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Cost and Conflict: Part One

So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:16-17

Azariah gave a heavy sigh as he sat beside me, staring at his lentils and trying to start his meal with a thankful attitude. I could relate with his predicament. Undoubtedly, our God had worked mightily on our behalf when we made our request known ten months ago. The steward was surprised by our determination to carry on with vegetables and water and even more surprised when he could not discern any detriment in our well-being. Yet a greater deliverance was needed now that the novelty had worn off and we awoke daily to the aroma of delicious food, but chose instead to start each day with lentil soup. Still, there was ample reason to be thankful. Every bowl was a reminder of God’s faithfulness and His presence with us in these halls and at this time.

In Praise of Foreign Gods

Such reminders were critical because beans and brotherhood were all we had of the God of Israel, and both were closely rationed. We were not permitted to use our Hebrew names nor would our supervisors suffer much discussion of the Lord and His Holy Scriptures. All of our attention was to be given to learning the language and literature of Babylon. Mornings were spent hearing about the glories of the goddess Ishtar or studying how to discern the thoughts of Marduk through the examination of sheep entrails. By afternoon we sat in the heat, reliant on the sunlight to copy the complex Babylonian script onto our clay tablets. It is difficult to describe the feeling one has after laboring intensely over a text-only to discover that it extols the glory of Bel or the allure of Ishtar. The one comfort was that God had prophesied even this grief. We had chosen Baal and Astarte in our own land and now we served Bel and Ishtar in a land that was not ours.

As I worked my way to the bottom of my soup, my mind thought of Esau and the danger of living for the moment. God is so good. Even the beans testify of His glory! My uplifted heart granted me the wherewithal to place a warm hand on the back of my faithful companion: “Another day of miracles, Abednego.”

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