Posts Tagged 'Daniel'

Fear Not, 9

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Daniel 10:12

Daniel was a man blessed by God. He was statesman, saint, and prophet. And in some ways he was a strange man. At least by some standards. By the time chapter 10 of the book that bears his name rolls around, Daniel is pushing 90. Fifty may be the new 30, but 90 is old by anybody’s reckoning. In all, over seven decades has passed since his deportation from the land of Judah. Two years had gone by since Cyrus had decreed freedom for the Jews who had been living in Babylon, now Persia. Many of them had left the Empire to return to the ruins of Jerusalem to begin the arduous work of rebuilding the city of David. Many chose to remain in Persia, and among those who stayed behind was Daniel.

Four years before chapter 10, Daniel had his now-famous vision of “the Seventy Weeks.” Here, he has another vision during a prayer vigil. We’re not sure what prompted Daniel’s season of prayer or what he was praying for. It may well be, as some scholars have speculated, Daniel was praying for the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem. It was a struggle for them to rebuild the city. Dangerous, too. It makes sense that Daniel would take the time to intercede on their behalf.

Let’s take a look at what happened when Daniel prayed.

Daniel’s prayer vigil, 10:1-3

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. (Daniel 10:2-3 NIV84)

Whatever it was that weighed down the prophet’s heart, it was serious enough that he not only prayed but fasted too. Not only that, he didn’t bathe for three weeks, either. At that point, his neighbors probably went to prayer, too.

Stop and think about Daniel’s situation. He’s an old man and it’s almost certain he had retired from his career as a statesman/diplomat/politician. Most people, when they retire, want to lead a life of ease. They want to travel and do all the things they couldn’t do when they were raising a family and working all the time. Daniel may have retired from public service, but he hadn’t retired from his faith.

And neither should we. Just because you get old and retire, if you’re lucky enough to be able to do that in today’s economy, that doesn’t mean you stop being active for the kingdom of God! It’s admittedly hard to spend time in prayer when you’re working all day and raising a family. So how fortunate is a person who isn’t punching a time clock and who’s kids are grown and out of the house? All that free time to devote to spiritual pursuits! At least, that’s how it should be.

We old timers tend to accuse the younger generation of being selfish and self-centered, but maybe we should stop and look at ourselves and the time we have left. Have we become so preoccupied with living what we *think* is the good life that we’ve factored God out of it? How many weekends, for example, do you plan on some activity or other that causes you to miss church?  Good question.

No, church doesn’t save a soul, but it is the visible Body of Christ and you, whether you like it or not, are accountable to it. What many Christians lack is not a confession of Christ, but a commitment to His Body.

Fortunately for Daniel, he was committed and disciplined.

Appearance of the Glorious Man, 10:4-11

When we read these verses, we are reminded of what John saw in his vision while in exile on Patmos (Revelation 1:10-20). The descriptions of the Person both men saw are so similar, who can doubt they saw the same Man? He didn’t identify himself to Daniel, but He did to John:

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18 NIV84)

On April 24, 534 BC by our calendar, Daniel was privileged enough to have been given a vision of the pre-incarnate, transfigured Christ before either Moses or Elijah saw him. Daniel needed to see the glorified Christ to encourage him.

I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. (Daniel 10:5-6 NIV84)

In the past, Daniel had seen wild, crazy animals, spirit beings, huge statues, and long weeks in his dreams and visions. Now he sees a man. But not just any man. Daniel sees THE Man: the glorious Son of God.

Christians are so blessed – blessed beyond Daniel, in fact. Daniel had a once-in-a-lifetime vision of Christ. For us, we have His constant presence in our lives through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet we take Him for granted to the point where we don’t even notice that He is right there with us, all the time. We’ve become so lackadaisical when it comes to the Divine Presence in us. How sad for us.

Here’s how Daniel reacted to the vision:

So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. (Daniel 10:8 NIV84)

His servants didn’t see a thing but were terrified, nonetheless. The presence of God can do that sometimes. There are limits to what a human being can bear when it comes to a spiritual encounter, and apparently Daniel hit that threshold. He was completely overwhelmed.

That’s when our Lord spoke these reassuring words to the prophet:

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (Daniel 10:12 NIV84)

This “do not be afraid” is for anybody who has ever prayed for the needs of others. We’ve all done that. And we’ve all had the excruciating experience of waiting for that need to be met. The need could have been anything: healing, deliverance, or financial. We pray. And we wait. And wait. And we wonder. What the Glorious Man told Daniel should serve as a great encouragement to we who wait.

Your prayer is heard immediately

Yes, in spite of what it feels like, the very moment you pray, that prayer is heard in Heaven. There is absolutely no lag time, even if the answer to your prayer seems delayed.

Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding…your words were heard… (Daniel 10:12 NIV84)

“The first day.” That’s important to note. According to the Daniel’s own words, he had been praying and fasting for three weeks. Three weeks is a long to for a person to keep on praying for something and, as in Daniel’s case, fasting. Obviously Daniel had no idea his prayer had been heard on “the first day,” for if he had he would surely have stopped praying and eaten a sandwich.

Does that mean our prayers are heard on “the first day” we pray them? Verse 12 gives what may be considered a condition:

…humble yourself before your God… (Daniel 10:12b NIV84)

It’s safe to say that a prayer offered in a humble spirit is heard when it is prayed. There’s not a lot of humility in the Church of Jesus Christ today! Listen to how some Christians pray. It sounds like they’re ordering God around sometimes!

Humility isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a requirement!

He has showed you, O man, what is good.And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV84)

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10 NIV84)

Daniel must have been a humble man, therefore his prayer was heard immediately. You should be too, if you want your prayers heard the moment you pray them.

Something else about Daniel’s character overflowed into his prayer. Notice:

…you set your mind to gain understanding… (Daniel 10:12b NIV84)

Daniel’s mind was fully engaged while he was praying

He wasn’t daydreaming. He wasn’t vainly repeating some time-worn liturgical prayer somebody else prayed generations ago. He didn’t babble before The Lord. Daniel used his reasoning mind as he prayed. Whatever it was he was praying for, he was thinking about the need; he was trying to understand the need even as he was praying about it.

Delays in answered prayer are not always God’s fault

Depending on your denominational persuasion, that statement may have caused your head to explode, so hang on while it’s explained.

Sometimes, answers to your prayers are delayed because you’re not ready for the answer. You may have an earnest desire as you ask God for such-and-such a thing, but God knows you aren’t ready or fit for the answer. God may require you to wait for some reason; perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned. Maybe your faith needs to be stretched a little so it will grow and be stronger. This is not a denial of your prayer, just a delay.

In Daniel’s vision, the delay was a bit more nefarious:

But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. (Daniel 10:13 (NIV84)

The answer to Daniel’s prayer was sent immediately, but it was delayed – it was blocked. The angel of the Lord was prevented from delivering the message Daniel had been praying for. Now, this is an amazing verse, and we learn a little about what “spiritual warfare” is all about. It also throws some light on what Paul wrote to his Ephesian friends:

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12 NIV84)

That word Paul used, “struggle,” is a key element in Paul’s theology of “spiritual warfare.” He wrote a similar thing to the Romans:

I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 NIV84)

Here Paul used the word “struggle” again to describe how he was praying. The KJV uses the phrase “strive together,” and that gives a slightly different flavor, but essentially puts across the same idea of the Greek word sunagonizom, from which we our English word, “agonize.” This idea of “agonizing in prayer” leads to the obvious question: Do you? When was the last time you “agonized in prayer?” This shouldn’t be confused with the notion of begging God for something. That’s not agonizing, it’s humiliating. No believer needs to beg his Heavenly Father for anything, any time. But to “agonize in prayer” is to take your prayer to the next level. Today, prayer is such light thing. Most of us are exhausted after just three or four minutes of praying. Or we pray like we hear our preachers praying: in the KJV language or following some liturgy. Real prayer is not prayed according to rote or memorization. It’s not trying to impress God by taking on a holy tone, using unusual words and phrases. Prayers shouldn’t be profound, they should be from the heart. To “agonize in prayer” means that you humbly realize He is your only hope. You have no one else to turn to. It means to be persistent; to keep on praying until the answer arrives. Maybe the answer will be, “Stop praying.” But maybe the answer will be like what Daniel was told. He was given the reason for the delay and then the answer to his prayer.

