The Power of Biblical Prophecy – Daniel 2 – Part 2

The last part of Daniel 2 is prophetic.  The prophetic parts of the Bible aren’t just about the future, they are about the present. God gave us books like Daniel and Revelation so that we can know how to live today with tomorrow in mind. These Scriptures and the prophecies they contain are meant to sober us and ground us in His eternal perspective.

There is a difference between prophecy and eschatology. Eschatology is the kind of prophecy that concerns end times, things that will happen at the very end of history. All other forms of prophecy concerns things that happen before the end, and as you’ll see, this dream was both. Most of the events prophesied in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream have already happened. But it’s not done yet. There is part of it yet to come true, and that’s the eschatological part, the part that will happen in the end times.

This dream has been coming true down through the centuries. History records the fulfillment of it’s prophecy, ust as Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar. His prophecy is 100% correct thus far, and this is why the book of Daniel is attacked and criticized by liberal scholars who say it couldn’t really have been written by Daniel. They say the only reasonable explanation for the fact that his prophecy has been perfectly accurate, is that it was written by someone pretending to be Daniel, someone who lived after the things had already happened. The problem is, there are two huge holes in their argument. First, this dream part of Daniel is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. For the most part the Old Testament is written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek but there are exceptions, there are Aramaic portions, .and this is one of them, and this fact points to an earlier date. You see, after the Jews returned from Babylon, hundreds of years later, the common language became Aramaic, the common language of Babylon. Before then the Jews language was Hebrew. No one writing later (after all the events Daniel prophesied had happened) would have written in both Hebrew and Aramaic. He would have written only in Aramaic. James Montgomery Boice puts it this way, “Only a man who spoke Hebrew but who had learned Aramaic in the Babylonian court, would have written the part of the book that dealt with Babylon in Aramaic so that it could be understood by Babylonians, and part in Hebrew so that it would fit in with the rest of the Jewish Scriptures.” A second proof that Daniel really did write these words of prophecy long before they were fulfilled is found in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient copies of the Scriptures prove that the book of Daniel was written exactly when the Bible says it was written.

This is not the only time the Bible’s prophecies have been seen to come true. I could give many examples but I’ll give only one, one that relates to Daniel’s life and ministry. Here it is. In Isaiah 44:28 God says,I am He Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd and will accomplish what I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.’” The amazing thing about this verse is that it was written 150 years before Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt, long before Cyrus was even born! And this is one proof that this book is not just a book. It is God’s book! The Bible is God’s infallible word! How else to you explain the fact that all of the Bible’s prophecies come true? How else to you explain how it is completely reliable in foretelling world events like this?

The late Ray Stedman tells of a time he was asked what he thought of psychic Jeane Dixon. With Daniel, like tact he said, Well, I am not in a position to judge Miss Dixon personally, but one thing I do know: she admits that she sometimes misses in her prognostications. She has been wrong on occasion but many people seem to be impressed even though she only bats .300. The impressive thing to me is that the Word of God is always 100% right. Its batting average is 1000. It hits the nose every single time.” And he’s right!

Nebuchadnezzar dreams about a statue made of various metals, a statue that is crushed by a rock not made with human hands. Let’s quickly review the interpretation God gave Daniel, and as we do, I want you to note how the value of the materials in the statue go down while at the same time increasing in strength. I believe this is to illustrate the fact that our society may grow stronger externally down through the years, while it grows weaker internally. As the decades march by we build stronger houses but have weaker families. We have better roads but less sense of purpose and direction. We have computers that are supposed to save us time, but we seem to have less time, especially when it comes to the truly important things of life. We have more laws and bigger police forces, but less morals. Perhaps all this is what Thoreau was referring to when he said, “America has improved means to unimproved ends.” But enough of that, let’s look at the vision itself. As In verse 31 and following we read that the king’s recurring dream involved a huge statue.

  1. The HEAD was made of pure gold.

In verse 38 Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that this represented him and the Babylonian Empire. We now know that it lasted from 626BC to 539BC.

2. The CHEST AND ARMS was made of silver.

This represented the kingdom that was to come after the Babylonians, the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. It lasted from 539BC until 331B.C. By the way, these two parts of the statue, the CHEST and the ARMS, represented the joining together of two nations so they could defeat the Babylonians, which they did. Now this union of two nations would have made sense to Nebuchadnezzar because he believed that no one kingdom could have ever destroyed his. As I told you earlier the city of Babylon was very well defended. As you can see in this picture, it’s first line of defense was a huge moat that tied into the Euphrates river. The city also had huge double walls that rose like stone cliffs into the sky. The ancient historian Herodotus measured them and said they were 300 feet high and 87 feet thick. But in 539B.C. the unthinkable happened. The combined forces of the Medes and the Persians diverted the Euphrates which caused the water level to drop and enabled them to enter at night through the moat’s unguarded sluice gates. In this way, great, golden Babylon fell without a fight or harm to the city, and in its place rose the Medo, Persian empire. Later, the Persian King Darius, required conquered nations to pay tribute in silver which corresponds to the silver chest and arms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

3. The belly and thighs of the statue were made of BRONZE and represented the GREECIAN EMPIRE which lasted from 331 B.C. until 63B.C.

