Leading in the Midst of Babylon: Part II
Yemi Adewuyi is a graduate of the Harvard Law School class of 2020. He is also a 2019-2020 Fellow for the Program on Biblical Law and Christian Legal Studies.
“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.”
-Daniel 1:8-9 (ESV)
While in exile, Daniel did not complain about the three-year training program, nor did he contest his requisite service in the king’s court. He even allowed the chief of the eunuchs to call him by a Babylonian name—Belteshazzar.
However, Daniel staunchly refused to comply with the one Babylonian order that crossed a divinely drawn line—the order to eat the king’s food or drink the king’s drink. It was quite likely that these foods had been ritually sacrificed to Babylonian idols, and partaking in the king’s victuals would have violated God’s laws about unclean foods.
Presumably, Daniel was deeply familiar with God’s words. After all, one does not obey God accidentally. The resolve that Daniel displayed here shows that he had truly committed divine precepts to heart, and his knowledge of scripture helped him discern immediately what was and was not permissible for him to do in the king’s court.
Notably, Daniel’s resolve was coupled with a sense of respect for the institution in which he found himself. Rather than incite a commotion about the king’s provisions as an affront to his moral principles, Daniel made a measured and specific request to the chief of eunuchs. He simply asked that he and his fellow youths of Judah (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) be fed vegetables and water. And in recognition of his integrity, the Lord showed him great favor and compassion in the king’s court.
As followers of Christ, by what name will we be remembered?
Interestingly enough, Daniel, Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael), and Abednego (Azariah) were all given Babylonian names. But Daniel, whose name means “God is my judge,” is the only one of these four exiled young men whom we typically reference by the original Hebrew name. Daniel’s integrity raises a powerful question. As followers of Christ, by what name will we be remembered? Will we assimilate into the moral customs and sumptuous traditions of a foreign kingdom? Or will we live in full accordance with the identity that God has given us?
Heavenly Father, we confess to you as sin all the ways in which we have compromised with Babylon. We repent and ask for the grace to maintain a resolve like Daniel to not be defiled by the extravagance that our world has to offer. May our lives, both publicly and privately, be shining examples of unwavering integrity and commitment to your truth. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.