“A Sincere Faith” Sunday School Lesson Summary and Activities, Daniel 1:8-21

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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word.  Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!

“A Sincere Faith”

Daniel 1:8-21

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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well.  Blessings!)

Introduction:

Genuine.  Real.  No hypocrisy.  No pretense.  No compromising.  Just honest to goodness, holding on to one’s integrity with every fiber of their being.  “This is what I believe, and I’m sticking to it!”  The person who governs his or her faith by these sincere attributes is a person who is truly sold out for God.

This one will unashamedly hold on to their beliefs despite circumstance.  They are as clear as transparent glass in their true devotion to God.  What you see is what you get.  They are the same inside and out.  They are as unwavering in their faith behind closed doors as they are in the open square.  They are the same in the streets as they are in the church house.  Their walk with God doesn’t swing on the hinges of what is convenient or comfortable or safe.  They live for Him, for an audience of One, in the good times and the bad.

No backing down.  No false or phony surface worship.  Their hearts are truly tied to God in the most real of ways, and substituting for less just is not an option.  And, let’s face it, in a world filled with so many things that are artificial, at the very least, one’s faith should be real.

Today’s lesson introduces us to the familiar Bible character, Daniel and his strong desire to live as right for God as possible, even during times of captivity at the hands of an enemy.

In their history, God warned His people many of times to repent or else they would suffer adverse consequences and would fall at the hand of their enemies.  Jeremiah prophesied to the people that Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon would come and take the city and destroy it, (Jeremiah 25:9; 32:28).

Going up a few verses before today’s lesson we see the very thing that was prophesied had come to pass and “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came unto Jerusalem, and besieged it,” (Daniel 1:1).  With that, the king instructed “Ashpenaz the master of the eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel… in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans,” (Daniel 1:3-4).

This brings us to today’s lesson where Daniel and his friends: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are among those that were chosen to enter the king’s training program.  This training program was designed to indoctrinate the young people enrolled in it to all the ways of the Chaldeans.  It was meant to corrupt their way of thinking from all they knew before to change their thinking to the ways of their captors.

Those selected and enrolled in this program, because of the task before them, were treated favorably and received “a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank,” (Daniel 1:5). This was intended to make them suitable to “stand before the king” and under his inspection they would be fitted to enter services other captives were denied; areas of special privilege if you will.

Daniel 1:8-10

8) “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, not with wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

9) Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.

10) And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.”

Special privilege or not; an opportunity to advance and make life easier for himself could not and would not cause Daniel to do anything that would eat away at his conscience in his relationship with God.  Throughout his young life, he has known nothing but adhering to the ways of his people passed down from generation to generation under the instruction of God.  Now that he was in captivity and at the disposal of the enemies, Daniel persisted uncompromisingly to hold on to his faith and not waiver in what he had been taught and believed to be right.  The enemy’s goal may have been to indoctrinate these young people with their own ways, but God was already seared on their hearts and Daniel and his friends were determined to keep it that way.

“Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” Any decision one makes for God must first be a decision of the heart.  “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts,” (Proverbs 21:2).  The heart is what matters.  The “heart” is the seat of one’s will and emotions.  So what Daniel was really saying is that his will was to do His will; and he didn’t want to participate in anything, even if it seemed pleasurable for that moment, that would take him out of God’s will.

Please Note: Other examples for this kind of decisive-faith-living can be found in other characters of the Bible as well, including Moses who turned down a prime opportunity to advance in Egypt and refused to enjoy sin even just for a season to make his life easier (see Hebrews 11:24-26).  Joseph, who could have enjoyed a momentary fling, but knew his life was an opened book before God and said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).  Then, we have our ultimate example found in Jesus Christ who over and over again submitted to the will of God and refused compromise (see Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 22:42; John 19:30, just name a few).

For Daniel, defiling himself with the king’s meat and wine would do just that, offer compromise.  It would take him out of the will of God.  The Jewish people were raised by the initial teachings of God to live and eat according to very strict guidelines.  Read through Leviticus 11 where it specifies foods that can and cannot be eaten with regard to meat.  One portion reads: “This is the law of beasts, and of fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten,” (Leviticus 11:46-47).  Of course, in the New Testament, we are no longer under this.

