Yet Daniel’s full request was even more death-defying. Daniel not only wanted to abstain from the king’s table, but he preferred to eat only vegetables and drink only water. This was a recipe for disaster. And, to add more grey to the commander’s crown, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah added their names to the petition as well.
In any other situation, Daniel would have received a flat and resounding “no” from the commander. But God stepped in and granted Daniel and his friends favor with the commander, and Daniel assured him that he could take a look at himself and his friends after ten days, and deal with them according to what he saw.
It’s interesting to note that the commander gave the young men favor, according to what God placed on his heart, but he still feared the outcome, so he appointed an overseer to the four young men, so that he would have another layer of responsibility between him and the king’s rancor.
It wasn’t long before God’s favor was tangible in the robust health of the young men. God added to their meager rations by heavenly means, because there was a clear and undeniable distinction between the four men wholly devoted to God, and all others:
And at the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food.
So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables. (Daniel 1:15-16)
And still, God’s favor poured over them. He gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom—every branch except that which would conflict with His commandments. While the other sons of Israel were grinding their calculators in class and trying to get a grasp on astrology, God was increasing Daniel and his friends’ intelligence exponentially. God even gave Daniel understanding of all kinds of dreams and visions. This would serve Daniel well in the future when the skills of the Chaldeans and those who practiced the other black arts would fail miserably.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah remained on their vegetarian diet for all of the three years. Then the time came when they and all the other sons of Israel would be presented to the king for his inspection.
And the king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service.
And as for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.
And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king. (Daniel 1:19-21)
Whenever we honor God and follow His commandments, God blesses us. It is a natural law which cannot be altered. God makes it abundantly clear that this is always a cause and effect reaction. Look what He said to Moses in regard to the stubbornness of the Israelites:
‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!’ (Deuteronomy 5:29)
Daniel and his friends knew God’s commandments. They trusted His words, and knew that if they followed His instructions, it would be well with them. That kind of blind faith pleases God and He responds with great favor. And whenever God responds with favor to reward us for our faith, He never gives us an equal portion, i.e., like for like. He doesn’t say, “Well, Daniel, you ate vegetables for me, and therefore, I will reward you with the same kind of health as all the other young men who ate at the king’s table.” God is not an equal equation kind of God; He is a multiplication God. Everything that comes from the hand of God always multiplies what we have first given Him. That is the essence of God. He is life, and therefore whatever is given to Him grows and multiplies. Therefore, in every way, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were fatter, wiser and more intelligent than all of the magicians and conjurers in Nebuchadnezzar’s realm—ten times as much.
The young mens’ fatness did not come from the vegetables, but from the word of God which they must have fed on during those three years. Jesus made it clear that God’s word is actual sustenance:
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
While this seems the stuff of magic, it is truth. God’s word is living and active; it is an actual living thing. So when we feed on it, it feeds us, both physically and spiritually.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:13)
God’s word is God. It is God-breathed and therefore, contains His very essence. It is not a dead thing, or mere words of ink on paper. It is living, and shockingly, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of our heart. Words, mind you—but only God’s words contain such power. Therefore, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah most assuredly fed on the word of God and were abundantly nourished.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Daniel and his friends stood out as shining examples of God’s provision and blessing. There must have been a striking difference between them and all other young men in King Neb’s realm, like a neon sign in the middle of the vast Sahara. Nebuchadnezzar’s Neo-Babylonian empire encompassed an area from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the Red Sea nearly to the Caspian Sea. So when Daniel and his friends were seen as the most remarkable examples of manhood in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, it was clearly the hand of God.
We’ll have more of Chapter 6 in the next installment.