Romans 13 Fans – Let’s “Be Subject” Like Daniel

Romans 13 says Christians should be subject to the governing authorities. But, we know that Paul and the other apostles said that it was better to obey God than men. Their actions also showed this. So, what does it look like to be subject to the governing authorities but be holy before God?

I think Daniel 1-6 provides some insight. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were strangers in the strange land of Babylon. They were in exile, sojourning in the land. They were forced to study the ways, languages, and cultures of Babylon and forced to serve the king. While they were subject to the king as the governing authority, every story in the first six chapters of Daniel is one where the four men either disobeyed the king or spoke a word against his kingdom.

The four would not eat the kings meat because it was offered to idols. The four men refused to defile themselves with it.

Daniel interpreted the kings dream of the statue made of metals that declined in value through time and the changing of power of the kingdoms of the world. Ultimately, the kingdoms of the world would be crushed by a stone not cut with human hands, Jesus, and that stone would become the kingdom of the world. It was not exactly a favorable interpretation. Daniel put his life at risk to preach the truth of God to the king even though he was in exile in a foreign land and subject to the king.

The king made an image of gold, an idol, and said that whenever the music was played everyone must bow down to the idol. If you did not, then you would be cast into the fiery furnace – killed for failing to worship the king. Of course Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the idol and worship when the music was played. But, when they were thrown into the fiery furnace, one “like the son of the gods” appeared in the fire with them to save them. I think this story, in particular, is interesting in light of the national anthem protests today in the U.S. The anger and vitriol in response a refusal to stand at attention to a flag when the music is played reveals that the flag is an idol and standing for it during the music is an act of worship to the human government of the land. After the three men refused to bow down to the idol during the music, the king changed the law and said that the Most High God, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, should be worshiped.

Then the king has another dream about a great tree that reached to heaven. The tree was cut down because of the pride of the king. The king would be made a beast because of his pride as well. But, when he repented his life and kingdom would be restored. Once again, Daniel interpreted a dream in a way not favorable to the king. He spoke the truth of what God said at the risk of his own life. The result was that the king praised and honored the King of Heaven.

The new king used the vessels of God’s temples to drink wine at his party. The hand of God wrote on the wall. Again Daniel gave an interpretation not favorable to the king, but it was the truth of God.

Finally, a law was passed in the land that no one was to pray to any god or man for 30 days. Once Daniel knew the law was passed, he prayed three times a day from his house with the window open so that he could be heard. He was going to serve his God no matter what the law of the land was. Because he broke the law, the king through Daniel into the lion’s den. But, God sent an angel to protect Daniel through the night. The result was that the king put the men and their families who had accused Daniel into the lion’s den and they were killed. And, the king made a decree that everyone should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.

Again, every story was about disobedience to the king or preaching the truth of God to the king, both always done at the risk of one’s own life. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah never sought out status or position in the foreign land. They never sought power. They refused to give worship to anything in the foreign land except their God. They never sought or tried to change the laws of the foreign land. Rather, the king changed the laws of the land because of their lifestyles. They lived holy and refused to give their worship to anything other than their God in the foreign land.

As Christians, we are strangers in a strange land, aliens, foreigners, exiles, in the world and not of it. We should live like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – subject to the governing authorities, not seeking to change the law of the land, but living holy and never giving our worship to anything but God because that example will change the kingdom we are in but not of.

God Will Vindicate His Name

Israel had profaned the name of God. But, God was going to act in such a way that he would vindicate his name. Israel and the nations would know that God’s name is holy. They would know that he is the Lord.

In Ezekiel 43, we read about how Israel profaned the name the Lord.  “And the house of Israel shall no more defile my name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts by my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.”

I think this is saying that Israel profaned God’s name by making what they were doing seem like that was what God was doing. They made it seem that their judgments, government, and kingdom were God’s. Yet, Israel was filled with all kinds of abominations, idolatry, and uncleanness. Ezekiel writes elsewhere that the priests and leaders of Israel did not distinguish between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy.