Verse 39 says that this would be a government that would rule over all the earth and that’s what happened thanks to a young Greek named Alexander the Great who by 331B.C. had extended his rule as far as India, vanquishing the Persian empire. Stedman writes, “He swept across the world of his day, conquering the known kingdoms of the earth and then wept because he had no other worlds to conquer.” The Greek soldiers used shields made of bronze, hence the bronze in the image.

4. The legs were made of IRON and represented the ROMAN EMPIRE.

Roman legions like this one rumbled across the Mediterranean world like iron tanks and crushed everything in their path. The fact that this part of the statue is the legs symbolizes the fact that the Roman Empire was eventually divided into east and west. And we see it’s impact in the east, where German rulers were called Kaisers and the Russians Czars, both versions of the Roman word, “Caesar.” We also see it in the west. Ray Stedman writes,

“Our entire Western world is Roman to the core. We have a senate which is one of the fundamental bases of our government, and which we copied directly from the Roman senate. The very republican form of the US government is based upon the republic of Rome. Our courts, our laws, our military, all reflect the forms of the Roman empire.”

It’s rule began in 63BC and the Western empire collapsed in 476AD but it is hard to date the end of the Roman Empire because the Eastern empire continued and no other world kingdom ever took it’s place. This leads me to mention the next part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the eschatological part.

5. The TEN TOES were made of IRON MIXED WITH CLAY.

And, most scholars believe that these ten toes represent an unstable confederation of nations today.  And in the future, ten nations that still have the “iron” of Rome’s influence but nations that are weak like clay.  This 10, nation confederation is also mentioned in Daniel chapter 7 and Revelation chapter 13.  In verse 44 Daniel says,“In the time of those things, the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end but it will itself endure forever.”

6. In the dream, this was symbolized by a rock, not cut by human hands, a rock that struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed the entire statue to dust.

This is a picture of the return of Jesus Christ, Who as 1st Peter 2:6, 8 says is the Stone the builders rejected, the Stone that has become the Chief Cornerstone.” This also ties in with Isaiah’s prophecy in 2:2 where it says, The mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.”

In other words, through Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, God was saying that someday, after the rapture of the church, Jesus will come to earth to set up His earthly kingdom. Well, as Daniel’s interpretation ends, Nebuchadnezzar’s terror over his dream melts into fear of the Lord. Verses 46-47 say that the king fell on his face and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a Revealer of mysteries!” To me this underscores the truth that when we accurately represent God, when we lift Jesus up in our words and our actions, people respond.  The king rewarded Daniel and his friends, promoting them to positions of great authority and so ends the 2nd chapter.

What does this prophetic dream have to say to you and me?

It reminds us that the Bible is true.

Stedman is correct when he says that its prophecy is 100% correct, so let’s ask,  are we living our lives according to this book? Wouldn’t we agree that it would be foolish not to?

This prophetic dream also shows us that there is a GOD in Heaven and He is still in control.

Doesn’t that bring us peace? Isn’t it good to know that no matter how the news reports make it seem, God is still in charge. He is still working out His eternal purposes!

And finally, this dream shows us that we are living in the end times. Jesus is coming!

Are you ready for His return?

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Living on a Prayer – Daniel 2 – Part 1

Have you ever had a disturbing dream, one that you had over and over again? I have. About once a year I dream that it’s Sunday morning, the church is full, I get up to speak and my mind is blank!  All that I studied for and prepared for is gone.  Or before the start of the service, I can’t find my bible or message outline.  I’ve talked to other pastors who have had a similar dream. One pastor dreamed that he’s at the church and ready to go, but he’s in his underwear.  Of course that dream has turned into a nightmare. Those who study dreams say that everyone dreams, and even though it may seem that our dreams last all night we only dream about an hour and a half out of every eight hours we sleep.

Most of the times our dreams are just jumbled nonsense like my no sermon deal, but there have been times when dreams have turned out to be very significant. In the Bible there are examples of world leaders having dreams, dreams that were much more than dreams. They were God’s way of communicating significant truth, and today we are going to look one of those dreams, and the events surrounding it. I’m referring to a dream that Daniel tells us about in the 2nd chapter of his book, a dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had 2600 years ago, a dream that has been coming true ever since. But, before we look at this amazing dream, let me remind you that this book that we are studying, Daniel, is made up of two things: narrative and prophecy. The first six chapters are mostly true stories from the life of Daniel, familiar stories like the one we studied last week. The last six chapters are prophecies given to Daniel by God.

