As Americans we love freedom. Just take a look at some of our most popular movies. Hollywood is saturated with stories and heroes that, having been pushed to their limits, are forced with no other option than to take up arms and to defend their God-given right to be free. Braveheart, The Patriot, and Gladiator are examples. And we cannot get enough of them.
We fantasize about having our own moment similar to Martin Luther who, fully convinced of his cause against the Catholic society of Europe, declared: “Here I stand I can do no other.”
This desire has only intensified as our government and society have reflected our Christian values and perspective less. Increasingly we see the movies we love play out before our eyes and in our imaginations. We imagine ourselves at the center of it all, boldly and faultlessly taking up the cause of Christ against demonic and worldly forces.
And while God’s people have been known from the very beginning to have “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), Daniel’s approach stands in stark contrast to our own (perhaps) selfishly glorious impulses.
Instead of seizing the spotlight for his defiance, Daniel allows himself to be conscripted into a program in service to the Babylonian king (Daniel 1:3-5) and is even renamed. (Daniel 1:7) His new name, Belteshazzar means “Bel protects his life” and is taken after the Babylonian pronunciation of the god Ba’al!
Contrary to our American fantasies of resistance, defiance, and disobedience, Daniel doesn’t resist or defy his pagan overlords, but submissively allows it to happen. Instead of seizing the spotlight for his glorious and showboating stand for freedom, Daniel is quiet and unassuming. The only instance of Daniel’s disobedience is a one-on-one exchange with one of the royal officials in charge of his diet! (Daniel 1:8-10)
And while Daniel and his companions will show in the chapters ahead that they are no pushovers to the pagan pressures, Daniel’s disobedience is tremendously private and innocuous. He is not controversial and does not seek the stage.
How does his example challenge us as believers, living in a society that is no stranger to government overreach, scandal, godlessness, and opposition to what we believe? Perhaps it should give us a degree of ease to know that God’s people are freed up to be quietly unassuming, and privately disobedient against their oppressors.
Perhaps our enemies are not as impressive as they think themselves or as we perceive. For similar to Daniel, God’s people are promised to outlast all of God’s enemies. (Daniel 1:21) As Jesus reminds us: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
Pastor of Young Adults