“Daring to be like Daniel”
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.