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?

Authority by God – Daniel 2:19-23

There Is No Authority Except That Which Is Established By God

19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Riddle Revealed

Have you ever had a mystery in your life that neither you nor no one else could figure out?  Daniel was in that exact same place.  The king had asked a question of the wise men of his time that no one had ever asked before – to rightly divine what the king’s dream had been, and its proper interpretation.  In previous times, the king would reveal the dream and ask for the interpretation.  However, being clever, the king asked the wise men not only the interpretation to the dream, but also the dream itself.  For only the truly wise person would be able to divine both the interpretation as well as the dream.

The Lord God Almighty knows all things.  What is done in darkness is as clear as light to Him.  He is omniscient – knowing all things.  Nothing is withheld from God.  In order for God to be sovereign over all of creation, He would need to know everything that was going on in creation all of the time.  And this time was no exception.  When Daniel and his three friends prayed to the One who knows all things, God was faithful and provided the knowledge to Daniel, His chosen instrument, to deliver the message to the king.

Despots Deposed

Daniel then prayed a prayer that glorified God and reveals some interesting aspects of the character of God.  Daniel rightly proclaims that it is God who removes people from positions of authority.  While the reasons for this are the purview of God for His plan, this revelation should give us hope and assurance.

When faced with unholy rulers who oppress people rather than serving them in submission to the Lord God Almighty, those who are faithful to God should bend their knees in fervent prayer that God would remove such a one from office.  When the true disciples of God cry out for justice and Godly leadership over them, repenting of their sins and the sins of their nation, turning their faces back towards God and away from sin (in that order), humbling themselves in prayer and fasting, God will hear their prayers and heal their land.

Authority Authenticated

It is God and God alone that places leaders in their positions of power.  For God and God alone has all authority, and He delegates that authority to whomever He chooses.  For some, He delegates it in righteousness for His glory.  For others, He delegates it to bring about the discipline of His people.

Habakkuk, in an apparent prayer of despair,  cried out to God in an attempt to understand why the righteous were held back, and the wicked prospered on Earth.  God said to Habakkuk,

See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright — but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

We must remember that it is God’s purview and His alone that allows the wicked to prosper and to be in leadership over others.  While we have every obligation to ensure that we are living righteously and living in a just manner before God, it is God and God alone who will raise up leaders and lay them low.  This is a divine attribute of God, that He and He alone has all authority and can do with it what He wants for His purposes.

Information Imparted

Since God is all-knowing, it is God’s responsibility to provide that knowledge to others.  Many try to seek wisdom and knowledge through other channels, such as divination (tarot cards, Ouija boards, palm reading, tea leaves, and any number of other methods including seeking out those who traffic with Demonic beings.  Any method of revelation of true hidden knowledge is through God and God alone.  Others may guess at the nature of truth, but only God knows it for sure.

The sad aspect of the seeking of wisdom and knowledge outside of God is that these methods lead a person down a very dark path away from God.  Whether it be Saul and the medium of Endor trying to (and from what scripture says, apparently successfully at the attempt) channel the spirit of Samuel from the dead, or others who traffic in demons, any attempt at divination is evil and hated by God.

When someone goes to a real medium (a person who is being imparted with knowledge from demonic beings impersonating the dearly departed), they may get some real information that no one else could possibly know because no other human being was present.  However angels and demons are among us.  And they communicate with each other.  The knowledge that you get may have just enough truth in it to hook you into believing that the person you consulted really does know the future.  Once a person is hooked, they will depend more and more upon the medium or method of divination rather than depending upon God for knowledge and assistance.  Our God is a jealous God, and will not allow us to serve two masters.  Free will has been given to us, and we can choose whom we will serve.  We can choose to serve God, or serve anyone or anything else.  The choice is ours.  And every choice has its consequences.

The one who goes to a medium to see if they got the job after the interview may very well be told the truth.  A demon may have been present when the HR official authorized the paperwork or verbally approved the hiring.  Perhaps there is something that only the mark knows (the person seeking information from mediums) that is told to the mark.  After all, if no other human being had been present, how could this medium know the truth of the situation (such as where the serial killer buries the bodies or disposes of them, etc.)?

For the spiritual safety of God’s people, God and God alone should be consulted for wisdom and truth.  If it is to the glory of God that it not be revealed, so be it.  If we need to wait upon God’s timing for it, so be it.  It is the impatience of man that leads us to seek knowledge and wisdom apart from God and His word.  If you are ever presented with that temptation, remember what happened to king Saul because of his impatience with God’s timing (offering up the burnt offering to God, and seeking out the medium of Endor).

Wisdom Welcomed

Daniel welcomed the wisdom that God had provided, as should we.  Regardless of the word of knowledge that we are given by God, we should treasure it and act upon it, for God has seen fit to provide us with understanding and wisdom.  God loves it when we move in obedience to His revealed word.

