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Daniel 3 & Acts 5:29 by Robert Dean
Also includes Daniel 6
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:49 mins 49 secs

Obey God Rather Than Men. Daniel ch. 3, 6; Acts 5:29


In 1 Kings chapter eighteen we are seeing the return of Elijah to the public eye. He has been in hiding for three and a half years and as he comes out of hiding the first person he runs into is this man Obadiah. Obadiah has a high position in the bureaucracy of the northern kingdom, a kingdom of Ahab who was arguably one of the most evil in all of history. Through the evil agenda of his wife Jezebel they had been seeking out and destroying the prophets of God. Obadiah, at the risk of his own life, has taken it upon himself to hide one hundred of these prophets in caves, and has protected them and provided them with food and water during this time.


This raises for us the question: When is it right, when is it appropriate, what are the circumstances and conditions when we as believers can violate the mandates of an authority that has been set up over us. We face it in every sphere of life where there is an authority and as a believer the Scripture tells us that we are to submit ourselves to these authorities. But what happens when that person in authority or the institution in authority is dictating to us a path or procedure or actions that violate God's Word? What are the circumstances that we must address in order to know when it is legitimate or not to disobey that authority? Having raised those questions we have to answer them. How do we go about this?


One of the most important things that we can do when we address the Scripture in study is to do what is called an inductive study of God's Word. Induction is when you go through the process of observation of all of the pertinent passages in Scripture in order to put them together and come to conclusions based on the data.


Summary points


  1. Authority in and of itself as a principle is not part of the created order but it is part of the make-up of the triune God.
  2. Therefore at the center of all authority is God who is the source of authority.
  3. Authority is necessary for any social group, organization or order to function and to be successful in its function.
  4. Authority was the ultimate issue in the angelic conflict, so that authority becomes the ultimate issue in the believer's spiritual life. Are we going to obey God or are we going to follow our own desires. We have to understand that authority is fundamental to the spiritual life.


What happens when we run into a problem is when a human authority somehow steps out from under the mandate of God and is dictating policies, procedures or actions that are in conflict with God's specific, direct command. So whenever the human authority contradicts God's direct specific command that is when we see the believers in the Scripture being willing to step out on their own.


Our next example of disobedience to authority is found in Daniel chapter three. There the focus is not on Daniel, it is upon his three friends. They had been given new names:  Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. After the events of chapter one and two take place Daniel and his friends are brought to the attention of the higher authorities in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar has this dream where he sees this huge statue which represented the timeline for history and the kingdoms that would come after the Babylonian empire. As Nebuchadnezzar saw that image and Daniel told him what he had dreamed and interpreted the vision for him, Nebuchadnezzar in his arrogance never forgot that identification that Daniel made: that Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. So we see in Daniel chapter three that Nebuchadnezzar, bloated with his own arrogance, decides to construct his own image. He decides when it is finished that he is going to command everyone in his kingdom to come and assemble out on the plain and to bow down and worship this image which he had set up.

Daniel 3:5, 6 NASB "that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire." Everybody bowed down and worshipped the image, except for three people. Daniel isn't mentioned in this chapter and we don't know where he was. This just focuses on Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. What we also see here is that there is a group of administrators who are going to accuse them before the king. What we see in various passages of Scripture is that those who are in opposition to the believers that we study seem to be motivated by jealousy, perhaps vindictiveness, bitterness about the way God has blessed these particular believers, and this is the case here.

Daniel 3:12 NASB "There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, {namely} Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up." Nebuchadnezzar responds in rage and fury which reveals his arrogance. What we see in this chapter is that the issue in Nebuchadnezzar's life is also an issue of authority. The issue of authority is really a backdrop to the first six chapters in Daniel. The Jews have been taken out of the land now, they are captive, they are in Babylon, the issue specifically and individually is authority; but God is demonstrating His authority over history, and that is the real message in the dreams and visions that we see in these passages. We definitely see authority as a key issue in these events. Daniel chapter four describes how God is finally going to break Nebuchadnezzar's  arrogance and teach him authority, and he is going to finally become properly oriented to the authority of God. Here in chapter three we are seeing the buildup to that and we see his arrogance.

