Daniel 6:1-23, November 5, 2017
Most of my good friends are sports fans, fanatics. Football especially. I have friends that are Michigan fans. Michigan fans are not fans of Michigan State. Someone dressed in blue and maze colors of Michigan is not going to say, “Go Spartans.” I know Ohio State Buckeye fans too. Fans of Ohio State are not fans of Michigan and fans of Michigan are not fans of Ohio State. You cannot be a fan of both.
The solution? Be a Badger fan of the Wisconsin Badgers. Go Big Red. Good program, good coaches. Come over to the good side. Forget Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes. That’s how fans think, right? You can’t be a fan of two teams which oppose each other.
But imagine pledging your loyalty to two kingdoms. Right here there are two kingdoms. And we pledge loyalty to both. Christians pledge their loyalty to two different areas of authority. We are Faithful Subjects of Two Kingdoms. We are faithful to His earthly kingdom and we are faithful to His Heavenly Kingdom. Daniel provides us with a great example of such a faithful subject.
I’d like to paraphrase a little from Chapter 6. King Darius appointed 120 satraps, or administrators, to rule throughout his kingdom, which was the world power and he placed three administrators over the administrators, one of whom was Daniel. And he planned to make Daniel ruler over the entire kingdom. Daniel is 80 years old at this time?
So, Daniel didn’t live in the Holy Land for most of his life, like most of the Bible’s characters we study. He lived on a land on the other side of the Fertile Crescent called Babylon. Why did he live there? Because in Daniel chapter one we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon laid siege to the Jerusalem and God delivered the city and its inhabitants to the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar needed officials in his growing empire, so he brought in Israelites from the royal family and nobility. He wanted young men who would be qualified to serve in his kingdom, so young men who had no physical defect, handsome, aptitude for every kind of learning and handsome. And then after three years of training, learning their language and literature, Daniel then entered the king’s service. One of these young men was Daniel.
So, Daniel is ripped away from his homeland while a young boy when the King of Babylon served as God’s tool to bring repentance to the Israelites. But he served faithfully. If you remember it was Daniel who interpreted two dreams for King Nebuchadnezzar. Then there was King Belshazzar, who was throwing a party to his gods, and the Lord caused a hand to write mysterious words on a wall. From this account, we get the familiar saying about “seeing the handwriting on the wall.” Daniel interpreted the words for King Belshazzar. And now he serves King Darius, the conqueror of the Babylonian. Darius is pleased with Daniel, 80 years old, who serves as administrator of administrators, and is being considered to run the entire empire.
Daniel is a Jew. He’s not a Babylonian. He’s not Medo-Persian. How would you like if some Middle East country took over the United States and asked you to serve in some authoritative way? But Daniel was faithful. This caused jealousy among the other administrators. Perhaps his Jewish-ness was appreciated by everyone. So these men conducted a secret investigation into Daniel’s governing of the past. Surely there were some skeletons in his closet somewhere! But remarkably, we see there were none. Daniel’s record of faithfulness was flawless. Imagine if this could be true of our politicians today!
Are we faithful and loyal to our earthly kingdom? I ran across a letter someone wrote to the IRS a few years ago about their quarterly tax payment.
Dear gentlemen of the IRS, A few comments about my quarterly payment are probably in order. My quarterly payment is $1875. I recently read that the president paid $575 for a toilet seat used on his personal jet, so I am enclosing two toilet seats in this package. That leaves my balance at $725. I also read that the US army on the base in our town was purchasing common work hammers for $105 apiece. I have also enclosed 7 hammers, worth $735 to you, in this package, bringing my total to -$10. You can send me a check or money order for the $10 that you owe me to the address on my voucher. Happy to do my part, John C. Doe
Obviously, this person had some humor in mind writing that. The Bible says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” (Romans 13:1) God commands our submission to our government. The Bible says “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7) Our country prospers when it has the proper support of its citizens. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Support of our government is a witness of faith
The man who wrote to the IRS obviously wrote with some humor, humor we can all understand. However, your opinion on immigration does not give you the right to disobey traffic laws or withhold your taxes. Your president’s stance on an issue you take issue with does not give you the right to speak poorly of him. Your president’s use of Twitter doesn’t give you the right to disrespect him. He may not be up to your standards, but we are not up to God’s standards.
There may be issues in the future that involve government that turn us off as Christians. There may be support for abortion, promotion of unchristian world religions in the public school system. But that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility to be faithful in this kingdom.
