There’s no question that this has been one of the most contentious political seasons in memory. Since the primaries ended, the low favorability of both candidates has been a much-discussed topic. All across social media, you see people pouring more energy into lamenting a win from either candidate than championing one they believe in.
It’s during times like this that Christians should be turning to Scripture for comfort and direction. And during this contentious season, the Book of Daniel has a lot to tell us about living victorious lives as God’s children in a troubled political landscape.
The story of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is one of the most exciting and captivating books in the Old Testament. We experience the Jewish captivity in Babylon through the example of Daniel and his three friends. We see their faithfulness to God during this season and the dangers they encounter because of their commitment.
The more deeply you dig into Daniel, the more you will discover. After you’ve read it on your own, you’ll be surprised at how much more there is to uncover when you have an informed guide like the Concordia Commentary on Daniel to point out perspectives you may have missed along the way—and to keep you from wandering off the trail.
Here are five lessons to remember during this political season that we can learn from the Book of Daniel:
1. We don’t have to compromise our values.
The subtext of Daniel’s entire story is about faithfulness to the one true God.
It starts in the very first chapter when Daniel refuses to compromise his dietary restrictions with the king’s rich food (Daniel 1:8–16). It continues when Daniel’s friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refuse to bow down and worship the gold statue that king Nebuchadnezzar had erected on the plain of Dura (Daniel 3). We also see it in Daniel’s defiance of King Darius’s law against prayer (Daniel 6).
Despite the fact that their rebellion could have cost them their lives (Daniel’s three friends were tossed into a furnace for their disobedience, and Daniel was literally thrown to the lions), they refused to compromise—and God delivered them.
It’s important to remember that throughout history God’s people have consistently found themselves in cultures where they were the minority, and they had to choose faithfulness despite strong pressure to conform. We don’t have to fear any administration or political outcome, because our God is always with us through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
2. Our example has influence.
It’s not just Daniel and his friends’ refusal to compromise that’s amazing; it’s the respectful way in which they did so. They weren’t difficult and combative, and they didn’t stir up dissension. They just followed their convictions.
Through king after king, Daniel maintains a role of extreme significance and importance. It can’t be denied that God’s influential hand was upon him, but we also need to recognize that Daniel and his friends were able to maintain their principles and their respect. God was able to do some dramatic work through Daniel’s faithful and humble service and witness.
No matter how things go in our country, we have the responsibility to stand firm in our convictions in a way that’s respectful and kind to those who might not agree or understand. It’s in that tension that God will use us as witnesses to His grace and mercy in Christ.
3. God is always at work.
The prophet Jeremiah had prophesied of Israel’s coming captivity in Babylon: “Behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. . . . This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:9, 11).
Even though Israel was being disciplined, God was still at work using the influence of faithful Jews like Daniel to turn the hearts of pagan kings. With God’s help, Daniel is able to influence these kings as a prophet, as an advisor, and even through conscientious resistance.
As Christians, we can never forget that God is at work. Even in the middle of a nation’s darkest moments, God is at work in the details reconciling people to Himself through the preaching of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments. It’s easy to fall into despair when we lose sight of the fact that God’s constantly moving—but when we realize God’s in the middle of our lives, we’re given renewed hope and purpose.
4. God’s eye is on the details and the big picture.
Prophecy is one of the greatest areas of speculation in the Book of Daniel. Different schools of theology have attached all sorts of significance to various elements in Daniel’s prophecies. (For a faithful explanation of these prophecies, check out the Concordia Commentary on Daniel.)
What is important to understand is that, in the midst of His people’s captivity in Babylon, God was unfolding a much larger story. The prophecies almost operate like the world’s largest crane camera. As the camera pans out farther and farther, we’re given a glimpse into a much larger narrative that God is working on. We see unfolding God’s plan to send His Son into this world to redeem and save it through His life and perfect death for our salvation.
Some of the prophecies are more immediate, such as the writing on the wall (Daniel 5) where the loss of Belshazzar’s kingdom is foretold, and some (Daniel 11) have a much larger historical scope where kings and kingdoms are concerned. When the camera pans out far enough, we see God’s grand scheme:
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and He came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve Him;
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and His kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed. —Daniel 7:13–14
Because we’re finite in our perspective, it’s so easy to get bogged down in what’s happening right now. We need to remember that not only is God always at work, He’s at work toward a particular end. There is no captivity or election that’s going to undermine God’s ultimate plan to rescue sinners like you and me through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Ancient of Days.
5. Our prayers are heard.
In the ninth chapter of Daniel, we’re given a glimpse into one of the most moving and powerful prayers in Scripture. Daniel knows that Jeremiah has prophesied a seventy-year captivity, but he’s still diligent in his prayer.
This prayer is an expression of Daniel’s personal repentance and confession of sin for himself and his nation. He recognizes Israel’s sin that has put them in the position they’re in, and he contrasts their unfaithfulness with God’s loving-kindness and faithful covenant. From confession, Daniel moves to petition. While acknowledging God’s righteous judgment, Daniel asks God to show Israel mercy in accordance with His character. It’s an ideal picture of the words in 2 Chronicles:
“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” —2 Chronicles 7:14
The most profound thing Christians can do if we’re feeling anxious and passionate during this election season is pray. We need to acknowledge our lukewarmness and loss of love, we need to recognize God’s faithfulness to us, and we need to ask for His mercy—all the while remembering that the Holy Spirit is at work among us to strengthen us and keep us steadfast in the true faith.
Spend some time in Daniel this season.
No matter who wins on election day, people are going to feel like the world is ending. But we don’t need to give in to despair. We can use this as an opportunity to become more hopeful and resolute in the work that God is doing. Making a commitment to study the Book of Daniel by yourself or in a group during this political season is a great place to start.
Here are some great resources to get you started: