Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Daniel Diet

As a child who grew up going to church and as an adult who taught Sunday School; I am very familiar with the question which has been asked by many a child about the story of Daniel “Why did Daniel and his friends choose to eat veges and bread when all the other guys got to eat the good food?  Why didn’t they want to eat it? It doesn’t make sense!” This is a perfectly logical question for kids because being children they can’t understand why you would give up the best sounding food on offer!  I never felt like I gave them a very satisfactory answer and have never heard one… until now…

Enter Justin Mote.  In his sermon series on the book of Daniel he connected this passage to the book of Isaiah where God says to Isaiah (rephrase) “my people are going to be sent into exile because they have disobeyed the law and the consequences of that is to be exiled out of the land.  It will not be a time of rejoicing but a time of fasting and despair and sadness for God’s people."  So what do Daniel and his faithful friends do when they reach the King’s palace and they are among feasting and celebration of the King’s power and dominion over the people?  They fast (a bread and water kind of fast).  They fast because they believe the words of God to Isaiah.  Here they are in exile as promised to Isaiah.  It’s not a time to be celebrating and eating the King’s rich food; it’s a time to be sad and mourning for the people of Israel and the terrible thing that has happened to them.

But even though God’s people are cast out of their land and are living under the power of others God has not forgotten them.  The second half of the book of Daniel is full of God’s promises to Daniel.  The same promises God made to Daniel’s ancestors – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the promise that Abraham’s Offspring is coming; the Anointed One who will rescue his people and bless the nations.  That’s all Daniel has to cling to in his time of exile; he never goes back to the Promised Land but his hopes and dreams are in God’s Anointed One.

Listening to Justin Mote it struck me just how relevant the book of Daniel is for Western Christianity.  Look around you and we are feasting our selves to death.  We are dying of obesity for crying out loud!  It’s easy for me as a Christian to get sucked into that way of thinking; to forget that this world is not the be all and end all of my existence; to forget that for most of the church today it is not a time of feasting and living it up but rather a time of persecution and sadness (like God’s people in Babylon).  To know that as I write this I should know better but in literally five minutes I will be planning my next shoe purchase or dream holiday.  And so I stand condemned as the worst of all first world sinners.
When I do spare a thought or two to think about the persecuted church and the poor and the exploited I am convicted that it is not a time for feasting and celebration, but a time of fasting and crying out to God to rescue his people from persecution and from our own sin and the sin of others.  But this repentance alone will not save me from despair.  I need to also remember as Daniel remembered that my Saviour has come! “I have said these things to you,that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The Anointed One did rescue me and rescue you and we can look forward to the Promised Land to come which he has given us on the other side of the grave and in the meantime we can talk to him about our troubles [pray].  Come Lord Jesus.

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