Pilgrim Patriotism

Title: Pilgrim Patriotism

Bible Book: Daniel 1 : 3-7

Author: Terry Trivette

Subject: Patriotism; America; Independence Day



On a recent visit to the country of Turkey, President Obama angered a number of Americans with some comments he made at a press conference before his speech in the capitol city of that Muslim country. Obama said, “[O]ne of the great strengths of the United States is – although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”[i] I definitely disagree with President Obama on the point that not considering ourselves a Christian nation is one of our strengths. Separation from Christ, either for an individual or a nation is a weakness, not a strength. However, on the other hand, I also disagree with the nationalistic, Americanized Christianity that is held by some within our nation. This unbiblical view sees the American flag and the cross of Christ as symbols of the same ideology.

This nationalistic Christianity acts as if Jesus were born in the Midwest rather than the middle-east, the twelve disciples were all Republicans, and the Constitution is 67th book of the Bible. Those who hold this distorted view see the cause of Christ and American superiority as one in the same thing. In their minds, the plan of God must somehow be fulfilled in our geographical location and through governmental system.

While I love America, and pray that God will bless her, I also know from reading the Word of God that there will never be a truly, completely Christian nation until Jesus Christ sets up His kingdom and rules over the people of the earth in justice and peace. The clear mandates of Scripture require us to be good citizens and to live peaceably under the government God has given us. But at best, we are just pilgrim patriots. We pledge allegiance to “Old Glory”, but at the same time, like our spiritual forefathers, we “desire a better country”; one not made with human hands.

The Old Testament provides for us a wonderful example of pilgrim patriotism in the life and character of the biblical hero, Daniel. While exiled in the country of Babylon, Daniel honored Lord while serving the land in which he lived. John MacArthur says that Daniel, “…maintained his walk as a believer and his life as a responsible citizen in perfect harmony.”[ii] As we observe some incidents from Daniel’s life, we are given some important principles to remember in order to maintain the balance between our roles as Christian pilgrims and American citizens.

First of all, as we look in Daniel chapter 1, we are reminded of:


For over 70 years, Daniel was an influential figure in the government and leadership of two of the world’s most powerful empires, Babylon, and then Persia. In the opening chapter of his prophecy, Daniel tells us how he became a part of these nations. In verse 3 we read, “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;”

Verse 6 says, “Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:”

Though the majority of Daniel’s life was spent in Babylon, his connection to that country was unique, and speaks to us somewhat about our connection with our own country. Notice first of all, Daniel reminds us of our connection to this country, in that:

A. It is a providential connection

The reason Daniel lived in Babylon was because God’s people had been carried away captive. Through His prophets, God had been promising that His people were going into captivity. As hard as must have been for young Daniel to be uprooted from his homeland and carried away, it was a part of God providential plan for his life. Verse 2 of the Daniel chapter 1 says that it was the Lord who gave the king of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. In other words, Daniel was able to exert influence, and to live his extraordinary life because of God’s providence in moving him into Babylon.

In a similar fashion, anyone born in the United States of America should be thankful to God for His providence in their lives. It is a privilege and a blessing from God to be able to live in this country. Though America is far from perfect, the basic liberties and freedoms enjoyed by her citizens are precious, and something that many in the world do not have. I preach this morning unafraid that authorities are going to interrupt our services and punish us for worshiping the name of Jesus. The same cannot be said for our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world. Nearly every one of us will leave this place and eat a good meal, before retiring to our air-conditioned homes, and our over-stuffed easy chairs. For most of the world’s population all of those things are luxuries they could hardly imagine. While we recognize the flaws of this country, we also rejoice in her freedoms. We thank God for His blessed providence in allowing us to be citizens of this country.

Several years ago, preaching in the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., a preacher named Louis H. Evans said of America, “The kiss of God has been upon our face…” All of us should recognize the blessing of God upon us for allowing us to be connected with this country.

Notice something else we draw from Daniel’s connection to Babylon. Notice not only that it is a providential connection, but notice also further that:

B. It is a passing connection

Daniel was a part of a generation of Jews whose lives were spent primarily in exile. However, God had made it clear that His people would not stay in Babylon forever. In Jeremiah 29:10, the Lord gave this promise: “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” The day was coming when God’s people were going to leave Babylon. Their connection to that country was a passing one. Their residency there was only temporary.

As much as we love this country, and as much as we thank God for the freedoms we enjoy here, we know from reading our Bibles that the day is coming when we are no longer going to be citizens of the United States of America. The day is coming when a shout will be heard throughout all the earth, a trumpet blast will echo across the continents, and out of every nation the people of God will leave their earthly lands to meet the Lord in the air. On that day, the people of God will no longer be the citizens of earthly governments, but will have become the eternal subjects of King Jesus.

