God Is Still on the Throne
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God Is Still on the Throne

From Series: Faith Under Fire

Daniel 1:1-21  (ID: 3107)

The book of Daniel opens with Jerusalem besieged by Babylon and God’s people under the control of a pagan king. As Alistair Begg leads us through the conditions of Daniel’s captivity and Daniel’s response to those circumstances, we are reminded to keep our focus on the sovereignty of God. In the midst of our own persecution, we can look to the example of Christ and rest in God’s promises to us.


Sermon Transcript:

Daniel chapter 1. I’ll read it in your hearing:

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, ‘I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.’ Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, ‘Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.’ So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

“As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.”

This is the Word of the Lord.

[Audience: “Thanks be to God.”]

Thank you, for the Anglicans that are here. Wonderful. Wanted to give you a voice. That’s super. I am glad of that. I knew there would be some of the elect here. So…

Well, you can see that this is clearly more than history, but it is history. The way in which it begins: “In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim…” And it ends as “Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.” If Daniel was in his late teens or early twenties at the beginning of this book, by the time you get to the end he must have been in his eighties or in his nineties—a life of peculiar faithfulness lived in the service of God.

And so often the studies in the book of Daniel end up being just that kind of thing: the story of a great man, and the way it is taught is “He was a great man, and there’s an opportunity for you to be a great man or a great woman, so why don’t you buck up and try and be a good man and a good woman?”—which, of course, is a great idea and very necessary, but it’s not the reason that we have the book of Daniel. A lot of people have turned the book of Daniel into a gigantic comic book, and some of their explanations are as comical as any of the books that I’ve ever read. Fortunately, most of that comes after chapter 6, when I will be long on my way back to Ohio. And the rest of you can enjoy yourselves with the remainder of it.

But this morning and in these mornings, I want to tackle it in a different fashion, I think. I made certain scurrilous comments yesterday about the wars of independence. I hope you took them as humorous; they were. I regard it as a great privilege to have spent over half of my life as a resident of the land of the free and the home of the brave and for about 50 percent of that time now as a citizen of this country.

And for the first time since I’ve lived here—that is, and since the third of August 1983—I sense a significant shift in the mentality of the people of God. I use the phrase “the people of God” purposefully to distinguish between just the general populous of religious interest or perhaps church attendance, to designate those who would name the name of Christ, who would be committed to the Bible and committed to living for and following Jesus. And amongst that group of people—I wouldn’t want to overstate this, but I don’t want to understate it either—there is, I sense, a definite shift in their perspective, in our perspective. And it goes along these kind of lines: I’m not going to spend time on it, but people are beginning to say, “For the first time, I feel like we’re part of a minority.”

The message of Daniel is essentially this: that God is a sovereign and all-powerful God, and he is in control of the world and the nations of the world, and in spite of the present conditions, our gaze must be upon his kingship.

We are long removed now from the days of the Moral Majority. Jerry Falwell is gone, and Pat Robertson will be following him, I would imagine, at some point. And those heady days, if you regard them as such, are certainly in the rearview mirror. And the people of God now are living with the awareness of the fact that we are being “pushed back,” in the words of the psalmist, and, in the words of the psalmist, “about to fall.”[1] The encroachments of secularism and all that goes along with that—paganism—is beginning to take its toll. And I find that American Christians are now looking over the Atlantic Ocean in a way that they haven’t done previously. Routinely they would say, “What a wonderful place it is to visit,” and then they would ask and inquire about the emptiness of the churches, not least of all in my own homeland of Scotland. We had a team just come back from Scotland; our young people who were there said that it is the most secular place that they had ever visited in their entire lives. And they speak the truth.

