Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: FRESH START (01/05/17)
- TITLE: A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
By Trudy Newell
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How much longer is this forced march going to last.
The captives were young, but the trip from Jerusalem to Babylon was not for sissies. Many of them died. Daniel’s heart ached every time they left the dying to the vultures. The Babylonians were ruthless, and life was expendable.
The captives sucked in their breath at the first sight of the magnificent capital of Nebuchadnezzar’s Empire. The pace intensified as the grueling journey ended. They entered Babylon at the Ishtar Gate on the north.
The whole city crowded the main street to welcome the victors, and mock the slaves.
But things improved. The captives rested up, and enjoyed a better diet. In this new situation, Daniel’s heart was drawn to Jehovah.
O God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I am a stranger in a strange land. A captive, torn away from all I’ve known and loved. My grief overwhelms me. I will not turn from You. I know that we have sinned as Your people, and deserve judgment. I will not blame you. I will accept whatever lies ahead as from Your hand. It’s scary, and I don’t know what to expect. Help me to start this new life with Your grace and strength.
Two weeks later the captives were assigned duties and placed in quarters. Daniel help maintain the chariots and care for the horses. He thrived as his physical strength returned and his walk with God deepened.
Daniel had a new love for the Lord and a strong conviction that God had placed him in this pagan society for a purpose. He determined to follow Jehovah completely.
Daniel found three of his friends from Jerusalem during the duty assignments. Hananiah worked with him. His good friends Mishael and Azariah were quarter next to his place. The four young men encouraged each other as they faced the challenges of living in the pagan Babylonian society.
One day, Ashpenaz called 500 of the young male captives to a meeting. Daniel and his three friends sat among them. Ashpenaz oversaw the eunuchs, and excitement filled the air as he stepped forward.
“Gentlemen, with great pleasure I announce the special three-year training program for official service of King Nebuchadnezzar.”
Loud cheers vibrated through the room.
“I will interview each of you individually. Then 100 of you will be selected to enter the program.”
Later, Daniel sat across from Ashpenaz answering questions from math to politics. They understood each other: they liked each other. Ashpenaz seemed more like a mentor and friend than the man who determined his destiny.
The four friends found themselves in the program. Armed with new names, their lives changed overnight. Now it was posh rooms in the palace. The young men were overwhelmed by the luxury.
But the test had just begun. It all centered around food, for the food was offered to Baal.
At lunch Daniel spoke to his three friends, “We have a problem. We simply cannot eat this food and remain faithful to Jehovah. I’m not sure what to do, but I’m not eating food offered to idols.”
Hananiah spoke, “We’re with you. Let’s trust God.”
The four Jewish teens sat at their table, the food untouched. No one noticed. However, that evening the butler noticed they weren’t eating the scrumptious supper.
Then Ashpenaz showed up. “Daniel, what’s the problem?”
“I am so sorry. As Jews who follow Jehovah we cannot eat this food.”
“What! Do you realize what you are saying? If you stand before the King looking ill, he’ll kill me. You will die as well. You must eat!”
“Sir, would you allow us a simple diet of fruit and vegetables for ten days? At the end of that time you can determine what to do. You decide if we are healthy on this diet.
Reluctantly Ashpenaz agreed to the ten-day trial. Surprised to see how strong and healthy the four men looked, he continued to give them the simple diet of fruit and vegetables they requested.
Because Daniel honored God, God honored Daniel. No longer a stranger, three years later his wisdom and knowledge far surpassed the others. Daniel became one of King Nebuchadnezzar’s chief advisors. He survived kings and kingdoms, and his influence lasted throughout his lifetime.
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