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Romans 13:3-5 by Robert Dean
"I'm mad as can be and I'm not going to put up with it!" Is this how you feel about outrageous government actions? Listen to this lesson to hear about clear-cut examples in the Bible of people who found it necessary to disobey an authority. Learn about how the midwives in Egypt handled an order to kill Hebrew male babies. Understand the role of covert activities in opposition to evil. Admire how Daniel and his friends handled the issue of dietary laws in the royal courts. Be ready to choose your battles wisely and with humility in a pagan world.
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 33 secs

Legitimate Disobedience to Authority
Romans 13:3-5

One of the challenges that we see lurking on the horizon in our culture and one that many other Christians in other cultures face on a regular basis is a government whose policies are hostile to Christianity. One example that has come up in the last forty years or so has been the example that has been often used in literature dealing with civil disobedience and that's the issue of abortion. But as we'll see tonight abortion is one of those ambiguous areas because the decision of Roe v. Wade was not mandating that anyone get an abortion. That's what's tricky. Now back in the late 1980s you had people like Randall Terry who put together an organization called Operation Rescue who used twisted logic to try to show that what Christians should do is intervene, even violently, to stop abortions from taking place.

We live in a time today with the rise of various movements and situations and laws in this country, not just the issues related to the homosexual, lesbian, gay, transgender and confused gender, whatever, that's putting pressure on the whole culture to validate and recognize their legitimacy. We're going to see an increasing pressure come from the Muslim quarter. It's already felt politically. We can see how things have changed in the last ten years and the attitudes of legislators toward Islam. We can see people being called Islamaphobics now and things of that nature. As the Islamic population in the U.S. grows, so too is their electoral power. I've heard it said that in another twenty years that there will be enough Moslems in the United States to elect an Islamic congress. Just think about that. I'm not saying that's true. Often these kinds of statistics and these kinds of projections don't come true. Part of the reason is because we have a sovereign God who has His own purposes and another is that there are various other factors that intervene and change historical circumstances. But we do definitely live in a world where there is proposed legislation and there is enacted legislation that is more and more hostile or negative or at least less favorable to Christians and Christianity than what we have seen in the previous two hundred years of this republic.

This republic is founded upon Judeo-Christian principles of freedom that come from a study of God's word. So as Christians we're going to be faced more and more with profound questions as to whether or not we are going to engage in some sort of opposition or disobedience to the government. We have examples that have come out in recent years of people who have businesses that cater to weddings and other things where now you have the legitimization of same-sex marriage and so you have homosexuals going to target Christen business such as photographers and bakers and others who are engaged in the peripheral industries that support weddings. Then if they don't want to provide a cake or be a photographer they're taken to court. So you have Christians who are being excluded from the possibility of engaging in certain businesses because the government is pressuring them that they have to recognize the legitimacy of same sex marriage and you have to treat them all the same, even if it's a private business.

And, of course, recently here in Houston, currently going on we have this "equal rights" ordinance that is being foisted on the Houston citizenry by our lesbian mayor and it's redundant in everything except the equality in terms of those who are sexually confused. That is the real thrust of this piece of legislation which is to get something, no matter how mild it may be, enacted. That is the proverbial camel's nose under the tent so that that can then be exploited over the coming legislative season. It may take two, three or four years before we actually see legislations that mandates that every business do something. This week pressure was put on the city council by churches and Christians that forced the legislation to be postponed. They're not going to vote on it for another two weeks but they're going to keep pressure on it. One of the amendments that changed was that it had applied to all small businesses of fifty employees or more. Now that's been reduced to two or three years that it's going to go down to any small business or ten employees or more. That's how this is going to come in gradually. The amendment isn't just to have equal rights. It's not just a recognition of civil rights issues. It's bringing this along and we have to think a lot more intelligently on this.

