In May, we started watching the Bible Series again. This time with our church family at Grace. I wanted to share a few reflections on each episode.
God promises Abraham the land of Canaan. The Israelites are sold into slavery in Egypt. God delivers His people from slavery in Egypt and brings them to the promised land. God raises His people up in the promised land and gives them human kings. God sells the people into captivity in Babylon. God will finally deliver His people from sin in Christ. The time of the kings foreshadowed the coming of Christ. Everything that God does in the world is meant to draw His people to Christ. Everything that God does is connected in this way. Through the oppression of the world, we would recognize our need to be delivered from our own unrighteousness. That is what it means to be saved and why God did all of the things that He did in the Old Testament. He was telling the redemption story through the unrighteousness of people. Daniel even told the prophecy of Christ coming in the midst of the Roman Empire (Daniel 7:7-12). This prophecy revealed that Christ would set up His kingdom and the kingdoms of the world would be given an extension until a later time while Christ continued to build His own kingdom.
Just as the Babylonians, the things of the world will always try to draw us from the things of God. When we try and honor God, there will always be the temptation to follow people instead. Sadly, many people don’t even realize that they are tempting us to follow them instead of God. What is the resolve that we see from Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego?
“If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
“So King Darius signed the document.
When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house. The windows in its upper room opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:9-10).
There is a similar call through all of Scripture and a similar dichotomy drawn between the ways of people and the ways of God. As we have been discovering in Romans, the ways of people are unrighteous and God is righteous. It is why we must be imputed with God’s righteousness in order to be justified before God. What are some ways that we are tempted to follow people rather than follow God? At the most basic level, we are tempted to follow our preferences or to follow the preferences of others so that we might please people. For the ten years I’ve been in ministry (in an official capacity), this has always been a temptation that I have had to resolve to resist. It is a difficult one to resist because I want people to be happy with me and pleased with my service to God and them.
Even in our own age, there are those in the organized church who are like Nebuchadnezzar and the men who convinced Darius, or Cyrus, to sign this law that made it illegal, for a time, for people to pray to the true God. I am convinced that many of these people aren’t even aware that they are tempting others to follow people rather than God. Scripture warns about this:
“I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
There are those who hold to a form of godliness, though don’t really trust in the power of Christ (2 Timothy 3:5). People in many churches seek to gain teachers for themselves based on their own preferences rather than what God would give. The encouragement given to Timothy was that he needed to not give into the temptation to follow people, but instead to be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill his ministry.
This was the same resolve as Daniel. The resolve that Daniel’s friends had when they refused to worship the gold statue (or the chocolate bunny). It is the resolve that I must have as a preacher- following the leading of the Spirit in the declaration of God’s word rather than the preferences of people. It is the resolve that all of God’s true children are encouraged to have. God has given us a high calling. Why would we settle for anything less? Furthermore, why would we ever follow ourselves or others when God is the good Father and when He is the only provider and sustaining power we actually have? Woe to those who tempt others in this way, the modern day Nebuchadnezzars.
What is the promise that we receive? Those who abide in Christ will produce much fruit (John 15:7-8).