Jeremiah had warned God’s people to obey His instructions. But God’s people still wanted to do things their own way. They made many, many bad decisions. And just like your parents will give you a time out when you keep disobeying them, God gave the Israelites a time out…only this time out lasted seventy years! Many of the Israelites had to go to a place called Babylon.
It was not fun there. But the king of Babylon needed helpers and so he chose some of the smartest Israelites to work in his palace. They had to learn to read and write the Babylonian language (which was really hard). They had to learn all the rules of how people behave in the palace (like who gets called your imperial majesty and who gets called your highness and who sits where at the dinner table and who gets a curtsy). They had to memorize all the laws (and there were so, so many!) and they had to be on their best behavior at all times.
Four of these smart Israelites were Daniel and his friends. The King wanted them to have Babylonian names, instead of Israelite names, so he changed them to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Now God had given the Israelites many rules about how to live. Most of them had to do with not cheating people when you sell something, telling the truth in court and staying healthy. God had told His people to wash their hands a lot (always a good idea) and to stay away from certain foods (like your parents tell you not to eat certain foods). People in Babylon didn’t have these rules. Even though Daniel and his friends were living in Babylon, they still wanted to obey God’s rules.
When the king of Babylon tried to give Daniel and his friends food from his table, they wouldn’t eat it. The royal guard was afraid they would get in big trouble for having bad manners (one of the things palace helpers were never allowed to do). But Daniel knew God would take care of them for obeying His rules. He and his friends only ate the things in Babylon that God allowed.
The king’s servant worried that Daniel and his friends wouldn’t be able to find enough good foods and would look unhealthy when the king saw them. He was afraid the king would get mad and think the servant wasn’t feeding them. But Daniel told him not to worry, to just let them try their way for ten days. At the end of ten days, Daniel and his friends were the strongest, healthiest looking young men in the whole palace.
Later, the king of Babylon had a very strange dream with a giant statue made from gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay. Then, it was knocked down by a stone. The king woke up very upset and confused. He knew it was an important dream, but he didn’t know why.
None of the king’s advisors could tell him what it meant. But God was watching over Daniel and wanted him to be helpful to the king.
Daniel told the king what his dream was, and that the dream meant that there would be many big kingdoms on earth, but none of them could compare to the kingdom God would set up. Nebuchadnezzar was impressed and gave Daniel a promotion.
God wants us to obey Him all the time. If there are rules our parents have given us-like not to eat junk food-we should obey them even when we go to a friend’s house, or no one is looking. Even in the little things, we can still honor God with our good behavior.