Daniel 1:1-9 • October 25, 2023 • g1274
Pastor Tim Anderson teaches a message through Daniel 1:1-9 titled “Victims Becoming Victors.”
There are a lot of things in life that shape us, and many of them are things beyond our control. But we can make a decision to follow Jesus and have Him be the One who shapes our lives. Tonight I want to talk to you about “Victims Becoming Victors.” If anyone could have ever been a victim of circumstance, it was Daniel; but when you read the book, you realize that he became a victor—he just rises again and again and again. He’s a man that you could not put down. The whole secret to his life as he rises higher and higher (he gives us prophecies even concerning our days and our times) happens right here in Daniel 1. I want to dig that out with you.
Let’s begin by reading Daniel 1:1. It says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.” The deck was stacked against Daniel. You find out that he was born and lived in a time of war. His city of Jerusalem was besieged, and when war hits, the uncertainty of what’s going to happen just paralyzes and freezes everyone.
This is what’s happening in our world right now. Israel was attacked a couple of weekends ago, and the uncertainty of that war just paralyzes. I know for me, my first reaction to the war in Israel wasn’t so much to think about prophecy but to think about people. Personally, having some friends, very close friends there in Israel, are they safe? Are they okay? When war comes all of the sudden life is just put on hold. How do you make plans? How do you take any steps forward into the future?
We have a war in Ukraine. I’ve been burdened by that war now for a couple of years. We have such good friends in Ukraine. Do you know there’s over twenty Calvary Chapels in Ukraine and that they’ve made a huge difference during this time in the ministry of the churches? I can talk about that a long time, but what war did was it completely unsettled everything, changed everyone’s plans, and it’s ongoing.
I have Haiti on my heart. Does anybody have Haiti on their heart? Haiti is not technically at war, but it’s a country of civil unrest where gangs have kind of overtaken Haiti. We have a ministry there, the pastor there that we work with, and things have just gone from bad to worse, and so little good can be done right now because the country is at war within. It’s like an internal war that we can’t even get in and help people that we want to help.
This is what’s happening in Daniel’s life and time, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzer king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house 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 is a rather sad story because Daniel’s a teenager, some say maybe sixteen years old. Again, he’s growing up in a time where judgment is coming upon Jerusalem and Judah. It’s the sins of his father that are now being visited, and he’s just born into that, almost born into trouble, like inheriting trouble.
A hundred and five years before this, King Hezekiah receives some envoys from Babylon, Isaiah writes about this in Isaiah 39. They come to visit, and he shows them all the treasures that he had in Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah came to him and said, “Did you do this?” He said, “I did.” Isaiah prophesied and said, “The day will come where the king of Babylon’s going to come and besiege you, and everything that you showed them, they’re going to steal, they’re going to take,” and he adds, “They’re also going to take some of the young men. They’re not going to take just your physical and material treasures, they’re going take the treasures of the next generation, and they’re going to be brought captive into Babylon.” That prophecy is now happening a hundred and five years later. The crazy thing about it, Hezekiah the king, when he heard the prophet, said, “Well, that’s a good word from the Lord because there’ll be nothing visiting in my lifetime, but it’s in the future.” What a horrible attitude, right? that somehow the sins of the fathers have visited now upon Daniel and his generation.
Sadly, that’s true right now, too. So much of the circumstances of our lives, the things that shape us that are often out of our control, have to do with when we’re born, what family we’re born in, the times, the direct impact of the sins of our fathers. This is a thing, right? that sometimes sins are handed down generationally. Here’s Daniel growing up, and he’s being pressured with these things coming upon him and has nothing really to do with it. He just was born at that time, growing up in that time, and he becomes a part of that group of captives taken to Babylon.
Verse 3 describes it more, “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.” From Jerusalem to Babylon you’ve got about 600 miles, but you’re living in a time where there are no cars, no trains, no airplanes. It might have well have just been another planet, you know, you’re taken so far away from your home. You’re made like a refugee, so the things that gave your life stability and meaning—your family, your home, really everything familiar to him growing up in Jerusalem—is all taken away from this young man.
I don’t know if you remember how you felt when you left your parent’s home, now this is by force, hopefully you didn’t leave your parent’s home by force. If you remember the day when you left your home and all those familiar things—your home, your parents, your town—you sometimes find yourself asking questions like, Well, who am I? I can become something. I can become anything I want. I’m free. Those questions of, “Who am I? Where am I going?” questions of life, those things intensify when you’re taken away or moved out. In Daniel’s case it was forcibly into just another whole world, and it was a world that had a lot of traction and power.
