Archive for October, 2007
I find it very interesting that chapter 4 of the book of Daniel is actually written by a pagan king. Yes, the entire chapter comes from King Nebuchadnezzar. You see, the prophet Daniel has seen fit to include a chapter from the king that tells, in his own pen, his testimony of how his eyes were opened to the power of God.
Once again, God gave the king a dream and Daniel was called on to provide an interpretation. The dream tells of how the great king will be humbled – exiled from his own land – for “seven periods of time”. Then, the king will be given the opportunity to return to power if he can learn that God is the one who gives and takes away power and authority.
Look at the king’s humility:
36 “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and officers sought me out, and I was reestablished as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. 37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble those who are proud.”
When I read this, I can’t help thinking about how it seems our own nation has turned so hard against God. I wonder what it will take to wake up our nation’s leaders and remind them of the sovereignty of God – and that He is the one who establishes authority.
Where is our Daniel?
Lord, I pray for our nation. I pray that You will somehow will send us a Daniel for our wake up call. Draw our leaders to You, God. May we once again be known as a nation who honors You.
I have often told the analogy of the God-shaped hole inside all of us that can only be completely and satisfactorily filled by God Himself. We try to fill it with “stuff”, with relationships, with drugs, with food, with alcohol, with hobbies, with projects and careers, but the pleasure from these things is short lived, leaving us wanting more, more, more.
Babylon was full of idols and statues. There were statues errected to everything – water, earth, love, war. Godless people, realizing the deep need to connect with God, but rejecting the one true God, set up many gods. When they got tired of bored with those, they set up more.
So it was with King Nebuchadnezzar. He somehow gets this idea to build a 90 foot staute of himself made of solid gold (could it have been the miracle dream interpretation God gave Daniel?). Obviously a music fan, the king commanded that whenever people heard music, they were to bow down to the newest statue.
3 When all these officials had arrived and were standing before the image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, 4 a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. 6 Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” 7 So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Can you imagine? That would get old after a very short time.
You know the rest of the story, our Jewish friends who had recently been captured and exiled to Babylon, now in service to the palace of the king, all refused to bow – prefering instead the risk of certain death in a furnace. How fleeting the honor bestowed on them by this king. From prisoner to stewards of all the affairs of the province of Babylon – to death by fire.
I often wonder if it was faith that God would spare their lives, or the simple refusal to bow to such a vile, godless king. What I read about the Jewish culture tells me they are very proud and honor is vital to the nation of Israel.
As the story goes, God did spare the lives of these faithful young men – even to the point of being in the furnace with them:
24 But suddenly, as he was watching, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?””Yes,” they said, “we did indeed, Your Majesty.” 25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire. They aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a divine being!”
The king called them to come out of the furnace. They were not harmed and didn’t even smell of smoke. Obviously, this alarmed this king that he had better honor this God before He looses patience with him. Look what the king said:
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be crushed into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.
In the end, God received the glory because of the decision these young men made. They took a stand – took the risk – and God was honored. And, so were they.
How do you appy this to your life? What compromise are you facing? Isn’t it much easier and less risky to compromise on your beliefs, and go along with the crowd, or satisfy some desire for momentary pleasure? Consider the rewards and the honor God would receive if you decided to take a stand.
That’s true satisfaction.
In the first chapter of the book of Daniel, God made a way for 4 noblemen (children or young men, if you read some translations) of the recently captured nation of Judah to be brought into King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace and serve there among royalty.
In the second chapter, we see God moving these boys into places of high prominence in their captor’s government.
God chose to do a miracle in Daniel. God had placed Daniel in this place, in this situation, so that He (God) could be glorified.
The king has a dream and consults his wisemen, astrologers, magicians and sages to not only interpret his dream, but to tell the king what the dream was. Clearly, this was an impossible task. His wicked assembly pleaded with the king:
10 The astrologers replied to the king, “There isn’t a man alive who can tell Your Majesty his dream! And no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing of any magician, enchanter, or astrologer! 11 This is an impossible thing the king requires. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live among people.”
So, the king, annoyed with their excuses, sent out orders to kill these men he had assembled – AND all the other “wise men” in Babylon. Unfortunately, this also included Daniel.
