I was reading the Book of Daniel the other day. The story of a young Jewish noble taken captive to Babylon who remains true to the God of Israel and is thus able to live to realize his full potential and be a great aid to the Babylonian kings.
I wondered how this young Jewish boy retained a sense of his identity when he was immersed in this foreign environment. How had he retained a vision of who he was? Can we follow his example as we are immersed in the modern ‘Babylon’ of our day?
As I studied the first chapter two thoughts came to mind. Daniel constantly remembered who he was and lived what he knew.
Remembered Who He Was
Names were very important to the Hebrew people. Just look at the twelve tribes and the meanings behind their names. The root of Daniel’s name ‘Dan’ is from one of those twelve sons—and his name means “judge”.
This would have been a fine enough name for Daniel’s father to give his son—foreshadowing (as I’m sure his father expected) that the young noble baby would grow up to ‘judge’ his fellows. But his father took the name one step further—adding ‘el’ the name of God to the end of it. Dani-el meaning ‘God is my Judge‘.
In Babylon Daniel was given a new name—Belteshazzar meaning ‘Prince of Bel’ (Bel being the Babylonian god of the earth)—but he did not let this new title define (and limit) who he was and whose he was.
Does the meaning of your name help remind you who you are? Does it help you remember your relationship to God? If you don’t know try checking out your name’s meaning and searching the scriptures for its significance.
For example my name, Jessica, means ‘foresight’ and a search of the scriptures reveals the comforting promise “I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee’ (Abraham 2:8).
Lived What He Knew
The second thing Daniel did to retain a vision of whose he was, was to live what he knew. He was obedient to the Mosaic law as far as possible.
In Daniel’s case this meant he was a picky eater.
The Mosaic law forbid the children of Israel to eat any food that had been sacrificed to idols or that consisted of unclean animals—and King Nebuchadnezzar’s food (which he graciously allotted his noble jewish captives) was both.
Simple vegetables and grain and water to drink, was what Daniel and his friends requested. Peasant fare. Food they likely weren’t used to—coming from the middle-class as they did.
“But,” the record states, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine…” (Daniel 1:8)
Obedience meant sacrificing what “everyone was doing” (or eating) in favour of what God wanted them to do.
Is there a simple commandment that God has given that you feel pressed to live? Something small and almost mundane in its simplicity? Something that not only shows God you put him first, but also allows him to bestow in your life the promise that attaches to his laws?
Daniel and his friends practised the mosaic health law for ten days to prove to the man in charge of them that obeying their God would be beneficial. At the end of the ten days they were healthier physically and mentally then the other boys. They reaped the promised blessing.
Search the scriptures for a commandment and then find its promise. Try Daniel’s ten-day experiment and see what happens!
I’m trying a ten-day experiment based on the commandment to “retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated…” (D&C 88:124)
Please comment on your experience below!
Each Sunday I post a short devotional. This September (due to my participation in the Daniel Fast) I’m exploring what it means to have a ‘Daniel Heart’.