We will pledge our allegiance solely to His throne, sing only of His name, and live perpetually under His rule. We will say with the angel in Revelation 11:15, “…The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” We must never lose sight of the fact that while we have eternal life through Jesus Christ, our country does not. Our connection to America is a passing one. What this means is that while we are saddened, we should not be surprised at the spiritual, moral, and practical decay of our nation that we are currently witnessing. Our connection with this country, though providential, is a passing one.

Notice something else we draw from Daniel about living with a pilgrim’s patriotism. He reminds us not only of our connection with this country, but also secondly of:


Understanding that ultimately our citizenship is in heaven, and that though we love our earthly country, we cannot expect to save her from judgment; how then are we to live in this country until we are taken from it? In many ways this was the challenge that Daniel faced. How was he to live within the country God has chosen to place him? How was he to conduct himself amid a strange and sinful culture?

There is much we can learn from the life of Daniel about how we are to live within our contemporary American culture. Dr. O.S. Hawkins says of Daniel, “[He] seems to step out of the Scripture and into our modern culture to show us some principles that will enable us not only to exist in our culture, but also to engage it and even thrive in it as well.”[iii] Notice with me a couple of things that Daniel teaches us about how we are to conduct ourselves as pilgrim patriots. First of all, he teaches us that we should:

A. Stand out in our behavior

Chapter one of Daniel closes by telling us something about Daniel and his Hebrew friends, in comparison with the people around him. Verse 19 says, “And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.” Throughout the book of Daniel, you find him standing out among his contemporaries in Babylon. By God’s grace, Daniel’s life was extraordinary and exemplary among the people with which he lived. Daniel reminds us that there should be no better citizens than those who claim the name of Jesus Christ. America’s greatest people should be those who have believed the gospel, and follow the Savior.

The Apostle Peter touches on this in his first epistle. In I Peter 2:13-15, it says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:”

Neighbors should desire to live next to Christians. Employers should want to hire those who serve the Lord Jesus. Citizens should be eager and confident when voting for Christian politicians. Unfortunately, most Christians blend in so well with this mediocre and carnal society that they seem to be wearing a culture camouflage that makes them virtually indistinguishable from the lost people around them.

When Jesus said that we are the “light of the world”, He meant that we were to shine among our countrymen, not sink along with them. Daniel reminds us that we should stand out in our behavior.

Citing the recent scandals of some public figures who profess to be Christians, Mark Galli wrote an article recently for Christianity Today in which describes what he calls, “…the long-standing evangelical myth that there should be something different about the Christian.”[iv] That line startled me.

I Peter 2:9 says that we are, “a peculiar people”. I assure you, it is no myth that Christians are to be different. That is a biblical principle. We should stand out in the way we conduct our lives!

Daniel reminds us not only that we should stand out in our behavior, but also that we should:

B. Stand up for our beliefs

If you read the entire opening chapter of Daniel, you will find that the favor Daniel found with the king at the close of the chapter was not at the expense of compromising his convictions and beliefs. In verse 5 we read that as a part of Daniel’s Babylonian training, he was provided with daily provisions of meat and wine. Apparently, these offerings conflicting with the dietary restrictions that God had established for His people. Notice what it says in verse “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”

We find this same spiritual backbone in Daniel chapter 6, when the law is made that no one could pray to any god, or to any one, save King Darius. There in verse 10, it says, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

Daniel reminds us that our patriotism can never overrule our principles. Our love for our country never exceeds our love for Christ.

Whenever our nation or our culture push us to do something that is contrary to the Word of Christ, we must stand up and refuse to defile ourselves and deny our Lord! Christians should be a peaceful people; but that does not mean we are not a principled people. Our nation may plunge headlong into Sodom, but we must refuse to join the avalanche into hell. We may mourn the sinking of the ship, and we may strive to save as many of the passengers as we can, but we must not allow ourselves to be sucked down and drowned in the vortex of our country’s demise.

We must:

Dare to be a Daniel,

Dare to stand alone,

Dare to have a purpose firm,

Dare to make it known!

Notice with me another principle that Daniel leaves for the pilgrim patriot. He reminds us not only of our connection with this country, and our conduct in this country, but also thirdly, he speaks to us of:


There are some in certain Christian circles who have suggested that because America is certainly headed for the judgment of God, we as God’s people should just retreat into our churches, and wait for Jesus to get us out of here.

Daniel reminds us that though our country may be passing away, God has not placed us here to pull out, hide out, and hold out, retreating from the society as if we were afraid of it. No, Daniel leaves for us a wonderful example of how we should contribute to this country, even while we look for the heavenly country that is to come.

