When you open Daniel you may think you’ve gone back to our history blitz since 2 Chronicles finishes in a similar way to how Daniel begins. Not only has Judah been attacked, but they have been brought into exile. Daniel is among some of the elite that are chosen to train in the king’s palace. But don’t let the sound of that invitation fool you since only eight verses in we see a problem. Daniel does not want to defile himself with the food he is offered and has his guard give him and his three fellow exiles vegetables and water.
The end of this is that God softened the guard to be permissable and blessed Daniel and company. But it is just the tip of the iceberg in relation to how exiles are to maintain their worship and their faith in a hostile, foreign environment.
So much of worship in the Old Testament is very localized and geographically bound. Without the temple or the priests doing their jobs, how are they to offer up praise or sacrifice to their God? How can they keep themselves from being overwhelmed by this opposing culture of the Babylonians?
Think of the difficulties you might have trying to celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t do the same? Or how about Christmas? You could do something, but it wouldn’t be the same. The Fourth of July that we kick off with grand fireworks and big bands would be hard to muster if you are an alien living abroad all alone. But these examples would be nothing compared to what is on the line for the people of God taken in to exile. They must look at their history and their relationship to God and figure out ways in which they can carry on. God’s promise was for a promised land, so what does it mean if they are taken away? God had them make for himself a temple, but that was left behind. Now what?
One thing they turn to and we see in Daniel is prayer, but even that will eventually get him into trouble with his new land.