Read Daniel 3-4 at Bible Gateway.
Nebuchadnezzar, upon hearing the interpretation of the first dream of the great statue, was lifted up in pride at being the head of gold. He recreated the statue of his dream as a great image and commanded all nations, languages, and tongues to fall down and worship it. Now the Scripture is showing us, by thematic connection (one of the teaching tools of Scripture) that the reign of Nebuchadnezzar is tied to the Tower of Babel history, as we saw yesterday, and also, John’s vision recorded in Rev 7:9-17, because all three accounts have to do with the worship of every nation, language, and tongue.
The kingdoms of this world, of which Babel/ Babylon is the prophetic type, will seek to impose conformity of religion and worship in opposition to God. They will issue commands which violate God’s commands. God’s people will receive a command from the governing authority, to worship an idol, exalt something or someone above God, or otherwise disobey the commands of God that we have received, which are recorded in Scripture. What will we do in that case? Many preachers, because of a misunderstanding of Rom 13, say that we must obey the governing authority, because they were established by God, and to disobey a governing authority is to disobey God.
Delegated authorities were established by God. He is the absolute authority who is the source of all other authority. The governing authorities that were established by God were not every different type of political system out there, including the oppressive and tyrannical ones. They were, husbands, fathers, priests, prophets, and kings (or political authority of a state or nation). This is why “authorities” in Rom 13:1 is plural — there is more than one type of authority. The Scripture reveals to us how each of these governing authorities is to exercise its responsibility. None of them are absolute, because only God holds absolute authority. Each of the governing authorities has responsibilities to perform, and boundaries on its authority.
One of the boundaries all these governing authorities share, is that they themselves must submit to the absolute authority of the Most High God, who is over all of them. None of them is authorized to transgress against Him or to violate His commandments or word. This is the lesson that God begins teaching Nebuchadnezzar — you may be the head of gold, Nebuchadnezzar, and exalted above all other governing authorities on the face of the earth, but you are not exalted above God, and you cannot countermand God.
So when a governing authority issues a command that violates God’s commandments, the proper course of action for God’s people is to choose to obey God and not men, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did (and as Peter and the apostles did, Act 5:29). This might call forth all kinds of threats of punishment and reprisals against God’s people, out of which God is able to deliver us, if He chooses — but even if He does not, we will still not disobey Him. We will still do what is right, even if it takes all the skin off us — this is the cry of the circumcised heart, in every case.
Notice that Daniel and his friends are righteous, and obey God in every instance, but they are sharing the same fate as the rest of the Jews who were idolatrous. They are captives in Babylon, they are not living in their homeland and worshiping God at the Temple in Jerusalem. But God has His plan and His purpose for having them there. He is not punishing them. But they are witnessing at the highest levels the truth of God. The trials their obedience lands them in, are being used by God to teach who He is, to those who were ignorant of Him. They are a light shining in a dark place.
The purpose of our life on this earth is not always so that we might live in the most comfort and most blessed circumstances possible. Our purpose, once we know God, is to follow our Master and Messiah, Jesus Christ, who served and was not served, who laid down His life for the sake of others. Sometimes. when we find ourselves in a dark place, we are smack dab in the center of God’s will, and we are there because we have obeyed and walked with Him, not in spite of it.
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