Twin Testaments of God’s Power to Deliver
The Old Testament is teeming with examples of the Lord delivering his true followers. The experiences of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and Mordecai are all inspiring testaments to God’s will and ability to save his faithful children. Each of these members of the covenant was subject to potentially compromising situations, and each relied upon the Lord unfailingly. As such, they stand as witnesses of God’s power to deliver His disciples from every kind of danger.
The Lord has crafted his scriptures, ancient and modern, to illustrate the salvation—temporal and spiritual, mortal and eternal—that is available only through Him. King Mosiah summed up the immediate salvation history of his people (particularly the people of Limhi and Alma1) by declaring, “thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him” (Mosiah 29:20). Nephi also prefaced the entire Book of Mormon with a similar statement. “Behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20; see also JST Gen. 14:29-32).
In Daniel and Esther, we find accounts not only their deliverance, but what was required of them to receive the Lord’s power. From their faithfulness and obedience we, too, may be inspired to so act before God as to also receive His delivering power in all our latter-day needs.
“He Would Not Defile Himself”
When Daniel and his fellows were chosen out from among the Israelite youth as worthy of Nebuchadnezzar’s attention and training (Daniel 1:3-4), they were faced with an interesting dilemma. The king proposed to feed them from his own court’s fare—meat and wine for three years (Dan. 1:5). However, Daniel and his three companions felt that this would be unhealthy for them and pleaded with their handlers to have water and foods made of seeds and grains instead (Dan. 1:12).
Certainly from an LDS perspective, choosing a diet of grains and water versus meats and wine is an easy one. The health benefits of such a regimen are well-documented in our modern era, not to mention the Lord’s specific instructions in D&C 89—the Word of Wisdom, which spell out His dietary plan for healthy bodies that can facilitate spiritual revelation.
Two other facets to these young Israelite’s spiritual integrity present themselves. First, what of the temptation of Daniel and his friends, far from Jerusalem, potentially hopeless about their national and even familial future, to sample in the Babylonian delights of Nebuchadnezzar’s feasts? Who would even know? Their integrity at this juncture is all the more remarkable knowing that they knew no one else would know—except, of course, their God.
President Kimball once commented on the temptation to defile ourselves when we think no one is watching.
Sometimes it is easier to explain what integrity is by showing what it is not. I stepped into the Hotel Utah Coffee Shop in Salt Lake City to buy some hard rolls, and as I placed my order with the waitress, a middle-aged woman I knew was sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee at her plate. I am sure she saw me, though she tried not to show it. I could see her physical discomfort as she turned her face from me at a right angle, and there it remained until I had made my purchase and had gone to the cash register. She had her free agency—she could drink coffee if she wanted to, but what a wallop her character had taken because she was unwilling to face a friend! How she shriveled! At the waters of baptism, in sacrament meetings, and in the temple, she had promised that she would have a broken heart and contrite spirit, repent of all her sins, take upon herself the name of Jesus Christ, and serve him unto the end, manifesting it by her works.
Probably she was certain that I had not seen or recognized her, but the ten stories of the building above her were not enough to keep the angels in heaven from photographing her movements and recording her thoughts of deception. It was a petty thing, but for her it was withering—a weak, mean, cheap, little tricky thing that sent her honor skidding down the incline toward bankruptcy of self-esteem…. Did that woman think she was hiding from God? How wrong she was! No one can conceal thoughts or acts from God, for the photographic cameras are running night and day. So sensitive are they that they record not only sights and sounds but also thought and inclinations. Remember, we are not talking about a cup of coffee; we are talking about the principle of integrity. (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 241).
Secondly, Professor Richard D. Draper has written about the further spiritual implications of eating the King’s meat might have had on Daniel and his friends. Had they done so, they may have symbolically worshipped the Babylonian gods!
The issue was not so much that he feared the food violated the Mosaic dietary code as that he knew of the pagan practice of consecrating the king's meals to Babylonian deities. Such meals then became a sort of sacrament through which the king partook of the power of the gods. For Daniel to have eaten the king's food would have been tantamount to idol worship, an admission that these gods had something to offer. Daniel's request that he and his Jewish colleagues be permitted instead to eat vegetables ("pulse," consisting primarily of legumes) for the brief period of ten days was, in reality, little less than a challenge to the notion that one gained power from eating food consecrated to an idol. That the Jewish boys' countenances were noticeably different after such a short period proved the prophet's point; strength came not from idols but from the true and living God (Dan. 1:8-18; in
In these modern days, when we refuse to purchase products and entertainment from companies whose profits are derived from avenues and motives not in harmony with gospel standards, we are not only rejecting the inherent impropriety in those products/services, but we are also refusing to support their whole “Babylonian” franchise. The Savior insightfully taught, “No man can serve two masters…. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
“We Will Not Serve Thy Gods”
Daniel’s inspiring companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, also illustrate how to maintain spiritual integrity in spite of the potential consequences. In his gross pride, Nebuchadnezzar had implemented a law that forced worship of an idol he had commissioned—prompted by a national musical cue (Dan. 3:5). The penalty for non-compliance was death by fiery furnace (Dan. 3:6). When these three Israelites refused to pay homage to the image, their Chaldean counterparts accused them before the king.
As so often is the case, the king “in his rage and fury” (Dan. 3:13; see also 19) foolishly ordered their execution, which he flippantly concluded with this question: “who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Dan.