Daniel 1:8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
Daniel and his friends made up their minds not to eat the King’s food. They had their faces set like flint and they were not going to give in. They were self-controlled and disciplined to do what they knew was right. They were not going to take the cheese and fall into the trap. They were not going to allow their identity to be taken away with wine and meat. While they would serve and submit to the Babylonian king because they knew that God required them to serve and submit to those in authority, they were going to do so as free men not as those who loved their chains. They were not going to fall for bread and circuses.
We are at that time of the year where there are signs all over creation, ads on every television and radio station, and now even text messages coming to your phone with politicians making you promise after promise if you will support them. In AD 140, a man named Juvenal wrote of the corrupt Roman populace this way:
“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”
He was referring to laws passed around 140 AD by Roman politicians giving out a grain dole to poorer people in order to capture their vote. They provided free wheat and put on costly circuses and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power. It was a promise of food and drink in order to cultivate loyalty and lull one into a superficial contentment while one’s liberties were taken away just as King Nebuchadnezzar was attempting to do with the young men of Judah.
And now everywhere we turn we have politicians making the same offers. Vote for me and I will give you free healthcare. Vote for me and we will give you free college. Vote for me and you will get free birth control. Vote for me and we will take money away from the mean rich and give it to you. Vote for me and you will get free Netflix. Well, I made that part about Netflix up but I am sure someone will take my suggestion and run for office. If the ads are not offering you something, they are warning you that the other person wants to take away your free something. Don’t vote for Mark Cox because he wants to take away your right to free Taco Bell. Forget JFK’s don’t ask what your country can do for you. You don't have to ask because we will tell you exactly what we can do for you. You have a problem, the government has got to do something about that. Have no fear, there will be a politician ready to do that something if you will just give her the chance.
I want to compare this mindset with a message from one of the pastors of the pilgrims inviting young men to come with them on their journey to North America. This is an invitation from Robert Cushman. He writes:
"That for men which have a large heart, and look after great riches, ease, pleasures, dainties, and jollity in this world...I would not advise them to come there, for as yet the country will afford no such matters: but if there be any who are content to lay out their estates, spend their time, labors, and endeavors, for the benefit of them that shall come after, and in desire to further the gospel among those poor heathens, quietly contenting themselves with such hardship and difficulties, as by God’s Providence shall fall upon them, being yet young, and in their strength, such men I would advise and encourage to go, for their ends cannot fail them."
He is saying if you are the type who is looking out for yourself and your ease and comfort, you need to stay away. But if you are the one who will come and work not for yourself but for the benefit of generations who will be here after you are dead and gone and if you want to see the gospel go forth, then we invite you. I can almost hear the attack ads now.
Robert Cushman doesn’t think you deserve to have enjoyment. He wants you to sacrifice your wealth for people you haven’t even met. Shame on him. I am King George and I approve this message
So what has happened that we went from leaders pushing for self-sacrifice to leaders on all sides offering everything under the sun to stay in power. How did we get here?
There are a few reasons but among them is that the we have lost what the purpose of civil government is supposed to be. We have left behind a biblical view of civil government. This is because many pastors have refused to instruct both the people and the magistrates on their duties. It used to be common practice for the Puritan pastors to preach election day sermons where they instructed the magistrates and the people on their duty. These sermons will filled with practical advice, warning about breaking God's law and even instruction on monetary policies. Because of this instruction, unbelievers feigned allegiance to God and unbelieving civil magistrates were compelled to obey God and work towards enforcing his law. Now we know that this was not a utopian time. They did not always get justice right but there was a great influence of the gospel on the kingdoms of the world. We need pastors who will instruct us in our duty towards civil government and the civil governments duty towards us. In a time, when every politician is setting before you food and wine from their portions, you need to know where those portions come from and why that politician is offering you these choice gifts. You also need to know what the civil government exists for.
