The lives of faithful servants of Yahweh from the past have been divinely recorded for “our learning”. When parents
and young people are planning their future steps in life regarding education and work then it is wise to consider the
examples of men and women of the past and to learn from them. This article concerning Daniel and Moses lays a
sound foundation to assist us in this regard.

Moses, Yahweh’s Servant

 Together let us consider the examples of two young men who were faced with the challenges of further education and see how they were able to maintain their integrity before God. Think for a moment about Moses’ circumstances. He was introduced as a hated foreigner into the halls of Egyptian learning so that he might eventually rule the dominion of Egypt. His job was secure if he could pass the rigorous educational training. Well, he not only passed the course; he excelled. “Now Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22).

We are not told how he coped with the superstition of Egypt’s religion or how he managed to retain the Jewishness of his beliefs beneath the onslaught of worldly wisdom. The fact that this is not highlighted implies that it did not present a stumbling block to him. He must have handled the course notes on religion in a detached, academic sort of way, without being persuaded or influenced by the folly of idolatry. The real test, however, came at the end of all this training. It was more what the education was leading to, rather than the content of the course itself, that presented the difficulty.

The time came when he had to make a decision. He could choose the pleasures of Egypt, lay a solid claim to the throne and enjoy untold wealth. The world lay before his vista and he could have it all. On the other hand he could choose to suffer affliction with the people of God, endure the reproach and shame of being a Christadelphian and seize a reward that was not yet evident (Heb 11:24–26). Only faith can discern the real value of this second option. But that decision would not have come easily. The natural inclination is to take and enjoy the fruits of a hard-earned education without weighing up the real consequences of that choice. Moses demonstrated the faith of one who was prepared to abandon all of that work because it interfered with his race for eternal life. It took another 40 years as a humble shepherd to prepare Moses for the real work of saving others.

Not all educational paths lead in these directions, but some do. At the beginning of the course we might look to the material rewards and status that could be ours at the end of the training, only to find that the demands placed upon us to achieve the desired results sap our faith and lay waste to our good intentions of consistent service. The lesson of this aspect of Moses’ life is to beware of the path in which further education might be leading.

Daniel, a Man Greatly Beloved

 When we look at Daniel’s early life we find that his stand for the things of God had to be made early in the course. He was presented with three major issues and the wisdom of this young man can be seen in the different ways he dealt with each problem. Daniel, like Moses, was a very intelligent young man, yet it wasn’t his intelligence that commended him to God.

Daniel was forcibly removed by captivity and made to live as a eunuch in the capital city of the power that had destroyed his people. We couldn’t think of a worse environment to be in at the time. If ever there was justification for nurturing hatred and bitterness against his captors, Daniel could have been excused for feeling like this. Yet there was none of this at all. He was altogether of a different spirit, or as the record states: he had “an excellent spirit” (Dan 5:12).

Nebuchadnezzar was very particular who he selected for training in all the wisdom of Babylon’s ways and if we examine the meaning of the words in Daniel 1:4 we can see that only the best would be enrolled. Candidates were not permitted to possess any outward disfigurement or deformity. They had to be “well favoured” or good looking, skilful in practical things, have a good grasp of general knowledge, have the ability to do careful research and analysis, have the vigour and presence of mind to stand before the king himself and be capable of picking up foreign languages and concepts easily. It is doubtful that many of us would have passed these exacting requirements, but Daniel did!

It was a three year course designed to indoctrinate as well as educate, and soon Daniel and his three fellow students were confronted with three key issues. Firstly their names were changed to honour Babylon’s gods and divest them of their Jewishness; secondly they were fed with food that had been offered to idols; and thirdly they had to endure three years of constantly being subjected to the learning of a corrupt system. How did they survive spiritually? How did they handle these daily challenges to their faith?

In the issue of having his name changed to identify him with Babylon’s gods, Daniel seems to have taken a long term solution. The reason for saying this is that although Nebuchadnezzar called Daniel Belteshazzar, when the king had passed away the prophet was known to all others as Daniel. Hence when the queen mother drew Belshazzar’s attention to the Hebrew prophet, she said, “let Daniel be called” (5:12). We can therefore imagine the young man just quietly and unobtrusively insisting that his other name was really Daniel and in the end this Hebrew name prevailed. Quiet perseverance won through.

