It takes courage to stand out for your faith

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 in this way.
Daniel 1:8 (NIV)

Read: Daniel 1:1-21

Consider: Daniel and his three companions had a hard choice to make.  Having been brought to Babylon after King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, perhaps they should integrate into Babylonian society and not do anything that might offend the king and lead to their deaths.

Nebuchadnezzar chose to use the human resources he had captured in Judah and Daniel and his companions were chosen to spend three years learning the Babylonian language and studying their literature.  Only then would they be brought before the king to see if they were fit to enter his service. 

In todays reading we discover the names of the four young men from Judah who were chosen:  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).

Daniel                         God is my judge               )
Hananiah                  God has been gracious  ) these names were 
Mishael                      Who is like God?              ) connected to worshipping
Azariah                      God has helped                 ) the one true God

Belteshazzar           Bel protects his life         )
Shadrach                  Commands of Aku           ) these names were
Meshach                   Who is Aku?                        ) connected to worshipping
Abednego                 Servant (slave) of Nebo ) Babylonian gods

You’ve probably not considered why it was thought necessary for the Babylonians to change the names of these young men.  In fact it was their way of encouraging them to forget the God and traditions of their homeland.  In other words, it was a way of seeking to ease their integration into Babylonian society, by identifying them with the gods and traditions of Babylon.  It was, therefore, anticipated that at the end of their three years of training, each of these young men would identify more with Babylon and its gods than with their homeland and the one true God.

Today’s reading gives an early indication of how these young Jewish men would choose to stand out by not compromising their faith in God.  The first issue at stake was their desire not to accept food from the king’s table; food that may have been offered to idols, but which certainly demonstrated the dependence of those eating it on the patronage of the King.  For Daniel and his companions, they wished to show their dependence on God alone.  As things go this test of their faith was mild compared to what would come later.  Later in Daniel we read of other tests these young men were subject to as they served different kings:

For not bowing down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3);

For praying to God and not following King Darius’ decree to pray only to him: Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den (Daniel 6).

The question for all of us is whether or not we value our faith highly enough to stand out from the crowd, or are we tempted to integrate into society by accepting its norms and standards.  Standing out takes real courage as demonstrated by the lives of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  The declarations made by these young men as they stood before kings demonstrates their commitment and loyalty to God (Daniel 3:16-18; Daniel 6:21).

Pray:  Father, give us courage and boldness to speak of our faith in your Son, Jesus Christ.  Helps us always to speak graciously of the good news, not seeking to cause offence, but to speak the truth in love.  Amen

Every blessing