprisoned or enslaved. King Nebuchadnezzar took the cream of the crop and groomed them to be leaders in his government. They were given a 3-year, crash course on Chaldean culture—the language, customs, education, religion, and all the ways of Babylon (Dan. 1:1-5). The goal was to make them to forget their heritage and train them to think, act, talk, look, and live like Babylonians.
Daniel was probably a descendant of King Hezekiah, a prince of Judah (2 Kgs. 20:17-18), and a eunuch since he never mentioned a wife or children. He and his comrades were in Babylon, but they were not of it—they were Israelites, children of the living God. They were in exile, “a prolonged absence from one’s own homeland.” Babylon is symbolic of the world’s system that is controlled by the spirit of the Antichrist. We are also exiled in spiritual Babylon. This world is not our home. We are just pilgrims passing through.
You can trace Babylon’s rotten roots back to Nimrod who was a mighty hunter and king (Gen. 10:9-10). Unlike his righteous great grandfather, Noah, Nimrod was rebellious. His name means “let us rebel or he that rules.” His kingdom was called Babel in the land of Shinar (where the Tower of Babel and Babylon were later built). Some say he was the first to try to institute a one-world government. Babylon means “confusion” and is a type of this world’s fallen, corrupt system that tries to rule without God.
Daniel and his companions lived clean in a corrupt culture. They honored God, refused to worship idols, or be brainwashed in Babylon. They faced a fiery furnace and a den of lions, but God delivered them and promoted them to positions of influence. His favor on their lives was unmistakable! They avoided Satan’s secret, five-fold agenda for the king’s seed:
1. Reprogram your mind: Nebuchadnezzar tried to retrain their brain so they would forget all about the God of Israel. Public education indoctrinates our kids with evolution, humanism, liberalism, and secularism. Students are taught that abortion, pornography, and pre-marital sex are acceptable, and that homosexuality and transgenderism are normal and desirable. Remember, Babylon means “confusion.” There is confusion over what is right and wrong because biblical values are not taught. With a tsunami of secular education and entertainment, is it any wonder why society is unraveling? When people reject God’s truth, they are left with man’s wisdom which is foolishness. C. S. Lewis noted, “Education without Christian values, as useful as it is, seems to make people more clever devils.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22) and “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Satan tries to reprogram our minds with deceptive lies; God renews our minds with liberating truth.
2. Replace your diet: Every day the captives were served gourmet meals from the king’s kitchen—Chaldean chow and Babylonian bologna! “But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king” (Dan. 1:8, NLT). The “unclean” food violated Daniel’s convictions, so he requested a substitute diet of vegetables and water (now known as the “Daniel Fast”). What was the big deal? The king’s meat was unclean for one of three reasons: 1. The meat was either soaked in blood, raw, or cooked rare, common among the Gentiles but forbidden to Jews (Lev. 17:11-12). 2. The meat was from an unclean species of animal banned by Mosaic Law and avoided by kosher Jews. 3. The meat was sacrificed to idols. In any event, the food was taboo. We also have a daily choice—we can binge on secular grub (worldly entertainment) or we can feast on spiritual things (the bread and meat of God’s Word and the water and wine of the Spirit). We are what we eat physically and spiritually. Why eat out of the devil’s dumpster when God has spread a banqueting table before us? Daniel and his friends lived on veggies and water for three years and they were healthier, wiser, and “ten times better” than everyone else (Dan. 1:15-20). What are we feeding our mind and our spirit? Carnal junk food or healthy soul food?
3. Remake your identity: Notice they were all renamed in Babylon. Their Hebrew names associated them with the one, true God of Israel; their Babylonian names tied them to pagan gods (Dan. 1:6-7). Daniel means “God is my Judge.” His Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, means “Prince of Bel” (the patron god of war). Hananiah’s name, meaning “Jehovah is gracious,” was changed to Shadrach which means “Commander of Aku” (a moon god). Mishael’s name, “Who is like God,” was changed to Meshach, “Who is like Aku.” Azariah’s name, “Jehovah is my keeper/helper,” became Abednego, “Servant of Nebo” (a god of literature, wisdom, and arts). Despite this effort to remake their identity, the Hebrews never forgot who they were. They were Israelites and princes of the most-high God. Likewise, we must never forget our true identity. By faith in Jesus, we are the children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7, 29), sons and daughters of the living God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ!
4. Reproach your testimony: What if they had compromised and caved in to temptation? There would be no book of Daniel. If Satan can tarnish our character, he can undermine our credibility. When a witness testifies in court, the opposing lawyer tries to trash their credibility so no one will believe them. Daniel lived above reproach. His enemies spied on him and tried to dig up dirt on him to stain his reputation but couldn’t find any (Dan. 6:3-4). Imagine a politician with no scandal. How refreshing! Daniel is one of a few Bible characters with no flaw on his record. Perhaps he benefitted from writing his own book (autobiographies are kinder to the subject than biographies). Still, the only thing his enemies could accuse him of was that He prayed too much. Wow! What an awesome testimony!
5. Reclaim your worship: It’s all a tug-of-war over worship—God wants your worship and Satan wants your worship. Narcissistic Nebuchadnezzar built a golden image (perhaps of himself) over 100 feet tall. Then he coerced the masses to worship it (Dan. 3:1-5). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship this idol. Consequently, they were thrown into a fiery furnace, but God protected and promoted them. When King Darius was tricked into signing a bogus bill outlawing prayer, Daniel prayed anyway and was thrown into a lion’s den, but an angel gave them lockjaw. They thrived in a corrupt culture, served in the highest levels of government, and made a powerful impact for the kingdom of God! Daniel and the three Hebrews never forgot who they were (Israelites not Babylonians), where they were from, and who they worshipped (Jehovah/Yahweh).
Paul reminded us, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Rom. 12:2, NLT). Friend, don’t allow yourself to be brainwashed in Babylon!