At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. Daniel 1:18-20.
In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Israel for the first time, making it a vassal state; and one consequence of the invasion was that he had brought to him in Babylon “some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility — young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.” Ashpenaz, the chief of the court officials, was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians and to train them for three years; then they were to enter the king’s service. (Daniel 1:3-5).
I try to put myself in Daniel’s position. Here I am — one of God’s chosen people — taken against my will to a pagan land and now being required to learn a pagan language, pagan ways, and train for high service of the pagan king. How should I react? Become a refusenik and embrace martyrdom rather than have anything to do with Babylon? Or become a pain in the proverbial to these Babylonians … speaking the language badly (however well I had really mastered it), going through the training but being deliberately slow and incompetent and causing maximum frustration and difficulty for those charged with my education?
Not Daniel. He shows nothing but grace — even when refusing to compromise over his diet (Daniel 1:8-16) and ends up being placed in charge of the province of Babylon and being made head of Nebuchadnezzar’s councillors. Furthermore, because of Daniel, the king ends up exclaiming: “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47-48).
Isn’t this what “witness” is really all about?
Once, when I was working as an articled clerk and training to be a Chartered Accountant, one of my fellow trainees who was also a Christian eventually had to leave the firm because he spent all his time talking about Jesus and trying to convert everyone when he should have been working. He was very sincere but very embarrassing … and about the worst “witness” he could be. Far from being “ten times better” than all the other articled clerks, he was ten times worse.
My job, as a Christian, is to let it be known that I am a Christian, not to compromise over issues of conscience (though with real grace and, if possible, with a solution to the issue that will avoid confrontation), but then to be ten times better at whatever I do than anyone else. And that is something that the Spirit of God is within me to help me with. (I note that Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged to Daniel, “I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you” (Daniel 4:9).
Lord, help me this day to be the best that I can be in every department of my life, to your praise and glory. Amen.