We continue to explore the historical background of the book of Daniel. Who was Daniel? Why does his story matter? In the very first chapter, we see Daniel’s resolve to obey God despite an incredible amount of temptation, refusing to defile himself. His narrative reveals the power of choices in the midst of temptation. If we are going to overcome, as God calls us to, we have to take ownership of our choices, even in the most challenging of circumstances.
Most people have a price
I suppose you’ve heard it said that—and it’s been said enough times—that every man has his price. And your price is whatever point you sell out your so-called convictions, your moral standards for some personal gain, for some personal fulfillment, or some personal desire. They say every man has his price, and I suppose it’s true of the world, though it ought not be true for believers. There should be no price which will make us compromise what we know to be true and what we believe to be the divine standard.
Typically, if people are honest, right up until just a little dishonesty might save them a lot of money or gain them some great advantage. People know something to be definitely wrong, but for the sake of peace, they cover it up. People will do and act against their claim to convictions when asked by someone they admire or fear or from whom they seek a favor. People won’t say what should truly be said because they feel they might lose face, and so goes the compromise. This happens to all of us. It happens every day.
The Stanley Milgram Experiment
There’s some very famous experimentation—and you’ve probably heard of this—took place in 1963 called the Stanley Milgram experiment. The psychologist Stanley Milgram created an electric shock generated with 30 switches.
The switches were all clearly marked in 15-volt increments from 15-450 volts. He also placed labels on those switches indicating the shock level, such as 75-120 volts was labeled “moderate.” 135-180 was labeled “strong.” The switches from 375-420 volts were marked “danger, severe shock.” And the two highest levels, 435 and 450 were marked XXX.
The shock generator was, in fact, a phony. It didn’t actually shock anybody. But it would produce a sound when the switches were pressed. So 40 test subjects, all males (this doesn’t speak well for us), were recruited via mail and newspaper ads. They thought they were going to participate in an experiment about memory and learning.
In the test, each subject was informed very clearly that their payment was for showing up, and that’s all they had to do was show up. What happened after that didn’t matter. No matter what happened, they were going to get paid.
Next, the subject met the experimenter, the person leading the experiment. He’s in charge of it. And another person told to be another subject. The other subject was, in fact, a confederate acting as the subject. He was a likeable 47-year-old male accountant.
So they met this 47-year-old accountant, and the two subjects, the real one and the pretend subject, drew slips of paper to indicate who was going to be the teacher, and who was going to be the learner.
Of course it was all a set up, and the real subject would always get the role of the teacher. So the teacher watches as the learner gets strapped into a chair and electrodes get placed all over their body, and the subject was there to see that in another room in front of the shock generator. They’re unable to see the learner at this point.
So this Stanley Milgram experiment is aimed at getting an answer to the question, how long will someone continue to give shocks to another person if they’re told to do so, even if they thought they might seriously be hurt? The dependent variable, if you’re interested in psychology.
Remember that the test subject or the teacher had met the other person, a likeable stranger, and that they thought it could very well be them in the other chair, as well, who was receiving the shocks.
The experiment went like this: The subject was instructed to teach word pairs to the learner. When the learner made a mistake, the subject was instructed to punish the learner by giving him a shock, 15 volts higher for each mistake.
If the experimenter seated in the other room was consulted, the experimenter would answer with predefined prods such as “Please continue.” So if they had a question, the guy flipping the switches asked, “Should I keep going?” “Please continue.”
And if they asked again, “The experiment requires you that you go on.”
And then the third time he would say, “It is absolutely essential that you continue,” or “You have no other choice. You must go on.”
These are the prods they get if they start to question the fact that they’re electrocuting the guy in the other room.
So they start with the mild prods, and as they continue to make mistakes, the amount of voltage continues to go up. If the subject asks who is responsible if anything were to happen to the learner in the shock chair, the experimenter always answered, “I am responsible.” This gives the subject a relief and many just continue to go on.