But what is happening now is that American Christians are beginning to realize that we are starting to look, ourselves, a lot like Europe. And the notion of a persecuted church, which we have always understood theoretically and prayed for at a distance, now is beckoning ever closer. It’s finally beginning to dawn on American Christianity that the things that we’ve sung about, many of us since we were teenagers, are actually true. But we didn’t really know what we were on about when we sang,

This world is not my home,
I’m just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.[2]

I hadn’t a clue what that was about, and frankly, I wasn’t remotely interested in it. But I sang it. But now, along with you and many others, we are finally facing the fact that this broken, sinful world in which we live is not actually our home and that what the Bible says concerning the believer in the world is really true: that we are aliens and that we are strangers,[3] and so that when James or when Peter begin their letters in the New Testament as we have them, they begin them along those lines; they’re writing to those who are aliens and strangers in the world.

And I think for many years, because of the way in which American life has been formed, American Christians have said, “Oh, I wonder what that’s like, to be an alien and a stranger in the world.” The fact of the matter is it has always been true. It has just been clouded. It has been obscured. And the obscuring elements of popularity and of size are beginning to be stripped away. And in being stripped away, there is the awareness that when Jesus addresses his followers in John chapter 15, it had relevance beyond his immediate disciples. You remember what he said: “If the world hates you, [you] know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”[4] Those are dramatic words, and they’re not difficult to understand.

Now, we could spend time—and we’re not going to—seeking to devise a strategy for how to deal with our new lack of status. But what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at these chapters in Daniel, in which we find comfort and challenge by considering just how incredibly relevant the message of Daniel is for the church in every generation. And the message of Daniel is essentially this: that God is a sovereign and all-powerful God, and he is in control of the world and the nations of the world, and in spite of the present conditions, our gaze must be upon his kingship.

The Scene Is Set

In light of that, we’ll make our way through chapter 1, recognizing that in verses 1 and 2 we have the scene set for us.

The prevailing peace of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the invasion of the Babylonian forces—the arrival of a foreign power. Some of us are old enough to remember the scenes—I remember seeing them on the BBC—when the tanks, when the Russian tanks, rolled into Czechoslovakia. I think that was the first time that I, as a youth, had thought in those terms at all. Some of you, of course, are able to remember when the tanks in which you were rolled into other places of the world, and you can tell me about that afterwards. But for now, the notion is simply that the dramatic impact of the invasive forces crushed the people of God in those days. It had been prophesied by both Isaiah and by Jeremiah, and what had been prophesied became a reality.

And the extent of the victory of these Babylonian forces is revealed in the way in which the vessels of the house of God were snatched up and taken away—vessels both inanimate, as is referenced here, and animate, insofar as these young men are representative of the nobility of the time. And as a result of that, almost inevitably the people would be asking, “Where is God? Apparently, we have been called to serve God. We serve a powerful God, and now this powerful God of ours, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has apparently been defeated by the gods, with a small g, of the Babylonians. Is this God actually in control of his people? Is he a kind God? And if he is a kind God, why then would he allow our children to be snatched up and taken away? We didn’t raise our children,” they might have said to one another, “to be repatriated, to be dislocated, to be taken away from us and under the rule of a foreign power.”

Now, we may never have had occasion to say that, but many of our brothers and sisters in the world today have. And without being alarmist in any sense at all, the generations that come behind us and perhaps not too far removed from us may have occasion in this land to say similar things. And some of us this morning, because of the circumstances of our individual lives, may be asking similar questions.

You see, the symbol of God’s power and the symbol of God’s presence in these “vessels of the house of God” there in verse 2 have now been stored in the land of Shinar. That won’t mean much to you unless, as a result of yesterday morning, you did your homework, and you went back to Genesis chapter 11 that I told you about and the raising of the Tower of Babel, and when you did, you read these words: “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.”[5] Now, where did they take the vessels of the house of God? To the land of Shinar. Where was the land of Shinar? The land of Shinar was where the people said, “We do not need this God of Israel. We do not need him. We do not only not need him; we don’t want him. We will build our own empire. We will build our own kingdom.”[6] And you have, as we said yesterday morning, the great clash between the city of God and the city of man.

In passing, there’s something to note, something we must never forget, and that is that there is a spiritual conflict that runs through the heart of human history. A spiritual conflict. Indeed, ultimately all conflict, whether it is between a man and his wife, a father and his child, a nation and another nation, or the wars within local churches, at the heart of that, ultimately, we may trace it to the very beginnings of the fall of man in Genesis, and that that spiritual conflict, that sense of alienation, is the great alienation under which all other alienations are gathered.

