ODJ: finding our identity

September 2, 2015 

READ: Daniel 1:1-21 

Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king (v.8).

If you imagine that enemies captured you and forced you to change your diet, your education and your name, which one would hurt the most? Daniel accepted his new name, Belteshazzar, even though it invoked a pagan god. He accepted his new education “in the language and literature of Babylon,” even though it meant he had to study pagan creation myths (Daniel 1:4).

But he refused to eat the king’s food.

We’re not sure why Daniel drew his line at the table (v.8). Perhaps the meat was off limits or not prepared in a kosher way. But that doesn’t explain why Daniel objected to the king’s wine. Perhaps the meat had been offered to idols or symbolically made Daniel dependent on the king. But this would also be true of the vegetables, which he devoured (v.12).

Whatever the reason, Daniel believed that eating the king’s meat and drinking the king’s wine would defile him. He was involuntarily living in enemy territory, but he didn’t forget who he was. Faithful Jews were known by their Sabbath-keeping, circumcision and special diet. Keeping the Sabbath wasn’t in Daniel’s control. He had to work whenever he was summoned. Circumcision wasn’t visible to anyone but him. So that left the edibles. Daniel vowed to retain his identity, so he asked permission to eat something else.

We live in a different type of exile, surrounded by “worldly desires that wage war against [our] very souls” (1 Peter 2:11). So where do we find our identity? Not in a special diet, but in Jesus Himself. We remember that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus provides our identity and the perfect example for us to follow.

—Mike Wittmer

365-day-plan: Matthew 21:28-46

Read Philippians 2:5-11and consider the example Jesus provided. 
In what ways are you tempted to go along with society’s values? How can you better reflect the image of Christ?