But, God says there is a distinction between what is clean and unclean, holy and unholy. He calls us to be holy just as he is holy. We need to put away the things that are abominable, the things that God detests. We need to stop our idolatry, no longer putting anything above God. Then his name is vindicated and he dwell with us.

Ezekiel: 72 “They Shall Know that I Am Lord”s

Reading through Ezekiel the last few days, the phrase “they shall know that I am the Lord” continues to stand out. It’s repeated over and over and over again. God says it to Israel and to the nations. This morning I tried to count all the times that God says “they shall know that I am the Lord.” I found 72 instances in Ezekiel were God said “they shall know that I am the Lord.” (Depending on your translation that’s how many disciples Jesus sent out two by two…huh.)

My perception is that when most people think of Ezekiel they think of judgment or end times prophecy. But, it’s the phrase “they shall know that I am the Lord” that seems to be repeated more than anything else. That’s the theme of Ezekiel’s ministry. God was speaking through Ezekiel saying, “I will show them who I am.”

This is one way that Ezekiel is a type, a shadow, a forerunner of Jesus.

Hebrews 1 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus is exactly who God is. God sent Jesus so that when we see him we would see God’s glory. “They shall know that I am the Lord.”

John 1 says, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has had made him known.” Jesus came that God might be known by us. “They shall know that I am the Lord.”

In the passage above from John 1, note who it is that God says “they shall know that I am the Lord.” It is those “who believed in his name.” Those who believe in God’s name, in God’s character, and who he is are given the right to become children of God. That is they are given the right to dwell in his kingdom.

Believing in the name of God takes us back to Ezekiel. Throughout Ezekiel, God says he will act so that “they will know that I am the Lord.” That means to know his name – I Am. But, God isn’t acting for Israel or the nations. He’s acting for himself, for his name. In Ezekiel 36, God says, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” God is acting to vindicate, to clear of any blame or suspicion, the holiness of his name.

Israel had profaned God’s name to the nations. The nations got a false impression of God, who he is and what he is doing in the earth, because of how Israel lived. But, God said he will act in such a way that Israel and the nations will no longer be able to blame him for what is happening in the world. God will vindicate the holiness of his name.

How would God do this? By setting up his own kingdom, a kingdom not of this world. His son, Jesus, would be the Lord and King of that kingdom. Because Jesus, and only Jesus knew God, and further he came from God, Jesus could be the exact image and representation of God’s glory. Jesus, by establishing his kingdom on the earth, could vindicate the holiness of God’s name. He would set everything right.

Notice that God didn’t try to restore, to bring back, the earthly kingdom of Israel. The earthly kingdom of Israel was a rejection of God (1 Samuel 8). Nor did God try to redeem or make good the empire that was then ruling the world, Rome. God wasn’t going to use a kingdom of this world to establish his own. God is not about making bad things good. He is about making dead things live. He is about transformation. He is about making all things new. He is a creator. A new heavens and a new earth. A new Jerusalem. As God does that “we will know that he is Lord.”

This is something American Christians should consider. By making God’s name synonymous with America, American Christians have profaned God’s name. By siding with politicians and leaders that profane God’s name, Christians profane the name of God, which is holy (that’s separate and distinct). We have caused blame and suspicion of who God really is, to be attached to his holy name. God will not stand for that. He will vindicate his name by  establishing his own kingdom, not America’s. He will vindicate the holiness of his name to all the nations through Jesus and the building of his kingdom.

Everything God Does Is to Reveal Jesus as Lord

In Ezekiel 28:22-23, God has Jeremiah prophesy against Sidon, “Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I will manifest my glory in your midst. And they shall know that I am the Lord when I execute judgments in her and manifest my holiness in her; for I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in her midst, by the sword that is against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

God said he was against Sidon, but he would make his glory appear in Sidon. How does this apply to me? What does it make me think of? Jesus died for me even while I was a sinner. His glory appeared even when I was his enemy and against him.

