Sunday, January 11, 2009

Four Men Who Dared to Be Different

All of the offers of the world, sat before the men who dined at the King’s table. The finest, most tantalizing, highest quality fruits, vegetables, pastries, breads, meats, wines, and cheeses were spread before them in a very specific quantity – all, no doubt, for optimum physical performance and maximum, mental fuel.

Yes, indeed, the prolific abundance and resources of the royal kingdom were being invested into the physical bodies of the finest specimens in the kingdom – all handpicked and chosen to be trained for the king’s service.

There was only one hitch.

There were a couple of men, who didn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole. In their culture the foods were considered unclean, and eating them would have defiled the Law to which they would stanchly defend and preserve. To break that Law, would be to sin against their God.

Let’s read the first chapter of Daniel, in the New International Version, and see how the actual story is recorded...

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility- 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service.
6 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you."
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

While it was, no doubt, probably an honour to have been chosen, (and most assuredly the family and friends, of those that made the cut, were proud of their loved ones), it was apparent that not everyone was willing to compromise!

Four men, who dared to be different. Notice the court officials even tried to change their names. Talk about losing your identity, and just becoming another one in the crowd!

It was all about motive, pleasure and self indulgence; the king’s, his courts’, his interns’, and his nations’. Oh, how this parallels our life, here in the present day, and from within our western culture! Indeed, we are living in a modern-day version of Babylonia! After all, it wasn’t just the name of a place, it was a culture, a way of life, and a philosophy for living!

The world is our oyster! Our eyes and ears can now hear and see and experience the voices of influence from around the world in a nano-second, through technology and media, all as never before in history - all implying that we really are the center of our own universe!

Think about it. We are enraptured with pleasure for ourselves - our five senses are never dulled and they too, are fed their finest! Education is now available through means and sources never dreamed or perceived in years past; physical health is scientifically explained, altered, reproduced, and cloned in peitre dishes; and dictionaries have words that are now considered parts of everyday speech - words that would make even an animal blush!

Our hands fondle the finest of textures and objects in their purest, natural form or their man-made, artificial counterparts. Our palettes exercise the diversity of cultures and tastes, and exotic aromas fill our nostrils, taking our imaginations to distant lands across the globe.

We can feed not only our bodies, but our egos! We can choose to find ourselves, remake our appearance, access unlimited banks of knowledge, get cash at the touch of a button or the swipe of a card, and cross oceans and continents in a heartbeat! We have choices like no other time, or nations, in history; and, we tell ourselves it is entirely possible to have it all!

Well they too, had it all, and it was being offered to them on a silver platter, literally. However, they made a choice, and like Mary would, many years later, they chose what was better!

Four men, who dared to be different.

© January 2009 Brenda Lois Crowe
All rights reserved.

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