“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3b NIV)
During the years of Israel’s exile from the land, Daniel appears in the story. Daniel is one of a small number of Israelites who find themselves needing to forge a distinctive identity as a member of God’s people while at the same time, serving in the court of a foreign king.
In Daniel 1, we meet Daniel and his friends. They have been brought into the service of the Babylonian king and have begun a program of assimilation that includes new education, new names, and even new food. Babylon threatens to dissolve their own memory of who they are, replacing it with a vision of who Babylon says they are and will be.
So, Daniel takes a stand on the topic of his diet. Others were being given rich food from the king’s table. But Daniel (and friends) requested a simple regimen of vegetables and water. Surely they cannot sustain a healthy development on such meager fare.
But Daniel knows something we need to know too. Staying true to God’s path, the right path, the path that is different from the rest of the world, means remembering who we are (we belong to God) and nourishing ourselves differently than the world. The world may subsist on greed or fear or anger, for example. So to stay on God’s path, we must be people of contentment and hope and compassion.
The king who nourishes us will ultimately claim our allegiance and shape our identity. Daniel and his friends were deliberate about the source of their nourishment and therefore which king would have their loyalty. Are we?
Prayer: Lord, may I recognize the difference between the nourishment you give and that which the world offers. Nourish me by your hand. Guide me along the right paths for your name’s sake. Amen.