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. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 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. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 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. 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. 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. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
For Daniel and others taken into exile in Babylon, it was a moment of profound disruption. If we want a window into the range of emotion that the exiles felt, we can read Psalm 137: “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (137:4). Daniel surely felt such emotion, but he didn’t yield to despair. “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). He asked his supervisor for permission not to eat the king’s food or drink the king’s wine. His confidence in his sovereign Lord inspired the kind of resolve that shines like a flood light on a dark night. Daniel drew a line in the sand, and God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the eyes of his pagan lords.
We forget that Daniel and his friends were probably teenagers when they were uprooted from their home and carried away to Babylon. Their lives remind us of Paul’s exhortation to a younger Timothy: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). When he was around the age of 20, pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) wrote 70 resolutions, which he reviewed on a weekly basis for the rest of his life. Many of us know Edwards as the fire and brimstone preacher who wrote “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, but he was so much more. His resolutions reflect the heart that the Lord gave him at an early age. He longed to redeem the time and to glorify the Lord in all things. Consider just a few of the 70 resolutions:
1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever and how great soever.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s.
It’s easy to misunderstand Edwards’ resolutions. We say, “You’re creating a new law, a new measuring stick for real believers!” People who heard about Daniel refusing to defile himself may have accused him of similar things. In reality, this kind of resolve is not the root; it’s the fruit of a relationship with the Lord. Like Daniel and Jonathan Edwards, we don’t start with resolutions. We always start with the Lord. As we behold the glory of Christ, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). Daniel and Jonathan Edwards were not perfect in their resolve, but Jesus was. In His days on earth, He resolved not to defile Himself in any way, and after living a perfect life, He “set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 2:51). If we put Edwards’ resolutions on the lips of Jesus, we hear a beautiful expression of His joyful, perfect obedience in our place. There is no resolve like the resolve of Jesus Christ to finish the work His Father gave Him to do (John 17:4). With our eyes fixed on Him, how is the Lord leading us to live? Do we believe that He will give us everything we need?
As we resolve to live for Christ, may we remember the preface to Edwards’ Resolutions: Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake. Amen.