The civil government does not exist to provide for your wants, desires, and even your personal needs. Romans 13:3 says:
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
Civil government exists to serve God through service to public good by punishing evil and protecting the liberties of those under its care. In the beginning, man was a moral agent living freely in a reality that is good, coming from the hand of God: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Man blessed with reason and a moral sense was created in the image of God. He was made a little lower than the angels, and given dominion over the earth. He had the responsibility to take dominion and with that came the liberty to do so. Liberty is God-given. Man’s dominion over the earth and the other creatures, was subject to no restraint but the law of God, the law of liberty. Had he continued in this way there still may have been a civil government. There still would have been a need to rightly order society but with the fall of man into rebellion there became a necessity of government to coerce a degree of right living and justice from a mankind fallen from the high road of willing obedience to the loving Father. Contrary to libertarian anarchist views, civil government does have to power to coerce and should do so. God instituted civil government to protect the lives and property of others. This is the purpose of civil government instituted by God. Since civil government is instituted by God then those who serve in it will answer to the one who ordained it. They will answer to how they rule. And since civil government exists to protect good and punish evil it must know what is good and what is evil. The only one who can authoritatively say what is evil and what is good is God almighty.
Again, those in civil government will answer to God for how they rule. This is why King David in his last words to Israel says 2 Samuel 23:3 "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." God declares what rulers should be and this should guide us as we have been given freedom in this nation to select leaders. Rulers are to be men who are just and rule in the fear of God. Noah Webster, a brilliant man who most know from Webster’s Dictionary wrote an article entitled, “Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education.” In it he said,
“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide….It is alleged by men of loose principles, or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the Scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness. But if we had no divine instruction on the subject, our own interest would demand of us a strict observance of the principle of these injunctions. And it is to the neglect of this rule of conduct in our citizens, that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breeches of trust, peculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country; which disgrace a republican government; and which will tend to reconcile men to monarchs in other countries and even our own…When a citizen gives his suffrage [vote] to a man of known immorality, he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor, and he betrays the interest of his country.”
We should be looking for leaders who deal justly. This means that they don’t show partiality to the rich or the poor. They don’t pander to identity politics, making promises to people based upon which group will give them votes. They deal fairly. 2 Samuel 23 says they will rule in the fear of the Lord. It is their duty to uphold the kingdom of Christ. There is a difference and even separation between the church and civil government. The Civil Government has not been given the charge to proclaim the gospel or to exercise authority in religion. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven as the Westminster Confession of Faith rightfully declares. Yet they do have the duty to make sure that the church is protected and that ministers of God are able to do their duty. They also have the responsibility to rule according to the law of God. What God calls a crime they must.
In 1790, Rev Daniel Foster preaching to the civil magistrates in his day said: "If religion is not honored and supported by men in places of public trust, the glory of the Lord will soon depart, and the fire of God be scattered over the city. Rulers are called “the shields of the earth;” they are to protect the people from injuries among men, and likewise from the judgments of God. When God’s wrath was kindled against Israel, for their idolatry at the foot of the mount, we find Moses, that pious ruler, pleading the cause of the people, and he sounds his plea upon God’s covenant, and reminds him of his oath. And David, that man after God’s own heart, when he saw the Angel that smote the people, said, but these sheep, what have they done? “And the Lord said unto the Angel, it is enough, stay now thine hand.” The attention Christian rulers pay to religion in their hearts, and in their government, will be their support when they are called to lay down their commission, and their lives; it will brighten the scene before them, and embalm their memories when they are dead."
We need to be looking for and praying that God will give us civil leaders that do justice and fear him. But if you look around right now, there does not seem to be a lot of these men. We do have what looks like two fundamentally different and opposing sides vying for your vote but yet there seems to be very few if any who are seeking justice and who fear God. What are we to do in this occasion?
