We all know Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Daniel, Elijah, King David, Paul, Simon Peter. The list continues of people we want to meet in Heaven.
Some people in the Bible are mentioned only once, and we never hear about them again. Some of them don’t even have a name mentioned. That, however, doesn’t mean they are unimportant. Every individual in God’s narrative of His redemption story plays a pivotal role.
You can find this story in Daniel 1.
Guarding the Palace
It was a day like most days in Babylon. The king gave an order, and we in the royal guard obeyed. King Nebuchadnezzar gave unusual orders, but we quickly learned to comply without question.
When the king called in the Israelites of royal blood, we didn’t think anything of it. Bring them to the palace, hand them over to the palace officials, and be on our way. Later we learned that the young men were going to be assimilated into our country.
I was curious why we were making our captives into officials, but I knew to keep my mouth shut. Those who questioned disappeared, never to be heard from again.
I was a recent recruit in the service to the palace taking my commands from Ashpenaz. And like most days, I stood guard outside his chambers though I wanted to do greater things for the nation.
On this particular day, Chief Ashpenaz was meeting with four men from Israel privately. I was becoming acquainted with overhearing the matters of our nation. I knew to be particularly on guard when the discussions were heated.
“I am afraid of my Lord the King, who has assigned your food and drink,” the chief said. “Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age?”
Ashpenaz paused, and the Israelites were silent.
“The king would then have my head because of you,”Ashpenaz declared.
Urgent protesting from all four of the men followed.
“Guard!” Ashpenaz called from the middle of the objections.
I stepped into the doorway. “Yes, my lord?”
“Take these men back to the dormitory. I want them to flourish and be approved by the king. I am afraid that they will do something to compromise their status if they are left to their own devices.”
I did not understand why Chief Ashpenaz was confiding this to me, but I waited for his command.
“I am appointing you over these men: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Protect them from foolish decisions. Make sure they are fit to be presented to the king. These four men have great potential and they will be quite invaluable in their service to the king.”
I saluted. “Yes, sir!”
Ashpenaz returned his attention to his guests. “Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. I’m afraid I must deny your request.”
At a nod, he dismissed them and with them, me.
We walked in silence down the corridor of the palace in the direction of the dormitory. Belteshazzar’s face tight with determination.
When we approached their room, Belteshazzar asked me to join them inside, and I agreed.
Before we were all through the door, he spoke. “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”
I took a step back. What was this all about? Abednego and Hananiah began to describe to me their powerful and loving God with whom they had a covenant. He seemed so personal, but the covenant seemed impossible.
Mishael told me of how their God made a way to atone for an unkept covenant and of how their hearts were to follow closely to the law. They did not want to defile themselves with unclean meat and drink.
As I listened to their passionate pleas to help them honor their God, I shook my head. Finally, I held up my hands in surrender.
“Enough. I do not see what harm can come to you if I allow you to test your request. But hear me. If the scales tip out of your favor, you will follow the king’s regime without any question from that day forward. Do we have an agreement?”
Guarding the Israelites
As time would tell, those ten days held for the men from Judah extraordinary results. They looked healthier and were better nourished than any of the other young men. So I did as they requested, and served them only vegetables.
I knew I would have to answer to Chief Ashpenaz. I knew the palace chefs would gossip, but I also knew that the results spoke for themselves. And that the Israelite’s God was guarding them even more than I was.
After the three years of their regime exclusively comprised of vegetables, Chief Ashpenaz presented Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (as they had become to me over time) to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king spoke with them for a time and was amazed. He found none—not one—equal to any of them. Even over all the magicians and enchanters of their entire kingdom, the king found them ten times better.
So they entered the king’s service.
My assignment was complete. I was promoted in the guard and continued to serve in the palace. But I never forgot those brave young men who were more determined to obey their loving God than be afraid of a volatile king.
Gianna Kordatzky has been a part of the First Free family since 1997. She graduated from Northwestern College (now University of Northwestern–St. Paul) in 1999 with a B.A. in youth ministry which prepared her and her husband, Chris, to raise four amazing kids. She is one of the founders of Family Fun Twin Cities and the Moms in Prayer leader for Bel Air Elementary in New Brighton. Gianna is passionate about serving families whether she is volunteering with New Life Family Services in St. Paul or overseas at the ELIC conference.