Daniel 004: The Blessings of Overcoming the World – Part 3

Daniel 004: The Blessings of Overcoming the World – Part 3
Daniel 1:17-21 • Dr. Andy Woods • December 4, 2016 • Daniel


Andy Woods


Lesson 4, The Blessings of Overcoming the World, Part 3, Daniel 1:17-21

December 4, 2016,

Good morning everybody; happy December to you.  Thanksgiving is behind us, Christmas is in front of  us, and so is the year 2017.  So this is kind of a fun time of the year, particularly with kids; if you’ve got kids, little kids, grandchildren, it’s a neat time to seem them all kind of wound up like little machines.

If we could take our Bibles and open them to Daniel chapter 1 and verse 17, trying to wrap up today Daniel chapter 1 and I know many of you were hoping we were finished with chapter 1 because we want to get into all the cool stuff in chapter 2, about the kingdom and the antichrist, and we’ll have plenty to say about that, don’t worry, we’ll probably have more to say than what you’re interested in.  That’s coming.

But I wanted to pick up where we left off last time because I want to show you in verses 17-21 that God wants to bless you.  In fact, God has already blessed you because you have relationship with Him through Jesus.  But sort of our relationship with the Lord is sort of like a parent/child relationship; you’ve got one child that’s disobedient and another child that’s obedient; they’re both still your children.  Right?  But the child that’s obedient, it’s interesting, gets more privileges, blessings, opportunities, and that’s what God poured into the lives of these four Hebrew youths as they took a stand for God as mere teenagers, and that’s what verse 17-21 are speaking of.

So the title of our message this morning is The Blessings of Overcoming the World, Part 3.  We’ve talked about overcoming the world and now what are the blessings associated with a walk that’s not perfect but a general walk of obedience?  Of course the message of the book of Daniel is this is a very terrible time, at least for Israel; they’ve been removed from their homeland, they have no reigning king on David’s throne, their temple is about to be destroyed, and they’ve been exported three hundred and fifty miles to the east in a place called Babylon, modern day Iraq.

And what they’re trying to figure out is, is God still there?  How do we walk with God during this very difficult time where we’re outside of our land.  And this, by and large, is why God raised  up the prophet, Daniel, we call him an exilic prophet because he prophesied during the exile.  And God raised him up to explain prophetically the time period that the nation was now in, a time period that Jesus, in the New Testament, in Luke 21, around verse 24, calls the times of the Gentiles.  [Luke 21:24, “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”]

There had been no prophetic information about this time period.  Beyond that the nation didn’t even know how to live for God during this time period because now they are outside of their land, a land that they have been comfortable in for 800 years.  So how do they live and what is God going to do?  And that really becomes the subject matter of the book of Daniel.  It’s also a word of encouragement that although they are in foreign circumstances God is still very much in control.

All hell may have broken out in your life this week, this month, this year, and we need a perpetual reminder that yes, circumstances may look bleak from the human perspective but God is the same, is He not, “yesterday, today and forever.”  This is the insight that the book of Daniel gives us.  Chapters 1-7 is the historical section; chapters 8-12 is the prophetic section.  We’re just barely at the beginning of the book, completing chapter 1, the  history of why Judah is in the position they are in.

And we’ve looked at Daniel’s circumstances, verses 1-2; the captivity that the nation is in.  We’ve looked at the fact that Nebuchadnezzar, who was ruling Babylon at this time, didn’t destroy the city and the sanctuary immediately.  He will destroy that city and sanctuary a few years down the road, in about 586 B.C.  But Nebuchadnezzar comes for the best and the brightest of Judah first and he is doing this for a particular reason.  First of all, these people are very young; this would be about the third year of Jehoiakim, according to Daniel 1:1,  [Daniel 1:1, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.”]

Daniel is most likely just a 15 year old at the time these events transpire.  And as I mentioned before, they have been exported to Iraq, 350 miles to the east.  The prophet Jeremiah has informed them that they might as well get comfortable here because you’re going to be here for 70 years.   And Nebuchadnezzar now selects Daniel and his three Hebrew friends; the selection is given in verse 3, and the program that they are put in is in verses 4-5.   [Daniel 1:3, “Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, [4] youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.  [5] 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.”]

