In the World but not of the World

Daniel 1:14-20

The title of this post comes from the Gospel of John. The phrase is taken from several verses in the Gospel. (1) John 15:19 — If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (2) John 17:15 — I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. (3) John 17:18 — As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (ESV; emphasis mine)

How did the Hebrew youths know when to give into Babylonian customs and when to resist? They had Daniel to help them walk the razor’s edge of obedience to God and complaisance to their captors.

Daniel is a mentor and example for the other Judean teenagers. God honored Daniel by giving him favor in the eyes of the Chief of the Servants. The word “give” (Hebrew = nathan) is used in verse 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand… .” Daniel 1:9—9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs… .”

What God seems to say in the final verses of Daniel 1 is that God Himself is completely sovereign and in control, so that He can give people into their enemy’s hand to be a punisher of their sins; and at the same time, once-exiled, God can preserve His people by giving (Hebrew = nathan) them favor in the eyes of their captors.

Dr. Wm. Lane, Mentor

Bill_Lane_1Bill Lane expressed, “When God gives a gift, he wraps it in a person.” Bill Lane was God’s gift to Michael Card, but he is also now God’s gift to me through Card’s experience [in the book The Walk].”

To the left is a photo of Dr. Bill Lane (Th. D. from Harvard Divinity School from Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bill Lane was diagnosed with cancer, and eventually passed from this life to the next; but before this happened, he gave Michael Card what Card described as the “greatest compliment of his life.”

Lane had said to Michael Card, “I taught you how a Christian lives. I moved here to teach you how a Christian dies.” —adapted from a review of Card’s book The Walk.

Daniel is God’s “gift-wrapped prophet” for His people. He acts as a mentor, but he did not assume this on his own. Daniel was set apart by the special gifts and graces God gave him. I mention this because he was prepared to honor God above all.

Sinclair Ferguson says this about the four Hebrew youths—

It is not who you are or where you are that ultimately matters in the kingdom of God. It is what you are. Faithfulness, not reputation or situation, is what counts in God’s kingdom. [The Preacher’s CommentaryVol. 21: Daniel emphasis mine.]

I. God’s people undergo tests by pagans as God leads them into trial. vs.14.  

vs. 14 So [the steward] listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days.

“The sovereignty of God means there is not a random molecule loose in the universe” (R. C. Sproul in class). God controls all things. Yet He does not make anyone do evil. How does this work? God alone knows.

I wonder how often we realize some of our unpleasant experiences might be for another person’s benefit! The four Hebrew youths would know where their help came from—God Almighty. Also, the steward of their household would know it, too, although the Steward might not be willing to tell the King. The other Judeans would know this, as well.

vs. 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.

II. Where God guides His people, He provides special gifts for His people to succeed. vs.17

vs. 17 As for these four youths, God gave (nathan in Hebrew) them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. ESV

Here are the gifts God gives to his servants under great distress — (1) knowledge; (2) skill in all learning; and (3) wisdom.

All of God’s servants can get these gifts if God so chooses to bestow them. Daniel is set apart from the rest by one additional gift — understanding in all visions and dreams.

New Argument from the First Amendment to Protect Religion (indirectly)

God gives people insight into the Constitution and the Judges on the Bench to permit religion in publicJay Sekulow places. ( The first case Jay Sekulow argued before the Supreme Court involved the LAX airport ban on Jews for Jesus handing out leaflets to people as they entered the airport.

Jay Sekulow’s argument began — “Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court, local governments have important responsibilities concerning their efficient operation of airports under their control; however, the record in this case is clear — there is no justification for a sweeping ban on First Amendment activities which would subordinate cherished First Amendment freedoms.”

Jay Sekulow made what, at the time, was a unique argument in defense of religious liberties. He literally changed constitutional law. Instead of merely arguing that this ordinance violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, Jay Sekulow argued that the ordinance in fact violated the Jews for Jesus members’ free speech rights. (Board of Airport Commissioners v. Jews for Jesus, 482 U.S. 569 1987)

The Court also agreed with Jay Sekulow’s argument that “there is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”

God gives us today our right to be heard in the public arena by a backdoor argument! This is wisdom of God that saves the day. Daniel had it and we can have access to God’s wisdom as we read His Word and pray. (

III. In trial, God makes His servants standout from the crowd. vs. 18-20

vs. 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.

I like the fact that Daniel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses their Hebrew names, and not those pagan names given to them by the chief ruler of the household. All glory is God’s, not pagan Kings!

They passed the test! They knew it was God’s gifts to them that enabled them to perform so ably. The reverting to their Hebrew names says to us that they were not changed in their essential character by studying Chaldean culture and literature.

vs. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

These are good odds. Daniel and the other 3 were worth 10 times the normal Babylonian students at the end of their initial trial period.

Cyrus the Great is said, in the Bible, to have liberated the Hebrew captives in Babylon to resettle and rebuild Jerusalem, earning him an honored place in Judaism. Cyrus the Great, 559 BC-530 BC from Wikipedia

IV. God can sustain His servants down to old age even if empires fall around them. vs. 21

vs. 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Verses 1 & 20 place Daniel in the exact times he lived.

He went to Babylon (by Nebuchadnezzar’s public transportation) “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah.” (ca. 606 BC)

He lived until “The first year of Cyrus (538 BC) would be nearly 70 years after the date of Daniel’s captivity (Daniel 1:1), so that he would then be quite an aged man. (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Daniel).

God sustained Daniel until the first year of Cyrus. (It doesn’t say when he died.) “This year is specified on account of its importance to the Jewish people as the year of their deliverance.” (Ellicott)

Cyrus the Persian reversed Imperial policy. Under the Babylonians, conquered people were taken out of their lands and brought to Babylon. People from other conquered land were resettled there. (This explains the Samaritan Jews in the New Testament era.) Persia left them in their own land.

Look at the following film as an Introduction to the Whole book of Daniel (9 minutes). It’s a little longer than I ordinarily put in my blogs. However, this site on YouTube has similar films on all books of the Bible.


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