posted on Apr, 8 2013 @ 05:29 PM
There’s an old conundrum which asks the question; “What happens when an Irresistible Force meets an Immovable Object?”
The briefest way of putting the answer is to say that “One of them is exposed as a fraud” (because the two things can’t exist at the same
The question which forms the main issue of the book of Daniel can be framed (and dealt with) in much the same way;
“What happens when the will of God meets the will of a ruler who thinks he’s God?”
The classic model of this kind of encounter, in Jewish history, was the reign of the king who called himself THEOS EPIPHANES- “the visible
So the last chapters of Daniel are clearly pointing towards the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes, and looking beyond him to another ruler cut from the
But the early chapters are looking at the problem in more general terms.
We can see a gradual development of the conflict, and the sixth chapter brings this process to a climax.
The trouble in most of the previous chapters was coming from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
In the sixth chapter, the self-promoting ruler is Darius.
Or is it “the law of the Medes and the Persians”?
The king’s will
The king’s will is expressed in the command that nobody (for the next thirty days) should make an appeal to any god or man, except to the king
In this case, though, the command isn’t coming from the king’s own mind.
The same kind of “accusers” who caused trouble once before are at work again.
They lobby the king to propose this new law, because the existing laws don’t suit their purpose.
They take the precaution of reminding him in advance that “the law of the Medes and the Persians” cannot be changed.
This command is developing the conflict one stage further.
In the first chapter of Daniel, as I observed when I looked at the story, Nebuchadnezzar was quite unconscious that his commands could have any impact
on Daniel’s religion.
He simply pursued his own will, and the clash was the natural result.
Two chapters later, the act of will was much more conscious.
The king was deliberately setting up an object of worship and making it compulsory.
However, there was no suggestion that he was actively attacking any other form of religion..
Nebuchadnezzar merely commanded a worship which God had forbidden.
It was left to Darius to go one step further and forbid the worship which God had commanded.
This is the climax of the confrontation.
For the king, through the law now issued in his name, is effectively claiming for himself the Biblical God’s first commandment- “You shall have no
other gods but me.”
The detail that the laws of the Medes and Persians “do not alter” is an aspect of this encroachment;
It sets “the law” in the place of “God’s authority” as something which cannot be changed by men.
God’s will is expressed in the first commandment; you shall have no other gods but me.
The king’s command amounts to a competing version of the same thing; “you shall address no other gods but Darius.”
If Daniel obeys the command, and stops addressing his own God, then he’s tacitly accepting the king’s claim that he can make himself the only
legitimate object of worship.
This would be such a clear-cut example of “any other gods” that Daniel has no choice.
He must disregard the king’s command.
God’s will prevails
As in the case of the “burning, fiery furnace”, the conflict begins when the accusers bring their information.
I tell the story as I took it down, from the American travelling evangelist, Arthur Blessitt (speaking in an English town in the 70’s).
“Then there was Daniel, who had the habit of praying with his head out of his window every day because God had told him to pray like that
and one day when he was doing so, the neighbour was entertaining local magistrates and other bigwigs in an open-air dinner in his garden and said to
one of them
“That’s just my neighbour, he’s some kind of nut, prays with his head out of the window, do me a favour will you and pass a law against praying
with your head out of the window.”
Then when this was done and the police came to Daniel’s house to try to enforce it, they said to him “Look, why don’t you cool it, mister, why
not cut it out, pray indoors and give us all some peace.””
Whether it happened quite like that, or some other way, Daniel found himself under accusation.
The narrative has nothing to say about the legal process against Daniel, which is obviously much more impersonal than the accusation of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego.
But the fact that the process is driven by an impersonal law instead of a king’s forceful will does not make it any less formidable.
The king himself is presented as a sympathetic figure, but he’s helpless to assist.
The fact that the law “cannot be revoked” frustrates his efforts.
There can be no intervention on the king’s part, on Daniel’s behalf.
The king himself prays that the God of Daniel will deliver him.
God answers that prayer; “He stopped the lions’ mouths”.
The story gives two different reasons why this happened;
“…because I was found blameless before him”-v21
But also “…because he had trusted in his God”- v23
They can be reconciled on the assumption that trusting in God is a way of being found blameless before him.
The decree of Darius proclaims the moral of the story, that Daniel’s God is “the living God” whose kingdom “will never be destroyed”, and he
is also a God who is able to save his people from the power of their enemies. Therefore men should “tremble and fear” before that God alone.
As before, the intended message of the chapter is that where God’s people are faithful in obedience to him, when they’re put under pressure, then
he will honour their faithfulness and keep them under his protection.
Insofar as Daniel prophecies a future confrontation between believers and the ruling power, this chapter points towards a time when the ruling power
demands complete allegiance and will accept no competition.
The king at the end of ch11 reaches that point; “He shall exalt and magnify himself above every god” and “shall not give heed to any
other god” (ch11 vv36-37).
So does the Beast, for we find at the end of Revelation ch17 that the Beast is no longer willing to tolerate even the idolatrous “Babylon”.
The final stage in the challenging of the Biblical God is the claim to be worshipped alone.
I suggest there’s also a warning for us in the remorseless impersonality of the process which Daniel faced.
The modern world has been preparing us for this kind of thing; oppression not in the form of personal confrontation, but in the form of stifling
That’s exactly what we ought to expect from a ruling power dominating the world.
It would be the kind of experience found in Kafka, and the real enemy of God would appear to be the faceless Law itself.