Daniel and three of his friends were taken captive when the Babylonian army invaded Jerusalem. They were among many young men of the royal family and other noble families who were forced to serve in the Babylonian king’s court. Yet they were foreigners. They spoke another language. They worshipped a different God. They followed different customs. They observed Jewish holidays. They ate a restricted diet. Yet God allowed them to be placed, exiles though they were, in a precarious situation.
Early on in their new roles, these four young men faced challenges. Their Jewish names were replaced with Babylonian names. Yet they chose to continue to follow the customs of their Jewish heritage instead of abandoning it for the sake of fitting in to a new environment. Instead of hiding their dietary customs, they chose to speak up and ask for a different food allotment. And it was granted for a period of testing. Of course. God was with them during the test, and they passed with flying colors. Their act of bravery, unbeknownst to the king, gave them favor with the chief of staff, the king and most definitely with God. They dared to speak up without knowing the outcome. With this test diet, they outperformed all the other trainees. And as they continued in their training, their wisdom and knowledge far surpassed anyone else’s. They remained true to their faith, yet they were given choice positions in the king’s service.
Later, the king built a gold statue for everyone to bow to in worship. Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to bow. They served the one true living God and would bow to no other. Someone reported this act of defiant bravery, and they were thrown into a hot burning furnace. Yet they survived the fire. In fact, an angel of the Lord joined them in the fire. Although the king acknowledged the presence of the living God, he didn’t declare his allegiance to God.
By the time Daniel was an old man, a new king had risen to power. Daniel had had great success in his career, and his coworkers were jealous. He was being promoted again, and he would serve over the entire Babylonian empire. Those green with envy were determined to bring him down. Oh. They knew his track record on the job was spotless, and there was nothing to criticize. They decided to fight him where it hurts. His faith. They knew his Jewish faith was the one thing that set him apart, so they set up a challenge. A diversion of sorts. They challenged the king to create a law that required everyone to bow down to him only for thirty days. Worship of other gods was forbidden, or the offender would be thrown into the lion’s den. Of course. Daniel continued to pray at his open window three times a day. Nothing changed for Daniel. But then they came for him. And he was thrown in with the lions. But God wasn’t finished with Daniel just yet, so Daniel’s life was spared. When Daniel was removed from the den the next morning, there was no sign of a struggle at all. The lions’ mouths had been shut by God.
For the full story of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, read Daniel 1-6.
Then there was Esther. The Jewish girl who was thrust into the harem of an ungodly king who was looking for a new queen. The current queen had refused to play his games and publicly humiliate herself. In her refusal, she humiliated the king. So he was on the hunt for a new queen. The audition: Give up your virginity to the king.
After four years of deflowering young women, the king still hadn’t found one he fancied. But then. Esther’s name was called. It was her night. And if she pleased the king, she would be crowned the new queen. In her humble act of selflessness, she won the king’s heart. Esther was now the queen. But the king didn’t know that his new wife was of Jewish descent. And when a mortal enemy of the Jews wrote a proclamation that all Jews were to be annihilated, the king gave his written permission. The law could not be changed. So Esther’s uncle went into action and let her know that her time had come to defend her people. And boy. Did she defend her people. Through God’s help, the enemy of the Jews was killed. And on the day the Jews were to be killed, they were allowed to defend themselves. No Jew was harmed on that day. Esther’s brave act of courage and selflessness saved the chosen people of God.
For Esther’s full story, read the book of Esther.
If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? Esther 4:14
We as believers must be willing to face the consequences of living truthfully. Of living biblical lives not only in private, but also in public. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. Do we trust our heavenly Father even when life is tough? When life calls for us to declare our faith publicly, will we stand? Or will we be silent and look the other way?
We don’t know what the cost might be, but we must be willing to pay it. Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den. And he survived. God spared his life. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace. And an angel of God joined them in the fire. They survived without a burn on their bodies. Not a hair on their head was singed. Esther was forced to give up her virginity to the king not knowing if he would choose her to be the queen. God used her impossible situation to eventually save her Jewish people.
These brave people didn’t flaunt their faith in public. They quietly lived their lives in obedience to God. They acted publicly on their faith at times when a tough decision was required. Esther kept her Jewish faith quiet for a long time, never letting her husband know of her heritage. She spoke up when her life and the lives of all Jewish people was at stake. She didn’t make a scene. She trusted that God would pave the way as she spoke and acted in faith.
We may think these kinds of situations will never come our way. Hopefully, they won’t. But other situations will arise. We are at a crossroads in this country, and we have no idea what lies ahead for us. We may be commanded by those in authority to bow to their gods and their demands. We too may have to choose who will will serve. Will we bow only to God? Or will we dip the knee to a smaller, lesser fake god who can’t save us, let alone hear us?
Being faithful to living biblical truth doesn’t mean you won’t be burned in the fire. Or that you won’t be eaten by lions. Or be forced to give up a sacred piece of yourself. But being faithful at all costs will reap eternal benefits. And that is our ultimate goal. Regardless of how difficult life may get, God is in those days with us.
Life is difficult. You can’t do life without God. Take your pain, jump into his lap. Let him cradle you through it. Let him be your mighty warrior. Expect beauty out of ashes. There are God stories in each of our days.Judy Squier