Notes on Daniel! (5)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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The Courage of Faith  (Chapter 1 Verses 8-21)

As the young Daniel makes this courageous stance we might as the question, what’s wrong with the food and drink of Babylon? Do we all need to be vegetarians, vegans and teetotallers? Doubtless amongst the Jewish community some would have deemed Daniel to be somewhat Pharisaical, over scrupulous. You’ll recall from the New Testament how tight the Pharisees were, yet still they were defiled. They were so religiously particular while at the same time plotting murder. No, it’s not that with Daniel. Remember what the agenda is here with the Babylonians. The plan is get rid of the tradition of the fathers out of the minds of Daniel and his colleagues. They want to eradicate the biblical worldview, mindset. The is the reason for the change of names, cultural norms, even their diet. Babylon wouldn’t be acquainted with the modern mindset today, that religion is a private matter, to be kept to oneself. The life of Daniel is permeated with religion, he walks, talks and breathes it. God has his hand on this young man. The Babylonian culinary delights offered to Daniel is food that was first offered to idols. Each meal would have been a ‘holy’ meal, offered to the gods of Babylon. Of which of course, there were many. An idolatrous sacrament. So to both eat and drink this food offered to them would have been to eat and drink to the glory of Babylon’s gods. It is for this reason that Daniel refuses, he is consecrated to God, devoted to the true and living God. This is a biblical attitude after all is not? And not just within the four walls of a church building. Whether we buy or sell, whether we build or plant, whether we eat or drink, whatever and wherever we do it, we do it all to the glory God (1Corinthians 10:31). It is the devotion of our entire lives to God, this is our reasonable, or spiritual service. “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

The attitude is wrong that says we recognise the church is God’s domain, but what goes on, or what we do outside is our own business. Business is business, it’s our own lives, keep off. There can be no compartmentalising of the life of faith, Jesus Christ is Lord, and Lord of all, or Lord of nothing at all. Wonderfully and amazingly Daniel, though just a youth, about fourteen at this time, recognises the danger of compromise. You mustn’t compare today’s fourteen-year-olds in the West with a fourteen-year-old Hebrew lad back then. At the age of twelve, a Hebrew lad would be expected to be mature enough to be about his father’s business. The immaturity we see in Western youth is the result of the madness of sin. Daniel will know no compromise, he does not want to be estranged from his God by offending and breaking his commandments. Thus his faith is put into action at the dining room table, both sensibly and compassionately too, I might add. For Daniel would be aware that this man, appointed to be his tutor, his life could well be at stake (v9-10). The compassion note was God-given.  So Daniel empathises with the man, he lets him know that he appreciates his dilemma and suggests an alternative. “Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see” (Daniel 1:11-13). The young Daniel acts according to his faith, but not rashly, foolishly, but with wisdom and maturity beyond his years. O for God to raise up young men and women such as this in our churches in the West today.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (132)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The God of Justice!  (Chapter 15 Verses 15-1-22)

The history of redemption is often called a drama. This here is the original soundtrack. The first three verses are about God and his glory. The next verses, four to twelve are about what he has done. The king’s very own words condemn him (v9). He was God-defiant, self-centred, note the repetition of the word ‘I’ in verse nine. He was the one who ended up destroyed, everlastingly. And so God’s people sing triumphantly of the divine perfection in his administration of justice. Take note will you, that it was God’s work, he drowned them in the sea (v4-5). It wasn’t natural causes as some liberal scholars would have us believe. Neither was it human causes, it was a divine act of judgment. But before you accuse God of being harsh remember this was a man who was spoken to by God, who saw the mighty, miraculous works of God. This was the man who was responsible for the harsh, oppressive, unjust treatment of the Hebrews. This was the man commanded the Hebrew children to be drowned, was it not fitting that God should drown him? A pretty fair transaction don’t you think? In Egypt, the natural order was deified. They worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars, the river Nile, the entirety of creation but not the Creator. It was the natural order that became Pharaoh’s death. The nation that embraces false religion is a nation facing death. This was a ruler and nation that stood in defiance of God (v6-9). The majesty of God was violated. The original language here expresses that of a demolition job, God brought down the entire structure of the nation of Egypt. There was nothing but dust and rubble left. God had pledged to his people freedom and the promised land. Pharaoh in his defiance dared to say no. We must understand how black this sin is, it is a great evil. Every sin is, but to stand in deliberate, conscious defiance of the Almighty when he is clearly speaking to you and demonstrating his mighty power, is to invite serious trouble, very serious trouble. This Pharaoh did, and this Pharaoh got.

