In the past, Veteran's Day has always been a day of rejoicing over American freedoms, but increasingly for many it has become a day of pain, because the very freedoms which have been purchased with the toil, tears and even lives of our armed forces are increasingly being robbed from us during a time of peace. And it's a tragedy. America was once described as a theocracy - a nation under God's rule. "One nation under God." But this theocracy has been coming under increasing attack. Verse 1 describes a physical attack against Jerusalem, but if you look carefully at the words of verses 1-2 you will find that there was something spiritual going on. It was a war between the gods of Babylon and the God of Israel. And the war started long before this phsycial battle. The very fact that verse 2 begins with God handing Judah over to Babylon shows that Judah had been successfully paganized from within long before any force was used.
Satan's Strategy For Victory In America
Step 1: Paganize Politics
National paganization (v. 1a)
Israel was besieged by Babylon spiritually long before Bablyon actually besieged them physically
How did this come about? If you read 2 Kings and the relevant passages in Jeremiah, you will discover that it came about in the same way that the spiritual siege of America has happened. There were many generations of gradual slipping, but the first stages happened fast. Within a month of the godly Josiah's ungodly son coming to the throne. It involved two of the children of one of the most righteous kings, educated and eroded by humanistic education. It involved a populace which cared more about what the king promised than what his character was like. It involved religious pluralism. In fact, every spiritual attack that Babylon launched in verses 1-8 is hinted at as already having occured nationally in verse 1 - willingly entered into.
Look at the first four words: "In the third year..." When you take the three month reign of his brother into account, you find that within three years of good king Josiah's reign, the people had become so corrupt that God judged Judah. It wasn't just the king. We are talking about Judah being judged. Within merely one modern presidential term, Judah's state degenerated that badly. We are talking about fast.
Now if you know Israelite history, you should find this absolutely remarkable. Jehoiakim's dad was one of the best kings of Judah, and he was used by God to bring about one of the most famous and thorough of Judah's national Reformations. His name was Josiah. 2 Kings 23 says of Josiah, "Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him." Jehoiakim's dad was the best statesman Judah had had in many, many years. Yet there was not the righteous moral base in society to resist Josiah's son Jehoiakim when he killed pastors, cut up Bibles and promoted paganism. Can you see why we ought not to set all our hope in politics. Politics is not our saviour. Our founding Fathers said that our Republic would not stand long without a righteous citizenry.
What do we find today? We find a populace which a few years ago loved Ronald Reagan's moral and cultural revolution that has now been willing to tolerate a scandalous president. The exit polls indicated that a majority of those who voted for President Clinton believed that he was guilty of Whitewater charges, yet they voted for him anyway. Apparently what a candidate promises to deliver is more important to our country than the moral principles he stands for. Nothing has changed. On Veteran's day of all days it is important that we treasure our liberty more than we treasure our comfort. Samuel Adams blasted citizens who complained about King George but found it too costly to do anything about it. He said,
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
Edward Bushell said, "My liberty is not for sale." But apparently the liberty of many today is.
And to be fair to America, I think the media makes it hard for people to really know the issues. And to be fair to Israel, it was not at first obvious how bad Jehoiakim was. Look at verse 1 and notice the first four letters of the name *"ehoiakim". It is from the word Jehovah. And the name means, Jehovah sets up. That may not seem particularly remarkable to you until you realize that this was not his name until Egypt set him on the throne. Before he came to the throne, his name was Eliakim, which means God sets up. There was a reason why he changed it to Jehoiakim which means, Jehovah sets up. His brother had ruled for three months before he came to the throne and had worshipped a foreign god; a foreign el, and had begun changing his dad's godly policies and implementing policies of foreign gods. The populace didn't like that too well. They were used to Josiah's godly reforms. So Eliakim had a sudden change of heart. He now stood for family values, and used the name change to identify with the popular policies of Josiah. Instead of just saying "God sets up," he changed his name to "Jehovah sets up." "Yeah, I'm a man of God." It's amazing how relevant the Scripture is!