This second chapter is special in that it gives us a little of both, narrative and prophecy.

The first verse gives us the setting. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is in the 2nd year of his reign. Assyria, which had been Babylon’s chief enemy, had completely collapsed 5 years earlier.
This made Nebuchadnezzar the absolute dictator of an empire that reigned with unchallenged authority over most of the known world, and you may not know this but he was the first world leader to rule this much of the planet. He controlled from Greece, all the way around to Egypt, and eastward into India. He built a beautiful city, the ancient city of Babylon, the ruins of which are 40 miles from modern day Baghdad. Merril Unger gives us a picture to help us imagine its grandeur. He writes:

“[Ancient Babylon] included vast fortifications, famous streets like the Processional, canals, temples and palaces. The Ishtar Gate led through the double wall of fortifications, and was adorned with rows of bulls and dragons in colored enameled brick. Nebuchadnezzar’s throne room was likewise adorned with enameled bricks. Not far distant were the hanging gardens, which to the Greeks were one of the seven wonders of the world. How well to the words of Daniel 4:30 fit this ambitious builder/king: [Nebuchadnezzar says: ‘Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling place by the might of my power and to the glory of my majesty?”

All this goes to show that Nebuchadnezzar was one of the greatest world leaders of all time. By the way you may remember that before the first Gulf War Saddam Hussein declared himself to be the reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar. Saddam vowed to rebuild the ancient city of Babylon and restore it to world power status, which explains why he got in a fight with bordering nations so often.

But back to Nebuchadnezzar. At this point in his reign he had it all: youth, strength, wealth, fame, and power unparalleled in this world. He had huge armies at his command and all this was eclipsed by the fact that he couldn’t get a good night’s sleep, the reason he couldn’t is because he kept having this recurring, troubling dream. As I inferred, this was much more than a dream, it was a message from God to Nebuchadnezzar and to you and me as well, a message we need to hear and understand. As we review it, and the story that surrounds it, we’ll stop from time to time, so that I can point out three main things we can learn from this 2600 year old dream that is still coming true.

After having this same dream over and over and over again, Nebuchadnezzar was understandably troubled. He wanted to know what this was all about. He wanted to understand the dream and what it had to do with him and his mighty kingdom. So he called together his wise men. Think of these wise guys as a cross between an astrologer and a librarian and as you read the story, you can almost see them falling all over each other eager for their master’s praise. You see, in their minds, this dream was a golden opportunity for them to get in good with the king. They thought they couldn’t miss, because they had tons of books about interpreting dreams, and they were very good about spinning their interpretations to please Nebuchadnezzar. They thought that once he told them his dream, they could then “cash in” on his insomnia. But Nebuchadnezzar surprised them. He basically said, If you guys are so wise, then you tell me what I’ve been dreaming, .and then give me the interpretation to boot.” Obviously Nebuchadnezzar was no dummy, he knew that anyone could fabricate an interpretation once the dream was disclosed and he hungered for real truth. He wanted real answers. And as incentive to get them he told his wise men that if they couldn’t do the job they would be killed and their homes destroyed. It was  a “deliver or die, publish or perish.” This wasn’t an idle threat, Nebuchadnezzar was well known for violence.

His wise men said that as much as they wanted to, they couldn’t interpret the dream because they didn’t know what it was, and in their explanation they said a very true thing. It’s in verse 11: No man can do this. Only a god could.” I don’t know about you, but I get excited when I read that, because our God, the only true God can do anything. He is all, loving, all, wise, and all, powerful. And contrary to what these wise men said next, as John 1:14 says, in Jesus, He, “…became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

In spite of their insight in verse 11 these “wise men” weren’t servants of God, they were fakes and frauds.  Nebuchadnezzar had called their bluff. And let me just pause and say that consulting horoscopes and psychics in our day is not only foolish, it is sinful. The people who provide this kind of information, today’s “wise” men and women are either fakes, or servants of our adversary, so we should stay away from them.

I read that Barbara Bush, wife of our 41st president, was once told by an astrologer, and this was unsolicited. She didn’t seek him out. He just told her this. He said that since both she and George Bush are Geminis they should never have gotten married, because any astrologer worth his star chart knows Geminis just can’t get along. Later she made fun of his statement by saying, George and I have just celebrated 50 years of marriage. Every time I have a bad day, I tell George that astrologer was right.”

