Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:
Daniel was called Belteshazzar.
Hananiah was called Shadrach.
Mishael was called Meshach.
Azariah was called Abednego.
But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. (Daniel 1:3-8)
The Babylonians had chosen promising young men from Judah to train as officials in their own government. As part of their indoctrination, the Babylonians tried to change the young men’s thinking by giving them a Babylonian education, their loyalty and faith by changing their names, and their lifestyle by changing their diet.
Without compromising, Daniel and his friends found a way to live by God’s standards in a culture that did not honor God. Daniel and his friends learned all they could about their new culture so they could do their work with excellence. But while they learned, they maintained steadfast allegiance to God, and God gave them skill and wisdom.
Culture need not be God’s enemy. If it does not violate his commands, it can aid in accomplishing his purposes. We who follow God are free to be competent leaders in our own culture or skilled in crossing over into foreign cultures, but our allegiance must be first to God.