Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai were three Old Testament Israelites who, at different times, rose to great political power under secular kings. These were foreign kings who did not share the values of these men. They were leaders these men could have easily despised. Save the sovereignty of God, from a human standpoint, how did these men of principle set aside by God and for God attain such positions of influence?
At least four common characteristics and two common results in the lives of these three uncommon men are parallel principles that you need to incorporate into your own life in order to remain effective for God in office. If I could teach an elected official only one Bible study as to how to remain effective for God in office, it would be this one.
Read on, my friend.
Some people were not happy when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016 and displayed their displeasure by fomenting social unrest and taking part in protests that sometimes became violent. The liberal media hammered President Trump unfairly in attempts to topple him, and some who held public office were very vocal about their difficulty in accepting this change in leadership. Now a different political party is in power in D.C. and many public servants do not agree with their policies.
Always, the question believers should ask themselves is: how would our Lord expect us to behave when leaders are in power with whom we do not agree? No matter who is in power, are violent actions and disrespectful comments pleasing to Him?
Looking to the Bible, the Scriptures include examples of exemplary behavior in three godly, courageous men of the Old Testament (OT) who stood their ground for God, and yet maintained respect for those in authority with whom they did not agree.
This study draws parallels from three Old Testament believers who rose to prominent leadership positions in government under different secular kings at different times. Common characteristics in each man advanced their successful rise in governmental leadership.
II. THREE UNCOMMON MEN
What’s in common with three uncommon men? Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai, sojourners in foreign lands, each rose from austerity to political prominence. As a matter of fact, each became his host country’s second-in-command under a pagan king! One such feat alone—not to mention three—is reason for this study:
- Joseph found himself serving under Pharaoh during Israel’s 400 years in Egypt.
- Daniel was carted in to serve under Nebuchadnezzar (and Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus) during Israel’s Babylonian captivity.
- Mordecai ended up in the palace of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) during Israel’s confinement in the Persian Empire.
Similar traits, characteristics, and leadership qualities can be gleaned and applied from each man’s meteoric rise to power.
These passages are applicable and can provide much guidance related to changes in leadership.
These OT men didn’t simply survive; they thrived in very difficult political environments! How about you? Will you thrive under leadership changes by following the principles seen in these three wise men? I can find at least four common characteristics that account for their prosperity—even though each man serves in a different time and situation.
This study must assume a working knowledge of the context of each man within his respective book of the Bible, i.e., the books of Genesis, Daniel, and Esther, respectively. If you do not already have an agile familiarity with these OT books, I strongly suggest you read them prior to studying what follows so you may gain the maximum impact on your thinking, life, and actions while serving in office.
Building a cogent parallel of these three men will require quite a lengthy study at the very least, which prohibits me from getting into the weeds and duly contextualizing each of the passages that will be addressed.
III. FOUR COMMON CHARACTERISTICS
What are the four common characteristics that are evident in each of these men that can be attributed to their growing and continued influence in a vastly different political environment? Each follows and is supported by respective biblical passages.
A. MANIFEST RESPECT FOR THE KING
Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:14).
But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself (Daniel 1:8, cf. Daniel 2:49).
He went as far as the king’s gate, for no one was to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth (Esther 4:2).
In each of the three men is an outward respect for the king, strongly suggesting inward respect, at least for the office. In each setting these men were cognizant of God’s institution of civil government, and since government is created by God, but not necessarily led by godly men and women, respect for governing authorities is nonetheless required.
Note this principle in the New Testament (NT) from Romans 13:1:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai each exemplified this principle; and as is evident from these passages, they followed the rules and protocol. Neither did they call their boss names in the media. Believers usually think much differently from governing authorities, and rightfully so, but nevertheless, they must respect the leader’s God-ordained position—as these passages so vividly delineate (so long as doing so is not contrary to the commands of Scripture). Do you show respect for people in authority with whom you disagree? States 1 Peter 2:17:
Honor all people; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
B. LOYAL SERVICE TO THE KING
But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her (Genesis 39:8–10).
Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!” (Daniel 2:25).
