Our culture seems to be changing at an alarming rate. At best, God’s standards of morality are seen as “old fashioned” and treated like a joke and at worst, they are seen as racist, hateful, destructive ways of thinking. I struggle with how I should respond to the world around me. Should I speak up, speak out and get involved politically? Maybe I should bombard Facebook and other forms of social media with articles and bible verses hoping someone will listen. Most of the time I want to gather my family and close friends and go form a commune in the mountains in order to escape what is going on around me.
I’ve been reading through Daniel and noticed some things that have helped me. In Daniel six, Daniel’s peers put a target on his back and devised a plan to bring him down. They said in verse five, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.” Then they convinced King Darius to institute a ridiculous 40 day statute that forbid anyone to make a petition to any god except the king, knowing that this would set a trap for Daniel.
Verse ten records Daniel’s response and says, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”
If you’re familiar with Daniel six, you know how the story ends. Daniel’s enemies catch him praying and rat him out to the king. Even though Darius is distressed and tries to find a way to rescue Daniel, he has no choice but to throw him in the lion’s den. God delivers Daniel, his enemies are disposed of, and Darius writes a proclamation to his entire kingdom that everyone is to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel.
Let’s consider a few simple observations about Daniel that could be helpful.
No Ground of Accusation:
If my life was put under a microscope, what would my enemies find, what accusations could they make? Would they find jealousy and lust and greed and anger? Would they find pride and arrogance and self-righteousness? Or would they see kindness and patience and self-control? Would they see generosity and hope and love? In other words, would my life look any different than the world around me? I’m not talking about perfection; I’m talking about a course of life that strives to imitate Jesus Christ. In the end, when all things fall apart, I pray that the only accusation that will stick is, “He’s a follower of Jesus!”
As He Had Been Doing Previously:
I’ve always been impressed that, in the face of the new statute, Daniel didn’t have to change his behavior. He didn’t become aware of the attack by his peers and suddenly amp up his righteousness. As Daniel’s environment became more hostile he simply continued in the pattern of godliness and faithfulness that he had previously been dedicated to.
What does my walk with God look like? Do I have the pattern of faithfulness in the times of peace that will see me through the times of distress? We must devote ourselves daily to God, cultivating a deeper relationship with Him, so that our foundation of faith is prepared for whatever lies ahead. If I’m walking with my God daily then I have no need to worry about what might be coming next. I will simply take each day as it comes and take the next step of faith.
Praying and Giving Thanks:
Daniel knew the document was signed when he went up to his roof chamber that day. He knew what the likely consequences would be when he got down on his knees and prayed. I’m amazed that verse ten highlights “giving thanks” as the focus of Daniel’s prayer. I’ve got to be honest; I’m not sure how much “giving thanks” would have been taking place if I was in his situation. There would have been a lot of, “save me” and, “this isn’t fair”, and “destroy my adversaries”, but I’m not sure about thanksgiving.
I believe the depth of Daniel’s relationship with God is seen in his focus on giving thanks in a time like this. Despite his circumstances and the evil motives of the men around him, he could still clearly see God for who He is and His worthiness of our thanksgiving. As I contemplate the world around me and watch my nation grow more hostile towards God, my kneejerk reaction to everything should be the giving of thanks. The darkness that grows around us should make us appreciate the light of Jesus Christ more than ever.
Above all else, Daniel understood who he was. He lived and worked in a foreign land, far from home and surrounded by ungodly people but he knew he was a descendant of Abraham, a child of God, and in a covenant relationship. It would have been easy for him to look at his situation, focus on the temporary, and just blend in but he chose the harder, higher path. He looked at the eternal and lived above his culture. If we do the same, the God that delivered Daniel will also deliver us. Amen.