Remaining Holy

 The eating of defiled food was an issue that needed an immediate response. It is true that an idol is nothing in the world and that eating meat or abstaining from meat does not commend us to God (1 Cor 8:8), but Daniel had the wisdom to appreciate that there is a higher principle involved—a consideration of the consciences of other believers and a need to maintain a consistent example to those outside.

If Gentile youths saw him eating that food they would immediately conclude that he was a worshipper of those gods. Equally important, his fellow Jews would also be looking up to Daniel as an example. If he chose to eat meats he may have caused others to stumble. He had to be aware of the weaknesses of others (1 Cor 8:10–13).

This issue is still alive today. There are many things that may seem harmless in themselves, but because people in the world associate those activities with specific contexts, they immediately make the link between the two. You say you worship God; why are you doing this? You say that you are separate from the world; what are you doing in this place? The lesson that the student Daniel was teaching others was that there must be a sensitivity to the conscience of others within the body as well as a clear message of separation to those who are without. If we are confronted with similar problems, the best course of action is to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22–23).

But observe the way he approached the problem. He didn’t demand a change in the food, but diplomatically requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Dan 1:8). When this failed to produce a result he then approached another official and asked if Melzar would put him to the test. Daniel’s wisdom can be seen in the skilful way he handled people. He was undeterred by failure and so he took a different approach with a different person. He didn’t ignore the objection or assume that it would miraculously disappear. Instead he placed his trust in God and proposed that Melzar examine the end result of the change in diet. It is the principle of Psalm 37:5 at work: “Commit thy way unto Yahweh; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass”.

 Furthermore he said to Melzar: “As thou seest, deal with thy servants” (Dan 1:13). He left the final decision with the steward, which was a very wise approach indeed. Daniel wasn’t forcing him to do something he might not like. He left the decision to the steward’s own judgment, allowing him to come to his own conclusion. Note too that Daniel was not tempting God in this matter either. He didn’t say that God would definitely make him fairer and fatter. He allowed God to outwork His will in this matter if He chose to do so. It was the way he approached providence. He believed and trusted in God and went ahead with what he believed was right, whilst at the same time never presuming that God was forced to help him. This requires great faith indeed.

Yahweh Gives Wisdom

The final challenge of handling the course is hinted at in Daniel 1:17: “As for these four children (yeled—young men), God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams”. This is not saying that God gave them worldly wisdom so that they could pass their exams. They already had a natural ability to do that, otherwise they would not have been selected for the course in the first place. Here is a knowledge that had to be given by God and what God gave them was an understanding in the things of the Truth. We know this to be true because the basis of God giving understanding is defined in Proverbs 2:1-5. He will only give wisdom in the Word if there is a genuine yearning to incline the heart to the Scriptures and cry after knowledge. Daniel was not given understanding in the Word because of his natural abilities and intelligence; he was given it because he recognised his need and sought to find God in the Scriptures.

Hence we find that Daniel was a student of the Word even in old age (Dan 9:2) and this was the secret of his ability to withstand those first three years. In all the study he had to do in secular things he never neglected the study of the Word. It is easy to justify our inattention to the Word or our failure to regularly attend the meetings (particularly the Bible classes) because of pressing studies elsewhere, but this was not the way in which Daniel resolved to approach his education. He was prepared to continue Bible study as an essential part of the curriculum. If we are not prepared to approach life like that then we need to seriously re-evaluate our priorities.

One last point comes to mind from Daniel’s example. When he was called by the king to explain the dream of the severed tree, the king had full confidence in an answer because he knew that “the spirit of the holy gods” was in him (Dan 4:9). Daniel’s spirit, or frame of mind, was so obvious as to be held in great respect. It was a mind that had steered its way through the maze of worldly business and education and could be summarised as a spirit of holiness. He learned, but he was separate. He achieved what was required, but it went no further. He wasn’t entrapped by philosophy, status, ego, socialising, sport and a myriad of other dangers that lay in the path. His mind was firmly fixed on a different training course, an education that was preparing him for eternal life. Like Moses, he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.