The wrath of God against the ungodly is a constant state of mind, “for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). It’s not a case of God getting uptight, flying into a rage and lashing out. That’s how we sinners operate. No, it is a constant, even attitude of holy displeasure that hangs over the ungodly. The only thing that will remove that wrath is the all atoning blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ (John 1:29), nothing else. This holy displeasure was displayed here in the Red Sea in this act of justice upon the Egyptian forces, and the same wrath hangs over natural born sinners today. This is an act of divine vengeance, retributive justice (v10-12. And we, as Christians, ought not to be making excuses for God’s justice nor denying it. Lest he deny us (Matthew 10:33). The evil is displayed as strong, but God simply blew upon it (v10). This should be a great comfort to the believer, especially in times of much evil. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). For many Christians in our day, their God is way too small, their Jesus is too nice. Believe me, he is good, always, but he is not always nice. And our God is strong, mighty, almighty to deliver his people in the day of evil, and he will deliver. He is majestic (v11). His holiness is an awesome concept, “and one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3-5)! For those who believe in his Son, have experienced his lovingkindness, who love him, his character inspires awe, fear i.e., deep respect, worship, and trust. Worship him, the Triune God today, fall down before him, love and adore him!

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Daniel! (4)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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Faith in the Dining Room  (Chapter 1 Verses 8-21)

Daniel is listed as one of the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:33). When we think of Daniel in the lion’s den we think, what an amazing example of faith! But we never think of his amazing faith in the palace dining room. Because Daniel’s resolve in the kitchen took as much courage as did the lion’s den (v8). Daniel sees the lion’s den coming from across the dining room table already. And he knows that he is not faithful here he will not survive the lion’s den. A great faith begins with the little things, “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). It is in the small things that you see the courage that is rooted in faith. It’s godliness in practice. The lion’s den is for the minority. It is today we need to live out our faith, not in the future, we don’t know what it holds, God alone does. It’s in the dining room, the living room, the bedroom, the school, the office, the factory we need to be resolved to be faithful. The question would we be faithful if we were faced with the lion’s den is completely inappropriate if we are not resolved not to be defiled in the place where we are now. It would appear that only these four were faithful, was Daniel the initiator? Where were the rest of the royals, nobles (v3)? Were they already defiled, compromised? Of course, there would be those among the Hebrews who would criticise Daniel and his comrades. Too rigid, too narrow. We’re in a different culture now, we need to be flexible, what we eat and drink is of no real consequence. We need to get on with the world, show them that we can be like them. The church in the West has been bending over backwards these last sixty years to make that very point, and look at us now. More worldly than the world. The young Daniel has decided that if God will not bless it then he does not want it (v8). Whatever it is if it will not add to our life of faith and obedience to God, then it has no place in our lives. If there is a danger that it will take us away from God or compromise our testimony, then we will do without it.What others, even older Christians think, or if it costs us, friends, what does it matter? Daniel’s only concern is what pleases God.

It was very soon made clear to Daniel that God was with him (v9). That must have sent a thrill through his soul. His stand was a costly one, but he was soon seen to be the healthiest and happiest of the young men. Both physically and spiritually. This was in his youth that he made this resolve, and he went on in the same vein into old age, growing in grace and fruitfulness all the way. How sad it is that many are past their spiritual best before they’re twenty. Daniel was resolved from the start he was going to be God’s man, and he was in for the long haul (v8). He stood before God before he stood before the king. Doubtless, he would have had his critics, many their faith would have just collapsed in Babylon. What’s the use of believing anymore, it’s all over, God is not with us, it’s time to just accept the inevitable? Daniel will not succumb to unbelief, he holds the high ground, faith. He holds to the hope of his fathers, he clings to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who he believes will not fail his people. He is firmly resolved (v8). It is hope not despair in the worst circumstances that marks the life of this young man. He is God’s man in God’s place at God’s time. Seventy years down the line when it came time for Israel to return to Jerusalem, there were not many who returned, just a remnant. The rest had become Babylonianised, the world’s culture had consumed them a long time ago. While Daniel from the start, in faith, humbled himself, was content to wait on the Lord, and not rebel. What a remarkable young man is this Daniel. Who would dare to be like Daniel today?

