Teens Who Changed an Empire
How to Raise Children Who Change the World
From my friend and colleague, Wes Slough
Daniel and the Three Hebrew lads, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego were steeped in Babylonian philosophy when deported to Babylon; their names were changed from Hebrew to Babylonian names; they were indoctrinated with a Babylonian worldview. Still they resisted. Somehow, they had been inoculated in their youth from the virus of all pagan cultures. They were only teens when they came to Babylon. What had been the key to raising such stalwart faith in these young men? In the end, they changed how the king looked at their God, rather than he being able to convert them to his god. How can we raise teens like this? How can we ourselves stand against the tide of foolishness that comes from the philosophy of our culture?
Let’s look at excerpts from the scriptures in Daniel 1-3 and draw some conclusions. In Daniel 1, we see the deportation to Babylon and the attempt of the Babylonian king to make Babylonians out of these young Hebrews. Note their responses from the start of the process. After browsing through the scriptures, look at the summary applications at the conclusion.
Daniel 1:3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 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. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[c] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 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.
These abilities given by God enabled Daniel and the Three Hebrews to impact the entire empire. The King had a nightmare dream that he demanded someone to tell him the dream and its interpretation. Daniel emerges with the gift of God to give the King the interpretation.
Daniel 2:45 … “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.
In Daniel 3, the Three stood for God, and He stood with them when the Babylonian King commanded them to worship the statue-idol which was contrary to God’s Law. When they refused, he ordered them thrown into the fiery furnace.
Daniel 3 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Lessons from Daniel 1-3 for the Four Hebrew Lads:
1. Don’t quickly compromise with the pagan culture at any level! Not even on dietary matters!
2. Daniel first resolved (placed in his mind or heart; the inner decision making) not to defile himself. So, we train our children how to make decisions on sources of defilement of our souls. (1:8)
3. Note: he asked; he did not demand. He knew how to present the issue without creating defiance quickly. Train children how to resist without starting a war too soon.
4. He proposed a reasonable test that had limited timeframe which showed his willingness to not insist if the test was not effective. Teach children to be reasonable in their opposition!
5. The three Hebrews must have known God’s Law, even the part talking about food. Teach your children all God’s Word. Teach them not only content but why the Word advocates certain things and forbids others.
6. They knew the difference between issues which are negotiable and those that are not. Teach children to have the wisdom is to know the difference between those things that you go to the “wall” for and those you do not.
7. It’s always easier to take the path of least resistance. The fact that 1:6 indicates that there were others who came to Babylon but did not decide to resist becoming Babyloniaized. Train children as to what happens when they take the easy road.
8. God gave favor. Note that the Favor of God (1:9) is directly related to the resolve to not defile themselves. As result, the favor was ten times more wisdom, vision, learning of literature and all subjects for the Hebrews. Note the abilities came from the Hebrew boys’ resolve which brought the favor of God.
9. In 2:26-29 Daniel used the gifting of God to do things only God can do. The gifts will always point to God and in so doing, the pagan King sees God. Then, in 3:26-30, God gives favor in that the fire does not burn them, and this causes the King to glorify God and make it punishable for anyone to dishonor their God.
10. God positioned them in greater and greater places of influence, so they could impact the culture and entire kingdom. Teach children to look for the reasons that God has put them where they are!
11. Understanding what God can do may not be what He does. He is God, and either way, you worship Him.
The goal of parenting is to teach content of God’s truth, what He wants in a life and why He wants those things. It is ultimately the only life that will give peace and purpose and true happiness. The goal is to raise kids who know not just about God but to know Him in a personal way and to love Christ who died and rose for them; to focus on obedience to God from which will come all the by-products that really matter in life – true joy and peace. Then when children are sent off to university, to the military, to marriage, to adulthood, they will have all they need to face the future and make an impact for Christ and escape from the pagan culture which tries to squeeze them into its mold.