A further reflection from SWBF Chairman, Tony Mason
“Kingdoms rise and fall, but…”
There is a verse at the end of the first chapter of Daniel which, at first sight, may appear to be saying nothing especially significant. Daniel was taken to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. He, along with his three friends, was selected for special training and responsibilities in the alien pagan culture of the Babylonian empire. The chapter tells how “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way” (v8). Despite the fears of the official in charge of his diet, Daniel and friends, far from suffering from eating only vegetables “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food”. They entered the king’s service and in matters of wisdom and understanding the king found them ten times better than all his magicians and enchanters.
Then comes that final verse (v21): “And Daniel remained there until the first year of king Cyrus”. So what? Well, just this – it means that Daniel was most probably there in Babylon as a young man of around twenty until he was into his eighties or even nineties. So he would have been in a pagan environment and godless culture (does that sound familiar?) for some sixty years or more. Yet through all that long time he remained utterly faithful and true to his God, and his God remained utterly faithful and true to him.
But there’s more to it than that. What had been happening on the world stage throughout those years of Daniel’s stability and steadfastness, and while God was faithfully protecting and prospering him? Babylon, that mighty world power that had forced Daniel into exile was eventually replaced by the Medes and then the Persians (enter Cyrus) as the new rising super-power. In other words, all the time Daniel remained steadfast and true to his God over those eighty or so years, kingdoms were rising and falling – as they always do. Mighty men came to power and then succumbed to another, mightier power.
And what of us today? We too stand further down the line of rising and falling empires. The Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans have come and gone. In our own day we see nations threatening to gain the ascendancy – Britain, Germany, Russia, China, America. No human power has or will last for ever. But the kingdom of God and his redeemed people will endure through all the vicissitudes of human power. As I write we are facing the question of a new Prime Minister for Britain and the ongoing uncertainties arising from Brexit, and there is the scary possibility of an escalating conflict between USA and Iran. And what godless ideologies are currently permeating our own culture? Everything around us is precarious and in some ways a little frightening, perhaps. But the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the same God who delivered Daniel from the mouths of lions and the flames of a furnace. He is not at all subject to the vagaries and threats of fallen humankind.
Do enjoy your summer, and I hope to see you on September 21st.