Sun, 6 September 2015
Sermon text follows...
Key Verse: But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank (Daniel 1:8a).
1. A great tragedy
a. The tragedy of defeat
b. The tragedy of disobedience
2. A great temptation
a. A golden possibility
b. A godly purpose
c. A grave peril
d. A gracious proposal
3. A great triumph
a. Faithful to God
b. Favored by God
The eyes of our nation, this week, have been focused on small County in Kentucky. It’s called Rowan County. It's because there, a test case of sorts, has arisen. It swirls around a simple County Clerk. Her name is Kim Davis. Kim it turns out had lived a wild life and she had been married four times. Yet, at her mother-in-law's passing in 2011, the Lord got a hold of her and she came to know Christ as her Savior and it radically transformed her life. She says today that she's devout Christian. Well, when the Supreme Court ruled, earlier this year, that same-sex marriage was to be the law of the land, she was placed in a quandary. She was elected as clerk. In fact, her mother before her had been the County Clerk. Something of a family tradition, which is common they say in Kentucky. She had been elected under the premise that marriage was, as the Scripture teaches, between a man and a woman and now she found herself as the clerk with the responsibility of issuing marriage licenses for relationships that she did not believe comported with what the Scripture teaches. What would she do? What ought she do? It was a difficult question. She made a decision in her heart, in fact she resolved in her heart that she would not go against her conscience and what she believed was right. So she made an appeal to the governing authorities and it went to the Supreme Court and that she be heard, that her arguments be heard and that was denied. It fell back to a judge; I believe it was a federal judge there in Kentucky to rule in her case. He ruled that she must issue the licenses. If you're paid by the state of Kentucky and the law of Kentucky is that people can marry across all sorts of lines, then she, as an employee of the state, would have to issue those licenses or face the consequences. She decided that she would do the latter. She would face the consequences and so the judge decreed that this woman be cast into prison and as we worship, here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this morning, that woman sits in a prison jail cell in Rowan County, Kentucky.
I suppose I imagine that perhaps we would live to see a day like today, but the I’m not sure I really believed it would come. When someone would be imprisoned for a tenet of their religious faith. Many of you'll remember that our nation was actually founded on the exact opposite premise. That people came here to say, everyone ought to be able to worship according to their dictates and live out their faith without coercion. Those days, it seems are passing. So she's made the decision to stand.
Now some of you maybe thinking, well now wait preacher, if she's paid by the state of Kentucky and the law is as it is, then she ought to just resign and a forfeit her position. You know what, I think a case could be made for that. In fact, that actually did happen here in the state of Louisiana not so many weeks ago. It happens that there was a justice of the peace, a lady, in fact of all things; she's married to a Baptist preacher. She’s a young woman and she was elected to be the justice of the peace in, I think, Grant Parish up in Central Louisiana. Maybe some of you know where that is. She made the decision, with her husband, that when the Supreme Court ruled as it did, that she rather than get into all kinds of the legalities and a potential suit, she would just resign. She did: she just resigned her position,
I for one, am glad that Kim Davis is taking a stand. II don't necessarily, I can’t judge whether or not she's been perfect in every moment of this journey. That’s for God to judge, but I’m glad she's taken a stand. Let me tell you why, because this forces us as a nation to consider some very significant questions. Now she has said she'll take whatever repercussions come her way and she's proven that she would. In fact, when the judge ordered her to jail, her response was “yes, your honor, thank you.” She responded with grace and she's taken her lumps and there she sits in jail today. But we, as a nation, have to make some decisions about how were going to live going forward. Do we want to live in a nation? Do we want our nation to be the kind of place where a devout Christian can no longer be a court clerk? Where, in our nation, it can never be again a devout Christian, who would stand for traditional marriage that could be a justice of the peace? Where no believer of this nature, could serve as a chaplain in our Armed Forces? Could not be a chaplain with the state police force? You say, preacher that’s crazy. What are you talking about? Did you know that just this year, again this is in the state of Kentucky, there was a young man who was a volunteer from his church, he would go every week, as I understand it, to a correctional Institute where they housed young offenders. He would go there to share the hope of the gospel, and to disciple these young men. Well the state Department of Corrections came up with a sheet and he had to sign it and sheet said, “you cannot say that homosexual behavior is sinful.” Well if you are a devout believer that places you in a quandary. How can you not say what the Bible says is the case? In fact, while I’m on this, don’t think I mean this to be a diatribe against one particular sin. Any sexual activity outside the simple bounds of a man and woman wed in matrimony is outside of the parameters of what God established. Be it premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexual behavior, all of it alike is outside what God ordained and so they said before you can go back into that prison you’ve got to sign this is. That you will not say that these behaviors are sinful. The young man said, “I can't do it.” Are we prepared to live in a nation, where volunteers from churches can't go into the prisons and share the hope of the gospel as we’ve discovered in Christ and declare Christ saves from all sin? Is that the kind of nation we want to live in?
