And the theme is Freedom of Religion
Another book that jumped out at me today was the Book of Daniel.Â One of the speakers in church talked about Daniel having the faith and courage to continue to pray to his God, knowing that his enemies had tricked King Darius into signing a decree that anyone asking a petition of any God or man other than King Darius must be cast into the lions den.Â Daniel continued to practice his religion, and not to hide it.Â In fact, he prayed in front of his open window.
You probably know the story.Â The men who had gotten the decree were watching Daniel, and they took him before the king, who was not able to change a decree once signed, and had to put Daniel into the lions den.Â But Darius knew how strong Daniel’s faith was, and Darius told Daniel that God would deliver him, and then Darius went home and fasted that night for Daniel’s benefit, and was glad in the morning to find Daniel unharmed.
My daughter asked, “Didn’t the king make a new decree that everyone would worship Daniel’s God?”Â And I explained to her that such a decree would have been contrary to the gospel.Â God does not force anyone to worship Him, but allows us all choice.Â He gives signs, and He may punish those who knowingly fight against Him and lead others astray.Â But He allows us all the freedom to choose.
Here is the newÂ decree that King Darius made when Daniel was saved from the lions den:
I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
That sounds like a testimony to me. Also consider the similar story about Daniel’s friends, who were serving under Nebuchadnezzar. A decree had been made that all must worship a golden image created by Nebuchadnezzar, or be cast into the burning fiery furnace. Daniel’s friends refused to worship a false god, and were cast into the furnace, but they were protected by God and were not harmed.
Nebuchadnezzer also made a decree:
That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
Okay, I will give you that the penalty was extreme, but my point is that the true God does not compel people to worship in one way or another, but allows choice. Men have set themselves up as authorities and tried to control how others practice religion, or have declared false teachings, and ultimately it doesn’t work out so well for those men.
Another observation that I would ask you to notice is that it is men who try to control and to use force and threats and violence to compel others to follow their way. That is not God’s way. The only times when God causes death or pain to come upon someone are when someone is actively going about harming others by deliberately leading them astray, and that person knows what they are doing and refuses after being warned to stop. Those who use threats and terror and force to control and compel others are not of God. God’s way is peace and love and healing.