Here we have an unusual situation. Daniel and his friends find themselves in a foreign land, far removed from their former homes. They are at the mercy of their captors, with no resources or apparent options for survival. They need to live, therefore they need to eat. And the food prepared for them was from this foreign land as well. Furthermore, it is traditional for this food to be offered or blessed by means of idol worship rituals. So to accept this food, could be construed as accepting the false gods of their enemies.
It would be so easy to compromise ones moral standards and rationally reason out that this food is acceptable to eat. But Daniel knew his doctrine. The Mosaic Law forbade the consumption of foods offered to idols and other specific ‘defiled’ foods. The principle of these taboos was to teach the spiritual life by remaining in fellowship during ones life. By consuming only that food which is spiritually fit and not from the source of the sin nature.
Too often people miss the point of these taboos. They think they should not eat meat at all, so they become vegetarians. Or they believe that they should not eat meat on a certain day of the week in order to observe some perceived religious principle. But the true principle of this abstaining is not the food at all, but the spiritual applications it teaches. God told Adam, he could eat of anything growing. He told Noah, he could eat anything whose life was in the blood, animals, birds, etc. (people of course were excluded, our life is in the soul, not in the blood as it is with animals). Moses gave the peoples, who by the way were a negative lot, many rituals to teach them Bible doctrine. And the people failed to learn the principles of doctrine but instead learned the rituals of superficiality. They missed the point entirely.
Her Daniel understood the correct principles of abstaining from the prescribed foods. He understood the principles of doctrine associated from this abstention. Daniel was loyal to God, not to some superficial form of diet, but to Bible doctrine. Many religions of today have similar diet rituals, but they are false rituals based on false religions.
Daniel applied the principle of his situation and his knowledge of Bible doctrine. Though he was in a foreign land, though his name had been changed, he was still Daniel in his soul, and he wished to retain the teachings of the scriptures. If he compromised his situation and ate the foods, he might have compromised on other aspects of his spiritual life, and then his backslide would accelerate into a loss of his spiritual growth.
Thus the application to our lives. We can make up all kinds of excuses as to why we can’t get to our Bible study. We are too busy, too tired, too many other things to do. We’ll get to it tomorrow, after all skipping a day or two can’t hurt!! We’ll make it up on the weekend, or next week. Pretty soon time rolls by and you are so far away from your Bible study, it is amazing that you even remember you had a Bible in the house, somewhere!
Daniel was far away from home. He had lost everything, all of his possessions. Yet Bible doctrine was still his priority. He could easily have concluded that his best course of action was to escape, or hustle for compassion or favor from his captors, and when he gets home, then he would ‘catch up’ on his studies.
But Daniel was not so weak in his soul as to reject doctrine as unnecessary and look to his own resources. God placed him in this situation, and only God could get him out of it.