Christians must develop Biblical persistence in a crazy, deviant world. We must hold firm to Biblical morality and principles. Adapting to the confusing, morally corrupt world around us is non-Biblical and antichrist. We are to remain set apart from the rest of society in obedience to God. This lesson was inspired by the Sunday school class I was supposed to teach. I'm not teaching today because our church leadership canceled church due to a COVID-19 outbreak amongst some of our congregation. I disapprove of shutting down the church. I believe those infected must stay home, and the healthy must attend church. So, I'll teach the world, and our lesson will begin in Daniel chapter 1.
The Setting in the Middle East During the Time of Daniel
Daniel 1:1 begins, "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it." By this time, the northern tribe of Israel was already subjugated by Assyria in approximately 732 BC. By 612, the Babylonians had conquered Assyria. While they were doing that, the Egyptians were growing in strength. In 609 BC, in the valley plain of Megiddo (Jezreel Valley), the Egyptians killed good King Josiah and defeated the army of Judah. Then, in 605 BC, the Babylonians defeated Egypt in the battle of Carchemish and took control of Judah and all the territories surrounding the Jordan River valley. They stopped short of attacking and occupying Egypt.
The Babylonian capture of Juda started the seventy years of captivity predicted by Jeremiah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, who at that time was a Vassal of Babylon (a person or country in a subordinate position to another). God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to Judah for over 20 years, trying to get them to return to God. They wouldn't listen because Jehoiakim served pagan gods, and where the king leads the people follow. In 539, the Persian Empire defeated Babylon and started the punishment of Babylon predicted by Jeremiah. The Persian King Cyrus was predicted by name 200 years before his army defeated King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon by the prophet Isiah in Isiah 44:28.
The book of Daniel was written from about 605 BC to 536 BC by Daniel to chronicle the history of Judah's captivity in chapters 1-6 and make future predictions in chapters 7-12. Chapter 1-2:4 was written in Hebrew, chapters 2:5-7 in Aramaic, and chapters 8-12 were written in Hebrew. Aramaic was the language of commerce and diplomacy at that time, much like English today. So, now that we're up to speed on the setting, let's get into the lesson.
The king instructed the master of the king's eunuchs to bring "children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes" that are "skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans." King Nebuchadnezzar wanted children who were wise for their years but young enough to be assimilated into Babylonian culture and serve the king. Part of this assimilation was getting Hebrews to violate their dietary laws, and many did, but not Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But the first thing Ashpenaz, the master of the king's eunuchs, did was rename each of these approximately 15-year-old boys. Why? To further foster assimilation into Babylonian society.
Name Changes and Origins
Daniel means "God is my judge," his name was changed to Belteshazzar, which means "Favored by Bel." Bel was the name of the chief God within the pantheon of Babylonian gods.
Hananiah means "The Lord's Beloved," he was renamed Shadrach, which means "Illuminated by Rak." Rak was the name of their sun god.
Mishael translates into "Who is as God?" and his name became Meshach, meaning "Belonging to Shak." Shak was the Babylonian wine goddess.
Azariah means "The Lord is my help," he was renamed Abednego, translated as "Servant of Nego." Nego was the Babylonian god of commerce and money, the son of Bel, the chief god of the Babylonian Empire.
So, when we use the Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we honor the false gods of the Chaldeans who gave birth to the Babylonian Empire. And interestingly, he gave birth to the nation of Israel through Abram, who was called out of the Ur of the Chaldees by God to start what would become the nation of Israel. This history also led to Christianity and Islam because each saw their patriarchal beginnings with Abram, who was renamed by God, Abraham meaning "father of many."
Developing Biblical Persistence in a Crazy Deviant World
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had their names changed to push them into assimilating into Babylonian society, but that was not all. They were also to abandon their Hebrew dietary laws. "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself." in Daniel 1:8. So he asked Ashpenaz, master of the eunuchs if he and his friends could eat pulse and water instead of the king's meat and wine for ten days. Ashpenaz conditionally agreed, and they ate pulse (seeds, grains, legumes) and drank only water. The point is that they were persistent in following the law. They did not give in to adapting to Babylonian society in violation of their obedience to God. Our obedience to God is what separates us from the rest of the current social order.
Three years of Training
They were given three years of training and integration into Babylonian society. Including being taught how to behave in the presence of the king, the Chaldean language, science, and many other things in preparation for meeting the King. Daniel 1:17-19 says, "As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king."
So, out of all the young men taken from Judah, only Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were found worthy to stand before the king. They stood before (began to serve) the king and served him well throughout their lives without compromising their faith.
Developing Biblical Persistence in a Crazy Deviant World: Conclusion
While we are subject to social norms and societal laws to exist with non-believers, we must never compromise God's law. God's moral law is transcendent and includes Old Testament moral laws and New Testament moral principles. We are to live in the world but not comply with anything contrary to Biblical scripture's teachings. We are not to be like this crazy, deviant world we live in. We are to learn the Bible to develop Biblical persistence as we pursue sanctification (holiness, righteousness) as we daily seek to be as Christ-like as humanly possible. We are to conform to God's will, not our society's will.
Romans 12:2 KJV
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
References  Morris, D. H. (2012). Henry Morris Study Bible. Master Books. Page 1254 notes on Daniel 1:6-7.  Bible gateway passage: Daniel 1:17-19 - King James Version. (n.d.). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel+1%3A17-19&version=KJV
Lifeway. (2023, September). Develop Strong Convictions. Bible Studies for Life, 18-27.
Senior Adults, Fall 2023, KJV.