Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility… Among these 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.
My name is me!
That might not be using correct grammar, but it is correctly stating my claim. I was given a name by people who knew me and loved me. My complete name was called out as the waters of Baptism flowed over my head.
“I have called you by name. You are mine.” The Lord God declares.
Cherished words then follow:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:1,2).
My Redeemer God calls me by name. A government bureaucrat assigned me a Social Security number. With teenage bravado, I decided to never commit that number to memory. I would resist being identified by a number.
You can imagine how long that lasted.
I won’t reject my government’s identification effort. Especially when that number is now on the social security check I receive. But I still retain the name my God has called me by, no matter what the government decides.
My name is me. I will not be robbed of me.
We are already familiar with the four captives from Judah who were brought to Babylon. We have read about Daniel in the lion’s den and his friends who were thrown into the fiery furnace.
We learn they were given new names when they got to the country of their enemies. Ironically, we still call Daniel by his Jewish name. We never seem to refer to him as Belteshazzar. But the Babylonian names for his friends easily flow from our mouths. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? That’s the men in the fiery furnace—untouched, by the way, by fire.
The Israelites transplanted to Babylon were not typical prisoners of war. They became exiles, living in houses and holding down jobs. But they were not free to leave. They missed their homeland. The psalmist put it this way. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1).
Daniel and his friends died in that foreign land. They answered to their foreign names. But they never forgot who they were. They never forgot the name of their Redeemer God. They never stopped praying to him or serving him—no matter the consequences.
The Lord had special plans for these men. They remind us of a Joseph, who once was carried to Egypt. Like him, Daniel and his friends became a blessing to the people who controlled them. His friends became able administrators. Daniel remained at the court. Though they were respected, they were also tested.
Through them, their captors came to learn of the only true God. But this knowledge usually came after the captives were confronted with death threats. There were other stressful times besides the lion’s den and the red-hot furnace. Each time, they called out to the Lord, who knew them by name and heard their cries for help.
The Babylonian king had to admit to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries…” (Daniel 2:47).
Then the king explained the name given to Daniel. He said, “He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him” (Daniel 4:8).
Daniel lived among people who rejected the Lord. He worked under them. But he did not become one of them.
There’s a lesson there. We might have people over us who do not fear the Lord. At times, we might be called to be of help to people who reject the Creator and Redeemer God. But those people should know by our words and actions that we call upon the name of the Lord for guidance and blessing.
Thus, we can say, “Child of God and heir of glory? That’s me!”
He calls me still by my God-blessed name. He will ever do that.
No one can rob me of that.
Prayer: Savior God and Lord of the nations, at times, we find ourselves among people we don’t like. Sometimes, they are a threat to our welfare. Sometimes, they are a threat to our faith. Hear us when we call out to you for guidance and strength. Remind us of who we are. Remind us that you call us by name. Remind us that we belong to you. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Would the Israelites who were carried off to Babylon have been more likely to abandon their faith in the Lord or to grasp it more firmly?
- Why does God often allow his people to be overtaken by danger and trouble?
- Why would God use his people for the betterment of people who reject him?
Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.