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Daniel 1 & Daniel 3 by Robert Dean
Also includes Daniel 5
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:46 mins 17 secs

How to Correctly Challenge Authority. Daniel ch 1, 3, 5

 

What we are going to see is that there are direct, specific commands from God—"Thou shalt not… you shall love one another," etc. There are various mandates that we have in Scripture. But then there are times when the human authority is going to set forth some dictum that contradicts the direct, specific command of God. The issue is a direct and specific command of God that is violated, not a theological principle, a philosophically derived establishment truth.

 

We got into this because in 1 Kings 18 we saw this individual who serves in the court of Ahab, and he has disobeyed the king because the king and his wife Jezebel have violated the Mosaic law, violated the Mosaic covenant, and they have brought false religion into the northern kingdom—Baal worship, the Asherah, the fertility religions which were setting up idols in violation of the Mosaic law—and this was being imposed by the government upon everyone in the northern kingdom. In fact, Jezebel has her hit squads going out on missions to destroy the prophets of Yahweh. And so Obadiah, a high-ranking believer in the court of Ahab, violates the policy of his king and he hides these prophets.

 

What are the principles that guide us in terms of making decisions when we are under an authority that is in violation of the Word of God? There are three examples in Daniel, the first being in chapter one. This is particularly instructive on how directly challenge an authority that is demanding that we violate a direct, specific mandate from God.

Daniel 1:1 NASB "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. [2] The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along 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 he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god." The important thing to understand here for background is that the people there understood that this was a victory for the gods, a spiritual victory in which the gods of Babylon had defeated the God of Israel. They understood that it was a worldview conflict and that they had won, and that their pagan worldview was superior to the worldview of Israel the God of the Jews couldn't protect them because they were defeated militarily. They understood that at the very core of things it was a religious battle. We live in a secular age where those who profess to be wise have become fools, as Paul says in Romans one, because they don't think that religion means anything; yet everything ultimately comes back to those ultimate reality concepts that we classify under the category of religion and therefore it addresses every issue of life. The reason that it doesn't address their issues of life, or appears not to, is because they have adopted an atheistic position, and therefore they say there is no God; but if theism is a religious position, i.e. the belief in a God, then its negation logically also must be a religious position. So there cannot be a religiously neutral environment. Everything ultimately goes back to this conflict that we refer to as the angelic conflict. What the Babylonians did not understand was that God had a reason for letting the Jews be defeated and it didn't have anything to do with the power of their gods.

Daniel 1:3 NASB "Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, [4] youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every {branch of} wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and {he ordered him} to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans." Ashpenaz is in charge of the training operation for the staff for all of the bureaucracies within the leadership of the empire under Nebuchadnezzar. So the policy was to bring back as captives some of the Israelites, usually young men, and reeducate them, train them, to serve as bureaucrats to serve in the structure of the Babylonian empire. They were to be reeducated to think within the pagan worldview of the Babylonian empire so that they could then successfully serve because they thought like everybody else in the structure of the government. There was a state-sponsored education system whose purpose it was to train people to be able to operate within the secular, humanistic, pagan environment of the government to serve the government.

"Wisdom" is a key word because this shows us that these young men were able to handle themselves. The Hebrew word for wisdom indicates a skill in life. What is so important is Daniel is that Daniel shows that believers are to live successfully in a pagan environment, when the government is not the government that is following a divine revelation pattern. This was a pagan government and these young men showed by the situations they faced how to wisely deal with the authority of those who do not understand the basic establishment principles that we have in the Word of God. Daniel, we are told by inter-Testament writers, was a descendant of Zedekiah, so he was in the royal family. It was evident that he and his friends all knew the Word of God very thoroughly. They had access to the Word of God and so this formed the foundation of their thinking and their actions.

Daniel 1:5 NASB "The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank, and {appointed} that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king's personal service." One of the ways they are going to be trained and brought into the society is going to be through the diet. They are going to learn to eat the things the Babylonians eat and to follow their diet. The Babylonians had their views of nutrition and diet and they were going to make sure that these young men that they were going to train were going to be healthy according to their standards. There were three ways in which they were going to impose their culture on these young men. The first was going to be a name change, secondly the curriculum of the training (purely pagan), and thirdly the diet. They were three areas which all violated the Word of God.

