Coming to Our Senses – Daniel 4

After seven years of living among wild animals, banished from the world’s most powerful throne because of his prideful ways, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon finally came to his senses.

The God who had placed him over a vast and prosperous empire was at long last seen by the king for who He is – the Giver of all blessings.  It was a hard lesson for one accustomed to boundless success and extravagant luxury, but one well worth learning, for it led to faith and the pathway to peace.

36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the honor of my kingdom, and my state counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just; and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”  Daniel 4:36-37 (NASB)

With this trial behind him, King Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his original position and going forward served his people in righteousness.

In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus told of another person who was suffering because he had departed from God’s ways, in the Parable of the Lost, or Prodigal, Son.  Demanding and receiving his inheritance in advance from his father, the son wasted it on wild living in a far country.  When the money was all gone, the son hungrily took the only job he could find – tending pigs.  But even here he was not even allowed to eat of the poor food he was giving them.

17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired laborers have more than enough bread, but I am dying here from hunger! 18 I will set out and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired laborers.”’  Luke 15:17-19 (NASB)

This young man’s life lesson was entirely of his own making, but the parable shows that the Lord has a soft heart even for the most wayward.  When this young man humbled himself in his heart, God was ready to forgive and restore him.

20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.  Luke 15:20-24 (ESV)

The Father in Jesus’ parable is the Lord.  Even when we have turned away from Him to live a life of sin, He loves us and longs for us to return.  He is always keeping watch for us like the young man’s father – not to strike us down with a lightning bolt, but to lift us up, embrace us and kiss us – He loves us!  Jesus took all of the punishment we deserve upon Himself on the cross at Calvary.  He was then raised from the dead, the First Born of many believers, so that we, too, may follow Him forever.  All He asks is that we come to our senses and humbly turn to Him, believing in Jesus as Lord and receiving Him and His sacrifice in our hearts.  Many have done this, and the rewards are endless.

Reflection

We all have weak points where we are prone to sin.  Ours may be pride, like King Nebuchadnezzar, or something else, such as hate, lust, greed or any combination of things that we that we know in our hearts is wrong but choose to do anyway.

God is merciful and desires that we turn to Him to receive complete cleansing, forgiveness, and restoration.  The two accounts in this meditation are a testimony to God’s loving character and patience with us.  Won’t you seek Him today?

Lord, we may be in a place right now where we do not want to be.  Perhaps we have walked away from You in a certain area of our lives and now need to be restored back to a position of safety, favor, righteousness, and fellowship with You.  We ask Your forgiveness for what we have done, and Your help in changing our actions going forward.  We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus Christ, who loves me and wants the very best for me.  Amen.

Not by Might nor by Power– Daniel 4

Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of armies.  Zechariah 4:6 (NASB)

Speaking to one who would lead the people of Israel back home from Babylon near the end of Daniel’s life, the prophet Zechariah pointed to the true source of power and triumph for all people, then, now, and always – the Lord.

In Daniel’s day, the person holding the most power on earth was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  His achievements and building projects were unparalleled, and his vast empire stretched across most of the known world of that time.  His word was law and authority unquestioned.  Despite a kind warning from God in the form of a second dream, King Nebuchadnezzar would forget that God, not he, was the ultimate source of his success.  The king’s pride would go before his fall.

The Lord was putting a lot of effort into King Nebuchadnezzar.  He provided two divine dreams for the king’s benefit and placed the prophet Daniel on the scene to correctly interpret each of them.  Even God’s eventual chastisement had a holy and loving purpose – to turn the king away from prideful living and get him back on track to doing what was right and taking proper care of the poor of the land.

Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream was similar to his first.  Rather than a giant human statue, its centerpiece was an enormous tree.  Touching the heavens and visible to the entire earth, this tree provided protection, nourishment, and blessings to all people and nature living around it.  But something about the tree displeased the watchers in heaven, who called for it to be cut down until it was clear to all the earth that true power resided with God in heaven.

When Nebuchadnezzar’s advisors were unable to explain the meaning of the dream, the king called in Daniel to come interpret for him once again.

But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying‘Belteshazzar, chief of the soothsayer priests, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no secret baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.  Daniel 4:8-9 (NASB)

Unlike the first dream, the king shared this one with everyone while seeking its interpretation.  When Daniel heard the dream and understood its meaning in his spirit, he was overcome, for he cared for the king.