Back to our story. The wise men admitted to Nebuchadnezzar that they couldn’t do what the king requested so he followed through with his threat and ordered that all his wise men be killed. Execution squads were sent to carry out his orders, which included Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego who had only recently graduated from their Babylonian university and been admitted to the ranks of the king’s wise men. When the executioner came for Daniel he used his God, given people smarts. With respect and great composure he asked for clarification. He didn’t have a heart attack. He didn’t have a panic attack. He didn’t even go on the attack. Verse 14 says He replied with wisdom and tact saying, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Then after the executioner explained, Daniel bravely went to Nebuchadnezzar, and asked that he be given a chance to fulfill his king’s request.

By the way, I think he was able to walk right into Nebuchadnezzar’s presence because this sleep deprived king had grown to trust Daniel and his four friends. Remember in chapter 1 it says that after his post, graduation interview with them Nebuchadnezzar found them each worth ten of his other advisors. And Nebuchadnezzar not only met with Daniel. He gave him something he wouldn’t give the rest of his “wise” men. He granted Daniel time to both discern his dream and it’s meaning. I think when we emulate Daniel and decide to live by our God given convictions with respect and tact, people are impressed. Remember, all people are made by God, so all people hunger for God, and when we graciously live Godly lives people are drawn to Him. Note that according to verse 18, Daniel uses the time Nebuchadnezzar gave him to pray. Many of us would probably have used that time to leave town, to get as far from Nebuchadnezzar and his execution squads as possible, but not Daniel. Daniel knew who was really in charge. He believed God was all, wise and completely sovereign so he and his three friends prayed. They went right to the top and asked God Himself for help. This is the first main thing we can learn from the events surrounding this dream.

  1. Prayer is to Proceed our Problems

Do you remember Paul’s words from Philippians 4:6, 7 where he says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” A rough paraphrase would go like this, “Don’t worry about ANYTHING, pray about EVERYTHING. Go to God, ask for His help FIRST!”

God encourages us to come boldly before His throne. He wants us to bring Him our questions. I like how someone once put it, “Can’t sleep.. don’t count sheep, talk to the Shepherd.When we find ourselves with our backs against the wall, we must stop relying on self and ask God for His guidance. James 1:5 says,“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” I love this verse because that phrase, “without finding fault” tells me that to God there is no such thing as a dumb question. God invites all our inquiries, all of them. He loves to help us decide what to do, .so when you have an issue and you don’t know what to do, the first thing you must do is pray, take it right to the top! Remember, God is completely sovereign. He is the One Who is truly in charge.

After he prayed, Daniel was at peace. He was able to sleep even though a sword literally hung over his neck, and as he snoozed, God answered his prayer. As Daniel slept the deep sleep of someone who literally rested in the character of God, our Heavenly Father told him both Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and it’s meaning, and what happened next provides us a second bit of important instruction. At this point many of us would leap out of bed, grab our robes and head for the king’s palace yelling, ‘I’ve got it! I’ve got it! But not Daniel. No, before he went to King Nebuchadnezzar, he went back to God, he went back to Nebuchadnezzar’s superior and praised Him. Look at verses 20-23. Daniel says,

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him. I thank and praise You, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, You have made known to me what we asked of You, You have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Don’t you admire Daniel! Aren’t you impressed with this young man!? The first thing he did was give four verses of solid, specific praise! Now be honest, how often do we respond to God’s blessings in that way? 

  1. Praise is a Priority When God Answers

I don’t know about you, but I need to embrace this instruction because so often when God intervenes in my life I’m tempted to grab a little glory for myself or we simply take God for granted and forget to thank Him, but not Daniel. He knew that without God there would be no interpretation, no wisdom, no audience with the king. In fact, Daniel knew there would be no kings and countries at all if God did not will it, so we need to be like this ancient prophet. We must always praise God for His great faithfulness. Praise reminds us how capable and gracious our God is. It reminds us that without Him, we can do nothing. “Praise God!”is a phrase that should always be on our lips because God is the Source of every good and perfect gift.

About 20 years ago Orel Hershiser was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They had just won the World Series. And Orel had been named the Most Valuable Player. During the series a TV camera zoomed in on him sitting in the dugout just before the 9th inning started. He was leaning against the wall. His lips were moving but the microphones couldn’t pick it up. When he was a guest on the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson asked him what he had been saying. Orel said, “I wasn’t saying anything.” And Carson responded, “Well, then, tell us what you were doing.” Orel replied, “I was singing.” Johnny said, “You were singing? I didn’t know you were a singer. Come on, let’s hear it!” And Orel said, “Nah. I don’t want to.” But the audience clapped and said, “Yeah! Let’s hear it! Sing Orel!” So, Orel Hershiser acquiesced and on network TV he sang the song cameras had caught him singing in the dugout. He sang: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise him above Ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Amen!” Johnny Carson was speechless. The whole audience was dead silent. Then one person stood up and started clapping. And soon, the whole audience joined in applause. This song was Orel’s way of saying, God, You are the only reason I’m a Most Valuable Player. You’re the one who gave me my ability. You’re the reason why my life has been so blessed. I’m giving You all the credit. Praise You Lord!”

