Leavening the Loaf

God moves the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 1 (2)

Introduction
Jesus used the metaphor of leaven to express the nature of the Kingdom of God (cf. Matt. 13.33). Leaven invades an essentially unpalatable mass of ingredients, wholly foreign in nature to itself, and, properly diffused and kneaded, works transforming effects on everything it touches, creating something wholesome and palatable and good. Enter Daniel and his friends into the waiting loaf of Nebuchadnezzar’s court.

Read Matthew 13.24-43.

Read Daniel 1.3-7.
3Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, 4young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. 5And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. 6Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

Think it Through
1.  Let’s try to understand Nebuchadnezzar’s thinking here. Why would he want to bring smart, good-looking Hebrew princes into his royal court? Do you suppose he was thinking more about the good of his new captives, or was he primarily motivated for his own advantage? What did he hope to achieve as a result of this action? Meditate on Genesis 50.15-20. Can you identify any similarities between Joseph’s situation and that into which Daniel and his friends were introduced? Do you suppose Daniel might have had Joseph’s situation in mind as he entered this role?

2.  Daniel mentions 8 criteria that were to be used in selecting those who would be prepared for service in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Can you identify them? Why would each of these be important to Nebuchadnezzar? Which of these criteria should be important to us as we prepare continually to serve the Lord in our own Personal Mission Field? Look back at verse 2: Do you suppose the Lord was also in this action on the part of Nebuchadnezzar, and in the choice of young men to fill these roles? Let’s make one other observation: The chief of eunuchs gave new names to all four of these young men. Daniel’s friends are consistently called by their new names, but Daniel uses his Hebrew name when he writes about himself. The Babylonians refer to him as Belteshazzar until Daniel 5, when, perhaps wearied by his repeatedly correcting him, they also call him by his Hebrew name. By chapter 6, he is only Daniel. What shall we make of this? Why isn’t this book entitled Belteshazzar? Is there a principle for us to practice as we go into the unbelieving world?

Meditate
“It is not only the overseer or master of the eunuchs (as others have rendered it, the chief eunuch) who changed the names of saints, but also Pharaoh called Joseph in Egypt Zaphenathpaneah, for neither of them wished to have Jewish names in the land of captivity.” Jerome (347-420 AD)

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD,
Like the rivers of water;
He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21.1

O Lord, You have called me, and You are preparing me as leaven in the loaf of my Personal Mission Field. Today, let me bring the presence of Your Kingdom to…

Pray
Arise, O God, plead Your own cause;
Remember how the foolish man reproaches You daily.
Do not forget the voice of Your enemies;
The tumult of those who rise up against You increases continually.

Psalm 74.22, 23

Psalm 74.22, 23 (Rockingham Old: O Lord Most High, With All My Heart)
Arise O God, and plead Your cause! See how the fools reproach Your Name.
Their voices quell, their uproar still, who Your majestic grace defame.

T. M Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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