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus! (131)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The God of Glory!  (Chapter 15 Verses 15-1-22)

A glorious song of praise is offered up to God for this mighty deliverance. And for God’s judgment upon Israel’s and God’s enemies. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Psalm 58:10-11). They express themselves in a way that is very natural to their Hebrew culture. It is praise as praise should be, there is nothing man-centredness, no glorification of man. All the praise is to God alone. It is in recognition of the personality, the supremacy and holiness of Almighty God. It is in praise of his vindictive, retributive justice. It is a Divinely inspired song, for it is not in squeamish man to write such concerning the justice of God. The glorified saints in heaven, they know better (Revelation 20:1-6). It is for us the people of God confirmation and remembrance also. It is prophetic in that it reminds the church of its final victory of Satan and the defeat of the AntiChrist (Revelation 15:1f). It is a reminder for the church too as she also struggles and battles with her enemies through the wilderness of this barren world. The victory over Satan is ours and Golgotha assured us of that, “having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). This song of praise unto the Lord is for this victory over Egypt, the then world-power, Pharaoh who is a type of the Antichrist, and Satan who is the architect of all evil (v1). The first thing they do when delivered, they sang a song of praise to God. This is fitting. All inanimate creation sings (Job 38:7). The king of Israel does (Psalm 40:3). The ransomed of the Lord do, their sighing and sorrowing us turned to singing (Isaiah 51:11). How has Israel’s victory been wrought? By the blood of the Lamb and the power of Almighty God. The latter most conspicuously displayed in both the land of Egypt by signs and wonders and lately by means of the Red Sea.

They sing of the trustworthiness of their God (v2). He proves able to deliver, again and again, giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13). He alone is our salvation and does not the experience of such salvation lead us to glad, grateful confession of God as our deliverer and our salvation. This God is our God, he is the God of all history, he is our faithful covenant Lord, never changing, always the same. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). He acts for his own, takes issue with our foes, deals with the powers arrayed against us, both persons and powers of evil. Our God is a warrior God (v3). To his enemies, he is a terrible, fearsome warrior (v3). This is an aspect of God’s character ignored by and large, seldom made mention of. The often sickly sentimentality expressed as love is of the flesh, not faith. Israel is looking and singing from a divine perspective here, this is Spirit inspired praise! God is the faithful performer of what he promises, “the Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14). And did he not? Here is the practical proof, Israel has, as he promised, been delivered. As Joshua would tell Israel much later on, “and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” (Joshua 24:14). Nor ever shall. Trust him!

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Daniel! (3)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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The Babylonian Strategy  (Chapter 1 Verses 1-7)

So why the name change (v7)? Because there is something of God in their names. Daniel’s name means ‘God is judge.’ Well that’s not going to be tolerated in Babylon, he is not the judge here, man is. Daniel is now in the realm where man is sovereign, or so he thinks. His new name praises the gods of Babylon not the God of Israel, the true and living God. In Babylon, there must be no mention of his name. They are being programmed to forget their past, its culture, its religion, everything now reflects the culture of Babylon. You see the same strategy operating in the West today. In schools, colleges and universities, the secularisation of youth is being systematically programmed into them. They must be taught to breathe the spirit of the world. It is Babylonian indoctrination, nothing new. Whose name to we bear, whose name does our children bear? As Christians, we are no longer under a cloud of holy displeasure, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). We are God’s children, we are children of a King and we are subject to and bear his name, Christian. We confess his name, Christ. But if we want our kids to confess his name too, and we do, how can that happen if we teach them the principles of Babylon? Or allow them to be taught those principles by others, i.e., school, college etc. If they are instructed in the letters of Babylon’s paganism and read and learn everything but the Holy Scriptures. So the question is who is going to instruct our kids? The work amongst our children and youth, in particular, is fraught with difficulty these days, it’s hard but it’s vital. Because if we don’t get the word of God into them they will find a modern Nebuchadnezzar who will entice them away from God, his word and his house.

