It starts with food laws… Daniel, one of a group of Jewish captives who’ve been carried off to Babylon to serve its king, resolves not to eat the food the king has assigned. This might seem strange, but Daniel is required by God’s word to abstain from certain types of meat. He decides the best way to avoid “defiling himself” is to just eat vegetables. Most of the other Jews apparently decide they need not concern themselves with an 800-year-old law, especially since asking to be excused from the king’s menu might draw some unwelcome attention. As it turns out, Daniel and the three friends in his group, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (aka Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), receive God’s blessing for Daniel’s faithfulness and receive from Him gifts of knowledge and understanding. Daniel is even given the ability to understand visions and dreams. This quickly becomes important because Daniel is the one to whom God gives the ability to interpret a dream for Nebuchadnezzar. The dream and its interpretation teaches Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel’s God is a revealer of mysteries.
Later, Daniel’s three friends risk their lives to obey God’s command not to bow before the image that Nebuchadnezzar has set up. When Nebuchadnezzar hears that they will not bow, he retorts that he will throw them into a furnace, and then “what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” They refuse to comply and consequently are thrown into the furnace. However, God miraculously saves them from death by keeping them from being burned or even from smelling like smoke. By their faithfulness Nebuchadnezzar learns that their God has power to save.
Nebuchadnezzar has another dream. This time it’s one about himself and, as Daniel explains, means he’s going to lose his mind and live like a wild beast for seven “times” until he humbles himself. Daniel warns Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his sins so that the terrible thing the dream proclaims might be avoided. Over time, Nebuchadnezzar seems to forget about the dream, and in his pride congratulates himself for the great Babylon that he’s created by the power of his might and for the glory of his majesty. He is immediately changed and becomes like an animal eating grass and living in the wilderness. After the seven “times” are over, Nebuchadnezzar humbles himself. He learns that the Most High is sovereign and issues a proclamation to all people honoring the Most High for his eternal dominion over heaven and earth.
The lesson in this that if Daniel had not resolved to obey those archaic food rules, Nebuchadnezzar would have learned nothing about the Most High God. Those Jews who apparently decided it was best just to go along with the culture aren’t even mentioned in the story. They are ineffective and irrelevant. Daniel and his friends are the ones to emulate if you care about the lost. Obey God and keep His commandments. Amazing things will happen and the greatness of the Most High will be proclaimed by those who formerly didn’t know God. If you conform to the culture, you’ll become irrelevant and no one will learn anything about your God.