You might have heard of The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Did anybody ever hear about that? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World where water was brought in and this incredible paradise was developed there in the capital of Babylon, and to go from Jerusalem to Babylon, you’re going to really the reigning superpower of the time. As a young man, it would’ve been sort of awe-inspiring to see the engineering and the architecture. The palace of Nebuchadnezzar was unlike anything on the earth at that time, and he’s brought there from Jerusalem, and everything is sort of stripped away. You have to be kind of asking that question, "Who am I?” and “What’s going to become of me? What will my life be?”
In verse 4 it says, “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.” These young men had all the potential in the world. In fact, it’s all marked here for us. It says, “…no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.” These are young men with a lot of abilities and talents. They were chosen for that reason, all this potential. We know that that’s God-given.
Do you remember David’s famous Psalm 139 where it talked about, “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…in my mother’s womb,” but somehow, beyond our physical being, which God picks the color of our eyes and the color of our hair and the way we look, but also on the inside, the makeup of our personalities, all these things are a part of God’s design and plan. He weaves us together in the mother’s womb. But beyond that physical creation, there’s the idea that God has a plan for every person. David went on and said, “And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” Here you’re looking at young men that have all this potential, all these gifts, and it’s important to realize that God feels the same way about every person that He’s made.
You’re made in the image of God. You have God-given abilities. Everything about you was a choice of God. God is madly in love with you, and He looks at you just like He looks at these young men—all the potential in the world that God pours in in creation—but then things shape us, things mold us. Sometimes we’re pressed. Here at the end of verse 4, you’re beginning to see that there was a reason they were chosen, that “…they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.” At first that might sound like a scholarship program to the world’s capital city of the reigning world empire; but no, this is brainwashing, right? We’re going to take you away from your home, your family, your mother tongue, and we’re going to teach you our ways—our language, our culture, our literature of the Chaldeans or the Babylonians.
My family and I were missionaries in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. The reason we were there was the fall of communism, the fall of the Iron Curtain. How many of you remember this? Right at the end of 1989 into 1990, a whole section of humanity that had been walled off by communism, that wall fell, so our family lived there throughout the 90s. We met so many people from all over the world that the communists had offered free education. There were people stranded all over not just Russia, but all over Eastern Europe, students, people that were given free educations, “Come and we’ll teach you to be an engineer. We’ll teach you to be a doctor. We’ll teach you to be a lawyer.” All these professions, but the intent of this was to brainwash and to make them into communists, to spread communism, to send them back to their countries, and to use them like puppets. We met people from all over the world stranded in Eastern Europe.
Can I give you a quick good news report? After the fall of communism people realized that was all a big fat lie, so when we came and began to preach the gospel and you begin to tell them, “Yes, there is a God who exists in the Person of Jesus Christ. He’s come! There’s a salvation that you put your faith in Christ,” and so many, there was a revival at that time of people that knew that they had been falsely led, that that whole indoctrination and brainwashing wasn’t true. It not only didn’t work, it was just false, that there is a God, and you can call out to Him and pray. We saw so many people come to Christ who actually were prepared to receive the gospel by the fall and failure of communism. Can I get an amen? It was very exciting to be there.
This is what was happening to these young men from Jerusalem. They had all the potential in the world, but they were being set up. They were going to be brainwashed and indoctrinated not with communism, but with, “…the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.” Verse 5 tells us, “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.” This is slave labor, right? Three years of teaching for what? “Now, you’re going to work for us. You’re going to become a part of this political system.” This was a strategy. They’re like puppets or pawns, “We’re going to use you.”
The idea was to take the best and the brightest, bring them to Babylon, captivate them with all of the wonders of Babylon—the Hanging Gardens, just the magnificence of the empire—and then use them. They’re local boys, “We can use them in the structure of our government in order to keep these people at bay.” This was all a part of a political policy of how to rule, how to have dominion. He was just going to be a part of this organization, this government, “We’re going to use you. You’re going to become a part of the ruling of Babylon over all these territories,” and this was the end result. This is what all that great potential was going to be used for. Daniel is just being squeezed. He’s being forced into a mold. He’s a young man facing all of this pressure. He’s being shaped. They’re trying to take his life and force it into this Babylonian mold.