Daniel persevered for three weeks. We have a hard time persevering for a few minutes. We modern Christians would do well to take a lesson from old Daniel. Let’s learn how to “agonize in prayer.” Let’s persist in our prayers three days, or three weeks, or thirty weeks if need be. We should never give up on a prayer request until we see the answer or, as happened to Moses and Joshua, we are told to stop praying. Spiritual conflict in prayer is far more common than you may think, so persevering is virtal. One preacher from bygone era wrote:

Many a lost battle would have been won if perseverance had been practiced a little longer on the part of the combatants.

Daniel was fearful that his prayer had gone unheard. You don’t have to be. Fear not. No matter how it seems to you, your prayers are heard and will be answered. But you need to be aware that there is a spiritual world swirling all around you, and you need to keep that in mind as you pray.

 

Daniel: The End of the Dream

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Daniel 7

 

That was the end of the dream.  (Daniel 7:28a  TLB)

The historical section of the book of Daniel ended with the last verse of chapter 6.  Now, Daniel begins the second part of his book which contains four prophetic visions which focus on the destiny of Israel in the world among Gentile nations.  Chapter 7 parallels chapter 2, as both chapters put forth the four great world empires, followed by the rise of a fifth empire or kingdom which will be the final kingdom on earth, the great Millennial Kingdom, which Christ will inaugurate when He returns to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  In chapter 2, the kingdoms of this earth are illustrated by a great statue, and in chapter 7 they are portrayed by a series of animals.

The book of Daniel is clearly not laid out in chronological order, and this drives the casual Bible reader crazy.  Verse 1 indicates when this chapter occurs:

One night during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign over the Babylonian Empire, Daniel had a dream and he wrote it down.  (Daniel 7:1  TLB)

So, we know that chapter 7 takes place somewhere around the year 553 AD.  That means that some 50 years have passed since Daniel had interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great statue.  Now, the great Nebuchadnezzar had been dead a decade, and none of his successors where close to being the world leader he was.  They were weak, impotent, and distracted men, and they lead Babylon to its end.  Daniel had this vision about 14 years before the fall of Babylon, and it encompasses the nations of this world from Daniel’s time, about 500 years before Christ, to our time to the end of the ages.

Daniel was a faithful Jew, he was a man of God, an interpreter of dreams and visions, and he was a prophet.  He was also life-long political presence in Babylon.  But most of all, Daniel was a man of action.  Let’s look this man’s vision and its implications for us, today.

1.  The dream 7:2—14

Daniel’s dream and its interpretation are repetitions of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2.  There, the four parts of the great statue corresponded to the four great world empires, beginning with Babylon, and here these same empires correspond to a series of animals.

  • The empire of Babylon=the head of gold=winged lion;
  • The empire(s) of Medo-Persia=breast and arms of silver=a bear;
  • The Greek empire=belly and thighs of brass=four-headed, winged leopard;
  • The Roman empire=legs of iron=dreadful beast.

The question Bible students ask, is:  Why repeat God’s plan for the empires of the world?  These two dreams or visions reveal to man God’s unfolding of history.  Previously, God had given to Egypt’s Pharaoh two dreams about the same thing:  one dream of seven cows and one of seven ears of grain.  Joseph explained to Pharaoh why he had a dream with the same meaning twice, and Joseph’s explanation probably applies here, too:

“Both dreams mean the same thing,” Joseph told Pharaoh. “God was telling you what he is going to do here in the land of Egypt.”

The double dream gives double impact, showing that what I have told you is certainly going to happen, for God has decreed it, and it is going to happen soon.   (Genesis 41:25, 32  TLB)

So what’s going to happen WILL happen, and it is happening today.  Just because liberal Bible scholars attempt to poke holes in the tapestry of Bible prophecy as it hangs in Daniel doesn’t mean Bible prophecy isn’t true or dependable.  The kingdoms of this world are portrayed as “animals” rising up out of the great sea of humanity; they are, without exception, beasts of prey—brutish, strong, living by instinct alone.  If that isn’t an accurate picture of the nations of this world throughout history, nothing is!   But the thing we need to remember is that God allows these various world powers to rise to prominence, and He permits other nations to take their place.  We see the sovereignty of God at work here.

When you  look back at history, you can see nations coming and going like images on a blackboard that get drawn, then erased, then drawn again.  Part of this vision has already taken place—what was prophecy in Daniel’s day is merely history in ours.  We have already witnessed the rise and fall of Babylon, Persian, Greece, and Rome.  The rest will surely come to pass.

2.  The blessed end

That was the end of the dream. When I awoke, I was greatly disturbed, and my face was pale with fright, but I told no one what I had seen.  (Daniel 7:28  TLB)

Both the dream and its interpretation disturbed Daniel; the emotional shock of it all overwhelmed him to the point where he felt compelled to keep it all to himself.  What would be the point to telling anybody in the royal court the dream?  Belshazzar was no Nebuchadnezzar; he had no respect for Daniel’s spirituality or for God Himself.  So Daniel didn’t tell the dream to anybody because nobody would appreciate the wonders of God’s revelations.  This was something Jesus understood well:

“Don’t give holy things to depraved men. Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you.”  (Matthew 7:6  TLB)

In his dream, Daniel saw new monarchies coming and going.  But the last one astounded him.  The history of the “beast kingdoms” has been written in blood and tears.  But a final kingdom will come, and this new Kingdom will be the Kingdom of God and of His Christ.

The Second Coming of the Son of Man

Next I saw the arrival of a Man—or so he seemed to be—brought there on clouds from heaven; he approached the Ancient of Days and was presented to him.  (Daniel 7:13  TLB)

What a glorious day that will be!  The Son of God, in heaven, has been given all authority to take the kingdoms of this world from the Gentiles and to establish HIS kingdom.  Jesus Himself once had this conversation with some religious leaders of His day:

Then the high priest asked him. “Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?”  Jesus said, “I am, and you will see me sitting at the right hand of God, and returning to earth in the clouds of heaven.”  (Mark 14:61—62  TLB)

Right now, this world is under the dominion of the kingdoms of man.  But one day, man’s dominion of this world will come to its inevitable end when Jesus Christ returns in power and glory to build His kingdom.  He will return and He will not be happy with the man’s kingdoms!

What fools the nations are to rage against the Lord! How strange that men should try to outwit God!  For a summit conference of the nations has been called to plot against the Lord and his Messiah, Christ the King.  “Come, let us break his chains,” they say, “and free ourselves from all this slavery to God.”

But God in heaven merely laughs! He is amused by all their puny plans.  And then in fierce fury he rebukes them and fills them with fear.  For the Lord declares, “This is the King of my choice, and I have enthroned him in Jerusalem, my holy city.”

His chosen one replies, “I will reveal the everlasting purposes of God, for the Lord has said to me, ‘You are my Son. This is your Coronation Day. Today I am giving you your glory.’ ”  “Only ask and I will give you all the nations of the world.  Rule them with an iron rod; smash them like clay pots!”  (Psalm 2:1—9  TLB)

When the Lord returns, His kingdom will not be waiting for Him.  He will build it. Jesus will come with the conqueror’s sword and He will bring the nations of man into line then He will establish His kingdom.

