Oh, VeggieTales. You teach us so much. We couldn't help but laugh as we were reading about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (their Babylonian given names), who are lovingly referred to in Veggie humor as Rack, Shack, and Benny...anyway, I digress...
We chose Daniel as our next book to tackle after one of our readers suggested it following Molly's Sunday Fresh Take: a balanced diet...Within the first chapter of Daniel, we read about four pure children of Judah being given to serve in the house of Nebudchanezzar (king of Babylon, occupying the area). The King wishes that these servant children be taken care of. He commands that they be given the meat and drink of his own table. Daniel, taking the lead with his counterparts (now named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) asked to be given only plant foods. After the four of them looked healthier and stronger than all of the others around them, it was decided that all of the children should be given a similar diet. Thanks to our reader for suggesting it.
Daniel 2 fast forwards a little bit and Daniel, Rack, Shack and Benny have developed a prominent place in the King's servitude as a result of the wisdom granted by God. However, when the king's wise men cannot interpret his dream, all of the wise men are set to be slain. Daniel, is granted the ability by God to interpret this dream so that all of the others may live. This again pushes he and his three friends to further prominence within the King's court.
Daniel 3 is the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the furnace and being protected by God. Why did they get thrown in? Well, it seems as though Nebudchanezzar developed quite a big head, perhaps as a result of Daniel's interpretation of his previous dream (daniel told him that God saw Nebudchanezzar as a great leader in the dream). After building a giant shrine to himself and demanding that all worship it, the king throws Rack, Shack and Benny into the furnace for refusing to worship. As a result of God saving them, the King decrees that their God is the all powerful God and that all should now turn to him.
OK...now that these three chapters are recapped, where are the tie-ins to life? These aren't just good stories about how God is great. If we've learned anything in our readings thus far its that quite a bit can be gleaned from biblical stories. The first is obvious: A healthy diet will lead to a healthier life. Apparently people don't need to be inspired by "The Biggest Loser" on TV, but rather just need to read a simple story from the Book of Daniel.
The second tie-in to life: God works in mysterious ways. God has a bigger plan. Everything happens for a reason. We've heard phrases like these so many times (often in times of suffering) that it has become like a broken record that we tune out.This is one of many biblical stories where one of God's chosen people comes from nothing to take a prominent place in another kingdom's government leading to a great show of the power of God. Other examples? Joseph went from being a slave to becoming a Governer in Egypt (also through the interpretation of dreams). Moses went from being a slave's baby to becoming a prince of Egypt. Now Daniel goes from being a child servant to becoming a great wise man in the occupying king's court.
Did Joseph ever imagine greatness while he was a suffering as a slave? Did Moses's parents envision him leading their people out of bondage while suffering with the thought of abandoning their baby? Did Daniel envision himself becoming a a powerful adviser in the house of the Babylonian king, bringing his friends to power with him, eventually leading to the circumstances of Nebudchanezzar declaring that the one and true God replace the idols of Babylon? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "No."
The lesson? When we are at our worst possible moments, we need to push through. We need to find the strength to carry on. We need to remember that God has a plan. We may not see it while it is unfolding, but God has a plan. Even Jesus had a hard time coping with the fact that God had a plan. Remember this one from the Passion readings? "Father, why have you forsaken me?" Just three days later, how did that plan turn out?