And when we have received the answer to our prayer, we should praise the Lord God Almighty for what He has done.  God is worthy of all praise, honor, glory, power, strength, and dominion.  Let us give great praise to the One who provides for our every need, and gives us that which we have requested.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I able to be content when waiting for God to act upon my requests (especially with the outcomes of who is in authority over the nation I live in)?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have revealed Yourself to us through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You have given us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to lead us into the way everlasting.  Give me patience this day as I wait for You to act, and help me to be content with the outcome that You have decreed.  Regardless of my circumstances, help me to never take my eyes off of You.  Grant me peace in my heart, and bring me around to Your way of thinking so that I can be better prepared when difficulties occur in my life.  Help me to live by faith and faith alone in You when You send wicked rulers to be over us, and help me to rejoice when You relent and send leaders that will follow You to be over us.  This I ask in the glorious name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

Combat Training with God – Romans 13:1-2

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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

The United States of America’s government was unique in many ways.  One is that the founding fathers believed that its people could be self-governing.  This was predicated on the assumption of three interconnected principles:

  1. Liberty was only possible when virtue was present
    • Only people who are virtuous can be trusted with self-government.
    • Without virtue, abuses of all types would occur because of the freedom provided, and should the people no longer be virtuous, this form of government would fail.
  2. Virtue was only possible when faith (belief in accountability to a higher power) was present
    • Virtuousness is what restrains selfishness, promotes the general welfare of others, and holds the individual in check from abuse of power.
    • Although it is possible that people can be virtuous without faith, it is the accountability to a higher power that provides the framework that directs a person to adopt virtuous ideals and their practice.
    • An Atheist, for example, could live a virtuous life, but why?  What restrains them from changing their beliefs in virtuous living at any time once their circumstances change?
  3. Faith was only possible when liberty was present
    • Without the ability of the people to freely practice religion and LIVE out their beliefs, faith would not be permitted to flourish, and evil would suppress the expression of faith.
    • Faith is what promotes virtuous living through a framework of belief that standards that are set by a higher power that supersede their own.  It is because the standards originate outside of themselves – they originate from a holy God – that they therefore provide them with accountability.  This both draws them and helps them to feel compelled to obey them; for these standards were not made by mere men, and cannot be changed by mere men.

John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, wrote the following in 1798:

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.

This circle – Liberty, Virtue, and Faith, provided the framework for self government.  But the Bible says that regardless of the type of government a person finds themselves a subject, they are to obey the ruling authorities (in Christ).  This is not a blanket get-out-of-jail-free card to do any evil that a corrupt government instructs us to do; rather, it is a call to show the world that just as Christ submitted to the Holy Spirit and God the Father out of respect and righteousness, so should we obey Godly government to demonstrate to the world that God is sovereign and is to be obeyed.

Paul goes on further in the chapter to say this:

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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

When we disobey government (which we SHOULD do if they are requiring us to do something counter to the express Will and Holiness of God), we are in effect telling the world that it is OK to disobey God himself, for He has sovereignly appointed these people to govern over us.  What a tragedy!  Although there are many things codified in the law that are counter to God’s express will and holiness, we should be following the rest to honor and obey God!

As an example, every time I hear a pastor say, “Well, I drive a little faster than the speed limit myself”, I cringe.  What kind of example does that set for the flock, let alone those that don’t know God and watch with vigilance those who purport to represent God, when the spiritual leaders disobey the commands of God’s servants over them?  Are speed limits in direct violation of God’s express will?  If not, and you are not obeying them, why?

Paul takes this even further:

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 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.

Many complain of the onerous burden that the government has placed in taxes over the people.  But this was forewarned by Samuel prior to the appointing of Saul as the first human king of Israel:

Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

God warns us to be careful, because we will get the government that we deserve.  This November, if you are a citizen of the United States, you have the privilege and solemn obligation to cast your votes for Godly government officials.  So you say you don’t know who is Godly and who isn’t?  The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  Educate yourself.  And remember, God has provided you with the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you.  Use these vast resources to know who to vote for.  Then, should ungodly rulers be elected over us, you will be able to have a clear conscience before God and man that you were responsible for your part.

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. – John Stuart Mill

And finally, like Habakkuk was told,

“See, the enemy is puffed up;
    his desires are not upright—
    but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided us with leadership through our governing officials.  You have graciously given us the freedom to responsibly elect people of faith and virtue to govern us.  Father, forgive us for allowing such evil people to come to power in the United States of America.  It is because of our failure to vote and do so in prayerful humility as well as disgust for the candidates that have been chosen by the major parties to represent us that we have failed to be vigilant in our responsibilities.   Father, please send revival to Your people in the United States.  Wake them out of their slumber, and encourage them to get involved with the sacred responsibility of determining who will govern over them.  Help us to submit ourselves to You and Your will, and heal our land, that there may be peace within our nation as well as between nations.  Only You are able to do this, Lord God.  We anxiously await for you to act.  We greatly desire that You would provide us with Godly leaders so that it would be with great joy that we may submit ourselves to their rule, rather than hang our heads in shame over their wickedness and hide in silence from their oppression.  This we ask and pray in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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