Just these past few weeks, here in the state of Louisiana, an edict was released from the judicial commission of the State of Louisiana. It went to every judge in the State of Louisiana and it said “you must comport yourself in accordance with the Supreme Court's edict or we will remove your judgeship.” no Christian judges? No Christian bakers? No Christian photographers?
These are serious days in which we’re living. Now friends listen, Kim Davis Is right at least in this one sense, we have to be willing to take whatever consequences come, but we must stand! We must stand for what is right! God will sort the consequences. Now where do we find help in making decisions during these difficult days with these weighty issues?
I've got good news for you. There is help for us so we can know how we ought to live in these trying times and it's found in the book of Daniel. Would you please open your Bibles to Daniel? Daniel, Chapter One is where we are going to be this morning, and to me it's wonderful to think that this series has been planned for months. Months ago, we laid out our preaching schedule for this year and Daniel was the book that we chose and wouldn’t you know, in God's wisdom, he gave us this, just at the moment we most needed it. And that's the way he is. So if would now as our title implies, Stand, would you stand in honor of God's word and we are going to read the first chapter. Now normally, I don't read such an extended passage at one time. It takes about three minutes to read this first chapter, and I’m going to read every word. And this will be the best three minutes you spend all day, all right? Listening to what God says. I want to listen to this and then consider how ought I to live where I am? Just as Daniel learned to live in the circumstances where he found himself. Let’s read together beginning in Daniel chapter one verse one. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. (I like it that the editors used a little g, that’s appropriate, all right now verse 3) Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: (now you may not the names Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, but I think you know these) Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, (there it is) Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. (You know those names don’t you? Shadrach, Meshach and “away we go”, all right, you know these names. These are the great three friends of Daniel; now look in verse 8, what happens?) But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Let’s pray. God, we thank you for this book in the Bible, the book of Daniel. We thank you for the courage and commitment of these young men. The way that they stood when it seemed that all was coming against them. I pray God, you would teach us, how will stand in these days and to go against the flow when it seems that all of culture would sweep us away from you. Give us wisdom. Give us learning. Give us courage. Help us to dare to be a Daniel. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.
