Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Daniel 2:17–18
“I still don’t see how you’re going to pull this off,” Azariah jabbed with notable annoyance. “It was one thing for us to stand up to the Melzar and ask for an exception, but to offer to do the impossible for the king seems like nothing short of arrogance.” Mishael and Hananiah silently glanced at me, awaiting my response.
I took a deep breath. “Yes, it’s quite a leap Azariah, but you’re mistaken if you assume that I think I can do what the king requires. I know that I can’t do it, so I’m asking you all to pray with me that our God will work on our behalf.”
“But you’re not a prophet, Daniel! Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve never had a vision or interpreted a dream. What makes you think this will change overnight?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not asking you to fix this problem or agree with what I’ve done. I’m asking you to pray with me to the only One who can bring us through this danger and into blessing.”
Questions in the Dark
We did end our evening in united prayer and turned in for the night, but the movement on the other side of the room suggested that Azariah was still restless. He wasn’t alone, for I had my own thoughts and feelings to sort out.
It was one thing to stand before the king, but it takes another kind of courage to stand before one’s friends, I thought as I rolled over and faced the wall. The darkness that clung to its stony surface brought to mind the cave of Adullam and the motley company that surrounded a fugitive king. What did it take for David to impart purpose and hope to people who knew the hardships of life firsthand? I closed my eyes and sought to recall his maskil:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
David knew better than anyone that leaders don’t lead alone. Confidence in God’s present salvation made the difference in his case and it would do the same for me. A shuffling persisted on the other side of the room and I turned unto my back, wondering if it would be a long night.
Azariah shouldn’t be blamed for feeling shaken, I reflected. Who could have anticipated any of this—being carried away to Babylon to serve as the king’s diviners, only to face execution by the very same king for seemingly nothing, and now my readiness to give an answer that I have not as yet been given. Even so, his fears lack legitimacy, for they stand on the presumption that God will abandon us. And when had He ever done that? He is no less present now than when we first sought His salvation together amid the treacheries of the banquet hall.
My eyes opened and searched out the ridges and nooks of the plastered ceiling above us as Azariah’s inquiries continued to search me out, and I found myself retracing the steps that had brought me to this juncture. Truthfully, I wasn’t a prophet—by ability, association, or any other means. If lineage were the deciding factor, I was closest to a prince, but a prince of a kingdom that no longer mattered. What then had brought me before the king? Obedience—it was simply what needed to be done. Innocent people were going to die because false gods couldn’t meet real needs. My God could. So could I stand aside and let blood be shed when I knew the One who could answer the king’s need? To do so would have gone against everything that mattered to Him, and warranted my death among the religious pretenders.
Yet this journey made sense even in spite of all its sudden turns because somehow it fit all that I had heard and experienced up to this point. Isaiah’s words had visited more than once on this pilgrimage, accompanying my own thoughts as though he stood with me—explaining my past, interpreting my present, and preparing me for the dawn:
“And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
“Thus says the LORD: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the LORD:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”
I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by my name.
I thought back again to Azariah’s question: How would I do the impossible? My eyes looked out the window and saw the stars—those very same stars Abraham had searched out—attempting to count the infinite, arriving at a reliance on the One who could never fail. The Eternal, the Infinite, the Highest—He would do it. He would remind Israel who He is in this land of empty idols, by showing Himself to a king who does not ask for Him and a people that does not yet know Him. Wrapped up in the words of witnesses who lived before me and resting on the certainty they found in Him, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
Illustrations by Elesha Casimir
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