Verse 6, “Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.” You might know that the idea of a name, especially in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word Shem is not just a title, it’s also pointing to the inner qualities and characteristics—it’s sort of, what is this person about. The giving of names all throughout the Bible is so significant, especially if a name has been changed. There are so many wonderful examples of someone’s name being changed for good—God will change somebody’s name and give them a new nature/character He’s working in their lives.
But this is all bad. I don’t know how much Hebrew you know or don’t know, but two of the names for God—Elohim and Yahweh—two of the most common, were often incorporated into Hebrew names in a beautiful way. For example, you see the name Daniel, El Elohim, God is my judge; Hananiah, the Lord is gracious, Yahweh; Mishael, who is like God; and Azariah, the Lord has helped. That means each of these young men had godly parents who gave them beautiful and godly names that honored and blessed the Lord. They were blessing their sons with these godly names, but now the commander, the chief of the eunuchs, he’s going to change their names.
In essence, in each case, he’s going to take a god of Babylon and give a substitute, so Daniel becomes Belteshazzar—Bel, one of the chief gods of Babylon, protects his life; Shadrach, is saying, illumined by the god Rach; Meshach, his name was Mishael, who is like the Lord, but now Meshach is who is like Shach, and we’re not talking about Shaquille O’Neal here we’re talking about the Babylonian god Shach, being worshiped in a name; and Azariah’s name is changed to Abed-Nego, which means servant of Nego. Each of these wonderful Hebrew names that honor and bless the Lord and that are a blessing from parents upon their children that honor and magnify God is being changed now to a Babylonian god. In essence, what is happening is, they’re trying to erase the memory of God from these four young men’s lives. It’s not just language and literature, it’s not just a change of diet and exposure to this culture, but “Now we want to go and attack the identity of your God. We want to change your name and thus erase the Lord God of Israel, the true God, from your lives.”
For a young man with all of these pressures, so many of these things absolutely beyond Daniel’s control, external pressures, at some point, there’s this rising of faith and decision, and Daniel’s going to say, “No. I can’t control most of these things that are being forced upon me, but between me and my God, you’re not going to erase my memory of God and my love of the Lord. I’m going to find a way to draw a line. I’m going to find a way to make a decision. I’m going to stay true to God in my heart.” This is exactly what happens. The key verse and the secret of Daniel’s life is there in verse 8, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” Does anybody want to say, “Amen?”
Pressure after pressure, force after force, most of it totally beyond Daniel’s control, he’s just being subject to it, but then verse 8, marvelous, “But Daniel.” “You can pressure me from the outside, but within my heart,” he purposed in his heart, “what’s going on inside me, between me and the Lord, I can make a decision. I’m not going to let this change my faith in God. I’m not going to let you force and push me into the mold. I’m going to stay true to the Lord.” He, “…purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.” I think that this had to do with his commitment to the Word of God and the worship of God. In his heart before the Lord, he wasn’t going to violate the Scriptures, the Word, and his worship of the true God.
I’m going to take you backwards. We’re going to look at a couple of things in the law of Moses, that was Daniel’s Bible, that I believe he was holding onto, the Word and worship; and then we’re going to look at the same ideas and principles in the New Testament. Are you ready for a little journey? Go back to Leviticus 11, we’re going to get serious here. I believe Daniel was purposing in his heart not to defile himself because of his commitment to the Word of God and the worship of God.
First of all, Leviticus 11. I don’t imagine many of you have been reading this in your devotionals lately. This is the whole chapter on clean and unclean foods. These are all the kosher laws in what Daniel, as a young Jewish boy as part of the people of Israel—his covenant, his Bible, the law of Moses—these were the things you could and could not eat. I’m not going to read the whole chapter—anybody want to say, “Amen,” to that?—but I’d like to read the summary. Go down to the very last couple of verses, Leviticus 11:46. “This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, 47 to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.” These are the kosher laws.
I’m very glad that the Old Testament, the old covenant, is not my covenant because I don’t have to eat kosher. Nothing against kosher (I love a good Jewish deli, in fact, that’s where I grew up in Los Angeles), but I do like carnitas, and maybe most important of all is that beyond these kosher laws, if I read Judaism correctly, a cheeseburger is not kosher. Now, I’m pretty addicted to In-N-Out Burger. It’s one of my basic staples, and I can more or less live off of cheeseburgers. In fact, this body you see is made by cheeseburgers, and kosher laws don’t allow for the mixing of dairy and meat. I’m thinking, Praise God I’m a New Testament covenant Christian and these things don’t apply.