One of the cleverest ways of paganizing politics is by the misuse of Biblical language or by appealing to God. The pagan Jewish leaders did it all the time. They did their Baal worship in the name of Jehovah. Child sacrifice was done in the name of Jehovah, just as President Clinton defended partial birth abortion in the name of God. It makes me sick when politicians who support homosexuality and baby murder can have the gall to claim they are supporting traditional family values. May God strike them! What makes me even sicker is that Christians believe these politicians. Now if you think my words are harsh, let me put them in context so that you can see what is at stake:
My father immigrated from Germany during Hitler's time and told us that most Christians thought Hitler was pro-God, pro-church and pro- family values. With hindsight we might wonder how anyone could be so foolish as to think that. But he knew how to use the language. Even when he began his policy of getting rid of the Jews, he prefaced it with propaganda to make people fear the Jews as criminals, and then used Biblical language to try to justify getting rid of criminal elements. At one point he said, "The Jews have made no contribution to human culture and in crushing them I am doing the will of the Lord."1 And by far the majority of evangelicals supported Hitler just as a majority of evangelicals have supported President Clinton.
Another way in which politics has been paganized has been to either use or create emergencies which require more power on the part of the government. To see this you need to understand the background of verse 1. Why did Babylon besiege Judah? Kings & Jeremiah tell us that Jehoiakim was playing Egypt off against Babylon in order to promote his own pagan agenda. He justified it to the people by appealing to danger and necessity. Jehoiakim did that almost as soon as he came to office. He justified an alliance with Egypt and all the Biblical compromises involved, by making the people fear Babylon. C. S. Lewis said, "'Useful,' and 'necessity' was always 'the tyrants plea.'"2 You are going to see our government come up with more and more emergencies and necessities for removing our freedoms. If they can't find more Waco and Ruby Ridge situations, they will create emergencies to justify confiscating weapons, searches of homes, forced education and other infringements of the Constitution. They will argue that the situations make it necessary. Have you noticed how every time a person dies of a gun shot wound, there is a media frenzy on why good citizens should be protected by having the government remove guns from their homes? There are no more accidents now than there were years ago, but they are using these thngs to create a sense of emergency so that violations of the second ammendment will not be minded. Violence in schools has been the most recent reason why Congress sought to pass a bill allowing road blocks and searches of vehicles anywhere within 1/4 block of a school and the confiscation of all weapons found. Can you imagine what would happen if they set up road blocks within 1/4 of every school in the nation. We would have martial law. It was an emergency language used to justify the removal of Biblical rights. They don't need to do that. They can confiscate weapons on school property where the problems have occured. They don't need to do it in the streets a quarter block from the schools. But that wouldn't suit their purposes.
Thomas Jefferson said, "It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." And so the first step of Satan is to paganize politics. And though Israel's paganization is clearly seen in Kings, Chronicles and Jeremiah, each of these extra subpoints I have added to your outline is hinted at in verse 1 as well.
International paganization (v. 1b)
But Satan doesn't just want one nation. His goal has always been a one world government. That has been the drive behind Babylon and before Babylon, it drove other empires. Psalm 2 gives Satan's general strategy. It is to have all the governments of the world cast off the laws of Christ. It is not by accident that verse 2 describes Babylon as "the land of Shinar." A Jew who read those odd words would immediately think of Genesis where this is a description of the land of the tower of Babel. Daniel is making a statement with that language indicating that Nebechudnezzar's drive towards a one world pagan government was a religious solve drive. When our country comes under United Nations control, it is coming under pagan control. We should not be surprised that the United Nations over the past several years has given weapons, food and assistance to communists and has blockaded Bibles and weapons from Christians. Satan has always had a tower of Babel strategy in mind - uniting all mankind under one government. But don't get discouraged. Remember what happened to the first tower of Babel. Remember what happend to this empire of Babylon. God is in control and He makes sure that all humanism falters and eventually falls.
Now I'm not going to go any further under point I, but I do want to end this morning with some of the application under point II.
