Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Guide me in Your truth and faithfulness and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation, for You (You only and altogether) do I wait expectantly all day long.”
Thy Will Be Done
“We see not, know not; all our way
Is night; with Thee alone is day.
From out the torrent’s troubled drift,
Above the storm our prayer we lift,
Thy Will Be Done!
The flesh may fail, the heart may faint,
But who are we to make complaint,
Or dare to plead in times like these
The weakness of our love of ease?
Thy Will Be Done!
We take with solemn thankfulness
Our burden up, nor ask it less;
And count it joy that even we
May suffer, serve, or wait for Thee.
Thy Will Be Done!
Though dim as yet in tint and line,
We trace Thy picture’s wise design,
And thank Thee that our age supplies
The dark relief of sacrifice.
Thy Will Be Done!
Strike, Thou the Master, we Thy keys,
The anthem of the destinies!
The minor of Thy loftier strain,
Our hearts shall breathe the old refrain,
Thy Will Be Done!
John G. Whittier
Today’s Study Text:
“Now therefore listen to me, O you sons (and daughters); for blessed and to be envied are those who keep my ways.”
Proverbs 8: 32
“Blessed are the undefiled and sincere in the way of God, who walk and order their conduct and conversation in the law of the Lord – the whole of God’s revealed will.”
Psalm 119: 1
“But Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey and practice it.”
Luke 11: 28
“The Furnace of Affliction: - Part 6
“Nebuchadnezzar’s Trophy – Youth”
“Wherever (we) may stand, whatever (we) may do, to whatever (we) may apply our hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or (our) minds, in the world of art and science (we) are, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of God, (we) are employed in the service of our God. We have strictly to obey our God, and above all, we must aim at the glory of (our) God.”
Do I in my daily duties seek to glorify God in all I do?
What qualities in my character reflect the qualities of my Father in heaven?
“We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God.”
R. C. Sproul
“If anyone serves Me, he must continue to follow Me, cleave steadfastly to Me and where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”
John 12: 26
“And King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongues of the Chaldeans…Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.”
Daniel 1: 2, 6
It’s one of my favorite Bible stories. Even when I was just a little girl, the story of three teenage young men who stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar and refused to bow before a golden idol captured my attention in a dramatic fashion.
I think it likely you may have guessed that in a series of devotionals entitled, “The Furnace of Affliction” that at some point we would get around to studying about an event that took place on the plain of Dura.
Like we have found so many times here in Transformation Garden, reading this story in context is imperative. Rather than beginning with the action that transpires in Daniel 3, which focuses on the details about the fiery furnace, I want to begin with Daniel 1: 1 where we find that just three short years into reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, the ruler of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar “besieged” the city of Jerusalem. He surrounded the city and planned to ravage the place. But here’s where thing get intriguing for Daniel, who penned the book with his name on it, informs his readers that, “the Lord gave Jehoiakim King of Judah into his (Nebuchadnezzar’s ) hand.” And there’s even more to uncover in Daniel 1: 2. We further read that God, who gave the king of Judah into the hands of a foreign, non-believing king also let King Nebuchadnezzar walk off “with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.” I want to just put up a Transformation Garden STOP sign right here for later this week – Friday to be exact – we’re coming back to these vessels taken from God’s house. This is another story on its own! But for now, suffice it to say that these vessels became “touchstones” for the four young Hebrew teens that were hand-selected to be the foreign king’s “Trophy-Youth,” serving in his royal court in Babylon. Wanting only to have the best and brightest around him, the Bible tells us exactly what happened when these Hebrew youth got to Babylon. The record of Daniel 1: 3 states that “the king told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some Israelites from the royal family and nobility (in Judah) – young men who were healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions in the government, perfect specimens! – and indoctrinate them in the Babylonian language and the lore of magic and fortunetelling. The king then ordered that they be served from the same menu as the royal table – the best food, the finest wine.” This preparation time was to last for three years and then they would be elevated to positions in the king’s court.
