To Serve a Dictator

Daniel was a young, Middle Eastern refugee driven from his home by an oppressive foreign power. He was forcibly resettled in what is now modern-day Iraq, and made to serve the oppressive government powers there.

First, Daniel and his friends had to endure castration. Next, they enrolled in a master’s degree program in the occult—the governing philosophy and religion of the nation. They studied the process of consulting the demonic realm. The young men had to learn the lore of the gods of their new home—gods who demanded the offering of infants on the lap of a bronze idol superheated by a forge fire.

When Daniel's education came to a close, the ruler of the land pressed him into government politics and then threatened him with his life when Daniel’s fellow politicians failed to interpret a dream.

It was a busy four years for a twenty-year-old Jew in ancient Babylon.

In the time it takes most college students to figure out how to do their own laundry, Daniel had lost his parents and his home, lost his manhood, become an expert in the demonic occult, and risen to rulership in the most wicked nation the world has ever seen—Nebuchadnezzar makes Hitler look like a saint.

Daniel lived in a way that many modern evangelicals would condemn as severely compromised. But he never compromised on the things that mattered—he remained dedicated to living life in a way that always pointed toward God and not himself. He persevered in obeying only the True God, which meant following the words from the prophet Jeremiah:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
– Jeremiah 29:4–7

Daniel’s quiet and intensely-faithful service to a chain of wicked kings transformed the politics of the nation. He had power in government. Every time a new king took over, only a few months passed before Daniel moved back into the Prime Minister’s office. I suspect the remodeling staff eventually just left his furniture in the office. At any point Daniel could very well have forced his faith into the government and turned Babylon (and, later, Persia) into a God-fearing nation.

But God doesn’t work that way. God didn't call Daniel to political activism. God called Daniel to faithfully serve wicked rulers and to do his job to the best of his ability. So Daniel remained obedient to God, which meant faithful service to a violent king. Daniel prayed for the king. Daniel loved his king.

Daniel did everything in his power to serve the interests of pagan kings for eighty years.

And something interesting happened through that Jewish eunuch—God changed a nation. God moved through a life lived humbly and faithfully. By the time Darius took the throne, Daniel had made such an impact on the nation that the Persian king expressed deep faith in Daniel's God before having to be taught a lesson. In the quietness of servanthood, God changes people, companies, and governments. 

Because that’s how God moves.

Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
“May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For he is the living God
    and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
    his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
    he performs signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
– Daniel 6:25–28