When Daniel met with King that’s what he did. I don’t know if he put music to verses 2:20-23, but in the privacy of his room and then as verse 27-28 as he stood before Nebuchadnezzar, he made it clear that the interpretation came from God and God alone. When you read this part of chapter two you see that, including proper nouns and pronouns Daniel referred to the Lord thirteen times and used only five pronouns to refer to himself and his three friends. Even then, the focus was still on God as the Source of all that had happened. What incredible maturity for a young man of 17! Daniel said, No man can do this, but there is a GOD IN HEAVEN and He both can and has!” Then in verses 29-45 Daniel shares with Nebuchadnezzar both the dream and it’s interpretation as given by God Himself. And we’ll look at that in the next post.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Surviving Change – Daniel 1 – Part 2

In the last post we were introduced to Daniel and his three friends who faced many challenges and changes. We saw that Daniel decided in advance to honor his God given convictions, secondly when facing many changes and challenges, like Daniel we have to….

2. Depend on your Community of Faith

 He knew that as a stranger living in a strange land he needed all the support he could get so he formed one of the first believer small groups with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They would go to school together. They would study and pray together and face decisions together. Listen, you can’t handle the Babylons of life on your own. You will never survive and thrive outside of community. As Christians we need each other. Julius Segal writes,

Few captives suffered more than Vice-Admiral James Stockdale who served 2,714 days as a POW in Vietnam. On one occasion, his captors shackled his legs and arms and left him in glaring sunshine three blistering days while guards beat him repeatedly to keep him from sleeping. After one beating, Stockdale heard a towel snapping out in a code that the POWs had devised, a message he would never forget. It was five letters ,  G B U J S ,  “God bless you Jim Stockdale.”

Segel writes that for these POWs the briefest experiences of community, of being connected, became literally a life or death deal. Their devotion and ingenuity to making community happen in spite of unbelievable obstacles defies belief. He says that if one man walked by another cell, he would drag his sandals in code to send a message. Men sent messages to their comrades through the noises they made shaking out their blankets, by belching, snoring, slowing their noses, or with the use of bodily noises that I will not name but are usually mastered by 10-year-old boys. All this goes to show how precious community is to us. In those places where community is difficult, people will move heaven and earth and risk their lives just for a moment of it. So, as our Creator says, “it is not good for man to be alone.” We need other like-minded people to survive the tough times of life!

As the world around us changes drastically, are you in community with a group of Christians? We need the encouragement of others. We their prayers, we need their strength to lighten our burdens and their smiles to magnify our joys.

We need other Christians to survive the Babylons of life. As someone once put it, there are two things you can’t do alone: be married and be a growing Christian. We need community. Join us here at Upwards. We would love to have you as part of our family.

There’s third choice we can make when the world is changing all around us….

3. Draw Upon God’s Favor and Blessing

Daniel trusted God’s blessing and favor. He knew that God always “works for the good and His glory,” even amidst the “Babylon’s” of life. He knew there was purpose in the changes that were happening. And he was right. Our text shows how much God was already at work. Notice the ways God was fulfilling His purposes, even in Daniel’s captivity: Verse 2 says that GOD delivered Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands. Verse 9 says that GOD caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.”

God was at work.  He caused Ashpenaz to look with favor upon Daniel and his three friends. But that happened after Daniel’s decision, not before. Does God bless those who honor him? Yes he does, but we generally don’t experience God’s blessings until we stand up for what we believe. Eric Liddell’s conviction of honoring the Sabbath Day led him not to race on Sunday in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. A few days later before another race for which he had not prepared but was allowed to compete, a fellow competitor put a note in Eric’s hand: “He who honors me, I will honor.” Eric raced with his convictions in tack. He honored God; and, God honored him. Eric Liddell won the race and the gold medal.

Solomon wrote, “A good man obtains favor from the Lord” Proverbs 12:2 ESV. The Psalmist wrote, “For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield” Psalm 5:12 ESV.

The good physical report we read of in verse 15 was the result of God’s miraculous intervention. He made the 10 day test succeed. Verse 17 says that GOD gave these four young men knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. GOD gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams.

God blessed Daniel and his friends with wisdom and the ability to interpret dreams.

They stood above the rest. They would find themselves in positions of enormous influence. God always rewards those who stand for him. In this case, the reward came quickly.

Often it takes much longer than that. Sometimes it won’t occur until we get to heaven.