The destruction of the beast’s power

As for the other three animals, their kingdoms were taken from them, but they were allowed to live a short time longer.  (Daniel 7:12  TLB)

The kingdoms of this world have had their way.  The first four beasts were destroyed, but the ideology and philosophy of the kingdoms will continue.  Until the Lord returns and puts down all rebellion, no matter what nation or kingdom dominates the world, the same beast-like philosophy will always prevail.  A quick glance around at our own culture certainly bears this out!  There are no more Babylonians, the Medes and Persians as world powers vanished, the Greek empire has all but vanished.  Rome fell, yet the sins that caused it to disintegrate are all alive and well in America today; they are deep in the hearts of sinful man.

But, praise God, on that great day when Jesus returns, all rebellion will be put down from the four corners of the earth, in every land and ever nation.

3.  A new kingdom is established

He was given the ruling power and glory over all the nations of the world, so that all people of every language must obey him. His power is eternal—it will never end; his government shall never fall.  (Daniel 7:14  TLB)

The kingdom of Christ, the Millennial Kingdom, will be universal in scope—all over the world, people and nations will submit to the Lordship of Christ.  Christ’s kingdom will ultimately be an everlasting kingdom.  It’s true that part of it will last one thousand years, but the Millennial Kingdom will merge into the Eternal State, carrying on into all eternity.  Imagine that.  The eternal kingdom of Christ begins on earth at the Second Coming, continues here for 1,000 years, then morphs into the Eternal state.  It will take all of eternity for God’s people to just begin to learn the fullness of God’s greatness.

4.  Victory of the saints

…the Ancient of Days came and opened his court and vindicated his people, giving them worldwide powers of government.  (Daniel 7:22  TLB)

“The Ancient of Days” is Christ.  “His people” refers to the saints of God.  God’s program for the universe will prevail and His people will prevail.  It may not seem like it right now.  In the cheap seats of history, it’s difficult to see what’s going on and understand how it all fits into God’s plan.  The thing is, God is slowly and inexorably moving the kingdoms of this world toward their inevitable end and there is nothing any prime minister, president, king or potentate can do about it.  God’s program for the universe will finally prevail through His people, the saints.

Jehovah said to my Lord the Messiah, “Rule as my regent—I will subdue your enemies and make them bow low before you.”  Jehovah has established your throne in Jerusalem to rule over your enemies. In that day of your power your people shall come to you willingly, dressed in holy altar robes.  (Psalm 110:1—3  TLB)

In a real sense, Christ’s ultimate victory will also be our ultimate victory.  We will be vindicated!  Our faith will finally be sight.  All the promises we believe and trust will finally come to pass, and they will come to pass before everybody’s eyes!  No wonder in that day:

…every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:11  TLB)

Whether they want to or not, all people, all over the world will acknowledge exactly who Jesus Christ is.  His vindication will also be ours.

Don’t you know that someday we Christians are going to judge and govern the world?  (1 Corinthians 6:2  TLB)

The end of history will not be an atomic bomb or global warming or cooling or a collision with an asteroid or even the destruction of all this is good on earth.  The goal of God’s plan for the universe, and for our planet, is the establishment of an eternal kingdom and the consummation and preservation of all that is good, and beautiful, and true, and holy (Roy Swim).

 

Daniel: Standing Firm!

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Daniel 6

By the time we get to Daniel 6, Daniel is pushing 90.  He had been taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon almost 70 years earlier.  This chapter is probably one of the most familiar chapters in the Bible because in it we read about the day Daniel was thrown into a den of lions.  It was Dr. McGee who remarked:

Have you ever stopped to think that Daniel spent only one night in the den of lions, but he spent a lifetime in the palace of pagan kings?

In some ways, living in the palace was far more dangerous than being in that den of lions!  Daniel lived his entire life in the royal palace, a career “public servant,” surrounded pagans.  He lived long enough to have served under five kings:  Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede and Cyrus.  The amazing thing about Daniel was that even in that heathen environment, he maintained his steadfast faith in God, lived his faith out in the public square, and even led some of these political giants to a knowledge of one true God.

Daniel didn’t have an easy life.  He was a prophet and an interpreter of dreams and he had to balance his service to God with his service to Babylon.  In all, he was able to walk that fine line:  he remained faithful to God, his conscience, and to his fellow men.  Let’s look at some aspects of this man’s sterling character.

1.  His integrity

This made the other presidents and governors very jealous, and they began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs so that they could complain to the king about him. But they couldn’t find anything to criticize! He was faithful and honest and made no mistakes. So they concluded, “Our only chance is his religion!”  (Daniel 6:4, 5  TLB)

Daniel was an excellent public servant and was rewarded accordingly.  He had a proven track record; he had been through many times of testing and he faced one political crisis after another.  But through it all, because he maintained his integrity, his honesty, and his work ethic, he gained a reputation that couldn’t be broken.

Of course, this kind of man really ticks others off sometimes.  To see Daniel about to be promoted yet again was a sight some “other presidents and governors” couldn’t bear.  They witnessed the purity of his life and they saw the blessings of God falling on Daniel and something inside these petty men snapped.

How could they sabotage his career?  This presented a real problem because there were no skeletons in Daniel’s closet—no mistresses, no dirty emails or Tweets, no misuse of government resources.  Here was a true man of integrity.

As a man of faith and of prayer, he was faultless.  This attitude carried over into his career.  As he was in his relationship with God, so he was in his work.  At his core was a pure a heart, and that governed all he did.  This was the real secret of his success!  In living to please God, he excelled in all he did.  This is an important fact to think about, because while many Christians seem able to hold up under severe trials, they stumble and lose faith over trivialities.  In sicknesses and in the death of loved ones, a lot us are able to fall back onto our faith; we have no one to trust so we trust in God.  What gets a lot of believers in trouble is daily life!  Yes, daily life—the grind of our everyday routine—is probably the severest test we will ever face and it’s the test we fail so often.  We can’t possibly get ready to face the routine of the day, for things pop up we can’t prepare for; therefore our heart dictates our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.  If our hearts are right, we will be like Daniel.  If our hearts are wrong, we will be more like Balaam—we will become distracted and seize the wrong opportunity.

2.  His Steadfastness

But though Daniel knew about it, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs bedroom, with its windows open toward Jerusalem, and prayed three times a day, just as he always had, giving thanks to his God.  (Daniel 6:10  TLB)

Notice not only Daniel’s reaction to Darius’ law, but also the words used.  Daniel went and prayed “as usual.”  In other words, faced with an awful situation, Daniel did what he always did; he prayed.  He didn’t rant or rave or demand his rights.  He simply did what he always did:  he did not back down. Some people think Daniel was foolhardy in throwing open his windows to pray, but it was the king who was foolhardy.  Daniel was doing what he always did.  The king, however, behaved in an idiotic fashion.

Now, Daniel could have prayed in secret.  The new law was just a temporary one; it lasted a month.  Surely for one month a man of God could keep his faith to himself.  But that wasn’t the point.  It was a foolish law that demanded people do something for no reason.  Like the nonconformists we looked at previously, Daniel had no reason to change his behavior.  His prayers infringed on nobody’s freedom to do as they pleased.  To obey this foolish, unnecessary law would have meant putting it above God’s Word and Daniel’s own conscience.  This was something the man of God could never do.

So, Daniel prayed as he had been praying for decades.  It wasn’t wrong before; it wasn’t wrong now.

What a boatload of lessons we can learn from this single verse!  Never cease praying, no matter the circumstances.  Never yield your beliefs to any man—or any government—if those beliefs are rooted in the Word of God.  Circumstances, no matter how adverse they may be, do not alter the Word of God and change God’s will.  Courage isn’t always found grasping a sword.  Sometimes courage is simply a matter of carrying on your beliefs and practices when those around you think you shouldn’t.

