I have not finished with Neb yet! Nebuchadnezzar with his friend Daniel demonstrated to the world how to respect each other and to work for the common good (Kant) irrespective of background or culture. The theme for this post came out of a comment on my post, “Jethro, Drucker and Jesus” (8 Oct. 2014), from a friend, with a special blend of Corporate Management experience and pastoral responsibilities of a local Church – a very rare gift.
He wrote: “Delegation is a Biblical model….The only time I see it fail is when a leader is threatened by his or her underlings….I think it is those that draw their identity from their role. They confuse who they are with their job title and therefore feel to give away responsibility is to give away their identity.” Asked for clarification, he replied: “I am first, Mr. so and so, husband of …and father of…then and not before, the Business Exec. or pastor etc. Anyone may change their career at anytime but the real personal identity remains same”.
Isn’t there a connection between identity change and what religion calls conversion experience? Christians define Born Again experience as a spiritual, intellectual, and willful change, accompanied sometimes with emotions. This sounds like the old discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (John 3).
In this post, I am looking into four real historical cases of transformed identities:
- Neb, prior to his personal experience with the God of Daniel, was a plundering pagan king. He tried to change the identities of his Hebrew prisoners, starting first with their names: Daniel-Belteshazzar, Hananiah-Shadrach, Mishael-Meshach and Azariah-Abednego. He taught them in every branch of learning from Babylonia, to serve closely in the royal palace. He even tried to tamper with their diet. Ironically, while Neb tried to change Daniel and friends, God changed Neb instead. No matter how you slice it, Neb was transformed from a despot to a worshipper of Jehovah. No wonder Jeremiah the prophet called Neb a servant of God.
- Saul of Tarsus, a staunch Jewish leader, hated Jesus and persecuted Christians, albeit his conscience must have smitten him, particularly during the stoning of Stephen. Every step on the Damascus Road was “kicking against the pricks”. Fallen and blinded he asked “who are you”? To which Jesus answered: “I am Jesus”- a direct question and equally direct answer. Saul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, changed to Paul a servant of God (Romans), a slave of God (Titus), and an apostle (Ephesians). To him “all things became new”. That was some positive identity change!
- Jacob at Peniel was asked by God: “What is your name”? Jacob confessed that his name meant heel grabber or supplanter. To that honest answer God gave him a new name, Israel meaning one who have striven with God.
- John Newton (1725-1807) experienced transformation from a Captain of a slave ship to the writer of Amazing Grace.
On a personal note, my grandfather from Vijayawada, India, changed his name at baptism from Parthasarathy (Chariot driver-Krishna) to Paul. Alas, I did not have the opportunity to ask him why. He died long before I was born.
Neb and Daniel, in God’s plan, changed Babylon. Their testimony continued to subsequent empires! Read King Darius’ (Medes) decree “that they should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel, for He is the living God” (Daniel 6:25-27). Cyrus the Great (Medo-persian) allowed Israel to return from captivity. One of them even decreed the vessels plundered from the temple at Jerusalem be returned! I have not read of conquering Emperors doing that. Didn’t we celebrate recently the visit of the Magi, gracefully incorporating the “pagans” to worldwide celebration?
I wonder sometimes how many so-called pagans are out there that we know nothing about just because they are not in the Christian roster,tats, books, TV or even blogs? Sovereign God knows and cares for them.
God bless, Danny Paul