It’s a program of three years of indoctrination.  The indoctrination is not in the things of God; the indoctrination is in the things of Babylon, because Nebuchadnezzar is seeking to get these Hebrew  youths, the best and the brightest, on his team, on his side and he believes that if he can do that and reprogram them then these youths can talk the rest of the Jewish population, the rest of the Hebrew population into submitting to Nebuchadnezzar peaceably.

And so the program is described there in verses 4-5 and Nebuchadnezzar is so arrogant in what he is doing that he actually gives these four Hebrew youths, who had very godly names since they came from very godly homes, paganized names, so we know them by the names Daniel, that’s a godly name, but then you have Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, all paganized versions of the original names that they had originally had from birth.  And Nebuchadnezzar, in doing so, is asserting his own authority.  He is asserting his own sovereignty because in the Bible when you name something that’s a sign that you own it.  And Nebuchadnezzar is saying to these youths, I own  you,  you’re under my control now!  And of course a  young person being in that circumstance would wonder if God is there at all.  And what we learn in the subsequent chapters is not only God there, He vindicates these Hebrew  youths over and over again, just like He wants to do in your life.  He wants to walk with you, help you, vindicate you; God is not out to get you, He is out to bless you.

But the type of life that God blesses, as we’re going to see here is the life that is non-compromised, the consecrated life unto God.  So Daniel, as a 15  year old has to make a choice, is he going to eat the king’s food or not.  If he eats the king’s food he is eating a food sacrificed to idols, which to a Hebrew is against God’s Law.  So Daniel takes a stand and says no, I’m going to eat not the king’s food but I’m going to go with God’s diet.  And this was a decision that he made as a 15 year old that put his own neck, his own life if you will, on the line.  And God, of course, when we step out of the boat, as Peter did, wants to show up and help us, and He shows up and helps these youths big time, vindicates them in the presence of the commander.

And then the story concludes, most people skip right over it, I want to spend some time on it this morning, with three blessings that not only came into the life of Daniel but came into the life of these four Hebrew youths because of their submission to God; because of their consecration to God.  You know, the Bible tells us to seek first His kingdom and then all of these things, concerning about food, clothing, all of these things that we’re typically worried about, seek Him first all these other things will come to you naturally.  [Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”]

And this is what these four youths have done; they have put God first, as very young men, and God, as He’s in the habit of doing blesses the obedience of these youths.  Here’s our outline for the day, so they are given three blessings:  number 1, knowledge, verse 17; number 2, they have an exam to pass, which they pass with flying colors, verses 18-20; and number 3, God gives these youths longevity, and that’s in verse 21.

[1 Corinthians 1:17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”  1 Corinthians 1:18-20, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  [19] For it is written, ‘I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.’  [20] Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? [21] For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”]

And he blesses them into their old age because of a choice they made as a very young person.  And I think this third blessing is something that needs to be communicated to our youth because a lot of them think I’m just going to go out and sow some wild oats and then I’ll get serious with God.  The fact of the matter is the choices you make as a young person follow you around while you’re an old person, and do you want negative consequences or positive consequences to reverberate in your life.  That largely depends on choices we’re making now, and of course, if you’re young you have a great advantage because you can start making good choices early.  A lot of people say I wish I had it to do all over again.   The young person doesn’t have to say that, they’re at the very beginning of life and they have a chance to set up their life in such a way that the divine blessings are maximized.  And that’s how these verses speak to us.

