Faithfulness is a choice
Devotion in Motion
Verse 1 gives us the accurate date of the book of Daniel, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah…”
Secular history records the date, 605 BC. “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 articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.”
The book of Daniel starts as a tale of three kings… The first was King Jehoiakim. He was a wicked man, whose reign marked the apex of idolatry in Jerusalem! The second king was Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon or Shinar (Shinar was Babel’s ancient name). Remember, Genesis 11 tells us the tower of Babel was the birthplace of idolatry. It was as if God was saying to His people, Judah, if you want to worship idols; then I’ll send you to a place steeped in idolatry. The bible declares That “God is not mocked, whatever a man sow that shall he also reap”
Yet, as I said, this is the tale of three kings! The third king mentioned in these first two verses is “the Lord.” It’s clear, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t act alone when he besieged Jerusalem and looted the Temple. Verse 1 reads, “The LORD gave Jehoiakim… into his hand.” God had warned Judah to turn from idolatry or judgment would come. And God always gives us a warning before judgement. It might last, a week, or a year or 100 years but judgement will come and the Lord will always warn us as he did when he sent Jonah to cry out against the great city of Nineveh!
Here, God fulfills His promise! And don’t miss the point, this is the theme of Daniel. God is Sovereign over the affairs of men. He orchestrates the rise and fall of nations. World politics aren’t shaped in Washington or Moscow or Jerusalem or Brussels, but in Heaven – in the counsels of God. And yet, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just take Temple treasures back to Babylon. We’re told in verse 3… “Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles…”
Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon with both jewels and Jews. Several of Judah’s princes were taken captive and whisked to Babylon. There, they were placed under the care of “the master of eunuchs.” There’s a stone taken from the ruins of Babylon that confirms this person Ashpenaz as an official in the Babylonian court. Today, it’s on exhibit in London at the British Museum. This Ashpenaz took custody of these “young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.”
These were Jewish boys (maybe 14-15 years old)… the cream of the crop. And Nebuchadnezzar had a policy. He would take the finest young men from the people Babylon had conquered and employ them in his royal court. They were the pick of the litter. Princes of royal lineage – handsome – teachable – some social grace – boys fit for the king’s service. Verse 5, “And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.”
In the besieged city of Jerusalem life was rough. The boys were worried for their very survival. But Babylon represented a new world, a new start… Imagine them walking the brick streets of Babel, on the banks of the mighty Euphrates, among the towering ziggurats and the hanging gardens. They’re on the king’s meal plan. They even have government jobs…
But there was a catch. All that glitters isn’t gold… Verse 6, “Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” Jewish historian, Josephus, says all four of these fellows were of royal lineage, related to King Zedekiah. And “To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.”
These Jewish young men were stripped of their Hebrew names and assigned a Babylonian name. Daniel meant “God is my Judge,” while Belteshazzar is “Bel protects…” Hananiah is “Yahweh is gracious,” Shadrach means “command of Marduk…” Mishael is Hebrew for “Who is what God is?…” while Meshach is Babylonian, “Who is what Marduk is?…” Azariah is “Yahweh has helped,” Abednego is “servant of Nebo.” Each of these Hebrew teenagers had their God-glorifying name replaced with a name that honored the blasphemous idols of Babel: Bel, Marduk, and Nebo.
The whole process was to rewire their faith in their God, and convert them into idolatrous pagans. This was part of Nebuchadnezzar’s three year brainwashing. Give them new identities, a secular education, and indoctrinate them into pagan culture…Kind of like what is happening today with Critical race theory, don’t you think? and like what happens today to kids who grow up in Christian families only to leave home and enroll in a state university. Immediately their faith comes under siege, and unless they’re a Daniel they’re not ready.
Here’s a stat – 80% of animals born in captivity, when released in the wild, get eaten by other animals. Reared in an insulated environment, a domesticated animal can’t cope with the rigors and harshness of the real world. And this is the plight of sheltered Christian kids who grow up in a fundamentalist subculture, and are never prepared for what’s beyond the four walls of their faith.
In fact, it was even worse for Daniel. As if being relocated, and renamed, and reprogrammed wasn’t denigrating enough, our text hints at a more terrible attack on his personhood. Usually, in oriental courts, to prevent the princesses from falling in love with his male servants the king would have the men castrated. It kept the king’s harem hanky-panky-free.
Notice, Daniel’s supervisor, his overseer “Ashpenaz,” is twice called, “chief (or master) of the eunuchs.” Could it be that Daniel was assigned to the head-of-the eunuchs because he was one? This would mean in addition to the other humiliations he suffered, Daniel and his pals might’ve been neutered. Here’s a teenage boy who suits up to play baseball, and he no longer has to wear a cup!
How devastating would that be! With all the trauma Daniel and his friends had endured we might be tempted to expect, even justify, a little compromise… but Daniel isn’t looking for excuses! Though he answers to a new name – he wears new clothes – he has a new address for his mail – he speaks a new language – he even is learning a new curriculum… A lot has changed for Daniel, but one thing hasn’t changed… his heart. Daniel still has a heart for God. His heart belongs to God. The world says let your kids make up their own mind about what to think and what to serve. but the bible commands us to teach our kids about the lord, to teach them his ways and his laws.
(Duet 6:7) To teach them of his mercy and grace. train up a child in the way that he should go and he will not turn from it. Daniel and his friends knew about the Lord and so they wouldn’t turn from the lord because they learned about the Lord from their parents. Parents don’t let the world teach your kids. Today choose whom you will follow, as for me and mine we will serve the Lord. It’s never too late-for his mercies are new every morning!
An elderly Christian lady, who was crippled with arthritis, used to hobble to the services of the church on crutches. It was a great ordeal and required a considerable amount of toil and pain. A friend of hers observed her regular and faithful attendance and asked, “How do you manage to be at every service?” Her answer was, “My heart gets there first, and my old legs just follow after.”
Faithfulness is a choice
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