Many times we might think that God could never be humiliated. But that is not entirely correct. One of the great prophetic books of the OT, the Book of Daniel, opens with this theme.
We know the story well. Daniel and his three friends were among those Jews who were taken captive to Babylon around 600 years before Christ. The reason this happened is because the Jews had disobeyed God and the covenant He had made with them. They had worshiped and served idols instead of the One that had brought them out of Egypt and given them a land of their own. He had done everything for them.
One thing that happened when the Jews were taken into captivity was that the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This happened a few years after Daniel and his friends were taken away, but even at the time Daniel was taken, the king of Babylon took some of the articles from the temple and brought them to Babylon.
Daniel 1:2 records this fact. But it also tells us what the king of Babylon did with the loot from God’s house in Jerusalem. He placed these items in the “house of his god.”
When a people in the OT was subjugated by another people, the world looked upon the defeated people with scorn. The god of the defeated country was not able to help them. That god was not able to stop their destruction. The god of the victorious country was seen as greater than the other god.
This is the way the world saw things in the time of Daniel. In the eyes of the world, the God of Israel was a defeated and humiliated God. The things from His Temple were taken and placed in the temple of the victorious god of the Babylonian king. It was not just the people of Israel who were humiliated, it was their God who was impotent to help them.
This humiliation went further, and we read about it in Daniel 1 as well. Daniel’s name means “God is my judge.” The name of one friend, Hananiah, means “the Lord is gracious.” Another friend’s name, Mishael, means “who is what God is?” The third friend’s name, Azariah, means “the Lord has helped.” After the defeat of Israel, such Hebrew names were inappropriate. They were given Babylonian names that extolled the greatness of the gods of Babylon (Dan 1:7). Names that once praised the God of Israel are changed to honor the gods who “defeated” the Lord.
Of course, the Book of Daniel shows the reader how, even though His people had suffered defeat, the God of Israel was greater than all other gods. But it cannot be denied that in the eyes of the world, at least in Daniel 1, the true God had been humiliated. This humiliation was brought about because of the sin of His people. God brought the captivity of the Jews because it was the result of His discipline on His people for their rebellion against Him.
Paul, in the NT Book of Romans, quotes from the OT and makes the same point. When God’s people disobey Him, they dishonor Him and cause His name to be blasphemed in the eyes of the world (Rom 2:23-24). Peter follows suit and says that when Christians are led astray by false teaching and live ungodly lives, they blaspheme the “way of truth.” In other words, Christians can live in a way that the truths God proclaims are ridiculed by nonbelievers.
This all makes sense. We in the Free Grace movement correctly proclaim that our works have nothing to do with receiving eternal life. But our works are important. They keep us from being disciplined by God. The Jews of Daniel’s day are an example by which we can to learn. Our works also determine our eternal rewards in the kingdom of God.
But our works do something else. As God’s people we claim to believe in and follow a holy God. He is our Father. We are His children, and through Christ He has given us eternal life. Our works make a statement about Him to the world. We can live lives that honor Him because He is holy. But when we live ungodly lives, our actions also reflect on Him. Sin not only brings humiliation into our lives. In the eyes of those who see us, it humiliates the One who has done everything for us.