Saturday, August 4, 2012

We Are His

In my family, we have a saying: "Remember Who You Are!" It started with my grandfather years ago. He would tell it to his children as they grew. When they left home to begin their own families, his words were passed down through the generations. It is a banner over our house.

What my grandfather meant was that his children should remember that they belong to a family,. They belong to him. He meant that they should behave themselves and live with personal integrity and honor. He meant... You are mine! You carry my name. You are mine! I love you. You are mine! You represent me in the world. You are mine! I am here for you always.

These are the foundational truths of our family. Truths that give us a basis for living lives of integrity.

Integrity defined: The quality of being honest and morally upright. The state of being whole or unified. Soundness of construction. These are some definitions of integrity.

If you read the Bible, then you are familiar with the story of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah from the book of Daniel.

What? You're not familiar with those names? Well, maybe you recognize the names Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Does that ring a bell?

These three young men from Jerusalem were taken captive by an evil king Nebuchadnezzar and forced into his service in Babylon. They were in training and were told what to eat and drink. But they refused to eat the king's rich food and instead lived on a diet of healthy fare.

Nebuchadnezzar, being the all powerful evil king, decided to change their names to suit his fancy. Hananiah which means "Yah has been gracious." was changed to Shadrach - which means "inspired of Aku". Mishael which means "Who is what God is?" was changed to Meshach - "belonging to Aku". Azariah, which means "Yah has helped." was changed to Abednego - "servant of Nego".

Their Godly names... names that spoke not only of their God, but of who they are in God's sight, were changed to names that venerated the pagan gods being worshipped in Babylon. He must have thought that calling them by these pagan names would change the foundation of who they were.

They exhibited excellence in their character and were promoted to high positions in the land with power and authority. They were hated by some and those that hated them sought to bring them down.

When the king declared that all in his land would worship his idol or die, these three men continued to worship their one true God. Their detractors rushed to the king with the news!

They were told to worship the pagan gods, but they refused to bow down. They were given ample opportunity to repent of their stubbornness and foolishness. Just bow down and and everything will be alright. Go along with it. Agree. Blend in. Make us happy. Make us feel better. Your lives will be all cushy and wonderful. Every one will love you. Aw come on. Just bow down. What's it gonna hurt?

Then things took a serious turn. Look! They are stoking the fire in the furnace right now! If you don't bow down to this idol, you are going to die a horrible death.

In the face of a threat to their lives, to their faith and belief, to the very essence of who they were, they made a choice.

These three refused to be intimidated by threats or to capitulate to worldly reasoning. They refused to become what the evil king had named for them. They remembered their God and the Godly names that they had been given at birth. They chose to live up to His expectations and His original names for them. They were upright and unified in their faith. They trusted the soundness of God's design for them.

As a result of their faith and personal integrity, their story has become a legacy of the power and faithfulness of God to save His people in even the worst circumstance.

In the middle of the conflagration, God saved them. The king of Babylon and the people of Babylon witnessed the hand of God move to save His children.

Nebuchadnezzar was so overwhelmed by the display of God's power that he not only promoted and praised Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, he instructed the entire land to respect their God.

What about us? As we are living in what some call a modern day Babylon, do we exhibit any integrity in our lives? Who are we? Who does God say that we are?

He calls us His creation, His children, the Joint Heirs of Jesus, His Bride, His Chosen Ones, His Forgiven Ones, His Disciples. This list goes on and on, but it boils down to one thing. We are His. We are named by Him. We are His. He loves us. We are His. We represent Him in the world. We are His. He is there for us always. He is the banner over us.

The world may call us by other names, but God sees and knows our hearts and our secret places. They world may try to deceive us with promises and subtle threats, but God gives us His truth. The world may choose to hate us and try to destroy us, but God has proven over and over that He will keep us from destruction. We are not perfect. We are forgiven. We are His.

God calls us to remember who we are in Him and to live our lives in that truth. God has not changed. He has not forgotten. He will do for us what He did for these three men. And He will be glorified and praised even by those that deny Him.

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!

Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this."

Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3: 28-30)

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