Daniel-Wayne Barber/Part 6
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|Daniel and his friends had vowed to obey God, despite the circumstances where they found themselves. But what did they do? How did they proceed? Here is a pagan authority telling them that they’re going to have to do one thing, and yet they’re going to do something else. How would you handle this? What procedure would you have?|
Will You Please Make Up Your Mind – Part 3 (Daniel 1:8-19)
Turn to Daniel 1 as we finish up this little series within a series called “Will You Please Make Up Your Mind?” This is part 3.
Praise the Lord for four teenagers, out of all those taken captive out of Jerusalem, that would not defile themselves. Taken into a pagan land, put into a pagan school, and actually trained in speaking in pagan ways, but they would not defile themselves. We saw their first problem arise in verse 5 and we also saw that they could change their names, but they couldn’t change their minds. They had made up their minds before they ever went into captivity, before they ever packed their suitcase; they had made up their mind. They would not defile themselves by dishonoring God in their life.
Well, we want to go on. We’ve seen their problem was that the king told them they had to eat of his food and of his drink. And obviously that violated the Levitical Law of what they could eat. Possibly the food was sacrificed to idols which again would violate Scripture, and some of them perhaps had taken a Nazirite vow, which meant they couldn’t touch wine. So all of the things that the king offered to them were things that God said, “No! You cannot eat, you cannot drink.” That was their problem and we see the solution was that they had made up their minds they would not give in. But I want you to see, secondly, the procedure.
What did they do? How did they proceed? Here is a pagan authority telling them that they’re going to have to do one thing, and yet they’re going to do something else. How would you handle this? What procedure would you have? Well, we pick up in the last part of verse 8. Let’s just read the whole verse.
Verse 8 says, “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.” Now remember, so also did his three friends. We’ll continue to call them Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but remember that’s their Babylonian names, that’s not their real names. And in those names is even built the names of the false gods of Babylonia. But we at least can identify with them by those three names. They’d all made up their minds. Now watch what he does. “So he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.”
Now you’ve got to be thinking with me. You’ve got to read between the lines here. We don’t have every single detail given to us in Scripture. But we understand now that these are captives in a foreign land, in a pagan land, and you know and I know that a slave, a captive, has no right to appeal to anybody, which has to tell us something about the mannerism and the integrity of Daniel and his three friends. There was something of godliness in their life that gave them an audience with a pagan authority. He goes to Ashpenaz; he makes a request to him. And it’s incredible how God honored that direction in his life.
You see, so many people do not realize that to break man’s law, it’s very, very serious. And the first thing to remember is the only time it’s ever broken is when it violates God’s Law, which means as we go about that, we have to have a tremendous respect for authority. We’ve got to have it. We’ve got to have such a godly influence to pagan authority that they can see godliness in us; that we are even of a higher Authority. And I really believe in all of my heart that Daniel and his three friends had that kind of integrity, they had that kind of lifestyle. They were not rebels looking for a cause, they were not out just to break man’s law, they were people who respected man’s law, they respected authority, but above all of that, they honored and respected God.
Now look what happens in verse 9. As a result of his approach, of making an appeal to this pagan authority, verse 9 says, “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials.” I get so excited in this thing. You know, you talk about the sovereignty of God and now we’re in a book that absolutely illustrates the sovereignty of God. Do we believe that God is in charge of authority? Matter of fact, look in Proverbs 21:1. And it just documents what He’s doing. God has the authority in His hand and we must understand that and we must trust God above and beyond the authority. It says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.”
In other words, God has absolute, total control over the authorities. The key is not whether the authority is pagan or not, the key is how are we responding to that authority? Do we believe that God is ultimately in control, and if we do believe that, we’re going to begin to see some great things happen as we live godly lives around pagan authority.
As a matter of fact, I want you to turn to Romans 13. I just want to give you a few thoughts; I’m not preaching on Romans 13, so I just want to give you a few thoughts that came out of a recent study. Romans 13:1-7: Seven principles about dealing with a pagan authority. And I can hear somebody, “Brother Wayne, this is in Romans, and they don’t understand how difficult times can really be. They don’t understand how pagan authorities can be friendless and,….” Do you know who was in power when Romans 13 was written? Would you like to know? His name was Nero. There has never been a more ungodly, pagan ruler in the history of man on the face of this earth. He was such a deranged emperor, that friend, listen, he would take the Christians and put them in oil and put them on poles and burn them while he had his orgies there with all of his people. It was a tremendously pagan, sad time in the life of these Christians that were in Rome. And look what Paul writes to them in the midst of all of this.
