Living Pure In Sin City

Bible Book: Daniel  1 : 1-21
Subject: Choices; Decisions; Holy Living; Peer Pressure; Christian Living

Daniel 1:1-21

I want you to travel with me to the dairy section of your grocery store today.  Let’s look at the processes that milk goes through prior to being sold to you and consumed by you.  If you look at the label of either a gallon or half-gallon of milk, we will find these words: Grade A, Pasteurized, Homogenized Milk.

Pasteurization is the process of heating the milk to a certain temperature and holding it there until it kills certain harmful bacteria which can make humans ill. Homogenization is mixing up the milk until it has a uniform consistency. Webster’s dictionary describes the process as: “a: to blend (diverse elements) into a mixture that is the same throughout b: to make uniform in structure or composition throughout: to make homogeneous”.   We might say it is “fully blended.” You can always recognize non-homogenized milk because the cream rises to the top.

Listen friends, homogenization is exactly what the world wants to do with Christians. The world wants to shake us up and blend us so effectively that there is no longer any difference between us and them. The world still wants us to be worldly in our words, attitudes, and actions. The worlds desire is that the cream no longer comes to the top.  J.B. Phillips paraphrase of Rom.12:2 states: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”  Regardless of scriptural advice, the enemy of your soul and those in the world on his side want to diminish your testimony and destroy your soul.

In our text today, Daniel lived and functioned in a pagan society, where he was a statesman and politician.  Besides that, Daniel and his three friends had determined to live for God. Today many believe it is impossible to be both a believer and a politician—but Daniel was both.  I want to thank God for the Mike Pence’s of our day who are professing, Bible Believing, separated Christians, yet are involved in political endeavors.  We need to pray for them because the world wants to homogenize them.

Daniel’s life wasn’t lived with many of the blessings that you and I enjoy—a family, nice surroundings, a free society. The Bible says the Babylonians yanked them from this kind of pleasant environment and took both his three friends and himself to another nation and culture. This nation and culture did not revere God.  In the beginning he lived as a slave. Yet here was a man full of integrity.

He lived in Sin City, but he didn’t become part of it!

I’d like to know WHAT MADE HIM TICK! I’d like to know how he could do it—you know, stay clean for God in those difficult circumstances.

Daniel had some interesting things to say about himself that will help us understand how he faced this sudden turn of events.

1) First, he was a teenager when he was taken by force from Israel to Babylon. He had a lot going for him in terms of natural attributes. He was exceptionally wise for his age.  Concerning Daniel and the three Hebrews the Bible says concerning them all that “there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge”.  All parents would have wanted them for their children.   The king of Babylon spotted that immediately.

2) So, we have Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah who are kidnapped by the Babylonians.  Did you know nine times out of ten, people are clueless when it comes to the meaning of their name.  If you ask them, they might say something like, “Well, I don’t know.” Another common response is, “I read the meaning once, but I can’t remember it.” For most in our culture a person’s name holds no power, no meaning and no value.  We can see from his Hebrew name that he had a Godly upbringing. Daniel’s name means “my judge is God”. Hananiah means “Jehovah is gracious”. Mishael means “who is what God is”. Azariah means “the Lord helps”.

Devout Jewish parents undoubtedly raised these young men.  The had received excellent educations. Yet in God’s word we find that at a very early age they are suddenly transported to an alien culture and made slaves with no rights at all—and they were subjected to religious practices that were very odious to them personally.  To top it off, they were to spend three years being “brain-washed”—taught the languages, customs, and religious practices of the Chaldeans. They were “re-educated.”  They were subjected to “mental propaganda”.  Those around them wanted to homogenize them.

Babylon was not the most pleasant of places to live—especially if you were trying to live for God!

Babylon was one of the wonders of the ancient world—walls are reported in history to have been 60 miles long, on top of which 2 or 3 chariots could be driven side-by-side.
Those who populated the area were given over to the worship of many gods, and the zodiac.
There were special temples reaching high into the sky where they could chart the stars and everybody had his personal horoscope by which he lived his life.
Worship in Babylon involved perverted sexual practices that were abhorrent to Jews and contrary to the Word of God.

3) As part of their re-education, they gave the four Hebrews alternative names—Chaldean names:

  • Daniel became Belteshazzar: “Baal protects his life”
  • Hananiah became Shadrach: “command of Aku”
  • Mishael became Meshach: “he who belongs to Sheshach”
  • Azariah became Abed-nego: “servant of Nebo”

Listen friends, the Babylonians were trying to “homogenize” them.

What would you do in a situation like this? Well, Daniel had a choice right off the bat. Verse 5 says, “And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king..”  In Daniel 1:8 the Bible declares, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore, he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”

It was the Babylonian custom to take all of their food, particularly the king’s food, and dedicate it to the gods. They would then eat it with the clear understanding that the spirit of this god would pass into them from the food they ate.

Daniel could have said in his heart, “Now the Lord knows what I truly believe and it will not hurt me if I eat this pagan meat, because I know there isn’t any pagan god at all and what good will I be to God if I’m dead”?

Or he could have thought, “Now is the time to take a stand. I will tell the king what I think of him and his food!” Chances are that if he had done so, it would have been the end of him.  You see, Daniel was now in a culture much like many socialist and communist regimes today.  You either agree with the leader, or your opportunity to continue living may be eliminated.

