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.
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?