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SEGMENT 5 DANIEL 6
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Segment 5 - Daniel 6
The Question of Loyalty
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“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. ‘For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.’” - Daniel 6:26,27

Someone once said that loyalty is like the juice of an orange – the flavor cannot be determined until the orange is squeezed beyond the breaking point. The Bible testifies to the truthfulness of this statement. Loyalty is one of the most powerful forces within the human heart. Loyalty can produce good results, and misplaced loyalty can produce evil results. For example: Judas Iscariot was loyal to his dreams of self-importance, power and wealth. When he realized that following Jesus would not fulfill his dreams, he betrayed Jesus for the equivalent of  $12.60 (thirty pieces of silver). King David was loyal to his passions for Bathsheba. To cover up their illicit affair and the resulting pregnancy, the king killed her husband. David’s crime was especially heinous because Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, was one of the thirty-seven gallant men who defended David during his days of hiding from King Saul. Peter swore loyalty to Jesus in the garden, but when he learned that he might have to share a martyr’s death with Jesus, he denied that he The Master. The Philippian jailer was loyal to his job until the earthquake destroyed his jail. When he realized his life was in jeopardy, he suddenly experienced a change of heart. Saul was loyal to his religion. He faithfully persecuted Christians until Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus. Afterwards, Paul maintained unwavering loyalty to Jesus and he suffered persecution from Jews and Romans alike for preaching salvation through Jesus Christ. Legend says that Nero sentenced Paul to death because Paul refused to renounce his loyalty to Jesus and worship Caesar. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose to be loyal to the God of Heaven rather than worship the golden image, and King Nebuchadnezzar threw them into a fiery furnace. John the Baptist was loyal to God’s righteousness when he told King Herod that living with his brother’s wife was a sin. John’s remarks cost him his head. Jonathan was loyal to David instead of his father, King Saul. Jonathan was almost killed because of his loyalty to David. Jeremiah was loyal to the Lord when he told Israel all that the Lord had said about their apostasy. The Jews threw Jeremiah into a cistern to die. Job’s loyalty to God was tested with some of the harshest suffering ever recorded, but Job was more blessed in the end than at the beginning. Noah was loyal to God’s command and he saved his family. Ruth was loyal to Naomi and chose to suffer poverty with her, but Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi made her an ancestor of Jesus. Because she feared God, Rahab, the prostitute, was loyal to the spies that entered Jericho and she saved her family. Queen Ester was loyal to her people and ultimately saved them from destruction. The prophet Daniel chose to defy the decree of the king by openly praying toward Jerusalem, and for this act of rebellion, he was thrown into the lion’s den. Webster says that loyalty means being constant and faithful, bearing true allegiance to something.

Every human being has loyalties, but the essential question is, “To what or whom are we loyal?” Are deepest loyalties are revealed when we are forced into making a decision that favors one loyalty and harms others. Until we are put to the test, it is impossible to say where our deepest loyalties really lie. This is the sobering point that Peter learned after the rooster crowed the third time.

Daniel: A Prisoner of War

For centuries, Christians have repeated the story of Daniel’s escape from the lion’s den, but few people know the whole story that surrounds this incident. As we will see, Daniel’s loyalty to God had a profound impact on two nations! I would like to present this story with the necessary background so that (a) you can “stand in Daniel’s sandals” and consider the importance of loyalty to God, and (b) Daniel 9 will make a lot more sense.

 

Daniel was taken to Babylon as a prisoner of war as a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege on Jerusalem in 605 B.C. It is believed that Daniel was about 17 or 18 years of age. It was Nebuchadnezzar’s policy to take the brightest captives and enroll them in an academy to prepare them for government service. The king has wisely established a school to train captives from various tribal nations, so the captives could return to their homeland and serve the empire of Babylon as rulers loyal to the interest of the king of Babylon. This is why Daniel and some of his friends were inducted into the king’s academy. The book of Daniel begins with Daniel and his closest friends asking the king’s steward if they could be excused from eating at the king’s table. They wanted to maintain a more simple, vegetarian diet, but the steward refused this first request. He was sure that Daniel and his friends would become sick and feeble if they ate nothing but vegetables and water. If they sick on his watch, he could lose his job or possibly his head! Daniel persisted and the steward gave in. When it came time for the king to test the trainees, Daniel and his friends were found to be at the top of their class. In fact, the Bible says their knowledge was ten times better than their fellow students. (Daniel 1:20) Do you think the success of Daniel and his friends had anything to do with their diet and their loyalty to God?

 

A short time later, Daniel gained worldwide recognition when God used him to interpret a dream that God gave to Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 2) As a result of that incident, Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel to a very high government position and all the wise men of Babylon reported to him. Do you think Daniel’s lofty promotion had anything to do with his loyalty to God?

Why Was Daniel Sent to Babylon?

Historians tell us that Nebuchadnezzar set siege to Jerusalem three times. He finally destroyed the city in 586 B.C., because Israel’s kings refused to submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s “higher” authority. In actuality, God destroyed Jerusalem with Nebuchadnezzar’s sword, and He put the Jews in captivity for seventy years because Israel refused to submit to His “higher” authority.

The Bible carefully justifies God’s wrath on Israel. To understand God’s wrath, we have to start with a conversation between God and Moses. Carefully review these texts:

 

1.   Sabbath Rest Required for the Land – Leviticus 25

A few weeks after the Exodus, ‘The Lord said to Moses on Mount Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of the untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.’” (Leviticus 25:1-5) This text is self-explanatory. God required the land to rest every seventh year. Why would any nation refuse a year’s vacation every seventh year? The Lord continues, “You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.” (Leviticus 25: 20-22) There is a profound point in these verses: God promised to send a bumper crop every sixth year so there would be enough food to observe a year of rest! Contrary to what many scholars say, the Sabbath rest for the land was not for agricultural purposes. In fact, God made the land produce its greatest harvest during the sixth-year- when the land was in its most exhausted condition! The fist lesson to be learned from the Sabbath year is simple. God established the Sabbath year rest to test His people. Would Israel be loyal or rebellious? (See Exodus 16 for a parallel test concerning the seventh day.)

 

2.  “If You Don’t Keep My Sabbath Years” – Leviticus 26

God warned Israel: “If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over…. I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. I will lie waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the ret it did not have during the Sabbaths you lived in it.” (Leviticus 26:27,28,31-35, insertion mine) A person does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand these words. God said His land was going to rest, with or without Israel. God wanted His people to understand a profound truth: “…[The Lord said] the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” (Leviticus 25:33, insertion mine) God wanted Israel to know that their occupation of His land was conditional on their steadfast loyalty to Him. (Leviticus 18; Deuteronomy 28)

3.   Because You Have Rebelled – Jeremiah 25

The Old Testament indicates over and over again that Israel did not remain loyal to God. Their cup of grace overflowed with rebellion and around 615 B.C., God gave a message to Jeremiah. He said, “I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. The whole country will be a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.  But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will make it desolate forever.’” (Jeremiah 25:9-12) Notice three things: First, God called Nebuchadnezzar “my servant.” This is an important concept. God chose a pagan king to be His agent of wrath against Jerusalem. (Parallel: The Antichrist, the modern king of Babylon, will be God’s agent of wrath during the Great Tribulation.) Second, God said that Jerusalem would be destroyed and Israel would be captives in Babylon for seventy years. Third, God said that Babylon would eventually be destroyed for the same sins as Jerusalem.

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