But the plot became known to Mordecai, and he told Queen Esther, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name (Esther 2:22).
Each of these men displayed a manifest unfaltering loyalty to the country’s civil leader at times when doing otherwise would have been easy. In each case and in due time, the kings learned of their loyalty.
Do you practice both the presence of God and the presence of the king when engaging in private, personal conversations with others? Note the following:
The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully (Proverbs 14:35).
Argue your case with your neighbor, and do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away (Proverbs 25:9–10).
C. INSIGHTFUL WISDOM FOR THE KING
Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are” (Genesis 41:38–39).
As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm (Daniel 1:20).
During that night the king could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. It was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. The king said, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?”Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him” (Esther 6:1–3).
Another profound element explaining the dramatic rise of these three men was their value to the king. We may not be able to interpret a king’s dreams today, but we can put into words the ageless truths of God’s Holy Writ! (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).
When a leader discovers your godly wisdom, your ability and agility to apply the Word accurately, specifically and successfully in solution to complete political difficulties, it is then that you take on tremendous value.
How are you progressing in your discipline and quest for gaining greater biblical understanding and perspicacity?1 If you have no plans to continually grow and increase in your biblical acumen, you are most definitely limiting your future political value and worth my friend—not only in God’s eyes but to the king and the country. Remember above all else is the power of the Word in your life. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 says:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Do you believe your biblical knowledge and wisdom directly determines your vocational altitude and value? Are you presently adequate, equipped for every good work that a superior might need from you? Or are you biblically illiterate and full of your own ideas about various matters? Work to intertwine your personage with the Word of God, and you will possess insightful and profound wisdom for both a Christian or a secular leader. It stands that you should be committed to the Members Bible Study in the capital wherein the Word of God is regularly explicated and applied in specific to the life of a public servant. How foolish it is to miss out on studying the Bible; it is to the peril of your country, your king, and yourself !
D. UNSWERVING COURAGE IN THE FACE OF THE KING
Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16).
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16–18).
Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you transgressing the king’s command?” Now it was when they had spoken daily to him and he would not listen to them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s reason would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage (Esther 3:3–5).
These guys had guts! In their prerequisite manifest respect, loyal service and insightful wisdom to the king, they did not compromise what they believed one iota! In addition to the three aforementioned prerequisites, they displayed unswerving courage! Notice, however, that the other three attributes must be manifest in concert with courage. Courage alone, without the others, will lead you to disaster in office.
When Joseph is answering Pharaoh in Genesis 41:16, in essence, he is stating to the follower of a pagan deity that he cannot provide the answer; rather, [it is] God [who] will give Pharaoh a favorable answer. Joseph’s reply to Pharaoh was profoundly illustrative of the characteristic of courage because the Hebrew word for God that he used is Elohim. Joseph was heralding to Pharaoh that the God of the Hebrews would answer his dream!
That response, my friend, takes guts!
Fresh-out-of-prison Joseph was witnessing right in the face of Pharaoh about the one-and-only true God!
Likewise, Daniel doesn’t even flinch when, in essence, he entices Nebuchadnezzar to, “turn up the furnace as high as you want … it matters not to us! We will not serve your god no matter what!” (my paraphrase of Daniel 3:16–18).
Nor would Mordecai bow to the intimidating power of Haman as is evidenced by Esther 3:3–5. This unswerving total confidence in God is illustrated by each of the three men! And note this: in each case, each king ends up respecting God’s servant for it! Put simply:
The one who compromises on godly precepts ends up having to protect himself or herself; whereas the one who will not compromise on godly precepts may be the recipient of unearthly protection.
Do you have unbending convictions relative to and grounded in the principles and precepts of God’s Book? Will you speak of Your [His] testimonies before kings and shall not be ashamed? (Psalm 119:46). When God sees this quality and characteristic repeatedly manifest in one of His children, He strongly supports and elevates him.
Notice this principle/promise as summarized by Jesus in Matthew 25:21:
His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
Undoubtedly, this one characteristic led to the rise of these otherwise common foreigners: God elevated them because each one of them was faithful to represent God without compromise!
