Recovering hope and purpose in tragic circumstances.
BY ELIZABETH ARIEL
The last several years had been like a steep incline into a pit. Throughout his childhood he had wanted to plug his ears when he heard the words of Jeremiah predicting doom for Israel. Life had been sweet as the child of a nobleman. But now the acrid taste of captivity was real - too real. He chose to block out the memories of the last days of the siege before they were herded off to Babylon, and the wailing women who had kept up a mournful lament along the tiresome trek to this foreign land. But he couldn't forget Miriam.
Miriam. It was hard to think about his bride, who never-would-be. She was beautiful with her large, brown, thick-lashed eyes, and slender frame. The Babylonian men hadn't been slow to notice. She had been one of the first virgins claimed by a Babylonian soldier. Only the threat of a sword had kept Daniel from lurching after her as she was pulled away. Their eyes had met in one sorrowful, last look as the loud soldier swaggered away with her in tow.
A tear escaped down Daniel's cheek as he thought about her.
For Daniel this had been a year of dramatic change and decisions. In his sorrow he had heard the whisper of voices that mocked his God's goodness and faithfulness and threatened to overwhelm his resolve. He knew God had kept his word in punishing rebellious Israel, but why had he been lumped in with the evil-doers? Hadn't it been enough to lose his homeland? Now he had lost his manhood. Any hope of raising up sons to carry on the family line and preserve his name was gone. For a Jewish man to not have a son was paramount to being cut off from his people.
The pain went even deeper. The words of Moses haunted him: "No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord." It was a disgrace to be mutilated in any way. His place in Jewish society had been cut off. His status before God was in question.
What could or would God do for him now? The little voice continued its whispering. All was lost - even his name. He now bore the name of a Babylonian god: Beltshazzar. He would be trained to work for a godless king - one who wielded his emotions with a sword. Daniel shuddered at the thought.
But he picked up the scroll, kissed it and held it to his heart. Something stirred within. No, no matter what, he wasn't letting go of his God. It was all he had left; it was the only thing that couldn't be taken from him. No, somehow God would work this out. He would stay faithful no matter what.
He recalled the words of Jeremiah: "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Yes, this was his calling. He had been sent here for a purpose. He would serve this godless king with all the devotion and love of one serving the king of Israel. It was time to lay down his dreams and take up God's.
Days turned into years as Daniel persisted in honoring the God he could not see. Staying true had meant living on legumes and vegetable; defying the king's order and facing the lions. But the God he could not see stood alongside him and even the godless kings came to acknowledge this. Kings came and went, but Daniel's honor didn't fade. He had no offspring, and yet his name has been remembered throughout history. He became a friend of God - laboring in prayer for the restoration of Israel; sharing in the secrets of things to come.And as one who revered God by living according to His desires regardless of the political pressures, he became "highly esteemed" in the sight of God - an honor that carries on eternally in the courts of heaven.