But this is Daniel’s Scripture. This is what he grew up with, and when he’s being offered the king’s delicacies, you can bet that of the king’s delicacies there were things on that table he could not eat, they were not kosher, and he had never broken that law, so he’s saying, “You can put all this pressure on me, but when it comes to the diet,” and think of it, this gift—you can eat what the king eats, sit at the king’s table—he’s saying, “I don’t want it. I purposed in my heart I’m going to hold onto the Word of God that told me that there’s some things that are clean for me to eat and some that are not, so I’m not going to violate that.”
Remember, the other thing was not just the delicacies but also the wine which he drank. Can I show you another verse in the law? Deuteronomy 32. It might help you to know that when they would eat, there was all kinds of idolatry going on with the food, and not only sometimes with the meats sacrificed and offered to the Babylonian gods, we can say for sure that there were drink offerings. If wine was being drunk, you would pour out a little before the gods of Babylon, and there was a worship that went on with these delicacies and with these wines they drank. Here in Deuteronomy 32 Moses tells us what was really going on. If you’re sitting at a table in Babylon, and they’re giving drink offerings to the gods of Babylon, what’s actually happening in the spirit, Deuteronomy 32:16 says, “They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals That your fathers did not fear.”
We know that an idol is nothing (Paul said that once) materially, but when people start to worship things, there are demons and demonic activity behind anything that someone would bow down to. Moses told us this all the way back in Deuteronomy 32. They might just be having this glass of wine and pouring it out before their god, but if there’s worship involved, there’s demonic activity. I believe Daniel understood that not only were there unclean foods, but the whole table of the king, with the foods and the drink, this was all not allowed. This was part of the law of Moses, and if he’s going to hold to the Lord, you could be offered the king’s table, and you know what? As a young man you could’ve been seduced by that. You could’ve been just in wonder of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, and those tables I’m sure were unbelievable, but in his heart, he purposed, “I’m not going to touch it. I’m not going to be defiled by it. I’m going to hold onto the Word that I was taught as a young man. I’m not going to eat anything that’s not kosher. I’m not going to drink these wines before the king in the table that had been offered to other gods because I understand that behind it is demonic activity. I’m just not going to go there.”
The interesting thing is I have a couple of Scriptures in the New Testament that just sort of parallel these ideas of the commitment to the Word and worship. So often we have pictures in the Old Testament and then the principles of it in the New, so I’d like to make that connection. Can you go to Romans 12. In the margin of my Bible I have a little “Daniel.” To me this is just what Daniel was doing, kind of the spiritual principle behind purposing in his heart that he wouldn’t defile himself, what was going on. Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
I see Daniel there in verse 2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed.” Daniel says, “I purposed in my heart not to defile myself. I’m not going to let the world conform me. I want to be transformed.” These are two of the most interesting word studies in the New Testament. The word “conformed,” suschématizó, we get the word schematic from it. “Conformed” is this idea of a pattern, a form, like a cookie cutter where you just press something in. It’s describing external pressure that shapes and forms something. “Conformed to the world” is this idea that the world is going to put you into a mold. You’re going to be forced to look and act a certain way, and it’s external pressure of the way you look and think. You don’t want to be conformed to this world.
It’s crazy to me how the world is like a cookie cutter. We think we’re free, but it just seems like there’s so much pressure to make you talk, dress, act a certain way. I was in Washington, D.C. a couple of weeks ago, one of my daughters got married. The bubble of the beltway where she and her husband lives and works, that little bubble is so funny to me because the profile of people that work in Washington, D.C., the politician profile, the bureaucratic profile, you can spot them from a mile away. There’s a certain way they dress, a certain way they talk. For all the talk about diversity and things, there’s a profile to a politician. They wear the same clothes and talk a certain way. You see them all moving around there by the thousands. I kind of find myself laughing at it. It’s like being in a foreign land, this bubble of Washington, D.C., right around there, that hub.
Then, I fly back to California. I’m pastoring in Burbank, California where most people in my town work in the creative industry. I have a whole town, a whole church of creatives—we’re the loosey-goosies, the free ones—but as soon as I fly back into Burbank, what do I see instantly? They’re all dressed the same way. It’s not the same as those D.C. cats, but it’s this bearded, this kind of a look and a talk, again, by the thousands! There’s this feeling that we’re all doing our own thing and we’re free, “Hey, we’re in America. We can do what we want, say what we want, wear what we want.”