Please be seated. This morning we’re going to begin a study in the book of Daniel and were going to look at the life of Daniel, this courageous young man and his four compatriots. This morning we’re going to focus in the first chapter. I’m going to divide this story into three scenes. I want you to follow along carefully as the Lord teaches us. Now the very first scene I going to call, A Great Tragedy. This story begins with a great tragedy. Look at how the passage opens, there in versus one and two and see it projected on the screen. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand. Now this tragedy that I'm going to describe has two components to it. First of all, there's the component of Israel's defeat. It is a tragedy that Israel was defeated. Now remember Israel. Israel was that small band of, a tribe really, that came out of the descendants of Abraham. They were enslaved in Egypt and with a mighty hand, God brought them out of Egypt and Israel, in effect, defeated the mightiest force in its day, Egypt. Then arose the Kings, Saul and then David. David, you remember took down Goliath and the Philistines. He united the kingdom and David's reign was a rain of great might and power and renown and wealth. Then came his son Solomon. Israel was a top the world it seemed, but fissures began to appear in the veneer. It was because of the idolatry and immorality and fracturedness of their nation that that the people of Israel began to go into a decline, a steep decline, until, by the time we come to the life of Daniel, the nation is now totally defeated. Humiliated by what was then the world power, Babylon and its king Nebuchadnezzar. But the most sobering part of this defeat and of these verses that you see is that phrase “the Lord gave Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar's hand. In other words it was not the might of the Babylonians, their armies, or their strategy of that enabled them to defeat Israel. What enabled them to defeat Israel was that God gave Israel over into its enemy’s hands. That is judgment came upon Israel. The Bible says righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people. And when sin begins to weave its way into a nation and there's immorality and idolatry and fractured people, then judgment is soon sure to follow. And if God judged Israel for her sins and he did, God can judge the United States of America for our sins. It was a tragedy that they were defeated. And the tragedy of it was that God allowed it to happen. Now why would I do that? Why would God allow his own people to go into captivity and defeat? Do you know why? It was because of their disobedience God had warned them for decades on end, that they ought to repent. That they ought to get right, but Israel was stiff necked and it was bent on going its own way. Away from God, and so judgment was to come. In fact it’s interesting. It’s one of the proofs of the inerrancy of Scripture and its trustworthiness. Did you know that more than 100 years prior to the defeat of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, God prophesied it would happen? He did so through the prophet Isaiah. Listen! Listen carefully to the precision of this prophesy. This is from Isaiah Chapter 39 beginning at verse five. “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your sons, who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away. And they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon. Are you kidding me? A hundred years before it happened, God said there's going to come a day when judgment will fall. You’re going to be carried away the Babylonian in captivity, including some of your own defendants. What do recent discover here in Daniel chapter 1? That from the nobility, from the royal house, these young men were buried in the Babylon. GOD’S WORD CANNOT BE MOCKED! What a man sows, he will reap. What a nation sows, a nation will reap. And this story begins with a tragedy, but the tragedy did not have to happen. Had the children of Israel repented and turned back to God, judgment would not have fallen but they did not, they disobeyed, and thus, they were defeated.
It’s a lesson for us in America. Could judgment fall on America? It could! I've said before and I'll say it again here now, with a heavy heart I tell you, I wouldn't be surprised if God allowed our worst enemies overrun us, to discipline us for our sin. We, the purported Christian nation, supposed Christian nation! Why is it that those who sell baby parts are free and the one who would stand for traditional marriage is in jail? You explain it to me! Don’t think it could happen to us. It could happen. I don’t say that with any glee, I say with a broken heart. I say God have mercy on America. Lord don’t have justice with us. We don't need justice. If justice were to fall we would be judged. No, we need mercy. God have mercy on us. Help us and especially those of us who know the truth that we would stand for righteousness. Not holier than thou, but just walk in obedience to the precepts of God's Word. Simple things. Like Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery, Ashley Madison. Thou Shall Not Steal; Thou Shall Not Kill, including innocent babies and their mother’s womb! GOD HELP US! Lest this tragedy befall us.