I want to point you to Daniel and his friends. They did not take the cheese. They did not take the enticements of the king but they kept their loyalty to the kingdom of God. They served and submitted to the civil government when it did not command contrary to God’s law. But they also withheld themselves from being taken in with the offers from an unjust king who at this point did not fear the Lord. In pointing to them, I am saying when it comes to voting you need to refuse to take the cheese. Ignore all the people offering you different things if only they can have your loyalty. I am not saying don’t vote but I am saying don’t let your vote be swayed by those offering you free healthcare, free college, free anything. Look for those whom you think will best seek justice and fear the Lord. It may be slim pickins but I can tell you right off the bat, those running on a platform that supports and encourages the murder of the preborn are off the list. Those who want to force Christians to celebrate their perversions are off the list. They do not fear the Lord in the least.
Now let me tell you what I am going to do. I know that one party, the democratic party is completely immoral. Almost everything on their platform is an affront to God and an attack on liberty. They have created fictitious rights to sexual perversion, child sacrifice, and other people’s property. In pushing for these faux-rights, they seek to trample under real rights given by God. I also know that they are a party willing throw away due process in order to gain power. They are enemies of Christ. I am going to be voting this week in opposition to this party. However, I am not going to blindly defend the opposition. I am not going to take the cheese of either party and give blind allegiance to the Republicans. When the Republican party acts wickedly and they often do, I will as a pastor remind them of their duty. But I am not going to make worthless unequivocal parallels either. Christians must not be beholden to a party but that does not mean that both parties are equivocal and it doesn't matter which you vote for. The Democratic party platform is wicked and destructive to society. Don't take their cheese. But also don't gorge yourself on the meet and drink of the Republican party either. Don't be those who thoughtlessly defend them at every step. Your allegiance is to Christ Jesus.
As I was preparing this sermon and I was thinking about the principles of civil government and the type of leaders that we should look for and what we have actually before us, I began to mourn. I don’t know if there is another nation in modern history that God has dealt so bountifully with. I can’t think of another country that has been so for a lack of a better word “privileged.” Therefore has there been another nation that has been more ungrateful to him. We have slaughtered millions of preborn while God has provided graciously to us. We have paraded sexual perversion, divorce, and idolatry before him. We have had the gospel go forth across the land and we have seen God deal so kindly to us and yet we have abused that kindness and deserve to be thrust down into the pit of hell. Isaiah’s description of Israel fits us too well: The whole Head is sick, the whole Heart is faint, from the Crown of the Head to the Sole of our Feet, we are full of Wounds and Bruises, and putrifying Sores.
Rather than being obedient to God’s word to not merely look out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others, we have looked out only for our own. And then we look for civil leaders who will pander to these perverted desires. Sadly, while this has occurred much of the leaders in the church have been silent. We have been content with the choice food and wine of the world. We have played the harlot against our Lord Jesus, both in regard to principles and practice. If we go on obstinately in our sins despite the warnings God has given us in his word we shall treasure up unto our selves wrath against the day of judgment.
Psalm 10:16 says The Lord is King forever and ever; Nations have perished from His land.
President Donald Trump is not King. Nancy Pelosi is not King. Bernie Sanders is not King. The Lord is King. And if this nation will not repent and turn to God, it will be another nation that perished from King Jesus’s land.
Daniel 1:5 The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service.
There is no such thing as neutrality. Eating and Drinking are not a neutral things. King Nebuchadnezzar knew that food was not a neutral thing. His ploy was to give lavishly to his new conquered people so that they would be enticed to leave behind their own identity and instead identify wholly with the Babylonians.
King Nebuchadnezzar gave of his food and drink portion. A king of a great nation gets a large provision of food. 1 Kings 4: 22-23 describe King Solomon’s daily portion as thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, Ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallowdeer, and fatted fowl. That is a ton of food. He would use it to wine and dine other national leaders, local magistrates, and even his enemies. The White House has 5 full time chefs and a host of other staff who prepare meals daily and can serve up to 140 people dinner and 1000 people with hors d’oeuvres. The Whitehouse has its own homebrew of beer and four to six table wines with every meal.
