Daniel or as King Nebuchadnezzar called him, Belteshazzar. One of the four friends banished to king’s service.
In his own country.
Have you read that before? I’ve read the book of Daniel many times over the years. Heard sermons preached about Daniel and his friends. I’m certain I have heard that before, but it was one of those things that had never popped out at me, until Sunday when we began a new sermon series at church.
Daniel was captive in his own land! Not only that but Nebuchadnezzar was given Judah by the Lord’s hand. Don’t believe me? Here it is in Daniel chapter 1.
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand…
It was God’s doing. There’s a lesson here for us, today, as believers in the 21st century. Daniel remained faithful to God while exiled in his own land. And so can we!
We, like Daniel, are born in our homeland country. We belong. We enjoy all that it offers.
A beautiful countryside, 4 seasons, delectable food and drink. Family, friendships and so much more….and yet we are captive in our own land too. Both, at the same time. We live, work and play here but we don’t (or shouldn’t) belonging to the culture if we’re followers of Christ. We’re foreigners and exiles in our own country. The term I like is a resident alien. So let’s go with it. What is a resident alien?
According to Investopedia, a resident alien is a foreign person who is a permanent resident of the country in which he or she resides, but does not have citizenship.
Yep! That’s us. We are citizens of our country, almost. But not really. All of the joys and comforts belong to us, or do they? Living a moral life isn’t the point. Many people live moral lives and have no relationship with the Savior. Many people look good and act right, but on the inside, they’re crumbling away. Lost. Alone. Hurting and in pain. Not understanding why this life is not fulfilling them. And then, in knowing the Lord, they’ve found the light switch. The darkness fades, the veil is lifted. They see what they’ve been missing.
Amazing really. One moment lost. The next moment found. Life changes. We no longer want to be moral for morality’s sake. We want to be moral in response to the Holy Spirit inside us. The Holy Spirit that compels us to that desire. Where rules and law existed before, albeit not very well, freedom exists now. Freedom within boundaries, and yet we are freer than we’ve ever been!
It’s almost unexplainable, isn’t it?
It’s at that moment, we realize we no longer belong. It’s that moment that we are outcast and yet we bask in the glory of Jesus. As we grow, we realize our citizenship is in Heaven. We long for that place. We long for home.
And oh y’all there are some days when I cannot wait to be home. I’m sure you feel the same way sometimes. We live in this strange land with customs, traditions, and laws that make no sense to us. It’s as if they’re speaking a different language. Somewhere in the deep recesses of our humanity, we can understand some of it; but we no longer belong in that place. We no longer belong by living for worldly pleasure or living for ourselves but there is no escape. We must live here. Among them.
Our light shines in the dark place. God uses us to show some of them a different way. A better way. A way to surrender human wants and desires. Surrendering those may bring momentary sorrow, but lasting joy. There’s nothing quite like it is there?
Then there are the times when this living in a foreign land thing is hard. Sometimes it’s downright painful and beyond our understanding. But, it shouldn’t surprise us. We are the foreigner. We are the strange one. Like Daniel, his friends and his country, we are rejected. But with God? We are not!
With God, we are chosen. Hand picked and precious. Diamonds, Ruby’s, and Gold that live for his glory! No, it’s not easy. As a precious gems or metal, we go through refinement. It’s not fun or easy but it’s necessary to separate the beauty from the ashes. The more refinement we experience the more beautiful we become.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. I Peter 2:4-5
And while we may not understand the things of this world, we can trust that God not only understands the things of this world, but he created this world and he ordained the things of this world. He has our refinement in mind. He has our greater good and his glory in mind. And like Daniel, we can remain faithful. We can remain faithful even when we fail and disappoint and sin. Because Jesus, the perfect sacrificial lamb, took our sin to the Cross of Calvary in our place we can be free from the sin that entangles us. We can run the race toward home.