Satan has always gone after the power centers (cf. Psalm 2)
Learning From Our Mistakes: A Godly Long Term Plan For Restoring Theocracy In America
God's Rule In The State (v. 1)
Don't place undo confidence in politics
We can learn from our mistakes. Next week we will look at the mistakes and the corrections that should be made in the areas of church and family. But let's learn from the mistakes we have made in the area of politics. The first lesson is to stop placing undo confidence in politics. There is nothing wrong with politics, but it is not a long term fix, and it is certainly not our savior. We should see the limited function that it has. And both left wing evangelicals and right wing evangelicals need to learn this lesson that state is not god. Nebuchadnezzar thought it was. Verse 2 says that he carried the articles of God "into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god." The reference to the land of Shinar is a deliberate allusion to the land where the tower of Bable of Genesis was first built. And Babylon was the inheritor of that belief that the head of state was the man who united the gods with the citizens. The mention of Nebuchadnezzars desire to subject everything to the gods was self-conscious. Politics is just as religious today, but people give the illusion of being non-religious. You've heard it. "Let's keep religion out of politics!" Nonesense. Without the religion of God in politics you automatically will have the religion of power and the religion of humanism in politics. And there are many ways in which Christians have gotten deceived into treating government as if it was Savior.
Every time a natural disaster comes, people automatically looked to the state to fix it. On Tuesday as our family fasted and prayed we were reading through the book, The Light and the Glory, by Peter Marshall. And he showed how early America saw these disasters as from God's hand, and humbled themselves before him. They saw God in everything. We see the state in everything. If there is a medical crisis, well of course, who else could fix it except for the federal government. Its the biggest power most American's know.
I am a right wing evangelical and part of our belief is a radically limited government. Yet ironically, we can get so frustrated with the slowness of our cause that we sometimes look to government as the only solution to end liberal government. We fall into the very trap of the liberals. It is perhaps more subtle, but it is very easy for us to begin putting all of our hopes in a candidate, or party or political machinery, and lose sight of the fact that God rules in the affairs of men, and without His help, all of our efforts are doomed. God may use politics to remove liberal Supreme Court Justices from the bench. Daniel later shows a rather primitive impeachment process - throwing men to the lions. But our hope is not in a politician, but only in God our Savior. Politics is a tool. When we see it that way it frees us up to be principled rather than pragmatic in our politics.
I have also talked to too many left wing evangelicals in Omaha who think it is the government's role to provide cradle to grave service. I have had people get viscious with me for suggesting that we ought to privatize Social Security, or that government ought to get out of education. And when I ask them to defend their views from the Bible, they say they don't need to. I have had several debates with Christian pastors about welfare and was amazed that they want to save federal welfare; federal housing projects; federal food relief and numerous other programs and again could not justify ut from scriptures. Noah Webster once said, "The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis for all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, inustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or nelgecting the precepts contained in the Bible." Have we had more problems or less problems since the government rejected the Biblical limits and opted for the Great Experiment and the Great Welfare Society? Statistics show that we have increased the problems we tried to solve. And that has been true of hundreds of socialistic answers. I gave City Hall statistics to show that government sex education has not solved the problems of VD, teen age pregnacies and abortions. Even the Planned Parenthood statistics shows that those problems have grown in proportion to the amount of sex education given. This shows you how religiously fanatical socialists are. They continue to look to the government for more and more of its failed solutions. It's insanity. We must go back to ruling America under God's law. If we do not, we will end up judged just as surely as Judah in verse 1 and Babylon in a later chapter of Daniel.
But it's not enough to quote Scripture out of context or invoke thename of God. Jesse Jackson is skilled at promoting humanism in the language of the Bible, as is our White House. Sometimes both the political right and the political left will invoke God's name to justify what they are doing, but we need to really check out the Scriptures. Invoking God's name in politics is not enough. Jehoiakim did that as cleverly as any modern poltician. More evil has been done in the name of God than I care to think about. In the last four years we have seen God's name invoked and God's blessing assured upon every sort of evil. We need to study the issues behind the rhetoric, and not get confused by what the newspapers print. But don't place too much confidence in politics. Josiah accomplished a great deal in the 31 years he was in office, and I do not want to minimize the value of that at all. Praise God for Josiah's reforms. But what Josiah was able to accomplish in 31 years, Jehoiakim undid in three years, according to verse one. That's the reality. Politics is not the final solution and never will be. It must be coupled with evangelism and discipleship.