Actually, this was a shrewd move from a worldly perspective. King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t immediately demand that these young men give up their religion. Instead, his plan was one that was well thought out. As history and the Bible tells us the condition that the Hebrews lived under during the siege on Jerusalem at this time made life very difficult indeed. Food was scarce and the only way I can think to portray the Jewish existence was that the Israelites’ survival was horribly difficult during this time. They lived under supreme hardships. And don’t think the king of Babylon wasn’t well aware of this situation. Furthermore, the plight of these boys did not give their lives much promise for the future, at least not in Jerusalem. They had been part of the “elite.” Now without any food and the city in rubble, they were on an even footing with all the other citizens. This fact made Nebuchadnezzar’s plan even more alluring. He would lavish these young men in luxury.
And as one last order of business, which would hopefully wipe out any memory of their past life, the prince of the court was to change their names – to Babylonian deities. They were to have their Hebrew identity wiped away. As Matthew Henry writes, “the Hebrew names, which they received at their circumcision, had something of God in them,”
1. Daniel – God is my Judge.
2. Hananiah – The grace of God.
3. Mishael – He that is the strong God.
4. Azariah – The Lord is a help.
But as Henry points out, “to make them forget the God of their fathers, the guide of their youth, they gave them names which savoured of Chaldean idolatry.” And here’s what was chosen to try and help wipe clean the slate from any remembrance of Jehovah and their past life.
1. Belteshazzar – Keeper of the hidden treasure of Bel.
2. Shadrach – The inspiration of the Sun, which the Chaldeans worshipped.
3. Meshach – Of the goddess Shack, under which name Venus was worshipped.
4. Abednego – The servant of the shining fire, which the Babylonians worshipped as well.
Commentator William Henry ends with this observation which I find critically enlightening, “Thus, though they would not force the (four Hebrews) from the religion of their fathers to that of their conquerors, yet they did what they could by fair means insensibly to wean them from their former (life) and instill them with (Babylonian culture)…their land of captivity was made more comfortable to them than the land of their nativity at this time would have been.”
Taken away from their homeland, stripped of family and friends and carried off into a foreign empire must have been hard enough for these four men to endure. But then to have their very identity, right down to their names, scrubbed as if they had no past, must have made these young men question their future. And who could blame them.
But as we look back today on what transpired thousands of years ago in a Babylonian palace, we are witness to the fact that even their heathen names bore a testimony to the reality that God’s hand was over these four Hebrews for their Babylonian names turn our vision to the heavens to the Almighty Ruler of heaven and earth. As the Psalmist David said, “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindred’s of the nations shall worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and He is the governor among the nations” (Psalm 22: 27, 28). Even when you are held captive in the king’s court in Babylon.
Just when it looks like those that do God’s will have been overcome by the enemies of God, lookout, God’s still in charge. He is in control. He is the sovereign Ruler of heaven and earth. As Spiros Zodhiates observes, “God’s sovereignty is not arbitrariness, as some misunderstand it, for God has His reason, based on His infinite wisdom, which He does not always choose to reveal to us.” And I would add, remember, there are still those golden vessels taken from the house of God and brought to Babylon to remind the four Hebrews of their Creator and God of heaven and earth. Reminders of their allegiance to the Most High God.
“Alone with none but Thee, my God,
I journey on my way.
What need I fear, when Thou art near
O king of night and day?
More safe am I within Thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand.”
“Our brother Jesus, You set our feet upon
the way and sometimes where
You lead we do not like or
Bless us with courage where the way
is fraught with dread or danger;
Bless us with graceful meetings where
the way is lonely;
Bless us with good companions where
the way demands a common cause;
Bless us with night vision where we
travel in the dark,
keen hearing where we have not sight,
to hear the reassuring
sounds of fellow travelers,
Bless us with humility to learn from
those around us;
Bless us with decisiveness where
we must move with speed;
Bless us with lazy moments,
to stretch and rest and savour;
Bless us with love, given and received;
And bless us with Your presence,
even when we know it in Your absence.
Lead us into exile,
until we find that on the road
is where You are,
and where You are is going home.
Bless us, lead us, love us, bring us
home bearing the Gospel of life.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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