It is presumed that the king’s meat on his table more than likely falls into the “unclean” category.  It is also supposed that more than likely the food, drinks and everything on the king’s table, since it was considered the best of the best, was probably offered to false deities, of the which, Daniel was determined not to “defile himself” with.

He may have been in a strange country now and under strange human leadership but his heart was still tied to God and His ways and he was determined, with everything in him, to follow God all the way.

With that, Daniel took his concerns to “the prince of the eunuchs.” God had allowed Daniel to find “favour” with him to where he took a compassionate look at Daniel’s plight and treated him with “tender love.” Those words are not something that is synonymous with living in captivity, yet “God” is the one who established it so.  “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will,” (Proverbs 21:1).  Just as God can move in a king’s heart, so can He in the heart of this eunuch and these captors, toward His people.

When God knows that the heart is right and intent on doing what’s right before Him, He will help you to find favor among those who are even supposed to be at odds with you and considered your enemies.  This reminds me of Psalm 23:5 where it says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…”  Favor where you least expect it.  “For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield,” (Psalm 5:12).

The eunuch’s response was not one of mockery and derision; rather, his only concern was the king himself.  He told Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.”

To the eunuch, honoring Daniel’s request would not only jeopardize his life, but the eunuch’s as well.  It’s one thing to risk one’s own life but to put others in danger was something totally different.  The eunuch assumed, according to his human perspective, that if Daniel and his friends went without, their appearance would tell the signs of it.  Recap, these men were chosen because they were good looking as well as their skill.  If the eunuch would present them to the king looking sickly he would lose his head – literally!

Daniel 1:11-16

11) “Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,

12) Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.

13) Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.

14) So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.

15) And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.

16) Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.”

May I briefly interject here a comment about Daniel’s courage to even speak up for his convictions in the first place?   That says a lot about his character and his devotion to God.  Even by force, his wasn’t willing to contaminate his faith.

What an awesome perspective he had when some others would have taken advantage of the situation and say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it.”  But, Proverbs 23 give us this warning, “When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee… Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat,” (vss. 1, 3).  Craving wrong things will only bring harm regardless of one’s circumstances.  At the very least, Daniel was willing to give it a shot to avoid such a path in life.

After addressing his concerns with Ashpenaz, the prince of the eunuchs, Daniel was inspired to try to remedy the situation by means of a test.  He could fight for his faith and Ashpenaz could be assured of his own personal safety in the process.

The king was obvious looking for something specific when the young men would stand before him.  Ashpenaz and Melzar both would be keenly aware of this; that there was some sort of predetermined standard he expected to see.  Daniel boldly stated that a comparison is done between him and his companions and their food choices which was “pulse” (of the vegetable/grain family) and “water” and the other guys who ate “of the king’s meat.”

Seeing they had nothing to lose, for Daniel stated, “as thou seest, deal with thy servants;” meaning he was leaving the final evaluation/examination results up to them, they acquiesced and allowed the “ten day” trial period to commence.

The end results were astounding.  After the trial period, the examination of each group of young people ensued.  The findings were not at all what they expected.  Remember, Ashpenaz originally was concerned at the appearance of Daniel and his friends being in a “worse” condition (vs. 10), resulting in his own head being endangered.

But here, God has flipped the script, so to speak, and it is Daniel and his friends; the men who have kept themselves free of anything that contaminated their relationship with God and followed His ways, they were the healthier ones.  They are the ones who appearance is measured to a stand-out performance.  There is a marked difference between those who follow God and those who didn’t, and their faces showed it. “And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.” 

Therefore, Daniel and his friends were allowed to continue their diet of pulse and water and “Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink.”

When you have a made-up mind and a heart that is fixed to follow God, people may expect to see the “worse” in you, but boy are they surprised when God blesses you to appear “fairer.” Living by God’s standards will ALWAYS put you in a better position than those who choose not to, as the next verse suggests.