The Babylonian doctrine may come to them by the television or internet screen, or their own peers even, not to mention the education system. To called a Christian is more than just to be taught, to read the Bible, but to love God in a priestly way. To love God sacrificially, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). The need of our day is to raise up Daniel’s, children who are disciples, devoted to the Lord. To be young men and women who will stand against the flood-tide of paganism that once again swamps our land, wholly devoted to the Lord. The Bible is more than just a textbook to be read in church on Sunday or to get sermons out of as and when. But to read daily on our knees as our love letter from God, hearing the voice of the Lord in every line. To devoured in an attitude of humility and with a desire to know and to do God’s will. It is only then that Jerusalem will not be overcome by Babylon. It is only then that Babylon will cease to entice our fourteen-year-olds like Daniel. The battle is for our minds, the process of brainwashing can only be overcome by the word of God, the sword of the Spirit. Babylon is not neutral, it is hostile, it always has been and always will be, to the end. If we forget who we are, what we are and where we came from; that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb’ that we are God’s people, his heritage. Then we will very soon lose all God-consciousness. And that will be to revisit Israel’s exilic tragedy.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus! (130)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Destruction of Egypt  (Chapter 14 Verses 15-31)

The deliverance of Israel spells judgment for Egypt. Zion is redeemed by judgment. We see this time and again through redemptive history. The last plague poured out upon Egypt broke their power, their resistance. But they are still not humbled. There may be fear, there may be sorrow and grief but without the sorrow that leads to a biblical repentance, the end is more God hardness, “for godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2Corinthians 7:10). The further hardening is evidenced by their recovery from the fear caused by the last plague. Now they are in hot pursuit of the Hebrews again (v23). And that to their certain and final destruction (v23-25). Pharaoh’s intelligence service informs him that the Israelites are trapped. But after what he has already seen, i.e., the power of God at work in destroying his nation. And Egypt’s infrastructure razed to ground zero. Plus what he sees here before his eyes ought you would think to at least warn him of imminent danger. But here is the fury of blind rage against the Almighty (Psalm 2). The wind, the walls of water, the darkness, the manifestations of the wrath of God are screaming in his face! Blinded by enmity against and hatred of God (Romans 8:7). The awful black raging look of Jehovah is upon the Egyptians (v24). He is about to strike in wrath. Their fall is great (v26-28). Again the rod of Moses is lifted (v27). The walls of water begin to crumble and fall, the Egyptians try to turn back but it’s too late. God shakes off his enemies in the raging waters of the Red Sea, overtaken and swallowed up in judgment. O don’t leave it too late, “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2Corinthians 6:2). “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men….as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2Corinthians 5:11, 20-21). God is glorified in both the salvation of his people and the judgment of the wicked. The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4).

This signifies the salvation of the church and the judgment of the world. It is a down payment a guarantee of what is to come at the end of the age. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (2Peter 3:10-12). The ruin of the ungodly will be great, “he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:49). Pharaoh heard, Pharaoh saw the manifestations of God’s power but he would have none of it, he perished and took his army down with him. Now amongst God’s people there is both fear and salvation (v29-31). Noah and his family were saved in the judgment upon the then world by a flood. Israel is saved here in the judgment of Egypt is delivered by the hand of God. Times are often dark for God’s covenant people, seemingly hopeless even. But God has promised, he has pledged himself to us and his promise of a future paradise, the real promised land is not empty hope. Jehovah, our faithful covenant Lord, remains true to his name, faithful. He always and always will deliver his church. Here typically through the Red Sea, in reality through Christ and his finished work, our only hope of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Behold! The sufficiency and salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 7:25). Who has the ability to deliver his elect in every circumstance 0f life and whatever the world has to through at us? Only believe (Mark 9:23)!

