by Ronald D. Kelly
Have you ever wished you lived ages ago? Like in pioneering days? Or during the age of knights and ladies? Or even in Bible times? Most of us have. We’ve read books or seen movies about life long ago and experienced a little of what it must have been like.
The Bible is a good book to read for such stories of life long ago. Consider Daniel, one of the best-known prophets. Nearly everyone has heard the story of Daniel and the lion’s den. But not so many know about Daniel as a teenager. Let’s look into the life and times of Daniel — it just might inspire you to succeed in your own teen years.
The time setting
Daniel was born in the ancient nation of Judah during a troubled time. Judah was at war with the mighty Babylonian Empire. By the year 604 B.C., the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, had marched his army into Jerusalem. Many Jews were killed. Thousands were taken away into captivity. Among the captives taken to Babylon were four teenagers — Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Their story, at least the part about their teen years, is told in the first chapter of the book of Daniel. You might like to read it at this time.
In the nation of Babylon, most of the Jews were put to work as laborers to serve their captors. But King Nebuchadnezzar had an idea. Among the captives were some outstanding young men. Why not train them for special service at the court of the king?
But these special servants had to be the best. They had to look good, speak different languages, be skilled in science and mathematics (Daniel 1:4). So the king set up a special school to train these teenage boys—then he would personally choose the best himself.
That would be much like a three-year, college-level program to teach language, literature, science, and wisdom — as well as teaching the social customs of serving at the highest level of government.
Sound like an exciting challenge?
It certainly beats working in the hot desert sun! You might stop to think about what you will study during your school years. A lot of us get lazy and don’t want to tackle the hard subjects. We try to avoid algebra and geometry. We think we’d be bored by biology and chemistry. And few really want to learn a foreign language.
Had Daniel been a teenager with those attitudes, we would not have heard of him. Like so many others, he would have worked as a totally unknown slave till the day he died. But Daniel and his three friends were not content just to be average. They took full advantage of the opportunities that came their way. And they plunged into the educational program of the king.
Standing up for what is right
Before they had even gotten off to a good start there was a crisis. The king had ordered these young men to be fed on a special diet of what the Babylonians considered the best food. Most of the other students were delighted to have such fine food.
But just because food is considered a delicacy by some, does not make it good for you. Daniel and his friends had carefully observed the principles of the good diet God had given. They did not eat pork or shellfish. And because the Jews were even forbidden to eat food or have drinks that had been offered to a false pagan god, Daniel did not even want to eat any of the food normally served.
How many teenagers today really look carefully at their diets to eat food that is good for them and not to eat or drink in excess? Daniel knew that the king’s diet of rich food was not good for him. Because of health and religious principles, what did Daniel request?
“Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king's choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see" (Daniel 1:12-13).
So many young people today would just a soon eat what has come to be called “junk food.” Well-named it is. And how many teenagers have the wisdom to make the right decisions about alcoholic beverages? Daniel turned down the wine.
The teen years are so important to health, yet they are the years when many neglect their health and nutrition more than any other time of life. Follow Daniel’s example — eat a good diet now.
After the 10-day trial, Daniel and his friends had a better complexion and were more energetic than all the others. There was nothing that the Babylonians could say — they let them stay on the diet.
Willing to learn
Remember the total time of learning was three years. And remember the subjects — science, literature, wisdom, and foreign language. That is pretty much what you have to study today to round out your education. There is certainly nothing wrong with taking some fun courses. But don’t neglect science, math, and language.
What you should learn from Daniel is that a good education and doing your best pay off.
And during your teen years, don’t think that God and religion are just for old folks. Notice what the book of Daniel says about these young fellows: “As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17).
You see, God is interested in your life now. You can ask Him for help in your studies, but you have to work at it. You can’t just sit there and expect God to give you the answer to the test when you haven’t even studied.
So what happened? Do you suppose Daniel and his friends got the jobs in the king’s court?
“Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's personal service. As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm” (Daniel 1:18-20).
Though example, the Bible teaches you can stand out from the crowd — you can make an impact. It is OK to be intelligent and work hard in school. It isn’t always the easy way to go. But it is the best way.
Remember the good example of Daniel and his friends.