“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God and brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.” Daniel 1:1-2
In the first verse of the first chapter of Daniel, we have hit a low point. The king of Babylon has taken over Jehoiakim and his kingdom. We’re not off to a good start so far. But remember that “all scripture is God breathed” 2 Timothy 3:16, so let’s keep reading and watch God show up. This book starts off telling us that everything was taken from the house of God and put into the house of Nebuchadnezzar’s gods house. It then goes on to tell us that Nebuchadnezzar commanded his chief eunuch, Ashpenaz, to bring people from Israel. He didn’t want just anyone, he wanted royalty, noble people, beautiful, smart and easy learners to be brought to his palace. He would then keep them there for three years to learn their language so that they may competent to stand in the kings palace. This is where we meet Daniel.
He, along with a few friends named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were brought to begin this process. They were renamed in order to change their identity. Daniel was changed to Belteshazzar, Hananiah to Shadrach, Mishael to Meshach, and Azariah to Abednego. I know that sometimes, I could stand a name change in my house, especially when the kids have been lacking sleep, but what if someone changed our names to mean something we didn’t believe in, or worse yet the opposite of our entire existence?
Names always stood for something in those days, so to have their names changed to their captors gods had to be painful. They may have experienced the first cases of identity theft. Daniels name went from “God is my judge” to Belteshazzar meaning “Bel will protect”. Hananiah from “Yah has been gracious” to Shadrach “inspired of Aku”. Mishael from “Who is what God is?” to Meshach “belonging to Aku”. Lastly, Azariah from “Yah has helped” to Abednego, meaning “Servant of Nego”. Bel, Aku, and Nego were names of their gods who could not hold a candle to our God.
Though they could not control the changing of names, Daniel stood firm on his belief of the food he was able to consume. The Lord gave favor to these four men and they were able to eat the diet they followed, all vegetables, allowing them to look and feel better than the rest.
How about you, has anyone stolen your identity? Do you have someone in your life that no matter how long it’s been, you find yourself having to act a certain way or explain yourself once again? God created each and every one of us, whether we believe it or not. He named us by His standards. We have the choice wether or not we are going to let those from our past rename us. It’s hard to stand firm on our faith when those around us just don’t get it, but you have to remember that just as the Lord gave Jehoiakim over to Nebuchadnezzar, He allows those around us to “just not get it”. There was a day, not too long ago, that we “just didn’t get it” either.
There isn’t anything that happens in our lives that God has not put His stamp of approval on. Some of you are dealing with some heavy stuff in life, but when you look at scripture, the people written about were not exempt from the tough stuff either. Daniel and the others were living their lives just like you and I. They were serving their God and following the rules and one day it all changed. The Lord handed them over to the enemy, what? This is probably the hardest thing to comprehend about God, why does He allow bad things to happen to His people. I don’t know how to answer that other than saying “He is God”. There is no way to know why things happened but remember His ways are not our ways nor His thoughts like ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had a choice to make, bitterness or trust. I am so thankful they all chose the latter, man what role models! They found themselves in an unfair situation, yet they chose to hold true to their standards. They could have decided to eat what they were given, they didn’t need to hold their conviction of the veggie diet, besides it wasn’t their fault they were in this mess anyway. But it’s what we do when no one is watching that counts (Matthew 6:4). God sees our hearts not our actions. Just as the food we eat becomes visible in our pants size, so do our actions as they will only follow what the heart believes, especially in private. I pray you will read ahead to chapter two so we can continue to walk these pages of scripture together. Let’s pray:
“Lord, wow this book has been speaking so loudly to me. Thank You Father for this tough lesson of just because I am Yours doesn’t mean things will be easy. Thank You for these men, especially Daniel to be our example on how to withstand adversity. Thank You Father for the strength to forgive those who have hurt us, to work hard though we are spit upon, to love though we were flat out wronged. Thank You for giving us the true name Christian, which means “follower of Christ”. Help us to live that name out. We ask this in the mighty name of Christ, Himself...Amen”