19 “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you, and its interpretation to your adversaries! 20 The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth, 21 and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the animals of the field lived and in whose branches the birds of the sky settled— 22 it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky, and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 And in that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the animals of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the animals of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 26 And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will remain as yours after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules. 27 Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: wipe away your sin by doing righteousness, and your wrongdoings by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’  Daniel 4:19-27 (NASB)

Assured by Nebuchadnezzar that he would heed God’s warning and change, all returned to normal for about a year.  But then the king once again fell victim to pride, and like many of us, gave in to his weaknesses and turned away from the holy God.

After this, God’s warning was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was forced to leave the palace to live among the wild animals.  He lived this way for seven years before returning to his senses and being restored by God to his throne.  Through this hard lesson, the king finally realized once and for all the true source of his strength, power, and prosperity – the Lord.

Reflection

It is very easy for us to forget where our blessings have come from, and to take full credit for them ourselves.  While we often work hard for our achievements, God has placed much favor and opportunity in our path to allow us to fulfill those dreams and visions.  We can often be like the ten lepers who were miraculously healed by Jesus, with only one of them returning to thank Him and worship Him. 

Now is a good time to reflect – have we thanked God recently for all the wonderful blessings He has placed in our lives?

Lord, it is all too easy for us to forget You are the source of all of our provision, protection, and health.  All good blessings have come from You.  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we worship the Father and Jesus Christ, the source of our eternal salvation and healing.  Forgive us for all of our sins, including our negligence towards You, our loved ones, and those around us.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The Fourth Man – Daniel 3

Who was the fourth man, walking about unharmed in the midst of a blazing fire? 

To address this, we need to set some background.

When King Nebuchadnezzar first heard Daniel’s interpretation of his troubling dream, He gave glory to the God of heaven.  Only a God far greater than the gods he had been worshiping would be able to read his mind to reveal the actual dream, then interpret the mystery of its meaning.

But as time went on, the king began to consider his position as the golden head at the top of the dream’s human statue.  His was truly the greatest of the interpreted four great world empires to come, and he was its indisputable leader.  Now that he had confirmation of his dominance, perhaps he was due for a little worship himself.  He built a ninety-foot (30 meter) statue of gold on a plain and decreed that everyone in the land should come and worship it.

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made a statue of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits, and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  Daniel 3:1 (NASB)

The king made a decree that anyone who does NOT worship his stature would be tossed into a furnace of fire and burned to death.

This presented a crisis for Daniel’s friends, who had been placed in positions of authority over that area.  They were faithful worshipers of the Lord, and as such were not permitted to worship any other god, per the first commandment.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  “You shall have no other gods before Me.  Exodus 20:2-3 (NASB)

Other of the king’s advisors brought the young mens’ situation to the attention of the king.

14 Nebuchadnezzar began speaking and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods, nor worship the golden statue that I have set up?  Daniel 3:14 (NASB)

With their lives on the line, Daniel’s three friends exhibited great faith, bravery, and determination in resisting the temptation to go along with the king to disobey God and worship the golden statue.  Instead of giving in to avoid the sentence of death, they stayed true to God Almighty and trusted Him to deliver them, be it in this life or the next.

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods nor worship the golden statue that you have set up.”  Daniel 3:17-18 (NASB)

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.  Daniel 3:19 (NASB)

The three faithful friends were bound and carried off to die.  As the king had demanded, the fire in the furnace was heated to such a point that even the act of casting these three into the fire caused the men who threw them in to burn up.

22 For this reason, because the king’s command was harsh and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. 23 But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell into the middle of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.

24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up quickly; he said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the middle of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Absolutely, O king.” 25 He responded, “Look! I see four men untied and walking about in the middle of the fire unharmed, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”  Daniel 3:22-25 (NASB)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were seen loose, unharmed, and actually walking around within the furnace.  And there was a mysterious fourth man walking with them.

When the three young men emerged:

27 … the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men, nor was the hair of their heads singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had even the smell of fire touched them.  Daniel 3:27 (NASB)

But who was the fourth man?

Someone much more powerful than even the hottest of fires.  Someone sent from heaven in answer to the prayers of these three faithful men.  The fourth man looked glorious, like someone who was a “son of the gods”. 

Was this a powerful angel? Was it the divine Angel of the Lord, who is perhaps Christ Himself in pre-incarnate form? Who do you think it is?

Reflection

Even in the midst of our burning fire, the Lord has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He will be present to comfort, heal, restore, and preserve us.  He will faithfully bring us through our trial, no matter how difficult or hopeless it may seem.  And He will hold us close until the fire is out, and all is safe and secure around us.

