Many Christians want to be Josephs and Daniels gaining access to political leaders to gain influence over them. They believe that by getting the ear of politicians, they will be able to influence political power in the direction that God wants it to go. The problem with this desire to influence political power is the nature of the relationship.

Joseph

Joseph was a slave, and he continued to be a slave of Pharaoh, even though the was his second command. Pharaoh took advantage of Joseph's dream interpretation skills, but he used them for his own benefit. He could have told the people to save grain during the good years, so they would be safe during the famine years, but Pharaoh did not pass on the knowledge that he learned from Joseph's interpretation on to his people. Instead, he brought up grain himself during the good years, when it was cheap. And then he sold it during the famine years when grain was scarce and expensive.

By buying at the bottom, and selling at the top of the market, Pharaoh made enormous profits at the expense of his people.

Worse still, when the people ran out of money, Pharaoh took their land in exchange for grain. During the famine years, land was worthless, whereas grain was valuable. Pharaoh gained ownership of all the land in Egypt. The people fell from being independent farmers to become tenant farmers reliant on Pharaoh. You could say that Pharaoh ripped his people off, when he had a responsibility to care for them.

God used Joseph to provide food for his family during the famine. He used this situation to get Jacob and his family to Egypt. But Joseph was not able to change Pharaoh's behaviour. He continued to be a wicked, and self-centred dictator, who enslaved his people. If Joseph had refused to implement Pharaoh's wishes, he would have been turfed out of power, just like his predecessors who could not interpret Pharaoh's dreams.

Therefore, Joseph is not really a good role-model for Christians wanting to influence political leaders. Rather he is an example of the danger of working with political power. Political influence always comes with a cost, and it usually overwhelms.

Daniel

Daniel's situation was not much better. Nebuchadnezzar recognised Daniel's wisdom and put him in charge of the province of Babylon after he interpreted his dream. However, Nebuchadnezzar did not change and become gentle, humble and kind. Instead, he built a statue of himself and made the people worship it. Daniel's friends refused to worship the statue, because they preferred to honour God, but they had to obey Nebuchadnezzar in everything else. They had to use their God-given wisdom to implement Nebuchadnezzar's plans and purposes. If they had refused to carry out his instructions, they would have been thrown out their roles.

When Nebuchadnezzar became too big for his boots and God spoke to him in a dream, Daniel was able to hell him what the dream meant, without a description of the dream. When he humbled himself, he recognised that God is right and just, but there is no evidence that he switched to doing what is right and good. Nebuchadnezzar continued to be a ruthless and powerful dictator.

When Nebuchadnezzar's son Belshazzar held a banquet, Daniel was able to read the writing on the wall and warn him what would happen. However, Belshazzar did not repent and turn back to God.

When Darius the Mede invaded Babylon, Daniel's wisdom was recognised and he was re-appointed to a position of authority. After he came out of the lion's den, Darius acknowledged the greatness of Daniel's god, and decreed that all the people of his kingdom must acknowledge Daniel's god (Dan 6:26), but that did not mean they should stop worshipping their other God. They just added another god to their pantheon of gods. And they didn't stop giving their allegiance to the emperor who controlled their kingdom.

Daniel prospered during the reigns of Darius the Mede and his successor Cyrus the Persian. Nevertheless, he continued to be a slave. God had given Daniel wisdom, but he had to use it to advance the plans of pagan emperors.

When Cyrus became king over the empire, he ordered that a temple be built in Jerusalem. Daniel may have had a role in this, but we must be careful about over-stating the significance of the decision. The decree to rebuild the temple was significant for Israel, but that was what Emperors did in those days. They wanted to keep all the local gods in their empire happy, and one of the best ways to do that was to build a temple for each one. Cyrus was not choosing to follow Yahweh, he was just doing what emperors did to keep themselves on the right side of the gods they might have offended during their conquests.

So Daniel would have had a tough life working for a series of pagan emperors. He had to use the wisdom that God had given to support their plans and goals. If Daniel refused to do that, he would have lost his position. Daniels most valuable contribution was the apocalyptic visions, prayers and prophecies recorded in Daniel 7-12. He prophesied the ministry of Jesus (Dan 9). He also described how the Kingdom God would come to fulness and how the governments of the world would collapse and disappear and be replaced by the government of God.

The Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom...

But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (Dan 7:22, 27-27).

This is a wonderful promise. Maybe Daniel received his visions, because he was tormented by having a role where he had to use God's gift of wisdom to prop up pagan emperors. This struggle probably caused him to press into God and ask why these rulers were so strong when God was the creator of the universe. The pressure of serving at the heart of the empire forced Daniel into intense prayer that produced important insights into the workings of the empire. The tension of his role gave him the tenacity to receive a clear vision and promise from God.

Daniel's prophecies were an amazing achievement for a person who was forced to serve a pagan king, but he is not a role model for Christian to follow.

Authority Issue

The aspiration for a Daniel/Joseph type ministry is based on the assumption that Christians can contribute to the advance of the Kingdom of God by influencing political leaders and emperors. That is a misunderstanding. The Kingdom of God will come to fulness when human emperors, kingdoms and political powers collapse and shrink away. The Kingdom of God is established on the edge of society, so it will be ready to expand when the kingdoms of the world shake and fall. Political coercion cannot be used to establish a kingdom based on love and service.

God needs prophets to challenge and confront kings and political leaders. These prophets will sometimes rise up within the bureaucracy that serves the political system, as Daniel did. However, they will need to be marked by absolute allegiance to God and his word. Their role is not to comfort the king and help him to use his power better. Better policies will not produce the kingdom. Gods Kingdom cannot be built by coercive power. Their role is to expose the failures and follies of political power.

A key issue is authority. When a Christian has a relationship with a political leader, the leader holds all the authority. To be accepted, the Christians has to submit to them and to their authority. The political leader does not have to submit to the Christian or recognise their authority. They can pick and choose from the wisdom offered by the Christian, so they remain in control.

Unfortunately submitting to their political leaders, leaves the Christian vulnerable to spiritual forces that control and manipulate them. Seeking access to political power can have a high spiritual cost. Kings, Presidents or Prime Ministers are aware that their popularity is fragile, so they prefer to be surrounded by people who will boost their ego's. Therefore, to get close to them, Christians will have to engage in flattery, but unfortunately, this reduces their ability to influence them. Too much flattery by Christians can make a King, President or Prime Minster dangerous.