Verses 1 “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Boy, does that ring a bell with Daniel 2:21, where it says that God changes the epochs and raises up kings and establishes kingdoms. Every authority on this earth—the first thing that we need to learn as Christians in a world that’s not going to have all the time godly people in control, nowhere in Scriptures does it say that we’re going to have that. But it teaches us how we can properly respond and it teaches us that God ultimately is in charge of all authority. First thing we need to learn to do is to recognize authority and learn that we are commanded by God to be in subjection to that authority. This attitude that because we’re free in Jesus, we don’t have to obey man, is crazy! It’s not in the Word of God. We need to recognize authority and recognize we are to be submissive to authority.
Let’s move on to verse 2. Boy, there are so many powerful things in this, maybe one time we’ll just take it apart and preach out of it. Verse 2, “Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.” Not only are we to recognize the authority, but we are to recognize God’s sovereignty in authority. Do you realize that? When you start breaking the law, just at random, when you think you can go against man’s law, listen friend, you’re going against God’s Law, because it’s God who put that person into that position of authority. Not only are we to recognize authority and obey it, but we are also to recognize God’s sovereign hand in the midst of that authority. And also, in the last part of verse 2 there look what it says: “and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” You see, we’re not to fight God for what He has placed for His purpose. And that ought to be the third thing we ought to write down.
First of all, recognize authority; we are to obey authority. Secondly, recognize the sovereignty of God in the midst of that authority. Thirdly, don’t fight God for what He has placed for His purpose. I remember back when they had the CB radios. Do you remember that? Everybody had to have a CB radio, and then it got so filthy nobody wanted one. I was going from Memphis, TN, down to Jackson, MS, and I was riding along and everybody was on it saying, “Hey good buddy, 10-4 good buddy, and all this kind of stuff. I can’t remember what you said! I’m trying to remember it but my mind just went blank. But I remember they were talking about the fact that there was a “smokey” in the area, and of course a “smokey” was a state trooper. And of course most of the people would use CB’s back in those days to break the law, very honestly. I didn’t use mine for that reason, I just enjoyed talking to some of these old truck drivers. Boy, you could flat get into some weird conversations with these guys. And they were asking if there were any “smokies” around and the guy comes back on and says, “Man, don’t worry. There aren’t any smokies around here. Put the pedal to the metal.” And boy, just go on, no smokies around here. And everybody was just passing the word on back, from car to car to car.
Well, come to find out, the guy who was telling everybody to put the pedal down was a “smokey” sitting in the middle of the road down there. He was catching them right and left as they were coming down. And he was on their channel just talking to them just like he knew what was going on, and he had every one of them just being caught. Well, the word began to pass around, “Look out, look out. There’s a smokey out there using a CB.” And I remember riding down the road and this one guy came on and said, “Tell me again now, where do you think that smokey is?” And I mean he was nervous, he was upset. You could tell, evidently he was late for something and he was just flying. And finally, after this long discussion back and forth between the cars, one old guy comes on and says, “Hey guys, ya’ll are spending a lot of time unnecessarily. Why don’t you just drive the speed limit and don’t worry about the smokey?”
You know, it didn’t dawn on anybody, “Hey, oh yeah, the law’s not bad if we just obey it.” Well, I’ll be! You know, the only people that worry about authority are the people breaking the law, and we’re going to see that as it comes up. So, recognize authority, we’re to be in subjection to it. Recognize God’s sovereignty in authority; don’t fight God for what He has placed for His purpose.
But then verse 3 says not to fear. “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior [if you’re living right, what are you worried about?], but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same.” So don’t fear authority, do what is right. Look at verses 4-5. Don’t kiss your conscience goodbye. Look what it says, “for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing.” In other words, if you’re going to break its laws, you’re going to pay the consequences already set up, “for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”
You see, there are a lot of people that every time they see a state trooper they go into a frenzy. Why? Because they’re always breaking the law. Their conscience is already affected because they’re lawbreakers to begin with. And he says for your own sake and your conscience, honor what authority is in your life. Obey that authority. Then in verse 6 he tells us something nobody likes to hear, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.” In other words, one the things of responding to authority is to pay your taxes. Quit thinking that because you’re a believer you’re above and beyond doing what everybody else has to do.
