Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah

Fiery FurnanceHananiah, Mishael, and Azariah? If you are like most casual readers of the Bible, you are probably not that familiar with those names. Although the names may seem unfamiliar, most Bible readers are quite familiar with the men the names belong to! Hananiah was the name given by his parents, but we know him by the name the Babylonians gave him: Shadrach. Mishael was his Hebrew name, but we know him better as Meshach. We don’t recognize him as Azariah, but we do know him as Abednego! Of course collectively, we know this popular trio from the book of Daniel as the anti-dancing group: “Three Hebrew Boys in the Fiery Furnace!”

In ancient society, one of the things a conquering power would do to the people they conquered was change their names. This had a demoralizing effect because by changing their names, they robbed them of their history, heritage, culture and identity. They stripped them of who they really were! This is what the ancient Babylonians attempted to do to the Hebrews who were taken away in the Babylonian Captivity. The name: Hananiah meant “God has favored” or “God has been gracious.” His name was changed to the Babylonian name: Shadrach, which meant, “royal” or “the great scribe.” Mishael, which meant, “who is what God is,” was renamed Meshach, which meant “guest of a king.” Azariah, which meant, “Jehovah has helped” was called Abednego, meaning “servant of Nebo.”

These three Hebrew young men were given Babylonian names in an attempt to negate their Hebrew culture and identity. I say it was an attempt, but in a sense, the Babylonians were quite successful because even after thousands of years, we still don’t know them by their Hebrews names! We know them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! My question is this: “Are we not doing to them today the very same thing the Babylonians tried to do to them then?” I mean, when was the last time you heard a sermon or a Bible lesson about Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah? Chances are, you haven’t! But most likely you have heard countless sermons and Bible lessons about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!

And I know you’ve heard the story of “Belteshazzar in the Lion’s Den,” haven’t you? Perhaps not, but you have heard the story of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den!” Hmmm. I wonder why it has been easier for us to remember the Hebrew name: “Daniel” and forget the Babylonian name: “Belteshazzar,” while at the same time forget the Hebrew names: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah and remember the Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Hmmm?

Keeping It Real?

kid keeping it realWhen I talk with many young people about the lyrics of the rap-songs that glorify the violence that has infected many of our urban communities, their response is that those songs are not part of the problem, but rather that they are just “keeping it real!” In other words, what they are saying is that the rap artists and the rap lyrics are not part of the problem; they are just telling it like it is!

But, even if they are just telling it like it is, or as they say; “keeping it real,” the very act of focusing on and glorifying the negative experiences of our urban communities is, in fact perpetuating the problem! The very act of “keeping it real” is what in fact, helps to keep it real! Now, I am not advocating we completely ignore the reality of the situation by closing our eyes and pretending that it does not exist. What I am saying is that I think there is no really positive purpose served in constantly verbalizing how bad things are! In fact, as I stated earlier, the more we talk about the way things are; the more we keep things the way they are! There is no solution to the problem in glorifying the problem!

So, instead of the rappers and the like, trying to “keep it real,” why not rap and sing about an alternate reality? In other words, instead of focusing, singing and rapping about the way it is, why not focus, sing and rap about the way it ought to be, or the way it could be? It’s just a basic human fact; whatever we focus upon, we attract and it expands in our life experiences! Rapping and singing about the violence in the streets breeds even more violence! It really is serving to “keep it” real!

Think about it! Why keep it real when you really don’t like the reality you have? Instead of keeping it real, let’s work on the dream of making a better society real! We can do that by no longer financially supporting the negative messages that are being broadcast on the airways. The average person thinks there is nothing they can do, but if the records, albums and CD’s don’t sell, the artists, producers and record companies will not make money! If the public decides to no longer tolerate and support the negativity on a massive scale and the radio stations find the moral courage to no longer broadcast toxicity in the name of art and free speech, I guarantee the messages will change!

You say, you’re keeping it real? Well, it doesn’t take much to talk about what is, but it takes insight, foresight, creativity and vision to talk about what ought to be and what could be! Why focus on keeping it real when the same energy could be better used to make a new reality?