Daniel 1:17

17) “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”

“God gave them.” Because of their devotion to God with a stand-up attitude, God blessed them with stand-out blessings of “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (which we will see play out over the course of his work in attendance to several kings).

All this meant so much more than the food on one’s plate.  It was all about a heart that desired to honor God even in difficult circumstances and because of that God blessed these men.  God has the final say!  He will not suffer His loved ones to go through for nothing.  In the end, hope satisfies.  In the end, obedience pays off.

Many have their attention divided in what they are seeking after.  Divided attention are what causes individuals to obsessively worry about the basic issues of life, which then leads one to always pursuing the things that care for the natural side of man, thereby, neglecting the spiritual.  Daniel chose to nourish the spiritual appetite by withholding any cravings of the natural appetite.  The sincerest faith demands that we crave for God more and His ways more over our wants and personal desires.

Daniel 1:18-21

18) “Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.

19) And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.

20) And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

21) And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.”

The time of final testing had come.  Our boys stood gloriously before the prince of the eunuchs, but how would they fair before the king himself?  It was up to “Nebuchadnezzar” to give the final say of acceptance or rejection.

“And the king communed with them” meant he had a one on one with each of the young men presented before him.  Almost as if one were going for a job interview where they were queried and inspected for competence on certain matters that would involve their possible position fulfillment.  And, they passed with flying colors.

“Among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king;” they were selected personally by the king to be employed into special services for him.  They “stood… before the king” because God made them stand out “among them.”  These young men stood out so much so, they were considered to be “ten times better” than others employed in the king’s services, even so-called “wise” men such as “magicians and astrologers.” 

Let us keep in mind of why they stood out.  They stood out because they first stood up for what they believed in.  Where one places their faith and how they adhere to that faith makes all the difference, especially when God is involved.  God didn’t let their talents go to waste.  Instead, He increased them all the more for their faithfulness.

Remember what Jesus taught in the parable of the talents?  He said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things,” (Matthew 25:21, 23).  I believe the same concept can easily be applied here as well.  When one’s faith has been tested and they have been found to remain true to work in it, uncompromisingly and without excuse, that individual can be trusted with more.

God elevated Daniel and his friends with more and the king was well pleased with what he saw in these young men.  They didn’t just excel in one area.  But were found to be considerably wiser in “all matters of wisdom and understanding.”

Daniel and his friends held on to their faith and were rewarded by God and man.  For Daniel, not only did he advance in position within the realm, but he experienced longevity circulating and working within these high-ranking circles.  Daniel and his friends were brought to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, but “Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.”  He served in these higher courts in one capacity or another from around 605 BC when he was first taken into captivity and entered that training program to around 539 BC when Cyrus dominated the area and took Babylon under his control (see also Ezra 1:1), and perhaps even longer.

Conclusion:

All our lives are opened books before God.  And, how we live it, whether it be in the truest of faith or not, will be told in the story written within the pages thereof.  May our stories resonate that we had the most sincerest of faith throughout our Christian journey.

Standard Print PDF: A Sincere Faith Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print

Large Print PDF: A Sincere Faith Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print

Below are activities to support this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!

Word Search: A Sincere Faith Word Search  Answers: A Sincere Faith Word Search Answers

Crossword: A Sincere Faith Crossword  Answers: A Sincere Faith Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: A Sincere Faith Word Scramble  Answers: A Sincere Faith Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: A Sincere Faith Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: A Sincere Faith Memory Verse

Below are Activities/Links/Resources to support this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!

“Daniel and the King’s Food” (All kinds of resources and ideas for this lesson.  There is even a powerpoint.  Enjoy!)

“Daniel Stands Firm”

“I Can Do What is RIght” (Several activity ideas for this lesson to choose from.  Enjoy!)

“Daniel and His Friends Obey God”

“Dare to be Different: Daniel Chose to Obey”

“Daniel Food Basket Craft”

“Daniel Refuses the King’s Food Craft”

“Printable Placemats” (Kids can color these and add in their own foods on the plate either by drawing or cutting pictures out of a magazine/circulars and glueing them on.  Enjoy!)

 

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