3.  His sufferings

Babylon had collapsed.  The old king was dead and a new king and kingdom had taken Babylon’s place in the world.  Daniel continued in his position into the new kingdom of the Medes and Persians.  In fact, they highly honored him, probably as the result of his interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, which announced the end of Belshazzar and Babylon. So, even though the last couple of Babylonian kings had ignored Daniel and Daniel had been pretty much forgotten by most Jews living in Babylon by now, God hadn’t forgotten him, and in His providence He saw to it that Daniel was rewarded for his service.

He became the third ruler, behind Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Great.  He was given wealth and luxury and even a choice of where to live:  in Babylon or in Judah under the Gedaliah the governor of that region.

Nothing breeds envy and contempt like success, and some men jealous of Daniel’s success conspired to find a way to do him in.  The only way to attack Daniel was by way of his religion, so they concocted a ridiculous law and foisted it upon Darius, who was completely in the dark as to why he signed it into law in the first place.

…make a law, irrevocable under any circumstance, that for the next thirty days anyone who asks a favor of God or man—except from you, Your Majesty—shall be thrown to the lions.  (Daniel 6:7b)

Darius succumbed to flattery and signed the law.  Today a selling point for this kind of law might be, “do it for the children.”  It was, of course, a nonsensical, ridiculous law, one that Darius would later regret signing into law.  Too late, the king realized he had been hustled and trapped by his governors.

Being thrown into a den of lions was the state-sanctioned form of capital punishment.  Under Nebuchadnezzar it was being thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive.  Curiously, the form of punishment was related to the gods worshiped by the Medes and Persians.  Zoroastrianism, which involved the worship of Atar the fire god, was the religion of the day, so burning enemies of state would have been out of the question.

So Daniel was about suffer greatly because of jealous men, an unjust law that could not be changed even by the king who signed it, and a king’s vanity.

4.  His deliverance

Well, it wasn’t long before Daniel was in trouble.  And it wasn’t long before the king realized he had been snookered.  He didn’t want Daniel harmed.  It’s a classic example of vanity resulting in the law of unintended consequences coming to pass.

Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”  (Daniel 6:14, 15  ESV)

The powerful Darius was trapped by his pride and folly, and he knew it.  But he wasn’t the last king this happened to.  Generations later, another king was tricked into beheading  John the Baptist.

Then the king was sorry, but he was embarrassed to break his oath in front of his guests.  (Mark 6:26  TLB)

It’s funny how history repeats itself, especially in the persecution of believers.  But we have to give Darius some credit because he did say these most remarkable words:

“May your God, whom you worship continually, deliver you.”  (Daniel 6:16  TLB)

And deliver Daniel God did!

Darius asked, “O Daniel, servant of the Living God, was your God, whom you worship continually, able to deliver you from the lions?”

Then he heard a voice! “Your Majesty, live forever!” It was Daniel!  “My God has sent his angel,” he said, “to shut the lions’ mouths so that they can’t touch me, for I am innocent before God; nor, sir, have I wronged you.”  (Daniel 6:20—22  TLB)

When God delivers, He delivers completely!  Years earlier, Daniel’s three friends discovered this.  God kept them from being burned alive in that fiery furnace to such an extent that they didn’t even smell of smoke!  Here, not only did God shut the mouths of the lions, but He actually altered their very natures while Daniel was with them in their den.  This extraordinary miracle will be commonplace in the coming Kingdom Age:

The cows will graze among bears; cubs and calves will lie down together, and lions will eat grass like the cows. Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes, and a little child who puts his hand in a nest of deadly adders will pull it out unharmed.  (Isaiah 11:7, 8  TLB)

Is anything—anything at all—too hard for God?  Understand this:  we are not reading fairy tales; these things actually happened.  If our Lord can work wonders like this for Daniel, He can do it for you, too.  Daniel’s great faith in God is hinted at in the great Hall of Faith in the New Testament:

These people all trusted God and as a result won battles, overthrew kingdoms, ruled their people well, and received what God had promised them; they were kept from harm in a den of lions and in a fiery furnace.  (Hebrews 11:33, 34a  TLB)

Things worked out Daniel because he was a man of faith.  Darius seemed to be very fond of Daniel:

The king was beside himself with joy and ordered Daniel lifted from the den. And not a scratch was found on him because he believed in his God.  (Daniel 6:23  TLB)

But those jealous schemers didn’t fair well at all:

Then the king issued a command to bring the men who had accused Daniel and throw them into the den along with their children and wives, and the lions leaped upon them and tore them apart before they even hit the bottom of the den.  (Daniel 6:24  TLB)

The Medes were not known for their mercy!  It was not uncommon for entire families to be put to death because of the error on one member.  God delivered Daniel, Darius vindicated Daniel, and Daniel was, once again, the recipient of great blessings:

“Greetings! I decree that everyone shall tremble and fear before the God of Daniel in every part of my kingdom. For his God is the living, unchanging God whose kingdom shall never be destroyed and whose power shall never end. He delivers his people, preserving them from harm; he does great miracles in heaven and earth; it is he who delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

So Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.  (Daniel 6:25—28  TLB)

And one other benefit of Daniel’s unshakable faith:  Darius came to recognize the reality of the one true God.

When we, as believers, live out our faith in public, fearlessly and courageously, others will see God in us.

Daniel: Belshazzar’s Last Chance

Handwriting-on-the-Wall-Large

Daniel 5

 

Belshazzar the king invited a thousand of his officers to a great feast where the wine flowed freely.  (Daniel 5:1  TLB)

It was the party to end all parties!  And these big parties weren’t all that unusual.  In Babylon, Assyria, and Persia, these massive banquets served a very important political purpose in that they showed the glory of the king.  Belshazzar, a controversial figure in history, was a would-be successor (actually the second line after Nabonidus, the husband of one of Nebuchadnezzar’s daughters) to Nebchadnezzar, so we know that the events described in this chapter took place long after the events of the previous chapters.  The book of Daniel was never written to be a book of history, so frequently decades may come between chapters as Daniel simply lifts, from Babylonian history, a page here and a page there to show how God dealt with the leaders of this Empire.

While Belshazzar was drinking, he was reminded of the gold and silver cups taken long before from the Temple in Jerusalem during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and brought to Babylon. Belshazzar ordered that these sacred cups be brought in to the feast, and when they arrived, he and his princes, wives, and concubines drank toasts from them to their idols made of gold and silver, brass and iron, wood and stone.  (Daniel 5:2—4  TLB)

Obviously, Belshazzar had absolutely no respect for God.  In contrast, at least Nebuchadnezzar had enough respect for the God of Israel to place the Temple articles in a safe place.  But young Belshazzar had no respect; he was full of pride and arrogance, and he apparently knew better:

So Daniel was rushed in to see the king. The king asked him, “Are you the Daniel brought from Israel as a captive by King Nebuchadnezzar?  I have heard that you have the spirit of the gods within you and that you are filled with enlightenment and wisdom.   (Daniel 5:13, 14  TLB)

So Belshazzar was in a bad spot.  He knew the truth, at least in part, yet he barged ahead anyway, doing what he knew was wrong.  Using those sacred vessels was just plain wrong and it was that expression of pride and arrogance and blasphemy that caused his downfall.  In the exact same hour of this ultimate expression of hubris, judgment came and sheer terror pierced his heart.  Belshazzar will forever stand as a solemn warning to those who willingly sin against the light.

