Daniel in Exile

Series: Preacher: Date: January 27, 2013 Scripture Reference: Daniel 1-3,6, Jeremiah 29-31

1 – In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

2 – And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

3 – Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—

4 – young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.

5 – The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.


As you know, January 12-19,  thirty-seven of us spent a week immersed in another culture, the culture of the central area of the Dominican Republic, a culture very different from our own.

  • The LANGUAGE spoken by the people around us was different. Most spoke Spanish and many spoke Haitian Creole.
  • The CLIMATE was different. Nights were in the low 70’s and in the daytime we were baked in the equatorial sun requiring us to use sunscreen and wear wide-brimmed hats.
  • The WORSHIP was different. Not only were the songs in Spanish or Creole, they weren’t accompanied by piano or guitar.

No, the only accompaniment the Dominican Christians use in worship is percussion: drums, bongos, and various rhythm instruments and it is not quiet or meditative.  It’s LOUD and joyful! Since I don’t know the language, when I worship in the D.R. use my own percussion. I “sing” with my hands!

  • The FOOD was also different. Don’t get me wrong. It was VERY good but it was not the fare we are used to. We had rice and beans at almost every meal, fried plantains, papayas and milk or “leche” that came in little square cartons.
  • The TRANSPORTATION there is different.  Most people use scooters or motorcycles on the very poorly maintained roads.

But that didn’t stop scooters, motorcycles, cars, and trucks from zooming around each other in a very scary way.  Near-collisions are just part of getting around in the D. R.

Traffic lights and stop signs and speed limits are “suggestions” in that culture.

  • LIVING CONDITIONS are far different from our affluent county. Most of the people we met live in poverty. They have little or no access to health care.

Many of the precious children I saw were either barefoot or wore shoes with holes in the bottom.

  • This poverty may explain another difference: the increased level of CRIME.  The compound where we stayed was surrounded by a wall topped with concertina wire.
  • On top of all this, if you drink the water there you will get very sick, so you shower with your mouth shut, which is very hard to do since the water is cooooold!

Don’t get me wrong. The people are wonderful and VERY gracious in their welcome. We’ve made great friends in our time there. But the culture is indeed very different, so to the newcomer, going there can be a culture shock.

I share all this because this past week we read about a similar culture shock experienced by the Hebrews from the southern kingdom of Judah, who were taken into exile in Babylon. Remember? As Bobby said last Sunday, Nebuchadnezzar had them forcibly taken from their homes and moved to a new culture where they had to learn a new language, eat different food, and learn unusual customs.

But the premise wasn’t totally unfamiliar  for the Hebrew people, because, as you should remember from our study of The Story, the Hebrew people had been in bondage in a foreign land before. In fact, they became a nation while in slavery in Egypt many hundreds of years earlier.

They were delivered from that captivity under Moses. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before finally entering the Promised Land.  After a period of time, they reached their peak as a nation under Kings David and Solomon. Solomon built the glorious temple.  But in the kingly administrations that followed, there was a long slow decline fueled by a cycle of rebellion, then repentance, then rebellion and so on. Soon there was more rebellion than repentance and eventually the kingdom was divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, which was destroyed, until all that remained was the southern kingdom called Judah. Then in 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar came and with very little effort, destroyed all that was left of the nation that was to have been God’s representatives in this world, His holy people.  If you’re thinking, “Why did God let this happen?” I’ll remind you that the Hebrews brought it on themselves. They ignored the warnings given by God’s prophets and used their God-given freedom to sin. I like what Warren Wiersbe says about this. He writes, “God would rather have His people living in shameful captivity in a pagan land than living like pagans in the Holy Land disgracing His name.”

Transplanting a conquered people to another nation was one of the tactics used by the Babylonians as a way to keep the conquered nation conquered. So thousands of the Hebrews faced the culture shock of being moved from Judah to Babylon. They became strangers in a strange land. King Nebuchadnezzar was smart enough to recognize the talent of some of his new deportees.  He handpicked the best and brightest to serve him as special advisers. This is where we meet a young man named Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In verse four of our reading we are told that these four were,

“…young, without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.”