Now, it is in that context that we read in verse 3 that “the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility” and so on, and to bring them into the context of this foreign land. And it is, we’re told quite dramatically in verse 2, “the Lord” who “gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.”

All the building of our proud empires, all the exaltation of ourselves, from a divine perspective is actually scant.

Now, you don’t want to miss that; it’s the first of three “the Lord gaves,” and I’ll give you the other two in a moment. But this is the first of them: “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.” Into whose hand? Into the hand of the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Now, you see, the people, when they read this letter, they would say, “Now, wait a minute. How did this happen? This happened because a more powerful force exercised a more effective military strategy, came against us, and defeated us.” Yes, on the human plane that is absolutely right.

But what do we know? We know that God is the creator of everyone and everything, that nothing happens except through him and by him and according to his will. And so Daniel wants the people who are in exile to know that in actual fact, behind the invading forces of Babylon was the hand of God itself, so that the people would realize that in actual fact, although everything seemed out of control, it wasn’t out of control; so that the people might realize that the same God who was in charge of their blessing was the God who actually had overruled the fact of their besiegement—that he was in control, if you like, of the defeat of his own city and of the exile of his own people. It cannot be otherwise. He sets them up, he brings them down.[7]

Says Isaiah 40, “What are the nations? They are as nothing to God. They are as the fine dust in the battle.”[8] When you used to buy five pounds of potatoes—when I was a boy in Scotland, and you want to get your four or five pounds as a Scotsman—no potatoes will be left behind. No, no! Not if you’re shopping for my mom, they won’t. No, they will not be left behind. But I never bothered about the dust. I never paid any attention to the dust. There was always dust left in the balance.

And all the building of our proud empires, all the exaltation of ourselves, from a divine perspective is actually scant. And they need to know this. And if we’re wondering why is it that God would allow such a thing to happen, you find the answer in the Bible, but you find it later on in the book of Daniel. When Daniel himself prays—and this is in chapter 9, when, of course, you will all be reading on your own later on. And in chapter 9 he prays to God, and he says,

To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, [and] our princes, … to our fathers, because we[’ve] sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and [the] oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed [the word that he has spoken].[9]

God is working his purpose out, albeit in mysterious ways.

A Real Dilemma, a Bold Decision

Now, the family members who were still left back in Judah would inevitably have had occasion to wonder whether these youths, particularly the cream of the crop that had been taken from them, would actually be able to stand or whether they would fall. And when we read on, we discover that these individuals, championed particularly by Daniel, are faced by a real dilemma, and they are prepared to make a bold decision.

This is familiar material to us, and we don’t need to delay on it. But you will notice that the strategy that the king commanded for Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, was a pretty skillful one, wasn’t it? “I want you to take charge of these characters,” he says. “We’ve chosen them very purposefully. We believe that we can let these people of Judah know that we really are triumphant over them, we’ve taken the best from them, and we have, first of all, changed their location.” They were no longer in the place of familiarity. They were no longer in the realm where the routine of their day gave them opportunity for religious expression. And it may well be, of course, that just the change of scene in itself will be enough to dampen their zeal and silence their tongues and shut down their praise and cause them to give up praying to this God. After all, where is he? If he was really this great and powerful God, surely they would still be back with their friends and their family, going to church as usual. And here they are. Look at this mess! Maybe the change of location will be enough for them.

Let’s be honest: the change of location is enough for some of us, isn’t it? We get out of our usual little routine, our favorite little place, our favorite little gathering, we find out just how much we have a love for God, a love for his Word, a love for his people.

“Oh no, we don’t go.”

“Why?”

“We’re on vacation.”

“Oh, really? God’s on vacation as well, is he? And there are no people of God in Devon? There are no people of God in Maine? There are no people of God in wherever it is?”

“Oh no, we just like to go where we go.”

I understand that. Could a change of location silence your tongue, your praise? Could it do it for these fellows? No.

