I’m finishing up a two-week intensive course on the book of Daniel. One of the key goals of the course was to focus on the text of Daniel to understand the primary message that the original author intended to communicate to the original audience. There’s a lot of discussion about the book, but a close reading of the text surfaces one clear idea: God establishes and removes kings. You can substitute the idea of ‘political sovereignty’ for the idea of kingship. God determines who will rule a country and the people of God should look to Him even when under an unreasonable monarch.
The most important difference between the political situation in the book of Daniel and the modern political situation here in the United States is that of sovereignty. Who rules the country? While our political masters might exercise a lot of authority, they are ultimately accountable to the people. Every four years, the people express their will by voting for the politicians who best represent their desires. Ben Franklin has been attributed with this saying: “In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.” So in the American system, political sovereignty comes from the people, who then elect representatives to carry out their desires and set the direction for the country.
The connection to the book of Daniel provides a warning to believers who are apathetic and uninvolved in the political system. You see, just as God gave sovereignty to the kings of Babylon, He also removed their kingdom and handed it over to the Medo-Persian empire, and then the Greek empire and then the Roman empire. And now political sovereignty in our country has been handed to us: the people. If we fail to exercise wisdom in ruling our country, we face the very real possibility of losing the right to govern ourselves. This isn’t an endorsement of any political candidate, but a reminder of two things: God gives and removes political sovereignty and that responsibility has been given to the people. We need to very carefully exercise that sovereignty by involvement in the political process, lest God remove our right to govern.