So Daniel said to the guard whom the chief official had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test your servants for 10 days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.” Daniel 1:11-12.
The accounts in the book of Daniel should help inspire us to remain aligned with Jesus despite societal pressures to the contrary. The Introduction to this series recounted how Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego abided in the Lord, come what may. Their sources of inspiration can readily apply to our current context. In the prior installment, we focused on the inspiration from our cohorts and how standing with others enhances our courage.
As we consider the literal stands taken by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3, we must also consider the “back story” found in Daniel 1. Numerous young men from Judah were selected to serve in the conquering king’s service and were favored with the king’s food and drink. Yet, this menu ran afoul of Jewish regulations. Apparently, the young men were willing to overlook this offense in order to remain in the king’s good graces. The account suggests that Daniel was the lone objector.
Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief official not to defile himself. Daniel 1:8.
In response to the official’s initial reluctance, Daniel voiced the “test your servants for 10 days” request quoted above. Who were “your servants”? Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, better known by their Babylonian names – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
It appears that Daniel realized his need for strength from cohorts. It also appears that the other three were somewhat involuntarily enlisted into this cohort group. We don’t know the relationship or history between these four young men, nor do we know how eager Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were to avoid defiling themselves but for Daniel’s insistence. Yet, the account is quite clear that the three others joined Daniel as he lead the vegetarian experiment. (We’ll look at how that played out in the next installment.)
The influence of leaders should be obvious. The application of that influence in our lives is two-fold. First, be willing to follow leaders who strive to follow the ultimate leader, Jesus Christ. Those individuals may have more courage, initiative, and spiritual discernment than do you in your crises of faith. There is no shame in being a follower. Jesus calls us to do so and promises strength for such cause.
Second, realize that you may be someone else’s Daniel. While you may see others as having more courage, initiative, and spiritual discernment than you in certain situations, understand that there are likely others who are seeing those same attributes in you. Be their leader, and grow through the process. As did Daniel, you will likely realize the strength from cohorts as others join you in your pursuit of our leader and Lord Jesus Christ.
Take a stand for Jesus. Have courage by following. Encourage by leading.