“How about we change their education? Give them a new language? Give them a new view of the world? Retrain their minds? Disengage them from the conviction that they are the product of God’s creative handiwork?” That’s what they did.

Changed their diet. And it’s always… I can’t believe how many diets people get out of the Bible now, as well. And I say it with the greatest respect, but, I mean, it really is quite incredible, the people who use this as a model. You know, this is how it goes: “Daniel was a great guy. He didn’t drink wine, he wasn’t a fat pig, and he didn’t have sex, ’cause he was a eunuch. And why don’t you go out and just be like him?” No, I don’t like that idea at all! And I’m not gonna say for one reason more than another, but I’m just gonna tell you, I don’t like that idea at all. That clearly is not the story.

But that’s often the story: change of diet. And they set before them the wine and the choice foods. They weren’t giving him a special deal. The rest of the people wouldn’t have had the access to this. But no, they realized that the last threads that tied them to their own people needed to be cut. And if you move amongst Hasidic Jews—there are a large number of them in Cleveland—you know that these external mechanisms are key and crucial to their identity, and understandably so. Therefore, if you can cut that cord, you have made a significant inroads into disengaging them from the very convictions which underpin their entire existence.

New place, new school, new diet, new names. They all had beautiful Hebrew names. “Let’s change their names. What we’ll do is we’ll give them the names of Babylonian gods.” And that’s exactly what they did. “If we can change their identity with their name, perhaps, as a result of subtle coercion, we will be able to disengage them completely.”

Now, I’m going to resist every temptation to go down rabbit trails. I can hear them all in the back of my head just now—to go off down a whole education thing and the whole thing. You’re sensible people. You can work this out for yourself.

Presumably there were people in this context who were absorbed as a result of the coercion. There were people who said, “You know, there’s no reason to fight this. We’re a long way from home. You know, things are different. Times are changing. You know, convictions come, convictions go. I mean, we don’t really need to hold so firmly to this, do we? I mean, that doesn’t really matter that much, does it?” and so on. They are alive and well in every generation, not least of all in contemporary evangelicalism.

Incidentally, what we’re about to give up in the moral realm we already gave up in the theological realm at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. “Oh, culture doesn’t like this? Culture doesn’t like the idea of a virgin birth? Well, we can get rid of the virgin birth. A secular, intelligent culture doesn’t like the idea of a resurrected Christ? That’s fine, we can deal with that as well,” and so on. Where are we now? “Oh, it doesn’t like the idea of marriage being between one man and one woman solely and singly and only? Oh, we can deal with that as well.” And doubtless there were those who were absorbed.

There probably were some who just became freedom fighters. We haven’t learned about them, but they were just cantankerous individuals, and they spent all of their time bemoaning and decrying the fact that they were living in a state of oppression.

But here, you see, these individuals are quite remarkable. They couldn’t prevent their capture. They couldn’t prevent their change of name. They couldn’t prevent the new school that they were sent to. But they were not about to take part indirectly in the worship of Babylonian deities by eating the food that would inevitably have first been offered to the gods of Babylon before it was served to them. And they said, “This is the point at which we can go no further. We are not going to do this.”

It was a dangerous decision, as comes out when he puts it to the chief of the eunuchs, who—and it comes across quite memorably here when he says, “Well, thank you for sharing that with me, Daniel,” at the end of verse 10, “but I’m not sure it’s a great idea, because you would endanger my head with the king.” I think everybody got the point very clearly: “The king really is concerned about this, and if you’re asking for me to go and address him on your behalf, then that would be a pretty strong no”—and despite the fact that he had been given favor.

And so Daniel said to his friends, “Oh well! We tried it. That’s it. We’ll just let it go. We’ll just get the food the same.” But in actual fact, Daniel then said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over them, “Hey, why don’t you give us a test for ten days?” I love his initiative here. I love the fact that he’s not prepared to take no for an answer. “Well, I don’t think I’d like to get my head chopped off for this.” “Well, that’s okay. Well, I’ll talk to someone else.” So he talks to the other fellow.