Now lets go to the second scene. I’ve talked to you about the great tragedy that befell the children of Israel. Now I want to say something about a great temptation. It came Daniel's way. Here they are, carried off to Babylon. And here's the strange twist of fate, if you will, Daniel has in front of him, in a way of thinking, a golden possibility. All right? He’s been held in captivity. His city has been besieged. They been starving in Jerusalem. Now this young man, country bumpkin, has been carried off to Babylon. Babylon was the greatest city of its day. It was the Washington DC or the New York City of its time. There is Daniel, living in that great walled city. He enrolled there, not in LSU; he enrolled in BSU Babylon State University. And he's got TOPS (scholarship program), he’s got full ride tuition, he got room and board, doesn’t the Bible say that? He’s given to eat and the king’s table. He’s standing in the king's palace. I mean he’s got the tiger by the tail. All he’s got to do is go along to get along. Just don’t ruffle feathers. Just keep your head down Daniel or you’ll get it lopped off. He’s got a golden opportunity. Here he is. He’s not eating at the Five; he’s eating at Galatoire’s, or Juban’s or Ruffino’s. I mean he eating the royal regimen, it’s being fed to him. What an opportunity he has. All he has to do is go along to get along. Daniel, just be cool man. Just fit in. just be like everybody else around you. That’s all you’ve got to do. I love Daniel, because in the face of this golden possibility, he stands for a Godly purpose. Look at would you in verse eight. But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food or with the wine that he drank. Daniel resolved, that is, Daniel purposed in his heart. Daniel was like this; everybody may be going this way. Everybody may be disobeying the Lord's commands, but I am going to go this way. I’m not going to be holier than thou about it, I’m not going to try to lift myself up as if I'm all that. But just in my own modest way, I'm going to stand for what's right. What a great word. You young people listen to me. You know how old Daniel was at this time? We believe he was probably about 14 years of age. Do I have any 14 year olds in here this morning? Stand up if you are 14. I want to see all our 14 year olds. Stand right up. How would you 14 year olds like if you were carried away into a foreign country? You 15 year olds stand up 15 year old. He may have been 15. There you are. There you are. 15 years old, carried away, all you have to do is go along. Just do whatever everyone else is doing. You don’t have to make a scene for crying out loud. You can be seated. Daniel wouldn't go along to get along. And he would keep his head down. He stood up. And he said I’m going to follow the Lords precepts. And you might even argue, it’s not that big a thing. I mean all you have to do is eat the king’s food. Just drink the wine that there serving.
This is serious business. But Daniel, no matter the risk, runs this apparel. And is willing to stand in the face of it. He is between a rock and a hard place. Look at this. If he pleases the king, he displeases the King of Kings. But he pleases the King of Kings, he displeases the king. And he has to make a choice. And all of us are going to have to make a choice. Who is the King that we will please? For whose pleasure do we live? And Daniel makes his choice. Now I love Daniel because he offers up, in this quandary, he offers up a very gracious proposal. He doesn’t stand up on the cafeteria table in the middle of the Five or something and start banging on the table. I want a new menu! I want a new menu! I want a new menu! He doesn't do that. He doesn’t hold up a placards and march, like Westboro does. No, what does Daniel do? He makes a very gracious proposal. He says look, I tell you what, would you be so kind as to just test us for 10 days? Just let us eat fruit and vegetables. Just test us. The word vegetable here is a word that means from the seed. So it would have included things like wheat and vegetables and fruit. Things that grow from seed. Just let us have a basic menu and then at the end of the 10 days just test us and see how we measure up against the others. It was a gracious kind proposal. And I want to advocate this for all of us. I’m not wanting you to leave today and go get placards and march and shout profanities and curse the darkness. I’m not asking you to do that. Nor do I believe the Word of God have us do that. Instead I'm asking you to live with what I’m going to call a convictional kindness.
Now you just may want to jot these words down. The head or our Religious Liberty and Ethics Commission is a man named Dr. Russell Moore. And he coined this phrase as I know and I love it. Listen to it. Convictional Kindness. What does that mean? Well just think of each word individually. Conviction. God’s people, if you know Jesus as your savior, and you comport to be His disciple, you need to have some conviction about you. Things that you believe are right and wrong. And those things need to be rooted in the clear teachings of God’s word. Not some list you just came up with by tradition. But what does God’s word say? And knowing what he expects, you say, these are my convictions. I’m not looking to fight. I’m not looking down my nose at anybody else. These are jus the things I believe are expected of me by God and I have convictions about these. That’s conviction. That is, have a backbone. But then the word kindness. What does the word kindness mean? That means that you’re gentle. That you’re not up in people's faces looking for a fight. You’re going to plead your case. You’re going to make proposal and you’re going to do it with graciousness. And if it is not conceded to you, you are going to face the consequences. Convictional
Kindness. Or you could turn it around and it is the same thing. Kind conviction. And those are the kind of people we need to be in the day in which were living.
Kim Davis, whether or not we agree with every nuance of what she’s done, she’s made a proposal. She’s said I want to take this to the Supreme Court. I want there to be an adjudication. I believe that we need to have an adjudication in our nation. Let me remind us again. We are the government. If you are old enough to vote, you, in a sense, govern this nation. And you need to take seriously that right and that responsibility that falls to you. You better know the issues. Don’t vote for somebody because they handsome, or because they are good looking. Don’t vote for them because they are brash. Vote for someone who, to the best of your discernment, is going to stand according to biblical principle’s and again, whether or not we carry any election, we still have to stand for what is right.