These were high-quality, high-caliber men;  these four guys were the best of the best. They were Godly young men, the cream of the crop. But this didn’t stop them from experiencing the culture shock I mentioned: instead of being served as Hebrew nobility, they would have to give their best in service to an alien, pagan king. They lost most of the relationships they’d cherished; they probably lost their parents and siblings. They lost their native tongue and would have to learn to speak a foreign language. In short, they would live and die in a place where they never wanted to be. They would never go home again. They would even lose their names and in their day your name was very significant. We see this in the fact that each of their old names, their Hebrew names, had a reference to God in it. The little syllable “el”  as in Dani-EL and Misha-EL, came from EL-ohim.  The syllable “ah” in Hanani-AH and Azari-AH came from Yah-weh. Their names reminded them that they belonged to God, that they were His. Daniel’s name literally meant, “the Lord will judge” so through his whole life, every time Daniel heard his name spoken, it was a reminder, a promise that, “The Lord will judge. He will set things right. The Lord will see that justice is done.”

But now, he’s not Daniel anymore. Now he was given the name “Belteshazzar” which referred to a pagan Babylonian god and meant, “Bel protect his life.” Can you imagine how that felt to this Godly young man, to hear a pagan prayer every time his name was called, a prayer that made it look like God wasn’t calling the shots anymore?!

The same was true for the renaming of the other three.  The name of the one true and living God was replaced by the names of the false gods of Babylon. These new names that Nebuchadnezzar gave them was his way of saying, “You have a new king now and a new religion. Give yourself to me. Allow Babylon to define your identity.”

Before the fall of Judah, I’m sure these four young men had dreams of getting  a great education under the best Hebrew teachers of their day and then going on to glittering success in whatever field they chose. But those dreams never came true. Instead, thanks to Nebuchadnezzar, these young men would be educated in a Babylonian school. Granted, the Babylonians were great builders, mathematicians, and military strategists, but their religion was steeped in superstition and myth and Daniel and his three friends would be forced to study all that nonsense.  They were forced to receive an education that was bathed in a pagan world view. I’m reminded that our Christian children often have to study material in secular schools that contradicts what we believe as Christ-followers.

We all know about the adventures of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  We know about Daniel’s refusal to eat the king’s food, including meat that had been sacrificed to idols. We know he won his 10 day diet challenge. We know about his interpreting the king’s dream about that strange statue. We know about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they refused to bow down to the king’s idols and about how Jesus visited them in a fiery furnace before delivering them. We know about Daniel and the lion’s den or as Swindoll puts it, “the lions in Daniel’s den.” We know how God rescued him from becoming lion food. So, instead of reviewing those familiar stories, I want us to focus on finding an answer to this question:  “What do you and I do when we end up in our own ‘Babylon?’” “What do we need to KNOW in order to survive our own times of exile?”

Of course we all endure them. We get news from the doctor that contains that “C” word we all fear. How do you deal with the times when you find yourself “exiled” from good health?  Our boss calls us into the office to tell us that due to down-sizing, our position is being eliminated. How do you deal with being “exiled” from your career, “exiled” from the ability to take care of your family? Marriages fail, children rebel, how do you cope with being “exiled” from a happy home? Many of you know what it’s like to be forced by Uncle Sam to literally move to a place where you are strangers. What do we need to know in order to deal with these times of exile?

1.)   First, we’ve got to know that God is SOVEREIGN.

We have to realize that in our times of “exile” God is still calling the shots and as such He is letting this exile happen for a reason. In short, we need to know there is a purpose in our pain.

Researchers say the main factor that causes people to give up when they go through hard times is NOT the intensity of their suffering, but rather their belief that their suffering has no meaning.  It’s not the pain they go through that makes them give up, but the meaninglessness of it.  People who study this kind of thing find that suicide notes rarely speak about failing health, rejection, finances, or even physical pain. No, they say things such as:

“There is no POINT in going on. There is no REASON for me to keep living.”

Daniel and his three friends were able to endure because they trusted in God’s complete sovereignty. They knew that God always works for our good and His glory, even in the midst of the “Babylons” of life. They knew there was purpose in their pain; that God was still in control.  Of course He was! In fact, our reading this week shows how much God was at work in their situation.  Daniel 1:2 says that GOD delivered Jehoiakim—the King of Judah—into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands…” …which led to their exile. Verse 9 says that “GOD caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.”  The good physical report we read of in verse 15 after their 10-day diet challenge was the result of God’s miraculous intervention. He made the 10 day test succeed.  Verse 17 also says that, “GOD gave these four young men knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. GOD gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams.”  God was at work and Daniel and his friends knew this. They believed in God’s power and providence from the very beginning.  They were convinced that even the defeat of Judah and the loss of the temple that looked so tragic was not just a random, meaningless event. God was not asleep.  No, God was up to something in Babylon, even in that place of great suffering.  They knew that this time of suffering was the only thing that would turn some of His chosen people back to Him.