And here we come to our second “gave.” Because in verse 9, “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.” So there was an opportunity there that he was then able to engage, because presumably the fellow who reported to the chief of the stewards is not a nut, we’ve got to assume—so that if the chief of the stewards could get his head chopped off, then presumably this fellow might end up in the same position. And yet it happens. Why? Because God gave favor.

Now, here again, you see, the people are reading this book. And they’re now learning something: they’re learning that in a foreign land where the people of God were among the minority—where, in this foreign land, in Psalm 137 terms, they had hung their harps (or hanged their harps) up on the willow trees, saying to one another, “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.[10] We look back and we remember the good old days.” And some of us, that’s exactly where we are. The closer you get to death, it seems to me almost inevitable: “How can I sound so much like my grandfather?” Well, because you became a grandfather, for goodness’ sake! Don’t you find yourself saying, “There’s no way in the world that my children or grandchildren are going to be able to deal with this”? Well, what are you talking about? You think God is shutting everything down with your demise? That it stops when you go? That I really am the center of the universe? No, “We hung our harps up when we realized, when we remembered Zion and all the good stuff. And now look at us! We have no good stuff!” And this letter comes, this book comes, to tell them that here in a foreign land, in the same way that God granted favor to Joseph with the jailer,[11] so he granted favor to his servant here.

And the ten-day test worked out really well. Because instead of losing weight, apparently they gained weight—which makes me smile when I think about The Daniel Diet. But anyway, at the end of ten days, it was seen that they were fatter than they were when they started. I don’t know that that is the normal strategy. I don’t know; I didn’t read it. I might have missed something. But apparently not.

The danger was that they looked gaunt, they looked withdrawn, as a result of what they were going to eat. And the miracle is that although that would have been the normal physical eventuality, in actual fact, the reverse was the case, so that when they appear at the end of the ten days, they look fitter and more vibrant than any of the rest of the characters. In other words, it’s a miracle! It’s a miracle! Ten days is not very long. It’s a dramatic intervention on the part of God. The same God who intervened to grant them favor has intervened in the immediacy of their circumstances.

Now, let me say, as I move to my final observation, that the conviction that gave rise to this resolution on the part of Daniel is not, I think we would agree, a conviction that would be hit upon in the immediacy of the challenge. In other words, the intellectual, moral, theological response of Daniel has its roots, presumably, in the family of Daniel, in the beginning and the ending of the day, when, under the tutelage of his parents, they would have said together, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength. And these things that I give you today are to be upon your hearts, and you shall teach them to your children when you walk along the road, and when you lie down, and when you get up. You shall bind them around your wrists and wrap them around your forehead, so that every movement of your body says again and again, ‘The Lord, he is God.’”[12] That is how Daniel was able to go into an environment so alien—to have his name changed, his education changed, his everything changed, save for his diet—and to come out as he came out. It is a wonder of God’s dealings.

Verse 17: “As for these four youths,” here’s our third “God gave”: “God gave them…” First “God gave,” verse 2: God gave Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Second “God gave,” verse 9: God gave favor to his servants in that environment. Thirdly, God then “gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had [the] understanding in all visions and dreams.” In other words, God gave to Daniel a supernatural ability into the realm of knowledge, as we see in the chapters that follow.

And when they are all brought in at the end of the three years—“at the end of the time,” which, you will remember from earlier, was three years—and “the king … commanded that they should be brought in,” and “the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them,” and at the top of the class were these boys, and they stood before the king, and he found that they were absolutely top-notch.