But isn’t it true that there’s so much pressure. You can only buy the clothes that are at the store, so whatever’s there, you’re going to buy. We’re all looking…you guys all look kind of like Menifee. I’m in a different culture down here, you’re looking really good! I like it. The truth is that we’re in an atmosphere and this idea of conformed is this is the nature of the world is that it isn’t actually as free as you think, and your expression of your individuality, you’re not as free as you think. We’re all being pressured and pushed just like a cookie cutter, and this is what I hate about the world is that it wants to conform you. There are different molds, there are different places, but there’s an incredible amount of pressure to have you think a certain way, talk a certain way, look a certain way, and that is coming from the world, not from the Lord.
Watch this, verse 2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This is the Greek word metamorphosis. Have you ever heard this word metamorphosis? It’s snuck into the English language, and I’m glad it has because it’s such a great word. It’s good that it’s been passed into our language. In fact, I hope you had a teacher somewhere along the way in your educational journey that taught you about metamorphosis. Did you have a teacher sometime, somewhere in your life that brought a tadpole into the class and you watched the tadpole, like a little fish, metamorphose into a frog? Help me. Raise your hand. Do something.
Somewhere you had a teacher that brought this ugly caterpillar into your class and then you watched the caterpillar make a cocoon. It looked like it was dead, and then after a period of time the cocoon burst forth. What comes out of the cocoon? So you had a good teacher somewhere. You learned the Greek word metamorphosis. It’s almost a dead opposite for conform. Metamorphosis is not external pressure; it’s internal transformation. It’s from the inside out into something incredibly unique and beautiful, and the contrast couldn’t be more stark. The world is trying to conform you into a mold just like everybody else. God wants to transform you, notice it says, “…by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
When I was a young man my pastor taught me, “Your mind will be renewed when you begin replacing man’s wisdom with God’s truth.” How do I get a new mind? I gotta break the mold. I gotta let the Word of God speak into me and give me truth. I need to be not pressured from the outside—that’s not how God works, that’s how the world works—I need something to happen on the inside. I need transformation. I need power. I need the Word of God to renew my mind where suddenly now I’m thinking differently, I’m hearing from the Lord, I’m realizing that the Bible is showing me how to live and let God shape and mold me, not the world around me.
God actually created you as an individual. That’s a God thing that He could create billions, billions of people and no two alike, billions of people each with a uniqueness in the image of God and then a unique plan and promise over them. That’s God. That’s completely different than the shallowness of the world that just has a few different cookie cutters. But God wants to do transformation, this inside-out thing, where the power of God’s Word I start to figure out, “God has a plan for me, and it’s different than anybody else. It’s a unique plan. He actually matched the plan for me with how He made me!”
My gifting and the things (I was going to say that turn me on, but you understand what I mean, I’m speaking 60s here for a second) that make me tick, the things that God built in, when I began to figure out the gifting and the calling of my life and then these plans, you see, God…it’s the most exciting thing in the world to begin to discover God’s plan and purpose for you and to experience the pleasure of using your gifts and talents for God and how that might be a very unique expression because that’s just…you see God is big enough and powerful enough and creative enough, infinite enough, that this is going to be something unique to you. That’s this word “transformed.”
There’s only one other time that this word appears in the New Testament. It’s very close. Now, go over to 2 Corinthians 3. The only other time we get this word “metamorphosis” I think is talking about worship. What else transforms us besides the renewing of our mind according to the Word of God? Well, worship does, 2 Corinthians 3:18. Watch this. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being,”—what?, help me—“transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Something happens when I worship. By worshiping God, and the Spirit of God is working, I’m being transformed. Notice it says, “..into the same image.” This is what I want. I don’t want to be conformed to the world. I don’t want to succumb to the pressures. I don’t want to be just a victim of circumstance and what happens to me. But if I worship the Lord and say, “God, shape me, mold me. I want, in God, the power of the Lord to come upon my life.” It’s saying that a person that is “beholding…the Lord,” a person that is opening their hearts and their minds in worship, there’s something going on there. You, “…are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
You know, when I left my home, it didn’t take too long for me to get in a lot of trouble and I had a lot of anger. Even today I was thinking about it. It was just a series of disappointments, a series of things that just didn’t work out, and I began to have a lot of anger. What happened was it was expressed in my life through music. This anger and sort of frustration as a young man, I expressed it largely through the kind of music I listened to, and I also played guitar and would play this sort of angry music.
