Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego. Daniel 1:3-7
I think the best question to ask about this section of Daniel is why these men were chosen to serve Nebuchadnezzar. The passage implies the 4 young men were part of the royal house of Zedekiah but does not explicitly say so. We know they were from the tribe of Judah (royal tribe) and Josephus in his historical writings tells us all four young men were part of the royal house of Zedekiah. The exile and 3 year training in Nebuchadnezzar’s royal academy was a fulfillment of 2 Kings 20:17 and Isaiah 39:5-7.
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. ‘And some of your sons who will issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away, and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
We see from the text that King Neb is taking the cream of the top and giving them a Babylonian brainwash, literally taking away all identity (changing their names), educating them in Babylonian culture and literature to become Babylonian officials. This is a brilliant tactic, but God is really the one who choose these young men. While King Neb choose them for their birth, education and ability to learn and lead, God choose them for their unbreakable faith. Put another way, God used King Neb to choose just the right young men to bring his kingdom to pagan Babylonia and to show the power and dominion of Yahweh over kings and nations.
While Daniel and friends were chosen for their unyielding faith, they were required to learn a completely new culture and language to accomplish all God’s purposes. This is a easy detail to skim over. These students of Babylon would be required to learn the spoken Chaldean language, Akkadian, which was the official literary language of Babylon from the time of Hammurabi, and study the non-Semitic language of the Sumerians. And then there is the Babylonian religious system, which included knowledge of Sumerian literature. This system would include hundreds of gods including one named “Enlil” who was the king of heaven and earth or father of the gods. In addition, Babylonian training would include the practice of magic and astrology. (Gaebelain) This was not only an extremely intense program of study but pagan in every possible way. And guess what, God sent them to Babylon to be officials in that land! So these young men had to look and act like Babylonians to operate in the high position of authority that were to be given to them. Daniel chapter 2 tell us that King Neb appoints Daniel over Babylon to rule as the chief administrator of the “wise men”. These wise men would have been the highest level of practicing magicians and astrologers.
Daniel and friends cannot operate in the high places of authority God was giving them without deep knowledge of Babylonian culture and history. The same was true of Joseph when he reigned in Egypt. Joseph spent years getting an Egyptian education while he worked for Potiphar. Seeing how the Lord blessed Joseph, Potiphar put him in charge of his entire house. All of this experience was preparing Joseph for what he was going to do. God had to teach him and build capacity in him to rule. This took a long time. And when his brothers came to Egypt they did not recognize their brother. Why? Because he looked and acted liked an Egyptian leader. All of the suffering and pagan education was necessary for Joseph to do what God purposed him to do. If we are going to operate in a pagan culture we must be educated and have the capacity to operate with success. While this may seem a little obvious, I would submit to you that many of us are not willing to put the time and effort in to accomplish all God wants us to do.
I am educated in Psychology and Counseling. To function as a counselor, you must have a bachelor’s degree (there goes 4 years of your life), a master’s degree (another 1-2 years), plus you are required to do an internship and get work experience before you are a fully functioning certified or licensed counselor. This whole process could take anywhere from 6-9 years or more! You cannot, I repeat, you cannot be a counselor without the required education and experience, at least not legally. Many of us are called to do things we do not have the capacity or knowledge to do. This means God will take you through a long process of education, learning and growing. This may not be formal education, but it will be learning and growing for what you are called to do. Because we live in an instant culture of me, we often think we can do anything without much preparation. This is just not so and it is not Biblical or how God works. You must put the work in, you must prepare and most often wait a very long time. God always uses a process for preparing us for our life’s work and most often uses unusual endeavors to accomplish this.
God will always provide the necessary experiences but we must be willing subjects and learn hard lessons along the way. If God is preparing you to do the most important work of your life, he will not transition you to that work or position until you are fully prepared.
Daniel chapter 2 tells us that the kingdom of God covers the whole earth. That means everything is under God’s dominion and authority – politics, economics, business, religion, entertainment, media, government, and your Facebook account. All of it! Daniel and his friends were chosen because of their unbreakable faith and willingness to learn. They had to get over being in exile, losing their homeland, and being forced into Pagan University. To be in alignment with God’s kingdom as it advances, we must accept that it advances in every direction, in every institution, and every dark corner.
To be chosen means you accept where God places you and flourish where you are planted. Work hard and trust God knows what he is doing. The good news is that when the process is over, there may be challenges (name changes, weird food, you’re asked to worship a statue) but at the most critical moment God brings it all together and shows up with miracles, signs, wonders, and moves kings and nations. It is worth it!
Remember, the four royals were not chosen because of their birthright, they were chosen by God because their character and unbreakable faith!