We have enjoyed the company of our long time friends Paul and Colleen Irwin. This morning Paul joined me for the chapel service at Morning Star Assisted Living. This afternoon retired missionaries to Turkey Doug and Ruth Clark joined us for lunch. The Clark’s have a significant connection to Paul and his late missionary father. It was a pleasure to facilitate this connection.
BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. “And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.” Daniel 1:6,7 ESV
When the Babylonians took Judah captive some of the members of the royal family and families of nobility were brought into the service of the King. The goal of course was to transform these with potential to be leaders into those who were loyal to and identified with the new kingdom.
We see this “recruitment” strategy reflected in these words, “Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” (Daniel 1:3,4 ESV)
In order for them to function in their new role, they were given a new identity. This was reflected in new names. Their given names of Hebrew origin reflected the supremacy of the Lord God to these men and the people. We find “Yah” or the Lord, reflected in their given names. Hananiah “The Lord is gracious”, Mishael “Who is like the Lord” and Azariah “The Lord has helped.” In contrast, the names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, all reflected a focus on Babylonian gods.
These names were to remind these men that their identity was to be found not in the Lord God, but in the pagan gods of Babylon. Since Babylon had conquered the people of the Lord God, it showed that their “gods” were greater and more powerful and should be recognized in these men who would be influential over the masses.
One of the greatest lessons we can observe in the Book of Daniel is that it is what our hearts reflect that determines our destiny and not how people label us or identify us. Daniel became the interpreter of dreams. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were granted status and positions of power, but they remained true to the Lord God, even to the point of defying the King’s order to bow to his image.
We see in these men that the spirit and dedication of one’s heart is what dictates one’s life and not outward identity. The King of Babylon tried to shape the lives of these men by giving them a “new name.” But we see in Revelation that our commitment to the Lord results in a new identity. To the Church in Philadelphia the Lord promises, “The one who conquers…I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:12 ESV)
“Name calling” can be a devious tool that attempts to stifle focus, potential and determine identity. When we understand the identity and destiny that we have in Christ and in God’s secure love for us, we can live true to that and it can keep us focused and strong. It is how the Lord see us and what He says of us that counts.
We see this reflected in the city of Jerusalem in Isaiah’s words, “Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride.” (Isaiah 62:4 NLT)
Our character and identity is not determined by what we are called, but by what is demonstrated through our actions and commitment.
Prayer for today….. Lord help us to ignore the shaping of our identity and commitment by the which is on the outside and to realize that it is our inward commitment to be faithful to You that makes the difference. Help us to see ourselves as You see us and to claim that as our true identity.