Monday, April 3, 2017

A sterling reputation - starting early!


Recently my devotional travels took me through the ancient kingdom of Babylon. I know that we have been studying women of the Bible (did you know we've been working our way through their stories for over a year now?) but Daniel had some things that the Spirit wanted me to learn, and I thought I'd pass them along to all of you, too!

A person's reputation is something that is pretty important. It often is developed over many, many years. Good or bad, it is something that is difficult to put together in a hurry, since people are humans (and make lots of mistakes). You knew that, right? (Grin) It takes us humans a while to truly trust someone, but if they have a good reputation, we give that trust a little more readily.

Daniel was a man with a sterling reputation. We'll see this week that it was really hard for people to "pin something on" him, or accuse him of something, because of that reputation, and the goodness of his character. How did he get that way?
Let's look at Daniel's history, to get our answer . . .
In the first chapter of the book of Daniel, we see that the king of Babylon overruns Judah, conquers the king (Jehoiakim), and takes hostages back to his court.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility young men without any physical defect, handsome,showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table.They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
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.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. (Daniel 1:3-20)

I always defer to the Bible scholars when there is consensus on something, and most of them agree that at the time they were whisked away to Babylon, Daniel was a teenager; he was perhaps fifteen years of age. He and his buddies were considered the "cream of the crop" as far as the young people were concerned, and that was why they were hauled away to Babylon. They were good-looking, and they were gifted with wisdom and knowledge -- I guess my grandma would say they had that rare combination of book learning and horse sense. (Grin) They also had the ability to learn quickly, so they were selected to serve in the king's palace. They would be taught the language and the literature of their new home; sometimes you hear the term Chaldea, but it's synonymous with Babylon.

Their supervisor and teacher was Ashpenaz, a high-ranking and highly regarded official. He provided portions of the king's food and drink for them, and told them about the coming three years of training. Only four of the captives are named for us -- and then their captors re-name them: Daniel's real name meant "God is my judge," and he was renamed Belteshazzar, or "a servant of Bel." Hannaniah means "the Lord is gracious," and they renamed him "Shadrach," for the sun god. Mishael means "who is what God is?" and they made that Meshach, "who is what the moon god is?" And finally, Azariah means "the Lord helps," and they changed his name to Abednego, "servant of Nebo."

So, here we have four teenagers who have been uprooted from their homes, and brought to a place of opulent wealth and comfort (the king's palace) and they are offered all kinds of rich and tempting foods. What a life!
How would they respond?
These may have been foods that were unclean, according the restrictions of the Law. They may have been prepared in such a way that they were not "kosher," as we say now. They could also have been foods that were used in idol worship, so that the young men would not consider eating.
We can bet that since it was in the king's palace, it all looked good. It all smelled good. What a temptation!
Would they give in? Would they make excuses because they were young? Hungry?

Here is where we see the beginning of Daniel's reputation!
Join us next time as we study Daniel, won't you?


1 comment:

Katie Isabella said...

OH this is gonna be good!