Faithful Living in an Unsympathetic World – Sermon – Rev. Alex Moir – 1 August 2021

communion cup and broken bread

Communion Worship Service

Reminder: If you are planning to take part in the Lord’s Table at the end of the service, have your bread and juice ready.

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Call to Worship

“This promise, then, was valid before God … the God in whom he put his faith; the God who makes the dead live and summons things that are not yet in existence as if they already were.” 

— Romans 4:17

Prayer

As we hear these encouraging words, gracious Father, we are inspired by that same hope of Abraham.  Through this worship experience today remind us of the great good You intend to do with us and through us … things that are quite unexpected.  It is in the name of the promised One Himself we pray … amen.  

Song

Today's Message: Faithful Living in an Unsympathetic World – Part 1

Call to Worship: Daniel 1:8-20

8 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.  9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink.  Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.  13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”  14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.  16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.  And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.  19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service.  20In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

If we have some sense of history, the very first words of this famous piece of scripture are very sad ones …

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah,
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem
and besieged it.”

— Daniel 1:1

These words represent the end of an era for the Hebrew nation.  The “glory days” of David and his son Solomon, when Israel was a unified nation able to determine its own destiny, were hundreds of years in the past.  For our own part we have witnessed important passages as well … England and Europe after the Second World War, Detroit after the 1967 rebellion, the entire world after the terrorist’ attacks on the U.S. on September 11th, 2001.  There are catastrophes in world history which countries and people groups endure but are never the same afterward.  So, it was with the Hebrew people after 597 B.C.  The siege and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem signaled a new and painful chapter that has caused an impact to this very day. 

We don’t have to read very far to discover the true depth of this shifting of events.  As was often the case, the conquering of a nation included the enslavement of its people.  The Babylonian exile was one of the most formative events of the Hebrew nation.  The King of Babylon ordered his court officials to “bring in some of the Israelites” (v. 3), part of the group that had made the forced march from Judah to Babylon.  Though a piece of history from centuries far in the past, this story has something in common with our time today.  Empires, whether they be political or business, tend to over-expand.  Such was the reason for the transport of thousands of Hebrews after the siege of Jerusalem was complete.  The conquering nation of Babylon needed more people to help with the massive responsibilities that come with such an outreach.  The exiles would be pressed into service to accommodate this need. 

As unfortunate as this development must have been for the Hebrews who were forced to serve their captors, there is a “silver lining” in all of this.  A young man named Daniel and some of his friends were amongst the group found useful to serve within the Babylonian culture … the empire, as it has been called.  And some of you within the context of this worship moment have had that experience.  Whatever you do for a living has been found useful within the various business or commerce empires of our day.  The challenge for Daniel, as well as for some of us, is how believers and followers of Yahweh and Jesus can work in this kind of environment and remain true to our beliefs.  It is within this backdrop that we explore the person of Daniel over these next five weeks.

There will be a fairly sharp learning curve for these young Israelites over the next three years.  For them to be useful in the king’s court they will have to be taught “the language and literature of the Babylonians” (v. 4), which wouldn’t be easy.  But the real sticking point for Daniel can be seen in v. 5:

“The King assigned them a daily amount of food and wine
from the king’s table.” 

— Daniel 1: 5

At first glance this might sound like a pretty good arrangement.  But to Daniel and his friends it created a situation of “defilement” which was not just ceremonial.  To this young group of Hebrews, dedicated as they were to their God, the King’s food represented excess which would have a detrimental effect on their mission.  They were, indeed, “true Israelites” … not just following their faith out of habit but understanding their true calling as a type of mission people.  To indulge in the rich food and drink would dull their senses and bring a lack of precision in their service to Yahweh as well as to the king.  Those of us as followers of Jesus face the same decision in our weekend and party culture.  We are not just consumers looking for a way of enjoying ourselves as much as possible.  We are on mission for our God due to the fervent belief that “if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creature (II Cor. 5:17).”  We can’t let the excesses that are such a part of the fabric of western society affect our spiritual acuity to the point that we miss a chance to further the Good Kingdom.