One of the things we need to do, I think, is to put into the hands of city council links to organizations that have done a lot of work and have good, well thought out medically and psychologically sound studied demonstrating that homosexuality is not something one is born with but is a choice and a product of one's own volition and own decision. That goes against everything that is out there. I'm going to research those studies and see if I can put some links together to e-mail out because one of the ways we approach this is by showing the fallacy in the assumptions underlying their desire to promote this. We're not just coming at it from a judgmental or condemnatory fashion which is sadly the way too many Christians approach this. "This isn't what the Bible says. I'm a Christian, blah, blah, blah." Yes, you're right but we're going to see tonight that's not how you handle those kinds of circumstances. That's not how wise examples form the Old Testament handled those kinds of situations. You avoid the head-on confrontation with the authority.

There are too many conservatives who have the idea that the only kind of assault that wins battles is the head-on assault. The result of a head-on assault usually is a loss or a failure. You have so many causalities that it's called a Pyrrhic victory because it's causing you too much to accomplish the end. We have to avoid that. We have to think wisely and not just in terms of throwing our fist in someone's face and telling them they're wrong. That may all be true, but we need to win them graciously and not just engage in hostilities and argumentation because that doesn't do anything more than to aggravate an already contentious situation. We have to deal and we're going to have to deal more and more with authorities and with leaders who do not think anything like us. We have to learn how to think like they think and we have to learn how to appeal to them in terms of a value that they hold to.

Now just in way of review because we're going through Romans 13 we recognize the principle that Christians are mandated to submit to government authorities. This is not an absolute or unequivocal mandate. It's not a mandate without exceptions because tonight we're going to look at Biblical examples where believers violated or disobeyed the authority of governing powers with God's blessing. The second thing we've seen from our studies is that government authority, whether saved or unsaved, are appointed by God. Paul is writing under the ungodly administration of Nero even if he is writing during the early part of Nero's administration when he wasn't as openly hostile against Christians. Peter clearly says the same thing in the passages we've studied in 1 Peter and Peter is writing during the second half of Nero's administration.

Third, we see that resisting government authority is the same as resisting against God because God is the one who put that authority in place. Even Jesus recognized that in His interchange with Pontus Pilate. The fourth thing we see is that the governing authority is God's servant even though that governing authority may be an atheist or a pagan. God demonstrates that to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 which we'll see. Just a reminder as we go through this that the basis for government authority is God.

We have the Divine institutions, the three that were instituted before the fall which are individual responsibility, marriage, and family. Then the fourth after the worldwide Noahic flood we have the establishment of government which is the delegation of judicial authority to Noah and his descendants in the most extreme example of judicial power which is to make a judgment in relation to murder and to take the life of a murderer. Then the fifth Divine institution is that of nations. So we've gone through this a couple of times in the last few weeks so I won't spend a lot of time on it.

The first case I want to look at is the case of the tardy midwives in Exodus 1. These are the disobedient midwives who've been ordered by Pharaoh to take the life of a male Jewish baby every time one is born. Just for a little background see that the first six verses sort of bring us up to date in a quick summary fashion of the events that had taken place at the end of Genesis with the movement of Jacob, Israel, with his sons to Egypt approximately 70 of them. Joseph is one of his sons. He is the second most powerful person in the Egyptian Empire. That's saying a lot because in the Egyptian kingdom the Pharaoh was considered the embodiment of the god. So he held absolute power. There's no one in our world that we're aware of that even dreams about having the kind of power that the Pharaoh had over the Egyptians.

Now we read there's been a shift in terms of administration that's just covered briefly in Exodus 1:8, "Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph." I have problems with a lot of the Egyptian chronologies, especially what is considered the traditional chronology which puts this after the rise of the Hyksos. That may very well be. There are a number of problems with the Egyptian chronologies. I prefer not to try to identify any of this with a historical figure because the problem is our understanding of ancient history is not that clear. You can find people who will state it dogmatically but it really isn't. I've heard a number of Biblically conservative archaeologists and chronologists who will argue at least ten different pharaohs and ten different dynasties for identifying the "Egyptian pharaohs. I think it's a problem because if I stand up here and dogmatically say this pharaoh is "so-and-so" and then something is discovered ten years later and changes that, then we've got a problem and my credibility is shot because I've identified it with the wrong one. I think there are certain traditionally accepted chronologies that do have problems.