Now notice first of all the God-given knowledge that He gave these four youths because they stood for God.  Notice, if you will, verse 17 of Daniel chapter 1, “As for these four youths,” we’ll just stop there for a minute, God blessed “these four youths” with three things: we often wonder, does it really pay to walk with God?  That’s a question we all have.  I remind us of the law of sowing and reaping, which is described in the book of Galatians, chapter 6, verses 7-9, a passage you know very well.  It says “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows,” in other words, what he plants, “this he will also reap.  [8] For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.  [9] Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

See, that’s what we’re faced with many times, we’re losing heart, we’re doing the right thing but we’re losing heart because we don’t see any dividends immediately.  Well, that’s not how the law of sewing and reaping works; the law of sowing and reaping works in such a way that when you sow seed to the things of God there are blessings that show up in your life immediately, sometimes not; sometimes they show up way, way down the road.   The law of sowing and reaping is a neutral principle, it’s neither good nor bad but I get good or bad results depending on the kind of seed that I am putting into the ground.

We typically teach or preach the law of sowing and reaping as something bad or negative will come and that could be if we’re making fleshly selfish choices but the opposite is true, you put into the ground good seed and a good crop, a good harvest can come your direction as well.  God blessed these Hebrew youths in four ways:  Number 1, their God-given knowledge.  And that’s in the second part of verse 17, [Daniel 1:17] “God gave them,” see how this is God-given?  “God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom.”  You’ll notice here that it says these Hebrew  youths gained knowledge and intelligence, not just in the Hebrew Bible, not just in the customs of Judaism or the traditions of Judaism or the history of God’s dealing with Israel, but He gave them knowledge “every branch of literature and wisdom.”

Now these four Hebrew youths, going back to Daniel 1:4, apparently already had some sort of ability to read and understand and analyze “the literature of the Chaldeans,” you get that in verse 4, where it says that they had to show some kind of aptitude and “intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge” and you get the idea that after these four Hebrew youths consecrated themselves to God, obeyed God, God took their natural gifting, whatever those were, and expanded them, accelerated them.  He took what was in them naturally and He began to maximize that.

And I run into a lot of people, you look at them and you say well, there’s a very talented person, why aren’t they doing more for God?  Why isn’t God doing  more through their lives?  And generally the answer has to do with the fact that they, for whatever reason, have never consecrated themselves to God because if they consecrate themselves to God, God can take whatever gifting they have and expand it dramatically, not for self-serving purposes but for God’s purposes.

And the fact of the matter is God has revealed Himself in two sources: He’s revealed Himself first of all in what we call special revelation, that would be the Bible, but He has also revealed Himself in general revelation, that would be creation itself.  And I believe this, that if a person is studying medicine and that person happens to be rightly related to the God that made them they will understand medicine better than an unbeliever would understand medicine.  Why?  Because they are in relationship with the One that understands the laws of medicine, which He Himself created.  If a person is involved in finance or business or marketing, or science, which are governed according to the laws of general revelation then that person will understand those disciplines better than the person that doesn’t know God at all, because God not only has given us laws in His Bible but He has given us laws in creation itself.  And God wants to help you tap into those laws so that your horizons are expanded.

Yet He’s not going to be giving you this extra insight as long as we’re narcissistic and want to use our natural giftings on ourselves, but once we become consecrated to His purposes it is astounding what God can do through an individual with basic aptitudes which they already possess.  One of the books I hope you add to your library is this book by Henry Morris, the great creation scientist who is with the Lord now, passed away recently; he wrote many, many books and one of the most fascin­ating books he wrote is this book here, it’s called “Men of Science and Men of God.”   It’s not a book refuting evolution, which is what a lot of Henry Morris’ work dealt with because his background was in science.  This is more of a history book and what it explains is all of the basic categories of science that we have today were started by people that somewhere in their background had a belief in a creator God and they had a belief in the Bible.

And it’s astounding to read some of the great names of science that we all know today and under­stand the Biblicism behind these individuals.  We could go on and on giving names but I’ll just highlight one for you.  One is Isaac Newton, we all know the name Isaac Newton.  Isaac Newton is the discoverer, if  you will, of the law of gravity and made other scientific contributions.  Isaac Newton is looked at by unbeliever and believer alike as a great mind that has made great contri­butions to the study of science.  What most people don’t know about Isaac Newton is his Biblicism  or his beliefs in the Bible.