Father, give us the strength to stay faithful to You when it would be so much easier to turn away to follow after the crowd.  Forgive us for our failures and help us to walk close to the path You have prepared for us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Promotion from God – Daniel 2

Under threat of death by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Daniel and his friends prayed fervently to be given the king’s dream and its interpretation by God.  The Lord answered their prayers, providing both the dream and its meaning, and these were quickly shared with the king to his satisfaction.

The mysterious dream was in fact a blueprint for the coming major world governments – four great empires representing all the pomp and power that humans can deliver.  These were followed by a divine kingdom that will replace them all forever. 

Fittingly, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream began with the form of a majestic human statue.  The most prominent position and metallic quality, gold, was found at the head, representing Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon.  Subsequent kingdoms, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and its present-day derivatives, were represented by successively inferior and lower positions and made of less valuable materials. 

The final human kingdom, represented by a conglomeration of iron and clay at the feet of the statue, will be crushed and blown away as chaff along with everything that came before it by the return of Jesus Christ and the installation of the kingdom of heaven.  This marks the end of human government and control.  From here forward, God’s loving and merciful nature will replace all the tears, suffering, hardship, destruction, and death the human empires have produced.

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and paid humble respect to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and incense. 47 The king responded to Daniel and said, “Your God truly is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of secrets, since you have been able to reveal this secret.” 48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon, and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel 2:46-48 (NASB)

God used the dream and its interpretation not only as a prophecy into God’s plan for the future, but also to bring forward and promote Daniel to a place of prominence in the king’s court.  This was not the first time the Lord used dreams to do this in the Bible.  Joseph, a son of the patriarch Jacob and great-grandson of Abraham, was promoted to one of the most powerful positions in ancient Egypt through his ability to interpret Pharaoh’s divine dream of warning.  Placed in this role, Joseph’s actions were able to save both the people of Egypt and Abraham’s line from the ravages of an imminent brutal famine.

The prophet Daniel had been forcibly taken into exile when King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah.  Likewise, Joseph had been sold into slavery by his own jealous brothers and was carried off into Pharaoh’s Egypt.  Joseph then ended up spending multiple years in a dungeon because of an injustice by the wife of his new master, Potiphar.

But God had important work for Joseph to do, and in the Lord’s timing he, like Daniel, received a divine promotion. 

14 Then Pharaoh sent word and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”  Genesis 41:14-15 (NASB)

God is infinite and interacts with each of us in a unique and intimate way, but He has some favorite methods He uses to work through people.  It would also seem that the more important the task, the more humility and reliance upon Him is required in its preparation.

25 And Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.  29 Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; 30 and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe.  Genesis 41:25-31 (NASB)

Joseph then offered divine wisdom to Pharoah on what might be done to get ready to weather the coming storm.  This wisdom rang true with Pharaoh and brought great favor for Joseph.

38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom there is a divine spirit?” 39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be in charge of my house, and all my people shall be obedient to you; only regarding the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “See, I have placed you over all the land of Egypt.”  Genesis 41:25,29-31,38-41 (NASB)

There are some promotions we seek in life that we never get.  These are likely not a part of God’s bigger plan for us.  He has His own work for us to do, and we will find ourselves right where we need to be to get it done, whether we like it at the time or not.

Looking back, we often see that it was a good thing we did not obtain what we were seeking, and that it is a very good thing to be exactly where the Lord wants us.  From time to time, a promotion may come along with God’s blessing, often when we least expect to get it.

Reflection

God used the dreams of great empire leaders to turn their attention to Him through the intercession of His faithful servants.  Both Daniel and Joseph were victims of great personal hardship, then were used by the Lord in remarkable ways to positively impact the lives of many and to preserve the genealogy of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Lord, whenever we are in the midst of hardship, help us to stay faithful to You.  It is so easy to turn away when we sense we have been treated unfairly.  Help us to stay focused on You, ready and willing to achieve Your will and purposes through us.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The Great Statue – Daniel 2

In answer to the earnest prayers of Daniel and his friends, the Lord provided the prophet with both the king’s dream and its meaning.  Further revelations and visions in Daniel’s life will fill in more detail about the specific interpretation of the dream, but Daniel shares what he has been given so far with King Nebuchadnezzar.

29 As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will take place. Daniel 2:29 (NASB)

31 “You, O king, were watching and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary radiance, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. 32 The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its chest and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. Daniel 2:31 (NASB)

The great statue in the king’s dream represents the succession of future Gentile empires that will reign upon the earth from Daniel’s time until the second coming of Jesus Christ.  At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be installed over all people on our planet, with Jesus exercising physical leadership over the nations. 