All the Holy Spirit thought we needed to know was that a new administration came into power. It may be that this administration is a family or dynasty that has a particular hostility towards anyone who is not Egyptians. There may be a strong xenophobic nature to this new dynasty. It may be a desire to unite Egypt. During the second intermediate period of chronology was a time when there was a lot of disorder and a lot of problems so this may be an attempt by one of the pharaohs to pull everyone together and to reunite them based on ethnic heritage. What we do know is that the Scriptures make clear is that he didn't know Joseph and he doesn't have a regard for Joseph or a respect for Joseph. Consequently he doesn't have a respect for Joseph's kinfolk, the Jewish people, who are now living within the borders of Egypt. In fact he views them in a rather paranoid manner and believes they are a threat to Egyptian sovereignty and Egyptian prosperity.

So he comes up with various strategies to try to destroy the power of the Jewish people. God has blessed them and they have grown over a period of approximately 350 years from 70 people who came with Jacob to approximately two and a half to three million if we're to take the numbers given in Leviticus and Numbers accurately. So there's a huge number of Jews living there. They have become enslaved to the Egyptians who were using them for various construction tasks. Many people believe that they were involved in constructing the pyramids and that may be true to some degree. I believe that many of those monuments were built prior to this. Nevertheless there were various ways in which the Pharaohs sought to control the number of Israelites.

In Exodus 1:15 we read, "Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah." Now when you have a group of two and a half million people you're going to have a lot more women pregnant than two midwives could handle. These would have been the two heads of the midwife union, as it were, so by calling them in the Pharaoh was giving instructions to them that would have gone to all of the midwives. So he says in Exodus 1:16-17, "When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see {them} upon the birth stool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live."

So what you see here is an understanding of their thinking. They recognize the principle that Peter articulates in Acts 4 and that is that they're to obey God rather than man. Now what we see here is Pharaoh as the embodiment of god and embodiment of the state of Egypt. He is articulating and mandating a course of behavior to the midwives. The midwives disobey his order to them. He is not telling a third party to do something and they're getting involved or interfering with it. That was the problem with the "Operation Rescue" scenario. Also it doesn't fit with some of the scenarios going on with the gay/lesbian/transgender issues because they have put out laws just allowing these things to take place. They're not mandating that you, as a Christian, necessarily break any law.

Now this is where it's beginning to shift because in the examples I gave earlier when you have people involved in certain businesses that are related to weddings and they choose on the basis of their own beliefs to not be involved because it's a same-sex wedding, then you're going to have a problem because they're being told to do something that violates their conscience and violates their religious beliefs of what is right or wrong. That is what is embedded in your conscience. You have norms and standards and those norms and standards come from somewhere. They're going to come from either God or they're going to come from the creation. When they come from God then you have to conduct your business life, your commercial life, in accordance with what the Bible says is right or wrong.

Now in certain kinds of law you're not being forced to do anything. It's just allowing certain kinds of behavior. That's the way it is in Roe v. Wade. It allows people to have an abortion. It's not forcing anyone to do that. The examples that we see in Scripture all fit this pattern where you have a king or authority telling someone under their authority to do something that violates the revealed will of God. I want to emphasize that again. They're violating the revealed will of God, not an extrapolated theological principle but something where God has specifically told them not to do something. In Genesis chapter 4 we have the recognition that murder is sin. We're told not to sin. In the Ten Commandments where it says "thou shalt not kill" it becomes clear also from Genesis 9 in the Noahic covenant that it is wrong to commit murder and that those who commit murder should have their life forfeited because they're taking the life of someone who is equally in the image and likeness of God.

Now the rationale that God gives for capital punishment isn't as a deterrent. It's because you have so fragmented your own soul and your own soul has become so malignant from sin that you are willing to compromise the life of another Divine image bearer. So the midwives understand this. According to Exodus 1:17 they recognize that God has mandated that they should not commit murder and because they fear God, that is they respect God, and God is a higher authority, they disobey the Pharaoh. So this gives them their basis for doing it.

