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June 17, 2012
Good Looking and Intelligent
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god. 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 1:1-7)
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,upon taking the kingdom of Judah, ordered his officials to bring to Babylon youths who were good‑looking and intelligent. I suppose that every culture has its own definition of good-looking and intelligent, but it is certain that the king’s definition wasn’t the same as God’s definition. To determine if someone was good-looking, the Babylonians, like most men, looked to the outside; God looks at the heart (1Samuel 16:7). To determine if someone was intelligent in wisdom, the Babylonians, like most men, look at the capability to learn man’s ways; God looks for those who are intelligent in heavenly ways (Ecclesiastes 10:2; 1Corinthians 1:17-31; 3:18-20).
The exact number of youths brought to Babylon isn’t given, but four are given by name: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. It is apparent from Scripture that these men were good-looking to God—they had beautiful hearts—hearts that trusted God. Of these four, we hear of Daniel most often, but we really should spend some time with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. When we observe their words and actions, we can learn why they were deemed intelligent in wisdom by God. We should observe, because, after all, don’t we want to be intelligent in wisdom too?
Intelligent Enough To Retain Their Character
It is interesting to note how much a name can mean and how much importance is placed in a name. One of the first things we find the Babylonians doing is changing the names of the youths from their given Hebrew names to names that were Babylonian in nature (Daniel 1:7). Hananiah means “Yah [Jehovah] is gracious” while his Babylonian name, Shadrach, means “Command of Aku [moon god].” Mishael means “Who is what God is?” while his Babylonian name, Meshach, means “Who is what Aku is?” Azariah means “Yah has helped” while his Babylonians name, Abed-nego, means “Servant of Nego [Nebo; the shining one].” These men knew who they were; calling them something else didn’t alter their character. They still belonged to God and they knew it. It is interesting to see that when they had interaction with Daniel, their “real” names were used.
Intelligent Enough Not To Defile Themselves
These men, along with Daniel, made up their minds that they wouldn’t defile themselves even if it was a “risky” thing to do (Daniel 1:11-20). To forsake the dietary things commanded in the Law was wrong and they knew it. Wait a minute—weren’t they away from home in a new place? Could anybody really expect them to try to keep the Law that closely?
I mean, after all, would anybody really even know if they ate a little something they shouldn’t? Stop. Is that really intelligent thinking? No. So why do people who claim to belong to God think that way?
Intelligent Enough To Encourage Others
God was not the only one who knew the character of these men—so did Daniel. Daniel was known as a true “hero” of faith even in his own day (Ezekiel 14:13-20), yet where did he turn for encouragement? To these friends with good-looking hearts. The king of Babylon was out to destroy all of the wise men (including these young men) because no one had told him his dream or interpreted it. Daniel trusted God and was also able to trust his friends because they too trusted God (Daniel 2:17). Wait a minute—weren’t they in the “same boat” as Daniel? Surely there was nothing they could have done. I mean, after all, they were just three guys in a tough situation themselves weren’t they? Stop. Is that really intelligent thinking? No. So why do people who claim to belong to God think that way?
Intelligent Enough To Pray
When Daniel came to his friends to inform them of the problem caused by the lack of interpretation of the dream, they showed great intelligence—they requested compassion from God—they prayed (Daniel 2:18). God’s people are always to have the confidence to pray (e.g., Acts 4:23-31). Wait a minute—hadn’t they just been “deported” because so many of their nation just hadn’t been living right? I mean, after all, what good could two or three guys praying do? Stop. Is that really intelligent thinking? No.
So why do people who claim to belong to God think that way?
Intelligent Enough Never To Yield To Temptation
Daniel had been blessed by God to go to the king’s court as ruler of the province of Babylon. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had been blessed by God to be appointed to serve as administrators within the province (Daniel 2:46-49). The king set up an image and commanded the provincial administrators, et al, to worship it at the given signal (Daniel 3:1-5). God’s men did not yield to the temptation to join with the crowd (Daniel 3:8-12). Wait a minute—don’t we just “have to go along to get along”? I mean, after all, we don’t want to give the impression that we think that we’re better than everybody else, do we? Stop. Is that really intelligent thinking? No.
So why do people who claim to belong to God think that way?
Intelligent Enough To Stand For Right
With the failure to yield was the threat of death in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:6,11). Because of the malicious actions of others (Daniel 3:8), these men were also brought to stand before the king—not just some “low-level” king, but the the most powerful man in the world who just also happened to be enraged (Daniel 3:13). Wait a minute—no one would blame these guys for a little bowing down. It is not even their fault that they are in this situation is it? I mean, after all, how much good could these guys do if they were burned up in a furnace? Stop. Is that really intelligent thinking? No. So why do people who claim to belong to God think that way?
Intelligent Enough To Give Themselves Fully To God
In spite of forced integration, temptations, and threats, these men were devoted—devoted even to their willingness to die for service to Him (Daniel 3:16-18). They willingly went into a furnace so hot that it killed the ones putting them in it (Daniel 3:21-23). God did not allow them to burn up, but delivered them (Daniel 3:24-27). Wait a minute—why did they make the king mad? Shouldn’t they have just made him feel good? Then they wouldn’t have had to worry about the furnace and everybody would be happy. I mean, after all, is there really a need to carry things just as far as they did? Stop. Is that really intelligent thinking? No. So why do people who claim to belong to God think that way?
These three were so good-looking and intelligent that it caused the king to glorify God (Daniel 3:28-30). Kind of reminds us of what Jesus said, too, doesn’t it (Matthew 5:16)? Just how good-looking and intelligent are YOU?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.