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Daniel! (2)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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What’s in a Name?  (Chapter 1 Verses 1-7)

The question might be asked, where did Daniel and his three friends come from, spiritually I mean, not geographically? Well, I do believe these youngsters could well be a fruit of Jeremiah’s ministry. Jeremiah’s ministry began in the time of Josiah’s reign and revival. Now we’ve already said the revival didn’t go far and deep enough, it certainly didn’t stop the rot in Israel. But, I ask, was it during that time that young Daniel learned his faith, or at least the seeds of it were sown? Was he the son of the faithful remnant, well grounded in the faith at a mother’s knee? And now that seed has come to fruition, now it’s time to stand and here this young man stands. We do our young people a great disservice, in fact, we fail them when all we do is feed them superficially. On a visit to the United States of America a short while ago I was asked to speak briefly to some high school kids, at a Christian school. What a joy to see that they weren’t just being fed on Bible stories. The class I spoke to were studying apologetics. How many of our fifteen-year-olds in our churches here in the United Kingdom even know what the apologetic means? The young man Daniel was certainly trained for days of war, spiritual war I mean, and that’s what we ought to be training our children for today. Here now in Babylon Daniel finds himself under the instruction of a youth worker of a different kind (v3-4). Ashpenaz is his name (v3). And he is meticulous in his job. His task is to inject the Babylonian spirit into some of these young Hebrew men, the better ones. Included in this is also the changing of their names (v7). Now to understand the background to all this one has to remember that the book of Daniel is prophetic. Daniel is God’s prophet whose struggle is between Jerusalem and Babylon. The first, Jerusalem, is the city of God. The latter, Babylon, is the city of darkness, i.e., the world. They are in Shinar (v2), where the world-power originally rose up against God (Genesis 11:4). Mankind’s first attempt at autonomy, independence from God. Man’s bid for sovereignty, to be the master of his own destiny. It was the beginning of the war of the ages and extends to end of the world’s history as we know it. It’s the war against God and Satan. Between the church and the world. Between Christ and the Antichrist. It is the war that culminates in the final battle (Revelation 18:1ff) with the ultimate triumph of Christ.

Note the relevance of the plan here (v4). The scheme is an old one but it’s not obsolete. Babylon’s interest is in the elite, the ones who they esteem will be future leaders amongst the youth. The ones whose character and convictions have not yet hardened, but can still be moulded, shaped, redirected even. So these are not treated as prisoners which of course who tend to harden them against the Babylonians, alienate them. They are selected for the best of education, Ivy League class, or Oxbridge if you like (v4). If you want to poison a lake what is the best, easiest way to do it? You go to the source, the stream that fills the lake and there you insert the poison. The stream will do the rest of the work carrying the poison into the entire lake. Now if you want to poison a nation you use the same principle. You go to its youth, their Universities and Colleges and there you inject the poison, you indoctrinate them and they will carry the poison into every sphere of society. You don’t bother with the older ones, the are too hardened in their convictions, you will not change them. You either kill them or wait for them to die off. The Nazi German policy under Hitler also. It’s not new but neither is it obsolete. It is happening in the West even as I write. So this is Ashpenaz’s task to Babylonianise Daniel and his three friends, indoctrinate them with Babylonian culture. To naturalise them (v4-5). One of the first things to be done is to alienate them from their own native ethos and language. They are going to be Paganised. They are to be taught Babylons beliefs, ideologies. All, everything has to be transformed even their diet (v5). It would be put to them that their old Jewish food regulations and customs are so old fashioned, you guys are in the modern world now. Get with it guys. When a new regime takes over, as has been seen in Russia over the last hundred years or more, they changed to names of places. Of cities, towns, palaces and squares, everything that reminds people of the old regime has to be changed. So these four Hebrew lads, their names which are well meaningful as we shall see, they have to be changed. The past has to be erased from their psyche, it’s called indoctrination. The culture of the world has to be embraced. How will they ever be able to stand against this? Faith is the answer. In the true and living God, the God of Israel, the God their fathers.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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