Romans 5:6-8, 10 – “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…”

Why did Jesus die for me while I was a sinner and his enemy? So that “they shall know that I am the Lord.” There’s that phrase that God keeps repeating over and over and over in Ezekiel. Every judgment, every action God takes among the nations, is to show that he is Lord. Whether it is national politics, wars, or illness in our lives, God is working to manifest his glory to us so that we will know that he is Lord. Not everything is from him or caused by him. But, God works it all together for our good to reveal himself to us and cause us to be like Jesus.

It’s easy to read the judgments in the Old Testament and think God is mean and vindictive. Our thoughts get drawn to the judgment and gloss over that everything God does or allows to happen as a result of our sin is to reveal that he is Lord.

The Church Is a Governing Authority, Be Content with That

In Romans 13, Paul says that Christians should obey the governing authorities because all authority comes from God. The governing authorities that are in place are only in place because God has allowed them to be in place. Paul says if you do not want to be in fear of the governing authority then do good. “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

The problem I see here is that Christians then run with this and try to be in control of or involved with the governing authorities so they can use the sword to execute God’s vengeance. First, this takes the entire passage completely out of context.

In Romans 12, Paul just described how a Christian should live – “present you bodies a living sacrifice,” “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” “having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them,” “let love be genuine, abhor what is evil,” “love one another with brotherly affection,” “bless those who persecute you,” “live in harmony with another,” “repay no one evil for evil,” “live peaceably with all,” “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God,” “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The governing authority is in power to be an avenger, to wield the sword, but in Romans 12 Paul said to “never avenge yourselves.” Therefore, it seems pretty clear that Christians would not want to be part of these governing authorities. In fact, in the first 300 years after Jesus, Christians were not a part of the governing authorities.

Second, we should be very mindful how God deals with those who take vengeance. Ezekiel 21-25 is very instructive on this. Throughout these chapters God says a lot about a sword being brought against Israel and Judah. The sword would be brought by Assyria, Babylon, and the other nations around Israel and Judah. These were governing authorities that God had put in place. God even called some the kings of these nations his servant or minister. That doesn’t mean God approved of them, rather he was going to use them to fulfill his purposes and cause people to know that he is the Lord (the phrase that gets repeated over and over throughout Ezekiel). While God used the surrounding nations to bring the sword against Israel and Judah, it did not turn out well for those nations. Edom and Philistia provide just two examples.

Ezekiel 25:12, 14 – “Because Edom acted revengefully against the house of Judah and has grievously offended in taking vengeance on them…I will lay my vengeance upon Edom…they shall know my vengeance.”

Ezekiel 25:15, 17 – “Because the Philistines acted revengefully and took vengeance…I will execute great vengeance on them…they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”

Elsewhere in scripture we see similar statements with Assyria and Babylon. Those nations and the kings leading them thought they were doing one thing, but God was using them for judgement, and when he was done using them for judgement then he would judge them.

I have yet to find anything good in scripture for the one that bears the sword, even as a governing authority put in place by God. I have yet to find anything good in scripture for the one that acts in vengeance. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

So, as Christians, let’s leave the ruling of this world to the governing authorities that God has put in place for it. We are no longer conformed to it, but are transformed. Because, rightly understood, the church is a governing authority. It is an outpost, a colony, of a new kingdom. A kingdom not of this world. So, the church is to put on display how this new kingdom, the kingdom that will consume all the kingdoms of this world, is governed, according to the rules of its Lord and king, Jesus, as laid out in Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount).

Israel Trusted in Its Beauty…Just Like Satan

In Ezekiel 16, God says that Israel trusted in its beauty. Israel took everything God had given it that made it beautiful and gave it away to run after the idols of all the nations around it. Israel was caught up in its beauty, its form, its outward appearance instead of its purpose, its function, its reason for being that God had given it.