Daniel 3:13 NASB "Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king." Then once again there is a repetition of the king's mandate that they need to bow down and worship and serve the idol and be in obedience at the time that the orchestra plays. They are warned of the consequences of disobedience but the three men are not swayed by the threat of this punishment. We see their courage and commitment to God in verse 16 NASB "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. [17] If it be {so,} our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.'" They have great confidence that God can deliver them but they don't know that He will. They have a caveat in verse 18 NASB "But {even} if {He does} not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

What we see here in terms of our understanding of the Scripture is that the king is giving a specific command, and that command is to bow down and to worship an idol. The Word of God specifically and directly contradicts that. Exodus 20:3-5 NASB "You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me." The command from the authority directly and specifically contradicted a direct command from God and His Word. So rather than marching in the streets, rather than gathering together a bunch of people to go out on a protest, what these three young men did was make a decision that they were going to follow the Lord's command and they would take whatever punishment came their way. Their trust was in the Lord. It was the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ who appeared and delivered them. 

The point to note is the disobedience to the authority involves a direct specific command by the one in authority to disobey a direct and specific command of God. The response was to trust God and do what was right but not to necessarily make a great deal about it; to simply trust God for a deliverance that may or may not come. Throughout history it has not come for many of those who have trusted in God and obeyed Him rather than the orders of an evil dictator.

There is another episode in Daniel chapter 6, the story of a man who takes a stand in obedience to God's Word rather than following the direct commands of a king. This takes place late in Daniel's life after the destruction of the Chaldean empire by the Medes and the Persians and he has been elevated to a high position in the government.

Dan 6:1-3 NASB "It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom." So they began to conspire among themselves to see if they could come up with some way to destroy Daniel. It was well known that Daniel was a man of strong spiritual convictions, people knew that he worshipped Yahweh, and so they decided that the way to get Daniel was to get him to disobey a direct order from the king. They get the idea that the king should establish a decree to everyone in the kingdom, no matter what their position is, that no one in the kingdom could petition any god or man for thirty days. All petitions to any god would have to come through Darius. He then becomes in effect a king-priest and he is viewed as the one through who everyone will have access to God. This is a violation of God's direct mandate. Once this decree was signed into law the king could not violate it.

Daniel 6:10 NASB "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." When he heard it he didn't make a big deal about it or change his practice. He is not doing anything any different. The men are assembled outside, waiting in the bushes watching. They know what Daniel has always done and as soon as they see it they go to the king and tell him what happened.

Daniel 6:20, 21 NASB "When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, 'Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?' Then Daniel spoke to the king, 'O king, live forever!'" Even though he has been preserved and the whole situation was designed to destroy him he still shows respect to the authority, the position.

The episode in Acts 5 involves the proclamation of the gospel by the apostles. The apostles are arrested by the Sanhedrin and put into a common prison, and then, Acts 5:19 NASB "But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, [20] 'Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.'" They are given a specific command to proclaim the gospel and proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah who came and paid the penalty for their sins, died and was buried and rose again.

Acts 5:25 NASB "But someone came and reported to them, 'The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!' [26] Then the captain went along with the officers and {proceeded} to bring them {back} without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned). [27] When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, [28] saying, 'We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.' [29] But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'" There was a specific command from God to go to the temple and proclaim the Word. There was a command from the human authority to not teach in the name of Jesus. The issue for the believer is recognition of the proper chain of command and the proper authority. God's direct specific command takes precedence over everyone else.

We see that the issue is humility and obedience to authority as exemplified in the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:8ff. Notice the text doesn't say to whom Christ was being obedient. It is clear from other passages of Scripture that He is obedient to the authorities as they are attempting to murder Him. The Jewish authorities were in violation of the Mishna, the laws of their own procedures, and the Romans are also executing a man they know to be innocent. But Jesus, despite the fact that He is being punished by a miscarriage of justice, is obedient to that to the point of death on the cross. So what we see from our examples in the Scripture is that we form a conclusion. That conclusion is that even when the authority is wrong we are to respect that authority and only when the authority is violating God's direct command does the believer has the prerogative of obeying God rather than man.

When we step out of God's chain of command, God's authority, then what we are basically saying is that we know more than God does and we have a better handle on God's plan for our life and future than He does. Our position of safety and security is always obedience to God's Word and, when appropriate, obedience to every authority He has set over us.