After my encounter with YHVH on a dirt road in northern California (see "The Power of God"), I repented of all that I was and had done, turned my life around and returned to San Antonio, Texas where my mother lived. At the time, I was six months AWOL from the Army and, in fact, arrived at my mother's house just shortly after the Military Police were there asking her if she knew where I was. Apart from being AWOL (Absent With Out Leave), I had also been busted for sales and possession of drugs - twice. I also had been impersonating a rank three grades higher than what I actually was for two years and, as a consequence of that impersonation, had been receiving a pay grade commensurate with that ranking also for two years - constituting embezzlement. All of this was at the height of the Vietnam War, when the Army was sending people to jail for 3 years just for being AWOL for thirty days. I was facing about ten years in Leavenworth - a federal penitentiary.
The Christian group I had fallen in with after arriving in San Antonio really helped me and encouraged me to wait awhile before turning myself into the authorities at Fort Sam Houston, thus giving me some time to get a little more grounded in the scriptures before making that leap. They thought, as did I, that because of what I was facing, I would need the additional support. I felt the Lord saying to me to put my trust in Him and to throw myself upon the mercy of the court, which I did, declining a military lawyer and was ready to go to jail and begin a prison ministry. While I waited for my court-martial, I became close friends with one of the older guys in the group, Jerry, who helped me gather a few letters together, verifying my change of heart to present to the judge and arranged for a couple of fellows from the group to come and testify on my behalf at the proceedings - but everyone was pretty sure I was going to prison, it was just a matter of how long.
When the judge handed down the verdict, it was that I was to be stripped of my rank and busted to an E1 buck private (which I was anyway), I was fined $160.00 to be taken out of my check at $40.00 for 4 months, I was given a six month confinement sentence (which was suspended in lieu of probation) and I had to make up the six months I was AWOL (which I didn't have to do as the Army terminated my contract with a six month early release). Nothing was ever mentioned about the drug charges (I had been advised not to bring it up unless I was asked) and nothing was ever mentioned about paying back the money I had embezzled (at the time, the Army had the legal right to keep you in uniform and garnish all of your wages except $50.00 per month until the deficit was repaid - at that rate, I probably would still be in the service for the amount I owed).
My new friend, Jerry, seated next to me at the table, and I were both pretty stunned when the judge slapped the gavel down and we all rose as he exited the room. It was as though God had reached down into that courtroom and, miraculously, turned the heart of that judge into water. Jerry turned toward me, put his hands on my shoulders and said, "Harold, God has abundantly pardoned you. Don't you ever forget it." He said it twice to be sure I got the full effect - "Harold, God has abundantly pardoned you, don't you ever forget it."
As I became keenly aware of the devastation wrecked upon the lives and resulting children born to those who were heavy users of the drug LSD, I did not want to take the chance to pass on those horrors to any offspring I might have (I took LSD - nonstop - for three years. I had taken so much, it quit having a hallucinating effect on me, frying my brain). God had completely healed me that day I met Him on that road in California and, while I knew in my spirit that He had done so, there was no outward, tangible evidence of that (other than, to this day, I have never experienced one flashback nor had any residual effects from that drug as have others). It was because of that underlying uncertainty, though, that I was heavily influenced by the admonition of the apostle Paul to remain unmarried and to simply concern myself with the things of the Lord (1Corinthians 7:8, 1Corinthians 7:32).
You will have a son --
So when, one day out of the clear blue while standing in the foyer of a friend's house with my hand on the doorknob preparing to leave, I heard that familiar knowing in my spirit that I had come to recognize as what some call "the voice of the Lord" say: "You will have a son and he will be known as Shadrach," it literally froze me in my tracks. So strong was that unction that I remained there with my hand on the door for several minutes not knowing what to do.
