On Wednesday evenings we are studying the book of Daniel. Daniel and his three friends were of the royal Jewish line taken captive first by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. Instead of imprisoning them, he educated them for the advancement of his kingdom.
The Bible says in Daniel 1:3-7,
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
While they were being educated in Babylon, their homeland of Israel was being destroyed. The poorest of Israel was left behind to fend for themselves (II Kings 24:14). They were taken into captivity because of sin. As God’s Word says, Sin is a reproach to any people, God’s elect people Israel were not exempt.
Upon reading Daniel chapter one you see that Daniel and his friends were faced with a real dilemma. Away from home, away from mom and dad, away from the Jewish temple, away from the constant reminder of the Mosaic law, they lived by a higher law. Notwithstanding, not all of the Jewish captives owned up to their beliefs and behaviors taught by their God, Jehovah. But these four young men had two things in their hearts and lives I hope to teach my children. Indeed, they are simple; but they are profound.
THEY KNEW WHAT THEY BELIEVED
This meat and wine could be enjoyed at their pleasure and the pleasure of the King. Some would say, “When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do.” Eat and drink what is set before you. After all, the king has been very gracious to you. Instead of making you a prisoner, he is allowing you to enjoy the palace. Instead of slaughter, you have been granted a scholarship. Instead of cold bread you could enjoy the banquet hall of the king.
“Eat, drink and be merry!” Enjoy your good fortune….but they would say, “Forget our God…never!”
This flesh that was not to touch their lips: this meat sacrificed to idols, meats prohibited by the Mosaic law. The wine of intoxication that should never be tasted by them. This was a moral crisis.
It speaks to parents that the law of God was written in their hearts. When away from the Scriptures, away from the Temple, away from their parents, they would make a decision that went cross-grain with the rest of society. They would choose the Lord.
They knew what they believed.
THEY KNEW WHO THEY WERE
I am sure that the prince of the Eunuchs did this as a kindness to them, for the advancement of their careers, giving them this Babylonian identity. But it was wrong. He would have them forget, not only their God, as symbolized in their names, but also their religion and their race. He would take away a Hebrew name that spoke of Jehovah and gave them an identity that symbolized a pagan good worshipped by the Babylonians.
1. Daniel’s name meant, “God is my judge.” His name was changed to Belteshazzar, the Babylonian God, “Bel”, the patron God of Babylon. He was the sun God and believed to be all-powerful. The Jews called Him “Merodach.”
2. Hananiah’s name meant, “God is gracious.” His name was changed to Shadrach. That meant to be“illumined by the sun god.” Scholar believed that this put him under the tutelage of the moon god, and served as a barb to remind them that Abraham, their father, from Ur left that worship to follow Jehovah
3. Mishael’s name meant, “Who is like unto God?” His name was changed to Meshach. That name meant, “Who is like Venus?” This was the goddess of love, maternity, and fertility. Once, Solomon had yielded to her worship. This was a solemn reminder to him of all that the Devil had to offer him in Babylon. (a.k.a. Ashteroth/Astarte, Ishtar)
4. Azariah’s name meant, “The Lord is my helper.” His name was changed to Abednego. His name meant, “Servant of Nego, the god of wisdom.”
However, though they answered to these names, their allegiance was unswervingly with the God of Israel. God of the moon, god of the planet Venus, god of this world’s wisdom! No, they knew who they were and they knew who they served. They would say to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter three and verse seventeen, If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O King! Praise God, they knew what they believed, who they were and who they served!
“Christian” was not a title they bore; it was a testimony they wore.”
Regardless how high they climbed the rungs of worldly success, they unceasingly pledged allegiance to the God who reigned supreme in their hearts.
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
As our children grow up in a faithless and godless culture, may they always know what they believe, based upon the Word of God, and who they are in Jesus Christ.