Kinda sounds like the start of a bar joke doesn’t it? Three kings, seven Prime Ministers and one God.
But I digress. Here we are on the even of election day and I can’t recall an election like it. But remember this: whichever Prime Minister Australia wakes up to on Sunday morning, whatever the seismic shifts in politics in the Western democracies recently, they ain’t nothin’ compared with the turmoil experienced by Daniel.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. (Daniel 1:1-4)
There’s political, social, religious and geographical change right there.
And that’s not the end of it. At the conclusion of this one chapter we read:
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
So, Daniel goes from the court of King Jehoiakim in Jerusalem who is ostensibly a worshipper of YAHWEH, to the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, 700 miles away in Babylon, who is a worshipper of Marduk; to finally, at the end of his life, the court of King Cyrus, a Persian king who had a pluralistic view of religion, and who sent the Jews back to Jerusalem.
So, Daniel experiences three different kings and three different empires. It puts our six Prime Ministers (well, five, since we had one twice) since 2007 in the shade. And who knows, by Sunday that could be seven!
What are we as God’s people to make of it all? If there is one thing I have noticed this past decade is that for a decidedly secular country, the language of politics has become religious, whether that is ostensibly in the terminologies used, or subtly in the outcomes desired.
Here’s the big picture issue, and we get it from Daniel chapter one also: There’s another King over it all. Just when we thought that Nebuchadnezzar had proven he was the great king, by placing the temple treasures in the house of his gods, we are reminded by verse two:
2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God.
The Lord does all of this. Nebuchadnezzar thinks he is in control. The Lord has other plans. And note too that the Lord allows both his people AND his worship to be eclipsed. Many Christians are worried about what religious rights will be eroded in the coming decades, and I for one think they will, but if God actually allowed this in Daniel’s day, for his purposes, then why not in our day, also for his purposes?
But that’s not all. When it comes to Daniel drawing a line in the sand and refusing to give up his identity as God’s person – undefiled and set apart – look what happens:
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel.
Once again God is in control. He is sovereign. The official doesn’t feel that God is causing his change of heart towards Daniel, but the text is clear. God does what only he can do – change hearts.
And finally, in the midst of all of the seismic change God is sovereign in equipping his people for the task of cultural negotiation in the new landscape of pagan Babylon. Despite the Babylonian king’s desire to change them, God is equipping Daniel and his three famous friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to change him:
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
One thing is for certain, in these changing times the need to lean on the God of the Bible who is revealed as sovereign over all, is a comfort and an encouragement.
So tomorrow, as you vote, remember Three Kings, Seven Prime Ministers, and One God.