It’s important to note the order. First, the decision is made to stand for what they believe. Second, they depend on God and each other for support, Third, they draw upon God’s blessings who gave them wisdom and understanding. They held firm to their convictions and God rewarded them. God protected Daniel when he proposed the test. God prospered Daniel during the test and afterward. God promoted Daniel in the eyes of the king.

So, Daniel believed in God’s power and providence from the very beginning. He was convinced that even the defeat of Judah and the loss of the temple that looked so tragic was not just a random meaningless event. God was not asleep. No, God was up to something in Babylon even in that place of great change. He knew that this time of challenge was the only thing that would turn some of His chosen people back to Him. Plus, as it turned out, hindsight shows that God loved the people of Babylon. He even loved Nebuchadnezzar and was reaching out to them in all of this. To survive and thrive in the Babylons of life we have to know that God loves us, and that He is all-powerful and always at work. We’ve got to know that He’s got it all in control. We’ve got to trust God’s heart. We’ve got to believe He knows what He is doing and that there is purpose in the changes that occur. Daniel and his three friends knew all this, and because they did, instead of being transformed they became transformers themselves. They joined God in His work and He used them to bring great glory to His name even in a pagan land. As we’ll see in our study, their spiritual and political influence was enormous. So, the question we must ask ourselves in our own Babylons is not, “HOW can I get out of this?” but rather, “WHAT can I get out of this? How can God use me, even in this?”

Daniel outlived Nebuchadnezzar, his successors, and even the Babylonian empire. He lived until the days of Cyrus, ruler of the Medes and Persians, and the thing that kept him going all those decades is that he knew that His God was more supreme than any king.

Are committed to living by your God-given convictions? Will you decide to go against the flow if necessary? If you aren’t involved in Christian community, you don’t have a church home, you don’t have believers like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to help you keep this first commitment, if you don’t have a group of believers with whom you are committed, will you decide today to find one, join a local church, get in a Connect group?  Have you received Christ, the greatest blessing there is? When we receive Christ we have our sins, forgiven, His presence is with us, we have a purpose and a future home in heaven! That’s the blessing and favor of God that we draw upon in difficult times!

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Surviving Change – Daniel 1 – Part 1

Have you noticed how much change is happening all around us?  We’ve seen a pandemic, lockdowns, fear, riots, inflation and political unrest. Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a crisis that you were not expecting?  You get that unexpected diagnosis from your doctor or the sudden news of the death of a loved one. You’re on the receiving end of an untrue accusation.  Or it’s an unexpected divorce.  The shocking news when a spouse said they were having an affair. Maybe you were forced to deal with an unexpected financial loss.

We are beginning a study of a truly remarkable young man who was forced to deal with many changes very early in his life. I’m referring to the prophet Daniel, who was taken from his homeland into captivity in Babylon when he was only 13 to 15 years old. Daniel was an amazing teenager. He was literally the best that Judah had to offer, he was honor role, who’s who and the valedictorian type.

The words of verses 3 and 4 of our text paint a very thorough picture of just how notable Daniel was. First, these verses say he was from a family of high social status, part of the royal family itself. He was also physically flawless, no doubt a consequence of the fact that his family was wealthy, so Daniel would have had good clothes and the best food, a nice home. Daniel was not only good looking, he was intelligent, bright, quick to understand. Here’s another thing. The Bible says he was “qualified to serve in the king’s palace…” which meant he also had a high level of what we would call “emotional intelligence”  or “people smarts.” In other words, Daniel knew how to read people, how to communicate with people, people of all temperaments. He had that rare kind of gracious “give and take” personality that made him very good at dealing with fallen human beings like you and me. But, best of all,Daniel was a Godly young man,absolutely devoted to our Lord and His chosen people. Add all these characteristics together and it’s easy to conclude that Daniel was unique. He was a very special person. Gene Getz puts it this way, Daniel is one of the few principal characters of the Old Testament concerning whom there is not one word of criticism.”

Like all young men his age, Daniel would have had dreams of how he thought his life would turn out, and coming from nobility as he did, he would have assumed that his dreams were almost certain to come true. Daniel would get a great education under the best Hebrew teachers of his day and then go on to glittering success in whatever field he chose. He’d meet the right girl, build a great marriage, live in an enviable home, raise a wonderful family, and occupy a prominent place in his nation. In short, Daniel would be an overachiever. He would do great things for God and God’s people. He would be a leader in his homeland someone who was looked up to and admired.

But, life did not turn out the way Daniel planned, did it? No, things changed and you can almost feel the heartbreak that came with it in verses 1 and 2 where it says, “Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and besieged it.”