1.  His opportunity

And you, his successor, O Belshazzar—you knew all this, yet you have not been humble.  (Daniel 5:22  TLB)

What did Belshazzar already know?  He knew of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity and what brought it on, yet he did not profit from that knowledge.  He was a proud and profane man, determined to live as he pleased without paying heed to the past.  He knew all about his great-grandfather’s humbling experience, yet went right on making the exact same sinful mistakes Nebuchadnezzar did, only worse.  This was Belshazzar’s “golden opportunity” to get it right; to avoid the pitfalls of ruination.  But he didn’t take it.

How many believers today are just as bad as Belshazzar?  Many of us sin out of ignorance—we are literally “overcome” by sin before we know it.  Such is the sinful condition.  But how many are guilty of sinning against the truth?  Those that do so live in the darkness of sinful pleasure knowingly instead of in the light of God’s glorious salvation.  They know the truth, but choose the lie.  For believers that live like Belshazzar, it’s only a matter of time before those unintended consequences catch up with them.  Sin always carries consequences in this world and judgment in the next.  It’s not too late, though, to make it right.

2.  His guilt

For you have defied the Lord of Heaven and brought here these cups from his Temple; and you and your officers and wives and concubines have been drinking wine from them while praising gods of silver, gold, brass, iron, wood, and stone—gods that neither see nor hear nor know anything at all. But you have not praised the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny!  (Daniel 5:23  TLB)

This is a curious verse.  After all he had done, and remembering Belshazzar was a pagan, we wonder how Daniel could expect him to “praise the God who gives…the breath of life and controls…destiny.”  In spite of Belshazzar’s sinful state and depraved nature, he was still created in the image of God and that image, as marred as it may have been, was indelibly stamped on his soul.  Even though he was a complete pagan, this fact alone demanded that Belshazzar acknowledge God in his life.  However, as is plain, he willfully turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the spiritual lessons of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven year bout of insanity.

In fact, as if to show how defiant he could be, Belshazzar went way, way beyond his great-grandfather’s pride and arrogance.  He committed sacrilege of the highest order and therefore, his doom was sealed.

Young Belshazzar had a chance but failed to take it.

3.  His failure

you have been weighed in God’s balances and have failed the test.  (Daniel 5:27  TLB)

It was God who did the weighing, and this weighing process may have taken years.

Jehovah is kind and merciful, slow to get angry, full of love.  He is good to everyone, and his compassion is intertwined with everything he does.  (Psalm 145:8, 9  TLB)

This idea of being weighed and found wanting would have been familiar to Belshazzar.  The Egyptian Book of Dead said that human beings were weighed in balances after death to determine whether their sins outweighed their good deeds.  But the Bible doesn’t teach anything like that.

But now God has shown us a different way to heaven—not by “being good enough” and trying to keep his laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says he will accept and acquit us—declare us “not guilty”—if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like.   Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal…  (Romans 3:21—23  TLB)

Salvation is NEVER determined by our actions, good or bad.  However, men will be weighed by God to determine degrees of reward or punishment.

Quit acting so proud and arrogant!  The Lord knows what you have done, And he will judge your deeds.  (1 Samuel 2:3  TLB)

Character is formed through a lifetime of decisions and actions.  We know that Belshazzar’s fate was fair and just; God’s balances are always just because He alone knows the thoughts and intents of the human heart.  For his whole life, Belshazzar had been weighed by God, and he was found wanting.  He came up short in every department.  Belshazzar remained unmoved and uninfluenced by all of God’s providential dealings with him.

4.  His doom

That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed, and Darius the Mede entered the city and began reigning at the age of sixty-two.  (Daniel 5:30, 31  TLB)

In a stroke of poetic justice, at the height of this raucous party, the Medes had penetrated the outer walls of Babylon and breached the city.  Gobryas, leader of  the Median army, lead his troops into the inner city where the grand palace was located.  The Greek historian, Xenophon, records for us that Gobryas and his men had penetrated deep into the city before anybody even knew they were there.

In the night of his greatest glory, Belshazzar was slain.  He had been weighed and found wanting and his judgment came swiftly.  Lust, unbelief, and indifference can’t shield anybody from the overwhelming power of rejected truth.

Belshazzar’s fate will be shared with all those who, like him, have been weighed and found wanting.  God judges according to HIS scales, not ours, and He has a warning for us:

Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal…  (Romans 3:23  TLB)

Not one of us is able to measure up to God’s standard.  Unbelievers are not on trial today; they are already lost.  But God is making them a generous offer:  the offer of salvation.  God gave Belshazzar a chance at life, but Belshazzar rejected God’s offer and he was slain.

Darius the Mede assumed the throne; he became ruler of the kingdom of silver.  This was a big surprise for the Babylonians; their’s was to be an eternal kingdom.  But God has a plan and His plan is not dependent on what we think.  Babylon came to a sudden end.  Before the people knew was going on, they had a new king and were part of a new kingdom.  Years before all this happened, Isaiah had prophesied the fall of Babylon:

This is God’s message concerning Babylon: Disaster is roaring down upon you from the terrible desert, like a whirlwind sweeping from the Negeb.  I see an awesome vision: oh, the horror of it all! God is telling me what he is going to do. I see you plundered and destroyed. Elamites and Medes will take part in the siege. Babylon will fall, and the groaning of all the nations she enslaved will end. (Isaiah 21:1, 2  TLB)

God has a plan for this world and for you.  There are thunderclouds of God’s judgments gathering around all those who have been weighed and found wanting.  But they gather slowly.  When the storm breaks, though, it will be sudden and terrible and there will be no escape.

…what makes us think that we can escape if we are indifferent to this great salvation announced by the Lord Jesus himself and passed on to us by those who heard him speak?  (Hebrews 2:3  TLB)

 

 

 

 

Daniel: Nebuchadnezzar’s Ruin

It's Lon Chaney as The Woflman.  Did Nebuchadnezzar suffer a similar fate?

It’s Lon Chaney as The Woflman. Did Nebuchadnezzar suffer a similar fate? 

This is the proclamation of Nebuchadnezzar the king, which he sent to people of every language in every nation of the world:

Greetings:

I want you all to know about the strange thing that the Most High God did to me. It was incredible—a mighty miracle! And now I know for sure that his kingdom is everlasting; he reigns forever and ever.  (Daniel 4:1—3  TLB)

These are the last recorded words of King Nebuchadnezzar.  They were written after the events of chapter 4.  The way this chapter is written and its use of familiar expressions found elsewhere in the Old Testament, suggests that Nebuchadnezzar had Daniel’s help in writing it.  It gives us more information about the king of Babylon than we had before, and we discover that Nebuchadnezzar had a real problem:  a mental problem.  He suffered from some sort of insanity.  He was a little different from other people.

Nebuchadnezzar…ate grass like the cows, and his body was wet with dew; his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.  (Daniel 4:33  TLB)

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet, thought to have similar mental disturbances, was sent from Denmark to England because, it was decided, everybody in England suffered from mental disturbances.  But what happened to Nebuchadnezzar graphically shows how truly small man is and how tenuous his grasp on the world is.  What happened to Nebuchadnezzar also illustrates perfectly these verses:

The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right.  It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone.  (2 Timothy 3:16, 17  TLB)

Nebuchadnezzar had his problems, but so do we.  We can learn a lot about God’s dealing with us by looking at how God dealt with this king of Babylon.

1.  Nebuchadnezzar’s privileges

God made Nebuchadnezzar into the great king he was.  In chapter 2, the king saw, in a dream, a great statue, topped by a head of gold.  That head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom, Babylon.  When Daniel interpreted the dream for the king, Daniel made it clear that Nebuchadnezzar was where he was because God put him there.

