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Daniel Is Looking at Us
True faith across the breadth of the believing church is still alive in today's world. Even now, many believers and churches are operating in the purpose and manner God ordained for them. That cannot be said of all, however. Much of Christianity is in crisis, having lost its way amid a roiling sea of ideologies that reject its core beliefs and relevancy. Too often, the church's response has been the compromise of core principles in an attempt to broaden its appeal to the masses. Rationalizing sinful lifestyles, bowing to ungodly political agendas, idolizing flawed actors, and holding itself up as an inclusive institution has not served God well. God has always been inclusive, that was the whole purpose of the cross. Nowhere in His Word do we find the Holy condoning the anarchy of our day. In adopting the world's ways in an attempt to appeal to it, too many churches and believers have abandoned what set them apart, dimming and in some cases shuttering the only Light that can beacon its way into hearts. We will do well to follow Daniel's example in this time of trial.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. Daniel 1:1-4 (ESV)
This is an old game, we are the new players
In this passage, we see the best of the Israelites taken into Nebuchadnezzar's palace, where they were meant to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. Nebuchadnezzar knew that by doing so he could co-opt the leaders of the captured Israelites by filling them with Chaldean values, culture, and language; and he knew that they would then carry these into the Israelite nation as a whole.
Does that sound familiar? Many churches and faith communities today have effectively been co-opted by the values, culture, and language of ungodly agendas, cultural pressures, and political competitions. In allowing this to happen, we willingly allow God's treasure to become the treasure of another. We fail in our heavenly ordained purpose through our capitulation to false gods.
Even the royal and noble among believers can be deceived
False gods of all manner seek God's believers and institutions as their highest prize. Robbing God of our faithfulness, they also rob us of the service, joys, and blessings God intended for our lives. We exchange our heavenly purpose for earthly pleasure, power, and lust; not because we are not knowledgeable, understanding, and wise in God's ways but because we choose being glorified before a world of peers over humility and faithfulness to He who is greater than all. We exchange so much for so little, panting after the temporary and worthless baubles of man's attention in rejection of God's eternal glory and grace.
Abandoning God, we accept false literature, language, knowledge, and culture, becoming the Chaldeans of our own age
The Israelites were a Semitic people who were defeated and taken in bondage to a strange land. They had a God-given language, culture, and history filled with his values and truth. Tempted, however, they were enticed by and educated in the ways of their new home - immorality, perversities of all kinds, sorcery, witchcraft, and magical arts. They desired and then adopted these abominations, rejecting the source and provision of their heritage, the God who called them his own. They exchanged truth, purity, humility, holiness, and righteousness for falsehood, lust, and immorality. They were subsumed in what surrounded them through their infidelity to the One who loved them, losing their identity as a result.
The parallels between that day and this day cannot be missed. They assault us at every turn with the news of society's descent into various perverse moralities. Many believers point to the world's condition as a sure sign that the end is near, that God simply cannot and will not stand by and let this be. Maybe so, but maybe not as well. History is full of epochal moments and movements through which God's people have been persecuted, suffered, and even martyred for their faith. In the last century alone, millions died for His name, refusing to let go of the God who loved and sustained them through the trial. They were faithful to the call to persevere and endure without compromising. They were Daniel's in their day.
Who are the Daniel's of our day?
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. Daniel 1:8 (ESV)
Daniel's faithfulness demonstrates God's faithfulness to protect those who honor him, even though it did not mean Daniel never had trials. Remember, he was imprisoned and even put into the fiery furnace for his belief. Jesus was honest with us when he promised that his followers will be persecuted (John 15:20-22). The world will give us trial and suffering as our daily diet, and God will always be faithful to sustain those who choose to honor him in the face of the onslaught. Man did not create this world and man will not determine its end. God is in charge, even though we sometimes wonder how that can be. He allows us the freedom to choose and the freedom to experience the consequences of our choices. It has always been so, just ask an ancient Israelite, or Paul, or Steven. Ask a medieval believer burned at the stake, or an Eastern European believer who survived the dark Soviet empire. Ask Richard Wurmbrand.
As dark as today is, new Daniel's are following in his footsteps, refusing to let go of God’s hand. Who are these new Daniel's? They are those believers among us who refuse to refute God's truth, judgement, justice, love, mercy, and grace. They are those who make the truth of the scriptures their daily diet and sustenance. They are those who know and live by the fact that we determine our fate through our choices and that these choices matter, not only to the individual but to all. God's beacon, the Light of his Son's life and sacrifice, shines through us into the world when we honor and live His truth no matter the anarchy and chaos that surround us. In this place, in this time, it is you and I who are called to be Daniel's.
It's dark out there and it is our turn to choose. Let the Light shine. Choose to be a Daniel today.