Listen! To survive and thrive in the Babylons of life, you have to know that God loves you, because He does. You have to know that He is all-powerful and always at work.  Because He is.  You have to know that He’s got it all in control. You have to trust God’s heart. You have to believe He knows what He is doing and that there is purpose in your pain.  Daniel and his three friends knew all this and because they did, instead of being transformed, they became transformers.  They JOINED God in His work and He used them to bring great glory to His name even in a pagan land.  The question we must ask ourselves in our own “exile times” is not, “HOW can I get out of this?” but rather, “WHAT can I get out of this? How can God use me, even in this?” That’s the attitude we need to embrace, an attitude based on our conviction that God is at work even in the “exile times” of life.

2.)   To endure we need to know something else. We have to know that God will eventually bring us HOME again.

We havet to know that our “exile” will end and it will.  If not in this life, then in the next. You know, in a very real sense, as believers, as followers of the Christ, we are ALL in exile.  As the words of the old gospel song go, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”

We are just passing through this world. As another hymn puts it, “I am a stranger here within a foreign land. My home is far away upon a golden strand.” This fallen world with all its trials and tribulations is not our home. No! Like the people of God exiled in Babylon, who would eventually go home to Jerusalem, we’re on our way to a NEW Jerusalem. Remember, God had promised Judah, through His prophets, that He would not abandon them forever.  Their captivity in Babylon was not permanent. One day they would one day return to Judah, and in our reading of The Story we’re heading toward the time when the Hebrew people will return.

That’s what we’ll focus on in our reading this week.

In Babylon, God was getting them ready to go back to Jerusalem.  According to His Word, He is also preparing us and preparing a PLACE for us to live with Him forever. In Daniel’s prophetic writing, he accurately foretold the exact day the Messiah would come to Jerusalem.  He also talked about the end times when Jesus will come to take us to our eternal home. Knowing that, knowing our suffering will not be forever, knowing a day will come when it will end and we’ll finally be HOME, that gives us the courage to endure our own “exile” times.

I hope you don’t mind, I feel led to pull out a granddaughter story at this point! As you know, Daniel and Ashley joined us in the D.R. for the last five days of our trip, leaving Lydia with Sue. Lydia did fine during her parent’s absence but she was so happy to have them back. I remember on Sunday when we were all together with her, she was especially happy. She laughed and giggled and asked each of us in turn to hold her.  I picked her up and she threw her head back and laughed. Then she asked Sue to hold her and did the same thing. Then she asked for Sarah to hold her and  did it again: throwing her head back and laughing with joy. She did this over and over again. I mean she was thrilled to have her family back.  In fact, Lydia is always at her happiest when grandmoms and granddads and uncles and aunts and her one cousin are all in the same room! Can you relate? Sure you can! Isn’t it wonderful when our family is all together at HOME!? We all long for that feeling of contentment and joy. We all long for a day when our exile will be over and we’ll all be together at home with God. I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more the knowledge that that day is COMING, keeps me GOING! Someday a day will dawn when grieving will be over; pain will be over. Depression, anxiety, disease, even death itself will be nothing but a bad memory. Someday Jesus will take us home.  When that day dawns, as someone put it, the worst time of suffering we endure in this life, the most horrible time of “exile…” will seem like nothing more than a night in a bad motel.

One way we remind ourselves that home-going day is coming is by sharing the Lord’s Supper.

1 Corinthians 11:25 says, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death UNTIL HE COMES.” As we celebrate Jesus’ second coming in this way, let me invite all Christians present to partake with us, even if you are not a member of this church, if you are a Christian, if you are His, this is yours.


I don’t know about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but Daniel outlived Nebuchadnezzar, his successors, and even the Babylonian empire. He lived until the days of Cyrus, ruler of the Medes and Persians, the ruler who sent the Hebrews home.  The thing that kept Daniel going all those decades was the fact that he knew His God was in control. Will you commit to trust God as he did?  If so, raise your hand! Raise it as a way of saying, “I am going to trust God! No matter what comes, no matter how hard life gets, I am going to trust His sovereignty. I’m going to look for Him at work even in the hardships that come my way and do all I can to join Him in that work.” Thank you.  Now let’s stand and sing.  If God leads you to come forward and pray about your commitment, come. If God is leading you to join our church, come.  If you have decided to put your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, come.


Let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. Let the WORD OF CHRIST dwell in you richly and whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it all in the NAME OF CHRIST giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

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