A life of faith in exile
All these people were still living by faith when they died… admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
Hebrews 11:13 (NIVUK)
Some stories from the Book of Daniel are probably well known, yet a major overall theme of this book is about a life of faith and service to God in the face of long-term captivity and trials in exile.
When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judea, Daniel and his colleagues were amongst ‘the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility’ (Daniel 1:3), who were in the first wave of deportations of the Jews to Babylon. They were uprooted from a life of privilege in a land of hills and valleys and transplanted to the flat plains of Babylon and to a life of servitude. The city of Babylon was at its zenith and was intimidating, and their ultimate boss, Nebuchadnezzar, could be a proud, cruel, and quick to anger tyrant. 1
Plans, hopes, and dreams for their life in Judea had been shattered and they could have believed that they had been abandoned by God, some 900 miles from home.
Daniel and his colleagues were recognised as bright young men who could be used in the service of the Babylonian empire. They were placed on a three-year ‘indoctrination’ study where they were taught the ‘language and literature of the Babylonians’ (Daniel 1:4). Babylonian literature was entirely pagan and there was a possibility that they would be seduced by what they were learning and become fully fledged Babylonians, in thought, word, and deed.
Daniel and his companions were given new names related to the gods of Babylon. Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar which means ‘may Bel protect his life’. Bel was another name for Marduk the chief god of the Babylonians. This re-naming was intended to show them who they now belonged to. Although they were young when first deported, they had a sound relationship with the true God and a sound understanding of the truth; this enabled them to resist the cultural pressures of Babylon and to combine responsibilities within Nebuchadnezzar’s empire with a lifetime of faithful service for God.
Christians are also foreigners in exile. Today we live in the Babylon of a mainly secular, pluralist culture where we need a firm foundation in God through Jesus Christ, particularly our young people beginning to make their way in life, so that we too can live faithful, responsible lives before God.
The ultimate message for Daniel and the Christian today is, ‘As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.’ (Daniel 12:13).
Father we thank you that you have called us into a relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Help us to live faithful, fruitful lives in your service, Amen.
Study by Eddie Marsh
1 Daniel 3:13, 4:30; Jeremiah 39:6-7.
About the writer:
Eddie Marsh attends the Sheffield congregation of Grace Communion International.
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