Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. Daniel 1:6-7 (NIV).
Let’s set the table to remember where we are. Judah, the nation, has been captured and their home, Jerusalem, destroyed. They walked across the desert to become slaves in a hostile place. Their ‘best and brightest’ were chosen to be special servants to the king based on their looks and personality (sort of like American Idol). Those chosen were served food that conflicted with the Jewish teachings they learned as boys. And, they were taught for three years how to serve their new slavemaster king; sort of like getting a bachelor’s degree in Babylonian royal etiquette.
Now the Babylonians change their names. It’s not enough that the men be re-educated and propagandized. No, the Babylonians wanted them to know deep inside that they were no longer free people of God, free Jews, free men who could worship who they chose and do as they pleased. Their Babylonian captors took their identities. Daniel and his friends needed LifeLock, not that it would have done them any good.
It wasn’t as if it should have been a surprise. Decades before, Isaiah had prophesied that Judah would be taken captive to Babylon, and now it had happened. When someone takes you captive, they try to dehumanize you, throw you off balance, establish dominance over you in order to control you with the least effort. The most effective way to do that with the most minimal chance of failure is to take away your identity and your ability to stop them.
But the Babylonians didn’t know God. They didn’t realize that something like a name, or food, or even the most powerful nation on earth is insignificant compared to even a thought from the Most High. The Babylonian king put his trust in his own abilities to dehumanize and change his new slaves. He trusted in what he saw and who he was. He didn’t know God, and He didn’t even bother to ask.
So, when the rubber would soon meet the road, King Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t ready for what Daniel would bring to his kingdom. 2600 years later, the message for us, in our crazy mixed-up world, should be the same: trust God, even in the most difficult times, even when our opponents try to oppress, control, or dehumanize us. Stay the course; refuse the tasty food. Our God is so much more than they know, and so much better than anything they have to offer.
For further reading: Isaiah 39:7, Ezekiel 14:14, Daniel 1:8
Lord God, You are fantastic. You are over all things, all time, all that is, because all that is has been given and created by You.
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