Monday, December 14, 2009

A Question of Identity

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Book of Daniel, Bible

Image by FineShots via Flickr

The following is a fictionalized piece based on the life of a man who found God to be faithful even when everything seemed to be falling apart.


A young man he was, full of the vitality of his youth, the blood of nobility pulsing in his veins.

In exile.

He lived in a strange netherworld, a bizarre limbo. His nobility served him well, because it had given him a position of privilege in the land of his conqueror, his new king. And yet he was not free.

This young man was but one of many who had been ripped from their beloved homeland and forced into the service of those who were slaves themselves…slaves to pagan gods whom the young man despised.

He and his good friends sat in their place of tutelage, studying the language of their gentile conquerors.

Forced to assimilate.

And right now this young man sat frozen, horror gripping his gut as his tutor smirked at him.

"Yes," the tutor gloated in his accented Hebrew. "Now you understand enough of our language to know why the king has chosen the name 'Belteshazzar' for you. We told him that your old name, 'Daniel,' meant "Yahweh is my judge.' Of course we can't have that sort of thing here, can we, Belteshazzar? So tell me, Belteshazzar, what does your new name mean?"

Daniel's nostrils flared and his breath came short. Help me, Yahweh. Help me! How can I take such detestable words on my lips? How can I bear such a blasphemous name?

"I'm waiting, Belteshazzar."

Daniel could scarcely breathe. "In your language," he replied through clenched teeth, "It means, 'May Bel Protect Him.'"

"Yes, that's right. But if the king sees your distaste for your new name, I doubt Bel's protection will be enough for you."

Daniel straightened and looked his tutor in the eye. "Yahweh's protection will be."

"Hmph. We'll see about that."

Over the years that followed, Daniel and his friends learned much about their new home of Babylon, and one thing stood out in every lesson.

The king is supreme. His word is absolute law. His edicts, once signed, can never be changed, not even by himself.

Even Daniel's new name had been given by this sovereign king. It could not be changed. By anyone. Ever.

I am doomed to blasphemy. Every time anyone calls to me, they invoke the blessing of their demon god on me. And every time I must introduce myself, I seem to ask for that god's blessing.

I hate it! How can I bear it?

Three times a day, every day, when he fell to his knees before the One True God, he begged Yahweh's mercy on himself for even using such a horrible name.

And never, never could he tell others his name as if he really owned it. He couldn't force himself to say, "My name is…" Instead he always said, "The king has named me Belteshazzar."

Daniel remained true to Yahweh, through tests and trials that put his life in peril, and through ordinary days that teased him with a thousand tiny compromises. He served a succession of kings, outlasting them all. Because of Daniel's powerful testimony, the miraculous gifts he possessed, and the wonders which God performed on his behalf, some of those kings developed some reverence for Yahweh.

Some did not.

Daniel's hair grew white. He fell into obsolescence, scorned by those who cared nothing for the testimony of their elders and had no reverence for Daniel's God.

And always, through the long years, Daniel bore that dreadful name. So three times a day, when he bowed before the One True God, he would affirm that "Yahweh is my judge. I will not ask for protection from the Abomination of the Babylonians."

No one called on him for counsel any more, or for the interpretation of dreams, or to use any of the wonderful gifts that God had given him. But he did not mind. He had never sought prestige among the heathen.

Yahweh is my judge. Yahweh alone.

Then one day, Yahweh came to him in His earth-shattering holiness. It was far from the first time, but Daniel could never get used to it. How does mere flesh bear the presence of the Holy One?

"Daniel, beloved one, messengers from the King will soon come to your door. They need you to interpret what My hand has written on the king's wall. I will tell you the interpretation now, and you are to go with the messengers and give the interpretation to the king. Have no fear of him, for he is a detestable man, and I will require his life from him this very night."

Daniel listened to the interpretation that God gave him, and then rose to meet the king's messengers.

"Belteshazzar," one messenger began, "The king has received a message from a god, written with a man's hand on the wall. He called all of his wise men, but none of them could interpret it. Then the queen came to him and told him to call on you, Belteshazzar. She said, "An excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation."

"Wait!" Daniel interrupted. "Did she actually say it that way? Did you hear it with your own ears?"

"Yes, I stood by the king to do his bidding. I heard her say those exact words."

Daniel did not hear another word. He walked with the messengers toward the palace, but his heart soared far higher, rejoicing in an infinitely greater Sovereign.

The king's word can never be changed. My name was commanded to be Belteshazzar until the day I died. But the queen…the queen herself, said I was "Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar." You, oh Yahweh, have overturned the king's edict. Blessed be Your name, for you have affirmed before the king's household that You are judge, You are my judge, and that accursed name does not really cling to me!


To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone…

Jesus, Rev 2:17

The preceding was a fictionalized account, based on the true story from the Biblical book of Daniel. The pivotal quote comes from Daniel 5:12. I wrote this for all believers who, like me, are seeking to find our true identity in Christ.

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Denise said...

Such an awesome post.

LauraLee Shaw said...

WoWWWW, that is powerful!!!! Thank you for that, my friend!

Betsy Markman said...

Josh said...

Hi Mrs. Markman,
I found your blog from Mrs. Kraft's blog...
This post was wonderful!

(Josh wrote more in his original comment, which I chose not to post because it was actually a reply to a comment that I had left on someone else's blog. But I wanted to reproduce this part of his comment here, and also use this space to thank Josh for his helpful comments. I will keep them for future reference and I'm sure they will come in very handy!)

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