One can only imagine how much food the King of Babylon would have prepared for his courts each day. This was an issue of national pride. You can't have your King and his court skating by on crumbs. Nebudchazzer ordered that these young men would be given from his portion to be intoxicated with all the delicacies that could be affored to them. Then of course they would forget their own nation. John Calvin wrote in his commentary: "For we know that wherever there is any cunning in the world, it reigns especially in kings palaces! So Nebuchadnezzar, when he perceived he was dealing with an obstinate people, (and we know the Jews to have been of a hard and unsubdued spirit,) wished to acquire servants spontaneously obedient, and thus endeavored to soften them with luxuries. This was the reason why he provided for them an allotment of his own meat and drink;” Even though they were but captives forced into slavery, they would be given meat and drink to cause them to forget their bonds. The King was not giving to them food from his portion out of the goodness of his heart. No, it was so that they would see themselves as Chaldeans rather than Jews and then they would begin to love their chains.
Eating and drinking were not neutral and are still not today. Now, we are not under the ceremonial law anymore in the New Covenant. The laws forbidding shellfish and pork have found their completion with the coming of Christ. They were intended for the people in the Old Covenant to remind them of their need to be separate unto the Lord. This was to mark them out. It was also to remind them of how even the smallest sin makes them unclean. Jesus Christ explained that it is not what goes in that makes one unclean but what comes out. With the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the New Covenant, the gospel goes forth to all nations. The dietary restrictions that marked off the nation of Israel from the other nations has been removed because now the covenant has expanded to all nations.
This does not mean, however, that eating and drinking are now neutral. And when I say this, I am not saying that there is an official diet of Sovereign King Church. There is no commandment for Christians to eat non-gmo organic free-range vegan gluten-free essential-oiled kale chips no matter how many mommy blogs are out there say otherwise. You can eat Doritos in a Christian manner and you can eat the healthiest meal on the planet in an ungodly manner.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
The manner we eat, the purposes for why we eat and drink all matter. Now listen, I am not putting down healthy eating. A Christian should care for their body and treat it well. There are all kinds of healthy foods and diets that a Christian may partake in and it may be wise do so. People make idols out of food in many different ways. You don’t have to be insanely obese for you to be eating and drinking to the glory of an idol. If the reason you must have all the organic healthy stuff is for any reason other than to prepare your body to serve the Lord, than you are eating idolatry. Mothers, what is your motivation in all the healthy food? Is it to help your family worship God or is it so that you can keep with the competition online. Is it so that you can be better than all the mothers who give their kids less than the best?
Are you eating out of faith or out of fear? Are you eating out of thanksgiving or with grumbling? Children, do you grumble about what your mothers put on the plates before you. Philippians 2 says 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will 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, Children, that includes eating. If you are a child of God you may not grumble whether you get your favorite meal or less than favorite. Eat and Drink to the glory of God.
Daniel 1:3-4 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, 4 youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.
Look at how kind Ol' King Neb is being here. Out of the goodness of his heart he has taken these young men from Judah and given them a full ride scholarship into the schools of the Chaldeans. They are being given the best government run education in the realm. Listen, Tyrants like Nebuchadnezzar don’t believe that education is neutral and you shouldn’t either. He didn’t have the young men brought to Babylon and have his servants work to educate these young men out of a sense of duty to the conquered people He knew that education was not neutral. His purpose is in indoctrinating these sons of Judah in the culture and language and wisdom of his kingdom. It was to capture the hearts and minds of these young men so that they would be willing slaves.
There is no neutrality in education. Now wait a second you might say: Isn’t education just the teaching of facts and information. Someone might say "the schools should should just give the facts from a “neutral” point-of-view. One must adhere only to the projection of objectively verifiable data whereby personal opinions, insights, or conjecture are left out of the discussion." I read a comment online on an article saying that Secular humanism is a religion and is the foundation of public schools:
"Insofar as the Humanist Manifesto declares there is no God, public schools must not be humanist. But neither may they endorse any particular creed they must be deity neuter. Public schools, since they are supported by mandatory taxation, must not teach any religious viewpoint (including atheism) would you like it if your children were taught to reverence Vishnu?"
