What Exiles Know (Part 1)
For Christmas, Uncle Doug bought me a calendar for my desk. In his avuncular thoughtfulness, knowing I have a lot of work to do while sitting at my desk, he really thought about it and purchased me something I could really use. So he bought me a desk calendar…a “You might be a redneck if” desk calendar. Good ol’ Uncle Doug—I love him so much.
I pulled these off my “You might be a redneck if” desk calendar within the last couple of weeks:
“You might be a redneck if…it takes more than five minutes to restrain your dogs before opening the door to visitors.”
“You might be a redneck if…you’ve been to the emergency room more than three times to have a fishhook removed.”
“You might be a redneck if…you would give up your house before you gave up your boat.”
“You might be a redneck if…you wave to people who are driving the same model car as you.”
I score right at 50%, I have to say. Most of the time it doesn’t take me quite 5 minutes to restrain our two dachshunds, Pig and Peanut, but it takes far longer than I’d like.
And I proudly admit that I wave to everyone who drives a late-90s Honda Accord—especially those with similar paint jobs.
>Now, this sermon isn’t about rednecks or how to identify yourself as a redneck (if you need help in that department, you are free to consult my desk calendar).
This sermon is about exiles and how one might determine whether or not they are themselves an exile.
We’ve been talking about exiles during Sunday School—exiles in the time of Daniel and Esther and Ezra/Nehemiah.
One of the kids asked a very good question: “What’s an exile?”
I answered, “Yeah, it’s probably a good idea to define exile if we’re going to use the word. An exile is someone who’s away from their home. For the Israelites in the Old Testament, they had been taken away from Israel (Judah/Jerusalem) and taken to Babylon. To be in exile means you are away from your home.”
If you belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ, you are an exile. There’s no “you might be an exile if...” about it.
If you belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ (which, by the way, is the only way to belong to God), you, brother; you, sister, are an exile.
You are an exile: like Daniel and his friends; like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; like Daniel and the many others from Judah who were taken from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar all the way to Babylon.
You are an exile. In our text for today, Daniel is referred to as an exile, just as he’s been twice before (2:25 and 5:13). Daniel 6:13—“Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah...”
You are an exile. Peter, the close friend and disciple of Jesus, refers to all Christians, to all Jesus-people as such; he writes (1 Peter 1:1)—“To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces”…and again (1 Peter 2:11), “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles...”
You are an exile. You are away from your true Home.
>Just as rednecks have certain defining characteristics and things that are true about them, so also do exiles.
There are a few truths that exiles know.
Exiles know they might be hated (vv. 1-9)
Exiles know they might be hated (vv. 1-9)
I’m not sure who decided that “Daniel in the Lions’ Den” was a children’s story; it’s not really suitable for children, especially if we teach the whole story and teach it in its context.
I kind of understand why the story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den is in children’s Sunday school classes—for one reason, there are animals. Any story with animals is almost automatically included in children’s curriculum (except maybe Samson and the 300 foxes (Judges 15:4).
But most of the stories with animals really aren’t truly suitable for kids. For instance:
Noah’s Ark is a story about the end of civilization, the near-complete genocide of the human race, save Noah and his immediate family. The animals marching two-by-two into the ark is cute and all, but it’s not children’s fare.
Daniel in the lions’ den includes themes of civil disobedience, the death penalty, and justice for the accusers and their wives and children who were thrown into the lions’ den and overpowered and crushed by the lions.
It’s pretty crazy, pretty violent.
>Now, I know you know the story. Chances are, even if you’re virtually unfamiliar with the Bible, you know the story of Daniel in the lions’ den. It’s a great story—I’m not sure it’s a children’s story—but it is an absolutely incredible story.
I know you know the story, though we tend to skip the set-up to the lions’ den; we tend to miss the context, what leads up to Daniel being thrown into the lions’ den.
This is where we see this first truth: exiles know they might be hated.
It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.
King Darius had kept Daniel in his administration when he took over the kingdom after the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon.
Daniel is one of three administrators over all the satraps, like a governor over a bunch of mayors (or something like that). And among the three administrators, Daniel stood above all the rest—he so distinguished himself…by his exceptional qualities that he was set for a promotion.
This may be part of the reason he was hated by the other administrators and satraps; it may be most of the reason, in fact. He was successful, he was more successful than them (and that’s usually a good way to make some enemies).
But there might be more to it than that. Daniel was actually better than them. They tried to find something blameworthy, something they could point to and say, “Aha! I told you! He’s not that good of a guy—look at this and this and this!”
They tried to find something to pin on him, and they failed. His conduct in governmental affairs was impeccable (what we have here is an honest politician—talk about a miracle!). There was no corruption in him; he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.
Daniel was actually better than them, and that made for no small number of enemies.
