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Christian Youth In a Pagan Society


Christian Youth in a Pagan Society
Daniel 1:3-7
Most of us are fairly familiar with the story of Daniel and many of the events of his life. Daniel was a young man who was carried away into captivity. We gave the background in the first two verses last week. It is the background of the king of Babylon laying siege to Jerusalem and eventually carrying them into captivity. There were three deportations. There was one 605 BC, one in 597 BC, and one in 586 BC. Evidently, Daniel and his friends were carried away in the first of those deportations.
You can almost imagine how this must have been for this young man Daniel. There is every reason to believe that Daniel had been chosen and selected and was on track to be an official in the palace of the king of Judah. Yet, his career track was rather drastically altered. It didn't turn out that way at all. He was carried away into a foreign land, hundreds of miles away. His career plans had absolutely been crushed.
Think if you were taken as a captive, snatched away from your surroundings, carried away to a pagan land hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Then think about the fact that for all the rest of your life that's where you are and you will never ever again see your homeland. That is exactly what happened to the young man Daniel.
There is a word in the Kings James Bible which may mislead you a little. In verse 3 it talks about the children of Israel. In verse 4 it talks about children.
That could mislead you because he is not talking about little preschoolers or elementary school children. The word that is used here probably means someone in their teens. So Daniel and his friends were in their teens, maybe 14, 15, or 16 years of age. Here are actually, for contemporary purposes, Christian Youth living in a Pagan Society. Their situation is not unlike what our youth are facing today.
Our culture is rapidly declining. Hate crimes bill was set to be approved by the house. Defeated last year, but now that we have more democrats it will be approved, and most like the senate as well. It is driven by the homosexual community. Making it a crime for preachers to preach that homosexuality is a sin. 
The society in which Daniel and his friends were brought was not unlike that. A pagan culture that hated God. I want to use that backdrop to illustrate three characteristics of these Chrstian youth living in a pagan society.
Notice first of all in verse 3 their,
I.       Nobility.
We are told that Daniel and his friends were of the children of Israel and of the king's seed and of the princes. In other words there was royal blood flowing through their veins. They had a nobility about them. They were the cream of the crop. When I look around in our culture tonight I am aware of the fact that Satan does his very best to get the very best. Satan wants the cream of the crop among young people.
Those who have the greatest potential, those who are the sharpest are the object of the attention of Satan.
So here were some young people of the king's seed.
Daniel and his friends were carried into captivity because of the sins of their parents. You will read the Old Testament record and find that it was because of the sinfulness and the departure from the Word of God and the unfaithfulness to the Lord God of heaven that the captivity came about in the first place. These young people were suffering because of the unfaithfulness of their parents.
If you will look at the problems of young people in America tonight, sometimes it is because of the sins of the parents of the young people. That's the reason we are in the mess we are in with the young people of America tonight. We have a generation of young people who are being brought up and there is no heritage whatsoever in spiritual things.
Their fathers and their mothers have not carried them to the house of God. They have not taught them the things of God, and young people are suffering because of the sins of their mothers and fathers.
People want to talk about juvenile delinquency. I think we ought to talk about parent delinquency sometimes. Some of the sorry, good for nothing mothers and daddies, who have no reverence for God whatsoever and no interest in the eternal welfare of their boys and girls, are going to have heavy accounting to do when they stand before the God of this universe one of these days.
On the other hand, we shouldn’t blame everything on the parents either. I don’t think kids should be allowed to go through life blaming their parents. "I got psychological problems because my mother made me eat my vegetables and I'm all messed up." You are personally accountable for your own behavior!
These children had nobility. They had royal blood flowing in their veins. But they were also the children of Israel. This means they had a godly heritage, a godly seed. It was a spiritual nobility as well.
I'm speaking primarily to a Christian congregation. Do you realize the tremendous nobility that being a child of God can bring to your life? When it says in verse 3 that they were of the children of Israel, that means that here were some young people who were brought up in a land where God was known.
Have you ever thought about how wonderful it is to be born in America? How you ever thought about the marvelous providence of God that has allowed you to be born in America? Dear one, you could have been born anywhere else on the earth; and yet God, in His providence, let it be possible for you to be born where the Bible is available and the true God is preached.
We find first of all their nobility. Now notice their,
II.     Ability.
In verse 4 it tells us about these young people. You have a rather interesting picture here of Daniel and his friends. For instance, you will find that they were physically strong.