I was shocked to discover that Isaac Newton wrote entire commentaries on the book of Daniel, which is what we’re studying here (maybe I should consult his commentary), and the book of Revelation.  Now all of that has been redacted or edited or removed from the history books and the fact of the matter is the humanists look at Isaac Newton and they say there’s a great mind, why did he waste so much time with the Bible?  Think what more he could have accomplished had his nose not been in the Bible but had been studying science.  But here’s what they don’t understand: it is his knowledge of the Bible that gave him an incentive to study science because in the Bible Isaac Newton discovered there is a creator God who runs the universe according to certain axioms or principles and as a devout Christian that gave him an inducement, an incentive to discover what those principles are.  You see?

And this needs to be taught to our children because what they’re getting, usually, from the media, educational system, is science is on the side of the unbeliever; all of the smart people, all of the “scientists” are actually evolutionists, we’re told, and people that are members of the flat earth society are the people that believe in a six day creation week.  But the opposite is true; the whole thing that we have been fed is a giant lie; it is pure propaganda and I’m so grateful for Henry Morris because he documents all of these men of science, people who we respect and look up to, and he shows their Bible beliefs in their backgrounds through their writings which gave them an incentive to study science.

Whatever your discipline is, medicine, law,  politics, government, teaching, academia, finance, business, marketing, management, whatever your gifting is I believe this, that if you will submit that to God and stop using your gifts as a way to promote yourself, which is what a lot of us do, sadly, we use our natural gifting to promote the holy trinity, me, myself and I.  If I will submit that to God and I will consecrate that to God, God will take whatever abilities you have and He will just magnify and amplify.  And that, in essence, is what is happening here with these Hebrew youths.

Now he goes on in verse 17 and he describes what Daniel had; Daniel had a gifting even beyond what I’ve just described, because at the end of verse 17 it says, “Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.”  The three Hebrew youths had gifting in the literature of the Chaldeans, but Daniel had that and even beyond that he had an ability to understand dreams and visions.  That’s setting the stage for what’s coming because in 9 of these 12 chapters Daniel receives some kind of vision.  Many times he will have to, under God’s power, interpret that vision that actually is coming up very quick in Daniel chapter 2.  But make no mistake about it, God is in the knowledge business.

Today we’re told in our postmodern culture that knowledge is arrogant, if you claim to know the truth, which we’re told over and over again you can’t know the truth, which that in and of itself is a truism, isn’t it?  Saying I can’t know the truth is a truth claim.  But people say all the time you can’t know the truth, and if you claim to know the truth you’re arrogant.  The fact of the matter is God is in the knowledge business; God wants to give you truth, not just in the Bible (as important as that is) but in all realm and all areas.

Take for example Solomon, who lived a few centuries earlier than Daniel.  It says this: “Now God gave Solomon,” in 1 Kings 4:29-34, “Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. [30] Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. [31] For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite,” [Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol;] and several others which I won’t articulate here, “and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations.”  What kind of knowledge did Solomon have:  [32] “He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.”  He had abilities in literature, he had abilities in musical instrumentation.

It says, [33] “He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish.”  So here’s a man with insight into botany, biology, zoology, and it says there in verse 34 that “Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.”

What makes you smart is the Word of God.  Psalm 119, Earl Chandler is leading a study on Wednesdays through Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Psalter.  This is what Psalm 119:99-100 says, it says, “I” David, “have more insight than all my teachers,” how can a student know more than his teacher?  “For Your testimonies are my meditation.”  And then he says in Psalm 119:100, “I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.”

Simply because I am a student of what God has revealed in His Word I know more than the most erudite and acclaimed university professor in the country, is essentially what he’s saying.  I know more than people that have lived decades and decades longer than I have because the Word of God puts me way ahead of the learning curve.  We think that knowledge comes from life experience; that largely is true, that largely can be true, but there’s another way to acquire knowledge before your life expectancy even catches up and that’s by meditating on the Word of God.  God, make no mistake about  it, is in the knowledge business.

Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of” what?  I did this with you guys last time and you got it wrong and  you got it wrong again, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning” not of wisdom, other verses say that, I’m quoting Proverbs 1:7, I guess I should have told  you what verse I was quoting, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of” what, “knowledge….”  Knowledge is the acquisition of information and the ability to understand it; wisdom is its application.  Both are important, but the learning curve starts with depositing one’s life in the presence of God and submitting to Him and saying to Him, “Lord, not my will but Your will be done.”

I’ve used this chart many times in this church, it’s our SAT scores, you’ll notice that once they pass that line there, which in 1963, they take a nosedive.  And you say what in the world happened in 1963, did radioactive material enter our water supply?  What happened?  Well, that was the  year that the Supreme Court, a lawless decision by the way, absolutely no textual basis in the Constitution at all, threw out God from the public schools.  We’re going to throw out God, we’re going to throw out the Bible, we don’t want any references to Jesus Christ, and so God says okay, I’ll be a gentleman, I’ll withdraw myself.  And what happened to the intellectual capacities of America’s youth at that point?  They almost took a dramatic nosedive.  Why is that?  Because “The fear of the LORD” respect for God in other words, “is the beginning of knowledge.”  God is the one who set up the whole universe.  So if you submit yourself to Him all of the laws that He has ordained that run the universe are accessible to you. If  you’re not in submission to the Lord you’re in rebellion against the Creator.  How smart is it to rebel against your Creator?  Not too smart!

And yet the great lie of the adversary is remove yourself from God and you’ll get smart.  Genesis 3:5, this is the first lie that Satan told to Adam and Eve, particularly Eve here, he says, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  You want to be smart?  Remove yourself from God.  And yet the opposite is true, isn’t it?

Romans 1:21-22 says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks,” so what happened, “but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  [22] Professing themselves to be wise, they became” what? “fools.”  “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.”  [Psalm 14:1, “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.”]  God is in the knowledge business!

Jeremiah 33:3, God says to the prophet Jeremiah, “‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’”  You say well, that hasn’t happened in my life.  Well, have you fulfilled your part of the condition?  Have you called out to God and asked for understanding?

John 15:14-15, Jesus in the Upper Room said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.”  Submission.  [15] No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  Everything that the Father is doing I want to reveal to you but you’ve got to do your part first; you’ve got to do what I’ve commanded you to do under divine power.

James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom,” anybody fit into that category, I fit into that category daily, “if any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives” what?  “to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  The Spirit inside of you will help you understand things you could have never understood before without the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  We think at a physical level, we think at a soulish level but with the Spirit of God you can think at a spiritual level.  That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, “Unless you are born of the Spirit you cannot see the kingdom of God.  [John 3:5]  You can’t even perceive it.  So there is no doubt that God is in the knowledge business.

By the way, are you smarter than a fourth grader?  We’ve looked at this before, Fourth grade, 1862, Chicago School District.  By the way, this is before we had a Department of Education; this is before we had the NEA, the Teacher’s Union, all of these millions and millions of dollars that we’ve poured into education, this is when God was still involved in the system.  What were they learning there in the fourth grade?  Have you ever asked yourself that question?  How many degrees of longitude are there?  How many degrees wide are the temperate zones?  How are you doing so far?  What is water-shed?  Fourth graders… “What is water-shed?  Name the principal animals of the frigid zones.  Name the different races into which humanity is divided.   What is a monarchy?  I think I can get number 6 right.  What portion of the people of the globe are pagans?  What portion are Christians? You look at the fine print there, Chicago, March 27, 1862.

What has happened to our minds is they’ve deteriorated as we’ve gotten away from God because “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”   [Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”]  What did God do with these youths at a very young age that consecrated themselves to God?  The first thing He did for them is He took whatever natural abilities they had in the area of knowledge and He dramatically expanded it.