The results were as follows, although most subjects were uncomfortable doing it, all 40 subjects obeyed to 300 volt. All of them. 25 of the 40 subjects continued to give shocks until the maximum level of 450 volts was reached.
Before all this experimentation from Stanley Milgram, experts thought about 1-3 percent of the subjects would not stop giving shocks. They thought you’d have to be pathological or a psychopath to go that far.
Still 65 percent never stopped giving the shocks. None stopped when the learner said he had heart trouble. Not one of them. Part of the experiment was at one point he would have to say, “I’m having heart problems.” None of them stopped for that.
How could that be? We now believe it has to do with our almost innate behavior that we should do as we’re told, especially if it comes from someone in a position of authority.
Right now, you’re probably saying, yeah, but that wouldn’t be me. That could never be me. Well, statistically, it would be you. Statistically, you would take it all the way. How do we know? Well, the Bible is so cyclical, we can see it over and over and over again.
The cyclical pattern of sin
Adam compromised God’s law, followed his wife’s sin, and lost paradise.
Abraham compromised the truth, lied about Sarah, and nearly lost his wife.
Sarah compromised God’s word. Sent Abraham to Hagar who bore Ishmael and lost peace in the Middle East ever since.
Esau compromised for a meal with Jacob and lost his birthright.
Saul compromised the divine word, kept the animals, and lost the royal seat.
Aaron compromised his convictions about idolatry, and he and the people lost the privilege of the promised land.
Samson compromised righteous devotion as a Nazirite with Delilah. Lost his strength, lost his eyes, and lost his life.
Israel compromised the commands of the Lord, lived in sin, and went fighting with the Philistines. Lost God.
David compromised the divine moral standard and adulterated with Bathsheba, murdered Uriah, and lost his child.
Solomon compromised his convictions, married foreign wives, and lost the whole kingdom.
Ahab compromised, married Jezebel, and lost his throne.
And here we are with Israel, compromising the law of God, entering into sin and idolatry, and lost their homeland.
Do you see a pattern here? It just goes over and over and over. It’s true in our own lives as well. We do this all the time. We constantly compromise our values. We compromise where we shouldn’t compromise.
The Chaldeans attempt to manipulate Daniel
What makes Daniel so remarkable is that Daniel was in Babylon, and Babylon’s a pagan society in every sense. There was no regard for the true God as evidenced by the fact that they attacked the land of Israel, desecrated the true God’s temple, and had taken all the people captive who weren’t killed.
While Daniel was living in the middle of all this turmoil, his soul was anchored to the rock and so he was unshakeable and indestructible. He was absolutely unwilling to compromise the absolutes that he believed were the law of God, and that is what anchored him to the rock of confidence even in the trials of captivities and Chaldean efforts to brainwash him.
When they took these Jews captive, they were determined that they were going to have to be able to control the Jewish population. It’s really difficult to take an entire nation into captivity and still be able to control all these expatriates at one time. And they knew in order to do so, they needed to get some of the Jewish leaders to help them do it.
So they take some of their own Jewish people, train them to be leaders that follow the Chaldean way, and put them back in charge of the Jewish people. Keep them under the thumb. Control them.
It was very important to the Chaldeans to manage some of the noble, young Jews who could rise to leadership. They wanted to select the most physically beautiful young men who could sway people by sheer force of their looks and persona.
They wanted to take young men who had unusual intellectual ability and social grace. They wanted to put them through the system of the Chaldean culture, educate them, train them, develop them in the Chaldean mindset. And yet, with their Jewish lineage, use them to rule over the people that they now had in their hands.
Maybe another reason Daniel didn’t want to engage in what was the lifestyle of the king, as we saw him turn down the king’s food and the king’s drink, was that it would be the grandest and most lavish in all the land, if not all the world in the ancient times, since most of the supreme kingdom of the world is that they would have taken him to a level of materialism and self indulgence way beyond what would have honored God.
So the Chaldean attempted to melt down these four young men and reform them into Chaldeans and use them to lead the Jews and keep the peace among the Jews and try to control these expatriated people who were now in their country.
