A health regulation (Dan.1). The king of Babylon ordered Daniel and his companions to eat choice foods and to drink wine for their physical health (v.5). This was not a simple request. It was a legal requirement because the word of a king was the law (Ecc. 8:4). But the law of God told Jews not to eat this food or drink this beverage. Daniel had to choose between complying with man’s law or obeying God’s law. He could not do both. To make matters worse, he was warned that he might cause someone to die if he didn’t follow this mandate (v.10)! This law amounted to a health and safety policy of the government! What did Daniel do? He “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (v.8). Daniel obeyed God and in so doing he disobeyed the law of man. He didn’t rebel out of pride; he resisted out of conviction.
Worship (Dan. 3). The king demanded that everyone bow down and worship his idol (v.5). The penalty for refusing to obey this ordinance was death (v.6). This was a clear case of conflict between the law of man and the law of God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to choose which law to obey and which law to disobey. The choice for them was plain and simple. Their duty was to honor God’s will even in the face of death. God rewarded their courage by saving their lives and humbling the king. This shows that human governments have no right to interfere with the worship of God. The Founding Fathers understood this when they penned the First Amendment.
Private devotions (Dan. 6). Daniel was a victim of jealousy and political strife in this case. His enemies convinced the new king Darius to sign a temporary law that made praying to anyone except him illegal (v. 4-9). The penalty for disobeying was death. How did Daniel handle this dilemma? Which law did he obey? “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Dan. 6:10).
If Daniel had been like some he might have thought, “This is only temporary. God knows what is in my heart anyway.” But he prayed like he always had. Think about how he prayed. He left the windows open. Why didn’t he close them? He kneeled to pray. Why didn’t he just say a silent prayer without kneeling? He prayed three times a day. Why didn’t he just wait until dark to pray when no one would see him? He knew the risk he was taking but his example was more important to him than his life. He wasn’t being reckless. He didn’t break this law just to show a pagan king he could. Daniel was a man of faith. We’re not told what the rest of the Jews did. We don’t know if they suspended or hid their prayers for a month or risked their lives like Daniel. God didn’t record what they did. But we do know that God preserved the actions of this one courageous man so that saints of all time could gain encouragement.
The Bible teaches us to obey government (Rom. 13:7; I Pet. 2:13-14). But the authority of government, like the authority of parents in the home or elders in the church, applies to matters of judgment, not matters of faith. When the law of men contradicts the law of God, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We need more like Daniel.