In the very first chapter of the book of Daniel, he and his brethren determined that they would not defile themselves with the king’s dainties, nor with the wine from the king’s table; and that is how they spoke of it when they went to Arioch, the king’s representative, to plead their case. They asked – you would think hardly tactfully or diplomatically! – ‘that they might not defile themselves’. It is hardly complimentary, at any rate, to speak so of food from the king’s table. They pressed this matter of defilement. They had seen the principle that by this means they and their testimony would in some way be compromised. It was a link with this world and with Satan’s kingdom as in this world, and the effect of it would be – oh, how inclusive and comprehensive this is! – that they would be denying in their very persons the all sufficiency of the Lord. If they were to go the way of the world and look like the people of the world, where would be the testimony of the Lord? If they did not go the way of the world and were to refuse to have any kind of compromise with the world, there would be great opportunity for the Lord to prove that He can go one better than the world, and is more than all the world put together.
This is the challenge. On various grounds and by various arguments, young people especially are tempted to compromise on this point. They think they will gain influence with people of the world by coming down to their level and doing as they do, thus getting on an even footing with the world; but they do not recognize that such a course so often involves compromise. More rarely still do they recognize that when God’s people are going to the world for their sustenance and nourishment and pleasure and gratification and so on, it results in a question being cast upon the ability of the Lord to prove how far greater He is than this world. The bad spiritual state of the people in Daniel’s day was wholly due to their being in bondage to the world. Daniel and his brethren would have none of it. They stood apart in complete separation from the world, its standards, its ideas and all its resources, to give God the opportunity of proving that He is better than the world, and His servants, by His grace, better than the men of the world. That is the testimony, and until that is true, we have no authority, no ascendency, no real testimony. Separation therefore, unpleasant and hard as the word may sound, is a very fundamental matter if we mean by it that we are separated unto the Lord, that He may show by means of us that this world is a poor thing compared with what we have in Him.