For a quick review of Hebrew history:  The Hebrew people became a nation while in slavery in Egypt. They were delivered under Moses. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years and then finally entered the promised land. After a period of time they reached their peak as a nation under kings David and Solomon. Solomon built the glorious temple ,and then in the kingly administrations that followed there was a long, slow decline fueled by a cycle of rebellion then repentance then rebellion and so on. Soon there was more rebellion than repentance and eventually, the kingdom was divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, which was destroyed, so that all that remained was the Southern kingdom called Judah. Then when Daniel was a young man, Nebuchadnezzar came and with very little effort destroyed all that was left of the nation that was to have been God’s representatives on this world, His holy people, and if you’re thinking, “Why did God let this happen?” I’d remind you that the Hebrews brought it on themselves. They ignored the warnings given by God’s prophets and used their God-given freedom to sin. I like what Warren Wiersbe says about this. He writes, “God would rather have His people living in shameful captivity in a pagan land than living like pagans in the Holy Land and disgracing His name.”

Because of this, everything changed for Daniel. Contrary to any hopes he may have had, Daniel would come to adulthood and spend his life in a foreign land. Instead of being served, he would give his best service to an alien, pagan king. But, understand, he lost much more than his hopes. He lost his culture. He lost most of the relationships he had cherished. He probably lost his parents and siblings. He lost his native tongue and would have to learn to speak a foreign language. In short, he would live and die in a place that he never wanted to be. He would never go home again. Daniel and his three friends would even lose their names, and in his day your name was very significant. We see this in the fact that each of their old names, their Hebrew names, had a reference to God in it. The little syllable “el”, Dani-el and Misha-el, came from El-ohim and the syllable “yah” in Hanania-ah and Azaria-ah, it came from Yah-weh. So their names reminded them that they belonged to God, that they were His.

Daniel’s name literally meant, “the Lord will judge” so through his whole life, every time Daniel had heard his name spoken, it was a reminder, a promise, that, “The Lord will judge. He will set things right. The Lord will see that justice is done.” But now, He’s not Daniel anymore.  He was given the name “Belteshazzar” which referred to a pagan Babylonian god and meant, “Bel protect his life.” Can you imagine how that felt to this Godly young man, to hear a pagan prayer every time his name was called, a prayer that made it look like God wasn’t calling the shots anymore? And, the same was true for the re-naming of other three. The name of the true and living God was replaced by the names of the false gods of Babylon. These new names that Nebuchadnezzar gave them were his way of saying, “You have a new king now and a new religion. Give yourself to me. Allow Babylon to define your identity.”

Daniel’s desire for his education changed as well because Nebuchadnezzar said he and his fellow captives were to be educated in a “Babylonian school.” The Babylonians were great builders, calculators, and military strategists, but their religion was steeped in superstition and myth and Daniel along with his three friends were forced to study all this nonsense, they were forced to receive an education that was bathed in a pagan world view. I’m reminded of the way our Christian children often have to study material in secular schools that contradicts what we believe as Christ-followers.

The question we deal with is this: What do you and I do when we face drastic changes, or when we end up in ‘Babylon?’” This is an important question for us to answer because we all will. If you’re young and life has been fair to you so far, unfairness is coming. There will be “Babylon” times when life does not turn out the way you want or expect. Remember, this is a fallen world, a world where one thing we can expect is that the unexpected, the unfair, the unwanted will happen. In some way or another your dreams will fade or be replaced by nightmares. So, you need to decide, what will you do when this happens?

There’s a whole field in the social sciences that involves the study of people who experience suffering, major crises, or trauma. For example, researchers studied people like POWS from the Korean War, POWs from the war in Vietnam, and the 52 hostages that were held 14 months in Iran during the Carter administration. These studies show that a lot of people are just defeated by unexpected ordeals. When they find themselves in a “Babylon,” they just wither in their spirit. They die on the inside. Others get through the tough times, but just barely. And interestingly enough there are some, a minority, but some, who don’t just survive these traumatic events. They actually enlarge their capacity to handle problems and strengthen their ability to persist even to endure and to be creative. They have actually grown on trauma. Daniel was definitely one of them. With God’s help he not only survived in Babylon, he thrived there.  The example he set shows us three characteristics or qualities that will help us to do the same in our own “Babylons.”  Here’s the first characteristic we see in the way this remarkable young man responded to a huge unexpected crisis.

  1. Decide in Advance to Honor God-given Convictions

 Daniel refused to live as a passive victim of circumstances beyond his control. He refused to get tangled up in stuff that would cause him to betray his deepest beliefs. In short, Daniel decided to honor God. Look at verse 8 and I want you to note that this is a very important verse. In fact, in many ways it is the hinge point of this entire book of Daniel. Everything turns here. Up until this point the Babylonians seem to have determined everything. They’ve been in the driver’s seat. For example: Nebuchadnezzar determined to conquer Israel. He determined to cart off it’s most sacred objects and its best citizens, people like Daniel. He determined their new names, their new identities. He determined to enroll Daniel and his peers in that Babylonian version of Harvard. He picked their major. He selected the classes they would take and the books they would read. He even selected their college meal plan. They would be fed rich food and wine that came straight from the king’s table.

