and the herald proclaimed aloud, “you are commanded, o peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that king nebuchadnezzar has set up. [daniel 3:4-5]
nebuchadnezzar has already been given the title ‘king of kings’ in the book of daniel, he is a sovereign king, an absolute dictator who will use the capital punishment in order to enforce his will, and his will is that all of his subjects worship the golden image.
in this moment, daniel and his companions have a choice, to whom will they bend the knee?
as we watch this play out, it is important that we have a theology of authority, and the first principal is that God has ultimate authority:
he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. to him be honor and eternal dominion. amen. [1 timothy 6:15b-16]
but the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. [psalm 9:7-8]
and God the Father gives all authority to his only begotten Son, Jesus
and Jesus came and said to them, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [matthew 28:18]
in this authority, God is the one who designates all rulers:
he changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; [daniel 2:21]
so pilate said to him, “you will not speak to me? do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “you would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” [john 19:10-11]
because God sovereignly chooses the rulers, we are to obey them, there are many instances of this command in the bible, but as an example, paul tells us in romans 13:
let every person be subject to the governing authorities. for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. [romans 13:1]
paul uses ‘derived authority’ as the basis for our obedience–and this works itself out in the family unit, the church body, corporate work, civil government, etc.
so what is the right thing for daniel to do here? should he bow the knee to an idol? God does not contradict himself–there are times when our leaders directly disobey God’s commands, and when this happens, we must use the word of God, be convicted in the Holy Spirit and use the discernment of wisdom to make a decision to disobey the authority–it is not a light thing to disobey authority that God has placed over you. in our day and age we make light of the law, and when we scoff at the law, even ‘small’ things like speeding, we are making light of God’s law. when we disobey the law for our own reasons (we think it is silly, we won’t get caught, we are in a hurry, no one else obeys, etc) we make less of the moment in time when we may have to disobey for right reasons.
we will see the boldness in what daniel does next, and we should prepare ourselves for this kind of choice, because one day, we may have to make it as our forefathers in the faith did and brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are doing now–many at the cost of their lives and freedom.
let us pray for discernment to walk in this world and acknowledge God-given authority of our leaders–men can and will fail us, except the one perfect man, the one perfect leader, Jesus Christ!
for to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [isaiah 9:6]