Flattery Is Always False. True Praise Is Rooted In Humility.
The prophet Daniel’s message here is as clear as “the writing on the wall.” There are those who will do great evil to achieve the power they desire, and they will use every conceivable method to do this, from force of arms to simple flattery. And there will be those who are weak in faith who will submit in fear, or who will be taken by the hope of false flatteries. But there will also be those who are strong in faith, who will stand up to their fears, and who will see through the perfume of flattery and not be taken in by it.

In this passage, Daniel is prophesying about the king of the north, probably Antiochus IV. But Antiochus is a metaphor for us in that we may know of people like him in our own lives. What is important for us to consider in this verse is whether we are vulnerable to being seduced by flattery to violate God’s law. In truth, because of fear, in all of its manifestations, we can be vulnerable. It is only a well developed and practiced faith in the God of mercy that can save us from falling for such earthly, finite, and ultimately unfulfilling things.

We are challenged here, then, to continue to grow in our faith. The world needs people of strong faith to “stand firm and to take action” in order to show others that God’s love, and our eternal souls, are more important, more valuable, and more attractive, than any foolishness the world has to offer. Flattery is foolishness. It appeals solely to the ego and to the nerve endings. Flattery is always false. True praise is always a matter of respect and is rooted in humility. It does not seek personal advantage. There is no “agenda” behind it, as there always is with flattery.

What God wants from us is action done in his name. He knows that this is a very difficult thing for us in this world that so often feels dangerous, or that appeals to the temporary desires of the flesh with false attractiveness. God knows that even the strong will stumble at times, and he promises to help us. When we stumble we are tested. If we remain true to God, if we call on him for help, we will be “refined and purified, until the end of time which is still appointed to come.” (verse 35)

Lord, we pray that you increase our faith and our insight into your law. Make us strong enough to stand up to all challenges to our faith with courage. Help us to recognize false flattery when it is used by others in an attempt to draw us away from you. Even if we stumble, help us to keep our eyes on you and to trust in your aid in our times of need. Without you we can do nothing. With you, we can do all that you ask of us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.
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