We know the saying: ‘Dare to be a Daniel; dare to stand alone.’ Not: stand alone to do evil, but stand up for the Truth. For that you need faith based on God’s Word, a faith worked by the preaching and by the Holy Spirit. And standing up for the faith can land you into big trouble. Just look at Daniel; he was thrown into the lion’s den. And his three friends were cast into the fiery furnace. For there is a continuing warfare between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan or, as the Book of Daniel puts it: the struggle between Jerusalem and Babylon. That’s a point Rev van der Jagt made in a sermon about faith (LD 7).[i] And there’s a ‘big picture’ lesson in that for us today!
Rev van der Jagt explained it like this: Jerusalem is the city of God, the headquarters of the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament. Over against this stands Babylon, the capital city of the realm of darkness. The struggle between these two cities represents the age-old struggle of the antithesis that characterises world history in the past, the present and the future. At the end of Scripture, in the book of Revelation, we see again the same two cities diametrically opposed to each other, yet Babylon the Great will be overthrown and the Jerusalem descending from heaven will continue forever.
Jerusalem versus Babylon – they represent the big antithesis that will dominate all the ages. It is, says Rev van der Jagt, the struggle between the realm of God and the realm of Satan, church and world, Christ and Antichrist. And while the apostle John shows us the final contest in the book of Revelation, in the book of Daniel we find one of the many phases of this struggle.
Attack on the youth
Daniel 1, says Rev van Der Jagt, shows how Satan’s attack is directed particularly at the church’s youth. Just look at the sly way he lures the leading young captives “some of the king’s descendants, some of the nobles” from Jerusalem into Babylon’s religion and culture.
First, Satan doesn’t get Nebuchadnezzar to slap them into prison, because then the boys would have become rebellious and a source of unrest in Babylon. No, the king of Babylon uses a much craftier tactic; he gives them an important role in the royal palace as courtiers. They receive a model upbringing and a very high standard of schooling. They are taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
Also, the names of Daniel and his friends had to be changed from names that honoured God into names that honoured Babylon’s gods. In everything the name of the LORD had to be removed. It was not allowed to be heard in Babylon anymore.
Indeed, everything was involved; even their food. “The king appointed for them a daily provision of the kings’ delicacies and of the wine which he drank.” Thus any ties with their background had to be broken off: the food laws of the Israelites; the habits of their ancestors—all that reminded them of the God of Israel had to be removed.
Had the king been successful, you can imagine what would have been the result. These future leaders of the people of Israel would have adopted the culture and customs of Babylon, and the rest of the people of Israel would have followed them. Yes, “your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). And his first goal is the youth of the church. If he can lure them astray, the rest will eventually follow.
It’s similar in our days, says Rev van der Jagt. Think of how all our youth are confronted with in the ‘language and literature’ of the ‘Chaldeans’ of our days. Satan even tries to use our families as a base for his attacks: parents who close their eyes to the drug use or to their children’s friends. Fathers and mothers who permit their children to be lured astray through television, ungodly music, internet. Parents who allow their children to go to parties where Christian values are not respected. How can our children hold onto the faith when the parents themselves talk the language, read the literature, share the opinions and follow the heresies of the ‘Chaldeans’ of our time on internet?
Our children are ‘the King’s descendants’ and ‘the nobles’ of our time. For this reason, God has changed their names. They are no longer called: ‘children of wrath’. They are called ‘children of Abraham’ and ‘heirs of the Kingdom of God’.
Therefore we need to remove our focus on the allurements of this world and focus far more on Christ and His Word, to learn to trust in Him alone, for “only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all His benefits” (LD 7). Only when we stand firm in the faith will the devil not have a chance to devour us and our youth. Through faith the attacks of Satan are beaten off by youth and adults alike, as in Daniels’s time.
Dare to be a Daniel
When we hear the saying “Dare to be a Daniel” we tend to think of Daniel in the lion’s den. And we think: Wow! What a believer. What faith! And we probably remember a few lines of a song: “Dare to a Daniel, dare to stand alone.”
But daring to stand alone, says Rev van der Jagt, is what Daniel did in the dining room of the palace of Babylon’s king. The devil is often more dangerous at teatime in this world than in the lion’s den of this world. If Daniel had not been faithful at the king’s table, he would never have survived in the lion’s den. Only if you have been faithful over a few things, can you be faithful in more difficult things. The suffering and honour of the lion’s den is only reserved for a few. But what the Lord asks of us is that we show our faith in the small things of our daily life: in our food and drink, in our living room and our bedroom, at school and in the factory, in the ordinary things of everyday life. It makes no sense to wonder whether we dare to go into the lion’s den if we are not prepared to show our faith in our daily life.
