The world is rapidly changing around us. There is a significant gap between the standards of the culture and Christian principles. As I prepare my teens to step into adulthood, I cannot help feeling concerned.
Statistics suggest nearly 70% of young people leave the church after high school. That is a staggering number. I do not want my teens to fall into that statistic. In fact, I want to see that number eliminated.
I have been reflecting on a conversation with a friend. We’ve both been studying the book of Daniel and were discussing what we could learn about his character. As I read the scripture I have found encouragement regarding my teens.
Daniel surviving in the lion’s den, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace are amazing accounts of men standing for their faith. Before those incidents ever took place, there was an earlier standard of Godly character that was shown in Daniel.
Judah was exiled to Babylonia because of disobedience to God. Daniel was among the captives. It is believed he was 15-18 years old at the time of his capture. He was from a royal family, handsome, strong, and intelligent. Daniel 1:3-5 provides a description of the young men chosen to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. Daniel, likely separated from his family, was one of the youth selected.
For three years the young men were to be trained in the language and literature of the Babylonians. They were assigned daily rations of food and wine from the king’s table. Essentially, they were immersed in the Babylonian culture.
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 this way. Daniel 1:8
There are varying beliefs on why the food from the king’s table was not acceptable to Daniel. There were set laws of what foods were allowed and how they were prepared as stated in Leviticus chapters 11 and 17. Some biblical scholars suggest Daniel may have taken a Nazirite vow preventing him from drinking wine.
Although both arguments could be contributing factors, any Israelite would have considered this food defiled, or unclean. The first portion of food from Nebuchadnezzar’s table was offered to idols, and a portion of the wine was poured out on a pagan altar.
Daniel’s request to not defile himself with the food demonstrated the courage of his conviction. In the midst of trial, he resolved to honor God. He did not act in rebellion. He went to the chief official and requested vegetables and water over the royal food. Daniel 1:9-16 tells how God caused the official to favor Daniel and cites the results of his appeal.
As I read through the first chapter of Daniel, I cannot help to consider why this young man had such resolve. Although Judah was exiled to Babylon because of disobedience to God, it is likely Daniel was raised like any other Jewish boy during his early years. Educating a child was of great importance. During the period prior to the exile children were taught by priests and the family, primarily the parents. Children would sit at the feet of their teacher, as a sign of respect, and learn through memorization and repetition. As written language developed, boys learned to read and write.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:8-9
I believe Daniel not only learned and memorized the lessons put before him, I believe the truth of the scripture penetrated his heart. He demonstrated his resolve to obey God by asking permission not to defile himself with the king’s food.
The responsibility to teach our children must be taken seriously. They must be taught to respect instruction and to learn to live by the Word. These lessons will influence their eternal destiny and should not be taken lightly. General academic schooling should be secondary.
As parents, we must stand in the gap between the standards of the culture and Christian principles. Our children must be equipped. They must be taught God’s word, and covered in prayer so that truth penetrates their hearts. The day is coming when my children will step out of my home and become immersed in the culture. I hope I have taught them well. I pray, that like Daniel, they resolve not to defile themselves.