I am enjoying the discoveries in a Bible story I thought I knew. It's a fresh breath after Jeremiah 19 and 20, God's planned destruction for His people with Jeremiah and Baruch in hiding. The next stop in the NLT Chronological Bible is the book of Daniel. I can't help but think of Veggie Tales and the chocolate bunny statue that I know is coming.
That's not the part that grabs me. It's this part:
The king ordered Ashpenaz, who was in charge of the palace officials, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah's royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. . ."Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men," he said. "Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good sense, and have the poise needed to serve in the royal palace. Teach these young men the language and literature of the Babylonians. "Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief official renamed them with these Babylonian names: (Are you ready?)
- Daniel was called Belteshazzar.
- Hananiah was called Shadrach.
- Mishael was called Meshach.
- Azariah was called Abednego. (Daniel 1:3-4, 6-7)
I didn't know that.
We remember Daniel by his Hebrew name. But we remember the other three young men--the three who eventually confound the king by way of a fiery furnace--by their Babylonian names, their re-named names, their captivity names.
Why is that?
The living room is quiet with discovery.
I keep reading. At the top of the next page, I encounter those Hebrew names again. I try them out aloud: "Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah."
From the other couch, I hear a sweet voice say, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego."
I can't catch my breath.
"Cami, how do you know that?"
"How did you know what I was reading?"
"Those are the original names for them, the names they were born with." She looks like she thinks she might be in trouble.
I am just so amazed at the whole exchange, my tone of voice is louder than normal. "Who taught you their original names though?"
"Oh." Like Whewy. I'm not in trouble. "Mr. Ben told us. At church."
"Oh--a few weeks ago when he told us that story."
Okay, context: Cami and children's church haven't been getting along the past few months. Her gift package (thanks, Bets) doesn't translate to the jump-around-be-involved-but-still-pay-attention environment. That's one of the many reasons God has called us to homeschool. Her current Sunday school teachers are understanding of who Cami is and how she is made, and she finds real grace and compassion in their embrace. However, the children don't stay in one place during the second service. At some point, they combine classes in a larger auditorium for a Bible story and music time. Cami struggles with this transition, which leads her into behavior that seems uncooperative but is simply her way of coping.
I've spent the summer months wondering if we should just pull Cami out of the church environment altogether. It's too much like the public school classroom. Michael and I asked God to show us His plan for Cami and church, oh, two weeks ago. Our in-the-meantime strategy is to take her to church when she wants to go, and on the mornings that are too overwhelming, one of us stays home with her. Not a desirable long-term solution.
Now, here in my August Awe, God speaks not only to the "What will it be like for her to 'promote' to the third grade Sunday school class?" angst I have, but also to the "Am I ruining her with the way we do homeschool?" angst that I hide inside.
Mr. Ben, the gentleman that tells the Bible stories that includes Hebrew names changed to Babylonian names? He is the third-grade Sunday school teacher, the teacher Cami will have after Promotion Sunday.
There's more in this day's reading for me. It all has to do with diets and differing opinions of what's healthy and how one should live to the fullest:
"Test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water," Daniel said. "At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king's rich food. Then you can decide whether or not to let us continue eating our diet." So the attendant agreed to Daniel's suggestion and tested them for ten days.
At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the rich foods and wines. God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for learning the literature and science of the time. And God gave Daniel special ability in understanding the meanings of visions and dreams.
When the three-year training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief official brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with each of them, and none of them impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they were appointed to his regular staff of advisers. In all matters requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, the king found the advice of these young men to be ten times better than that of all the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. (Daniel 1:12- 20)
I hear an application for me that echoes back to verses in Jeremiah's story:
For Israel has forsaken me and turned this valley into a place of wickedness. The people burn incense to foreign gods – idols never before worshiped by this generation, by their ancestors, or by the kings of Judah. And they have filled this place with the blood of innocent children. They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing! (Jeremiah 19:4-5)
Do what He commands, the "Do this, and do it this way," nothing extra, adding our own embellishments. That is obedience. Obedience leads us into living the way He designed us to live: with health and vigor, in fullness of life, walking in rightness.
Think of it! God designed this captivity Daniel and his friends were in. Yet, in their captivity, He gave them "unusual aptitude" and "special ability" for His purposes. They stuck out of the crowd. Even as they were renamed to fit the culture, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah walked as God had made them: Hebrew diet, Hebrew God. They knew who they were--and, as we'll see tomorrow, Whose they were--and they lived that way.
Since my daily foray into God's Word, He has given me so many personal nuggets: applications, promises, prayers to pray back to Him. The one for how I parent Cami comes from Psalm 33:15: He made her heart, so He understands everything she does. When she baffles me--which is often--I remind God, "Lord, You made this child. . .show me what she needs. What do I do? What do I say?"
That's what He's done on this day, through three Hebrew names spoken aloud in my living room.