New assignments and duty changes, promotions, the birth or loss of family members, the farewell of dear friends, school changes…transitions are a regular part of military life for those who wear the uniform, for spouses, and for military kids, but none of us has experienced a transition into captivity similar to how God sent Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah into Babylonian captivity. Their transition as young teenagers into Nebuchadnezzar’s court was brought about by God’s sovereign hand, and they flourished in captivity.
These men sought the good of their captors in Babylon, faithfully executing governmental jobs. They obeyed God’s command through the prophet Jeremiah to, “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (see Jeremiah 29:4-7 in its entirety).
Military Christians learn to cultivate a similar view toward assignments, duties, and promotions as we seek the good of the nation in which God has placed us. God’s sovereign hand placed us in the United States, in the military, and in the very location where we find ourselves right now. Great hope accompanies the declaration made through Daniel that, “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:25, 32).
Every commission from the president of the United States to officers in uniform quite literally comes as a result of God’s intentional work. Romans 13:1 says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
It is fun to think about the transitions of governmental servants as found in the Scriptures. Every single one of these worshipers of the Lord God Almighty was found faithful in their duties: Daniel and his three peers were sent into exile for leadership at exactly the right time in history, Nehemiah bore the king’s cup in effective service before he led the wall-building effort, Esther rose to be queen in order to save lives, and Cornelius’ family was stationed in Israel in order that the occupied peoples would be blessed and the gospel brought to the Gentiles through his presence.
These were ordinary citizens of God’s kingdom who also sought the good of the city and nation in which they were found.
Finally, consider the words we hear from Daniel in the well-known story of his rightful accusation regarding the law of the Medes and Persians. He would not worship any god except the God of Israel, the one who created all things and who saved His people from Egypt. Yes, there are times to disobey governing authorities regarding who to worship, how to protect life, when to choose the ethical right, etc.
For Daniel, the consequence of disobeying the king’s law was to be cast into the lion’s den—we hear no pleas for mercy or regret from him. He was simply found accepting the just and right sentence placed upon someone who disobeyed the law, but when the king arrived in the morning to find out if God had saved him, the first words from Daniel’s mouth are those of submission to the governing authority over him. He says, “O king, live forever!”
This “live forever” salutation honored the one who was in authority. The king knew Daniel was blameless regarding official duties and what had been entrusted to him, but both Daniel and the king had been trapped by deceitful schemes. God’s justice came through the king as the accusers and their families went into the den. Similarly, when Christ returns, every wrong will be made right and every deceitful scheme will receive its justice.
Christians worship God through every transition that He brings into our lives, both in and out of the military. Some are painful transitions, others are exciting and fun, but each one comes from the hand of God. We are in this nation by God’s intention, we are in our communities because He has placed us there, and God’s word gives us great hope by reminding us that the government over us is appointed by him for our good.
As those who are under authority, we declare “O king, live forever!”, but not because we think earthly governments will last forever. We submit to authority to both avoid God’s wrath and for the sake of conscience, but we worship God alone (Romans 13:5). Go seek the good of the city and nation in which you have been placed!