His middle name is Daniel. Dare to be a Daniel and all that. In my barrenness I had begged God for a child, but only if he would walk faithfully with God. So, He gave, and we prayed that this gift, this boy, would be the fulfillment of that prayer, that he would be like Daniel.
The book which bears his name is filled with strange imagery and prophecies which are not readily understandable, but the first few chapters in this Old Testament writing quickly grab my heart and I get it. I pray that Daniel’s unabashed faithfulness would be in me and my family and all of God’s true children.
What if our boys were taken as spoils in a brutal war? What if we were taken as a trophy for some pagan king? Would we be immobilized by fear or hysteria? Would dread of torture or death cause us to submit to the new culture and its ways?
Yes, Daniel and his friends were cared for lavishly so as to adorn the pagan king’s reputation and kingdom by owning the choicest of young men, boys with good looks, intelligence, and aptitudes. But this care came with contingencies. Study hard or else. Wear a pagan, idolatrous name befitting the captor nation’s gods. Eat the royal delicacies or…
Was this a difficult submission for Daniel? The Scriptures do not reveal any conundrum in his heart. They tell us what he did. And he did it with incredible wisdom, winsomeness, and empathy for his caretaker. Oh, he studied hard and excelled. He knew that this secular education would not take away his knowledge and love for Yahweh, his God. He accepted his new Babylonian name. He knew that it did not change who he was intrinsically. He was still Daniel in his heart. But…the food! That was a different story. God had strict rules about Israel’s permitted foods and those banned from the pagan nations. Perhaps the royal fare compromised those directives? Perhaps the edibles were dedicated to idols and consuming them would appear to the watching court to be submission to these false gods? For whatever reason, Daniel believed eating would compromise him and his testimony, yet he did not outright refuse. He politely asked his superior, to whom he had already earned favor by his excellent work and demeanor, for an exemption from the order to eat the king’s delicacies for a set period of time on the condition that his health and appearance would not suffer as a result. Scripture tells us he had purposed in his heart to not defile himself. He resolved beforehand that he would not acquiesce to the culture in such a way as to compromise his walk with his God. This was his red line. You know the story. He passes the test and is eventually elevated to a high position in the court for all his pursuit of excellence. He is found trustworthy by all. But, exalted status often results in jealousy and evil men sought to undermine and bring him low–to the point of death. Through it all, Daniel remains faithful to Yahweh. He will not compromise though execution looms large before his face.
Recently I reread Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. I was struck by faithfulness like Daniel’s and his friends’ loyalties and was ashamed at the myriad times I fail to speak a simple word for Jesus when my only consequence might be a puzzled look or some scorn. How I long for, pray for such love for Christ that boldness would break forth from my heart and my lips no matter the fallout. I pray for deeds that stand the test of the furnace, a reputation that causes even lions to be at peace with me. I ask Him for a life that is vindicated by God even as Daniel’s.
His name means ‘God is my judge’. Daniel lived in light of that designation. He did not want to disappoint. That’s how I want to live.