3. Pressure Proves Our Convictions – Daniel 3 & 6 Last year 10 elite anti-narcotics police were killed together while on active duty. News of killings is fairly common in Colombia. What made this event noteworthy was that they were surrounded and murdered by an elite army unit. Was this a communications mistake? Could this army unit have been bribed to protect the large drug shipment? A thoughtful observer concluded: “Every conscience has a price; at some point it cracks.”
Does your conscience have a price? How deep do your Christian convictions go? Like Peter, we are prone to boast, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Lk. 22:33). But this was untested confidence. How do we know that Daniel and his friends had solid convictions? We know because they passed the pressure test.
Pressure to do wrong: Karl Marx wrote that “religion is the opiate of the people.” And it is fairly common in politics that leaders try to use religion to control the people. In Daniel’s day this was obvious. Nebuchadnezzar made an impressive golden image. While Daniel was away, his three friends heard this edict: “This is what you are commanded to do … As soon as you hear the sound of … all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will imme-diately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (3:4-6). Could they bow down externally but worship the true God internally? These three chose not to bow down. The king was angry. They could become a catalyst for rebellion.
The king personally questioned them and again explained the simplicity of what was required. He gave them another chance. The fire was before them, but their consciences didn’t crack. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it … But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (3:17-18). The Lord rewarded their steadfast conviction by standing with them in the fire. Are you under pressure to act incorrectly? Stand firm. Whatever the outcome, you will not be alone. God will be with you.
Pressure to stop doing right: Later, while Daniel’s three friends were away, for dubious political reasons Nebuchadnezzar signed this decree: “Anyone who prays to any god or man during the next 30 days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den” (6:7). The pressure here was more subtle. Daniel was not required to renounce his faith. He was to simply stop praying for a month. Sometimes Christians are tempted to take good jobs that hamper their Christian service. Some stop their ministry because they are afraid of receiving criticism. We may be tempted to stop family devotions because a non-Christian friend is visiting.
What did Daniel do? “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (6:10). The Lord rewarded Daniel’s conviction by sending an angel to accompany him in the lions’ den (6:22).
Are your convictions being tested? Stand firm. Keep doing what is right and leave the consequences in God’s hands. Steadfast obedience leads to victory. But this victory is not always obvious. Some men of faith “were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword … the world was not worthy of them” (Heb. 11:37-38). But heaven received them with open arms.
4. Pride Provokes Displeasure – Daniel 4 & 5
The achievements of the Babylonian Empire were impressive. King Nebuchadnezzar felt satisfied with his accomplishments. As he walked on the roof of the royal palace he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built … by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” The words were still on his lips when a voice from heaven said, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you … until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes.” Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled: “He … ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird” (4:30-33). He went mad!
Pride: We humans are prone to boast great things. We seldom remember to give credit to the source of our intelligence, our health, our energy – even life itself. This displeases the Lord. During earthquakes, tornados, volcanoes, tsunamis and other natural disasters, we realize the limitations of our man-made infrastructure. But soon we forget and once again feel safe and confident in our “human system.”
I have nothing against pensions and insurance policies, but when the economic system provides greater peace of mind than God’s promises, something is sadly wrong. God reacts against independence, arrogance and pride. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). Pride caused the fall of Lucifer, the confusion at Babel, the death of King Herod and the madness of Nebuchadnezzar.
Happily with this king, there was repentance: “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven, and my sanity was restored.” Taking our eyes off self and turning them to God is the first step away from madness. “Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified Him who lives for ever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation” (4:34). Sanity comes as we acknowledge the sovereignty of God and choose to depend on Him.
Irreverence: In the following chapter, Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, threw a massive party for his nobles. God’s judg-ment and his father’s conversion meant nothing to him. Daniel pointed this out: “But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from His temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold … But you did not honor the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways” (5:22-23). Hours later Belshazzar was killed by an invading army.
Some treat God’s things with irreverence out of ignorance. Others, accustomed to the Christian environment, are irreverent out of familiarity or boredom. Are we still aware that Christ is present when two or three come together in His name? Does our behavior reflect it? Are we conscious that we shall give account to God for every word we utter? Do our words reflect that?
5. God Controls The Future – Daniel 7-12
Daniel’s prophecies are acknowledged as important by most Bible students. Some feel that the Book of Daniel is to the Old Testament what the Book of Revelation is to the New Testament. The accuracy of the predictions that became reality within the first 500 years has led some critics to argue that the Book of Daniel was written after some of these events. Daniel’s prophesies also contain insights into things yet to come. Interestingly, God makes His plans for the future, and then works them out. The gospel writers were conscious of this. They saw how prophecies were fulfilled in different events in the life of Jesus; see Matthew 2:15, 17, 23; 13:14, 35; 26:54, 56; 27:9 for example.
When we consider the future, we make some plans. This is wise, yet we are encouraged to add “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (Jas. 4:15). When the Lord looks at the future, He looks with certainty: “What has been determined must take place” (Dan. 11:36). The very existence of biblical prophecies shows that God is in control of the future. He controls the future of nations, society, the Church, our families and our lives. Is this an unhealthy deterministic view of life? Does this mean that our current actions have no effect on destiny? No.
As we look at the nations and society in general, we cannot help but notice conflict, injustice and moral decay. As we look at the state of world religions, we see growing evidence of violence, the weird and the demonic. Thankfully, Christianity still has its bright spots. But in many areas it too has become social, compromising, spiritually dead and even morally evil. The authority of Christ and Scripture is eroding.
Knowing that God still controls the future makes it possible for Christians to be realistic and also optimistic. Knowing that society is in His hands encourages us to be good citizens. Knowing that the Church is in Christ’s hands, and that He is still building it, encourages us to keep on evangelizing, discipling and encouraging the formation of new Christian assemblies. Knowing that the Lord will work out His plans for our children, encourages us to educate, motivate and guide them in His ways. Knowing that “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me” (Ps. 138:8) makes us look at the future with confidence. Knowing that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1:6) encourages us to get up and press on after we make mistakes and fail.
The prophecies of Daniel, his exemplary life and that of his contemporaries have challenged and inspired believers for more that two and a half millennia. They have encouraged many to maintain their identity as “people of God,” to take a stand on moral issues, to intercede for others, to be willing to pay a price for upholding biblical convictions. This purpose of mind is still necessary today.
When we Christians look at the future, there is neither room for fear nor for passive complacency. Our confidence is in knowing Him who holds the future in His hands. Daniel prophesied that the people who know their God will strongly resist the enemy (11:32). Do we know our God well enough to do this?
By Philip Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org