So how did Daniel handle the situation? How did he respond to this challenge to his faith? In Daniel, chapter one, we have the answer. There are 4 steps that we can identify in the process he used. They form the pattern that we too can use to live in Sin City.

I. He Made Up His Mind

That’s what the Bible means in verse 8, when it says, he “purposed in his heart”.  He set it upon his heart. He made a specific choice—a conscious, deliberate choice. He would not defile himself with the king’s food. He saw what the issues were and said, “No compromise for me!”

This would be a testimony to the king. The King knew all about the beliefs of the Jews. He knew what it would mean for Daniel. It would also be a testimony to his 3 companions.

It's interesting to notice that when Daniel decided, God worked! Look at verse 9: “Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs”.  God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.

I believe that this is the way God often works. He waits until you and I decide according to principle. Are we going to defile ourselves or not? When we set our minds and choose, God works!

The poet caught the sense of this when he penned these words…

To every man there openeth

A Way, and Ways, and a Way.

The high soul climbs the High Way,

The Low Soul gropes the Low.

And in between, on the misty flats,

The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth

A High Way and a Low

And every man decideth

The which his soul shall go.

Daniel made it clear whose side he was on.  The question today is whose side are you on?

During one of the Italian Wars, some recruiting officers came to a small town. Men and boys of all ages were recruited and joined in a parade, armed with swords, guns and sticks. An old lady was so stirred by the spectacle she shouldered her broom and fell in line. Proudly, she marched along, keeping perfect step with the others. Onlookers jeered at her, they asked, “What could you do in a battle?” She replied, “Not much, but I want everybody to know whose side I’m on.”

Well the Babylonians knew whose side Daniel was on! How about you, my friend? Do the people in the world, in our post-Christian culture know which side you are on?

This is an excellent illustration that has floated around for years:

A family from New York City bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name. “Well, “said the would-be-cattlemen, “We wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one son like the Flying-W and the others wanted the Lazy-Y. So we’re calling it the Bar-J Suzy-Q Flying-W Lazy-Y.” “But where are all your cattle?” the friend asked. “none survived the branding.”

II. Daniel Acted Upon that Decision

He took the obvious step of asking permission not to eat the king’s food (note the word “requested”8b). He had set his mind and now he determined to step out on that decision.

We’re not told at this point whether Daniel prayed before he asked permission, but knowing the rest of his life, I think we can safely that he did. In fact, during this same 3-year period of instruction in the Chaldean language, we have an incident in chapter 2 which again caused a major problem for Daniel and his friends.

The king had dreamed about a statue and he demanded that the wise men of Babylon tell him not only the interpretation but also what the dream itself was. In verses 17 and 18 of chapter 2, we learn that Daniel went to his house and informed his friends in order that they might request mercies from the God of heaven.  So, they had a prayer meeting. It was their custom to inquire of the Lord when a tough decision had to be made. 

I want to challenge each of you today, to always seek God’s wisdom.  In the New Testament James admonishes us “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God…”.  Friends seek God’s wisdom and determine to follow God’s path.  That brings us to the third step in the process of not becoming homogenized.

III. Daniel Developed a Creative Way Out

He asked for permission not to eat the king’s food, but the commander has carefully told him that if he were to grant his request, it could cost him his life.  Look at verse 10, “And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”

So, Daniel, under God’s direction, comes up with this solution.  He said to the King’s staff member, please test your servants for 10 days (v.12). He did it in such a way that the burden would rest on the 4 Jews. They were willing to take the consequences of the test. This solution came from the Lord in answer to prayer.

When you and I ask God for wisdom, He has already promised us that we have the mind of Christ. But our problem is that we are often prone to doubt it. The Bible says in James 1:5-7  “ If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord”.  Jesus does not want us to be doubters.  Doubters don’t receive.   Let me pause to say that Jesus loves the doubters too, so if you are a doubter today He is saying to you what he said to Thomas, “Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27)” As the old song says, “Only believe, only believe, all things are possible, only believe”.

Listen, these young men would take the consequences if God did not act. And so it must be with us.

IV. Daniel Gave Thanks To GOD

Although it’s not precisely recorded in Daniel chapter 1, I believe there is a 4th step. It comes from the second example in chapter 2. After Daniel and his friends were granted the revelation about the statue, notice his response even before he went to the king The Bible says in Daniel 2:23-24, “I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king’s demand.”

 Therefore, Daniel went to whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He said this to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation.”

So, the 4th step is to give thanks. That is exactly what Daniel did. It’s really this attitude that says, “Lord, I’ve asked You for wisdom, and I have proceeded on faith that You have acted in and through me as I responded to the circumstances. And so, I give You thanks. The ultimate result is in Your hands”.

Starting from the first instance, these young men could have learned the wisdom and literature of the Babylonians. They knew their religious practices, they knew their idol worship, but they were not touched by it personally!

They had already learned how to handle “Sin City.” And if we follow this same 4-step process, we can do the same.


Do you have what it takes to live in this world without compromising? Can you be in the world, but not of the world?

May the Lord help us to be God-pleasers, regardless of the cost!  Homogenized?   NO WAY!  I challenge you to be the cream that rises to the top for the Glory of God.