One of the sweetest parts of being a parent is choosing a name for your child. Each of my children’s name tell a story. Because I believe God knew their names before we even knew about them, I also believe their names intricately connect with their God-given identity.
The beginning scene of the book of Daniel is a historical prologue to the struggles four young men faced while living in a hostile culture far from God. Their Hebrew names reflected the glory of God and represented their identities.
Their names told the story of a God who set them apart as His chosen people.
When God’s people quit listening to His commands and rejected His love, they were hauled off into exile in Babylon under a king who did not believe in the one true God. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among them.
If you grew up hearing this story as a kid, you might remember them by the names their captors gave them instead: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. These names were a failed attempt to replace each reference to God with a reference to the gods Belte, Aku, and Nabu.
The leaders of the Babylonian empire intended to strip them of their God-given identities. They thought that by removing God from the names of these young men, they would in fact erase God’s story.
God’s story cannot be silenced.
His story cannot be changed either, as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah’s stories show. He is—and always has been—in control.
The enemy comes after our identities just as he came after theirs, because his goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. God does the opposite; He gives, resurrects, and restores. Daniel chapter one tells the story of the Giver.
God gave Judah over to her sin.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, 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 placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Daniel 1:2
God gave these men compassion and favor with the king.
And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs… Daniel 1:9
When King Solomon dedicated the temple, he prayed and asked God to listen to the prayers of His people—the ones who turned to Him—no matter where He sent them.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah chose not to conform to the culture around them, by trusting in God and seeking His help, they prospered, an amazing display of what it looks like to be in the world, not of it. God listens, because God is faithful.
God gave knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:17
These four men demonstrated that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were found ten times better than any of the other men in the king’s service. God placed distinguished and excellent qualities in each of them, qualities that reveal His character.
God gave a foreshadowing of His plan to free His people.
And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus. Daniel 1:21
Cyrus was God’s chosen instrument to bring His people out of exile. God chose the deliverer, and God chose the timing. God would eventually send a Redeemer that would free His people from the enemy’s grip forever.
The word ‘gave’ in the Hebrew language is nathan, and it shows up over eighteen hundred times in the Old Testament books. It means to grant, deliver, appoint, make, or cause to be. The New Testament continues the story of the Giver, as God reveals Jesus as the promised Messiah after four hundred years of dark silence.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (emphasis mine)
When the enemy comes after your identity, remember these two words: God gave.
Through the names of four young men, God tells His story. Daniel means “God is my judge;” Hananiah means “God has favored;” Mishael means “Who is like God?” and Azariah means “Jehovah has helped.”
God longs to tell His story through us, through our wounds, our failures, our fears, and through our dependence on Him. The enemy has attempted to silence God’s story that my life tells by coming after my identity, too.
As a shy, fearful little girl, I always assumed there was a mix up when names were being passed out. Kelly means “warrior,” but I was the opposite of bold and courageous. My middle name, Leigh, means “field.”
Years ago, God invited me to see what He saw in me, despite my brokenness. He saw a warrior on the battlefield, strong, courageous, and victorious. But this warrior on the battlefield? It’s not me; it’s Jesus in me. The battle all around me belongs to God, and He has already defeated the enemy.
God reclaims our identities and our names and our hearts through Jesus.
Though God has set us free from the power of Satan’s lies, this doesn’t mean he keeps quiet. No, he still whispers his lies; sometimes he shouts them. The only way the accuser knows how to communicate is through lies.
The most recent lie he’s used against me is, “You have no influence.” When I remember that I am an image-bearer of God, and I trust that my life in Christ has meaning, this lie loses all momentum. Truth silences lies every time, because the accuser is no match for the Giver.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (emphasis mine)
When your life is hidden in Christ, your story tells His story.
When your identity feels under siege, remember these two words: God gave. He gave us everything we need to live victoriously; He gave us freedom, purpose, and life—abundant life through Jesus Christ.