“When in Babylon, do what Babylon does.” That doesn’t work for everyone. It never did.
It never worked for Daniel (God is my Judge) or his three lesser known companions, Azariah (The Lord is my Strength), Mishael (God is Incomparable) and Hananiah (the Lord is Gracious) who were as uncompromising as their names.
Dragged away from home, young, groomed for political office by threats and the finest treatment and promises, they just wouldn’t dance to the Babylonian music. They wouldn’t eat, they wouldn’t drink, they wouldn’t bow, they wouldn’t quit praying and they wouldn’t live up to the new names they were given. They were dragged out of their home but their home wasn’t dragged out of them. They were given Babylonian names but they couldn’t be given Babylonian hearts or minds. They’d burn before they’d bow, they’d starve before they’d eat food in honor of pagan gods and they’d out-stare pacing hungry lions before they’d stop praying to Yahweh.
And why so stiff-backed that they wouldn’t bow when everyone else was bowing and scraping; why so politically incorrect—why couldn’t they just eat like everyone else, why make a big deal of it; why couldn’t they have made prayer a completely private matter and walked in step with the rest of the political and religious world? Why were these young strangers so uncompromising in the corridors and offices of central government? What got into them? Who did they think they were that they wouldn’t conform to the new power?
What got into them was an uncompromising God they knew by the name Yahweh! And who was that? It was the God who went to Egypt to bring his People home and who wouldn’t leave without them even if it meant bringing the Egyptian kingdom to wreck and ruin.
The Egyptian king finally wanted to negotiate—“All right then, they can go to worship but they are to stay within my territory” he said.
“Okay, then, they can go to worship, but only the men—the women and children will remain here. You must negotiate, compromise is the way forward.”
“No! They’re all going—every one of them!”
‘The flocks and herds, they stay! All the people can go, but the herds and flocks are to stay,” he said, still trying to be shrewd, still trying to be a god, the son of Amon Re.
“No!” said the God who wouldn’t compromise. “Not a hoof or a garment, not a cooking pot or a kitchen towel will be left behind; not a man, woman, girl or boy will remain here in Egypt!”
And in Babylon when they said to the four young Jews,
“All right, just eat a token amount of the food dedicated to the gods—you can leave the rest,” back came the answer.
“No! Not a scrap of it.”
“Look, you three, I know you don’t believe in the gods here—I get that! But just pretend, in this sea of people bent down you don’t want to be the only three standing. There’s a lot at stake here—if you don’t bow down I will be humiliated and that will send ripples throughout the kingdom. Just out of respect for me, for the sake of peace and your own health don’t make waves—bow, for pity’s sake.”
“No one will notice—bow!”
“Yahweh would notice. We’re not bowing.”
“Aside from your God no one would know it. Go ahead and bow.”
“Aside from our God we would know it. We’re not bowing.”
“You’re taking what you call non-existing gods very seriously.”
“So does our Living God—He hates false gods that alienate nations from Him, the one true God.”
“Come on, give a little.”
“Not an inch!”
“You act and speak as if you have done no wrong—ever.”
“Oh, we’re sinful like everyone else in the world but there are some things we will not do, there are some commitments we will not walk away from and there some vows that even sinful people like us take so seriously that we can’t be turned from. Our final answer is—no.”
The three looked at each other, nodded and together prepared to meet whatever came their way in life.
Such people are still saying “No” to shrewd negotiators because they’ve said “Yes!” to GOD.
No one is writing novels or making movies about them but God sees, listens, smiles and keeps a record of the most ‘ordinary’ men and women, girls and boys (Malachi 3:16).
Emperors, kings, presidents, prime-ministers, scholars and fashions grow old, the latest books soon lie unread in dust and and the authors come and go but the Lord, and His Holy Bible reign and abide forever.