When we misplace our allegiance, bad things happen. In Daniel 11, we read about rulers who leave cities in ruins and many thousands of people dead. We see power change hands several times. Alliances are forged and broken. Each successive ruler seems more deceitful, arrogant, and bloodthirsty than the last.
What are we, the modern reader, to make of all this? How can we connect our 21st century experience as Christ-followers to an obtuse summary of long-past historical events? Because we believe the whole Bible is “inspired by God and is good for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, [and] for training in righteousness” (2Timothy 3:16)—not just the inspiring verses embroidered on pillows and engraved on knickknacks in our homes, but even the obscure, seemingly irrelevant passages—we must lean into Daniel 11 and trust that God is giving us more than a dry history lesson.
So, let’s dig past the facts and look for patterns. First, we must recognize the precariousness of power. Even the mightiest and seemingly indomitable terrestrial forces eventually crumble and fall. There’s always someone bigger and stronger on the horizon looking to swallow up everything in their path.
Second, we note that the primary focus of the leaders in Daniel’s vision was their own glory and supremacy, no matter the cost. Indeed, all history reveals that as rulers become intoxicated by power, the more likely they are to demand unquestioning allegiance from those they conquer and govern. Often, they require their subjects to forsake prior loyalties, whether to governments or gods. This was as true in ancient Mesopotamia as it has been throughout the span of human affairs.
We might not be able to make a direct connection between our current experience and the historical details of Daniel’s vision, but we can be sure about how God expects us to respond to the authorities and idols that demand our devotion. Ezekiel warns God’s people about what will happen if they continue to pledge allegiance to other gods (Ezekiel 20:4–9), and over half a millennium later, Jesus mourns the result of Jerusalem continually ignoring God in favor of lesser authorities (Matthew 23:37–39).
Daniel tells us that “the people who know their God will be strong and take action” (Daniel 11:32). To know God—that is, to taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8)—is to recognize Him for who He is: all-mighty, righteous, just, merciful, faithful, and fully invested in restoring His people. The appropriate action in response to a God like that is to prioritize Him above all other allegiances. We must follow the model of Daniel and his friends, who, under threat of persecution and death, refused to bow before any authority other than God Himself. Under His loving authority, we can rest in His strength and not in our own. Apart from God, there is no Savior (Isaiah 43:11). Where is our allegiance? To whom do we ultimately bow? What master do we truly serve?
Written by Alex Florez