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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Acts 4 & Daniel 1-3 by Robert Dean
As we continue our study in Acts 4, we gain more insight into how a Christian is to submit to authority and how to handle hostilities by applying spiritual wisdom in a pagan world.
Duration:59 mins 23 secs

Spiritual Wisdom In A Pagan World. Acts 4, Daniel 1, 3


The question is raised: How do we determine the parameters for legitimately disobeying authority? Whenever an authority commands the believer to not do something that God has mandated then that seems to be the only time the individual believer is justified in violating a human authority.

Many think of Daniel as a prophet because of so many key passages within Daniel that do speak of future events. Most of those prophecies have yet to be fulfilled. But the first part of the book has a different function. The Hebrew leaders understood as they were collecting the canon that the purpose of Daniel wasn't related to the announcement of coming judgment on Israel. The role of the prophet in the Old Testament was to alert the people and confront them with the violation of the Law, to warn them of judgment, and to announce what the coming judgment would be. But throughout all their messages of judgment they were also bringing a message of hope that there would be an eventual regathering of all the Jewish people back to the land and all of the promises that God had yet to full through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others would all be fulfilled at that time. Daniel focuses on something different. He focuses on God's plan for the Gentiles during a time that is described by Jesus in Luke as the times of the Gentiles. This is why most of Daniel is written in Aramaic and not in Hebrew.

The focal point of Daniel has to do with God's future plan for the judgment upon the Gentile nations as it relates to the future regathering of Israel. It is not a book that focuses on pronouncing God's judgment on Israel as mush as it is focusing on how God is going to bring about His future plan to regather the nation. It is a wisdom book because it is designed to teach us how to live in a pagan culture. Daniel and his friends are the focal point of several events in the first part of the book. They have been taken by Nebuchadnezzar as hostages from the kingdom of Judah in 605 BC, and part of the reason Daniel is written is to teach the Jewish people and to teach believers how they are to live and operate in a pagan environment—in an environment of opposition where their belief system runs counter to the belief system of the culture and the people around them, how they are to operate on the basis of wisdom.

Jewish wisdom in the Old Testament is very different from Greek wisdom. Greek wisdom has to do with philosophical, intellectual skills, but wisdom for the Hebrew was very practical. It was down to earth and had to do with practical living skills so that what you produced in the life was something that was of value, and it would have eternal value because you were living on the basis of God's Word. Chokmah in Scripture is this idea of skilful living. That is really important to understand when we look at Daniel and his three friends. These four young men have to make extremely mature decisions when they are operating under an authority that is in complete opposition to their core belief system. They can't react to everything they disagree with; they have to decide how and where they are going to counter these mandates that are issued from the government.

We learn from other sources that they were all from the royal family, so they are of the aristocracy. We learn something of their parents, the families that they come from, because these four young men demonstrate a tremendous grasp of the Torah and are able to apply it with tremendous skill.

Daniel 1:2 NASB "The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god." That is an interesting reference to the land of Shinar because it takes us all the way back to the first use of that term back in Genesis chapter eleven where Nimrod led a rebellion against God, gathered his followers together at Babel on the plain of Shinar, and there they would build the tower of Babel. So that Baylon in Scripture is first and foremost a literal, historical city; but because of its founding, its history, it is used by Scripture writers as a picture of the highest and best that human viewpoint represents. It represents everything that man is in opposition to God. There is always this contrast in Scripture between Babel the city of man and Jerusalem the city of God. Babylon represents everything that man believes and supports and advocates in hostility to God. 

These four young men are taken into Babylon, the heart of the enemy's capital where they are going to be reeducated, brainwashed, have all of their ideas overturned, and be re-taught so that they can function effectively as bureaucrats and administrators within the government of Babylon. That is a tremendous picture of how the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is living in the devil's world. We are surrounded by a hostile system of thought which the New Testament describes as the cosmic system—the various different manifestations of the cosmic system down through the centuries, because the cosmic system presents various philosophies and religions of man. It always manifests itself in some form and it always has certain characteristics. The two foremost characteristics are arrogance and antagonism: arrogance because it emphasizes man as the center and basis of all thought, the ultimate determiner of truth and right and wrong; antagonism to God because all human viewpoint systems are inherently hostile to God even though many of them seek to wrap themselves in the trappings of Christianity when there is a large presence of Christians.

What we have today among the liberals and the non-Christians is pressure. There is always this pressure. There was pressure on Daniel and his friends, there is pressure on Christians to conform to the world's set of standards and the world's way of thinking. But just as God called out Israel to be a counter culture in the ancient world God has called out Christians to be a counter culture in the world today. So there is always going to be opposition to what we are doing because it is opposition to God. Jesus said that if the world hated and persecuted Him we can expect that it would hate and persecute us as well. We are living in the devil's world; the devil's world is dominated by these two ideas of arrogance and antagonism to God. We see that eminent in Babylon. Babylon is the picture in the Scripture of all of this.

Daniel and his friends are going to be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans. There is an interesting connection between language and worldview. In persons who are bi-lingual or multi-lingual their personalities and expressions change from one language to another. There is a symbiotic relationship between a language and the belief systems of the culture. So they are going to be taught the language, they are going to reflect the thinking of the Chaldeans, and the first thing they are going to do is come under the category of the king's diet. Daniel 1:5 NASB "The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank, and {appointed} that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king's personal service." This would have been the best food and wine in the Chaldean empire because it came from the king's own pantry. He is going to make sure that they are well fed and nourished, and this would go on for a three-year training period.

