TODAY’S READING: DANIEL 1-3
“Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.” – Daniel 1:6
The book of Ezekiel starts with a vision of four living creatures that represent the four aspects of Jesus through the four gospels. Each of the four faces of the four living creatures displayed Jesus seen from a certain angle. I wrote about this in Four Creature, Four Faces, Four Gospels, All Jesus.
I believe we something similar in Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
First, let’s look at the meaning of their names.
Daniel means God is my judge, God rules me, or judge of God.
Interestingly, in Matthew, the gospel of Jesus as king, Jesus never spoke of himself as a judge or judging, even though a king has the right to judge. Although, Jesus himself is judged by men and men deemed him worthy of death. In Mark, the gospel of Jesus as servant, the word judge does not appear for a servant has no authority to judge. In Luke, the gospel of Jesus as “the” man, the only time Jesus referred to himself in the context of judging he said, “Man, who made a judge or arbitrator over you?”
It’s really only in the gospel of John, which presents Jesus as God, as the son of God, that Jesus refers to himself as one who judges.
Jesus said in John 5:22, 26-27, “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son…For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”
Jesus said the Father gave him the judgment. But, he qualified this by saying that has life in himself and has given the son this life also. And, it is this life, this giving of life, that is the authority by which Jesus judges. Jesus’ judgment gives life.
Jesus goes on to say in John 5:30, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Jesus’ judgment is just because he judges only as the Father tells him to judge. Because God is life, the judgment is life.
Jesus said in John 8:15-16, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even If I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.” We judge according to the flesh and for retribution. But, Jesus does not judge according to the flesh, which means he judges according to the Spirit. Therefore, he judges by the Father who is spirit and who is life. Jesus judges life and this is why his judgment is true.
Hananiah means Yahweh has been gracious or graciously given of the Lord.
I believe this corresponds to Jesus as seen in the gospel of Matthew. As I have said, Matthew presents Jesus as king. We expect a king to judge according to the law, to enforce the law, to rule according to the law. According to man’s ideas, a should be about justice in the sense that even should get what they deserve and pay someone back in kind for the wrong that they have done. This, retribution, was the basis of the Hebrew law.
But, Matthew presents Jesus as a different kind of king. Matthew presents Jesus as a king who deals graciously with people. Jesus as a king sets things right instead of merely doling out justice through punishment and retribution.
This is the entirety of the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7. This is the declaration, the promulgation, that initiates the kingdom of God and the law of King Jesus. And, throughout most of his declaration, Jesus overturns or flips on its head the law that Jews heard through Moses. Instead of retribution – an eye for eye – Jesus says his law is about grace and restoration. Jesus says his law is epitomized by loving your enemies, doing good to your enemies and not evil, for God pours out his rain, his favor, his grace, on the good and the evil, the just and the unjust.
The name Mishael (also Michael) means who is like God or, perhaps more literally, what is God like?
I believe this corresponds to the picture of Jesus as seen in the gospel of Luke. Here, Jesus is presented as “the” man. In Luke, Jesus shows us that God identifies with man.
Hebrews 2:14 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things.”
Therefore, Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Not only does God identify with man, but God became man.
Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus as “the” man shows us just what God is like.
Azariah means helped of God, Yahweh has helped, the Lord has helped.
I believe this corresponds to the gospel of Mark where Jesus is presented as servant. A servant is one who helps. This is just what Jesus does at all times.
So, we have four separate men, but when taken together they give us the complete picture of Jesus as seen in the gospels.
But, three of these gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – are similar in nature while one – John – stands out as distinct. Matthew, Mark, and Luke present Jesus more as a man who is a king, a servant, and “the” man or priest that mediates God’s presence. However, John presents Jesus as God, the son of God.
So, we see a similar distinction in the book of Daniel. Daniel is often presented by himself in a given story while we see Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as we may more commonly know them) acting together in a given story.
It’s actually a quite common feature in scripture that when we see a list of four things that three of them of them are similar and one is unique. This is meant to remind us of the nature of Jesus as seen in the gospels.
So, notice in Daniel 2 in the story of Nebuchadnezzar dreams about the image we see Daniel basically acting alone.
Nebuchadnezzar’s image, a statue made of different metals and some clay, is a picture of man’s kingdoms that attempt to rule the world. But, Daniel reveals that Nebuchadnezzar’s image will be destroyed by a rock not cut by human hands. Of course, this rock is Jesus. And, Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
So, it’s fitting in this story that we see Daniel acting alone as this story is about which image will rule the world. Will it be the image and kingdom that man has constructed or the image of God, Jesus, the son of God, the kingdom that has not been made by human hands?
But, in Daniel 3 we have a story about an image that Nebuchadnezzar had made. Again, this image about the rule of man as the dimensions of the statue feature the number 6, which often symbolizes man.
However, the story is not about who is the image but will you worship the image. So, in this story we see Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – the three pictures of Jesus as man – refusing to bow down and the worship the kingdom that man has created.
So, the four men – Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – are needed to give us the complete picture of Jesus.