The problem was that I began to damage myself. I got to where I couldn’t turn that music off. In other words, I would make that music, I would listen to that music, and then I had it going on in my head 24/7 so I couldn’t really sleep. I couldn’t turn it off! It was just this constant sort of angry music in my mind, and I just think I was damaged circumstantially through life and situations being shaped, molded, disappointed. I was just this frustrated, angry guy, but then I got to where I couldn’t turn it off. It was constantly playing in my head, so I had to do a lot of other things to try to sleep at night, try to focus and…it was actually worship that healed me. I turned my life back over to the Lord. You could say, I purposed in my heart not to defile myself. I began to go to a Calvary Chapel. I began to listen to the Word again.
Then, on Saturday mornings I used to take my guitar down to the beach and just worship for hours. I like playing down by the ocean because you just can’t hear how bad you’re singing and how bad you’re playing. I recommend this. You can play and sing as loud as you want. No one else can hear you, and you can’t really hear yourself. You sound fantastic by the beach. But here’s what happened is as I began doing this for hours and hours and hours and over a period of time, this did not happen instantly, but I very clearly remember I woke up one Saturday morning very excited to go worship. I remember in my bedroom the sun coming through the window, and I just woke up. I have a picture in my mind of the beauty of that Saturday morning, “I’m going to go worship the Lord,” and I realized in that moment that the angry music was gone! I just had been healed, that the peace of God had entered into my mind and my heart and that thing that had been sort of an expression of anger, now I was playing for the Lord—probably just three chords at that time, D, C, and G—playing and worshiping, but then I was being transformed! This verse is real! It was happening.
We know Moses. He was talking about Moses coming down from the mountain with the glory of God and his face shining, but his point is that what God wants to do is not just an external show of glory but it’s a transformation on the inside. That’s that word “metamorphosis,” that for me it was the healing of peace for that noisy, angry, loud music to be turned off and to begin to hear the voice of the Lord and to begin to be led by the Spirit and just to experience God’s healing.
There is one last thing, and we’re done. It’s back in Daniel. Go back to Daniel 1. I don’t want to leave this out because this is critical, one last verse, one last thing. In Daniel 1 we left off at the end of verse 8. Let’s just read verse 9, “Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.” You know, if you cut off at verse 8, you’ve just cut off too soon because what happens is when a person purposes in their heart to stay true to the Word of God and the worship of God, God moves in on it. So, it wasn’t just Daniel being brave. I know there’s a lot of messages out there about, “Dare To Be a Daniel,” and I love them, but that would not be the whole story because it’s, verse 8, “But Daniel,” and then verse 9, “Now God,” moves in on it and gives favor and grace and doors start opening and God pours out His power and His Spirit on Daniel. You see it so obviously.
When we get to heaven, Daniel’s not going to say, (using an elderly man’s voice) “Oh, back when I was a young man I purposed in my heart.” No, you get to heaven what is Daniel going to be doing? “Hallelujah! A thousand hallelujah’s! Praise the Lord that when I purposed in my heart, God in His grace and mercy and power began to give favor. God began to move in my life. He just saw what was in my heart. I had all this pressure on me. They were squeezing me, trying to mold me. They were trying to make me a Babylonian, man! They were trying to take my name Daniel away and call me Belteshazzar. Come on! I knew that in my heart I had to draw the line. I purposed in my heart I wouldn’t defile myself. But then, 'Now God…,’ He began to give favor. He began to lead me. God began to fill me.” Daniel is going to be praising the Lord in heaven right with us. He’s going to be glorifying God’s mercy and His grace, “God did this thing in me! I took a little step, and God just moved!”
I love the Scripture, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” I take some little step of faith, but then how big is God’s steps? “Draw near to God,” okay, here’s one little step, I purpose in my heart. He’s going to draw near to you in just this giant infinite step of mercy and grace. Daniel’s story from this point onward is after all the junk that happened to him that so can easily make him a victim of circumstance, now it’s all about God’s power working through a guy who just took a step of faith. The Lord met him, and the Lord lifted him up. The Lord raised him up above again and again and again. The whole story is an amazing story of God’s grace. We don’t have to be victims, we can be victors.
Let’s bow our heads and pray.
Pastor Tim Anderson teaches a message through Daniel 1:1-9 titled “Victims Becoming Victors.”