Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, was our first time back in corporate worship at our church since lockdowns began over a year ago. Our church has had in-person services for a few months, but we just had not made the effort to return. Things are a little different – we have to “sign-in”, socially distance, and wear masks. I’m not going to comment on my opinion about churches taking these measures. It is just an opinion and not that important. But being back under the same roof as our church family last week was very emotional and comforting for me, and we returned again this morning.
One more step in regaining a sense of normalcy.
Our pastor started a new sermon series today on the book of Daniel, calling it “Shining in Babylon”. I don’t see it as a coincidence at all that God has brought me to the book of Daniel many times over the past many months. The Hebrew exiles living in Babylon thousands of years ago have very pertinent lessons for us today, as Christians living in an increasingly hostile culture.
God warned Israel repeatedly through his prophets to repent and turn from their sin. He told them that if they continued on their path of disobedience, there would be dire consequences.
While they may have repented for a time, they repeatedly returned to doing things their own way, forgetting the warnings and rationalizing their sin. And finally, God held true to his promise, removed his protection and let Israel be conquered and destroyed.
This should send shivers down our spines, friends. God will not be mocked.
However, God did not abandon his children.
Four teenage boys were among the group of Hebrews taken back to Babylon as captives. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were the children of noble families – they were handsome, intelligent, and well-educated – so were brought to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s household They were given new Babylonian names as a way of separating them from their old life and old religion and assimilating them into this new world. These young men faced extreme challenges with courage and conviction, performing their duties with such excellence that they found favor even though they refused to conform to the indoctrination, food, and religion of Babylon.
Because they honored God, he honored them with knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and the ability to interpret dreams. They faced certain death at the hands of their enemies with faith and with bravery, and God performed miracles which displayed his might and power and protection to those who had no faith.
Daniel 3: 17-18 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
As 21st century Christians, we can look to their example of how to live as exiles in a “foreign culture” that is antagonistic to our faith and values.
This is what it looks like to live faithfully in a secular world – in the world, but not of it. Christians should stand out because we live by different values than the culture around us; we refuse to compromise our integrity in order to be liked or accepted; and we place our trust in God’s Word, not in the word of men. We can serve wherever God has placed us with excellence, but reject those things in culture that do not conform with God’s Word and his ways. This may come at a cost – it likely WILL come at a cost. But pleasing God should be our first priority, and God will honor those who honor him. ( 1 Samuel 2:30)
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Thanks for reading, friends. Stay strong, stay healthy, stay happy.