Interestingly, this is exactly the sin of Satan in Ezekiel 28:17, “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.”

Because of all the ways Israel had lusted after the nations and committed adultery with their idols and not remembered what God did for them when he brought them out of Egypt, God said in Ezekiel 16:43 that, “I have returned your deeds upon your head.” Later in verse 59, God says, “I will deal with you as you have done.”

“I will deal with you as you have done.” God allows us to experience the acts that we have committed. Rather than God doing it to us, it’s us doing it to ourselves. Throughout scripture, the evil and wicked person is caught in their own snare, falls into the pit that they dug, and are struck on their own skull by their own violence. You reap what you sow. What’s really scary about that is you always reap more than what you sow. If you sow one grain of corn, then you will reap an entire ear.

Thankfully, God provides a way out of this. Repent of everything we have done and planned to do. Trust in Jesus. He will save us from reaping what we have sown. All so that (here it is again) “you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 16:62)

“You Shall Know that I Am the Lord”

Why does God act?

Why did he act on behalf of Israel to bring them out of bondage? Why did he send Israel into exile into Babylon? Why did he judge Israel? Why did he bring Israel out of exile?

Why did he send the Word to become flesh and dwell among us? Why did Jesus bear our sins on the cross? Why was Jesus resurrected?

Why has God continued to act in history? Why does God act in your life and my life today?

As I was reading Ezekiel 4-15 today, the answer to all of those questions became really clear. God acts so that you and I can know that he is Lord. In those chapters, every single thing that God did was followed by the phrase “you shall know that I am the Lord.”

What does God want you to know? That he is Lord.

Below is every time God said “you shall know that I am Lord” in those 11 chapters. God said it 16 times. I think he is trying to make a point about why he does what he does. So, in every situation, in every circumstance, when the way seems cloudy or dark, we should tell ourselves that God is arranging things so that “I will know that he is Lord.”

  • Ezekiel 5:13 – “And they shall know that I am the Lord…”
  • Ezekiel 6:7 – “…and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 6:14 – “Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 7:4 – “Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 7:9 – “Then you will know that I am the Lord…”
  • Ezekiel 7:27 – “…and they shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 11:12 – “…and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 12:15 – “And they shall know that I am the Lord…”
  • Ezekiel 12:16 – “…and may know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 12:20 – “…and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 13:9 – “And you shall know that I am the Lord God.”
  • Ezekiel 13:!4 – “…and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 13:21 – “…and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 13:23 – “And you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 14:8 – “…and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 15:7 – “…and you will know that I am the Lord…”

Four Creatures, Four Faces, Four Gospels, All Jesus

Ezekiel 1 gives us a picture of Jesus. The end of the chapter says, “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

An interesting facet of the appearance of the Lord are the four living creatures that each had four faces. Ezekiel 1:10 says, “As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.” It was above the heads of these creatures that there was a likeness of a throne where there sat one with a human appearance. The appearance of this one like a human is similar to the appearance of Jesus described by John in Revelation.

So, four living creatures seem to carry the throne on which Jesus sits. In a way, they present Jesus. What do the four faces – a man, lion, ox, and eagle – represent? I think the four faces or sides to Christ presented in the gospels.

Four is the universal number in the Bible. It’s the number that represents the totality of something. Think of the four corners of the earth or the four kingdoms of man described by Daniel. The four gospels represented by the four creatures and four faces give us a universal, complete, or total picture of Jesus.

Each living creature had four faces – one of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. The gospel of Luke is a picture of Jesus as the son of man. Just one indication of this is the genealogy of Jesus given in Luke 3, which goes all the way from his father Joseph back to Adam (and God). Indeed, Jesus was the son of the man, the first man, Adam. The differences in Luke from the other gospels highlight Jesus as a man.

The gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as a lion, the king of Judah. Matthew’s genealogy only goes from Abraham to Jesus. At the center of the genealogy is David, king of Israel. Matthew presents Jesus as the new King David that Israel had been waiting for. In Matthew, Jesus gives long speeches that are like declarations of a king. One of these speeches is the sermon on the mount, which is Jesus as king giving his “law”, recapitulating the story at Mt. Sinai and God giving the law through Moses.

The gospel of Mark presents Jesus as an ox. The ox was the creature that served. It was used by man to plow. The ox is presented this way all throughout scripture. Notice that in Mark there is no genealogy of Jesus. Does anybody care what the genealogy of a servant is? Rather, the gospel begins with the start of Jesus’ ministry as God’s servant. Also, Mark says everything happened “immediately.” Jesus as the servant is always busy and his work never ends.

Finally, the gospel of John presents Jesus as the eagle. Did you ever notice that John has a genealogy? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” As the son of God, Jesus is the one that soars through the heavens but comes down from heaven to the earth.

Read each of the gospels with the thought of these four faces of Jesus and you will pick up on many little details that would otherwise be missed.

Revelation 4:7 says, “the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.” Did you notice the order given by John to the creatures in Revelation? The lion then the ox then the man then the eagle. That’s Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The order of the gospels.

The Bible wasn’t even put together when John wrote Revelation. There are so many little things like this in the Bible that it becomes obvious that it is divinely inspired…for those that have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Let God Be God, You Seek and Endure

In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah describes in great detail the affliction that he suffered (or that the individual he is writing about has suffered). But, in his afflictions and sufferings there is something that he calls to mind.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

Jeremiah goes on to say that the Lord will do what he is going to do, therefore we should not complain. Rather, we should wait for him to fulfill his plan and purpose. We should seek him and see his salvation. In the midst of the trial, when the Lord seems absent, we should examine ourselves, repenting of anything in us that is not of God.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God’s purpose is that we would be conformed to the image of Christ, sharing in Jesus’ glory, partaking of his divine nature. God is making us his sons and daughters.

Hebrews 12:7-8 says, “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” The chastening is hard and no fun, but it yields the righteousness of Christ in us.

We must remember that this is preparation for eternity. This life is a momentary training ground. “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

 

Therefore, we need to put our faith and trust in God that he knows what he is doing.

Jesus: The Stone the Builders Rejected

Throughout scripture, Babylon is repeatedly pictured as that kingdom that tries to overtake God’s kingdom. In particular, we read this in Genesis 11, Isaiah 14, and throughout Revelation. In Isaiah 14, we see Satan pictured as the king of Babylon declaring that he will ascend to heaven above the stars of God, set his throne on high, sit on the mount of assembly, ascend above the heights of the clouds, and make himself like the Most High. Satan’s desire is to take the place of God and the place of Jesus and forever rule the earth.

But, speaking of Babylon, Jeremiah 51:26 says, “No stone shall be taken from you for a corner and no stone for a foundation, but you shall be a perpetual waste, declares the Lord.” Very interesting wording here.

Kingdoms are pictured as mountains in the Bible. In Jeremiah 51:26, we read that no stone will come out of the mountain of Babylon for a corner and a foundation. Satan will not rule the earth, but instead his kingdom will become a perpetual waste.

The specific wording in Jeremiah 51:26 is important because it is in direct contrast to prophecies about Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus and the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar (the kingdom of Babylon and all the kingdoms of men), Daniel 2 says, “As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces…But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth…And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.”

Satan will have no stone taken from his mountain to rule. But, Jesus will be the stone taken from God’s mountain to crush the kingdom of Satan and every kingdom of man and rule the heavens and the earth.

Elsewhere, Jesus is pictured as the stone that becomes the corner and foundation of the temple and God’s kingdom. Isaiah 28:16 says, “Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.’” And, Psalm 118:22 says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.”

Peter and Paul quote these scriptures and tie them to Jesus in several of their letters in the New Testament.

The more familiar we become with scripture, the more we see each theme and idea, thread and strand, woven throughout it that reveals more and more of Jesus.