In this series of posts on Daniel and his friends, we’ve been talking about assimilation. How much should Christians allow themselves to assimilate with their surrounding culture? What areas of ethics matter, and which don’t? It’s not always easy to know. One way people seek to answer this question is about process. Do the ends justify the means? Usually the answer is No. Should the answer always be No? What about a situation where we withhold our Christianity in order to gain prestige or influence, because we’re concerned that our identity as Christians could hold us back. We do that hoping that once we gain the prestige and influence we will be in an advantageous position to advance Christianity. Is that okay? Once again, Daniel shows us how to think about this.
Between Daniel chapters 3 and 6, time has passed. There is not only a new king, but a whole new empire. Darius, the king of the Medes, was victorious over the Babylonians. In the new empire, Daniel, however, remains a top leader. In fact Daniel is one of three administrators who were in charge of 120 satraps, which were like regional governors.
If you’re following along in your Bible, read verse 3. There we learn that Daniel had so distinguished himself, King Darius planned to promote him as the leader over the whole Kingdom. Think now about Daniel’s life trajectory. From decades before, losing everything about his former life when the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem, to now on the verge of becoming the leader of what was at the time perhaps the most powerful kingdom on earth.
The other administrators and satraps are not happy. They’re jealous. So they seek out any way that Daniel might have screwed up, hoping to bring charges against him. But Daniel was so trustworthy and capable, that they can find nothing on him. They conclude in verse 5 that the only way they’re going to be able to get at him is to place Daniel in a no-win situation, and there is one area of Daniel’s life they know they can trap him. You know what that is? Daniel’s religion. Daniel has remained a faithful follower of God this whole time. For decades in a foreign land, Daniel has never assimilated when it comes to his relationships and faithfulness to God.
The other leaders know this, which tells us something about Daniel. He wasn’t living out his faith secretly. He was open about who he followed and what he believed. Nothing deterred Daniel from visibly and audibly following God’s ways. So the other leaders propose a edict that everyone must only pray to King Darius for the next 30 days, and any who disobey the edict will be thrown into a den of lions. They get the king to sign it into law, which is no surprise. What narcissistic king wouldn’t want his people praying to him and him only?
In verse 10, Daniel learns about the decree, and goes home, and you know what he does? Pray to Darius for all to see so that everyone believes he is faithful, and then pray in secret to God? That would be a very wise move, if all Daniel wants is to get that top ruler position. Many people are like that when they are so close to power. They will do anything to get more of it. Not Daniel. He defies the law of the king. He opens the window in his home, and prays toward Jerusalem to his God, YHWH, three times every day, exactly as he had done before. He will not be assimilated.
The other leaders catch Daniel in the act, just as they hoped, and they report to Darius. Darius, we read in verse 14, is greatly distressed. He made the ridiculous law, probably thinking nothing of having to incriminate people for disobeying it, and certainly not the man whom he planned to make ruler of the kingdom.
So Darius is stuck. He tries to save Daniel, but it is an open and shut case: Darius made a law, Daniel broke it. There is no other way to look at it. Darius relents, throwing Daniel in the den of lions, but saying, “May your God, Daniel, whom you continually serve, rescue you.”
In another miraculous intervention, God does save Daniel, and Darius is overjoyed. I encourage you to read verses 26-28. Darius proclaims that the kingdom will must fear and reverence God! And Daniel prospered.
But it doesn’t always work out that way. Remember the girl whom Bethel Church was praying to be resurrected? She ended up staying dead. God’s answer to their prayer was No. They held her funeral this week. What is so amazing is the way the parents and people from that church lived out their commitment to Jesus. They refused to be assimilated to the way of the world.
What will it look like for you to pursue total commitment to Jesus? What situations are you being pressured to bow down or assimilated to American culture? Check back in tomorrow as we conclude with practical implications of how to avoid assimilation, and what to do if you suspect you might already be assimilated.