Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fat and Blood

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus. (Daniel 1)

As we discussed last time, Daniel's book focuses primarily on the relationship between Christ's Church and the World: how the church remains faithful to its Lord and Savior, how the World responds by persecuting and even martyring the Church, and finally how Christ returns on judgment day and separates the two, one to heaven and the other to hell.  This first narrative in Daniel has this theme in spades.  Daniel and the other captive youths stand firm in the midst of Babylonian persecution, God sees them through a time of trial, finally they are rewarded before the judgment seat.

1. Daniel asked to eat a different diet from the Babylonians in order to not defile himself.  What exactly does defiling oneself mean?  If we look at Leviticus, we find out.  Israel is commanded to never eat the fat of a food offering, nor its blood. Obviously the Babylonian diet included fat and blood, and so we see on the surface that Daniel is obeying God's commands, but what is the significance of these two? What do the fat and blood signify?

First, fat is the Lord's.  It has a pleasing aroma to God when burned. Also, whoever eats the fat of an animal shall be cut off from his people.  The same goes with blood.  In first Samuel, Eli's sons demand to eat of the meat before the fat is rendered off.  They treated the offering of the Lord with contempt, and they were later destroyed for it. Fat is considered to be the "best" part of the animal.  It's essentially a luxury food, and to deny oneself the fat was to be in a state of repentance. In other words, to eat the fat would mean to be worldly and associating oneself with the world. Hence, Daniel, in obeying God's command to not eat the fat was proclaiming his being part of God's church and not of the world.

Second, the blood.  This one is more easy to glean, because Leviticus tells us what it means in chapter 17: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life" (17:11).  We are not to take God's atonement for our souls lightly by eating the symbol of our salvation.

In other words, Israel was not to eat symbol for worldliness, or sin, nor the symbol for the atonement for sin.  Both of the symbols point to Christ.  First, the sin that made the atonement necessary, and then the atonement itself.  In Daniel refusing to defile himself, he is refusing to defile his faith in Christ to come.

2. The chief of the eunuchs fears not Daniel's God but the Babylonian king.  He is of the world, but God softens his heart toward Daniel, as sometimes God uses the secular world to protect the church. God uses the governing authorities--they are his--to judge the flesh.  The government is to uphold God's law among the godly and ungodly alike.  Remember, the 10 commandments are burned into the hearts of everyone, and all cultures have some form of them.  So, even the king of Babylon is God's authority in keeping his church safe.  God softens his authorities to protect the church when it needs protection, but he will also harden the world against the church in order to discipline his people.  In this case, the chief of the eunuchs allows Daniel to carry out his alternative diet plan.

3. The time of trial is ten days.  Ten is a significant number: the number of plagues, commandments, fingers, toes.  It is a number of fullness or completion, but it is often used to signify a time of trial and tribulation.  Daniel's time of diet alteration is for ten days.  In Revelation 2:10, Christ tells John, "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."  In Revelation 20, the New Testament period, the one we are currently in, is described as a thousand years, which is a trinity of tens multiplied: 10x10x10.  This is the fullest of trials that ends with Christ's second coming and the end of everything.  At the end of his time of trial, Daniel and his companions are examined and found to be healthier than their Babylonian counterparts.  This is the Church remaining faithful until the end.

4. Finally, we have judgment day, where Daniel and his companions stand before the throne of the king.  In this part the Babylonian king stands in the place of God.  God's church is rewarded.  The text says that Daniel and his companions were given, by God, all learning and skill and wisdom and understanding.  "At the end of the time" of trial, God's church stands before Jesus Christ for judgment, but they are not condemned, because they are found in Christ, who has already been condemned in their place.  None was found like them, because God kept them faithful to his commands, protected them from his wrath, and tested them like silver in the fire.

We shall see this faith/trial/judgment theme pop up over and over again in Daniel. The theme points to Christ going through this tribulation himself, and us going through it, too, by faith in him. We are persecuted and protected by the world, according to God's will, and we are disciplined by he who loves us, as a father disciplines a child.  Finally, in Christ, we stand before God's judgment seat, and we are found innocent.  We are given eternal life.  Stand firm in faith, persevere the trials, and step into the Lord's sanctuary with confidence in Christ's blood.