When I was a child, I (and all my friends) wanted new names. We chose for ourselves names that evoked fantasies about great strength or mystical powers or whatever captured our fancies. My best friend, whose last name was Ball, desperately wanted to be called Crystal. But it wasn’t what we called ourselves that really mattered; it was what we answered to.
In The Daniel Dilemma, Chris Hodges talks about naming his children. He and his wife chose a Biblical name and a family name for each of their children, naming them intentionally. So did my husband and I. Our children’s names mean “Ruler / God has been gracious,” “Grace / Pure,” “Victorious / Friend,” “Descender / God is my judge,” and “Clear / Consecrated.” Some of them have grown up into their names, and others—not so much. Still, they are young and God isn’t finished with them.
My given name is Susan Elaine, which means Lilly / Light. As I began to grow in God’s word, I was struck by the fact that when God changed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, the meaning of their names didn’t change as much as the added “ah” was the breath of God. That’s when I changed my name to Susannah. The meaning is still the same, but the spelling includes the breath of God.
But we adopt many names throughout our lives. Sometimes we allow circumstances to define us. We take on the name of a disease, tragedy, rejection, betrayal, and words that tell us who we are like “stupid” or “fat.”
We can let the culture around us define us, or we can call on God to tell us who we are. Satan would love to persuade you that you are not who God says you are. And if we listen to him, we will live out what he says.
But by the same token, if we listen to what God says, we can live out His name for us. Which do you choose?
As we look into Daniel’s residency in Babylon, we find him mired in a culture that has the dubious distinction of being known as one of history’s most decadent. It was in this context that Daniel—”God is my judge”—proved his faith. Despite the rebelliousness and moral decline of his own people, Daniel remained steadfast.
After the reigns of David and his son, Solomon, the people of Israel split into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom comprised ten tribes and the Southern Kingdom included Judah and the tribe of Benjamin (Daniel’s tribe). The Northern Kingdom began worshipping idols. Despite God’s repeated warnings through His prophets, the people ignored God and continued on their path to destruction. Finally, God sent Assyria to take them captive. The kingdom was destroyed.
Even with the northern tribes’ example, the people of the Southern Kingdom did not learn. Ignoring their own prophets, they slid into idol worship, too. That’s when God sent Babylon to capture them. The “nation” of Israel was no more.
But God always preserves a remnant for Himself and it was Daniel’s part to exemplify that remnant. Through all the times of his captivity, he never caved to pressure or threat. Instead, he trusted God and left himself in God’s hands. Was God trustworthy? Indeed!
Daniel was probably a teenager when he was taken to Babylon, perhaps sixteen years of age. He lived the next seventy years of his life in a pagan culture that shifted through the reigns of four different emperors. Each emperor saw himself as a god, but Daniel’s faith never wavered. His God was always God.
Why was it so important for Daniel to be respectful yet uncompromising? God granted Daniel great influence with the Babylonian emperors because of his steadfast faith. He saw friends subjected to the torture of the fiery furnace and was himself tossed into the lion’s den. But through it all, Daniel was faithful to God and God was faithful to Daniel (and his faithful friends). In the end, his influence allowed Israel to return from their captivity.
In today’s culture, there is great pressure to tolerate everything. But the American language continues to evolve, changing definitions to accommodate Satan’s agenda. Making words mean something different is one way to change society, and today tolerate actually means embrace.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Daniel had the key: respect and resolution. He did not disrespect anyone, yet he was resolute in his faith toward God. He didn’t have social media to present a scathing judgment against those who didn’t believe as he did, but he also didn’t compromise God’s standards so that he would be received by those with whom he differed. In fact, it was because of his uncompromising behavior that he gained influence with those in power. Even when plots were hatched against him and his very life was threatened, Daniel continued to trust and glorify God. When God came through for him—and He always did—the powers that were had no choice but to recognize His God.
Influence. Today it is defined to mean the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.Tomorrow it may be hijacked to mean something completely different. What will always be true is that godly character in the midst of a perverse generation will effect a profound change.
This weekly devotional is taken from the insights I gained from reading The Daniel Dilemma, by Chris Hodges (with a forward by Lysa TerKeurst). If you would like to read along with me as I take this year to study how to “Stand firm and love well,” you can purchase the book from this link at Amazon. There is also a study guide, but I will not be using it as I study this book.
Truth without grace is mean. Grace without truth is meaningless. Truth and grace together are good medicine.
Chris Hodges Author, The Daniel Dilemma
Our world is in chaos. How do we hold to the truth in love?
The Woman Caught in Adultery
Looking for a reason to condemn Yeshua, the Jewish leaders had dragged a hapless woman from the very bed in which she and her lover lay (notice that only she was accused of adultery). Was this a set-up? Most assuredly. But the Jews weren’t setting up the woman—they were setting up Yeshua.
The Pharisees themselves probably weren’t guilty of being the sex partner; they kept strictly to the law. But it was likely they who convinced someone to take this woman to bed so that they could catch her in the act. His identity was protected. Hers was not.
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.
John 8:3-6 NLT
Yeshua was not concerned about her sin as much as He was about the sins of the Pharisees. “Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools” (Romans 1:22 NLT). They were the leaders of the people; what they said and did would be accepted as right.
But Yeshua showed a better way.
They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
John 8:7-11 NLT
We see it every day on television or on social media. Words designed to assassinate character and ruin lives. If we enter into that conversation (and we must), then we should learn how to do it in love and with compassion not only for those who are maligned but for those who malign as well. Only when we are willing to make the Word of God (Yeshua) our standard will we be able to help calm the chaos.
There is a balance to be sought here. We must balance the word of truth (God’s standard) with the reality of His love and His grace to cover our sins.
How can we expect those who are lost to ever come to Jesus if what we say is: “You are sinful and going to hell.” In essence, we are telling sinners that God’s love doesn’t cover their sins unless they are like us.
We become paralyzed by extremes. Either we are battle-weary and give in by accepting everything, or we polarize and refuse to participate. Yet there is another way. This devotional study will focus on a man who was thrust into a culture surprisingly very much like our own. He discovered how to stand firm and still be the calm in the cultural storm. His name was Daniel, meaning “God is my judge.”