“Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands. Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (Psalm 119:17–24).
“I am a stranger on earth…” (v. 19a).
He was a teenager when his country was attacked and conquered; his whole world fell apart. His life reads like the script of an epic movie. His family was part of the royalty—he was a prince. When Babylon invaded, he was captured and taken away from his family to the court of the new king. He was stripped of his identity as a Jew and trained in the ways of the Babylonians, who attempted to brainwash the young man. Even his name, Daniel, which means “God is my Judge,” was taken from him. He was given the name of one of the Babylonian gods and it meant “Bel will protect.” It was a blasphemy to him and probably sounded like nails on a chalkboard in his ears.
The Babylonians, unlike their neighbors the Assyrians, didn’t slaughter the people that they conquered. They were more devious. They assimilated the cultures and beliefs of the people and “re-educated” them in the ways of Babylon, creating a culture of spiritual mud. They added the people to their plunder, like they would gold or livestock.
Daniel knew the true God, and when the time of persecution came, he was prepared. Fear of the unknown didn’t make him surrender what he knew to be true. Nor did he dilute the truth by including the beliefs of the Babylonians. God stood beside him during the reign of four pagan kings and through many political upheavals. It would have been easy for him to throw in the towel at the beginning and embrace the ways of the Babylonians. But even from the start, we see a man who is stubborn for the Lord. Daniel knew God’s laws and he trusted Him. If there were any doubts in him, then the threats of being cut into pieces, incinerated and being mauled to death by lions would have had Daniel bowing before the new order in a heartbeat.
In the first chapter of the book of Daniel, we read a story that seems strange to our modern ears. The food he was given to eat was from the king’s own table, but it was not prepared in a way that followed God’s commands for the people of Israel. It’s just a little thing, isn’t it? It’s just food. But Daniel was determined to follow God’s laws—even in the food that he ate. “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way” (1:8). [Please note, while he lived as a stranger among pagans, he was not rude or belligerent. He asked permission. He was steadfast in his ways; not argumentative.] God blessed Daniel in his desire to remain pure. From this first incident with the food to the king who demanded that everyone bow in worship to him (see chapter 6), God was with Daniel. Trusting this truth, Daniel chose to face persecution rather than disobey God.
Peter, in the New Testament, writes “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
Daniel stands as our example of one who lived the life of a stranger here. His way of life was alien to the Babylonians. Yet, despite persecution, he remained faithful to God.
You and I are called to live as aliens in this world. God has given us His Word to teach us how to live. But the life of transparent integrity He calls us to is unacceptably foreign by the world’s standards. Don’t give up. Don’t give in to the temptation to compromise, to “go along to get along.” Unlike Daniel, you and I, if we have trusted Jesus with our lives, have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of the Living God who raised Christ from the dead—living within us! What’s more, “His divine power (through the Holy Spirit living within born-again believers) has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3). Whatever our outward circumstances, the Holy Spirit is there with us encouraging us, guiding us, and giving us the tools we need to stand firm in the truth.
Read 1 Peter 2:9–25.
According to verses 9-10, who are we?
I love the imagery Peter uses: we were “called out of darkness into his wonderful light.” What does this mean?
As strangers in this world, what two things does Peter urge us to do?
Verse 13–21 are sometimes hard to read when we see that the authorities in our lives—nationally and in our work places—defy the law of God. (Please note, that the verses that applied once to slavery, still apply to the workforce today.) Make a list of the actions, the imperatives, that Peter lists in regard to our relationship with those in authority (I count seven).
Submission is a hard topic for most people. Humility does not come naturally to humans. Additionally, no one wants to suffer for doing the right thing. Yet, in both humility and suffering, who is our example, according to verse 21?
What were the actions of the people towards Jesus and what was His reaction?
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (vv 24–25).
The humility of Christ that gave us life is so foreign to anything of human origin, yet His attitude is our example (see Philippians 2:5-8). What is the Spirit speaking to your heart?