No, I don't want my children being taught to reverence Vishnu and nor do I want them be taught to worship the civil government either. Now, you wait a second! What you said has all kinds of presuppositions. You are assuming that there is such a thing as a neutral fact. You are assuming that there is such a thing as neutrality towards God. But Listen! Jesus Christ said that "whoever is not with him is against him." To not honor God or give thanks to God is to take a position and that position is idolatry. The Bible says plainly about Jesus Christ that all things were made by Him and without him was not anything made that was made. There is not an atom that exists that was not made and sustained by God. Therefore there is not one atom in all the universe that can be neutral. There is not one neutral fact in all of creation.
God created the universe and he sustains it by his law and his purposes. We cannot be neutral, nor can education. The universe is not self-created nor is it self-sustaining. It also does not dictate its own purpose. It is created and therefore it has a given purpose not ordained by man but by the maker of all things. The God who has made all things has ordained their purpose, their meaning, and their boundaries.
To posit that you can be neutral towards God is to presuppose something other than the truth of creation. You are presupposing either a either a finite god or no God at all. Education must start with one of these foundations. Therefore it will either be based in the truth and reality of God or it will be by definition godless.
In so called neutral education the most central and important truth in the universe is left out entirely. It leaves out of teaching the central aspect of all wisdom and all learning for we are told in Psalm 111:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." And in Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” RJ Rushdoony rightfully said: "To try to educate without reference to God is worse than teaching about the ocean while denying that it is made up of water."
The key to understanding is denied when we deny the God of the universe. To leave God out of the process of education is to deny that we are created responsible to God in all areas of life. If we are not responsible to God even in our work at school than we are denying there is a law of God and that man can transgress that law. And If man cannot transgress, then he is not a sinner, and so does not need Christ or the gospel.
The idea of a neutral-facts-only-value-free education is a myth. And it is not believed by the enemies of Christianity. King Nebuchadnezzar was not educating the young men of Judah because he thought education was neutral. He was doing it to indoctrinate these young men into the Chaldean culture and way of life. He wanted them to turn their allegiance from the kingdom of Judah to the kingdom of Babylon. Statists have always seen education as a tool to build allegiance to the state over against allegiance to church and family. Woodrow Wilson before he was president was a teacher of teachers. He once said “Our problem is not merely to help the students to adjust themselves to world life…[but] to make them as unlike their fathers as we can.”
Secular humanists and unitarians with their utopian view of history, have longed seen education as the key to moving the population beyond its belief in Christianity and therefore into a view where they can finally lead humanity into a great era of peace and equality. John Dewey is considered one of the fathers of modern American education. He was a committed secular humanist and an original signer of the Secular Humanist Manifesto. He praised the communist Soviet system of schooling this way: “The traditional customs and institutions of the peasant, his small tracts, his three-system farming, the influence of home and Church, all work automatically to create in him an individualistic ideology. In spite of the greater inclination of the city worker towards collectivism, even his social environment works adversely in many respects. Hence the great task of the school is to counteract and transform those domestic and neighborhood tendencies that are still so strong, even in a nominally collectivist régime.” He is saying that the family works against the loyalty to the state. Therefore, it is the work of the school to undermine that loyalty from family to the state. Dewey praised this system of education and worked to establish it in our nation. Dewey went on to say “It is obvious to any observer that in every western country the increase of importance of public schools has been at least coincident with a relaxation of older family ties.”
To drive this point all the way home, let me quote from CF Potter a close associate to Dewey and another signer of the humanist manifesto. He said “Humanism is not the abolition of religion but the beginning of real religion. By freeing religion of supernaturalism, it will release tremendous reserves of hitherto thwarted power. Man has waited too long for God to do what man ought to do himself and is fully capable of doing." Now here is the chilling part: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday schools, meeting for an hour once a week, teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”
Education is not neutral. The secular humanists who despise God and want to usurp his throne know it and admit it. It is time that the church do the same.