Notice a couple of ways in which we should contribute to this country as pilgrim patriots. First of all, we should be:

A. Vessels for God’s work

In Daniel chapter 2, a story is told about the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, and a dream he had that he did not understand, and could not even remember. Obviously, the wisest of the king’s men could not interpret a dream that the king could not even remember himself. It seemed like an impossible situation. Verse 10 says, “The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.”

When Daniel heard about the situation, he told his Hebrew friends about it, and together they prayed, and God revealed the whole thing to Daniel.

When Daniel was brought into the presence of the king, Nebuchadnezzar asked him, “Can you tell me my dream and what it means?” Look at how Daniel answered in verses 27 and 2“Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days…” Daniel sought God’s face, and made himself available for the Lord to use in accomplishing His work at that particular point in history. Daniel was a vessel for God’s work.

Though we cannot ultimately save America, we can take the lives that God has given us, and we can make ourselves available to carry out the work of Jesus during our particular time in history. We may not shut down the abortion clinics, but we can love our children, and adopt those that others do not want. We may not stop the homosexual agenda, but we can have strong marriages that model Christ and His church to the world. We may not influence the Supreme Court, but we can practice justice and equity in our own communities and churches. We may not be able to hang the Ten Commandments in our schools, but we can raise kids who live them in the classroom. We may not shape policy in Washington, but we can share Christ in Trenton! We must contribute to our country by being vessels through which God’s work can be done!

Notice not only that our contribution is to be vessels for God’s work, but also, we should be:

B. Voices for God’s Word

In Daniel chapter 5, another incident in Daniel’s life speaks to us as pilgrims in this country. Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar was king, and one of his riotous parties was interrupted with the finger of God scratched a message onto the wall. The king was frightened, and did not understand the meaning of the words. Again, all of the king’s wise men were unable to decipher the message. Finally, someone remembered old Daniel.

Look at the story with me, beginning in verse 1The king said to Daniel, “And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

I love Daniel’s response in verse 1, “Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.” Daniel was not for sale. He boldly told the king of how God had once humbled the proud heart of King Nebuchadnezzar. Though Belshazzar knew this, he had become prideful as well.

Look beginning in verse 2 - Daniel gives the interpretation. “And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians (25-28).”

Though the interpretation was not good news for the king, Daniel stood boldly, and communicated the Word of God. His connection with Babylon was did not hinder him from speaking the truth.

I love America, and I thank God for my country. However, my patriotism does not blind me to America’s faults, or silence me from proclaiming what “thus saith the Lord.” As pilgrim patriots, we must not be silent. The gospel of the Lord Jesus is the only hope for sinners, whether they live in China or Chattanooga; whether they are Africans or Americans. Therefore, we must contribute to our nation by being voices that will speak loudly and clearly the Word of our God.

Yesterday, on the birthday of our nation, there was a second round of anti-tax rallies called “tea parties”. On April 15th, there were some 800 such rallies held, with over a half-million Americans in attendance. At these rallies, citizens are voicing their concerns over the growth of government, high taxes, and loss of freedoms. A woman who helped organize an event in Georgia said the concern was that the government, “…would really bring our country down to where we’ll no longer be a superpower.”[v]

As pilgrim patriots, our first concern is not that America remains a superpower, or whether or not our government is capitalistic or socialistic, or whether or not our taxes are high or low. We all have political feelings, but as pilgrim patriots, our first concern is whether or not the cause of Christ is being carried out through our lives in our land. Even as we thank God for America, we must also remember that America will one day pass. Our final citizenship, and therefore our first obligation is to King Jesus, and to His kingdom of which there will be no end.

May Daniel remind us that we are at best pilgrim patriots!

[i] DeSeno, Tommy, De Seno: Obama’s Christian-Muslim Double Standard, 6/5/09, foxnews.com, accessed 7/1/09, http://foxforum.blogs.foxnews.com/2009/06/05/obama%E2%80%99s-christian-muslim-double-standard-our-first-dhimmi-president/

[ii] MacArthur, John, Why Government Can’t Save You, (Word Publishing, Nashville, 2000), p. 99

[iii] Hawkins, O.S., Culture Shock, (Annuity Board, Nashville, 2002), p. 11

[iv] Gallie, Mark, The Scandal of the Public Evangelical, 7/2/09, Christianity Today Magazine, accessed 7/4/09, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/julyweb-only/126-42.0.html?start=1

[v] Jonsson, Patrik, Round 2 Of Tea Party Protests, 7/3/09, Christian Science Monitor online, accessed 7/4/09, http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0703/p02s25-usgn.html

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