Your Majesty, you are a king over many kings, for the God of heaven has given you your kingdom, power, strength, and glory.  You rule the farthest provinces, and even animals and birds are under your control, as God decreed. You are that head of gold.  (Daniel 2:37, 38  TLB)

Later on, Nebuchadnezzar witnessed the incredible power and grace of God in the deliverance of the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace.  After seeing this great miracle, the king declared:

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, for he sent his angel to deliver his trusting servants when they defied the king’s commandment and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own.”  (Daniel 3:28  TLB)

In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar was solemnly warned:

“O King Nebuchadnezzar, listen to me—stop sinning; do what you know is right; be merciful to the poor. Perhaps even yet God will spare you.”  (Daniel 4:27  TLB)

This man, Nebuchadnezzar—a pagan king—had more communications from God than anybody else of his time, save the prophets.  He was given dreams and visions from God.  He was specifically warned by God to shape up.  How many chances does one man need to get right with God?  A better question might be, how many believers are ignoring God when He tries to get through to them?

God does not speak to most people in the world because most people in the world don’t know God and aren’t listening to God.  But God does speak to His people, all the time.  And many of His people seem deft at turning a deaf ear to Him.

2.  Nebuchadnezzar’s pride

Twelve months after this dream, he was strolling on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon, and saying, “I, by my own mighty power, have built this beautiful city as my royal residence and as the capital of my empire.”  (Daniel 4:29, 30  TLB)

This king had a lot to be proud of.  Archeology has shown how magnificent Babylon was.  The accuracy of Nebuchadnezzar’s boasting has been confirmed historically.

About a year had elapsed since Nebuchadnezzar had been warned by God.  It was a year of grace before his judgment.  God is patient, but that patience doesn’t last forever.

Because God does not punish sinners instantly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.  (Ecclesiastes 8:11  TLB)

That bit of wisdom, courtesy of the Preacher, says a lot.  Nebuchadnezzar, instead of changing his life during that year of grace, started to feel safe in his sin.  And when anybody starts to feel safe in their sin, they become “dark in their thinking” and they don’t see things in perspective.  He got prideful.  He forgot all that God had shown him, done for him, and told him.  His outburst of pride came just before his fall.  He was on the very verge of a mental break and he didn’t even know it.  Even though God warned him, Nebuchadnezzar felt safe in his sin.

3.  Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall

While he was still speaking these words, a voice called down from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you: You are no longer ruler of this kingdom.  You will be forced out of the palace to live with the animals in the fields and to eat grass like the cows for seven years, until you finally realize that God parcels out the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he chooses.”  (Daniel 4:31, 32  TLB)

Like the old saw goes, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.”  God gave Nebuchadnezzar so much, including his sanity.  And God took it all way; but He gave the king plenty of warning and he gave the king an entire year of grace to make things right.  Nebuchadnezzar squandered that entire year.  God wrought this terrible judgment at the height of the king’s most blasphemous attitude and statement.   Consider the great patience of God; that He allows such words and attitudes at all!

Believe it or not, medicine has given a name to Nebuchadnezzar’s strange kind of insanity:  boanthropy (ox-man).  One stricken with boanthropy takes on the behaviors of an ox, especially in his diet.

There is a school of thought that says the king suffered from lycanthropy—as in werewolf-ism.  In this case, the full moon causes the inflicted one to think he is a wolf.

What really caused Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity?  It was a case of simple rebellion against the Word of God.  In refusing to heed the warnings and turn to God in true repentance, the king lost his mind.

4.  Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration

When my mind returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My counselors and officers came back to me, and I was reestablished as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before.  (Daniel 4:34—37, verse 36 cited  TLB)

Exactly as God had promised, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom had been returned to him.  It took seven years, and during this time some scholars believe Daniel was the one in control of the government.  He was the only one who knew the king would return to his senses after seven “times” or seven years.

“Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of Heaven, the Judge of all, whose every act is right and good; for he is able to take those who walk proudly and push them into the dust!”  (Daniel 4:37   TLB)

Bible scholars and students have wondered about this verse and Nebuchadnezzar’s exaltation of God.  Was he genuine?  Did he have a real change of heart?  Some scholars, like Calvin, say no.  They say Nebuchadnezzar never genuinely turned to God; he never recognized God’s grace and mercy.

At the same time, however, others have argued that near the end of his life, the king finally acknowledged God and recognized that He had dealt graciously with him.    When we read what Nebuchadnezzar said, it’s hard to believe God didn’t get through to him.

Something else that bothers some scholars and students of the Bible is why God restored Nebuchadnezzar’s fortunes at all.  Why did God bless such an ego-centric man in such a way?

This is the sovereignty of God at work.  God had designed this experience specifically as a way to discipline the king the only way that could reach him.  Everything Nebuchadnezzar went through—the good, the bad, the humiliating—had a single, sovereign, divine purpose:

…until you learn that the Most High God dominates the kingdoms of men and gives power to anyone he chooses.  (Daniel 4:25  TLB)

We should also note that Nebuchadnezzar’s recovery didn’t happen until he did one thing:

I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned…  (Daniel 4:34a  TLB)

This is what it takes for the “spiritual sanity” of all people to return!  When man looks to God, he gains perspective.  Nebuchadnezzar gained perspective.  You can to, if you would just look to God.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  (Psalm 121:1, 2  NIV2011)

 

 

Daniel and the Non-Conformists

images

Daniel 3

When we read Daniel 3, we are reminded of this famous proverb:

Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18  TLB)

Pride was definitely Nebuchadnezzar’s biggest problem.  It would eventually lead to his downfall and that of Babylon.  Bible scholars think Nebuchadnezzar built the great image of himself because of the dream God gave him in the previous chapter.  That dream—the fact that he was the head of gold—filled Nebuchadnezzar with a false sense of pride.  Daniel 2 took place near the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (around 600 BC) and Daniel 4 at the end (560’s BC).  The events of Daniel 3 did not occur immediately after those of Daniel 2, nor did they occur just before the events of Daniel 4.  It seems obvious that some time had passed since the dream of chapter 2 and the events of chapter 3.  In the interim, Nebuchadnezzar apparently forgot the things Daniel told him and the lesson he learned:

“Truly, O Daniel,” the king said, “your God is the God of gods, Ruler of kings, the Revealer of mysteries, because he has told you this secret.”  (Daniel 2:47  TLB)

So, the things that happened in Daniel 3 probably took place around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, when the God of Israel had, by Babylonian estimation, been defeated and discredited.  The date was 585 BC, a bad day for Jerusalem and a potentially catastrophic day for Jews living in Babylon.

The two images in these two chapters represent two aspects of man:  his rule in the world (chapter 2) and his religion (chapter 3).  Nebuchadnezzar and the Empire of Babylon ruled the world, or so they thought.  Theirs was the dominant way of thinking and doing things in the world, or so they thought.  They demanded conformity from the citizenry.  The golden image erected on the plain of Dura was the visible expression of Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogant attitude; it was his “new theology,” his new way of thinking and he demanded that all his people adopt it.

But godly living must always take precedence over any government’s “new theology” or new way of thinking.  The whims of the government come and go and change all the time.  But true godly living is simple.  A godly man doesn’t need a bunch of rules to live by nor does he need reams and reams of paper full of laws dictating what he may or may not do, or what and how he should think.  A godly man doesn’t need images to remind of him of the most important Person in his life.  All he needs is a revelation—the Word of God from God to man.  This godly attitude is expressed best like this:

Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.”  (Acts 5:29  TLB)

1.  The temptation

King Nebuchadnezzar, remembering the dream of the statue he had almost two decades earlier, tried to replicate it in physical form.  Even though Daniel told him that his kingdom would eventually fall, Nebuchadnezzar chose to remember only the good part of the dream:  he was the head of gold, leading all other nations in strength and position.  So he built a statue made of gold—the whole thing, not just the head.  While Nebuchadnezzar did pay some honor to God, by now he seems to have forgotten him.

