Do you know the difference between "manipulation" and "sacrifice"?
Daniel 6:15-16 (NIV 14-15)
"When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, "Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed"
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The rendering we read in the New International Version for these verses is perfect. We can see how the accusation against Daniel is ruining the king's plans. They were condemning to death the man he had destined to the second post in the kingdom, his right hand. Sunset came and the king was yet seeking some legal way to avoid it. But damage was already done, and there was no salvation for Daniel in human terms.
The plotters and manipulators had laid their snare in a very shrewd manner. As a vassal king of Cyrus the Great, Darius position was highly dependent on his performance as a governor. And to save Daniel he had to change a royal edict, which would imply to break the law. "The decree can not be changed" meant "Daniel can't be saved", because he disobeyed the law and had to be punished.
Daniel knew about the law. He also knew that it would be enforced for a month. But he didn't choose some trick, subterfuge or manipulation to evade the punishment. He selected the way of the sacrifice, and kept on with his daily devotionals before God.
What does "sacrifice" means to you?
Let me illustrate it with the meaning of this word to me when I didn't know Jesus neither had read the Bible: sacrifice is a move in chess game. If you are chess player, then you don't need the explanation and can skip the next two paragraphs.
In chess there is a king and fifteen more pieces for each player. You can "capture" the pieces of your adversary, if they are in a square which you can reach with your own pieces. But the king is not supossed to be captured. If you come to a situation where the king can't escape from being captured, it is called "checkmate" and the one who can't save his king loses. Because of this, the king is a piece which is necessary to protect by all possible means, and all other pieces have this task. The most powerful is the queen, followed by the rooks, then the bishops and knights, and the last ones are the pawns - but if a pawn comes to the last square it becomes any piece you want. When you begin to play it is impossible to give a "chekmate" in the first move, because the other king is protected and you own pieces are distant and behind the pawns. To create the position in which you win, you make two main things: to "develop" your pieces - it means to put them in agressive positions against your adversary - preparing your own defense to resist the agression against you, and weaken the adversary by capturing his pieces. For instance, if you change a bishop of yours for your opponents queen, you'll weaken him extremely, making it easier for you to give him checkmate and more difficult for him to avoid it.
Is in this context - to lose high valued pieces - that you choose a "sacrifice". Even when it is useful to capture the opponent's pieces, especially the most valued ones, this is not the end of the game. To give the opponent checkmate is. A sacrifice means that you allow your adversary to capture one or more of your pieces, because it will make his position weaker and you will give him checkmate. For instance, you "sacrifice" your queen, because the opponents rook which will capture it leaves a defenseless king, and then you use your own rook to give him checkmate.
This concept of "sacrifice" is a fundamental doctrine in the Bible. Because when you "sacrifice" something, then you get a result - in the case of the Bible, a right relationship with God, to get save. In the Old Testament, the sacrifice included a whole system of offerings, mostly of animals, that were sacrificed in order to give persons the forgiveness of sins. It is crucial.
Sin ruins our communion with God, and would cause us to go to hell if no sacrifice should placate God's wrath. The act by which God forgives our sin because of giving Him an animal to be sacrificed is called "expiation", and the sacrifice you give to God in order to get forgivennes is called "expiatory sacrifice". The first seven chapter of the book of Leviticus are about the offerings system that God established for Israel. The forgiveness of sins was guaranteed by the blood of the offered animals. The "day of expiation" or "day of atonement", in Hebrew "Yom Kippur", is the holiest celebration in the Jewish religion, and is established in Leviticus 16, and observed since the times of Moses.
In the same way that animals died in the Old Testament to reconcile the sinners with God, the New Testament shows an only great sacrifice: the expiatory death of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the cross of Calvary. He is the sacrifice for our sins, in the same way that animals were sacrificed in the Old Testament. Those animal sacrifices have a value as means of pardon because they point to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Those believers who offered their animals in order to get forgiveness of sins, did it by faith, believing that God accepted the sacrifices He Himself ordered. And all these sacrifices were a type of the great sacrifice that Jesus Christ gave us, His own life for our sins. His blod, shed on the cross of Calvary, is the expiation means in the New Testament.
There is a reason that makes animal sacrifices and Christ's sacrifice necessary: "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22) God's justice demands the death of the sinner, but His grace and mercy offer forgiveness and reconciliation, IF WE ACCEPT THE SACRIFICE. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness - and their sin - with fig leaves, but God sacrificed animals - shedding their blod to cover the human's sin - and made them garments of skin.
The sacrifice has an "unjust" quality to human eyes. If you have seen a film called "Dominic and Eugene" then you have the perfect illustration, when the actor Tom Hulce is in a catholic church, in front of an image of the crucified Christ, and cries "I would never do that to my son!". There is an aparent cruelty in the sacrifice. An innocent has to die so that the guilty one shall get forgiveness.
But it is through this "injustice" that God's perfect justice works. If Daniel would obey the law prohibiting him a relationship with God, and would not chosen the way of sacrifice, it wouldn't be necessary God's intervention in order to save him.
The total opposite of sacrifice is manipulation. As God established sacrifice as a means of forgiveness, Satan lures the sinner to manipulate, in order to avoid the sacrifice.
Daniel selected to be sacrificed before disobeying God; Our Lord Jesus Christ chose to die on the cross to save us from eternal condemnation. Both of them were manipulated - and the manipulation could entice them to seek some kind of trick to avoid the sacrifice. Daniel could try to manipulate God, saying "Lord, give me a break so that they don't kill me. I will not pray for 30 days, but I see you next month". Our Lord could have said, "Father, there must be another way. Let me skip that cross; You know I have never sinned. Why should I die for the sins of others?". That was Peter's line of thought, when he told Jesus to avoid His destiny and was rebuked by Him (Matthew 16:21-23) because the Lord saw Satan using the apostle. The Lord didn't manipulate His Father, but said, "may Your will be done, and not mine". He chose sacrifice, because it was His Father's will.
Are you manipulating God? Read the next message!
In the love of Christ, your brother
PS. Jesus is coming soon!