We met with our home group for breakfast this week and the conversation naturally led to opinions about Syria. You've probably been exchanging views with your friends and family. Wherever you land, if you are like most of my friends, you feel frustrated, confused, and concerned. I sure do. What do you think is a godly response to all the political upheaval right now?
I'm grateful that I'm currently immersed in the book of Daniel as I prepare for the release of a new Bible study for the Discover Together Series this summer. If world events weigh heavy on your mind and heart, consider reading the memoirs of this faithful servant of the Most High God who lived during a time of political and social chaos just like we do. He was kidnapped and transported to a nation as different from his own as a colony on Mars. At times, I look at our nation and wonder if I've been transported to Mars too. In Daniel's situation, he was taken from his home. In our case, our home has been take from us. But the adjustments are just as difficult. How does God want us to think about these issues? How does He want us to respond? Certainly not with cynicism, hate, despair, or the wringing of hands. The world is watching.
Daniel models how God wants us to respond. And because of Daniel's faith, God elevated him to an influential position in the Babylonian government. His role might be compared to Joe Biden or Valerie Jarrett in the world of Obama's advisors. We might think someone like Daniel could never be chosen in the president's cabinet today, but God could make that happen. Daniel earned the trust of a pagan King because God orchestrated favor for Daniel. As a result he wrote in his memoirs about his experiences mired in Babylonian politics.
Throughout Daniel's diary, a thread emerges–a thread to anchor us today. Barak Obama and King Nebuchadnezzar have much in common. God was in control of the King's life and God is in control of Obama's life. God is sovereign. No leader can act apart from God's divine will and God uses all events, however perplexing from our perspective to accomplish his perfect will and his perfect end. It's easy to forget this foundational truth at times like these.
Study Daniel and you will learn that God humbled King Nebuchadnezzar by subjecting him to a condition called boanthropy, where a man thinks and acts like an animal. For seven years, he ate grass like an ox and lived naked in the fields where his hair grew like feathers and his nails like claws (Daniel 4:31-33). At the end of that time, God restored his sanity and in response this pagan leader proclaimed, "His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:34,35).
Obama is president of the United States because God determined he would be. Just as God's hand led King Nebuchadnezzer, God's hand leads our president to do what will benefit God's ultimate plan in world history. Certainly, God's sovereignty doesn't mean that our president makes choices similar to what you or I think he should do. But it does mean that Obama cannot thwart what God wants even though he may not seek God's direction or know he is following God's plan. Nor does it mean that what Obama does will necessarily be good for the United States–if good is defined as benefitting the US economically, politically, or socially. God may decide that fewer material blessings, less safety, and more discomfort is exactly what we need to awaken us spiritually. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. But God knows exactly what he is doing.
Daniel pleased God by exhibiting a staunch faith in his beloved Lord despite being displaced from home, family, language, and everything familiar. He prayed consistently even when familiar places to worship no longer existed in his world. No family to encourage him. No community to toast him. He chose integrity when people around him were double-dealing and clawing for prominence. And he did so with a winsome joy that drew even a ruthless pagan King to admire and trust him. How might God use you in these trying times?
Our choices are similar to Daniels. We can light the darkness and show a frail, fearful and confused world what trusting God looks like or we can cower, worry, and whine. God is orchestrating a world where we can shine. A diamond always glows brighter against a black background. But we need each other's encouragement and prayers. Pray for me and I'll pray for you. Pray for our president and all our leaders. Remember the words of the angel Michael to Daniel: "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)