December 3 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” ~Daniel 1:12-13

OLD TESTAMENT

We arrive at the last and shortest of the major prophets, so named because of their length. (The minor prophets are much shorter.) Daniel, who is likely a well-educated member of the king’s court in Judah, is among the exiles carried north during the first Babylonian invasion in 605 BC. It was typical for foreign kings to take members of the ruling class into exile, and as Nebuchadnezzar gobbled up land for his massive empire, he followed a carefully wrought strategy of weakening conquered people without destroying them.

Daniel and his colleagues are among the best and brightest of the exiles and are chosen to receive a Babylonian education. This they do willingly, but they endeavor to do so without compromising their convictions. The refusal to eat meat and drink wine was not a rejection of meat and wine per se. However, the meat and wine offered at Nebuchadnezzar’s table had been dedicated as offerings to foreign gods. Therefore, a God-worshipper would consider it contaminated. (See a study Bible or commentary for more on this issue.)

Notice how wise and respectful Daniel is when he is asked to participate in Babylonian culture. He doesn’t reject everything, nor does he accept everything. He doesn’t violate his own convictions, nor does he rebel against the official over him. Instead, he offers creative solutions to the dilemma they both faced. (Daniel was trying to stay true to his religious convictions, while the official was trying to keep his head!) Daniel’s moderate approach saved his life, as well as the lives of others, and brought glory to God. If Daniel abandons his convictions, he loses his witness. If he totally rejects Babylonian culture, he has no opportunity to witness.

Daniel teaches us that Christians can (and should) participate in their culture but that they must do so with discernment. To that end, Mark Driscoll laid out a popular taxonomy for working through the Christian-in-the-culture problem (historically known as the Christ-Culture problem). There are things in our culture that we must outright reject; there are many things that we can receive; and there are other things we can redeem (good elements in culture affected by sin). When Christians are involved in culture carefully and respectfully, they can be very effective witnesses.

NEW TESTAMENT

There is something authentic and different about those who are truly followers of Christ. They listen to the Word and do what it says (although not perfectly). They love their brother and sister, even when it isn’t easy. They do not love the world, even if they are tempted by it. As in Daniel’s book, rejection of the world does not mean that culture is rejected (the terms “world” and “culture” are not synonymous in biblical literature). Rejection of the world means that Christians are not in love with lifestyles marked by lust, greed, and pride. Yes indeed, Christ-followers are quite different.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.