But there might be something beyond his success and his character that caused their hatred: his faith in God. Look at verse 5:
Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
If anything was going to be his undoing, it was going to be his religious faithfulness. They know Daniel will not turn aside from worshipping his God.
So, all the administrators and satraps and prefects, advisers, and governors (everyone except Daniel) went to the king and said that all of them wanted the king to issue an edict about who could worship whom.
Everyone except Daniel was in on this, asking the king to put this into writing. And so the king did. And there it is: the way they get Daniel in trouble. They hated Daniel for any number of reasons and found the singular way to get him in trouble.
There is a hatred, an animosity, that men have for God’s servants. This was the case in Daniel 3 when the astrologers/Chaldeans went to Nebuchadnezzar to tattle on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. This is the case in Babylon (Daniel 3) and now it’s the case in Persia (Daniel 6).
Dale Ralph Davis said it best: “It matters not where you are— ‘the world hates you.’”
There is an explanation for it. Jesus tells us why the world hates us.
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
Exiles know they might be hated, even if it doesn’t make sense, even if it seems inexplicable.
Charles Schulz’s very first ‘Peanuts’ cartoon expresses this well (show cartoon on screen).
A boy and a girl are sitting on some steps. Another boy approaches them in the distance and boy says to girl, “Well! Here comes ol’ Charlie Brown!” Charlie Brown passes in front of them and the same boy says, “Good ol’ Charlie Brown—Yes, sir!” After Charlie passes by, the boy says, “Good ol’ Charlie Brown…how I hate him!”
It’s so out of the blue. But it seems to be a fact of life: You may well be hated, and it might not make any sense at all. Daniel seemingly did nothing to make those around him hate him, but they hated him enough to place him in a situation wherein he’d be punished, killed even.
Sadly, Daniel and Charlie Brown are not alone in being hated. This is the way it is with God’s servants in this world. You should know: as a Christian, as an exile, you might be hated. Exiles know they might be hated.
Last Thursday, I was having a conversation with a Hume-ite, a Hume-ian, a Hume-an, a person who lives in Hume about some of the men and women on TV who are referred to as “preachers” or “televangelists.” He mentioned to me that he was finally able to catch one of them on TV.
“All that guy’s doing is leading people to believe that everything’s going to be okay,” said this Humean, “teaching them to believe that the Lord wants you to have a great life, your best life; that they can and should expect health and wealth and happiness and nothing else.”
He said, “That’s not preaching! There’s nothing Christian about that! But it’s no wonder people listen to it.”
He’s right; that’s not preaching. There nothing Christian about that.
Here’s the truth, hard as it is. And I tell you this because I love you too much to lie to you, to tell you half-truths, to blow smoke—Exiles know they might be hated.
Here’s the truth, if I may borrow a phrase: In this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33).
It’s Jesus Christ who tells us: In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Christianity doesn’t assert: “Believe in Jesus and all will go well for you.”
Christianity asserts: “Believe in Jesus, all will not go well for you, but He will teach you to say—whatever your circumstances, whatever happens, no matter who or how many people hate you—He will teach you to say, whatever your lot, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
We think that the slogan, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” means that our lives should be protected by God from any form of unpleasantness.
This is a false belief, however. Persecution comes to us in a variety of forms and from a variety of directions, yet it’s something we should expect constantly to mark our lives in a fallen world. It may come in the form of mockery and isolation at school, or conflict and trouble at work, or simply being regarded as peculiar and strange people, but one way or another we should expect to suffer abuse for the sake of Christ.
Exiles remember these things. Exiles understand that this world is not our home. We should not be surprised if our welcome here is less than warm.
Daniel, here and throughout the book, is referred to as one of the exiles from Judah.
Those who called him an exile meant it as an insult, a slur—that after all these years living in Babylon, he was still a foreigner and because of that was untrustworthy. Daniel’s deepest loyalties lay elsewhere. “He’s an exile.”
This was no insult; this was the highest compliment they could have paid Daniel. After all these years—some 70 years—even though Daniel served this foreign empire faithfully, Babylon was not his home.
He was nothing more and nothing less than an exile there. He citizenship was elsewhere.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
As exiles here, we need to remember, we need to know that we might be hated. Jesus has told us as much. We can see it in the life and times of Daniel. Maybe this is your daily experience.
We might well be hated. Such is the lot of the exile. Exiles know they might be hated.
Exiles know God’s law is more important than man’s law (vv. 10-15)
Exiles know God’s law is more important than man’s law (vv. 10-15)
The edict issued and decree enforced which made it illegal for anyone to pray to any god or human except the king for the course of 30 days was going to get Daniel in trouble—this is the precise reason the group of administrators and satraps went to the king and had him sign this into law: in order to get Daniel into trouble.
They knew it was the only way. They knew it would work. They knew Daniel’s faithfulness would clash with the king’s decree. And so it is...
