Daniel 1 and 3: A devotion on Integrity (Cpark)
Integrity is something that old men talk about as being plentiful in the "good old days," and young men often spurn as "no fun." Integrity is standing up for what you believe and not compromising your values. As such integrity is quite important for anyone, but all the more so for a follower of Christ. So then, where can the young man look to learn about integrity? Certainly Proverbs contains a wealth of wisdom that could help a young person develop integrity. The Acts of the Apostles is full of narrative outlining the incredible integrity of the apostles and others in the early church in the face of persecutions and even the threat of death. As far back as the book of Genesis one may easily see integrity in the person of Joseph. There are many narrative sections of the Bible that show integrity in action. Perhaps the single book in which integrity is most easily shown is the book of Daniel. Throughout this book, in almost any section that is not purely prophetic in nature, Daniel, or those associated with Daniel, are seen showing great integrity. Therefore a study of integrity from the book of Daniel may provide great insight.
Daniel 1: Uncompromising Obedience
The opening narrative of Daniel is an excellent place to start looking at the integrity of Daniel and his friends. Daniel and his friends have been taken captive from their homeland and are now living hundreds of miles away in Babylon. They're slated to become some of the kings courtiers. Because of this they are given some of the best food in the entire Kingdom of Babylon. They need to look good for the king! But this is a problem. Not because it's good food, but because the food was most likely dedicated to a god (or gods) other than YHWH. More than this it is also possible that some of the food that Daniel and his friends were being offered was on the list of unclean animals listed in Leviticus 11. Because of this the text tells us in Daniel 1.8 that Daniel made up his mind that he wouldn't defile himself by eating the kings food. He showed his integrity in this choice. In the midst of all kinds of other captives and trainees who were eating the food without a problem, Daniel and his friends took a stand for their faith. Add to this the fact that the food was probably quite good, and they chose instead to eat vegetables and water.
After Daniel and his friends make their choice to stick to their faith God blesses them. In spite of the fact that Daniel and his friends probably weren't getting enough protein (only vegetables) at the end of ten days they looked better and fatter than everyone who was eating the kings food. This alone is an awesome work of God. But God doesn't stop there, he gives them wisdom, and knowledge. He allows them to become extremely intelligent scholars. This passage shows (though does not guarantee) that when one has integrity God will bless.
Daniel 3: Integrity in the face of death
Chapter one is not the only story of integrity in Daniel. In chapter three Daniel's three friends are confronted with a single prospect. They must bow to an image of gold (or rather perhaps plated with gold) or else be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. Of course, Daniel's three friends, having already showed their integrity once, have no intention of bowing to a man made statue. They refuse to worship the statue, and Nebuchadnezzar is not pleased in the least. He actually gives them a second chance to bow down and worship the image. Even this second time, the friends of Daniel refuse. They are standing in front of the king, they know what awaits them (almost certain doom in a fiery furnace), and still they maintain their integrity. They refuse to compromise their faith. What's more, they tell Nebuchadnezzar that their God is able to save them from the furnace (and thereby from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar himself). But they don't stop there, these three men actually go as far as to say that it is even acceptable if God doesn't save them. Even if God chooses to let them die, they still won't compromise their faith.
So, ever a man of his word, Nebuchadnezzar throws these three Israelites into a furnace that has been heated to seven times its normal heat. The mighty warriors who throw them in are immediately incinerated. Then it happened, Nebuchadnezzar saw not three, but four people walking around in the furnace. He called for the three to come out of the furnace. God had once again delivered those who were faithful to him.
So, what of our day some 2500 years after Daniel's time? There aren't many fiery furnaces waiting for a faithful Christian. There isn't even an over abundance of arenas or other entertaining way of killing mass numbers of Christians, at least not in the United States. So what does the book of Daniel matter? First, the stories in this book should put modern, western, Christians to shame. So often we cheapen our faith and compromise to simply allow ourselves to feel comfortable. We try to be so like the world that no one can tell the difference. We lack integrity. Rather than standing up in the midst of the culture and being a radical counterculture we embrace the culture uncritically. Indeed, the deeds of Daniel and his friends put us to open shame.
Yet we need not fall into deep depression and sorrow. We should confess our mistakes to God. After this confession we can follow the example of Daniel and his cohorts. Those living in the United States and other western countries may never be threatened with a fiery furnace or a lion's den. But there are threats of other kinds that have caused some to compromise their faith even more readily than if faced with the threat of death. Corporate advancement or the desire to be popular, the pressure to be accepting and tolerant, or perhaps the strong desire to fulfill lust, these have all caused Christians to compromise their faith. But still, there is a chance, a chance to turn back to the God we claim to follow and to show ourselves to be worthy (through the power of the Holy Spirit) of the name Christian.