And then finally, in verse 7, be respectful to authority: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” I think that we as Christians need to start learning afresh what authority is in our life. And brother, it is God who is in charge of that authority. And we’re to have an attitude; we’re to have a manner of being willing to be in subjection to that authority. Yes, there may comes times when the law requires all of us to do something that God says you better not do, or you’ll defile yourself. When that time comes, make sure that we have the kind of testimony around authorities to where they don’t look at us as a rebel looking for a cause, but they recognize the fact that we’ve come into a real dilemma and we need to honor God; we can no longer obey them. And to me this is what I see in Daniel’s life. He was the kind of man who could even approach an official above him and make a request that he not do what he’s been told to do because he does not want to dishonor his God. What an incredible testimony.
Well, let’s move on to verse 10 and find out what happened. Verse 10, “and the commander of the officials,” now remember, God’s already changed Ashpenaz’ heart toward Daniel. Man, he has compassion on him. This is how God works in authority. Man, old Ashpenaz likes Daniel for some reason. He’s got compassion on him. He really understands where he’s coming from. But look at his dilemma, verse 10: “and the commanders of the officials said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king.” This is honest! What official is ever going to be this honest with anybody? I think there’s something about the integrity of Daniel, he can just bare his heart with him. He understands his dilemma, he’s very compassionate about it. But he says, “I’m afraid of the lord my king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.”
In other words, “I’m in a bigger dilemma that you’re in. I understand your problem, I really see where you’re coming from, but I’m just doing my job!” Now, isn’t it interesting how we tend to think that people just doing their jobs are always the wrong ones because they’re in authority? There’s an attitude that really scares me that’s coming out of the 20th century towards those just doing their jobs. I remember going over into Romania back when it was under the Communist control and you go through the airport there and they were really tough on you, very tough on you. But the one thing that God impressed on my heart was, “Hey man! These people are not your problem. You don’t war against flesh and blood. Love these people.” And I began to pray, “God, give me a love for these people. Give me a compassion in my heart toward them. They’re just doing their job!”
Boy, every time we’d go through after that, God just gave me such a burden for those guys. And they’re sitting in those little booths with those stupid looking uniforms on and they knew they were stupid looking and they didn’t want to be there anymore than I would want to be in that thing. But they had to do what they were told to do. One’s check another, one’s checking him, and somebody else is checking him, they’ve got to go through the motions. As I’d go through I found out something: you know, when you smile at people it’s incredible? They just have to smile back. They can’t stand it! They can’t stand it! You can go through, there’s something about the manner of a believer, when he deals with authority, if you truly love those people, it’s going to come out. And they’re going to understand where you’re coming from. And how many times God would honor that.
Now folks, listen. This is what Daniel did, and here is Ashpenaz, the official appointed over him, and he likes the guy. He really does like him. But he’s stuck; he’s in a dilemma himself. Well, what does Daniel do? Look at verses 11-13: “But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days.’” He didn’t tell him; he asked him! “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence, and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”
You know, I love that! He so respected that this old boy was just doing his job, he didn’t present something to him that was absolutely out of the question. He said, “Just for ten days. Man, I realize the position that you’re in. I so trust God, God’s not only going to honor me, He’ll honor you for doing it. But let’s just do it for ten days.” That really struck me. He didn’t say, “Okay, for the first year, why don’t you do this?” No, just ten days, ten days. “Give me some vegetables, give me some water, and let’s just see how God can honor this request.”
And I love how the Lord honored all of that. It says in verse 14, “So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days.” Folks, I guess the point I’m trying to make in this and what I see so strongly in Daniel and these three friends, is the tremendous respect that they had for authority, and the overwhelming understanding that they knew that God was sovereign over all authority. And that God wasn’t going to bless them with a belligerent attitude toward authority if they came to ask him anything. But since they had the two in balance, then God was able to honor that request and change the authority’s heart and then even bring about a proposition that would be very reasonable for both.
