Life update – I’m stepping in to help with the youth group at church more as the interim youth director! This past weekend we went on our Fall Retreat and kicked off our new season of Wednesday night Bible Studies. We’ll be going through the book of Daniel for quite a while, and I figured that since only the youth group is coming Wednesday nights I’d open up the material to anyone else who is interested in following along.
I’ve included questions we asked during the retreat, but much of this is open-ended so that you can freely jump around as conversations lead you in different directions.
Setting the Scene
I believe that while the story of Daniel at face value is interesting and worth studying, knowing the history adds deeper understanding.
- The people of Judah are captive in a strange land (Babylon)
- Daniel is chosen to be part of a training program for the nation’s elite where he will learn and then after three years he will join the king’s ranks
- Contemporary prophets – Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel
- Two halves to the book of Daniel: one filled with stories of Daniel and his friends and the other features three visions
We made the students (and volunteers) close their eyes and draw themselves on a piece of paper with a marker.
We then turned over the paper and had three minutes to list as many things about our identity as possible. Then we cut that list in half, trying to keep only the most important characteristics of our identity (whatever that meant to them).
- Which was the easiest item to cut off the list? The hardest? Why?
- Why do these things make up your identity?
- In what ways are these things good things?
- How have some of these things failed you?
We then spoke about how God uses all parts of our identity for His Glory. He can, and will, grow you in your weaknesses, but he can also use these weaknesses to relate to others and show understanding.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.Daniel 1:1-7, Contemporary Engligh Version
Here’s what the boys’ names mean –
|Original names (Hebrew)||New names (Babylonian)|
|Daniel (“God is my Judge”)||Belteshazzar (“Bel, protect his life!”)|
|Hananiah (“the Lord shows grace”)||Shadrach (“under the command of Aku”)|
|Mishael (“who is like God?”)||Meshach (“who is like Aku?”)|
|Azariah (“the Lord helps”)||Abednego (“servant of Nego/Nebo”)|
At the retreat, we looked up the meaning of all of the students’ names and that was a big hit!
Let’s set the tone here. Your town has been defeated and you’ve been whisked away to a new land, and then chosen to attend a special school because of your social standing and potential. It sounds like a fictional superhero story, right? But it’s also terrifying.
This is supposed to be (at least according to Nebuchadnezzar) the best opportunity they could ever receive. The king is skilled at taking over regions and keeping them down; he knows effective cult tactics.
- What are some ways that King Nebuchadnezzar tried to change the identities of not only Daniel and his friends, as well as all of the others? Name, food, who they worship, new residence
- How would you have responded? Who would have gone through the motions and tried to keep their “true” identity a secret? Who would have spoken up?
Have you ever been called a mean name, or a name that doesn’t reflect who you really are?
- How did that make you feel about yourself?
- The person/people who gave you that name?
When have you changed identities? Examples: Halloween, dance recital, changing schools or moving to a new place, job vs. with friends, becoming a Follower of Jesus
While our true identity is in Jesus, it’s unrealistic to say that this is our only identity. Each part of our being has been created by God, and all should be used to either bring Him glory or to further His Kingdom. Yes, even the parts of your identity that you might not like or you think don’t matter.
- That God will show you ways you’ve been finding your identity in things other than Him
- That you will search for and find people and things that make you feel the most like the person you were created to be
I hope this lesson was helpful in both your own personal study and for your discussions with others! Stay tuned for more updates soon.