Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Civil Disobediance, Christian Style

Today there are thousands across our land protesting a variety of issues in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  While they may not have any semblance of an organized message other than they are mad at people who have more than they have, they are organized in their protest method.  Part of American culture has always been the form of protest known as civil disobedience.  Even in Christianity, there is a long history of civil disobedience.  Unfortunately, in America, that tradition seems to be largely forgotten.  At this point, we would rather whine, cower, and make excuses rather than just obey God no matter the consequences.  One excuse often used is Romans 13, which says that we are supposed to obey civil authorities.  While that is true, God has not given civil authorities power in every aspect of our lives.  There are some things that no civil authority has the right to try to regulate. What we must realize is that man only rules over us when it is not in conflict with God's law.  We are commanded by God to pray, to share the message of the Gospel, to live righteously, and to be the light and salt of the earth.  No government has any authority to usurp God's commands in those areas.  They may try and there may be consequences for following those commands, but it is our responsibility to follow God rather than man.  Today, I want to show one example of such a case.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel [was] one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit [was] in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. So the governors and satraps sought to find [some] charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he [was] faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.  Daniel 6:1-4 NKJV
Daniel was widely respected in his captivity.  God was blessing him to always keep him in a position of authority and for a great purpose.  Daniel, being a man of God, did not fit in with the other rulers and they were envious of his position.  They wanted to find some fault in him, but they could not.
Then these men said, "We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find [it] against him concerning the law of his God." So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: "King Darius, live forever! All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter." Therefore King Darius signed the written decree.  Daniel 6:5-9 NKJV
These men knew the only way they can trip up a man of God was to make being a man of God a crime in and of itself.  They made some big show before Darius, playing on his ego and calling him a god, and they convinced Darius to make a law saying that if any man should pray to anyone other than Darius for thirty days, that they should be thrown into the lion's den (to be eaten alive).  That is the law. They made it a crime to pray for God for thirty days.  Whatever is a man of God to do in such a circumstance?
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. Daniel 6:10 NKJV
There are several important things to note in this verse.  First of all, Daniel did not decide that God would understand if he laid low for thirty days.  Daniel did not start a Facebook petition to get Darius to change the law.  He did not even start a chain email.  You say there were no computers back then? He did not even try for a written petition.  In fact, he did not even petition the king.  He did not write an editorial about it in the Babylonian Times.  He did not hire a lawyer.  He did not whine to his friends about the terrible persecution he was under.  He did not cower and make some excuse that if Darius did not want God in his kingdom then why should be bring God there.  Also, he did not gather a whole group of other believers and have a pray-in to protest the decision.  He did not make a big show of himself to show how "brave" he was to pray despite the law.  He did not do any of the plethora of meaningless things we do today.  He did exactly what we should do.  He ignored the law.  He went home and prayed, not because of the law or in spite of the law, but because that is what he always did.   He recognized that Darius had no authority over to Whom and when he prays.  He recognized that God ruled even over Darius and that Darius had overstepped his bounds.  The law was illegitimate and Daniel treated it as such by ignoring it.
Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king's decree: "Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?" The king answered and said, "The thing [is] true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter." So they answered and said before the king, "That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day." And the king, when he heard [these] words, was greatly displeased with himself, and set [his] heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, "Know, O king, that [it is] the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed." So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast [him] into the den of lions. [But] the king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you." Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed.  Daniel 6:11-17 NKJV
Wait a minute, Daniel did exactly what the Lord asked and yet was still thrown into the lion's den?  That almost does not seem fair.  I mean Daniel surely would have appealed his decision to the Supreme Court of Babylon.  Surely there would have been a "Free Daniel" movement.  There was none of that, there is not even evidence that Daniel fought the decision.  You see, there may be earthly consequences to obeying God and the example given in the Bible is for us to accept those consequences and allow God to sort it out.  It may not seem pleasant, but God will surely bless you through your tribulation.  I am sure Daniel was not pleased with the idea of going into the Lion's den just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not pleased with going into the fiery furnace just as Steven was not pleased with the thought of being stoned to death just as Jesus was not pleased with the thought of the pain of the Cross.  Yet despite all that, they all served God and submitted themselves unto His will and served the greater and glorious purpose of suffering for the sake of the Lord.  That is our example.  That example is being played out in real life today by a pastor in Iran who faces death because he refuses to renounce his faith in Christ. 
Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?" Then Daniel said to the king, "O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you."  Daniel 6:18-22 NKJV
Daniel was judged by man, but their judgement was rejected by God and God found Daniel innocent.  Daniel clearly violated the law, so how did God find him innocent?  This goes back to the beginning.  The law was invalid from the start and with no valid law there could have been no crime.  Daniel disobeyed man but was found innocent by God.  Even if those lions ripped Daniel apart, Daniel would have stood before God innocent, but God still had use of Daniel on earth.  

The Bible tells us to fear God rather than man and that is because no matter what may happen on earth, God is the ultimate Judge.  Man can take our life for sure, but only God can take our soul.  Man can find us guilty on earth, but it is God who decides our eternal guilt or innocence.  The awesome news of the Gospel is that we are innocent in Christ.  We must never fear the consequences of man when we know that our eternity is secure in Christ.  There is nothing man can do to us to affect our eternal destination.  That needs to be our hope in our temporal circumstances.  Should man imprison us or harm us for the sake of the Gospel, know that God is working in their hearts through our testimony despite our circumstances.  Know that your suffering allows you to have a special fellowship with Jesus as He suffered just as we are suffering and we are suffering for His sake as He suffered for our sake.  Please also know that what we go through now is merely temporary and the eternal rewards far outweighs anything we can possibly experience on earth.  If it should come to facing death for our faith, please know that the very best man can do is to send us into the  presence of our Lord.  In other words, the worst man can do is to send us to our eternal reward.  No man can kill us, they can only kill the body.  We will live on, eternally, in the presence of our Lord.  So be encouraged, stand up to persecution with joy and patience, knowing that your testimony is changing hearts, knowing that a greater reward awaits you in heaven. 
Blessed [are] those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great [is] your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV

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