Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Living Under Someone Else’s Control ~ Daniel 1:1-7

Q1 – What do you think was Nebuchadnezzar’s purpose in seeking to indoctrinate God’s people? Why did he select the “cream of the crop?”

A1 – During this period in history, kingdoms and empires were being built, with leaders aggressively attacking other countries in order to extend their control and thus increase their wealth. Babylonia had been under Assyrian rule until Nebuchadnezzar’s father, Nabopolassar, came along, and with the help of the Medes, defeated the Assyrians. Nebuchadnezzar married royalty, Amytis of Media, thus sealing his alliance with the Medes. (According to some historical accounts, it was for her that he built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to remind her of home.)

Nebuchadnezzar went on to expand Babylonian rule by defeating the Egyptians and Assyrians in the great battle at Carchemish. This put Palestine and Syria under his control, and Nebuchadnezzar then set about to make Babylon a city of great splendor. (See the article, Nebuchadnezzar II, from the Ancient History Encyclopedia.)

It was no secret in that part of the world that the Israelites were God’s chosen people. For Nebuchadnezzar to have brought their Promised Land under his control, razed and looted their holy city of Jerusalem, and enslaved God’s people was truly a conquest. To indoctrinate members of the royal family with all things Babylonian served to humble the Israelites even further and exalt the pagan gods to whom Nebuchadnezzar gave tribute. It also served as an attempt to erase the heritage and culture of the Jewish people. Remember that until Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 and revealed to him God’s divine plan, this ego-driven king thought his rise to power and greatness was due to his own efforts and not God’s.

Q2 – How did these young men use their minds to prevent the total indoctrination that Nebuchadnezzar sought?

A2 – These young men endured a level of total indoctrination that few people, hopefully, will ever be subjected to. Through it all, they kept their resolve to remain loyal to their God, no matter their external circumstances. They used their reasoning ability to convince Ashpenaz to allow them to eat acceptable food by giving him an alternative should it not work out (Daniel 1:8-14). In this way they were still able to keep the dietary requirements set out for God’s people. They continued to pray and call upon God for His guidance (Daniel 2:18, Daniel 6:10). This kept their hearts focused upon God during trying times. They put their total trust in God, even when faced with certain death (Daniel 3:12-18). They knew the power their God held and that He had the ability to rescue them even in the direst of circumstances. But most importantly, even if God chose not to rescue them, they would still refuse to worship the image (Daniel 3:18). They would remain faithful to God even if it meant their deaths.

Q3 – How can you use your mind today when others seek to influence and control you? How can you bolster your resolve to serve God and always do the right thing?

A3 – When you study God’s word, you allow Him to speak to you. When you pray to God, you focus on Him. When you associate with others who love God and seek to do His will, you will all strengthen one another.

This scripture in Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV) provides a beautiful blueprint for Christian living:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”