Summary: You have a choice - you can either name the culture, or let it name you.
Title: Benedict Arnold’s New Name
Text: Daniel 1:5-8
FCF: Do not let the culture name you
When Susan was growing up, Loudoun was changing every bit as much as it is today. She grew up on a road without a name – Landmark Road just turned into some gravel that was Rural Route 1. But for safety’s sake, the fire services wanted every road to have a name. And so, one day, as Susan is turning down Rural Route 1, what does she see, but a street sign. And on it: the name “Boo-Hoo Church Road.” You can imagine how overjoyed she and her family were now living on “Boo-Hoo Church Road.”
A hundred years ago, apparently, there was a church known for its emotional worship services. A hundred years later, the church was gone, the whole town of Landmark was gone – but when it came time to name that road, the impression that Leesburg had of Landmark – just because of one church – was still there. Names and reputations last a long time.
They have the power of first impression. And whether you realize it or not, names dictate what people will think.
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re Susan, and you’re filling out an application for college or doing your taxes. Do you really want to say you’re on Boo-Hoo Church Road?
Well thankfully, the people who lived on the road were able to convince the county to rename the road. Since ‘Landmark Road’ was just too sensible for Loudoun, so they eventually settled on honoring John Champe – a revolutionary war hero whose house sat right next to Little River.
Last week, we began reading about Daniel, and we learned how drastically his world was changing. We heard how his Temple was set on fire, and how he was taken away from his parents and sent hundreds of miles away to Babylon. They wanted to so radically alter the identity of what they had taken, they even took away the kids’ names.
See, those Babylonians had a pretty simple and good idea. They figured if you took over a place, you should take the best and the brightest, retrain them, brainwash ‘em, and put them in your service. Well who are they to decide anyway? They are simply the few that sit at the top of the heap, dung heap though it is.
So, Daniel and his friends are being packed up and shipped off to boarding school. But, if they are going to be of any use to Babylon, their minds are going to have to be changed.
See what happens here in vs. 5. They’re sent off to be educated in the language and the literature of Chaldeans. They were going to dictate everything he saw, everything he spoke, even the thing he would eat. In other words, they wanted to rebuild him, in their image.
If you keep reading, you see they even try to rename him. It was a powerful thing - three of those names: Shadrach, Meschach, and Abendego, have stuck. And those men weren’t slouches by any stretch of the imagination. But you will understand that we are not reading the Book of Belteshazzar, we’re reading the Book of Daniel.
Daniel is a Hebrew name that means “God is my judge.” Not the King, not the culture, not even the Babylonian gods, but God is Daniel’s judge. It is a testament to Daniel’s character that he knew that about himself. God was his judge; and God was the means by which he would judge everything that would try to shape him. In a world that conform you to its identity, Daniel is going to have a lot to say about how to keep yours.
You’ve probably heard the lines: Stick and Stones may break my bones, but names can never harm me. Well, they may not physically hurt you, but this morning I want to suggest to you that names can do something even worse – they can define you.
I find it interesting that the first job that Adam had in the garden was to give names to everything. He had been given dominion over all the animals of the earth – he was supposed to use that authority to care for the garden: to nurture it. And so, as a token of that authority, God gave Adam a job. Go name it all. Define it.
Scientists are still doing that today. Just look at the big news this week. How many planets do we have? Well, if Marvin was still around, he’d have given you the right answer – 8. Pluto wasn’t discovered until he was 10 years old. He had to learn that new name. It totally changed the solar system for him and everyone like him. But the rest of us grew up thinking there were 9. This week, astronomers in Prague finally put a contentious debate to rest. They decided that Pluto really wasn’t a planet – or if it was, they’d have to make ‘Xena’ the TV warrior princess a planet too! With a simple classification, they have reordered the solar system yet again. The simple definition of the world “planet” radically redefines how you think about things. Jonathan will probably never really think of the solar system as having anything other eight real planets, plus a bunch of other junk. It’s literally a different world.