They're not going to go and walk into the courtroom of the Pharaoh and say they're not going to do it. Notice they're not going to engage in a direct confrontation. They're smarter than that. They're going to handle it in a wise or skillful fashion. Remember that Hebrew word for wisdom isn't a word that relates to something that's an absolute right versus something that's an absolute wrong such as sin or unrighteousness. But wisdom has to do with taking righteous principles and then living them skillfully in your life and applying them skillfully in your life. So they're going to use a skillful way in order to handle the situation.

In Exodus 1:18 we read, "So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?" After a while he noticed there's not a lot of funerals for male infants out in the Israelite community. In Exodus 1:19 the midwives replied. It's interesting how they do this. They say, "Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them." Now this passage is often treated as if they are lying or shading the truth a little bit. But that's not necessarily so. It could be that the instructions Shiphrah and Puah gave to the other midwives was to just show up late. Drag your feet. Get there late. Don't show up on time so you're not put into a position to obey the Pharaoh. So that very well could be the situation. There's never definitely anything said about this in the Scripture.

Nevertheless we also have the basis for understanding where there may be circumstances where it is acceptable Biblically to engage in some sort of covert activity in opposition to an evil king when it is specifically or directly related to the mandates of that king. Now this gets into a real sticky situation and I'm not going to go off into that but I'm going to make a comment about it. This situation is possibly a lie. You have a clear situation with Rahab where she lies in order to protect the lives of the spies. In both cases if it's a lie then they are in engaged in deception in order to preserve life which is a Divine mandate. What's interesting in Joshua is that there is a theme running all the way through Joshua related to deception. Not only does Rahab engage in deception, but God engages in deception and militarily God has the Israelites engage in deception. For example when they're outside Ai they set up an ambush and they send out a small troop to engage in combat with the soldiers from Ai and then as they began to feign defeat and fall back then the men from Ai come running out to attack them and then they fall back and run as if they're in full retreat. They're luring the soldiers from Ai into the ambush. This is just pure deception and then the ambush is sprung and the soldiers from Ai are completely annihilated.

That is a form of deception. So the question that needs to be raised is when is it Biblically viable to engage in deception? That's an important question. I'm not going to get into it now but if you are a believer and you're involved in undercover work in drug work or if you're involved in undercover work in regards to the military, covert operations in any kind of law enforcement, then you have to have a Biblically thought out basis for this. Now I've heard people talk about this in one way and I've heard others talk about it with another viewpoint. I have a friend who is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, both his masters and his doctoral. And he has another doctorate and two other masters' degrees. He's just brilliant and he's been teaching military ethics at the War College up in Rhode Island for about the last fifteen years. I called him up one day about six or seven years ago and I said, "Tim, have you ever thought this through?" There was just this dead silence and I thought, "How can anyone as brilliant as he is and all the background he has never thought this through?" He knew of no one who was using the Old Testament to try to develop a Biblical theology of deception in relation to law enforcement or the military.

God uses deception several times in the Old Testament in order to accomplish his ends. For example in 1 Kings 22 He uses the prophet Machiah and the deception of the false prophet. But this is another thing that can be left to another time but here the main point is that you have an authority that is promoting a law that is an unjust law. It's an unrighteous law because it violates the direct commandment of God. God's direct command is the issue always. It's not just thinking "This isn't right. A forty percent or fifty percent or sixty percent income tax just isn't right. I'm not going to pay because that's not right." Well, the Scriptures don't give a standard on that so if you're going to violate that it's not that kind of righteous disobedience. It may not be right in a relative sense in your opinion or my opinion but nowhere in God's Word does it say, "Thou shalt not pay more than ten percent income tax." We don't have a Divine standard there so we can't violate it.

