The Feast of Empire

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I’m in the book of Daniel today. This book was key to Jesus and His understanding of His mission and who He was. The concept of the “son of man” that Jesus referred to Himself as was born here. The clearest reference to resurrection in the Old Testament comes from Daniel.
The book of Revelation and Daniel have much in common. Daniel is referenced heavily by John the Revelator. Daniel was written during the exile to Babylon. The people had already received the letter from Jeremiah – “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” ‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:5-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬. They were going to be in Babylon for a while. So, their challenge was to be able to live as exiles, to live in a foreign land, while staying true to what it means to be Hebrews, to be the people of God in Babylon. They were to live among the Gentiles while themselves remaining kosher.
So Daniel and three of his friends are chosen by the king to be in a program after which they would then serve in the palace (think:White House). Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king wanted the best young men from the Hebrew people he had just conquered for the purposes of teaching them how to be Babylonian. He wanted the best of the best, good looking and smart!! The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. So, these Jewish boys selected for this program were to eat a diet from the Kings table, be educated for three years, and then were to be ready to serve the king. Among these boys were Daniel and three of his fine, upstanding young Jewish friends.
And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. The first thing they do with these boys is to give them new identities. Names in this day mean something. Daniel, which means “God is my Judge”, was called Belteshazzar, which “Bell’s prince”, Bell being one of the Babylonian gods. Hananiah, which means “Yahweh is gracious” was called Shadarch, which means “friend of the king”. So the goal from the beginning is to change their identities, change their understanding of who they were.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. But Daniel, while more than willing to interact and work for the good of Babylon, is also determined to keep for himself his identity as a chosen one of God. He is determined to follow the dietary laws he has kept his entire laws, and does want to eat from the Kings table. The king is probably serving up a lot of pork, maybe some shellfish, with a side of bacon.
Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” This poor servant of the king. He likes Daniel, and wants to let him stay kosher. But he’s afraid the king will find out and cut his head off. (Which he probably would if he found out!). So Daniel says “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” Just give us ten days. If we don’t look at least as strong and heathy as the rest of these boys in your program, then fine, we’ll just have to eat from the Kings table.

vegetables
So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. So Daniel and his friends were the fittest and finest of the bunch after ten days and were able to keep kosher, avoiding the defiling food coming from the Kings table. They began living in Babylon, while staying true to what it means to be Jewish.
Well…just what does this mean for US?? Are we just to avoid pork and keep the kosher rules after all? NO. This is not what we take from this scene in Daniel. Remember Jesus told us – “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart. ”. So Jesus tells us – “You can eat what you want!” What goes in through your mouth doesn’t defile, doesn’t make you “unclean”, but what comes from your heart defiles you.
Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. Except Jesus hadn’t told them a parable, he had told them very simply that they could eat what they wanted. But this was so far outside of the disciples way of thinking, that they thought Jesus HAD to be using a parable to make a different point. Keeping kosher was such a huge part of what it meant to be Hebrew, to be Jewish, that they couldn’t begin to understand what Jesus was saying. So Jesus gets even more blunt – “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”” Food just passes through you and into the sewer. Every kind of food is acceptable to God. This was so mind blowing to His disciples that they stayed kosher for at least ten years, until Peter had his vision and God told to “Rise, kill, and eat”. Then he went to Cornelius’ gentile home and broke bread with Gentiles for the first time ever. That is how entrenched this was in their lives.

bacon-2
So…we don’t follow kosher laws. Hooray for bacon!!! That’s not what defiles us. But what does defile us is what comes from the heart. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.   
We live in a modern Babylon, the modern empire. We have a Kings table to eat from as well. But instead of pork and bacon, what is served up on the Kings table in America is a steady diet of consumerism and militarism. Of course, that doesn’t sound good, we like our slick marketing, so we don’t call it consumerism and militarism. The diet served from the Kings table is called ECONOMY and SECURITY.

economy
“It’s the economy, stupid!” The economy is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing in American society. If you don’t think the economy is most important…then well, you’re stupid, right? Can you say “Golden Calf?” It is our economy which we fall down and worship as a society.

security
The other most important thing is security. A security guaranteed by violence – and the ability to bring massive violence in an instant – against others. But we are Christians, right? So, as King David once said “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭20:7‬ ‭ESV

faith-hope-love

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The king serves up economy and security. Look around you, these things can be found everywhere. What is SUPPOSED to be the diet of the Christian? What is SUPPOSED to be going into and coming out of our hearts? “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We live with a 24 hour news cycle. What is the empire serving up,when we turn on 24 hour news? Fox, MSNBC, CNN…every one? Every one of them is serving up the empires diet of 100% fear. 24 hours a day, 365 days/year, we are served up 100% fear.
And if we sit at that table and west that fear, what comes out of our hearts? We see ISIS overseas in a power void in the Middle East, and the sermon on the mount goes out the window. Jesus said love your enemies, but “He wasn’t talking about THOSE guys, I can tell ya that!!! We gotta convert ’em or kill ’em”

wall
If we sit at that table and eat that fear, we might find ourselves chanting in the streets “BUILD THAT WALL!!”

amerikkka
If we keep eating that fear, we might find ourselves holding up “Only in Amerikkka” signs and burning cars in the street.

all-my-heroes-kill-cops
If we keep eating that fear, we might believe a few cops dying in the streets is some sort of just revenge.

_anti-abortion_sign
If we keep eating that fear, we might think everyone who disagrees with us just wants to kill every baby they see.

mississippiburning_12
If we keep eating that fear, we might think everyone who disagrees with us wants to lynch black men and burn churches.

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If you are eating from the Kings table and what you are eating there keeps you away from faith, hope and love, it’s time to back away from that table. Don’t eat the fear being offered. Feed on faith, hope and love. Remember that Christianity is about forgiveness, or it’s about nothing at all. Keep Christian kosher.

 

John Lewis

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