Another paper for Great Books! No, I don’t write one every day. I wrote this last week, and the one about The Odyssey before Christmas break. 😉
I had read Daniel before, of course, but I had never really studied it before I read it for Great Books. Daniel is an inspiring story, and one thing I especially noticed is that Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (otherwise known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), always remained very loyal to the ruling king. They were brought away from anything familiar into a pagan culture, probably as teenagers, and yet they embraced their new surroundings and country, while still remaining faithful to God. When confronted with the answer to an ominous dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s, Daniel tells the king: “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!” (4:19)
For at least part of the book, they were even a part of the government. At the beginning of Chapter Six, the well-known story of “Daniel in the Lions’ Den”, Daniel was one of only three administrators, who were over the hundred-some satraps who ruled over the kingdom. But in verse three, the author tells how he was so skilled that King Darius planned to put him in charge of the whole kingdom, arousing the jealously of those working with him.
At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (verses 4,5)
Even working for a foreign king, Daniel was good at his job, trustworthy and diligent. His competition could not find anything to accuse him of, until it came to his relationship with God. That was where Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah drew their line: they would not do anything that would displease God.
These four men were loyal to the kings they served, even in a foreign nation—but they knew it was most important to serve the true King, and they never wavered in their loyalty to Him. In Chapter Six, Daniel was a ruler of the one-hundred twenty satraps who were over the kingdom, and the king was over him. The four Israelite men understood that God was the King, and overruled everything else. In Chapter Two, Daniel tells King Nebuchadnezzar:
“You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all.” (verses 37, 38)
God gives authority to every ruler on earth, and Daniel understood that. In the fiery furnace and the lions’ den—in the eternal scheme of things—Darius and Nebuchadnezzar are administrators like Daniel, but God is the King. Obedience to Him is more important than obedience to any earthly leader. Daniel and his friends were loyal and obedient to the Persian and Babylonian kings, but when they demanded disobedience towards the King of kings, none of them would go that far.
We like things to be black and white; a clear-cut “good guy” and “bad guy”. God is good, and Satan opposes Him. That is clear, but we often want people to be like that too, and they are not. In Ephesians Six, it says: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (verse 12) We are not fighting against human beings, we are fighting against the powers that dominate this fallen world and against the “bad guy” of the heavenly realms. All the people around us are broken, sinful human beings made in the image of a perfect God, just like we are. They are not the ultimate evil, but mislead by it. In Romans Chapter Thirteen, we find the command: Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. (verse 1) We are commanded to obey our authorities, but hold our commitment to God—the one true King—as more important than anything else. Loyalty and patriotism are not bad, but our commitment to God must come first through the lions, the fire, the fear, and the rejection.