Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Being the Exception

There are a lot of characters in Scripture that stepped into an extraordinary move of God by being willing to be the exception. Moses confronted Pharaoh. Hosea was obedient to God's commands, even when they didn't make sense. Joshua and Caleb focused on the grapes, not the giants. You could go on and on with a list of characters that embraced opportunity, but one that stands out the most to me is Daniel.

The first two verses of Daniel 1 are filled with heartache. God had kept His word, even though it was bad news, and the Babylonians besieged Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was on a rampage and took the Israelites captive and demanded that the best of the best be trained to serve in his courts. Daniel was among many that were chosen.

Daniel was from a noble family. Educated. Good-looking. Great stature. Just a boy with a whole life of promise ahead of him. He was taken in by an egotistical king in a foreign country. Forced to learn a foreign language, adhere to strict diet mandated by the king, and be immersed into a culture of self-indulgence. He was forced into the unknown. As a teenage boy, he entered into a culture known for it's fixation on worldly gain and pleasures. Babylon. Where nothing goes as planned. Where you feel like everything is falling apart. Where compromising is the easy way out. That's where Daniel found himself.

BUT. I'm so thankful for many of the "but's" in Scripture. It is always a place where we are challenged- and often startled- but ultimately it is a place of great strength and satisfaction.
      BUT God demonstrated His love for me even though I'm a sinner, and sent Christ to die (Romans 5:8). That "but" communicates the gospel.
      You meant it for evil, BUT God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). I'm sure Joseph's brother's really appreciated that "but".
       When Saul fell to the ground and realized that he was being confronted by Jesus for his actions, Jesus said to him, "BUT rise and enter the city" (Acts 9:4-6). That "but" changed the course of Paul's life.
       As Gentiles, we were far off from the promises of God. No hope. No future. BUT now in Christ Jesus we have been brought near the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13). This "but" grafts us into the family of God.

BUT. That's it. The turning point of the chapter, and even the entire book of Daniel. Up to verse 8 in Daniel 1, he had been stripped of everything comfortable. "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." Daniel wasn't willing to compromise. He set his mind. Resolved. He determined that it was worth it to be outnumbered in Babylon. He set himself apart.

God's fingerprints are all over this story. I can imagine that Daniel could have felt forgotten, even abandoned, by God. But God is active in the midst of the unexpected. After all, in chapter 1 alone we see God take several intentional actions. In verse 2, HE was the one who delivered Judah into the hands of the Babylonians. In verse 9, HE was the one who caused the official to show favor to Daniel. In verse 17, HE was the one who granted Daniel and his friends the knowledge and understanding that they would prove to be invaluable as the story unfolded in the chapters to come.

What happens when you end up in Babylon? The place where you are vulnerable. Facing the temptation to compromise. Where you feel abandoned. Stripped of comfort. The unknown. When God seems to be silent. We must resolve to honor God, even in Babylon. All too often our resolutions weaken, or even disappear, in the face of temptation or criticism. But like Daniel, we must be willing to be the exception in order to step into the promises that God has for us.

When you find yourself in Babylon, resolve to set yourself apart. And don't forget that God is still faithful even in the midst of the unexpected.

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