Don't give up on politics
But neither should we give up on politics. Look at what Josiah was able to accomplish, and look at what happened when the reigns of government were turned over to the unbeliever Jehoiakim. People sometimes say that they won't be involved in politics because politics is dirty. But so is everything else. Farming is dirty, business is dirty, ministry is dirty because there are sinners in this world. If Christians don't get involved, all of those areas will just get dirtier. God expects us to be salt and light just as Daniel, Shadrack, Meshek and Abednego were. We can make a difference. We will be seeing later in the book that these men made a phenomenal difference in this pagan nation. Think of the difference that Phyliss Schlaffley has made. Here is a woman who almost single handedly defeated ERA (the Equal Rights Ammendment). Think of Mel & Norma Gabler who began as a husband and wife team critiquing text books and were finally considered the most powerful critics of education by the NEA. Of course, they had followers. We can't do things alone. We can't think, "Let George do it," or it won't get done. Don't give up on politics.
Edmund Burke once said, "The fate of good men who refuse to be involved in government is to be ruled by evil men." So we have no reason to fatalistically give up on the state as if it was Satan's. This whole book gives us confidence in God's sovereignty over the state. And Daniel's example shows us that we can make a huge difference even in a pagan state. Get involved. I'm sure there are plenty of Republicans who would love for you to get involved. I'm sure the US tax payers party would love for you to get involved in their conversation in Lincoln on the 16th. There are even some Daniels who have gone into the lion's den of the Democratic party. But as the Lord leads, get involved.
Realize and capitalize upon the fact that pagan politics is always self-defeating
National (v. 1a)
Thirdly, realize that pagan politics is always self-defeating. And I find this point so encouraging! Things don't run well in pagan governments. God ensures that this is the case. This is a universal truth. Russia and China would not have survived as long as they have without our government loans, our cheap grain and our exported technology. If Western governments were not propping up Communist Angola, free Angola would get along quite well. Communism would fall without help from the West. And the same was true of both Judah and Babylon. Both countries eventually collapsed because of the weight of bureacratic paganism. You may fear big government which uses money to buy votes and to promote evil. They are getting away with it now, but it wouldn't take much to dry up government's ability to do those things. Think about abortion for example. Planned Parenthood and its axilliary organizations are in many ways dependant upon the government. This makes them powerful now, but it also makes them very dependant on that money. How quickly could that money be taken away? When you consider the amount of money that the US had to pour into one earthquake a handful of Hurricanes, one flood and one drought, you can calculate that if God just raised the disasters a few decibles and threw in a war or two, the government would not have the money to support such organizations as Planned Parenthood. Like the tower of Babel, they can collapse overnight. In the book of Esther, wicked Hamaan was hung on the very gallows he had erected for Mordecai. And the Bible assures us that Lenin's famous saying will actually be reversed. Remember that Lenin said that they would hang the capitalists with the very rope the capitalists sell them. But the Bible assures us that all humanism will hang on its own rope by its own doing.
Dan Pilla has shown how the IRS is not an invincible foe. They can make you live through a bureacratic nightmare, and we should do what we can to avoid that. I prefer to pay the IRS too much than to be audited. But bureacracy can be a nightmare for the IRS. They can be made to follow so many of their own bureacratic rules that it is not worth it. Any time poltics is paganized, you can be guaranteed that there will be trouble, turmoil and eventual overthrow. And we can take comfort in that. Humanism crumbles under its own weight.
International (v. 1b)
(Contrast this with the permanence of Christ's kingdom in 2:44; 7:14,18,27; etc.)
The contrast that the book of Daniel gives between the many nations which pass away in this book and the kingdom of Christ which continues to grow and lasts forever, is a contrast that gives us hope and confidence to plan for the long haul. Jeremiah's message to these exiles was to take dominion in Babylon and plan for the long haul. (Jer 29) But let me close by reading two examples in Daniel that exhort us to do the same. Turn over to 2:44. "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and thekingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." Look at 7:13-14: "I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days," [notice that this is Christ's ascension to heaven, not His coming back from heaven to earth. He came to the Ancient of Days] "and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed." Jesus ascended to His throne to set up theocracies all over the world; every kingdom serving Him. And Jesus is not a failure. This whole book gives us confidence that while Satan's conspiracies will all fail, Christ's plans for discipling the nations will not.
And even while pagan governments are in control, we can make a huge difference. I don't want you to get discouraged over the outcome of the past election. God is still on the throne, and he can enable your efforts to make a difference. Everett Hale once said,"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do and, with the help of God, I will do!" May that be your testimony in the face of theocracy under attack. Amen.
Lewis, God in the Dock, "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment," "On Punishment: A Replay to Criticism," (1954), para. 10, p. 300. ↩