Think Daniel. Think King David. Before he as King of Israel, King Saul hunted him and wanted him dead. David had already been anointed as the next king of Israel. David had Saul inches away from him on more than one occasion; he could have taken his life; once as Sasul lie sleeping on the ground, once as Saul was relieving himself in a cave. But he would not raise a finger against the Lord’s anointed. A complete jerk, yes! A man who had rejected God? Yes! A man who was David’s personal enemy? Yes! But Saul was the Lords anointed and David respected him.
Read the life of David and imagine David saying, “Men, we are being hunting by Saul. I have great respect for the office of the king, but I have no respect for this king.” You’d have to imagine this because this would not have happened. David respected the man who held the office because you cannot separate the two. David suffered because of the administration of his king, but he was faithful.
But think of Jesus. On trial before the High Priest, who probably bought his position. It would be tough to respect that. It’s an illegal trial at that. Tough to respect this too. Jesus is asked a question about his disciples and he responded by telling them they should ask his disciples. He was slapped in the face with an open hand. Also illegal. Jesus suffered under the administration of the Jewish court. But he spoke the truth; he answered their questions. He was faithful.
Sometimes people talk about Jesus like he was a man who bucked the system and fought against things institutional. This is not true. Jesus submitted to the Jewish government. He submitted to the Roman government. He paid his taxes. He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And what did Jesus offer to God? Faithfulness in the face of unfaithfulness. Righteousness in the midst of unrighteousness. Perfect love, perfect respect, perfect obedience for a world full of sinners. In suffering unfairness, being on the opposite end of those who ruled with self-centeredness, Jesus didn’t just endure agony on the cross. He endured God’s wrath. It was God’s will for Jesus to suffer: unjustly, innocently, sacrificially. For a world of sinners. So, you see unfaithfulness, disrespect, faithlessness=sin. Think Jesus who paid for all of it.
When faithfulness is required and desired by God, think Jesus. When suffering at the hands of a government that is non-Christian, think Jesus, who paid for all injustice, all sin. When tempted to disrespect government, think David, who wouldn’t. Think Jesus who didn’t, who paid for all unrighteousness.
But we are faithful subjects in two kingdoms. Daniel also gives us a wonderful example of how to be faithful in God’s heavenly kingdom, which isn’t a reference to heaven, but God’s rule in our hearts and the authority over us right now also.
“The administrators and the satraps went in a group to the king and said: ‘O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.’ So King Darius put the decree in writing.”
This placed Daniel in quite a dilemma. So what would he do now? Daniel also knew that this was a type of law known as the “law of the Medes and Persians.” That meant that it could not be changed under any circumstances. You probably have heard the phrase, “It’s not written in stone,” meaning there’s some flexibility. But there was no flexibility when it came to this law. It could not be repealed; it was written in stone. So what would he do now?
Daniel’s conscience would not allow him to pray to the king. Daniel’s conscience would not allow him to stop praying to the Lord out loud. Daniel’s conscience was going to allow him to be secretive in his prayers to the Lord. In Daniel’s mind, he’d then be denying his Lord to the world around him.
So we hear, “When Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Earthly decrees against his Lord made no difference to Daniel. He was faithful to his heavenly kingdom. He prayed as he always had, regularly and openly.
And we see how the Lord in his mercy defended Daniel who had done the right thing. Even though the king gave in to this hateful plot and had Daniel put in the lions’ den, as Daniel said the next morning, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.”
The principle has not changed for us today. We support our earthly and heavenly kingdoms, but if the two ever clash, it’s clear to us which one wins out. Ever play cards? In certain card games there are trump and fail. Every trump card takes every fail card. The Lord’s commands trump any commands that men or human governments may put in place. have to make a choice in future days in our country on what they preach about. There is a current movement in our land to make any speaking out against homosexuality a “hate crime,” punishable by law. This is already a law in Canada. Preachers could be watched for allegiance to this. What will preachers do? If this is required, or not allowed, by the general public, what will you do?
It’s easy to say, “I’ll do what Daniel did” when there are no lions, or when there are no government officials listening to your every word. The lions were real. And earlier in Daniel there were three men who were thrown into the fiery furnace because they would not bow down and worship a golden statue. Three dissenters. What would you do if you are the only dissenter? What will you do if you are the only one?
But there’s really only just one. Think Jesus, your Savior. You pray to him, read about him, worship him, act like him, and love him day and night. Think Jesus who gave his life for you. You are his disciple no matter where you live, no matter where you go--off to college, out of town, on the town, to school, to military service.