It says, "In whom was no blemish." There were not defects in these young people. It says that they were well favored. That means that they were pleasing in their appearance. Not only were they strong, but they were also good looking. Not only were they healthy, but they were also handsome.
Physically they were strong. Not only were they physically strong, but they were also intellectually keen. "Skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science."
These young people had high SATs. They were 4.0s. They were candidates for Phi Beta Kappa. These were the kind of young people who were going into graduate school and getting graduate degrees.
Not only were they physically strong, but they also were intellectually keen.
They tell me that one out of every three people is either brilliant or beautiful. I want you to look at the people on each side of you. If it's not them, it's you.
There were intellectually keen, but that's not all.
They were also socially poised.
It says, "And such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace." The little statement there, to stand, was an idiom in those days that meant to be in the service of the king. It meant that these were young people would have enough culture and would have enough personality about them that they could serve effectively in the administration of the king of Babylon.
So when you look at these young people, Daniel and his friends, you see their nobility. Secondly, you see their ability. As the verses continue you see their,
III.    Captivity.
There is a purpose in this whole affair. There is a reason why these young people have been pulled up from Judah and carried into the land of Babylon.
In II Chronicles 36 we are told about this captivity of Nebuchadnezzar. When you read about the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar into Jerusalem, you will discover that many of the people were killed. These particular young people were spared and they were carried away into captivity for a particular purpose. The purpose was that in their captivity they might be conformed to the customs and the language and the philosophy of the pagan Babylonians where they were to live and serve.
This creates an immediate crisis. The crisis is three fold for Daniel and his friends.
There is first of all an authority crisis. 
Look at the last part of verse 4. "Whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans."
These young people were going to be given a course of education. In verse 5 it says that it was going to be a three year course. There was going to be a crash course to conform them to the ways of Babylon.
Remember what we are told in Turn to Romans 12, verse 2? It's a familiar verse.
"And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Every Christian is either being conformed or being transformed. I have always liked J. B. Phillips' paraphrase of that first statement, be not conformed.
He says, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its mold." You are either being conformed or you are being transformed. If you are conformed that means that you are being changed by the pressure outside of you.
If you are being transformed that means you are being changed by the power that is on the inside of you. God says to believers of all ages, "Do not let this world around you conform you. Don't be changed by the pressure from the outside."
That is exactly what Nebuchadnezzar wanted to attempt to do with these young men.
They were to have the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. An authority crisis! We know now a great deal about the learning of the Babylonians.
Babylon was the intellectual center of that day. Archeologists have uncovered literally thousands of clay tablets that tell us about the learning of the Babylonians. In fact, when the invasion of Iraq came, there was great concern about the destruction of the museums over there.
Many of these clay tablets are in museums in modern Iraq, ancient Babylon. On these tablets we have the cuneiform language. We know a great deal about the kind of learning and the kind of teaching that they would have in that day.
Daniel and his friends were going to be exposed to a thorough pagan education. A thorough secular education! They were going to learn about agriculture. They were going to learn about astrology. They were going to learn about math. They were going to learn about philosophy. They were going to learn about architecture. They were to get a total immersion in a secular pagan education.
Much like what is going on today in public education. 
Let me just pause and say that there are many, many Christians who teach in our public schools and who hold up the banner of the cross. I thank God for them. We have many right here in our fellowship who teach in the public schools. God bless you people for living Jesus and being a witness for the Lord in your classrooms.
In our colleges we have many godly, Jesus loving Christian professors. I thank God for them. But as a whole, in general, the atmosphere in most of our schools and most of our institutions of higher learning is totally secular.
There was one purpose and one purpose alone for this intellectual teaching, this authority crisis. That was to remove the authority of God's Word from Daniel and his young friends.
That is the same purpose of modern education today. That's what it's all about. It is a philosophy of secular humanism. It is to remove from the minds of young people any idea that there is some source of final authority.
That is exactly what has happened in America. We now have a culture which does not believe there is any such thing as final authority. The Word of God has been totally undercut. I read a Barna Survey. Barna is the foremost researcher of Christian churches today. He said 51 per cent of all of the pastors in America do not believe there is any absolute, final authority in the Word of God.