Over in Romania there’s a precious pastor. The day that Ceausescu was out there in the big city square there and people began to say, “Down with Ceausescu, down with Ceausescu,” at that very same time he was over in Braillia and he’d left his home and 30 some secret agents there surrounded him with little Uzi machine guns and made him get out of his car and said, “You’re under arrest!”
Well, they’d already done something to make his tires go flat. And Joseph, being the kind of man he was said, “Well, sir, I don’t want to leave my car out here in the middle of the road. Let me fix my tires, let me do something to get this car off the road.” He was sort of buying time saying, “Lord, give me wisdom, give me wisdom.” They lived under this all the time. And while he was in the back rummaging around in his trunk, a call came over one of the radios of the secret police, and come to find out they were letting them know what was going on in Bucharest, that Ceausescu was under pressure and had fled and all the 30 some secret police just turned away from Joseph and got in their cars and ran off. He’d be a dead man today. There was one man but in Braillia that now has come out that was assigned just to kill him. Joseph is going to be right here and preach in the pulpit, God willing, sometime in the last part of April or the first part of May.
Joseph to me is one of the most godly pastors I’ve ever known in my entire life. He was a man who had a deep, deep respect that God was in control. Frustrated, yes! Like all of them were. Not liking the conditions they had to live under, but a respectful decent man that lived with integrity under a pagan government. One of his deacons was caught and arrested because he had four tracts in his briefcase. Four tracts! Can you believe this? They put him in jail and Joseph heard about it and Joseph said, “There’s no way I’m going to let this man go to jail because he’s got four small children and his family can’t exist without him.”
So Joseph goes to the authority and makes a request. He says, “I’m the one who gave this man the four tracts and I would ask you, I would beg of you, that you would take him out of prison and put me in his place because this man’s family cannot survive without him.” And so the law officials, just like Ashpenaz, allowed that request. They put him in jail. A big trial came up and the word got all over that part of Romania. Christians were praying everywhere. And a judge came down to the final decision and when they brought Joseph in, and when you see his face, folks, I’m telling you, you’re going to see Jesus like you’ve never seen it before. When I saw him, it just drew me to him. He’s like a magnet. He loves Jesus!
Well, when he got before the judge to make that final decision, the judge said, “Joseph, I could take your license away, I could put you in prison, I could fine you, and that would be the doom of your family ministry and everything else. But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to take your license away; I’m not going to put you in prison. I’m going to fine you because I’m under the laws of this country to do something.” But already the Christians had raised the money for his fine. Do you know what he said? He said, “The reason I’m not doing these other things is because you’re the first person who calls himself a Christian that has acted as decently and as respectfully in this courtroom. There’s something unusual, there is something different about you.”
Daniel and his three friends. I’m telling you what, folks. There are some types of attitudes that are getting out today that are just frightening me. You don’t know what we’ve been through. Back when I was in Lexington, there was a group down there that called themselves nuns. If they’re nun, I’m the pope. They said they were Franciscan nuns. That’s a monk order. Wore hot pants and halter tops around the city. They were getting all the blacks together to try and rally them and have boycotts on the stores. Lexington was on the CBS news three times for racial violence. I mean, I both thought, “God, what are You doing to us?” Twenty-seven hundred people, 87% black, and we were the only people who had ever had a ministry to the blacks down there. But these people would call me up all the time. “You call yourself a preacher?” “Yes, sir, I do. I’m called by God.” “Well, come on over here to this meeting because we’re going to discuss civil rights. We’re going to discuss the rights of each individual.” I said, “My friend, I’m not coming to your meeting.” “Why aren’t you coming to our meeting?” “Because I believe in seeing the gospel change people’s hearts and then those people will properly respond to situations like that. You’re dealing with the external. I’m dealing with something far greater; I’m dealing with the internal heart of an individual.”
Boy, I was called every name in the book by people who represented “the cause of Christ.” Oh, brother, you know, every time I say that I’m always afraid somebody is going to say, “He’s talking about me.” Now listen, folks, I have nobody on my mind. If God gets that specific with you, then you go deal with it and get on your face before Him. I’m not trying to do that. I’m just trying the best I can to honor what the text is saying. Here’s a man who trusted his God and with integrity went to an official and made a request and God changed the officials heart and as a result of this it worked out not only for the official but it worked out for the four men that made the request.
