When you look back on history, you’ll find good leaders and bad leaders. That doesn’t only refer to their leadership abilities, but their moral character as well. Israel and Judah had their fair shares of bad leaders. Many times, you see this phrase referring to the kings of Israel and Judah: “and he did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Now put yourself in the place of an Israelite. Your king is a wicked man. He is doing things that you KNOW are displeasing to God, but because of his position, there’s nothing you can do about it.
It’s a pretty helpless feeling. You know that you serve a holy God and that he sends judgment on those who disobey Him. Because of this, you know that you may be punished for his poor leadership! And that’s exactly what happened. Because of the wickedness of Israel and Judah and specifically of their respective kings, God did send judgment in the form of siege and captivity.
Why does God punish his people? He loves them, right? So why would He let them suffer at the hands of heathen empires? Ultimately, He wants them to return to worship Him. But how can they do that if they are inundated with pagan society?
That is precisely the situation in which Daniel found himself. The captivity that begins in 2 Kings 24 is most likely the time which Daniel and his friends were taken captive into Babylon. Yet, as much as the world tried to rid them of reverence for God, there were a small number who would not follow false gods and maintained their right view of God. Daniel’s testimony was so powerful that his leadership lasted across as many as eight kings and 60-70 years. That is some real staying power. And remember, those weren’t godly kings either. While it’s true that Nebuchanezzar, Darius, and Cyrus all acknowledged the power of Daniel’s God, they didn’t start out as worshippers of God. Yet Daniel served under them with a heart that was rightly aligned to God and a testimony that shone so brightly that nobody could miss it.
We live in a society when many of our leaders not only don’t worship God, but actively stand in defiant rebellion against Him. That should never be a reason for us to sacrifice our dedicated worship or a good testimony. We should follow Daniel’s lead and instead live in such a way that no one can help but see our relationship with God. In the end, Daniel’s leadership lasted until the people were allowed to start returning to Jerusalem. When they did, one of the first things to be established was the temple and in turn, correct worship. But what if Daniel hadn’t taken that first stand in Daniel 1:8? What if he had said, “It’s not that big of a deal”?
God can use even one person who is willing to stand up and say, “I will follow God no matter what.” Will you make that commitment? Leaders may not like it, but God will reward it.