Passage: Daniel 1:1–21
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
Most of the Bible was written by and for a people “in exile”—people living among a culture that didn’t share its basic beliefs, values, or outlook on the world—and today, as well it can feel like we’re living “in exile” as Christians. In exile, it’s easy to either assimilate ourselves to the surrounding culture or withdraw ourselves completely. The Lord, however, calls us to a “third way” of being in the world, where we remain completely faithful to him, while fully invested in our community, working for its flourishing. Daniel is a great example of how to practice this “third way” of faithfulness in exile.
First, we see the stark challenge Daniel faced. Taken from Israel to Babylon and forced into an intentional program to reeducate him in Babylonian culture, values, and politics, it seemed that Daniel stood little chance of remaining loyal to God and not compromising his faith through assimilation or withdrawal. We face a similar challenge as the church today, and we can gain encouragement from Daniel who was both fully immersed in Babylonian culture, and serving in the king’s court, yet completely loyal to the God of Israel.
Second, Daniel showed great courage, as he resolved not to “defile himself with the king’s food” (1:8)—showing that he was dependent on God for his life and sustenance, not the king. Because God was more basic to Daniel’s life than “bread,” or the delicacies he enjoyed from the king’s table, he was able to courageously witness to God by his subversive loyalty. Likewise, we can only stand loyal to God today when we view God as foundational to life.
Finally, Daniel had this confidence in exile because he had a sense that God was with him in his exile. Throughout the passage it’s God who is said to “give” Daniel the wisdom, favor, and sustenance he needed. Today, we know even more than Daniel knew, because we know Jesus, our God made flesh who is so totally with us in our exile that he became flesh and entered our world. Jesus is the ultimate example of being “in the world” (literally!) but not “of the world,” remaining perfectly loyal to his Father throughout his life, and yet laying down his life to save the world. We gain confidence from following this Jesus!
- The Challenge of Exile (1:1-7)
- Courage for Exile (1:8-16)
- Confidence in Exile (1:2; 9, 17, etc.)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Daniel 1)
The Challenge of Exile (1:1-7)
Q) Pastor Bobby said that most of the Bible was written by and for people living among cultures that didn’t share their doctrines, values, or outlook on life—people in cultural “exile.” Do you think that “being in exile” is an appropriate way of describing the experience of the church in New England today? Why or why not? If so, what experiences in your daily life give you the sense that we’re “in exile”?
Q) Re-read Daniel 1:1-7. What are some of the strategies the king used to get Daniel and his friends to assimilate into the Babylonian culture? List as many as you see.
Q) Pastor Bobby said that we face two different challenges to remaining faithful exile—the challenge to either give up and assimilate into surrounding culture by taking on its values and outlook, or the challenge to withdraw from culture. What do you think complete assimilation would have looked like for Daniel? What about complete withdrawal?
Q) Skim ahead in Daniel chapter 1. What evidence do you see from the chapter that Daniel didn’t assimilate? What evidence do you see that he didn’t withdraw either?
Q) Which challenge to faithfulness—assimilation or withdrawal—do you personally feel most prone to? Where is this challenge manifesting itself right now in your life? How, as a whole church, might we be tempted to assimilate to our culture, or withdraw from it, particularly in this current moment?
Q) How is the church’s witness affected when we assimilate into our culture? How is our witness affected when we withdraw from our culture? Give examples.
Courage for Exile (1:8-16)
Q) Re-read Daniel 1:8-9. Why do you think Daniel resolved not eat the king’s food in verse 8? In what sense would he have “defiled himself” if he ate the king’s food or drank the king’s wine?
Q) Re-read Daniel 1:10-16. How did the king’s eunuchs initially respond to Daniel’s request not to eat the king’s food? How did God help Daniel in his resolution? What effect do you think this had on the King and his eunuchs?
Q) Pastor Bobby said that Daniel resolved not to take the king’s food and wine because he was showing that God was more basic to his survival than the king’s provisions and delicacies. What might “not eating the king’s food” look like in your own life? What provision or “delicacy” of the world might compromise your witness to God?
Confidence in Exile (1:2; 9, 17, etc.)
Q) Look over the passage again. Where do you see the phrase “God gave” or “The Lord gave,” and what is he said to give? What does this suggest about God’s involvement in Israel’s exile?
Q) Pastor Bobby said that Daniel had confidence to remain faithful because he sensed that God was with him in exile. Have you ever sensed that God was present with you in the midst of a hostile or overwhelming environment? How did that awareness of his presence help you remain faithful to him?
Q) Jesus is the ultimate example of remaining faithful in exile. He willingly entered our hostile world, remaining completely loyal to God throughout his life, yet never withdrawing from this world but working to lovingly save it. How might Jesus’ own example and his work on your behalf give you confidence in the midst of hostility this week?
Q) Case study: You’re talking to a friend from church. This person is a dear friend, with a vibrant faith in Jesus and love for others. They express to you their firm conviction that because of what’s being taught in public schools, the only valid option for parents today is to send their kids to Christian school. In light of this passage specifically, how might you respond to them?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and
outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.