Instruments in His hand
Throughout the history of the church, Christ has worked faith in His people and used the simple obedience of members of his church— sometimes even through political functions—to further His church gathering work and the glory of God’s name. The end of Daniel chapter 1 gives us such an example. There we read: “and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king” (Daniel 1: 19b).
Rev P de Jong, in a meditation on this verse, speaks about how God used Daniel and his three friends in their political functions as useful instruments to serve His church and the coming of His kingdom. Rev de Jong had this to say (freely translated):
At the end of Daniel 1 we are told how God led them to this service. During their study period God granted them superior ability. “God gave them learning and skill in all letters and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (vs. 17). We could say that this was the reward of God’s grace on the faithfulness these lads had shown to God. Earlier we saw how God, at the court of Babylon, maintained the antithesis through the faithfulness of Daniel and his three friends. God safeguarded His children for service to Him through their obedience. That obedience was shown when they resisted the temptation to engage in idolatry. When God worked that faithfulness in them He went even further and rewarded that faithfulness. For these four boys, who did not want to participate in the service of Babylon’s idols, became brilliant students.
And when, after three years, the lads completed the prescribed education, they showed that in wisdom and understanding they were far superior to all the others. The king satisfied himself about this by speaking to each. He concluded that, indeed, these four outshone the rest: “and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king” (vs19). That was to be expected: the king naturally chose the best to be his servants at the court.
Yet there was something remarkable about this choice. After all, Nebuchadnezzar had planned to Babylonianise these boys. It didn’t work. God kept them, through their faithfulness, from idolatry. Moreover, God rewarded their faithfulness by giving them outstanding wisdom and understanding, something that was also acknowledged and valued by Nebuchadnezzar! Is it not amazing? Without realising it the king effectively admitted that his political aim to educate these youths into the Babylonian culture did not make sense because by denying that culture they showed they were wiser than the others. His choice in favour of these four boys signalled, in effect, the triumph of the antithesis.
We also see how here again the Lord continued to lead things. He brought these God-fearing boys in Babylon to their place, that is, to the place He determined. Now, already, they came into the court in order that by the end of the events in chapter 2 they would be appointed to the most prominent positions in the empire.
We can learn from this about the way we should carry ourselves in this day and age. No-one needs to throw his Christian principles overboard in order to achieve something in the world. Moreover, as a reformed person you can, God willing, pursue you career. God then does not ask us to withdraw out of the world as if there is nothing to be achieved there. No, we may make use of the world; we may take our place in society.
That also applies to the young people. You may study, follow an apprenticeship, select a career, and choose a job. You may be active in social and political endeavour. Slackness and disinterestedness may be characteristic of the doom and gloom thinkers of society today, but not of those who live by faith. Therefore do your best, work hard, get stuck into it; give it all you’ve got. But do it in faithfulness to God, who calls you and equips you. You don’t know how God may yet use this.
When Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself through the idolatrous lifestyle of Babylon, he could not have imagined that he would become the highest official in the empire. But that’s what happened. And not just for a short while but for years and years. Some 60 years after his appointment at the court he was still a respected and honoured figure there. Consider the final words of chapter 1: “Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus” (vs 21).
Just imagine: during all those years while the people of Israel were in exile, a faithful Israelite was the top government official in the empire and exercised influence in that position! All the things Daniel did in his function as minister of state is not elaborated on in the Bible. But we may be sure that his service was a blessing for the Lord’s people. The purpose of God’s kingdom was being promoted thereby. The apostate world of those days, through Daniel, learnt about the Father, the Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. Thereby, too, the world was being prepared to receive God the Son as Saviour in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Thus Daniel was there in Babylon as a good instrument in God’s hand.
Naturally we don’t all receive the same high position that Daniel received. In fact, we have no guarantee of a great career. But what Scripture wants to teach us all is this: a God-fearing life, in faithfulness to God’s commandments, will be a blessed life and will be of significance for the kingdom of God! Let us therefore take our position as Christians who confess our God—in the office, in our job, in the business, at home and at school. Also in politics and social life and in the media. What the fruits of it will be is God’s business. As long as we serve Him faithfully, as a good instrument; each with his own ability. Together fighting against the kingdom of the antichrist; together seeking the kingdom of God. God will crown that faithfulness. To this end: the praise of His grace!
P de Jong
(Translated from “Als een goed instrument” in Gereformeerde Kerkbode: Groningen, Friesland en Drenthe, 29 Oct 1983.)