“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.”
The book of Daniel in the Old Testament has some pretty incredible things in it. From the miraculous sparing of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, to the lion’s not eating Daniel when he was tossed in with them, to say that God displays his power in this book would be an understatement. In light of these “big” stories (along with other thing like Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks) it cn be easy to skip over the opening pages of the book. But to do so would cause us to miss some important things.
In chapter one we learn that Daniel, along with a number of other young Jewish men, are taken captive to learn the Chaldean language and customs for three years, and then to serve before the king. During their training they are given the same food and wine as the king himself dines on, something that presumably would be a great privilege.
But we see in the verse quoted above that Daniel refuses to “defile himself” with the king’s food. The reasoning behind this is most likely that the food had been offered to idols and for Daniel to partake of it would be in violation of what God required of him (see Exodus 34:14-15). Instead of simply going with the flow, Daniel resolved to say “no” and not defile himself. Luxury and ease were not as important to him as following his God.
But before we beat the drum of standing up for what’s right too loudly, I think it important to note how Daniel approached this issue. It says he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. Daniel is a young man who recognizes that the ultimate authority is God, thus his resolve not to defile himself. But he is also a young man who recognizes that the lower authorities that he serves under are also established by God. This means that they are to be respected. Daniel is humble and winsome in his approach to the man placed over him, and verse 9 says that God gave Daniel “favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.” Holiness does not necessarily equal abrasiveness. Usually quite the opposite. Daniel pursues holiness, something our generation desperately needs to learn from. He also displays humility in his pursuit of holiness, something which we need as well.