Bible Verse: The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. Daniel 1:7

Scripture Reading: Daniel 1:1-7

The opening chapter of Daniel details King Nebuchadnezzar and his army besieging Jerusalem and taking thousands of Jewish people into captivity. Instantly they Israelites found themselves in a strange land with values, customs and beliefs that contradicted theirs. All their supports: cultural, ethnic, religious, social and familial were stripped away. Daniel and his friends were some of those 10,000 exiles who were dragged the 1,300 km from Jerusalem to Babylon.

Today’s Scripture tells us they were chosen for their brains and their brawn and forced to enroll in the Babylonian school of the occult. Part of their brainwashing was that they were given new names. In the ancient Near East, a person’s name often contained the name of the one’s deity, which was integrally connected with their identity. Thus, the Babylonians began the process of re-education by giving their captives new names. They attempt to give the Judean youths a new identity and allegiance in bestowing names that associate them with Babylonian gods. They are mocking their Jewish heritage with idolatrous names. They were designed to obliterate their identity.

Today Christians may feel like a marginalized people as culture has shifted. We may feel like exiles living in our own Babylon. Our culture will attempt to rename us, but we stand strong as people with our identity firmly given by the King of Kings who calls us his children.

— Rick Bayer, Lead pastor, Gracepoint Community Church, Surrey, BC.

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