Read Daniel 1.
Now – let’s think together about the challenges faced by Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. They are hundreds of miles from home. They are being held captive by the Babylonians. Judah is in the process of being completely defeated by Nebuchadnezzar. God was allowing a pagan nation to overthrow His people. This is the God of the Exodus! This is the God who led Israel to take control of the Promised Land. This was the God of King David and King Solomon. Now – He was allowing a pagan king to destroy the nation of Judah and plunder the city of Jerusalem. Can you imagine the dissonance this created in the minds of these Jewish men?
Added to their anxiety about their homeland and their theological questions – they were now being forced to acclimate to the Babylonian culture. In Daniel 1:3-5, we read that the King appointed Ashpenaz to transform these Hebrew young men into qualified servants for the King of Babylon. First of all, they all received new Babylonian names (Daniel 1:6-7). Daniel agreed to this condition.
However, the process of transformation included a new diet for these Jewish young men. Daniel issued a protest against the demand that Babylonian food be served to them. Perhaps Daniel viewed this as an acceptance of the pagan culture. We know that sharing meals in the ancient world was an opportunity for fellowship and community. The act of sharing a meal was a tacit statement about acceptance. You will remember that the Pharisees accused Jesus of eating with the wrong kind of people.
Regardless, Daniel offered an alternative. He proposed an experiment that would prove the Hebrew men could enjoy their own kind of food and still perform as excellently as their Babylonian counterparts.
God was with Daniel and his friends. God gave them understanding and knowledge. He blessed them in their ability to learn and acquire the skills necessary to become leaders in their new home (1:17). In fact, after the three-year training program, Daniel and his friends were at the top of the class (1:18-20). Daniel was planted in Babylon but he remained undefiled and pure.