Daniel and his friends knew that adjustments would need to be made to accommodate their unique needs.  When he asked permission for some special dietary needs, the “chief official” (who was responsible for their training) objected:

“I am afraid of my lord the king,
who has assigned your food and drink.
Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age?
The king would then have my head because of you.”

— Daniel 1:10

These comments from the official remind us of what kings, bosses and others in leadership hold as important.  It’s all about results … whether you can produce what the empire needs and wants.  So many are “afraid” if it is perceived that they are not contributing to the “bottom line.”  One of the iconic owners of a team in the “empire” of the National Football League was fond of saying, “Just win, baby!”  We can’t deny that this is the philosophy that is prevalent in most of the places that we work.  We might even suggest that this is where the epidemic of “zero tolerance” began in our dysfunctional world.

Surprisingly, Daniel accepts the analysis of his nervous superior.  Could it be that he believes that the life of faith is valuable, even within the context of the empire?  His response to his “boss” is classic … “Please test your servants for ten days”, is his suggestion, indicating his willingness to put the lifestyle of a “Yahweh-fearer” on the line.  The chief of the court agreed … and the results were astounding:

“At the end of ten days they looked healthier and better nourished
than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” 

— Daniel 1:15

We shouldn’t be surprised at these results.  In sedentary societies diets like the “Daniel Diet”, high in vegetable content, low in carbohydrates, dessert and even fruit have been around long enough to prove their worth.  When the time came for an audience with Nebuchadnezzar himself, he was also impressed, finding them not only in good physical shape but superior in two other important areas … “wisdom” which can also mean “shrewdness” and “skill”; and “understanding” which has a very important secondary meaning, as we see in the book of Job:

“Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”

— Job 28:20, 28

Reflect

As we shall see in the coming weeks the King of Babylon is going to need some righteous people within his kingdom, people who find it within themselves to “shun evil” … and our contemporary “empires” need such people as well.
You have been placed in these areas of life for a special purpose, beyond making money for your own financial support and that of your family.
Daniel never forgot his purpose as a “true Israelite” in bringing hope and purpose to a weary and strife-torn world. May the very God of this young man so empower you within your place in the empire.

PRAYER

As we focus on the remarkable life of Your servant Daniel, we note how strongly he held his faith in the midst of a community oriented more around power and results.  We feel a kinship with him, inspiring Father, for our life context is one where faith is not even a default mode.  How we praise You for his example of counter-cultural faith that has been passed down through the ages.         

 During this time when another world spectacle dominates the various media sources, we note how the strong, beautiful and wealthy draw the admiration of so many.  We do hope for a successful and safe Olympic games … but our thoughts are on the millions who cannot hope to enjoy the benefits and adulation that our over-the-top world of sports confers upon the gifted few.  Help us to remember the importance of Your kingdom … and that its blessings are available for the many.

Finally, we pray for Your church here in this part of Your kingdom which stands poised to begin its next chapter.  We pray for our pastors elect, Dave and Marlee Page.  May You continue to equip them for the coming days of service … and may this gathered community be prepared through the continued work of Your Spirit.  We pray in the name of Him who inspires us to reach farther and trust completely, even Jesus … amen.

Communion

Invitation to the Lord’s Supper

“And now that the Supper of the Lord is spread before you, lift your minds and hearts above all selfish fears and care.  Let this bread and wine be to you the witness and signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.”

Sharing of the Bread

Hear the words of the apostle Paul …

the Lord Jesus, on the same night He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat … this is my body, given for you.”

Prayer for the Bread

How you bless us each day, our Father, with provision for our basic needs.  In the giving of His life Jesus imparted to us something as important as bread itself … the transformation of our very selves.  Accept our sincere thanks in the name of One we know as “the bread of life” … amen. 

Sharing of the Cup

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Partaking of the Elements

Paul continues … In the same manner also, He took the cup saying:

“This cup is the new agreement in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.”

Prayer for the Cup

As we drink of this cup, we are reminded of his willingness to drink it … and how painful it was to do so.  For His courage and the powerful impact this act has had on our world and on us … we give thanks.  Amen.

Song

Benediction

“I tell you that one greater than the Temple is here.” 

— Matthew 12:6