This is important in other areas. When you're dealing with any area of authority, whether it's the classroom, the military, the home, or marriage, there are a lot of things the person in authority is going to push you to do that may be really stupid. You may really disagree with. Maybe it's not stupid. Maybe it's just a mistake because they're human. Maybe you had parents who did that. Maybe you have a husband who does that. Maybe you had teachers who did that. But the Bible never puts a qualification on those things. They may be foolish but they're not unrighteous. They're not violating a specific, righteous command of God and so we as believers are to go the extra mile in order to obey that law or that commandment or that mandate from the authority over us in order to be a good testimony before the angels and other human beings because authority is the central problem in sin and within the angelic conflict. So the midwives are a good testimony. And the result of this is that God blessed them. Exodus 1:22-23, "So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty because the midwives feared God, He established households for them."

Now Exodus 2 gives us a second example and this is the case of the disobedient parents because the parents of Moses are going to violate the mandate of Pharaoh. We read in Exodus 2:1, "Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set {it} among the reeds by the bank of the Nile." So she is disobeying the law of Pharaoh here. She knows it. That's why she has to hide the child because they know if a male child is known to be born, Pharaoh is going to take its life.

In the New Testament we get the comment by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:23, "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict." It wasn't Moses' faith. It was the faith of his parents. It's a passive verb there. The ones who performed the action of hiding him were his parents. So they are trusting God to take care of him and to provide for this life. Once again we see another example where they're not going in the face of the authority. They're not shaking their fists in the face of the Pharaoh. They're going to trust God and do the right thing even though it may cost them. There's a willingness on the part of each of these individuals to take the legal punishment. They're not engaged in an overt campaign against the Pharaoh. See, that wouldn't work in that culture.

Now, in our culture, we can engage in press conferences like we had the other day. It was on the city steps and it was very calm and very peaceful. We can engage in letter writing. We can engage in all manner of legal opposition to ordinances that are being proposed because that's the legal system that we have set up. So as part of our citizenship, as part of what it means to be a citizen of the United States, we need to be active and involved as much as we can. Otherwise we just let evil take its course.

So the result of the parents' of Moses disobedience is that God honors them and we see that his sister stood afar off and then the daughter of Pharaoh came along to bathe and she sent her maid to get the basket and when she opened it she saw the child and of course, you know the rest of the story. The child is taken out and adopted into her family. So this is another example of disobedience to authority.

Now the next example I want to go to is in Daniel. Most of the rest of these examples all come out of the book of Daniel. Daniel is one of my favorite books to go through and to teach. One of these days I'll repeat it because I went through Daniel back before we had video and everything else. Daniel is a tremendous book. It's never classified in the Old Testament among the prophecies. There's a lot of prophecy in Daniel. Remember the Old Testament was divided into three sections: the law, the prophets, and the writings. The law is the Torah. The prophets are the Neviim and the writings are the Kethuvim. Now the prophets were written by prophets who had an official position in the Jewish culture as prophets and were recognized as prophets. But you can have the gift of prophecy and not be a prophet. King David had the gift of prophecy but he was not considered a prophet. Daniel is not operating in the land of Israel. He was taken as a prisoner to Babylon where he was educated. Then he worked his way up due to God's grace to the position of second most powerful position in a Gentile pagan kingdom.

There are a lot of parallels for us here. Here you have believers who were living in a pagan kingdom. That's why it's part of the writings section because it's showing believers how to live wisely within a pagan culture. So Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are a part of this example which we see especially in the first part of Daniel 1. We see here the third example which is the case of the wise students. We learn a number of different things from this example and we see how Daniel thinks about the situation. He doesn't just react to the situation. He doesn't just fly off halfcocked. He thinks it through. He's going to present an argument that is based on an understanding of what is valued by the person in authority.

So as we start reading we meet four of the young men who were taken to Babylon in 603 B.C. They are going to be re-educated and re-trained and brainwashed to the education system of the Babylonians so they can be totally assimilated within the pagan culture. Now we have to understand that the role of the pagan culture in the devil's world is to put pressure on believers to get them to conform to the world. This is Romans 12:2 where God says we're not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. But the world does not want us to be a non-conformist. The world wants us to conform to its values and its standards so it's going to do everything it can to put pressure on us to conform to its values.