The second thing that happened to them is they passed their tests, because remember, they were to be trained for three years and then Nebuchadnezzar himself was to inspect these youths and see if they were really suitable for serving in the king’s court.  And notice, if you will, Daniel 1:18, “Then at the end of days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar.”  They didn’t submit paperwork to Nebuchadnezzar as a written exam; Nebuchadnezzar himself wanted face to face contact, which is probably the scariest kind of exam you can have, is an oral exam.  We’re not really interested in what people say on paper because we can’t see the stress that they’re under to answer the question, we can’t really see how long it takes them to answer the question, but if you have a face to face exam we can see right through what you know and what you don’t know.  And so that’s what these youths faced, an oral exam before Nebuchadnezzar and the results are astounding.  They’re presented to Nebuchadnezzar in a face to face manner, these teenagers.

And look at the results, verse 19, “The king talked with them,” see, that’s why when we hire someone for a job we want an interview, we want a conversation, what kind of personality do you have, what kind of temperament do you have.  I can probe answers with people in a face to face interview.  If they say one thing I can go deeper, I can push them to the point where their knowledge is limited and I can sort of tell, are they making things up or are they not making things up.  This is what a face to face oral exam does.  “The king” Nebuchadnezzar “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.”

Notice what it says here, “out of them all,” out of everybody that went through this system of indoctrination these youths stood out because God blessed their knowledge. Why?  It’s not that they weren’t gifted to begin with, they wouldn’t have gotten into this group, they wouldn’t have met the entrance requirements if they weren’t gifted.  Just because God took their natural aptitudes as He saw a heart that was submissive to Him He blessed and He opened up whatever their avenues were He dramatically expanded those.  And consequently they entered the king’s service—translation, they passed the test.

Look at verse 20, it continues to describe these four youths; it says, “As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them” look at this, “ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.”  Now here he’s not just talking about people that went through this period of education, he’s talking about everybody in the kingdom that had some kind of spiritual insight, the magicians, conjurers, which were apparently very common place in Neo-Babylonia.  As Nebuchadnezzar inquired and tested and probed and analyzed he discovered that these four youths were not just better than their peers, they were better than everybody else in the entire kingdom of Neo-Babylonia.

Why is it that these teenagers knew so much?  The answer is very simple, they’re connected to the Creator.  Don’t you think the Creator understands the literature of the Chaldeans better than the Chaldeans did?  Don’t you think He understands finance better than the greatest financial wizards on planet earth?  Don’t you think He understands medicine better than the greatest doctors on planet earth?  That’s what gives you insight, that’s what gives you the cutting edge, that’s what puts you a step above and beyond everybody else, but again, I’ll make it very clear, God did not just willy-nilly give these people, until they demonstrated a heart of submission.  They set their own lives at risk, they honored God in everything, including diet, and these blessings followed.  They passed the test.

I don’t know what kind of test you’re facing in your life; maybe it’s not an academic test, maybe it’s a test of faith, maybe it’s a relationship test, maybe there’s some kind of financial deficit.  All of us face impromptu pop quizzes from God, almost every day of our lives.  Would you not agree with that?  God brings into our lives all kinds of tests.  In fact, the New Testament tells us that this happens so frequently that we shouldn’t be surprised by it.  It’s the normal outworking of God.  I don’t know what kind of test you’re in; your test may be different than my tests, but I know this much, that God wants  you and will empower  you to pass that test with flying colors.

James 1:12 says, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  Revelation 2:10 talks about a test, there to the churches in Asia Minor who were about to experience death, martyrdom, think about that kind of test.  We look at social media, we go on certain websites, You Tube channels, and we can see our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world today being martyred, persecuted, beheaded, set on fire, put in cages only to be drowned in the ocean in that cage, terrible things that are happening worldwide against Christians.  Christians all over the world are under some kind of test and yet what does it say in Revelation 2:10, “’Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

God helps people pass tests, even the severity of martyrdom today.  God helps people pass tests in academia; thank the Lord for that.  I like what Ronald Reagan said, as long as there’s tests there is always going to be prayer in public schools.  Or health tests, or tests of faith, or whatever it is, your trials are different than mine; we’re all under something.  And God wants to help you pass that with flying colors.

