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In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
- Daniel 1:1-2
The children of Israel were taken captive to Babylon because they separated from God, and no longer maintained the principles that had been given to keep them free from the methods and practices of the nations who dishonored God. The Lord could not give them prosperity, he could not fulfill His covenant with them, while they were untrue to the principles He had given them zealously to maintain. By their spirit and their actions they misrepresented His character, and He permitted them to be taken captive. Because of their separation from Him, He humbled them. He left them to their own ways, and the innocent suffered with the guilty.
The Lord's chosen people proved themselves untrustworthy. They showed themselves to be selfish, scheming, dishonorable. But among the children of Israel there were Christian patriots, who were as true as steel to principle, and upon these loyal men the Lord looked with great pleasure.
"Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants." Daniel 1:11-13
These were men who would not be corrupted by selfishness, who would not mar the work of God by following erroneous methods and practices, men who would honor God at the loss of all things. They had to suffer with the guilty, but in the providence of God their captivity at Babylon was the means of bringing them to the front, and their example of untarnished integrity shines with heaven's luster.
"And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm." Daniel 1:19-20