Devotional for First Friday after Easter: April 17, 2020
The vice-regents and governors conspired together and then went to the king and said, "King Darius, live forever!
7 We've convened your vice-regents, governors, and all your leading officials, and have agreed that the king should issue the following decree: For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions' den.
8 "Issue this decree, O king, and make it unconditional, as if written in stone like all the laws of the Medes and the Persians."
9 King Darius signed the decree.
10 When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.
11 The conspirators came and found him praying, asking God for help.
12 They went straight to the king and reminded him of the royal decree that he had signed. "Did you not," they said, "sign a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god or man except you for the next thirty days? And anyone caught doing it would be thrown into the lions' den?" "Absolutely," said the king. "Written in stone, like all the laws of the Medes and Persians."
13 Then they said, "Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, ignores you, O king, and defies your decree. Three times a day he prays."
Daniel 6: 6-13 The Message
As we are in this strange time, when we are mostly worshipping in our homes, it is tempting to believe our situation is unique. However, history teaches us otherwise.
The prophet Daniel was serving in a foreign land, quite some distance from Jerusalem, and the temple he normally worshiped in. Since he could not worship at the temple in Jerusalem, what was he to do? He did the next best thing, he worshiped in his home. Daniel was a smart young man, and some were afraid that he would find favor with the King. They were jealous of him, and they wanted to get rid of him. They persuaded the king to pass a law forbidding anyone, anywhere in the Kingdom, from worshipping anyone but King Darius. Daniel knew of the decree, but he was not about to stop worshipping the true God.
As you might expect, this led to a confrontation. Some of those who were already jealous of Daniel saw him worshiping. They reported it to the King. Now the King, who personally really liked Daniel, is put in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with Daniel for breaking the King's own decree. However, the King realized that he must enforce his own law.
Today, we have some similarities to Daniel, however there is ONE major difference compared to Daniel. The law given to Daniel was one of anger, jealousy, and spite. It was really a “gotcha law”. It was specifically targeted against worshipers of God. Today, the order from our Governor is not with the same intent. It is an order of compassion, made out of a deep desire to keep us safe.
Daniel understood this difference, and so he continued to worship. God did not tell Daniel that he could only worship Him in a Synagogue, or a church. In fact, Daniel had already figured that out. God protected Daniel, because God saw the evil in the hearts of those who had pushed the king for such a law. God uses people to help keep us safe. Currently, our health experts are vessels of God’s care for us. God is using those in authority to send us a clear message, and we are to honor and respect their advice.
In our time, the reason why we are not worshipping together is for health and safety reasons. Also, restrictions today apply to many different activities, not just worship, as in Daniel’s time. This is a key difference between Daniel’s situation, and our own.
We are not the first, nor will we be the last, to worship God from our homes, due to situations beyond our control. In our country, freedom to worship is one of our most cherished freedoms. This is not the case in other countries. There are some across our globe who must hide their faith from governmental authorities all the time. Praise God that we do not live in a country with such laws.
In Matthew 22:21, the Pharisees are trying to corner Jesus. They ask him about paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus holds the coin with Caesar's face on it, saying, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is His”. Jesus teaches both sides of the coin, literally. Jesus told them to honor the government, and the law with their taxes. He also taught them to honor God with their worship and tithes. Both things can be accomplished at the same time.
These days, I am puzzled by pastors at churches who are defying the recommendations of health experts and governmental authorities. Sometimes, they say that worship can only occur in a sanctuary. I believe that God speaks to us. Yet I don’t believe that God wants us to put others in harm's way, and to defy those in authority who have our best interests at heart. Some such worshippers have been fined, or arrested. We may see such consequences as being over the top. However, when the experts in the health field tell us something of such serious consequences, we should listen. God puts people in our lives like these health experts for a reason. Sadly, there has even been a death of one of those pastors who went against the recommendations for worshipping in person.
God delivered Daniel from his very difficult situation, not because God wanted to defy the authority of a King, but because God is the King. God cared for Daniel, just as He cares for us. God will get us through our contemporary pandemic trial, and we will survive. Our God is a God of salvation, and deliverance. Hallelujah! and Amen.
God of all times, and all places,
Be with us now, help us to focus upon You, and to remember to worship you wherever and whenever we have the opportunity. Like Daniel looking towards Jerusalem, may our eyes ever be upon You, and Your word. Protect us from whatever difficulties we encounter, and whatever trials we must endure. We ask your healing hand to be upon our world. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.