You know these four youths knew that exam day was coming; they probably were nervous and experienced a lot of anxiety and in trepidation and probably taking this exam before the king was a joy because their abilities that God had given them to be showcased and God could demonstrate Himself to be faithful.  They had knowledge, they passed their exam.

There’s a third thing that these four youths were given by God; He gave them longevity.  He expanded their life spans and the longevity of their service because of their consecration to God.  You see that at the very end of chapter 1, verse 21.  It says, “And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.”  We read that, it’s just a piece of biographical information that we skip right over and we don’t understand what just happened there.  What year is it?  It’s the third year of Jehoiakim, 605 B.C.  Daniel chapter 1 and verse 1.  [Daniel 1:1, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.”

Then where is, chronologically the first year of Cyrus the king?  That doesn’t happen until Daniel 10:1, the third year of Cyrus, and if you understand a little bit about Babylonian and Jewish and Egyptian chronology, what you learn is that day didn’t come until 536 B.C.  [Daniel 10:1, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict, but he understood the message and had an understanding of the vision.”]

From 605 where Daniel was as a fifteen year old God expanded his service and his life and his longevity from the age of 15 for 69 years is what it says there, God blessed, God blesses in all kinds of different ways.   The way God chose to bless here was in longevity of service, which essentially means that Daniel continued to serve the Lord until his mid to late 80’s.  Fifteen years he takes a stand for God and God says you know what, here’s a guy that’s going to be faithful so I will elongate, I will expand, I will grow his career.  And we are so deluded into thinking the choices we’re making now have nothing to do with the future of our lives.  And yet the book of Daniel seems to say the opposite. The length of Daniel’s service, verse 21, from Nebuchadnezzar’s initial siege, 605 B.C. right up through the decree of Cyrus which basically means Daniel served God for 69-70 years.

And beyond that Daniel served through two Gentile empires and four successive Gentile administrations because here is the political flow in the book of Daniel: Babylon is in power first, 605-539, the two antagonists are Nebuchadnezzar, chapters 1-4, and Belshazzar, not to be confused with Daniel’s paganized name, Belshazzar in Daniel 5.  And then we get to chapter 5 and you see a political sea change.  You know, there’s a prophecy in Daniel 2:21 that God changes the times and the seasons and the epochs, He takes out one king and puts in another.  [Daniel 2:21, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.”]

I would argue that just happened in our nation’s history, wouldn’t  you?  How do you explain that election other than the sovereignty of God?  All of these political pundits today walking around, taking credit for it, as if they had anything to do with it, sitting on cable television boasting of their plans and how they succeeded.  It has nothing to do with them! God just made a decision, I think largely because this time around, probably more than any other that I can think of, God’s people got on their knees and prayed.

So God takes one out and puts in another.  That’s what’s going on in chapter 5.  Suddenly the Babylonians… now the Babylonians, that’s a worldwide empire, they’re out, who comes to place?  The Persians, and then comes the administration of Persia, first under a man named Darius, we’ll read about him in this book, later under a man named Cyrus, we’ll read about him in this book.  And Daniel is serving God all the way through that whole time period, for 70 years, up into his 80’s, through two empires and four successive Gentile administrations.

Can I tell you something, that God wants to bless you in your old age.  Deuteronomy 34:7, of Moses it says this: “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old” anybody here that old, some of you look that old but…. I shouldn’t have said that, sorry, take it back, [laughter] “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.”

Don’t you want to be like that when you hit the age of 120?  Actually the way this world is going I don’t know if I want to be around that long, but should the Lord tarry and I reach the age of 120 I want to be the kind of guy that’s still serving God, still putting Him first, still consecrated to Him.  I want to be like Joshua and Caleb, who were those seasoned citizens (as we call them) who entered the land along with the kids, and said to the kids, our generation messed the whole thing up; your generation doesn’t have to.  And we, as seasoned citizens, as 80 year olds amongst all these 40 year olds are ready to go. Don’t you want to be that way?  And that’s what God did with Moses, that’s what God did with Daniel, that’s what God wants to do with you.