When we were living in a country that was dominated by a majority that held to a Judeo-Christian worldview, then we were not in this kind of overt opposition. But the days of the dominant Judeo-Christian view are long gone. Many scholars see that its last waning year of influence was in 1963 or 1964 when the last light of the residual influence of God's Word finally winked out and we had a major shift that occurred for a number of reasons in 1963-64. This was about the time that you had the Supreme Court decision that took prayer out of the schools. It was when the Beetles came to America. The rise of the hippie movement. The anti-war movement against the Vietnam War. A number of things happened that the groundwork had been laid for 75 to 100 years but that's when you saw the real shift take place.

So we live in a world that is dominated by human viewpoint and it's trying to pressure us into it. That's no different from the circumstances with Daniel and his three friends. They're living in an environment where they are expected to look and act and be and think like Babylonians. So the way they began that we see in Daniel 1:3, "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," Ashpenaz was the master appointed to train the eunuchs. Now eunuch may not refer literally to someone who has been emasculated. It could be but it was a term that was generally used for those who were the upper echelons of bureaucrats within the palace. He was instructed to bring some of the Israelites as a way of testing them to see who were the best and the brightest and they brought them into a training school. Daniel 1:4-5 continues that these were "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. The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank." So they were given the best food.

All of you foodies out there and I know there's a lot in this church, well, this is the best of the best food that you could get in the ancient world. You would just love all of this food but it was non-kosher according to the Laws of the Torah.  We read it was going to be for three years of training and at the end of this time they're to serve before the king.  In Daniel 1:6 the four are identified, " Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah." These were their real names, not their pagan names given to them identified in Daniel 1:7, "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."  That was part of how the state wanted to control the individuals but you'll notice they didn't make an issue out of that.

That's one of the first things we should note. They were choosing their battle. They were given pagan names and each of those names in one way or another honored one of the pagan deities that was worshipped by the Babylonians. That's how they were known. They were no longer known by their Israelite names but by the new names. But they don't fight over that. We have people who want to fight over every microscopic hill. You can't do that. You have to choose your battles. You have to make wise valued judgments as to what the battle is going to be and how determinative it is going to be. So they don't fight over the fact they were given a name change. There were probably many other areas where they did not fight.

But what we see in Daniel 1:8 is the mental attitude of Daniel. Daniel really shows himself to be the leader of the four here and we read, "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." Now there's a lot that's going on here that is summarized in this particular verse. It reminds me of a verse related to Ezra 7:10. Now Ezra lived later than Daniel. Ezra was born during the captivity and he probably either knew Daniel as an old man when Ezra was a young boy or he knew of Daniel. In Ezra 7:10 it says, "For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice {it,} and to teach {His} statutes and ordinances in Israel." So that is the same idea of Daniel purposing in his heart, making a decision emphasizing his volitional responsibility to Divine institution #1 that he would not violate the Law.

Now being named a different name is not forbidden in Scripture. Scripture doesn't say that you shall not have the name of a pagan god, so he's choosing to draw the battle line where there's a direct commandment of God in terms of what should be eaten. So he makes that decision and he's going to go to the chief of the eunuchs in order to have a meeting with him. He's not going to call him out in public. He's not going to make it a personality conflict. He's not going to challenge his pride of position. He's going to keep it private so he can appeal to him in a way that can win the situation over and not aggravate a situation.

Now in Daniel 1:9 we see, "Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials." This is a great example of Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart (which Daniel is doing) and lean not on your own understanding (he's in a foreign culture with foreign ways and he's not going to let that intimidate him) and God will direct your paths." So he's going to commit it to the Lord. He's going to do the right thing and he's going to let God handle the rest of the situation.

So he meets with Ashpenaz and they have a conversation in Daniel 1:10, "And the commander of the officials said to Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the 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?" In other words he was saying that we've determined on what the FDA says and all the requirements of good nutrition according to the government that you need to eat this way in order to be strong, healthy and smart young men. This is what the king and government's diet program is so he asks why should they let Daniel and his friends eat according to a different diet because then you're going to be weak and sickly and this is going to be a problem. And Ashpenaz is worried it's going to be his head.