Do we believe that today? Do we really believe that? Do we believe that if we were Daniels that God might do something to change the heart of our government? Well, we see the procedure. Now let’s see the prosperity that resulted.
Boy, this is a tremendous chapter. As a matter of fact, it’s just getting us started folks. Daniel is gangbusters. It is one of the greatest books I’ve ever studied. Look at verse 14, “So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days.” Now look at verse 15, how God honored it. I love this! “And at the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths.” On water and vegetables? That’s incredible. Now you go back and check that out. We say in America to drink water and vegetables and you’ll get slimmer. Well, they got fatter! “They were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold.”
You see, oh, this is so neat. He continued to honor their request and withhold the choice of food and the wine that they were to drink and kept giving them vegetables. “And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.” And this is when you begin to see the foundation for the rest of the book. Why is it in chapter 2 that we have that great panorama of history? Why is it in chapters 7-12 that we understand what’s going on in the latter days? Because a man made up his mind not to dishonor himself or to dishonor his God. And because of that God honored him.
I just think of the potential that’s in this room right now, and for young people. I had so many precious responses from the youth and I want to thank you for that. I didn’t know if you knew my heart as I shared some of those things with you. Thank you for your sharing back with me. Man, the potential sitting right over here. If they make up their minds not to, what God could do! Not only to change our lives, but to change our whole country’s lives, because of people who are will to be Daniels.
Then verse 18 says, “Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar.” Now Nebuchadnezzar is going to check them out. “And the king talked with them [three years have now gone by and the king talked with them] and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the king’s personal service. And as for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.”
You know, I’m going to stick something in here that is sort of an application, but something that has been on my heart for a long time. Parents, you have a kid at home who doesn’t do well in school, struggles with his grades, and says he can’t comprehend anything going to class. I promise you, you start praying for child, and you get him in the Word and God gets him into the Word and you’re going to see a difference in his grade level when God begins to quicken to his mind how to comprehend and understand. I believe there is something to that. I’m not going to force it: if it doesn’t fit, throw it out. I’ve always believed that a kid who honored God and honored the Word of God would be one of the finest students you’d find anywhere, because God’s in control of that mind, folks. He has the capacity to understand.
Well, as a result God honored them. I was thinking about the movie, “Chariots of Fire.” I like those kind of movies because the man honored the Lord and plus it was athletic. I like anything sporty or anything like that. I also like shoot-‘em-ups. My wife says I’ve got a perverted mind—I love spiritual truth and somebody getting their brains blown out! Understand, it’s always when the good guy wins. That’s what I like. I don’t like it just for the sake of violence. Not that kind of stuff. But anyway, I should never have said that. My wife’s going “Oh, no.”
She told me the other day, “If you’d just watch me, I’d get you out of a lot of trouble!” I’m trying to learn, I really am. But in “Chariots of Fire,” I love that thing. This guy is running and he gets to the Olympics and he won’t run on Sunday because it’s his conviction that he’s not supposed to do that. That’s precious. That’s between him and the Lord. And they wouldn’t run him in those races and it hit the headlines and all the flak that he took, and finally they decided to let him run in a special race against all the top runners. I remember when he was getting down in the blocks and getting ready to get started, a fellow walked over to him and handed him a little slip of paper. Remember that? And he opened up that slip of paper and it said, “When you honor God, remember, God will honor you.” And did he ever blow those guys off the track that day in that race.
Folks, listen, Daniel; isn’t it wonderful? Make up your mind which side of the fence you’re going to get on. Stop being a mugwump with your mug on one side and your wump on the other. Make up your mind before you leave the house tomorrow morning, “I will not defile myself. I will honor God, regardless of what He does and wants me to do today.” Make up your mind before you ever leave the house. Live that way tomorrow. Don’t worry about Tuesday because you’ve just got tomorrow and you may not have that. But if you wake up in the morning, just take one day at a time. That’s why the Christian life is called a walk—one step at a time. And it would be incredible, you know, I think the principle of Daniel that is so strong is this: the problem we have in the world today is not because of pagan government. The problem is because we have weak-willed people who call themselves Christians. If the church would start living and standing up as they ought to live, you’d see a lot of changes in this world folks, of what God would be able to do as a result of it.
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