I think it was G. Campbell Morgan who preached into his very late years and someone asked him how is it that you’re still able to minister at  your age?  And his response was very simple, I’m living off the dividends of a well-spent youth.  I put good seeds into the ground as a young person; today I’m reaping the benefit of that.  It’s never too early to stand for God.  There’s something else to say, it’s never too late.  Maybe those dividends the way you would like them to come won’t come but there is never a better time to stand for God than the present.  God can’t wait to bless through consecration.  The fact of the matter is, folks, God wants to bless you more than you want to be blessed.  God wants to use you more than you even want to be used and He’s just looking for a soft heart that he can disclose and empower and reveal Himself to.

You know, I was fortunate, I came to Christ as a 16 year old in 1983, I’m 50 years old, I just turned 50 years old so I have been “in Christ” in my lifespan longer than I’ve been out of Christ.  And I’ve lived just about long enough to see the blessing associated with walking with God.  We disqualify ourselves, we say well, I’m too young to be used for God.  Read the book of Daniel, Daniel was 15.  Jeremiah 1:6-7, this is Jeremiah’s hang-up, “Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.’ [7] But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’” in other words that’s not an excuse, “Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.”

This is why Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, [but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.]”  We buy into the systems of the world which say you’ve got to be at least forty years old to do anything, which is the way the world works.  That’s not how God works; God will use a very young person.  The opposite is true; God will use a very old person, by human standards.

Daniel is an example, he was used by God as a teenager, he was used by God in his mid-80’s.  Another character, John, how old was John when he received his greatest vision.  He was about 90, 95 years old, not exactly in the Hilton suite, but in a place of exile on this little island off the coast of Asia Minor called Patmos, and God waited till John got to be way over the hill and then He said now I’m going to use you; I’m not just going to give you in that age time period Revelation, I’m going to give you some other books, which he didn’t necessarily receive at Patmos but he received around that same age the Gospel of John which he wrote, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John.  The fact of the matter is as long as there is breath in your lungs God wants to use you.

Is anybody here dead?  Well, if you’re not dead you’re useable; the reason you’re not dead is God has you here to use.  And people say well, Andy, you don’t understand, I’m retired.  Show me the word “retirement” in the Bible.  You know what retirement is?  Heaven is retirement; you can rest when you get to heaven but in the meantime God wants to use you.  Retirement, what does that mean?  That means you’re leaving one job which gives you more financial freedom so God can use you somewhere else; that’s what it means.  God always wants to use us as long as there’s breath in this body.

What do these guys have?  What did they get at an early age because of their consecration to God?  Number 1, knowledge.  Number 2, they passed their exam with flying colors.  And number 3, they were given longevity of service.

Takeaway’s from chapter 1: the Mosaic Law taught Israel how to live inside the land; now that they’re outside of the land how are we supposed to live?  Follow the example of these four Hebrew youths who consecrated themselves to God at an early age despite life threatening circumstances and they lived by faith from crisis to crisis.  That’s how you live for God.  You don’t necessarily have to have in your mind your escape route and how you’re going to get through this one or that one.  You just have to put God first and live by faith from crisis to crisis, and watch what the Lord will do.  Watch what He’ll do!  You’ll be astonished.

What do we need here at Sugar Land Bible Church?  We need fat Christians… no, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving; F stands for faithful, A stands for available, T stands for teachable. Faithful! Available! Teachable!  Make 2017 different; this is the year I’m going to be faithful, available and teachable, and watch how God changes, not just the year 2017, watch how He changes the course of your entire life.  Shall we pray.

Father God, we are inspired by these men that stood for you; it cost them something but You blessed and I know You want to do that today because You’re the same  yesterday, today and forever.  Help us to walk with  you in this way as we complete 2016 and move into the year 2017 to be those great vessels and vehicles of the last days.  We ask that You’ll do this work in our midst.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said….