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DANIEL, GOD'S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART XI)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
10 SEPTEMBER 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation: (Philippians 2:14-15)
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.
Last week we began discussing the responsibilities of leadership, and the fact that leadership is something that each and every one of us is called upon to exhibit at some time.
In our worldly system, some of us are called upon to be in almost continuous leadership, and others are called upon to be leaders only occasionally.
But in Jesus Christ, each and every one of us is called upon to be a leader at all times, in that we are to set the example of godly living to the entire world, or at least to those with whom we come in contact.
Leadership is also a quality that each of us can have if we want to have it, and it has nothing to do with our age.
Leadership can be either evil or good, and as Christians we are to seek to be the kind of leaders that reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.
Let's take a look at a leader, the ruler Darius who ruled over Babylon after Belshazzar was deposed.
In the sixth chapter of Daniel, beginning at verse 1, it says:
1. It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they should be in charge of the whole kingdom,
Darius is doing what the kings before him did, and what any wise leader does: he is delegating part of his authority to others, for no one person can do everything. We all need help.
2. and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss.
Don't you find it interesting that Daniel, a Jew, a leader in the Babylonian court, was left alive when the Medes and the Persians captured Babylon, and not killed with the king, Belshazzar?
God's hand was upon Daniel because he did all that God desired him to do, and those around him saw this quality in him.
3. Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom.
When we truly desire to honor God in everything we do, and do our very best to be an exceptional leader, then we often find that others, who are unrighteous, become jealous of us. This was happening with Daniel:
4. Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.
Daniel was truly an honest public official!
5. Then these men said, "We shall not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God."
Isn't this typical of the ungodly people in the world?
If they can't find something wrong with our leadership, they will start picking at our religion or some other personal thing about us.
This happened to me the other day as I was entering Greene Correctional Facility where I teach inmates; and as I was signing in, a corrections officer who was sitting near the reception desk began making fun of the religious service that the inmates have, and implying that since they were in prison they should not have such things, as we were making their life soft and easy.
He even went so far as to say, "If I knew it was going to be this good in prison, I would have gone."
Maybe, with that set of ideals, he may just get his wish.
This corrections officer missed the point of his position. He may not have been a leader among his other C. O.’s, for when I questioned his position, the others, who were around him, left him.
But this officer was in a position of authority over the inmates, and he was to set the proper example of true leadership for them so that they might be encouraged to change their lifestyle and not come back to prison.
He is a bad leader.
The commissioners and satraps in Daniel's day were bad leaders, also.
6. Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: "King Darius, live forever!
7. "All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that everyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions' den.
8. "Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked."
They flattered the king and played on his pride; and because the king was basically prideful, he listened to them. There is even no evidence that he ever questioned their motives. He allowed himself to be considered as equal to God.
9. Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.
We do not have to go along with the mass of people around us. We can and should do what we know to be correct and just.
All Darius had to say was, "No!"
Each of us has the power to say "no" to what we know is wrong, and "yes" to what is right.
Next week we will see the results of Darius' decision.
In Mark 6:14-29, we see another case of bad leadership – this one concerns King Herod.
As we look in on this scene, he has been hearing about the miracles of Jesus, and his conscience is bothering him; for like each of us, he knows the difference between right and wrong.
14. And King Herod heard of it, for His [Jesus'] name had become well known; and people were saying, "John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him."
15. But others were saying, "He is Elijah." And others were saying, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old."
16. But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, "John, whom I beheaded, has risen!"
See how his conscience is bothering him?
If he truly knew that what he did was righteous and just, he would not have felt guilty.
He knew what he did was wrong. Listen to what he did:
17. For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her.
18. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."
Do you see the misuse of power?
Herod knew what he had done was wrong; he just didn't want to be told about it.
So he commits another wrong to try to cover up what he did. He puts John the Baptist in prison.
But Herod is not the only one who has this problem.
19. And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so;
20. for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.
There is always something enjoyable about the truth and the things about God, unless it is spoken against us; but even then, we know it's the truth.
We cannot continually live in a lie, for sooner or later it will all come to light, and we will be forced to make a decision; and that decision will be either for evil or for righteousness. That choice will be left to us, just as it was left to Darius and as it is being left to Herod.
21. And a strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee;
22. and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you."
23. And he swore to her, "Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom."
All of this is pride: the birthday party and his offer to his step-daughter in front of his guests – it is all to show off.
If we are secure in our leadership, we do not have to prove it or buy it. Others will see and respect our leadership.
Herod is not strong in his leadership, and his wife knows it. That is why she encouraged her own daughter to perform an immoral act, so that she might take advantage of her husband.
So after Herod has made his offer to his step-daughter, see what she does:
24. And she went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist."
Do you see how evil Herodias was? Note how equally evil she taught her daughter to be:
25. And immediately she came in haste before the king and asked, saying, "1 want you to give me right away the head of John the Baptist on a platter."
She is actually taking pleasure in this evil act; but the fleeting pleasure in evil never lasts.
We are not to be like this girl; we are to seek our lasting pleasure in the righteousness of God.
So, what do you think the king does about her request?
26. And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her.
He had the power to say, ''No!''
He was the supreme power in the land. All he had to say was, ''No, my child, what you are asking is evil, and I will not grant such a request." And that would have shown true leadership.
But Herod was not a good leader, and he went along with her evil request.
27. And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison,
28. And brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.
There is no compassion. There is only cruelty.
By comparison, this is the same kind of lack of compassion and blind cruelty that is inflicted upon hundreds of millions of animals every day around the world.
There is no top leadership that is willing to put an end to this kind of lifestyle.
29. And when his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.
They had compassion.
They had the love of God in them.
They exhibited true leadership.
But how does this affect us today?
Let's look at one simple way in which it does.
Today is the first day of Sunday school.
Sunday school is not just a function of the church, and under the leadership of the church and the pastor.
Sunday school is a function of every one of us.
Students, you can show leadership by coming and setting an example for others; and you can learn and act properly, as you know you should, and you can stay for church afterwards.
And teachers, you can show leadership by learning your lessons before you try to teach them to your students, and by coming early and attending church, and keeping your classes in order.
And parents, you do not have to follow the example of Herodias, and the ungodly ways of the world around us, you can show leadership by coming with your children; and if you want, we can have an adult class, and then you can attend church with your children.
All of these things show leadership in all of us, and it shows the right kind of leadership.
And together we can all learn to live more loving and compassionate lives for the benefit of the whole of God's creation, and become the peacemaking children of God, Jesus called us to be.
For all of us should follow the leadership of Jesus Christ.