Archive for August 15th, 2007

Only You Can Be You

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Today’s scripture: Daniel 1:3-7 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider these questions: What might God be saying to me in this passage? What jumps out at me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two before reading on.

My thoughts on this passage (Tyler Connoley):

In these verses, the author tells us Daniel and his friends were handed over to Ashpenaz, a character who will become important as Daniel’s story unfolds. Unfortunately, however, most English translators obscure one of the important aspects of Ashpenaz’s person. The NRSV calls him the “palace master” and The Message Bible calls him “the head of the palace staff.” A more literal translation would be Chief Eunuch (Hebrew, Sar HaSarisim).

The ancient Babylonians had a common practice of taking the best and the brightest young men from conquered nations and bringing them home to be officials in the king’s cabinet. The idea was that these men would be able to advise the king and help him assimilate the conquered peoples. However, because the Babylonians didn’t want these foreigners intermarrying with Babylonian women, they would first castrate them before they allowed them to hold high government positions. In Hebrew, these men are called sarisim, which means “eunuchs,” but many translators prefer to call them by their job description — officials or palace staff — perhaps to protect squeamish readers.

Why does this matter? Well, the fact that Ashpenaz was the Chief Eunuch tells us something about the men who were placed under his care — they were probably eunuchs as well. That means Daniel, one of the great heroes of the Bible, was almost certainly a castrated man.

For those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, this is significant because it means Daniel was also sexually different. Like us, he might have been thought of by his colleagues in the palace as “not a real man.” Like us, he would have been unable to have a “normal” relationship with the opposite sex. And, like us, he may have had days when he wondered why God let this to happen to him.

However, Daniel also allowed God to use him where he was and as he was. Daniel didn’t just accept his lot, he excelled by God’s grace. There were avenues available to him as one of the eunuch officials, that would not have been available otherwise, and he used those to great advantage. If he had remained a bright young man, and married a bright young woman in Israel, we might never have heard of him. But, because he became a eunuch in the palace in Babylon, and allowed God to use him in that role, he became one of the great heroes of the Bible.

Thought for the day: What avenues are open to you, because of the things that have happened to you in the past? Are you willing to let God use you where you are and as are you are?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. Use the item above as a starting point, or consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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