May we be faithful to two kingdoms! May we love and support our land and pray that God would bless it. May we be faithful to our heavenly kingdom, for God has blessed us so much. May God give us wisdom and guidance when life circumstances make it difficult between the two kingdoms. And finally, we pray that God would guide this world’s circumstances so that his gospel can be preached freely and that all those around us might be faithful citizens of both kingdoms! Amen.
SOME DEPARTING THOUGHTS
This will be my final newsletter article. Next month you will be greeted by your new pastor, Pastor Martin Luchterhand. The good thing is that there will be no interruption of ministry here at Crown of Life. The same truth of the gospel will be preached and taught in the future as it has in the past. Souls will still be fed and nourished with the same forgiveness that Jesus purchased and won for every sinner by His death and resurrection.
Do we always cherish what that means? Do we consider as often as we should how blessed we really are to be the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior? That is a blessing we never want to take for granted. Can you imagine what it would be like to be without Jesus, without faith, without any hope of a better life to come?
That is also why it is so important that we faithfully continue to use the Word and sacraments that the Lord provides for us through His called servants. It is through these means the Holy Spirit continues to do His work in us of preserving and strengthening our faith so that we will always be ready for the time He comes and calls us out of this life.
The last words of the Bible are these: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:20-21). It is Jesus Himself speaking these words through the pen of the apostle John. The word “Yes” is actually the word “Amen”. It is a word that means “truth”. Another way of putting it would be “It is true” or “You can count on it”. Yes, truly Jesus is coming soon. That “soon” can be anytime for any one of us or any time for the entire world. It’s a tremendous promise for the believer and a warning for the unbeliever. That is why the church of believers responds to the Savior’s announcement with the words “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus”. Truly, we want You to come, Jesus – the sooner, the better. That is when we will finally be delivered from all evil and live forever in glory.
And then John concludes the Bible with the blessing: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” That is also my departing prayer and blessing for everyone who reads these words. May the grace (or undeserved love) of our Savior continue to be with you always. As He gave His life to save you, may you continue to trust in Him alone for your salvation. May you continue to faithfully serve Him with your life. Then we all will be reunited again permanently in that glorious home that our Savior has prepared for us. “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
I also want to add my sincere thanks to:
All who have been faithful these past four years in their attendance at church, the Lord’s Supper, and Bible classes. That is the greatest joy for any pastor’s ministry;
Pastor William Balza
THE TRUE MEANING OF EASTER
Most Christians know that Easter is the most important day of the entire church year. Every other Sunday revolves around Easter. That is why each Sunday is sometimes referred to as a “mini-Easter”.
Easter, of course, is the day Jesus rose from the dead. The Bible states that “(Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). We might compare what happened to Jesus to what we do when we go to a grocery store. After we pick up our groceries and take them to the check-out counter, the cashier scans our groceries and tells us how much we owe. That is the PRICE for our groceries. We pay the cashier what we owe. That is the PAYMENT that we make. But after the payment is made, the cashier may give us our change and our groceries. But there is one more thing we want to have. That is our receipt. The receipt is our PROOF OF PURCHASE .
On Good Friday Jesus died on the cross. His suffering and death and the shedding of His innocent blood was the PAYMENT for all our sins. Because Jesus made the payment on our behalf, for our sins, there is nothing more that we need to pay. There is nothing that we can pay. Jesus did it all for us.
On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection was God’s way of demonstrating that He had accepted the payment that Jesus made for us. In other words, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is our PROOF OF PURCHASE. Jesus redeemed (bought us back) from our sin, from death and from the power of the devil. Because of that payment that Jesus made for us, God has now “justified” us or declared us to be “not guilty”. We are forgiven. And that means we have the certainty of eternal life through Jesus. “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
No wonder Easter means so much to the Christian. It is our day of victory. “Because I (Jesus) lives, you (we) also will live” (John 14:19).
On Easter we decorate our church with flowers, most of which are white (the Easter lily). White is the color of joy and celebration. It is also the color of purity or holiness. Because Jesus died and rose again, all our sins are forgiven and, through faith in Him, we are cleansed, purified, of all sin.
Easter is also the symbol of new life from the dead. As believers in Jesus, we have a new life. It is the life we live by faith in Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Each day of our lives, we want to live for Him to show our love and gratitude for all that He has done for us.
May our Easter celebration again this year bring renewed joy, celebration and life through our risen and glorified Savior – JESUS CHRIST!