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Daily Devotional • April 17

David Baumann
Courage to Be God’s
A Reading from Daniel 1:1-21

1 In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave King Jehoiakim of Judah into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and he placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.

3 Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility: 4 young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. 6 Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. 7 The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine, so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. 9 Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion from the palace master. 10 The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your age, you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12 “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations and deal with your servants according to what you observe.” 14 So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. 16 So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables. 17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.

18 At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, 19 and the king spoke with them. Among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. 21 And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.

It was the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, 606 B.C. For nearly three centuries the nation of Judah had been on the skids, falling more and more into corruption, with atrocities becoming commonplace and accepted, the ways of God ignored and rejected, and the faithful becoming ever more persecuted and punished. It was the age of the great prophets, whose luminescent and formidable words had been sneered at and counted as treasonous. Finally, all that had been prophesied came to pass: the nation whimpered out, conquered by the pagan kingdom of Babylon. 

The book of Daniel recounts these things almost without emotion. As an American in the 21st century, how could I get the picture of what this was like for Israel?  

“In the second year of the last President of the United States, the armies of [Insert Nation, Big Corporation, or other Enemy Here] inundated the Capitol and sent everyone away. They appropriated the treasures of the Smithsonian Institution and took over the computers of the White House. The National Cathedral became their assembly room, all religious items taken away, some to museums and others to the dump. The Communion vessels were used by the new leaders for their festive dinners. Healthy young people who had been aides to the former Congress were taken on as apprentices in the expectation that they could be useful to the new regime.” 

Well. Maybe that starts to get at it. And yet a few of those Israeli young people in Babylon held on to God. They could do nothing else; they even lost their names. It must have been an amazing act of courage for Daniel to say, “I’m not going to defile myself with your food.” It was the beginning of all things being made new. “Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.” That was 549 B.C. Daniel was there for 56 years, and faithful throughout. Could this give us courage?

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Sekondi – The Church of the Province of West Africa
The Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana
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