But Daniel purposed in his heart
So over a three-year period, Daniel—who’s probably only 15 years old, by the way, and a eunuch—and his friends learn all of what is asked of them. And they actually understand the language and culture and traditions of the Chaldeans probably ten times better than the Chaldeans themselves do, but they don’t become them. They don’t become Chaldeans. They don’t give in to it.
I mean, frankly, there wasn’t anybody there to watch them, anybody, at least, from his past, right? He’s up there in the palace. He could have lived any kind of life he wanted. Certainly there would have been no social recourse at all.
If you want to understand the character of Daniel, you have to see him in a totally foreign environment under tremendous pressure and as a very young man of 15 taking an uncompromising, firm stand on the absolute word of God.
And all of the inducements, and all the education, all the encouragement, all of the bribes, all of the pressures, all of the ambitions and glories of the king’s court could not make him compromise what he knew to be true and right. Even as they would learn the king’s language, and they would study the Chaldean education, they would filter it all through the word of God; and, thereby, they would learn the errors of that people. And learning their errors, they’d be better able to communicate the truth of God to them.
Never, however, did they adopt their lifestyle.
We can see in Daniel and his friends a level of commitment and faith that’s hard to come by.
Looking back at Revelation, we can see the fiery trials that we talked about there that these four young men were encountering. They’re away from home probably for the first probably for the first time; and they’re being assimilated into a culture for the first time. Think of the temptations there. Think of the internal struggles as well as the fear of death they were facing.
I mean, for goodness sakes, we can’t even go off to college for the first time and be put into a different culture without succumbing to the temptations that we face. Think what your children are going to go through when you send them off to college, or your grandchildren. They’re going to face the same things.
But Daniel faced it on a greater magnitude and yet held true to what he knew to be right.
There’s a new culture and freedom for us to decide if we want to be part of it or not, even in college or even in your work place.
Daniel and his friends filtered all of what they read and what they learned through the word of God. What did you do when you first went to college? Did you stay committed? Did you filter everything that you heard and learned through the word of God? Would you have done so at 15 years old? It’s pretty remarkable.
Or were you more likely to be that person that delivers electric shocks to others because you’re told to do so because you’re told to do so by someone in a position of authority? A little self examination or self reflection here.
But we’re going to be faced with this every day. Maybe it’s a small compromise, and that’s where it starts. The values, especially when it goes against what God says, God’s commandment. The first one is all about, I’m the guy in charge, love me. The rest of them are all about love others.
And when we’re told to do so by someone in a position of authority that counters what God says, we should filter that through what scripture says. Should I do this, or is this going against what God actually says? If it goes against God’s word then that person probably shouldn’t be in authority.
We have the obligation, then, to remove that person from authority. In this country, we do it through, obviously, the democratic system.
So here we have the exact example of this. As we get through Daniel, we’ll see it even more, right? I mean, Daniel didn’t bow. He’s going to be threatened with his life, his mortal life, because he’s not going to do what the Chaldeans are telling him to do. He still submitted to their authority up to the point where it crossed God’s authority. And we see this in Christ’s own example, and that’s what we should look at when we come into conflict with what we see between two different things here, we get confused. What did Christ do? What would God do? What does scripture say we should do.
That’s what I think we see here in Daniel as well.
So, alright, here we are. Stage is set. Just as Jeremiah prophesies, we have Daniel and all of his buddies there in Babylon. They’re in captivity for the next 70 years. And Daniel knows it. He believes it. 70 years. Jeremiah said it. He knows they’re there. He’s a 15 year old eunuch at this point, at the beginning of the book, and he’s being tempted from all sides.
He’s walking a fine line between life and death every single day as he prepares for his role as an advisor to the king. He’s clinging fast to his faith, and he’s staying committed. He’s demonstrating to us how to be overcomers. Even though being persecuted, he’s demonstrating how to overcome that through his example, how to stay committed through faith.