It’s your story
Special guest Professor Dion Forster – Stellenbosch University
Living with Integrity and a positive yes attitude in an exiled church situation !!!
With Peter Veysie
George Methodist Church
Sunday 4th July 2021
8am and 10am online
Thank you so much Dion for being my guest today and sharing your incredible transformative journey. I really respect your integrity and positive yes attitude. Bless you my friend and fellow Methodist minister.
As you are aware, we are back to online services during lockdown level 4 and we trust that this will not be for long and that we will all be willing to be vaccinated so as to get over this terrible pandemic. I am registered and awaiting my jab !!!
We had a wonderful two week break which was really necessary after a long and busy first half of the year. We are back energised and ready for the second half of the year.
We had some wonderful experiences on leave and did all the touristy things – Babylonstoren wine farm, the aquarium, fish and chips at Hout Bay harbour in the rain and of course the joy of being with Luke and Joel, but sadly missing Matt and Melissa due to lockdown !!!
I went running along the Seapoint promenade early one morning and a guy rode past me on his bicycle with the word “YES” in huge letters on his cycling top. I cannot describe how this excited me and I felt a huge sense of a Yes that the Lord was in control and that we are going to get through this aweful time. I also started to think about the importance of integrity and focus and began to look at characters in the bible who eminate exactly this despite their circumstances. Daniel was an obvious choice linked to my friend Dion and I want to unpack Daniel’s story and then give you some keys to: Living with Integrity and a positive yes attitude in an exiled church.
Daniel’s training in Babylon
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure-house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favour and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[c] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men of your age? The king would then have my head because of you.’
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 ‘Please test your servants for ten days: give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Background to Daniel
Nebuchadnezzar had besieged Jerusalem along with it’s king Jehoiakim and taken treasures from the temple and placed it in his temple in Babylon.
Ashpenaz, chief of the court officials is then directed to get young men strong good looking with wisdom and from nobility to work in the kings palace.
They were to learn the language of the the tribe of Babylon (Aramaic) and also to eat the food.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were chosen to serve.They were probably not more than 15 years of age,good looking intelligent and discerning especially Daniel. They were given new names – Belteshazzar, Shadrack, Mishack and Abednego – note their different names – how many people have undergone a change of culture and names in our South African context !!!
Each name Daniel and his friends were given carried a meaning associated with a different Babylonian deity. Abednego means “servant of Nebo,” for example. Belteshazzar, the name given to Daniel, means “Bel protects his life.” The meaning of the name Daniel is “God is my judge.” The suffix of Daniel’s name (and Mishael’s) is -el, which refers to Elohim, one of the names of the God of Israel. Azariah and Hananiah carry the suffix -iah or -yah, which is short for Yahweh, the covenant name of God (see Isaiah 26:4).
These young men who were also very easily influenced like any teenager and yet they had a determination to not be swayed and decided through positive peer pressure not to eat the food that was dealt out to them by the King.Instead they ate vegetables and drank water.
Daniel had a strong faith and knew that it was important not to defile himself in spight of the fact that it was probably delicious. They had moved from their very conservative upbringing to a very polytheistic, modern lifestyle. It was like moving from Calitzdorp to Cape Town !!!
There was not only a new language but also a completely new way of doing things and they could quite easily have just gone with the flow and had a party!!!
Daniel was now Beltashazzar – the god Bel protects his life or keeper of secrets !!! But he chose to live by the name given to him- Daniel – God is my judge !!!
Daniel resolved not to defile himself. Vs 8 He made up his mind. Integrity begins with a mental attitude that you are choosing to stand for something or possibly positively against something that he Lord has convicted you to do or to be. Jesus resolutely turned and faced Jerusalemn despite the challenges that he was going to experience. He resolved in His mind and in his heart to face the aweful situation that he knew was coming His way !!!
Ten days on vegetables and water – the Lord enabled the guard to show favour to Daniel. At the end of the ten days they were stronger, healthier and better nourished than all the other young men who ate the royal food.
I find it interesting that Daniel marches to a different drum but he is not a fanatic. It’s so easy to get pushy with others about the lifestyle that we choose or judgmental, but in saying this I do believe that we have a lot to learn from Daniel and it is really good to eat healthily.
Not only this but they were also but God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
In Daniel 2:46 it even says that the king honoured the God of Daniel.
King Nebuchadnezzar found that they were not only top of the class but they were also ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters of the entire kingdom !!!
We know that it did not go well for them all the time and they found themselves thrown into the lions den and encountering the fiery furnace and yet managing to escape by a miracle of the Lord.
Some of the challenges that come out of this story for me are the following :
Questions to ponder in your home groups and in your quiet time:
- How can I add value even in an exiled situation?
- How can I stay true to myself and my faith ? Daniel did not defile himself or just go with the flow. He stuck to his beliefs but did not get pushy when convicted to eat vegetables.
- Who are my people? Daniel was not alone. Shadrack Meshack and Abednego.It really helps to have a community and some peers to help you through a difficult time.
- What do I do when it gets HOT ? Keep focussed on the Lord and trust him even when it seems impossible to do so!!
- How do I maintain integrity and keep a positive YES attitude? Keep focussed on the finishing line and the results you will have if you do maintain integrity. It’s so easy to give up but don’t. Remember the big Yes !!
- My friend Dion spoke about the fact that he shares with his students about THAT DAY and points to Revelation 21 – a day when:
Revelation 21:1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Daniel had his eyes not on Nebuchadnezzar nor on the possiblity of returning to Jerusalem but rather on the hope that the Lord would bring them through.
He lived till the ripe old age of 90 through 10 different kings right up to Cyrus and then died full of life and integrity. His school of knowledge was probably the same school that those who visted Jesus came from – the ones that followed the star.