I’ll give you one more chance. When the music plays, if you fall down and worship the statue, all will be well. But if you refuse, you will be thrown into a flaming furnace within the hour. And what god can deliver you out of my hands then?  (Daniel 3:15  TLB)

So a new national idol had been set up; a testament to the government and to man’s ingenuity.  All people of every language were expected to pay homage to this statue, and the day of dedication was supposed to be a day of celebration.  The Babylonians were known to love music and exotic forms of dancing.

“When the band strikes up, you are to fall flat on the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue; anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a flaming furnace.”  So when the band began to play, everyone—whatever his nation, language, or religion—fell to the ground and worshiped the statue.  (Daniel 3:5—7  TLB)

It looked like a national party, but it was really just another exhibition of tyranny, despotism and religious intolerance.  In the midst of the “celebration,” this happened:

But there are some Jews out there—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, whom you have put in charge of Babylonian affairs—who have defied you, refusing to serve your gods or to worship the gold statue you set up.  (Daniel 3:12  TLB)

The temptation to Daniel and his friends was to:

Leave town.

Daniel and his friends were not impoverished.  They all held high political positions and had some influence.  Rather than bow down and worship the golden image, they could have just skipped town for a while.  That would have been the easy thing to do—avoid a ticklish situation sort of “under the radar.”  Christians do this all the time; it’s the leaky way to stand for your faith without actually standing for your faith.  It happened to Paul, too, when some of his “friends” skipped town on him:

Please come as soon as you can, for Demas has left me. He loved the good things of this life and went to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.  (Acts 4:9, 10  TLB)

Go along with everybody else

They could have just “gone along to get along.”  Really, what was the king demanding?  Just conformity, that’s all.  He wanted everybody doing the same thing, the same way, at the same time.  Daniel and his friends could have just sucked it up and gone along with the crowd.  James Renwick, the last Scottish martyr, was offered a final chance to avoid death if he would, “but let a drop of ink fall on the paper.”  But to Renwick, the single drop of ink was a sign of his denying Christ.

2.  Their testimony

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not worried about what will happen to us.  If we are thrown into the flaming furnace, our God is able to deliver us; and he will deliver us out of your hand, Your Majesty. But if he doesn’t, please understand, sir, that even then we will never under any circumstance serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have erected.”  (Daniel 3:16—18  TLB)

Some jealous Babylonians pointed out to Nebuchadnezzar that there were some Jews who refused to “bow the knee.”  The calm and cool demeanor of these three servants of God was in stark contrast to the rage expressed by the King.

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury and his face became dark with anger at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He commanded that the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than usual…  (Daniel 3:19  TLB)

But true faith—the kind of faith that glorifies God—is not dependent on circumstances or consequences.  It is founded on the immutable faithfulness of God!  It would have been easy—expedient even—to rationalize just a little to save their lives.  Didn’t they owe Nebuchadnezzar some small appreciation for treating them so well?  Couldn’t they bend their knees but stand tall in their hearts?  After all, what’s the big deal, anyway?

Rationalizing is easy and Christians are experts at it.  But God’s reputation was at stake here; His character was being put to the test.  Thousands upon thousands of heathens were all watching.  Whether or not God chose to deliver them from the punishment, they had to remain faithful to the honor of His Name.

3.  Their triumph

Well, as it turned out, there was no miraculous solution forthcoming at the last possible second.  The three Jewish friends were tossed into the fiery furnace.  They would NOT conform.  They would not perform.  They had to maintain their integrity and honor and pay the ultimate price.  But man’s wrath is nothing compared to the power of God!

Then the princes, governors, captains, and counselors crowded around them and saw that the fire hadn’t touched them—not a hair of their heads was singed; their coats were unscorched, and they didn’t even smell of smoke!   (Daniel 3:27  TLB)

Their faith was remarkable.  Would you have this kind of faith?  They didn’t run, they didn’t beg, they didn’t whine.  These three men embraced what was to come in faith and they—

Experienced new a sense of freedom

“I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire, and they aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a god!”  (Daniel 3:25  TLB)

It’s almost funny to think about this verse; three men, plus one, all walking around in a roaring, fiery furnace!  These men truly “gloried in their affliction!”  They were not saved FROM the fiery furnace, they were saved IN it.  And that was a much greater deliverance.

They had no fear.  They had not disgraced their God, and God honored them.  The peace of God in the heart is indestructible; it is something NO man, king or otherwise, can take away.

Experienced new fellowship

Nebuchadnezzar saw, not the three men he threw in furnace, but FOUR men in the furnace.  Being cast away from man brought these men into closer contact with the Son of God!  He was right there with those three Hebrews, and the king was not too blind to see Him.  The presence of the God who created light and heat was enough to protect and preserve the lives of these three men who dared to step out and trust Him to do just that.

God could have easily delivered these men before the fiery furnace.  Sometimes God’s ways are a mystery to us.  Uriah, a godly prophet, was not spared and he was run through by Jehoiakim’s sword but Jeremiah was saved (Deuteronomy 29:29, Jeremiah 26:20).  James was not spared the wrath of Herod, but Peter was miraculously rescued (Acts 12:2).  The Old Testament saints understood that miracles were rare unless God specifically announced one in advance:

“Stranger,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors have told us about—such as when God brought them out of Egypt? Now the Lord has thrown us away and has let the Midianites completely ruin us.”  (Judges 6:13  TLB)

So some were spared, either miraculously or providentially, and others were not.

But others trusted God and were beaten to death, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free—trusting that they would rise to a better life afterwards.  (Hebrews 11:35  TLB)

If we would look at how men and women of God reacted in adverse circumstances, we would see a common character trait.  They had a quiet, modest, but very upbeat and positive attitude of faith in God.  If we look specifically at these three Hebrews who were thrown into a fiery furnace, a fact screams out to us.  They asked for NO miracle and they expected none.  Theirs was the kind of faith that says:

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.  (Job 13:15  TLB)

But in the end, God came through in glorious fashion for these men.  Their remarkable experience was a literal fulfillment of something another prophet wrote over a century before:

When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel. I gave Egypt and Ethiopia and Seba to Cyrus in exchange for your freedom, as your ransom.  Others died that you might live; I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me and honored, and I love you.  (Isaiah 43:2—4  TLB)

 

Daniel: The Amazing Stone

 

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Daniel 2:31—45

Daniel was a man of God.  But he was not born a man of God; he became a man of God because he had a living relationship with God.  He became a man of visions and the interpreter of the Divine mind because he walked in obedience with God.

He was also a politician in the court of Babylon.  Imagine that; a God-fearing Hebrew living and working in the court of Babylon!  Truly God has His people everywhere!  God accomplishes His will in the most astounding ways.

Daniel’s boss, King Nebuchadnezzar, had a disturbing dream one night but he forgot its details when he woke up.  Still, he remembered enough to be disturbed.  So he called for his “wise men” to tell him his dream and tell him what it meant.

The astrologers replied to the king, “There isn’t a man alive who can tell others what they have dreamed! And there isn’t a king in all the world who would ask such a thing! This is an impossible thing the king requires. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they are not here to help.”  (Daniel 2:10, 11  TLB)

The king, angered by what his supposed wise men said, ordered their deaths.  Daniel got swept up in that decree even though he wasn’t involved.  But God gave Daniel wisdom and grace, and Daniel intervened.

So Daniel went in to see the king. “Give me a little time,” he said, “and I will tell you the dream and what it means.”  (Daniel 2:16  TLB)

And he did just that!