Daniel 1:6 NASB "Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah [7] Then the commander of the officials assigned {new} names to them; and to Daniel he assigned {the name} Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego." There is a significance to these new names. Their original names in Hebrew all had something to do with God and His worship. Notice that at the end of Daniel and Mishael there is the suffix el which is the generic term for God in Hebrew. The last syllable in Hananiah and Azariah is the first syllable in the proper name for God, Yahweh. So these are names that related to God's power, serving God, their dedication to God; and they are going to be renamed with names that reflect the gods of the Chaldeans. But these boys don't make an issue out of that; they accept it.

Daniel 1:8 NASB "But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought {permission} from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself." He is not going to make an issue out of the fact that he is being renamed but he is going to make an issue out of the dietary requirements. Is it a theologically and culturally significant thing that these boys were named with names that honored the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Yes. That is theologically important, culturally important, it is an important aspect of their faith. But they are not making an issue out of that. The reason is there is no place in Scripture that says you have to have a name to honor God. They don't fight that battle because they recognize there is no specific mandate from God that they have that kind of a name if they are believers; but there are specific mandates that they eat a certain way.

In Deuteronomy 14:3-20 and Leviticus 11 there are specific statements and guidelines as to what the Jews were to eat and what they were not to eat. God gave these to them to teach a principle: they were to avoid sin, and all these different creatures were creatures that fed off of dead things which were somehow related to that which had died. So it was a teaching opportunity in relation to the fact that death is the penalty of sin. When we get into the New Testament God reveals to Peter that all of these animals and food that had previously been declared unclean by the Mosaic Law is now clean. The issue was that in the Old Testament God was using certain categories of animals to teach something in the spiritual realm. Now that there was a shift from the Old Testament period to the New Testament period—Christ had died on the cross as the end of the Law—then dietary law was no longer necessary as a teaching tool. 

Daniel recognizes that they were not to eat this kind of food and that is where he is going to plant his flag, where he is going to say there is an issue. He has decided he is not going to obey the king, but he is making the decision to disobey the king on a point of direct, specific revelation from Scripture. How does Daniel go about this? This just shows his wisdom and skill. Today we live in a time when there is so much fragmentation and polarization in our country and among a certain class of conservative Christians there are rumblings about what we should do if the Federal Government begins to intrude on our Constitutional rights as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. What do we do if the IRS comes in and says we are going to tax our church because we say homosexuality is a sin? Or you teach that Christ is God, or that people who don't believe like we believe are going to go to the lake of fire, and this is hate speech. How do we respond to that?

Some people can only think in terms of option A or option Z and they ignore B through Y. Daniel is a master of the subtleties of B through Y. He is going to work skillfully; he thinks. He is going to come up with some skillful ways to use the law, to use the court system, to use the systems that are in place in order to reach the objective. The objective is to honor God, it isn't to overthrow Nebuchadnezzar. So he works out a strategy, and that strategy is to make a deal with the chief of the eunuchs. Verse 9 tells us that God is working behind the scenes. It is always important to commit whatever it is that we are doing to prayer and to let God be the one to change the hearts and the minds of people, and be the one who works behind the scenes just as He did in the story of Esther.

Daniel 1:9 NASB "Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials." This is the grace of God. [10] "and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, 'I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.'" What matters to him is not the Torah, not the religious beliefs of these Jewish boys; what matters to him is keeping his head firmly attached to his shoulders. He is concerned with success, not with how he did this.

Daniel 1:12, 13 NASB "Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king's choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see." Daniel is not confrontational. And he is trusting in God and is willing to deal with whatever the consequences are.

The conclusion: Daniel 1:17 NASB "As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every {branch of} literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all {kinds of} visions and dreams. [18] Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. [19] The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's personal service." They were the best because they are trusting in God, are going to obey God no matter what and are going to take the consequences, but they are willing to work within the system to present an alternative to the plan.


1.  We have to choose our battle. We can't fight on every issue. If we win the right battles then the other secondary issues will eventually fall in line.

2.  When a believer is going to oppose authority it has to be on the platform of humility and respect for the authority position of the one they are opposing. You can't disrespect the position, even if you do not have much respect for the person in the position. We see in the way Daniel and his friends handle all of the opposition in these chapters that they do it with humility. They are not confrontational but they do not yield their ground either.

3.  In terms of wisdom Daniel is thinking about what the possible options are going to be. If he appeals to do one thing, what happens if they say one way and what happens if it goes the other way? How is he going to make the moves? Like a chess player he is thinking three or four moves down the road. Daniel is thinking about achieving the objectives without creating a flare-up.

4.  Daniel understands what his opponent wants. He is a great negotiator, he understands what the Babylonians government wants out of them and he is making a deal. He says we'll give you what you want but we are going to show that we can give you that better if we do it our way than our way; just give us a little test. He understands the mentality of the opposing system so that he can use it against them.

5.  The explanation of the problem gives him an opportunity to witness, to demonstrate that the diet of their God is superior to the diet of the Babylonian gods. But they are not rubbing anybody's nose in it; they are not forcing that.