So in Daniel 1:11, " But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, an "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 see here that Daniel recognizes the man's authority and he doesn't challenge it. Instead he comes up with a solution that shows he's thought this through.

We know of Daniel's later life that he was a prayer warrior. So he prayed through this and he thought about it and he reasoned out what the real aim of the steward, what he really wants to get out of this. He realized they needed a win/win situation. He can't lose any prestige. He can't appear to have given us some kind of break and then we don't perform well or look well. So Daniel came up with a test. Now anyone who is familiar with dieting or exercise clearly recognizes that in ten days you may not see much of a difference but remember these are probably 14-year-old teenagers so their metabolism was a little bit different than older people so they would see a response to this diet change pretty rapidly. So he said just to give them vegetables to eat and water to drink and then after ten days let us be examined and have an evaluation and you can look at us and see how we look and how we perform, to see if we look sicker or we're thinner or emaciated or are we underperforming.

So he makes a deal with him. He does it in such a way as to win him over, not to create or to aggravate the conflict. That's something we need to learn in these kinds of political situations. We need to learn how to engage the opposition in a way that doesn't aggravate or enflame the situation. So in Daniel 1:15, "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." Now that's the hand of God. That's trusting in God and then God is going to bring the increase, bring the results. So as a result of that in Daniel 1:16 "So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables. 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". So at the end of the three years these are the ones that are at the top of the class because they not only focused on God's priorities but they continued to act well, study well, and perform well so they would not be accused of having problems because they didn't have the right diet.

What we see here in terms of some basic principles in relation to handling some opposition from the authorities is that first of all, they chose their battle which we've already talked about. Secondly, Daniel exhibits authority orientation and humility all the way through the situation. He never lets his pride get engaged. He never gets angry. He doesn't get emotional. He remains relaxed and respectful and is polite in dealing with the person in authority. He is not engaged in a personal assault. Third, he's thought the situation through and he's anticipated the objections that his opponent might have. He's already got an answer prepared so when Ashpenaz present his objection, Daniel is prepared and then when Daniel gives his case he gets an opportunity to move on it.

Our fourth observation is that he understands the values the opponent hold personally and in terms of his pagan system and Daniel appeals to him on the basis of what Ashpenaz values, not on the basis of what Daniel values. In other words he's not going in there and throwing a Torah scroll down and says, "This violates my rights as a believer and it violates what God has said so I'm not going to do this and you're just a stupid pagan." He's going to win more with honey than with vinegar. Our fifth point is that once they have won that first stage then it put them in a very positive light and we see in the coming chapters that it's going to give them more and more opportunities to be a witness and a testimony to God and to His grace and provision.

Now when we come to Daniel 3 we're going to come to the next situation which we'll close with. We'll probably look at the rest next week. This is the case of the deified statue covered in Daniel chapter 3.  So now there's going to be a direct confrontation with Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 3:1 we read, "Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which {was} sixty cubits {and} its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon." He builds this huge image of himself because he is so arrogant he thinks he is god and he's going to make himself god and everyone in the kingdom has to worship him. So he sets it outside of Babylon.

This is large enough so that hundreds of thousands of people can all gather together in one huge ceremony in order to bow down and worship this idol. So he brings out all the government employees, all the government officials, all the princes, everybody involved with the government, and all the citizens. Then he announces what they're going to do. They have an orchestra there or a band which is going to play and when they play the sound then everyone is to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar has set up.

Then there's a penalty in Daniel 3:6, "But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire." So once again we have the same kind of setup. You have a person in authority who is telling the believers directly that they are to worship an idol. This is again a direct violation of the command in the Torah that they should not worship anything other than the Lord God. They should not bow down and worship any idol. So it is a command that is in direct violation of a specific, precise statement of revelation from God in terms of their behavior.