“O king, you saw a huge and powerful statue of a man, shining brilliantly, frightening and terrible.  The head of the statue was made of purest gold, its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, its legs of iron, its feet part iron and part clay. But as you watched, a Rock was cut from the mountain side a by supernatural means. It came hurtling toward the statue and crushed the feet of iron and clay, smashing them to bits.”  (Daniel 2:31—34  TLB)

The “statue” Nebuchadnezzar saw in  his dream revealed God’s plan for the successive kingdoms of this planet, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s, represented by the head of the statue.  The different parts of the statue represent successive kingdoms and nations that would follow Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar must have been thrilled to hear this interpretation:

“Your Majesty, you are a king over many kings, for the God of heaven has given you your kingdom, power, strength, and glory.  You rule the farthest provinces, and even animals and birds are under your control, as God decreed. You are that head of gold.”  (Daniel 2:37, 38  TLB)

It was only a handful of years before this that the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, saying this:

So now I have given all your countries to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who is my deputy. And I have handed over to him all your cattle for his use.  All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson until his time is up, and then many nations and great kings shall conquer Babylon and make him their slave.  Submit to him and serve him—put your neck under Babylon’s yoke! I will punish any nation refusing to be his slave; I will send war, famine, and disease upon that nation until he has conquered it.  (Jeremiah 27:6—8  TLB)

In effect, Nebuchadnezzar was divinely irresistible.  He was God’s chosen instrument and God gave Nebuchadnezzar incredible success and Babylon became the “head of gold.”  But, it became obvious that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom would not last forever; other kingdoms would follow it, rising and eventually falling to other kingdoms.  Daniel 4 seems to indicate that it was Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance and pride that prevented him from literally conquering the whole world.  But the essence of the dream was God’s revelation to Nebuchadnezzar of His (God’s) plan for the Earth.

The Rock, or Stone in some translations, is the symbol of Christ, who will at some point in the future destroy the nations like they were nothing more than clay pots.  Christ is referred as a Stone or Rock seven times in Scripture, as a symbol of strength and durability.

Let’s consider Jesus as “the Stone.”

1.  Israel tripped over the Stone

Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone rejected by the builders has been made the honored cornerstone; how remarkable! What an amazing thing the Lord has done’?”  (Matthew 21:42  TLB)

Jesus’ enemies had just passed judgment on their own conduct and Jesus, in a stroke of genius, drove home the point by quoting Psalm 118:22, 23.  To you and me, Jesus’ talk of stones and cornerstones seems a bit odd.  But to the religious elite of Jesus’ day, there was no doubt what Jesus was talking about.  The kingdom of God would be taken away from the Jewish leaders and given to another nation.  In other words, Jesus was saying that He was getting ready to include the Gentiles in His kingdom.

How this must have shocked, galled, and offended them!  But the action of opening up the kingdom to all people came about because of their own hypocritical conduct.

“What I mean is that the Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation that will give God his share of the crop.  All who stumble on this rock of truth shall be broken, but those it falls on will be scattered as dust.”  (Matthew 21:43, 44  TLB)

The Jews stumbled and fell on the Stone that is Jesus—they rejected Him as Messiah—and Israel was broken up.  This literally happened in 70 AD when persecution drove a lot of Jews (and some Christians) from Jerusalem.  In essence, they rejected Him, and so He scattered them like dust.

2.  The Church is built on the Stone

The moment Peter uttered this great truth, Jesus proclaimed a great truth that would change everything.

Then he asked them, “Who do you think I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “The Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  “God has blessed you, Simon, son of Jonah,” Jesus said, “for my Father in heaven has personally revealed this to you—this is not from any human source. You are Peter, a stone; and upon this rock I will build my church; and all the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Matthew 16:15—18  TLB)

Not long after that exchange, after the Day of Pentecost, that same Peter declared that a lame man had been healed because he had faith in the Name of Jesus:

“…let me clearly state to you and to all the people of Israel that it was done in the name and power of Jesus from Nazareth, the Messiah, the man you crucified—but God raised back to life again. It is by his authority that this man stands here healed!  For Jesus the Messiah is (the one referred to in the Scriptures when they speak of ) a ‘stone discarded by the builders which became the capstone of the arch.’”  (Acts 4:10, 11  TLB)

Jesus IS the foundation upon which the Church is built.  It is not built upon a man-made doctrine or theology and a church is not built upon a man or a family or a confession written by a committee.  The true Church of Jesus Christ is built upon Jesus Christ, the Stone.

Come to Christ, who is the living Foundation of Rock upon which God builds; though men have spurned him, he is very precious to God who has chosen him above all others.  (1 Peter 2:4  TLB)

3.  The Stone will break the Gentiles

Yes, Israel was broken up by the Stone.  Yes, the kingdom of God was opened up to all people—the Gentiles.  But eventually the nations of this world—the reign of the Gentiles—will be smashed by the exact same Stone!

But as you watched, a Rock was cut from the mountain side by supernatural means. It came hurtling toward the statue and crushed the feet of iron and clay, smashing them to bits.  (Daniel 2:34  TLB)

We’re back looking at Nebchadnezzar’s dream.  All of a sudden, a great stone came hurtling toward the statue in the dream and smashed it’s feet, bringing the whole statue crashing down.  In the dream, it was a supernatural stone whose identity isn’t given.  However, the identity of the Stone is revealed in Daniel 7.  Here, Daniel had a vision that was related to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, except where Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue that represented the kingdoms of the world, Daniel saw those kingdoms as animals.

Next I saw the arrival of a Man—or so he seemed to be—brought there on clouds from heaven; he approached the Ancient of Days and was presented to him.   He was given the ruling power and glory over all the nations of the world, so that all people of every language must obey him. His power is eternal—it will never end; his government shall never fall.  (Daniel 7:13, 14  TLB)

We learn that this eternal government, this divine kingdom, is the one Jesus taught His disciples to pray for, “…your kingdom come…”  (Matthew 6:10), and is shown to have a thousand year initial phase—the Millennium—which follows immediately after the glorious Second Coming of Christ, and which will ultimately merge into the eternal state of the New Heavens and Earth, as seen in Revelation 19—22.

Both the Stone in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the Man in Daniel’s vision clearly portray Jesus Christ at his Second Advent.

For as the lightning flashes across the sky from east to west, so shall my coming be, when I, the Messiah, return.  (Matthew 24:27  TLB)

When He returns, the reign of man on the Earth will draw to its inevitable close.  The kingdoms of this world will finally and forever pass away as the Messiah establishes His eternal Kingdom.

4.  The glory of the Stone will fill the world

Then the whole statue collapsed into a heap of iron, clay, brass, silver, and gold; its pieces were crushed as small as chaff, and the wind blew them all away. But the Rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth.  (Daniel 2:35  TLB)

When Christ returns, the world will not end.  In fact, this world will never end.  Indeed, Christ’s return will mark the beginning of a whole new world!  It will be a world dominated, not by man, but by the Kingdom of God.  What will Christ’s Kingdom on earth look like?  Psalm 72 is a good place to start looking for clues!   Paul himself had an idea:

After that the end will come when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having put down all enemies of every kind.  For Christ will be King until he has defeated all his enemies, including the last enemy—death. This too must be defeated and ended.  For the rule and authority over all things has been given to Christ by his Father; except, of course, Christ does not rule over the Father himself, who gave him this power to rule. When Christ has finally won the battle against all his enemies, then he, the Son of God, will put himself also under his Father’s orders, so that God who has given him the victory over everything else will be utterly supreme.  (1 Corinthians 14:24—28  TLB)

No more enemies.  No more death!  All  nations will give Christ His due.

But that day isn’t  here yet.  It’s yet to come.  Until Christ returns to establish His eternal kingdom, we should do what He told His followers to do:

We ask that your kingdom will come now. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.  (Matthew 6:10 TLB)


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