Daniel 1:1, 2; 2 Kings 24:1–16; Prophets and Kings, pp. 479–490
I serve God when I help my friends make good choices.
“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws” (Psalm 119:30).
Imagine what it would be like if you suddenly had to leave your home. If you could not take anything with you. What if you had to leave your family? Daniel had to leave everything behind. It happened a long time ago . . .
The people of Judah had forgotten about God again. Many chose to break God’s laws and worship idols. But a few people still loved and worshipped the true God. Daniel’s family was among them.
When Daniel was born, his parents gave him a special name. They wanted to remind him always to be loyal to God. Daniel’s name means “God is my judge.” His parents wanted him to know that it did not matter what people around him did or said. The only thing that really mattered was whether God would be happy with what Daniel did. As he grew up, Daniel decided to live for God. He put God first in everything he did. God came first in his everyday chores and in bigger things. Daniel wanted to be a servant of God, just as Samuel had been.
Daniel lived in Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah. King Jehoiakim also lived in Jerusalem. The king did not worship God. He encouraged the people to worship idols. He built beautiful temples to these idols. And he led the Hebrew people in celebrating those idols’ holidays. Daniel decided that no matter what happened, wicked King Jehoiakim could not force him to do wrong. Daniel was not alone. He had three friends: Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, who also wanted God to be first in their lives. After King Jehoiakim died, his son Jehoiachin became king. He also did not worship God.
While Daniel and his friends were still young, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Jerusalem. He quickly defeated the Hebrew army and entered the city. His army captured King Jehoiachin and his family. They went into the temple Solomon had built and took away many golden treasures. As the soldiers went through the city, they took anything they wanted from people’s homes.
King Nebuchadnezzar took many prisoners back to Babylon. Among them were Daniel and his three friends. They were taken away from their families into a foreign land. Though torn away from home and family, they encouraged each other. Together they decided that when they arrived in Babylon, they would live for God. They would help each other make right choices.
Upon arriving in Babylon, the four were given new names. Daniel became Belteshazzar; Hananiah was named Shadrach; Mishael became Meshach; and Azariah became Abednego. These new names honored foreign idols, idols they would not worship.
Daniel had lost his home and his family. He had even lost his name. What did he have left?
Nebuchadnezzar and all his armies could not take God away from Daniel. Daniel had chosen to serve and love God, and God was with Daniel no matter where he was. Daniel had everything he needed: a loving God and good friends to encourage him.
God would remember Daniel and his three friends. He had a special work for them to do. God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to learn about Him. These four Hebrews would lead the way. They would teach the king about the God of heaven.