Daniel 1:6 NASB "Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah." The "ah" in two of the names represented the Hebrew name of God. The last syllable other two, Daniel and Mishael, is also the word for God—more the generic word. So they had names that had been given to them by their parents to signify something about their views of God. Daniel's name meant God is judge—God is my judge. Hananiah means God is gracious, so it emphasizes the grace of God. This is the same word as in Hannah, the mother of Samuel. The third name, Mishael, means who is like God, emphasizing the uniqueness of the God of Israel. Then Azariah means God is my helper. So the names were testimonies of the grace, the power and the care of their God. The Babylonians couldn't let that pass, they had to rename them. Nomenclature is a battlefield in the worldview wars, the culture wars.

Daniel 1:7 NASB "Then the commander of the officials assigned {new} names to them; and to Daniel he assigned {the name} Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego." These names were religious in their meaning. They are stamping each of these young men with a new name, indicating they have a new god, a new ownership, and they would have to be known by these names. Belteshazzar was the name given to Daniel. Bel was the chief god, the same name as Baal, and his name meant may Bel protect his life. The idea was that Yahweh didn't do a very good job in protecting him in Israel because Israel was defeated. Azariah is called Shadrack, meaning at the command of the moon god. Mishael was renamed Mechach, meaning who is Aku (the moon god). The last name, Abed-nego, means I am the slave or the servant of Nebo (from Nabu, the second highest god in the Babylonian pantheon). So what we have here is a fair indication that they were stamped with this new worldview. They have a new name, were given a new diet, and they have to follow a certain procedure in their curriculum. They are going to be brainwashed according to the myths, legends and ideas of the Babylonians.

You could pick a battle on each one of those fronts legitimately, but two of those fronts are not directly related to direct, specific commands of God. Remember, there were three issues they had to face. One had to do with the curriculum, one with the name change, and one to the diet. One of the things that we have to remember whenever we are going to challenge or question authority is that we have to make sure the issue has to do with that direct, specific command of God. So the first thing that we learn when we are doing battle with a pagan culture or when we are questioning authority is that we have to pick our battles. There are thousands of battles we could fight, thousands of hills that we could die on, and we have to use the military principle of the economy of force. We can't die on every hill. Some think that no hill is too small, but you can't do it. You have to pick the ones that deal with the direct, specific command of God. Daniel doesn't make an issue out of the name change; he doesn't make an issue out of the curriculum. They learned to regurgitate what they were taught in class but they don't internalize it as part of their worldview, part of their thinking, because that has already been shaped by the excellent training they had from their parents. But they do focus on their diet. The diet is part of the religious thinking of the Babylonians but it also relates to specific mandates regarding diet given in the Mosaic law.

Daniel 1:8 NASB "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; so he sought {permission} from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself." Daniel purposed in his heart and that emphasized his volition but it has the idea that he set his thinking on something. He made a firm decision. He was committed to the truth of God's Word and he was going to makes sure that God's Word was the issue and what was honored. Daniel knows the battle has to be fought on the specifics of Scriptural commands. He recognizes that he is under authority, he is not going to be rebellious in terms of his overt attitude; he is going to recognize the authority of the eunuch and is going to appeal to him on the basis of pragmatic value within the thinking and the operation of this eunuch. The eunuch's job is to produce healthy, fit servants for the bureaucracy of Babylon and so Daniel thinks about it, he doesn't just fly off emotionally and flatly refuse. He constructed a careful procedure and he shows us that there are times to challenge authority but you have to work within the structures of the authority that is there. There are ways to challenge unjust laws, unjust policies, and we must follow those and be willing to take whatever consequences that may come our way.

Daniel 1:12-15 NASB "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. So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king's choice food."

So we see some principles in challenging authority. 1) Be careful in picking your battle. Make sure the issue is the specific, stated Word of God; 2) Be wise in the way you negotiate with the person in authority. Let your attitude be one of humility and construct an appeal that is attractive to the person you are negotiating with; 3) When you go into this realize that the answer yes and it maybe no. If it is no then you have to either submit to that authority or, if you are not going to submit to the authority you have to be willing personally to take the punishment; 4) Don't become distracted; don't get off on side points; don't argue irrelevancies; 5) Be prayerful. 

Illustrations