Many display manifest respect, loyal service, and insightful wisdom but lack the unswerving courage to speak of God’s ways no matter the price. God is looking—America is looking—for leaders of unswerving courage! Are you one of them?
Unswerving courage in the manifestation of God’s Word is an uncommon characteristic today. Do you possess it? How many of these four characteristics define you? Are you respectful, loyal, insightful and unswerving? Again, don’t be the last one without first being the first three! To do so is to be a noisy gong or a clanging symbol (1 Corinthians 13:1). I have noticed over decades of ministry in capitols that such individuals typically do not maintain office as long as they would like simply because they lack the staying power that is requisite for being influential.
IV. TWO COMMON RESULTS
The following passages spotlight at least two recurring results in the lives of these men:
A. PROMOTION BY THE KING
“You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you” (Genesis 41:40).
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court (Daniel 2:46–49).
And all the accomplishments of his authority and strength, and the full account of the greatness of Mordecai to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia? For Mordecai the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen, one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation (Esther 10:2–3).
In our day and age, there is no biblical promise that if a believer masters these four common characteristics herein that he or she will rise to the number-two position in their government, or in our case will be chosen as the Vice President-Elect of the United States, a Cabinet post, or a leadership position in the House or Senate. These four common characteristics are principles— not promises.
Having said that, former Vice President Mike Pence served as a wonderful modern-day illustration of a Joseph, a Daniel, or a Mordecai.
For years Former Vice President Pence embodied these aforesaid biblical characteristics, and God elevated him to the number-two position in our government. But avoid viewing these principles as a formula to get to the top in your profession. What God does promise His faithful followers is an imperishable crown in heaven! May that prize consume our hearts more so than the perishable, temporary awards and accomplishments of this life. 1 Peter 5:4 states to believers:
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
And who knows, certainly my prayer is that faithful and mature followers of Christ will lead not only America, but also many nations throughout the world! And such individuals only exist to the degree that others disciple them in the Word.
B. PROTECTION BY A CONCERNED, EVER-WATCHING FATHER
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:20).
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” (Daniel 3:24–25).
So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided (Esther 7:10).
God has a way of protecting and delivering His children in the long run; He is the expert at reversing evil for good.
These three faithful men all experienced heart-rendering and life-threatening situations, only to see the hand of God deliver each of them!
When unfolding God’s economy of maturing His loved ones cannot be avoided, James 1:2–3:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Similar to the lives of Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai, those whom God is elevating2 will face refining—humanly impossible fiery ordeals that only God can deliver you from. However, a concerned, ever-watching Father never takes His eyes off of those whom He loves, elevates, and sustains! He wants only what is best for you as He perfects you!
The fact that God has placed many new, godly men and women in the House, the Senate, the White House and the Cabinet is His doing! Each will face his or her own trials but may each never lose sight of practicing the four characteristics that these three men displayed—the formula for pleasing God and maintaining influence for God in public service.
The four characteristics shared by these three men embody the tension every elected official must maintain between loyalty and service to someone whom they may or may not have themselves chosen as a leader, and, at the same time, not compromise on biblically based principles. In a very real sense, these three men serve as narrative illustrations of Proverbs 3:3:
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Note the same tension and principle in 1 Corinthians 13:6:
[Love] does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.
God has been gracious to grant America many new, God-fearing governing authorities. In the days ahead, may He grant even more such governing authorities: men and women who possess unbending, omnipresent respect, loyalty, wisdom, and courage—those same characteristics found in and attributable to the rise and sustainment of political wisdom and power modeled by Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai!
God may not advance you but in His own way, economy, and purposes, will promote and protect you to the degree these qualities depict you! May such traits characterize the men and women in the House and the Senate who name the name of Christ.
This, my friend, is what Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai have to say today in regard to changes in leadership. We thank God for the message of their lives that still lives on today!
1. Perspicacity means “clear-sighted, quick-sighted, sharp-sighted.”
2. Don’t allow yourself to think for a single moment that you won an office in and by your own power.