Tomorrow we will celebrate the graduation of six students from Legacy Institute with speeches and ceremony and good food at the Empress Hotel. Today, though, I would like to look a little bit about what the Bible talks about schooling. There are few references of the Bible to schooling, but there is one story in the Bible that talks about a school that has some striking similarities to Legacy Institute, and I thought it worthwhile to discuss this story so that we might see how our own education here at Legacy Institute reflects the habit of biblical times in ways that we might not be aware of.
We find the story of this biblical school in Daniel 1. We learn three basic pieces of information—the setup of the royal school of King Nebuchadnezzar, an experiment that Daniel and his friends participated in that showed their loyalty to God’s ways, and the blessings that God gave the four friends for following His ways while they were students. Let us examine each of these elements one at a time, and comment on how they compare with our own experiences here at Legacy Institute.
And Three Years Of Training For Them
Daniel 1:1-7 gives us the basic outlines of the palace school of King Nebuchadnezzar as well as its four most famous students: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of whom were given Babylonian names, in a similar fashion to the way in which so many of you all have multiple names for yourself as well. Daniel 1:1-7 reads: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god. Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily portion of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meschach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.”
To be sure, there are many differences between the two schools. The school for Daniel and his friends was in the palace grounds in Babylon under the direct supervision of the King and his officials, while this school is far from the palace and only licensed by His Majesty’s government here. Here, we teach you all God’s ways, while that school taught the ways of Babylon. The students in Daniel’s school ate the food of the king. We eat much more modest meals here, without the wine and delicacies. And that school was for elites, while this school seeks students from much more humble backgrounds.
Nonetheless, there are some surprising similarities between the two schools that we might not normally recognize. For one, both Daniel’s school and Legacy were for three years, and in both that school and this one the learning was training. Additionally, meals were provided in both schools. A very important similarity, though, aside from the similarity of time for the studies, was the fact that both Daniel’s school in Babylon and Legacy Institute were designed to teach their students foreign languages and foreign ways. Daniel’s school taught him the Chaldean language, which is no longer used, and it taught him the literature and language of that foreign culture, since he and his cultured and educated friends would have grown up speaking Hebrew and Aramaic. We teach the literature and writings of the English language, including the Bible, a foreign language to all of you, whether you speak Thai or Burmese, Lahu or Karen or Kachin. In both schools, though, the purpose of the education is to learn foreign ways so as to be acceptable to a king. Daniel’s school taught their students how to effectively serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Legacy Institute teaches its students how they may effectively serve the King of Heaven and Earth, The Eternal God.
Please Test Your Servants For Ten Days
In the second part of Daniel 1 we see how Daniel and his friends, when they were just starting out their time at the King’s school, decided to make a stand for obeying God’s laws by refusing the delicacies of the king’s table in a way that showed respect and honor and avoided causing problems for themselves. Daniel 1:8-16 gives the setup of this test and its results. Let us learn from what Daniel 1:8-16 says: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.” So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.”
This is a remarkable account in several ways. First, Daniel was bold enough to request to the steward, one of the officers in charge over him, that he should not eat food that would defile him because it was unclean meats or wine or food offered to idols. How many of you were that bold to request anything of us during your first few days and weeks at this school? Notice how he was not asking for special favors, but rather he was knowledgeable and serious enough to seek to obey God, responsible and mature in making his request. Let us also note that his boldness was not disrespectful. Instead of insulting the food of the king, he humbly sets up a test to avoid causing trouble for the steward, and he is both unconcerned about how the other students will think about his godly actions as well as deeply concerned that those in charge over him should feel respected. How careful are we to show respect to those in charge over us while being bold enough to stand up for what is right by ourselves, without needing a large group behind us.
As a result of Daniel’s bold but respectful request, none of the students were allowed to eat any of the delicacies and drink any of the wine of the king’s banquet hall. How do you think this made them think about Daniel? Do you think they disliked the way that Daniel’s faith in God took away their fun and pleasure in eating the rich food of the king and drinking his wine? Does it matter what others thought? The Bible clearly shows this story as an example of the faith of Daniel, who led his friends in obeying God. Are you all here similarly good examples in leading others to godly behavior as Daniel was? This is a lot to think about.
None Was Found Like Daniel, Hanianiah, Mishael, and Azariah
We have now come to the end of Daniel 1, where we see the results of the godliness and hard work of Daniel and his friends. Daniel 1:17-21 tells us the result of God’s blessing and the efforts of Daniel and his friends at their school. Daniel 1:17-21 reads: “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.”
Here we see that while God blessed Daniel most of all—with the skill of interpreting dreams—God also blessed his friends with an understanding of literature and wisdom. As a result, Daniel and his friends ended up serving the king as part of his government. This is a tremendous honor, as I am sure you are all aware of. Though the Bible does not say how long Daniel’s friends served, it mentions that Daniel served until the first year of King Cyrus, when he was a very old man, in his eighties at least.
We can be sure that Daniel and his friends used their time in school wisely. To have knowledge of wisdom and literature, one cannot be a lazy student. One cannot sleep through classes or waste all of one’s time if one is going to acquire that sort of knowledge. We can be sure that Daniel and his friends took their studies as seriously as they took their religious beliefs and their refusal to profane or defile themselves in Babylon, and as a result they pleased both God and man, receiving an honorable position in the Province of Babylon for many years, remaining loyal to God but also serving as diligent workers of the king.
What lessons can we learn from the school experiences of Daniel and his friends? Daniel and his friends were nobles of Judah but captives in Babylon when they were taken to the king’s school to study for three years. You all came here to study at Legacy by choice. Daniel and his friends remained loyal to God’s ways, dedicated themselves to a study of wisdom and literature, and were blessed by God with great wisdom that they continued to use for many years in service to their king. What will you do with your education? How will you all show yourselves to be hardworking and noble Christians in your future studies, in your work, in your towns and villages? We have seen the example of the graduates Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah today in their faithfulness to God and in their diligence. What kind of graduates will you all be?