So this is set up and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are there. We don't know where Daniel was. He's not mentioned here but the other three were there. They have made enemies by now. Anyone who is successful is going to eventually develop enemies. There are those who are jealous of them and wish to get them out of the way so they can advance. That's exactly what has happened here. This is also an example of an early form of anti-Semitism because they are being targeted because they are Jews. In Daniel 3:12, "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."

So when the orchestra played, when the band played, they refused to bow down and this has been noted and observed so an indictment is brought against them before Nebuchadnezzar. So he calls them before him and explains the situation and warns them of the penalty again in Daniel 3:15, "Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, {very well.} But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"

So Nebuchadnezzar makes this the issue, a challenge with their god. All of these issues ultimately come down to a challenge to your belief system. We were talking the other day about how to handle certain situations that might come up going down to City Hall and I told the other guys there may be people down there who want to get involved in some sort of confrontation. You never know what news media are going to do. I've certainly learned over the last ten years or so to never give an interview to anyone in the media. You never know what they're going to do with it no matter what kind of controls you may put on it. You have to be very careful so it's better just to keep your mouth shut. What happens is that when we engage in a lot of political argumentation we're basically arguing that if you think of the image of an iceberg where ten percent is above the water and the rest is below the water. You have two icebergs and they're arguing back and forth in terms of that ten percent that's above the water. But the real battle is what's not being talked about and not being observed which is below the water.

Yours and mine and everyone's political beliefs are an outgrowth of their ethics. But we're not engaged in a debate nationally over ethics and what is the right ethical system. Ethics in turn are an outgrowth of your view of knowledge, your view of what truth is. That's know in philosophy as epistemology. So that is below the level of ethics. Your ethics reveal your epistemology. As a Christian your epistemology is that "Yes, there is actually truth and I know what it is because God, the Creator of the Heavens and the earth has revealed it to me. So I believe in absolute truth." Whereas the pagan has a view of relative truth because there's no eternal absolute and if he's a secular evolutionist there's nothing eternal except for matter so truth is always relative. There's no absolute. Everything is going to be negotiable and everything is changeable.

But your knowledge is predicated upon something even more basic and that is your view of God. This is what philosophy identifies as metaphysics, that which is beyond the physical. So it's metaphysics that is the domain of the study of the existence of God. So underneath everything else the subterranean level is really your belief in God. That's exactly what Nebuchadnezzar says when he asks "Who is the God that will deliver you from my hand?" He understands that the issue isn't whether you're going to bow down or whether you're going to accept his religious beliefs or whether you're just going to go through the motions. The issue is his god or the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Aged-nego.

Listen to their answers in Daniel 3:16 - 18, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 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. 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." So they take a firm stand on the absolutes. They're not being disrespectful. They're not trying to make it a personal confrontation with Nebuchadnezzar but they understand and they make it clear that the issue is between their God and his god. They state that even if their God doesn't deliver them, He's capable of delivering them. They're not taking their stand on any belief that somehow God is going to perform a miracle. They're not going to "name it and claim it and take dominion in the name of Jesus" or any of the other nonsense we usually hear from Christians today. They're just going to take their stand for what's right. They're not enflaming the situation.

So of course, because they take a stand quietly and firmly against the king, he just flies into a rage and in Daniel 3:19 it states, "Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated." It becomes so hot that it even kills the men who are trying to put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the fire. Eventually they are cast bound into the fire but they are delivered miraculously by God and when the men who are attending the fire look in, they can see that instead of three men, there are four. In Daniel 3:25 we read, "Look I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire and they are not hurt and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." This, I believe is a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ who delivered them in the midst of this great test.

This is again where they exercise wisdom. They stood their ground. They didn't make a federal case out of it. But when others brought the charge against them then they had to take their stand and they did so willingly. Now next time we're going to come back and look at a couple of more examples from the Scripture to wrap this up. We'll also talk briefly about the Magdeburg Confession that came out of the Reformation and the doctrine of the "Lesser Magistrate" which is used and has been used since the Protestant Reformation to justify a certain form of civil disobedience. We'll talk about that after we go through a couple more Biblical examples so we understand clearly what the Bible teaches and have that framework to evaluate these other thoughts.