Whole Life Whole Bible Day 23

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Esther 4:16 (NASB)

16 “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

Daniel 3:17-18 (NASB)

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”


22: Peril and providence

Keeping his head as a young student enrolled in the university of Babylon, Daniel learned quickly when and how the line between integrity and compromise had to be drawn in the sands of exile. Likewise, for the young queen Esther, married to the most powerful king in the world (a man possessed of a violent temper and a poor track record in married life), there came a time when a stand had to be taken and her identity as one of God’s people declared.

Is it any easier for young Christians today, when parental restraint and church ties can so easily be traded in for the perceived freedom outside the Christian bubble? Negotiating that line between serving the Lord and serving Nebuchadnezzar — or Christ and Caesar — doesn’t get easier as life goes on. Workplaces inevitably have their own culture and set of values, where identity can be shaped every bit as overtly and covertly as it was for Daniel and Esther.

Yet, with Daniel, ‘they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent’. Even those plotting against him said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God’ (6:4–5). For all their jealousy, his detractors knew that he was not some ambitious young careerist, hacking his way up the administrative ladder. They had the wit to see that what made him tick was his central motivation to serve God.

Like other captives, Daniel and Esther had to wrestle with God’s purpose for their lives. Back home, the mandate to be a light to the nations, a kingdom of priests for the sake of the world (Exodus 19:6), could be a distant implication of their calling. Now conquered and carried off into the world beyond, the question was whether they would learn the lessons of exile and trust the God who went before them.

In exile — as in universities, workplaces and homes today — God’s people are not called to a leisure-time faith, which might affect their private life but have no impact on the public world. Esther and Daniel were, no doubt, both tempted to wonder if the reach of the God of Israel extended into the hostile world in which they lived. Yet, hundreds of miles from the temple in Jerusalem, they gained a grander vision of their God.

For further reflection and action

  1. Imagine: Daniel and his fellow exiles would probably have been marched as captives into the capital city of the Babylonian superpower through the imposing Ishtar Gate (14 metres high and 30 metres wide) and would have been confronted by a city more advanced in architecture and technology than any in the world at that time, with displays of military victory and imperial ideology at every turn. Think about your own context today and the places where you see evidence of superior might and values.

  2. How did the exile challenge and change Israel’s vision of her covenantal God?

  3. If you sense that your friends and colleagues are content in their lack of interest in God, or even resolved in their dismissal of him, remember that ‘Christ plays in ten thousand places’ (Gerard Manley Hopkins), and, as the psalmist says, ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?’ (Psalm 139:7). Ask God for eyes to see him at work in their lives, and for wisdom to pick up on conversations with the tact and boldness that Esther and Daniel possessed.

Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.