When Daniel found out about it, he went to the king and asked for more time. That night Daniel urged his 3 friends to ask God to reveal “the secret.”
Daniel got the dream and the meaning of the dream – in vivid detail, and he thanked God:
19 That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven, 20 saying, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he alone has all wisdom and power. 21 He determines the course of world events; he removes kings and sets others on the throne. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. 22 He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he himself is surrounded by light. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.”
That’s not the end of the story. Look at the Babylonian king’s response:
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar bowed to the ground before Daniel and worshiped him, and he commanded his people to offer sacrifices and burn sweet incense before him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is the God of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.” 48 Then the king appointed Daniel to a high position and gave him many valuable gifts. He made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men. 49 At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be in charge of all the affairs of the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the king’s court.
God answered the request of Daniel and his friends in order that He, the one true God, could be revealed in power and majesty. God placed these boys in this place so that God can receive glory – even from the then ruler over all the inhabited world, King Nebuchadnezzar.
In the process, these boys were given gifts and blessings beyond their wildest dreams.
What situation has God put you in, in order that you might bring glory to Him? How can you be praying for a miracle? And, not a miracle to make you look good, but to bring glory to God Himself!
You never know how He might bless you for such faithful service.
You occasionally hear a story of someone who, when faced with unbearable circumstances beyond their control, walks away from anything and everything that has to do with God. Certainly, there are times when our “trials” seem overwhelming and downright unfair.
In those times, I’ve found it’s helpful to stop and take a look around. It’s never too difficult to find someone in a situation far worse than your own. When I’m drowning in my own difficulties, somehow knowing that I’m not the only one suffering is comforting. I guess it’s that feeling that “I’m the only one” satan uses to plunge me deeper into despair.
Today, my hope came as I the first chapter of Daniel, which is the next book my dBrag has chosen to start reading together.
I began reading about Daniel and his buddies, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. You might recognize these last three better by knowing their new Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
I’ve heard the story dozens of times since I was a child, but perhaps always out of context, because today I seemed to focus on how Daniel and his buds had just been dragged to a foreign country after egocentric King Nebuchadnezzar had recently finished crushing their country. Torn from the familiar and comfortable, they now find themselves prisoners to idolaters. They could have easily thrown in the towel.
But Daniel stood strong.
He even went as far as to bargain with his captors, asking them to allow him and his companions for treatment other than what had been ascribed by the King:
8 But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief official for permission to eat other things instead.
Pretty gutsy, no? Then, it dawned on me as I read the very next sentence:
9 Now God had given the chief official great respect for Daniel.
Ashpenaz, who was in charge of the palace eunuchs, had been tasked with selecting some of Judah’s strongest, healthiest, best-looking children (see KJV) for the purpose of serving in the palace. The king wanted them to know the language and literature of the Babylonians, so they needed to be bright and handsome, with noble and royal pedigree.
Was it any mistake that Ash had selected Daniel and his cohorts? I think not. You see, God had already begun to intervene. God gave Ash “great respect” for Daniel. God was setting the stage for His power and glory to be displayed to Babylon – and the great King Nebuchadnezzar.
As a matter of fact, this chapter is full of God’s influence:
2 The Lord gave him [King Nebuchadnezzar] victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah.
17a God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for learning the literature and science of the time.
17b And God gave Daniel special ability in understanding the meanings of visions and dreams.
Others were selected along with Daniel and the boys, but we don’t hear about them. Daniel could have easily given up and gone along with the demands of their new captors, but he didn’t. Look at verse 8:
8 But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.
Daniel made up his mind to stand strong. His faith did not waiver – and God honored that.
What do you face today? Wouldn’t it be much easier to cave and go along with whatever life throws at you? What is it that holds you captive? Sometimes it’s difficult to choose to make a stand on something you believe in. Can you look your captor in the face and refuse to defile yourself any longer, like David did?
God moves in mysterious ways!
He WILL give you what you need when you need it – just don’t give up. He has the power to influence your captors. By taking your stand, you will be rewarded and others will benefit as well, as we’ll see in the following chapters of the book of Daniel.