Honoring the "Unhonorable"


This summer I have been spending a lot of time reading the book of Daniel. Daniel is an interesting book historically as well as the content. I have been thinking a lot recently about honor, what it means to honor those who are in authority over us, and what honor means in general. First Peter 2:17 says, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor." As I was looking at this verse and at Daniel it occurred to me that we are called to "honor everyone" and "honor the emperor", and nowhere does it talk about these two groups being "deserving" of our honor.Looking at Daniel, I was dwelling on his relationship with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

After Nebuchadnezzar's death, Belshazzar, his son, takes the throne and Daniel is still living in Babylon. Belshazzar threw a party and a hang appeared and wrote on the wall in the room. Belshazzar wanted to know what it said and Daniel interpreted the writing. What is key here is the way Daniel talks about Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar's father. Daniel says, "O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him." (Daniel 5:18-19)

Daniel spoke highly of Nebuchadnezzar, which is interesting if we understand who Nebuchadnezzar was and who Daniel was. The book of Daniel begins by saying, "In the third year of the reign of Johoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Johiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpena, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish and of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans." (Daniel 1:1-4) Daniel was one of these youth.

It was common practice during the time to take the leaders of the conquered country and force them to assimilate into your culture so the conquered culture would not be able to stand up and fight back in the future because of a lack of leadership. Daniel was one of the leaders of Judah, that was forced to be Babylonian and learn the ways to the Chaldeans. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, took things from the temple to Yahweh and put them in his pagan temple, and took Daniel holding him captive.

This does not seem like an individual that is "worthy" of honor. It does not seem like Nebuchadnezzar has done anything to deserve the honor of Daniel. And yet, Daniel understands that Nebuchadnezzar has been put in power by God, verse two of the book acknowledges the fact that it is God's doing that places Jerusalem under Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar into this position. Nebuchadnezzar is everything that would describe an "enemy" yet Daniel honors this man. Do we honor those that we may dislike, but God has placed in authority? How do we talk about them? What words do we use to describe them? Are we "honoring everyone"?