Here we are again… the leader of the country demanding the suspension of an athlete for not worshipping a national symbol.
Let’s look at a historical story that may provide insight into our times. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. Several Jewish youth were taken from Jerusalem and brought to Babylon to serve the Babylonians. In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as king in Babylon, God sent him a dream of a great statue made of various metals and substances. The king was troubled until one of the Jewish youth who had been captured in the Jerusalem raid, told the king the dream and its meaning as revealed by God. The statue was a symbol for the future of nations down to the end of time. The head of gold represented Babylon, the arms of silver represented Medo-Persia which was to follow, the hips of bronze was to represent Greece, the legs of iron was to represent Rome and the feet of iron and clay to represent the divided nations of Europe that would follow the Roman empire. At that time a stone cut without hands would strike the feet of the statue, causing it all to crumble and be blown away. In the interpretation given by the Angel to Daniel, the stone represented God’s kingdom being set up at the end of earth’s history.
Nebuchadnezzar liked that he was the head of gold. In fact, he decided to edit the symbol sent by God and had a statue – made entirely of gold – built on the plain of Shinar. Rather than understanding and this statue symbol was meant to represent kingdoms until the end of time and the eventual return of Jesus to set up a kingdom that will end all oppression, Nebuchadnezzer made the statue entirely of gold, suggesting he could set Babylon up as the eternal kingdom — this was his nationalistic statement of pride. Worse, he demanded all of his subjects come out and pay homage to the statue. Most paid homage. A few protested because they understood that forced homage to something they did not believe represented them constituted idolatry. The king demanded their death in a firey furnace for refusing to pay homage to this earthly symbol of power… a symbol that was originally given by God, but was twisted by the king to serve his own selfish purposes. However, the king did not win. Those who chose to go along with the King’s edicts did not win. They all were being good citizens in the eyes of much of the nation. They were respecting the symbol of the kingdom. But in the end, the protesters did not die from the king’s death penalty. And eventually, the kingdom of Bablyon was overthrown by the Medes and the Persians as fortold by God.
So here we are in the toenails of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue. Babylon has gone as the world power, as has Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome… the divided nations of the feet is where/when we live. And again, an earthly power is demanding people pay homage to an earthly symbol of that power. Sure, the symbol was created to represent an end of oppression, it was to be a symbol of freedom… but some have twisted its meaning to mean freedom from oppression only for some. There are those who have been disenfranchised — their own family forcibly taken from their lands in generations past like the Jewish youth in Nebuchadnezzar’s story. They have the boldness to protest forced homage to a symbol which does little to represent their freedom from oppression, and as a result, they are threatened by the leader of the nation… told they should be fired (not in a firey furnace, but the symbolism remains apropos). This leader and many of his followers have twisted the true meaning of the symbol to mean the opposite of what it is supposed to mean. It is supposed to be freedom for all. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, etc. By demanding these protesters pay homage, they have abrogated freedom of speech. By continually disparaging the free press, they undercut its role as a check on runaway power of a rogue government. Freedom of religion is under attack. They inaccurately use the ‘freedom of religion’ phrase to represent oppressive practices (freedom for their interpretation, but none other).
Let me be clear: This is idolatry. It was idolatry in Babylon, it is idolatry now. God does not force homage. If God did not believe in liberty of conscience, sin would not exist. He’d have wiped it out at the very first hint of rebellion in Lucifer’s mind. He is merciful enough to allow this sin experiment to come to its natural end to prove once and for all to the greater universe that His way is the better way. For human beings, whether they are terrorists, religious people,politicians or just well-meaning citizens, to feel that they have the right to tell another person how and to whom/what to pay homage and what they must believe is to attempt put themselves in the position of God. This is the very definition of blasphemy and the basis of Lucifer’s original rebellion. If God is unwilling to force conscience, what human being can feel he has a legitimate right to do so?
We are in the toenails of that statue symbol. It is about to be obliterated and God’s eternal kingdom set up. Are we as Christians going to follow the crowd in demanding everyone follow a specific interpretation, or will understand that God is more than capable to do his work in people’s hearts? Remember, Paul says the last days,
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
Have NOTHING to do with such people… don’t miss this important point: Paul is not speaking of those who claim no religion because of the statement “they have a form of godliness.” They *claim* to be God’s people, but they deny his power. They demand all follow their interpretation, rather than allowing that only God can touch and turn hearts. They do this while supporting leaders who unapologetically prey on the powerless because those leaders might advance their agendas. They close their eyes to the blatant venom and abuse these leaders heap on humanity, claiming they are doing God’s work. They even go so far as to cherry pick scripture to try to support the evil being repackaged as Christianity.
Have NOTHING to do with such people… do not surround yourself with them, creating echo chambers that harden your heart. Do not build and maintain statues of them. Do not hold them up as spiritual leaders. Do not install them into the highest office in the land.
God is going to bring history to a close very soon. Which side will we be on? Will we be claiming we are godly but denying God’s power while supporting a lifestyle of brutality, stolen wealth, hatred, pride, abuse, no self-control, etc? Or will be loving our neighbors AND our enemies, regardless of their color, sexual orientation, religion, nation or creed? Because that is what is expected of us. Not the prosperity gospel, not ‘salvation is for us, but not for them’… we are to love and uplift them. Period.
This is not a time to be muddled in nationalistic overtures that demand obedience to a symbol of a temporary, earthly power. Sure, that symbol may have had honorable beginnings. Nebuchadnezzar’s symbol came from God, how much more honorable can a symbol be? But in both cases, humanity is marring the symbol to use as a tool of oppression, while claiming it still must be held sacred and worshipped by all. But remember this important point: When worship is coerced, it becomes idolatry.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: Daniel 2
The Image of Gold and the Fiery Furnace: Daniel 3