Is It Legalism To Brush Your Teeth?

Daniel 6

imagesThankfully, responsible parents of small children operate from a greater vision than their children. They understand both the need for preventative oral hygiene and that preventative care costs less than emergency treatment for failed daily care. Parents foresee a life of oral hygiene unseen by their children years: they see not only more money in the bank for college tuition, but they envision their children as senior adults with a mouthful of their own teeth. Therefore, they enter the battle to discipline their children to brush their teeth at least twice daily. Students, young adults and older who were made to brush their teeth as small children are grateful for insistent, consistent, and visionary parenting. What they fought against in early childhood blessed them for the remainder of their lives.

Though no detail is given regarding Daniel’s life before he is carried away from Jerusalem by the Babylonians, his spiritual foundation was obviously laid beforehand by visionary parents. When Daniel arrives in Babylon and begins his internship in the king’s administration he has already purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself (1:8). God validates Daniel as a man upon whom His favor dwells, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (1:17). At the conclusion of his three-year training program Daniel was tested by the king and found, “ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all of his realm (1:20).

The interpretation of the disturbing handwriting and visions given to the kings under whom Daniel serves catapults Daniel into the spotlight. He quickly and consistently ascribes his wisdom to God, “So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house and made the decision made known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, that they may seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret . . .. Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven” (2:17-19). He presents the interpretation to the king and attributes its interpretation to God, “But their is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the later days” (2:28).

Of one thing Daniel’s peers, the satraps and governors of King Darius’ kingdom, are certain: they will catch Daniel praying at least three times a day, “they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful . . .. Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God” (6:4-5). Therefore, they enact a royal law that forbids any petitions made to any god or man for thirty days except to King Darius. They know this one thing about Daniel: Daniel will pray to his God!

Daniel wasn’t a legalist, he was strategic. He lives in submission to God. Daniel knows the Scriptures and prays according to the Scriptures. Daily. Several times a day. For years.

When Solomon inaugurated Jerusalem’s Temple where God had promised to place His name he prayed for Daniel and the exiles nearly 500 years before they entered the story:

“When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all of their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You” (2 Chronicles 6:36-39, NKJV).

Daniel most certainly possessed a copy of the Book of the Law there in the land of his captivity. He surely had read Solomon’s inaugural prayer and Jeremiah’s prophecy, “ In the first year of his reign, I Daniel, understood by the books the number of years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:2). Therefore, Daniel lives with a calendar in one hand and the Book of the Law in the other. Daniel’s understanding of Scripture drive his prayer life, “Then I set my face toward the LORD God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (9:3).

Daniel was a young man of prayer, a middle-aged man of prayer, and an elder statesman of prayer. Prayer wasn’t legalistic activity, but a way of acknowledging his need of God and dependency upon God.

Daniel’s life of prayer reveal a number of truths about prayer:

  • Scheduling daily or regular times of prayer reflects a man or a woman’s need of God and submission to God. Prayer is the lifeline for the godly person.
  • Prayer is evangelistic, in that it bears witness of God’s greatness before others.
  • A strong and consistent prayer life, as well as a deep understanding of Scripture, always characterizes those whom God brings into His confidence.
  • As daily brushing accompanies good oral hygiene, so daily prayer and Scripture reading accompany good spiritual hygiene.
  • Prayer and Bible reading are not legalistic activities (though some do make them so), but spiritually hygienic. They don’t make a man right with God, but they discipline the heart and mind into sensitivity and submission to God.