Will it be Babylon or Jerusalem? Babylon symbolizes confusion, error, sin, trusting in self and the world's order of things. Jerusalem, in her pure state, stood for peace, truth, faith alone in God's righteousness and God's presence. And so, Daniel 1:1 is contrasting two modes of salvation, two paradigms of thinking and two ways of living.
Unfortunately, the people of God in that era of history decided to follow the ways of Babylon. At first glance, it might be puzzling to understand why God would allow his people to be taken into captivity by the enemy as verse two tells us. But the truth is they were already in captivity spiritually but did not know it.
God allowed the physical captivity to occur to alert them to the fact that they were already in captivity spiritually. He loved them too much to just let them stroll on their merry way towards destruction. "All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God's love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves.
It is true that Satan's path is made to appear attractive, but it is all a deception; in the way of evil there are bitter remorse and cankering care. We may think it pleasant to follow pride and worldly ambition, but the end is pain and sorrow. Selfish plans may present flattering promises and hold out the hope of enjoyment, but we shall find that our happiness is poisoned and our life embittered by hopes that center in self." Mount of Blessings, p. 139.
Although not every one of God's people were in rebellion, all suffered corporately because of the wickedness of some. The story of Daniel one soon focuses in on only four of those taken in this first captivity (Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah). Their names would soon be changed and that was an effort to hide from them their true identity.
This is Satan's constant effort even today. He is an identity thief. If he can get you to forget or doubt who you are in Christ, he can then gain a victory over you. Your identity and mine can be seen in Ephesians chapter 1:1-6.
We are 1) blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, 2) He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 3) He has predestined us into the adoption of children to Himself, 4) He has accepted us in the Beloved (in Christ), and 5) In Him we have redemption through His blood.
These are things we can never lose and things we can always be sure of. The devil has come to steal, kill and destroy, but Christ has come that you might have life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). If the devil can get you to take your eyes off of Christ and your position in Him, he has gotten a victory.
"When the mind dwells upon self, it is turned away from Christ, the source of strength and life. Hence it is Satan's constant effort to keep the attention diverted from the Saviour and thus prevent the union and communion of the soul with Christ. The pleasures of the world, life's cares and perplexities and sorrows, the faults of others, or your own faults and imperfections—to any or all of these he will seek to divert the mind. Do not be misled by his devices." Steps to Christ, p. 71.
The good news is, every attempt of the devil to turn us away from our identity has already been overcome by Christ in the wilderness (and we were in Him)! Notice there also, that the devil started by trying to cause Christ to doubt His identity. "If you are the son of God". But Christ overcame at every temptation and His victory is ours!
Only as we understand our position in Christ can we truly live out the possession of Him in this world from a pure motivation. So, what will it be with you? Will it be Babylon or Jerusalem? Will you listen to the lies of the devil or will you appreciate your position in Christ and live in faith as did Daniel? No doubt, faith/obedience like Daniel's will always be rewarded either here or in the hereafter, but more importantly, living that kind of life will glorify Christ, and it is His reward that really matters! Daniel had had enough of the devil's lies, have you?