You can imagine all of the bureaucrats and the politicians and the servants of the king all sitting around the big table at the interview process: “Man, I’m sure you agree, Nebuchadnezzar, we came up with a wonderful plan, didn’t we? I mean, look at these boys. We gave them new names, we’ve schooled them, and they’re a bright group,” and so on, “and look how wonderfully they’ve come out.” But what they didn’t know and what they couldn’t know was that God was in control. It was as a result of who God is. It was a result of what God was doing, that God’s name was glorified and his purpose was fulfilled and his kingdom was extended. And whether it is sixth century BC in Babylon or twenty-first century AD in America,

God is still on the throne,
And he will remember his own;
[And] though trials may press us and burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone;
[For] God is still on the throne,
[And he will remember] his own.
[And] his promise is true, he will not forget you,
[For] God is still on the throne.[13]

He is the God who gives. He is the God who gave to the rebellious forebearers of humanity coverings for their nakedness.[14] He is the God who gave an ark so that Noah and his family might be rescued and redeemed. He is the God who has given all the way. And ultimately, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…”[15] And in the same way that Daniel went down into Babylon, Jesus came down into time. Daniel was taken away into an alien world. Jesus came from the realm of glory into an alien environment of our world. Daniel did the Father’s will in obedience; Jesus did the Father’s will in obedience. Daniel, as a result of his obedience, was exalted to a place of great authority in an alien kingdom; Jesus exalted to the place where every knee will one day bow. And the Israelites in exile who heard the story about Daniel and his friends received all the comfort they required and all the encouragement that they needed to be faithful. God had not been conquered by the Babylonian deity; therefore, although it was tough going, they could rest in God’s purposes.

Jesus came from the realm of glory into the alien environment of our world. He did the Father’s will in obedience, and he was exalted to the place where every knee will one day bow.

Let me ask you: How then are we to handle the onset of persecution? How then will we handle the loss of our job on account of our Christian faith? How then will we handle the closing down of public worship in the continental United States? Will we hang our harps? I’m worried that some of us have already begun to do so, believing that somehow or another all the good stuff is in the rearview mirror, forgetting that the same God who gave Jehoiakim into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and gave favor to his servants in an alien world is the same God who has provided for us he who is Lord and Savior and King.

As I was reading this over this morning, my mind went… Because I saw his name the other day; I can’t remember what I was reading. But anyway, I saw the name of Lord Reith. And Lord Reith was the founder of the British Broadcasting Corporation. And he was a godly man from the Highlands of Scotland. And as the BBC came of age and began to embrace much of the secularism of the United Kingdom—which is going back now into the ’60s, maybe the early ’70s—it’s recorded in one of the biographies that one of the young producers at the BBC, in a large corporate meeting, stood up and said to the general director of the BBC, Lord Reith, he said, “You know, the world is changing, and the nation is changing, and we really do not, sir, need this religious programming on the BBC. People are no longer interested in it, and the BBC now is beginning to establish itself and show that really we have the nerve of the nation and the church is pretty well obsolete.” And Lord Reith, who I think was 6′3″ or 6′4″, apparently stood up and said, “Young man, take your seat. The church will stand at the grave of the BBC.” And you know what? The church will stand at the grave of the BBC. And what did Jesus say… And CNN, and Fox as well!

What did Jesus say to his followers in his day? “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”[16] You need not be in any doubt about this—that this is not a story about “Pull your socks up, you can be a good guy like Daniel”; this is a story about the fact that when everything seems to have gone completely pear-shaped, God is sovereign over the affairs of time.

Go out and enjoy the beauty of his creation. Rest in the wonder of his providence. Trust unreservedly in his desire and design for his people. And we’ll have occasion to be thankful.

Father, we bless you now for the privilege of these moments and commit ourselves afresh to you. In Christ’s name. Amen.


[1] Psalm 118:13 (NIV).

[2] Albert E. Brumley, “This World Is Not My Home” (1965).

[3] See 1 Peter 2:11.

[4] John 15:18–19 (ESV).

[5] Genesis 11:1–2 (ESV).

[6] Genesis 11:4 (paraphrased).

[7] See Daniel 2:21.

[8] Isaiah 40:15 (paraphrased).

[9] Daniel 9:8–12 (ESV).

[10] See Psalm 137:1–2.

[11] See Genesis 39:21.

[12] Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (paraphrased).

[13] Kittie L. Suffield, “God Is Still on the Throne” (1929).

[14] See Genesis 3:21.

[15] John 3:16 (KJV).

[16] Luke 12:32 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.