Do you see how it has made its way? It wants to rob our boys and girls and young people of any belief in the absolutes of the Word of God. When you remove the absolutes of the Word of God, you remove any kind of objective standards for right or wrong.
At that point, everybody's opinion is just as important as anybody else's opinion about what is right and wrong. They talk about my truth and your truth. If you want to believe that the Bible is God's Word, that's your truth. But if I want to believe that the Bible is a book of fairy tales, that's my truth. Whatever works for you, that's your truth. Nothing absolute.
There is an intellectual crisis. There is an authority crisis.
Look at the second crisis down in verse 5. There is not only an authority crisis, but there is a morality crisis. When authority is removed it always impacts morality.
Notice the test that is set up in verse 5. "And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank, so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king."
That means that the king provided them the best he had to offer. These kids got full scholarships. They were getting a full ride. They were getting room and board. They were getting the same kind of food that the king had on his table. It sounded good. Yet, there is a crisis here. It is a crisis of morality.
Keep in mind that Daniel and his friends had been brought up in an atmosphere of faith. They had been taught the things of God. The king's meat had a little problem attached to it. The king's meat was not kosher. Jews lived according to strict Levitical standards.
They had strict guidelines about certain food they were to eat and were not to eat. The king's food is not kosher. The second problem about the food is that this food is food that was offered to idols. It creates a morality crisis for Daniel and his friends.
There is something beneath the surface here also. When you study the background of Daniel and his young friends' lives, you will discover that they came out of a great national revival. These young men were products of a great revival in Judah.
There was a young boy king named Josiah. He became king when he was just a boy. One day some of his officials were cleaning over in the temple and they ran across a book. It was a book that had been neglected. Debris had covered it over.
It hadn't been seen in a long, long time. Some of the officials wiped it off and looked at it. It was the law of God. They brought that book of God over to the palace and one of them began to read the Word of God to the young man Josiah. The Bible says that when Josiah read it, he tore his garments. He repented of his sins and turned and called a nation to God. The young prophet Jeremiah was preaching in the land, and God used a dedicated king and that great preacher, Jeremiah. Under their leadership there was a great revival that broke out.
What would happen if one day the President of the United States was in the White House library and he ran across the Bible and began to read it. Then he had a national televised speech where he said,
"Folks, I have been reading the Bible and in II Chronicles 7, verse 14, it says, 'if my people who are called by name shall humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their lands.' Ladies and gentlemen, I'm calling America to revival tonight." Can you imagine what would happen in this land?
ACLU would swallow their tongues.
So they had a great revival. Revival was putting convictions down in their hearts and that created a morality crisis.
Here's the third crisis. First crisis is the authority crisis. The crisis about the Word of God. The second crisis is the morality crisis. The matters of right and wrong. Should you eat the meat or should you not eat the meat?
Number three, there is an identity crisis.
It says in verse 6, "Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah."
Notice the little phrase “among these”. That means there were other young people who just fell for the culture. There were other young people who were influenced by the pressure of Babylon. There were other young people who just went along. "Among these," there were four who dared to be different.
I have found that God normally begins with a minority. God always begins with a little remnant. God always starts with a faithful few on fire.
It mentions their Hebrew names, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Every one of these names is attached to the true God. You can learn a lot about a culture by the names of the children in the culture.
These names have God attached to them. Daniel means God is my judge. Hananiah means Jehovah is gracious. Mischael means who is like God? Azariah means the Lord is help. They had names with spiritual significance.
Notice what the prince of the eunuch does. He changes their names. Every one of these names are attached to a pagan Babylonian God.
Daniel becomes Belteshazzar. That means, Baal protect my life. Hananiah becomes Shadrach which means I am fearful of god. Mischael becomes Meshach which means a man despised before his God.
Azariah becomes Abednego which means servant of Nebo.
Do you know what the purpose of this was? It was to remove from their life any connection to God and holy things and spiritual things whatsoever. That is exactly what is happening in our society today. 
That is exactly the purpose of godless secular humanistic education. That is the purpose of th ACLU and the NEA and People for the American Way and National Organization of Women. 
The purpose of those organizations is to rip the faith from American life, and to tear attack the devotion to the Lord out of public life so that at the end of it they come out totally forsaking their faith and totally hostile to the things of God.
So how do we respond? Well, stay tuned to Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! They are getting ready now for the greatest test of their life.
Let's bow our heads in prayer.
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