The easiest thing in the world would have been for Daniel to think he was just a passive victim in all this, a victim of forces way too big for him. But he didn’t do that. And so, as verse 8 says, at this point the initiative in the story shifts. We see this in the way one Hebrew word is used. It’s the word for “resolved” or “determined.” The first two times it’s used to refer to the Babylonians. They are determining this and that. But in verse 8 it’s daniel the captive, Daniel the prisoner, Daniel makes a decision, and at this point the verb is strengthened. It’s as if it is underlined as it says, Daniel resolved in his heart to honor God.”

Daniel decided, he resolved that enough was enough. He would not defile himself by participating in the meal plan that had been selected for him. So, he went to the dean of the school and said he didn’t want the Adkins diet of all that meat nor did he want a college keg party with all the alcohol he could drink at every meal. And please note, he made this decision before the food was put on the table, before he would be tempted by the smells of that feast which should remind us that we must do our own deciding, we must commit to follow our own convictions before temptation sets in. By then, it’s usually too late.

The reason Daniel did this, the reason he refused this menu is not because he was a vegetarian. He ate meat like any good Hebrew. No, it was because he knew that the meat from the king’s table would have first been offered to a pagan god and so sharing in that food would be the same as honoring that false god. Plus, he knew that Nebuchadnezzar believed that by first offering his food and drink to these gods, he would receive special blessings. And Daniel did not want the king or anyone to conclude that he and his friends had prospered physically, intellectually, and spiritually….because the food they ate and the wine they drank had been offered to pagan gods. In short, he did not want these pagan deities to be honored in anyway whatsoever. And it appears as if these four men were the only ones of these “choice Hebrews” who drew this line in the sand. The rest gave in and pigged out, no Jewish food pun intended.

It took a great deal of courage for Daniel to stand up like this. Nebuchadnezzar was not the kind of leader who cut people a lot of slack. Here’s an example from his life to show you what I mean. In 2nd Kings 25 a puppet king named Zedekiah rebelled against him. Nebuchadnezzar captured Zedekiah and his family and had his sons killed right before Zedekiah’s eyes. Then he had Zedekiah’s eyes put out so that the last thing he saw was his sons being killed. I mean, the dean of the school, Ashpenaz, wasn’t kidding when he said that Nebuchadnezzar would have his head if this turned out poorly. That’s who Daniel is dealing with here. But that doesn’t bother Daniel. He remembered his real name and the message it contained. He believed in his heart that God is the only true judge and he resolves to honor God no matter what. Resilient people, people who survive and thrive in the “Babylons” of life, are like this. They cling to their Christian convictions. They don’t use circumstances that are beyond their control as an excuse to give in to temptation. They build their lives on God’s loving laws and refuse to get tangled up in sin.

And note Daniel’s “people smarts” in the way he went about this. He said, Let’s just try this for ten days, sir, and then you be the judge.” He exercises amazing initiative, courage, and tact, not to mention faith that God would work and God did, miraculously, because no health food diet will make that kind of difference in 10 days. I can tell you by experience that diets take much longer than that to work. If they always worked that fast, we’d all be skinny!  But God worked, and the guard was so impressed with what happened to Daniel and his friends that he took everybody’s steak and wine away and put the whole school on the health food diet.
By the way the word for vegetables here in verse 12 is ZEROAand, as Beth Moore points out, it literally meant “everything that grows from sown seed…” so it would have been not just veggies, but fruits, grains, and bread that was made from whole grain, so they ate well.

Is there anywhere in your life where you are getting tempted by sin or ensnared by the world’s ways? Has your “Babylon” pulled you in to some activity that you know God does not approve of?

There is the husband who never intended to lose his family but he decided it was okay to flirt around the boundaries of adultery. He got tangled up in Babylon. There is the business person who decides that cutting an ethical corner here and there will make a ride to the top quicker. Now she’s a getting caught. Or you tried to ease the pain of your Babylon with some sinful pleasure, and now you are feeling the hurt that always comes our way when we live contrary to God’s will.

So many people never intend to sin, but because they don’t decide as Daniel did to stick with their convictions as a child of God, they allow themselves to get pulled in. Friends, the world is tying to tempt us to settle for less than God’s best, why not decide to say NO?! Why not plant your feet firmly and say, NO, I’m going to be God’s person.”

In the next post we’ll look at two other choices Daniel made that are helpful for us as well.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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