Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
We are probably all familiar with the story of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who were taken from the royal palace in Jerusalem and deported to Babylon.
Daniel’s name meant ‘God is my judge’.
Hananiah’s name meant ‘Yah has been gracious’.
Mishael’s name meant ‘Who is what God is’.
Azariah name meant ‘Yah has helped’.
What lovely names to go through life with. Their names identified them as part of the Hebrew nation. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was their God. It was much more that just a name. It was part of their identity.
However, when they arrived in Babylon, their Hebrew names were taken from them and replaced with pagan alternatives. The chief official gave them other names:
Daniel became Belteshazzar.
Hananiah became Shadrach.
Mishael became Meshach.
Azariah became Abednego.
Suddenly, they were burdened with names of pagan Gods. The Babylonians' aim was to change their identity until their lives matched their names. Gone were their beautiful names that reminded them of ‘home’. But they refused to allow the new names to bring with them a new nature.
I think all of us have experienced times in life when things have not worked out the way we would have hoped. Beautiful things are taken from us and, in their place, we bear burdens not of our own choosing; bereavement, a cancer diagnosis, a bad accident, financial ruin, bitter disappointments are but a few. But look at what these four men did when their old lives were taken from them. They didn’t complain and say they weren’t going to accept these new names and all the difficulties that this new life would bring; they didn’t try to get the powers that be to change their minds and give them back their old names and their freedom. And they didn’t say, ‘Why me?’ They acted honourably and with integrity and, although outwardly bearing the name of a pagan deity, their lives bore the hallmark of the living God.
Next time when life seems to deal us a harsh blow, let’s remember the example of these four heroes of faith and step out into our changed tomorrows trusting Christ, our beloved Saviour and King.
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Struthers Memorial Church is a registered Scottish Charity No. SC 006960 | Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee incorporated in Scotland Company No SC335480 | Registered Office: 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, PA15 1SH.