In Daniel 1 we see an interesting word used about Daniel's decision not to defile himself with the King's food. Daniel 1:9 teaches us that God gave Daniel favor and compassion in sight the sight of the chief of the eunuchs. In this passage we see two sides of a unique biblical truth regarding the work of God through our lives.
The word translated favor here is the Hebrew term hesed which has the meaning of unfailing kindness and steadfast love. It is a statement of God's covenantal commitment to his people; it is a statement of God's faithfulness to his promises. It is the word used in Lamentations 3:22-23 where we are told
22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
We will be focusing more on this next week, but suffice it to say Scripture wants us to see that God was faithfully with Daniel as he took a stand in Babylonian culture. At this point we should notice that God's favor affected the relationships he had with those who were in power. This favor was simply a gift of God, and preceded negotiations about the food issue.
Favor for Wise Living
Daniel then makes decisions and actions in light of the grace God had given. He had a huge part to play in how he was received by those around him and we observe that Daniel displayed exemplary wisdom in his interactions with the Babylonian officials. He displays himself to be a shrewd negotiator and his wise action moves him towards his desire to honor God. There is much practical insight here in this for today. Each of us must navigate work places, schools and cultural settings which can press us towards the compromise of our own worship. We need exactly what Daniel needed-God's favor and then wise actions in various situations and living relationships.
In the workplace today we may be called to compromise the truth, submit to morally questionable instructions and perhaps practically deny our most deeply held beliefs. What sort of practical wisdom does the sojourner need today? I will suggest two areas as paramount. First, we must understand where tensions lie with our culture and the gospel. Second, we must choose wisely where and when to take a stand. For making everything a big deal is not wise yet nor is compromising the soul as we live before God. So let's look at where we may find tensions in our culture with the gospel today.
Dave Mahan, director of the Rivendell Institute for Christian Thought and Learning describes certain cultural fault lines1-areas of life that may create earthquakes between gospel and culture. I find these helpful in anticipating where trouble may arise for the sojourner who seeks to influence others for the Kingdom of God. The description here is necessarily brief.
- Truth-our culture is relativistic in nature and has a low regard for truth. Living with integrity today may present us challenges around issues of truth.
- Freedom-Our culture is obsessed with a view of freedom that literally says "everything goes." Yet we realize that every thing that goes may not be the good or right way to walk in the sight of God.
- Authority-We question, malign, rebel against and abuse power and authority. We will be pressed in the way to submit to and exercise authority.
- Self/Identity-As followers of Jesus we believe that human beings are made in God's image and are worthy respect. We also believe God is the one before whom we truly know ourselves. Our culture views that human nature and the self as constructed based purely on the whims, preferences and choices of individuals. We typically base the worth of persons on their position, their amount of possessions and the power they posses while the gospel puts intrinsic value upon all persons.
- Future-Finally, our view of the future is very different than those around us. Our hope may be mocked, our belief in God's guiding of history seen as naïve and even belief in the coming Kingdom of Heaven is maligned. Afterall, when was the last time you saw a movie set in the future where God had anything to do with reality on earth?
These issues are areas where the gospel can both practically and intellectually clash making sojourning challenging in our day. In closing, knowing where tensions exist is only part of the equation. What we need is wisdom of where to make our own stands in the complex circumstances of life. When tempted to lie to increase our sales, when tempted to compromise our lives in an over sexualized culture, when pressured to treat others without honor, we will have difficult decisions to make. We must prayerfully maintain integrity in our dealings with others walking both an eternal and human path. As we develop character and love for God we will do all our work as we are doing it with him. Virtue and industry will be our path and we can grow to be trusted men and women in our day. People of character may receive favor from God and people and our worship can remain undefiled in tough situations where others might choose a lower path. The tough part of wisdom is that it happens in real time and is not always a clear step by step path. As we seek a way of wisdom, Jesus' own words become our calling: so let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Lord, may this be our prayer...
1. Dave Mahan, Lecture—Cultural Fault Lines, Engaging Contemporary Culture Project, Fort Collins, CO 2001.