Government and God -Daniel 1:8-17

Which Is Right In God’s Eyes: To Obey Man, Or God? You Be The Judges!

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Acquiesce to Authority

At some point in our lives, each of us will be faced with a most difficult situation:  the leaders that have been placed over us will either enact laws that require us to disobey God, or we will be told by them to do something that we know to be contrary to the will of God.  When faced with this dilemma, we will each need to make a decision on how to address the issue.  For some, it will merely mean that they will lose their job/position/status in their society.  For others, it may mean that they will lose their lives, and possibly the lives of their other family members, friends, acquaintances, and perhaps everyone they know.

The most difficult part is that we have been given a directive by God through His Apostle Paul:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Whom, then, will you serve?

Father First

The life of Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also known as Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) serve to give us guidance on how to live our lives in a world and culture that doesn’t know God, and that demands that we follow the rule of man rather than the rule of God.  In each case in the lives of these men, they placed God first in their lives.  And in each case, God blessed them for their obedience:

  • When asked to defile themselves with the King’s food, they offered an alternative – eating simple vegetables.  God blessed them with favor in the eyes of their captors.
  • When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were commanded to bow down before the king and worship him when they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, they respectfully declined, and declared before the king that they must obey God.  Thrown into the fiery furnace, God protected them and even the king gave glory to God.
  • When Daniel was told that he could only pray to the king, he continued with his practice of praying to God.  Thrown into the lion’s den, God shut the mouths of the lions until the ones responsible for placing him there were brought forward and placed in the same situation.  They did not fare as well as Daniel…

In each and every case where Daniel and his friends placed God first and obeyed God, the Lord God Almighty blessed and protected them, even when faced with what appeared to be certain death.  John helps us to remember that fear has to do with punishment, and that perfect love casts out all fear.  We are to live our lives in such a way that our enemies see no fear in us.  When they see that, it will be a witness to them that God is who He says He is.  It is then that they will experience fear.

Divine Delegates

But what about the leadership of men?  Does not God delegate his rule and authority over men to other men that He puts into place?  How do we reconcile submitting ourselves to the ruling authorities because God has instituted all authority and rebellion against what God has established is rebellion against God in the light of evil overseers?  In each case, God must come first.  And although God does institute all authority on Earth in men, we are to obey God first, and then obey men.

How do you obey a leader like Kim Jong-un, who lives at the expense of his people (to the point that they are trying to boil the bark of trees for food and are starving to death)?  Or Adolph Hitler, who attempted to murder all of God’s people, the Jews?  Or Ali Khamenei, who requires that anyone who does not pray to his god to be summarily executed by beheading?

In each of these situations (and many others throughout the world today and in the past) we are faced with leaders that scripture tells us God has placed in power, yet oppress or destroy their own people, and especially God’s family.  The Bible provides us with an answer, albeit one that provides little consolation to the present pain and suffering that is being endured by those who find themselves in these situations:  The just shall live by faith.

Trust in the Trinity

This was the cry of the Reformation.  Each of us must remember that regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in, that we are to trust in the Lord God Almighty and Him alone for the strength to endure and deliverance through our trials.  Paul notes in writings that he has had much, and little.  And God had taught him to be content no matter his circumstances.  In the same way, we must trust in the Lord God Almighty – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that through our adversity and the terrible trials that we face, that the purpose is that God will be glorified.

When we take on the mindset that life is about us and our pleasure or ease of living, we have bought into the culture’s ideals.  For we are created to worship God and to bring glory to His name.  Nowhere in scripture does it say, “Once you become a Christian (or the disciple of Jesus, to be more precise) your life will become easy, and I will make you wealthy and protect you from any and all difficulty.”  On the contrary – when we become disciples of Christ, our lives are upended.  We have given Almighty God the tacit, willful approval to do whatever He wants to do in our lives.  And His purpose is to conform us into His image through sanctification.

The second half of Hebrews Chapter Eleven tells us of the saints that have gone on before us.  Many were raised up (like Daniel and his friends).  Others were martyred for their faith.  Some were driven from society to live their lives in solitude in caves and other places apart from the men who lived in darkness and despised the light of God.  In each and every one of their lives, there was a tell-tale aspect that needs to be highlighted.  Each and every one of them had faith in God, believed what God said, and it was credited to them as righteousness.

Royal Reward

Although Daniel and his friends were rewarded by God with Earthly accolades, positions of authority, power, and wealth, God has rewarded them with a far greater reward – eternal life.  In this life, we must strive to remember that the reward that we seek is the one in Heaven, not here on Earth.  For the disciple of Christ, we should be looking forward to hearing these simple words from our brother and Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  This is the reward and praise that each of us should seek.  If God sees fit to provide us with additional reward on Earth, that is nice, but not needed.  For do any one of us want to gain the whole world just to lose our souls?

We can rejoice that God is a God of justice.  And when evil men have been placed in authority over us, we can rest assured that God will take care of them in His time.  For this is what evil leaders have to look forward to:

5 indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.

6 “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ 7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

9 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! 10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. 11 The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! 13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? 14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! 16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. 17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. 19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

20 The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What do I do when faced with evil leadership?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy and there is none like You.  You raise up leaders and you remove them from their lofty positions.   It is You who is sovereign over everything that is created – everything on the Earth, beneath the Earth, above the Earth, and the Earth itself.  Nothing is outside of Your reach and grasp, and everyone must give an accounting of themselves before You.  Father, You have shown Yourself to be full of mercy and grace, providing for my every need.  Remember me today, Father, as I struggle with the trials of life.  Grant me the strength to endure, the wisdom to be disciplined by these lessons, and the opportunity to give You glory and speak of You to any and all who will listen.  Thank You, Father, for reminding me that You are in control, and that my treasure is where my heart is.  May it always been with You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

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