Since at this point in my life, I had not been looking for a wife or even entertained the notion, I remember that my first thought concerning what the Lord said was, "Well, I guess this means I'm gonna get married!" This encounter had caught me so off-guard, I didn't know what to make of it. So I did what I have come to see as wisdom, and hid it away in my heart telling Jesus that if what I had heard was actually Him, then He had my permission to bring it to pass and I would wait to see Him make it happen.
For almost two years, I remembered what God had said that day and would occasionally reflect on what it meant, but spoke about it to no one until I actually became married to Rosemary. When she asked me what the name "Shadrach" meant, I confessed I didn't know. We began a search in different bible concordances where, usually, beside the name of a person was given the meaning of that name. Shadrach was listed in the concordance, but next to the name where the meaning was supposed to be was blank - which I found to be rather strange.
We didn't give it much more thought until we found ourselves pregnant in Waco, Texas - and this was a hard pregnancy. Rosemary lay flat on her back for most of the time she was carrying the baby, throwing up dozens of times a day and was just miserable most of the time. She had already suffered one miscarriage a few months prior to this pregnancy and was on doctor's orders to stay off of her feet, primarily because she would start bleeding if she stood up for long. One night, while she was having a particularly rough time of it, as I was praying for her, I picked up the bible and randomly opened it to read. The pages fell open to Isaiah 55:6-9.
"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." I felt this to be one more assurance, one more confirmation of the healing that I felt the Lord had done in my life.
Rosemary was a real trooper through all of this, though, and we started taking Hebrew lessons from a native Israeli who had come to America with her husband, on loan from an institution in Israel to teach at Baylor University. Part of what brought Rosemary and I together was a common love of Israel and God had, seemingly, opened some doors for us to actually move over there and live. The job position I was given and the Hebrew lessons were in preparation of that move.
One evening, while waiting for me to pick her up (I had been unable to attend the lesson that night), Rosemary began to recount what we felt the Lord had given us to name the baby to the woman who was teaching the class and asked her if, she being Hebrew, knew what it meant. Amazingly, this woman said she had never heard of the name "Shadrach" nor did she have any familiarity with the book of Daniel or of the story of Shadrach, Meschah and Abednego walking in the fiery furnace in defiance of Nebuchadnezzar's decree for every one to bow down and worship him as though he be god. It was at this point in the conversation that I arrived and was astonished that, particularly for someone who had been born in the Land and had cut her teeth on the scriptures from the time she was old enough to crawl as they all do over there, she had no knowledge of the book of Daniel.
It was about this time that her husband passed through the room and she asked him, also a native-born Israeli, if he had any knowledge of the book of Daniel. He thought for a moment, puffing on his pipe, and said he thought it to be one of those "minor" prophets and proceeded to his study to retrieve a copy. When he returned, he informed us that the reason that the book was not included in a formal Israeli study of the scriptures was because it was not written in Hebrew but, rather, the Aramaic language - probably written while the Jews were still in captivity for hundreds of years. Since "Shadrach" was Aramaic, that is why there was no conversion of what the name meant into Hebrew in the concordances (Shadrach in Aramaic actually means "little devil").
Upon further investigation, we discovered that when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and took the Jews captive back to Babylon, he developed a fondness for Daniel and the boys and renamed them: "Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego." (Daniel 1:6,7)
As he looked yet further among other books in his study to reference the name for a meaning, he found that our American translation of the name Hananiah were not right either. "Hannaiel" was actually the way this name is found among Hebrew documentation. You can just imagine the ecstasy of validation that overwhelmed me when he said that the name "Hannaiel" meant "God will abundantly pardon." That day in the foyer of my friend's house, the Lord had said this child would be "known as Shadrach". Shadrach was known by his Hebrew name as Hannaiel.
Hannaniel James Smith (we placed an extra 'n' in his name so he could just go by 'Niel' if he desired later in life) was born February 21, 1979, completely healthy and completely whole. His mother, perhaps a bit wore out, was also completely healthy.
Our Hebrew teacher told us that day that, in Hebrew, anything that ends in "el" means "of God". And this tale is truly, "of God". Amen. Selah