Yes, I'm now in the Book of Daniel, thus the lions!
Shortly into the book we find that Daniel and his three friends had been renamed by the king. Daniel's new name would be Belteshazzar.
When one aligns with the culture of a kingdom or a country, their life tends to reflect the nature of that kingdom. That was the objective of Nebuchadrezzar's renaming, hoping both to benefit from the best of his captives, as well as to deprive Isreal of future leadership.
Daniel obviously stood out when Aspenaz was commissioned by Nebuchadrezzar to hand pick a few kids from Jerusalem, "whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans." Again, His objective was to solidify his hold on a newly conquered land, much as any leader bent on colonialism. Think Putin!
A similar moment as Daniel's occurred some years back, while I was walking along a crowded street in Ethiopia. A pickup truck pulled up beside of me with a Coca-Cola insignia on its door.
One of the two guys inside, both Americans, asked if I needed a ride, curious as to my reason for being in the area. I had set out to attend a nearby Rotary meeting, while they had been navigating a traffic jam around the Sheraton at which I was staying.
That area had become a heavily militarized zone due to a gathering of leaders from several African nations, many at odds with each other. Tensions were high, so naturally as a light skinned American, I too stood out in the crowd. Oh, for such a counter-cultural demonstration of Christ, that I met stand out in my hometown as well!
I find it interesting that Daniel's new name meant, "Baal protect the king.”
Brother Neb would soon learn a lesson or two from his young captives.
Though I'm sure it was tempting, "Daniel purposed in heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank...." Dan. 1:8a.
Based upon my limited research, and the conjecture of others, Daniel was thought to have been somewhere between 12 and 20 years of age. Imagine the courage of this young man.
He was thought to have died around the age of 85-100, active still as evidenced by the Queen's words: "there is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation."
Dan 11:11-12 KJV
That encourages me as I seek to stay true to my name as a Christ-follower, given where American Christianity seems headed. The trajectory seems similar to other countries where once the church was having major influence. Think Germany for one, the motherland of the Great Reformation.
I find it interesting that the concept of "Good News," which we refer to as the Gospel, is a term taken from the Greek word "euangelion." Surprisingly, it originally referenced the propaganda proclaimed by newly positioned Roman leaders in countries recently conquered! Look it up!
The Early Church, by way of a demonstration of power earlier seen only in the Christ and few Elijah types,
gave new meaning to the term. They were turning cities upside down with a counter cultural message of grace and love, as previously manifest in the life the man, Jesus.
They were impassioned by the Spirit of God after having watched as Jesus willingly gave His life as a means of countering the wrath based religion of their day. Some later experiencing the same death, assured by a ressurection as recorded in the Gospels.
To me, Calvary was in many ways, God in Christ raising his hand to say, if you believe sacrifice is necessary to appease my wrath for your sins, I'll be that sacrifice! "For God so loved the world that...." Religion at it's worst still profers that wrath!
My thoughts have changed somewhat over time regarding the means and message of the Church, and one day we too, have promise that our name, like Daniel's will change, this time given "a new name written, which no man knoweth...." Rev 1:17.
Until that day, I will follow my heart and unashamedly communicate my thoughts, in hope of influencing a new generation, one that is already beginning to stand out in the crowd. Their values shifting from what late stage capitalism has provided, and in their own way and with a different language, in search of a deeper walk in the Spirit.
The means by which they seek that walk may seem quite counter cultural to the orthodoxy of yesteryear's church. Who knows, even purposing in their hearts not to defile themselves with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank...."
It will be interesting to watch, should I too live to be a 85-100, either way a new name and a new life is coming, which according to another John, "no man knows!"