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?

Striving for God – Philippians 1:27-29

Live a Life Worthy of The Gospel

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Christian Conduct

It is not just learning Bible verses that is important: it is living them out under the power of the Holy Spirit – putting them into practice – that is ultimately desired by God of us.  He delights when we draw close to Him and experience His character.  He has put on display for all to see through the Bible the framework of His conduct.  Although God does interact with us on a personal (and sometimes unique) manner as befits us and our character, He is consistent in His dealings with mankind.

We have no excuse for not living a life of God-like character.  Jesus has shown us the character of God the Father.  Jesus said:

7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

United Undertaking

We are told to stand firm and strive together in the Gospel.  The most powerful thing that we can do is act in unity.  When Christians are united, it is as if everyone is pulling on a rope attached to a great weight in the same direction.  Imaging one hundred people pulling on one hundred different ropes in different directions.  How far do you think the weight will move?  If everyone took their rope, gathered together and pulled in the same direction, do you think it would have a different outcome?

When we do not work in unity, we are acknowledging to the world that (at least some of us) are not listening to the directions of our Commander-In-Chief, Jesus Christ, through the voice of the Holy Spirit.   This causes onlookers to wonder if it is even possible to know God and listen to Him.  When we unite together, great and powerful work is accomplished for the Gospel.  God has said that when working in unity, nothing is impossible.  We can choose to work in unity or not.  Let us choose to be united.

Forgo Fear

God has placed within human beings an emotional response system.  It helps guide us when intellectually we may not be as motivated to react to situations in self-preservation.  The beauty of a tornado is awesome to behold, even if it is coming in your general direction.  However, if we didn’t have fear, we might just stand there admiring it until it was too late.  Fear helps us to avoid situations that might otherwise harm us through our action, or in other cases, through inaction.

However, we have a great and mighty God who is able to provide for all of our needs.  He is able to shield us, protect us, and deliver us.  When faced with threats from evil people, loss of life, or other situations that should normally cause us to flee or act in throws of fear when fulfilling the work of God, we are to be as bold as lions and stand our ground.  We have a strong deliverer who will act on our behalf.  Even if we perish we are to show no fear, for there is no fear in perfect love.  This is not for our benefit, however.

Sign of Salvation

When people see that we do not show fear in the face of loss, death, torture, immolation, or any other threats or situations of physical, monetary, or property loss, our boldness is a testimony to our faith in the saving nature of our God.  It is during these trials that our faith is on display for others.  When they see that we are willing to lose everything for what we believe, our faith is made real in their hearts, and they then are the ones who will fear.

This is not a false sign of bravado, but rather an unshakeable knowledge (hope) that God, whether in life or death, is able to keep us and save us, whether alive in this world or with Him in glory.  Most people love their lives more than they love their Savior, and in a moment of panic, may deny Him when they are threatened.  We are told that when we put our full faith into effect, regardless of the outcome, this will be God’s sign to them that God is real, our faith is real, and they are in a lot of trouble:

Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

Sovereign Suffering

God has appointed us to suffering.  He does this for several reasons:

  • No student is above his teacher:
    • The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.

    • Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

    • All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

    • So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

    • Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

    • 10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

    • 10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

    • 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

  • Suffering is the vehicle through which God sanctifies us
  • Perseverance through suffering displays the character of God for all to see.
  • Life is difficult, and we can comfort those with the same comfort we received during the suffering we experienced in our trials.

Strategic Struggle

As we experience trials and tribulations, we are continually being tested, and our character refined.  Eventually, every Christian reaches a tipping point.  We must ask ourselves a question and determine the answer in our heart: Is God’s love dependent upon our circumstances?  The answer that we should come to  (but may be very difficult to achieve when experiencing prolonged, significant, excruciating, painful, and unyielding agony) is that God’s love (or any part of His character) is not based on our circumstances.  Rather, it is above our circumstances, for He is sovereign, and does not change.  His love will never fail, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

When we are striving for God, we are like a nail that has popped out of the board, and the devil has a hammer looking to put it right back down where it was before.  Withstand the abuse, the torture, the threats, the loss, whatever may come.  You have a much greater inheritance with God in Heaven, and this momentary pain will cease when you go to be with Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we living God’s character sufficiently to experience the sufferings that His Son, Jesus Christ, experienced?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us Yourself through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I thank You and praise You for revealing Yourself to me.  Help me to live in such a way that I experience the same sufferings as Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to see where You are working, to join in with that work, and the bring glory to Your name.  And when I experience suffering, whether from the trials of living my faith, or from any other thing, help me to endure them so that You are glorified, and my character is refined.  Sanctify me through these trials, and help me to learn the lessons that You are trying to teach to me.  Give me the strength to persevere, and to wait until You release me from the trials.  Help me to resist the urges to take control over these circumstances, and allow you to perfect and complete that which You have begun.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Jesus Christ, Your One and Only Son, Amen.

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

Submission to God – Colossians 3:1-4

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The world, the flesh, and the devil all vie for the attention of our thoughts.  If they can just persuade us to take our eyes off of Christ, we can be led astray.  Paul provides us with the framework for preventing this, in that our lives are hidden in Christ.  Our thoughts should be continually towards the things of God.  We are also told where our treasure is, there are our hearts also.

Time and time again, we are distracted with the troubles of life.  Even when we are focused on God, tragedy seems to occur to cause us to take our eyes off of the object of our affection, and be focused in the here and now of trials and tribulations.  It takes great self-control to refocus on the things that matter, as the threat of pain, suffering, and loss loom over us in those moments.  We are directed (both imperative commands!) to set our hearts and set our minds on things above.  It is an act of the will, contrary to our natural inclinations.

It is an act of submission of the will to God that enables us to make this unnatural change in our thought lives.  In everything, Christ submitted Himself to the Father through submission to the Holy Spirit.  In the same manner we need to submit ourselves the same way to the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s ask the question:  How well are we submitting to the Holy Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we are so easily distracted by the difficulties of life.  Give me strength today to have a heart that is steadfastly focused upon Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Remove the veneer of importance from those things that try to grab my attention, and place everything in its proper place, so that You are honored in everything.  Guard my heart, and help me to submit to Your perfect will.  This I ask in the precious name of your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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