You know what’s remarkable? Daniel 1 speaks only about Daniel and his four friends being faithful. Yet the chapter implies there were more “nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish”. But you hear nothing further about the others, and it’s not difficult to understand why: they had caved in to the allurements of Satan. They found Daniel’s attitude too strict, and no doubt these others made excuses: surely joining in for a bite to eat and a drink does not mean that you give up the faith of your parents. Come on, Daniel; get real! You’re overdoing it! What’s wrong with the dishes of the king in Babylon? What’s wrong with a good glass of wine?”
But these ‘broad-minded’ people were wrong. They did not see that it was Nebuchadnezzar’s purpose to brainwash the youth coming from Judah, that it was his intent that they had to forget the laws of the Lord. The meals were part of that system. Moreover, the Chaldeans were not under the illusion that religion is only a private matter; all of life was somehow linked to Babylon’s religion. The food was dedicated to the godhead. Each meal had the character of a sacred meal. There was only one rule: Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of Babylon’s gods.
A message in this for us
This is very humbling for us, adds Rev van der Jagt. For how often do we realise that “whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do” we are to do it all “to the glory of God”? Who is still ruled by faith in everything he does? Of course, we have our own area where we like to serve God. On Sunday we go to church, we attend club and our meetings. But around it there is a wide area, a ‘neutral’ territory, where we live our own life, where we run our own business and where we handle our own problems. Religion is seen as part of church life. But don’t bother us during the week with religion.
Yes, I get the strong impression, said Rev van der Jagt, that quite some church members live a life with double standards. They have a life in church and in this world. And when they are in the world you can’t recognise them as children of the Lord.
But Daniel and his friends were aware of the real problem. Joining in with Babylon meant parting with your faith. And through his faith Daniel subdued Babylon’s kingdom and overcame the world.
For this is faith: that I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word. And it is important to realise that this knowledge works a firm confidence that everything God has promised applies to yourself as well. True faith, says Rev van der Jagt, is always this: you hand yourself over to the Word of God. “Just believe My word”, and “don’t be afraid; just trust”. As the apostle Paul wrote, “we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18). The Lord Jesus is asking us to see the unseen. To make a choice. Either to live by sight or to see by faith.
The last verse of Daniel 1 is very special, says Rev van der Jagt: “Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.” It was Nebuchadnezzar’s intention to destroy Daniel’s identity as a youth from the people of Israel. Everything was set out to erase the memory of the people of Israel and Israel’s God. For this reason, Daniel and his friends had received another name. They had to be fed with Babylonian food and drink so that they would forget their God and their people. But He who sits in the heavens laughs. He holds the kings of this earth in derision (Ps 2:4). He will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. And therefore: “Daniel remained until the first year of king Cyrus.” He arrived at Babylon when he was about fourteen years old and he stayed in Babylon till he was more than ninety years old. By then king Nebuchadnezzar had already died. His realm did not exist anymore. One empire followed the other, Daniel however stayed till the year that king Cyrus gave the exiles permission to return to their land. And all those years Daniel remained faithful to the Lord.
Was it always easy for Daniel? No way. The enemies even tried to murder him. How then could Daniel survive? He put his trust in God. Likewise we, in the ongoing struggle between Jerusalem (Christ’s church) and Babylon (the world), are to place our trust, our faith, in Him—who is the Head of the church—at all times, lest we find ourselves in Babylon.
What is the content of that faith? What must a Christian believe, then? “All that is promised us in the gospel” (LD 7). Just concentrate on that Word and listen to what God has to say.
In order to persevere in this life; to persevere in faith, says Rev van der Jagt, it is not necessary to be aware of the latest news. In order to believe, your television program or internet-time is quite often a waste of time; rather an attack on your faith. To believe the outcome of a cricket or soccer match is not important at all. With this knowledge you will not come far in the Kingdom of God. What do you need to know in order to be saved by Christ in this life and in life to come? You have to know the promise of the gospel, which we have summarised in our confession.
And then, taught by the Holy Spirit, we look around with enlightened eyes. Taught by the Spirit we listen with other ears. Thanks to the Word of God, we can take a stand in this world, as Daniel did, and persevere. “Therefore we also, since we have seen Daniel, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebr 12).
[i] In a sermon on LD 7 held in FRC Mt Nasura 4th July 2021. For the full sermon by Rev W van der Jagt see The gift of faith is the only means of salvation – YouTube.Re