Stand! Stand! Stand! And Daniel did. And he did it, with convictional kindness. We are not looking for confrontation, but we are not going to capitulate either. May God help us to be people of convictional kindness? Isn’t that what the bible says? Listen to what the bible says. This now is 1st Peter, Chapter 3. Versus 14-15. But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.. Now folks, I tell you, I will be honest with you, you probably know this anyway, its hard for me not to get angry at times. Just to get upset and frustrated and bitter because things don’t go the way I think they ought to go. And the world often sees Christians an embittered, harsh, offensive people. Peter says, be ready to give an answer for the hope that’s within you when people ask you. Are you known as the person of hope? Am I known as the person of hope or do I think the roofs caving in. You know Chicken Little. The sky is falling. Friends we have a hope and our nation may go down the tubes and we may be imprisoned for your faith but I still have hope. We ought to be ready to give an answer. And he says do it with gentleness and respect.
May God help us to live with convictional kindness? All right now here is the end. It ends and I’m so thankful to say this, on an up note. It ends in triumph, really. Look at how this the third scene in our story. It is what I call, a great triumph. It happens because of faithfulness to God. Daniel is faithful. He stays true to what he believes. He didn’t bow, he didn’t bend, he didn’t break. He stood. Stand. Stand. Stand. He did. He was faithful. And because he was faithful, he was favored by God. God favored him. Look at how this passage concludes. As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams and the king spoke with them and among all of them, none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. He found them ten times better than all. That’s amazing. Why were Daniel and his friends found ten times better? Was it because of innate intelligence in them? Did they have a natural higher IQ? I’m not sure that they did. I really believe that it was rooted in God’s favor. He blessed these boys. He helped them in their studies. He favored them and when we are faithful to God, he will favor us. He will bless us. He did with Daniel. Daniel rose to be; some might say the prime minister of Babylon. Now is it that all was easy for Daniel? Am I preaching a health and wealth gospel? No I am not! In fact, did you know that for the next seventy years of Daniels live, he was a captive, enslaved in Babylon? But he was still favored. This story set hundreds of years ago, could read as todays newspaper. It’s that applicable to where we are living. I pray God we wont go through any greater tragedy than what we have already experienced. I pray that we as a nation and as people will turn back to God.
Listen friends, the problem isn’t in the courthouse, and the white house solely. It’s in the church house. Its preachers afraid to say what is true. It is church members who wont stand for what is true. It ought to begin the revival needs to begin here among us! In this day of difficulty, you young people, I know well, great temptations are going to come your way. You are going to be pressured to just go along to get along. I want to challenge you to purpose in your heart that you are going to stand for the Lord. And I want you do it with convictional kindness. And I want to do that myself. You pray for me that Ill be that kind of disciple. If we’ll do it, friends, I want to tell you something, God will bless it. He will favor us. He will be gracious to us. He’ll make his countenance shine upon us. He’ll give us peace. He will!
Would you stand please with your head bowed? I want ask our musicians to come, our band. Were going to go out today singing. Were not defeated. Listen friend, no matter what happens we’re not defeated. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. The ultimate victory is the Lord’s. We just need to make sure that we are on his side. That we know him that we been redeemed. That we been forgiven. That we’re standing. We need his grace to do it. We can’t stand in our own power, in our own strength. We need his grace. And so I want us to pray now for it. And then we will sing.
God we thank you for your word and the light it is to our feet. The light it is to our path. God, I pray that today it's been illumined how we ought to live. With convictional kindness. Standing for what’s right in a hostile world. I pray for our young people that they’ll stand true. In elementary school, and middle school, and high school, for our collegiate at the University. That they will be gracious, faithful. I pray for adults out in the workplace, where there is dishonesty and immorality and deceit and all manner of temptation. Lord help us as adults to be faithful to you. Help us God to stand! We pray in Jesus name, AMEN.