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
What does Daniel do when he hears there’s been a law signed, a decree passed, an edict enforced by the king? Well, he goes home and prays just as he had done before.
Ha! I love that.
“This is the king’s decree: ‘No more praying to any god or human being except the king for 30 days.’”
Upon hearing this, Daniel turns from where he was, and heads to his home, climbs the stairs to his attic, went over to the windows which were opened toward Jerusalem, assumed the position, kneeling on the ground. And he prayed. He prayed—not to the king (as the law demanded), but to the One True God.
Daniel’s enemies knew that if Daniel had to choose between obedience to his God and obedience to the Persian authorities, loyalty to His God would win out. No question.
Notice where Daniel’s enemies are. Upon hearing the news of the law that was passed forbidding prayer, Daniel goes home to pray. And in verse 11, all of Daniel’s enemies hop on the party bus and take a field trip to Daniel’s house. No surprise, they find Daniel praying.
They knew he’d be there. They knew he’d be praying. They knew they’d find him breaking the law.
Daniel’s enemies were totally confident that he would rather die than disobey his God. They knew that he would sooner go to the lions than give up his practice of daily prayer.
Daniel is caught red-handed, breaking the law. The question is: is Daniel wrong?
The law was made. Daniel heard the law. He knew the law. And he broke the law. Sure sounds wrong...
I suppose we should ask a deeper question: which law is supreme? Which law is more important? When the law of God and the law of the Medes and Persians conflict, which law must be obeyed?
Even though Daniel knew that disobedience to the king’s law would result in the death penalty, he still chose to obey the law of his God. He continued to go to his house to pray to God and give Him praise.
When there’s conflict between the law of the land and the law of God, Christians ought to obey the law of God.
The law of the land forbade Daniel to pray to his God. Daniel continued to pray to his God.
The Jewish council forbade Jesus’ disciples to teach in Jesus’ name. They continued to teach in Jesus’ name.
When the Roman government allowed for the killing of infants, the early Christians opposed such laws and rescued discarded babies from the garbage dumps in Roman cities.
When the Nazis adopted laws to exterminate Jews, Gypsies, and the mentally ill, genuine Christians opposed such laws because they are contrary to the law of the living God.
When the law of the land forbids prayer or preaching or worship in public places, Christians ought to obey God’s law and continue to pray and preach and worship.
Christians ought to say, along with Peter and the other apostles:
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!
I’m no ‘Chicken Little’; I don’t think the sky is falling, but I know that we come closer and closer each day to the return of Jesus—the Day when He comes in might and splendor to set the world at rights; we are closer and closer to that great Day when He returns to be with us forever and ever.
Before Jesus returns, things will get worse for us. Possibly much worse. It might become increasingly difficult to live out our faith. I believe we will see (in my lifetime at least) a radical change in the laws of the land. We’re starting to see it to some degree already: a redefinition of marriage and the pressure for the Church, its pastors, and members to adjust to the laws of the land and accept them over what God has clearly said. We’re starting to see attempted censorship, the threatening of the church and its leaders to be careful what you say. We will, I’m quite certain, live to see our church (and the evangelical churches around us) lose our non-profit and tax-exempt status.
Here’s the thing: like Daniel, we must stand firm. We must, no matter what direction the laws of the land swing, we must stand firm—commited, obedient to what God has clearly said.
The law of the Medes and Persians meant that no decree or edict the king issued could be changed. The law saying “no prayer to anyone but the king” stood tall. Daniel stood taller.
He was not, for any reason, going to relent. Daniel, the exile from Judah, knew that God’s law is more important than man’s law.
If the laws of the land clearly contradict what God has said, if the laws of the land tell us we can’t do what we know we should do or that we must do what we know we shouldn’t, if the laws of the land attempt to censor or change our preaching of the gospel—we must disobey the laws of the land in order to obey the law of God.
If our preaching, if our worship, if our dedication to the Word of God brings us trouble or persecution or even death, so be it. Bring it on. Like Daniel, may we go on preaching and praying and worshipping just as we’ve done before.
We are exiles here, awaiting our true Home. And we know that God’s law is more important than man’s law.
>The set-up to the familiar story of Daniel in the lions’ den is, for me, just as incredible as the rescue itself.
Here’s Daniel. He’s just one old man, obediently following his God in a culture where no one else was.
Whereas Daniel is a good example for us, the point is not to work to be more like Daniel. The point is not: dare to be a Daniel. What we must take away is that our God is worthy of all of us, even our very lives. It doesn’t matter if we’re hated. It doesn’t matter if we come up against man’s law and are subsequently tossed into the lions’ den.
What matters is God, His name, and His glory. What matters is that in my life, in my death, in my being hated, in my being persecuted—what matters is that the Lord is supreme.
God is worth more than my popularity. God is worth more than my freedom. God is worth more than my life. God is worth it all. These are the truths that exiles know.