The kings of Judah in David’s line were intended to reign until the birth of Christ, but due to their rejection of God, He ended their line with the exile into Babylon.  From here, the Messianic line would be preserved in the form of governors and others of more modest roles who will make up the remainder of the genealogy of Jesus.

The majestic statue in the dream has a head of gold at the top, representing King Nebuchadnezzar himself.  He would be superior in power and authority to the other Gentile empires that follow, including Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and its descendants.  As Daniel explains:

37 You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength, and the honor; 38 and wherever the sons of mankind live, or the animals of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has handed them over to you and has made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold.  Daniel 2:37-38 (NASB)

The next two empires, Medo-Persia, the chest and arms of silver, and Greece, the belly and thighs of bronze, hold successively inferior positions. They each occur lower on the statue and are composed of less precious metals.

39 And after you another kingdom will arise inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth.  Daniel 2:39 (NASB)

Much more will be said of the kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece further into the book of Daniel.

The lowest part of the statue had:

33 its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.  Daniel 2:33 (NASB)

The legs of iron and feet of iron and clay in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represent the empire of Rome and its derivatives.  This great and powerful empire eventually collapsed and broke into pieces, many of which still survive today as nations as well as their former colonies.  The book of Revelation tells us that there will be an attempt to re-assemble these pieces into a world government led by Antichrist at some time in our future.

40 Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; just as iron smashes and crushes everything, so, like iron that crushes, it will smash and crush all these things. 41 And in that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have within it some of the toughness of iron, since you saw the iron mixed with common clay. 42 And just as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong, and part of it will be fragile. 43 In that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in their descendants; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not combine with pottery.  Daniel 2:40-43 (NASB)

Though the last of the great human empires has now made its appearance, the dream does not end here.  There is another great empire coming after this which is not of this world.  It is of our Creator and His Christ.

34 You continued watching until a stone was broken off without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed to pieces all at the same time, and they were like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the entire earth.  Daniel 2:34-35 (NASB)

All the great strivings of mankind that do not honor the Lord will ultimately turn to dust.  The kingdom of God led by Jesus Christ will replace each of them into eternity.

44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 45 Just as you saw that a stone was broken off from the mountain without hands, and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is certain and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and paid humble respect to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and incense. 47 The king responded to Daniel and said, “Your God truly is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of secrets, since you have been able to reveal this secret.”  Daniel 2:44-46 (NASB)

Reflection

God permitted the great empires of history to rise, but they will all fall – only the divine will remain.  Christ’s arms are open to us to cleanse us of all our shortcomings and sins. He will gladly receive us into His new kingdom forever if we seek Him.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 (NASB)

Lord, we turn to You and humbly confess our sins and shortcomings.  Thank you for providing for our cleansing through Your suffering and death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  Help us to live a better life through the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Revealing the Latter Days – Daniel 2

God sent a troubling dream to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and will use the prophet Daniel to give him its irrefutable interpretation.  Through this, God will reveal His future plan for all people on earth – a succession of four great world empires which will rule over them right down to the present day.  This dream ends with a glimpse of what is to come in our future – one last amalgamation of world nations in rebellion against the Lord under the leadership of a demonic and charismatic leader known as Antichrist.  This leader and his vast government will be swept away by the return of Jesus Christ and His installation as King over the entire world.  Unlike the four preceding empires, this divine kingdom will never be replaced.

Does this future sound far-fetched?  It may, but that is the reason God laid out the entire plan for us well in advance using Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  As each item becomes fulfilled, we can have more confidence in the items that remain.

When we last saw Daniel, he and his friends were under the shadow of death because of the king’s rage – no one could tell him and interpret his mysterious and worrisome dream.  All of the king’s spiritual advisors, including the up-and-coming Daniel and his friends, were to be immediately put to death for their failure to successfully answer the king’s demand.

But God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel after he and his friends sought the Lord with earnest prayer.

24 Thereupon, Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to kill the wise men of Babylon; he went and said this to him: “Do not kill the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king’s presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.”

25 Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!” 26 The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the secret about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, sorcerers, soothsayer priests, nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. 28 However, there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. 29 As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will take place. 30 But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living person, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.  Daniel 2:24-29 (NASB)

Daniel then revealed the dream to the king:

31 “You, O king, were watching and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary radiance, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. 32 The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its chest and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 You continued watching until a stone was broken off without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed to pieces all at the same time, and they were like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the entire earth.  Daniel 2:31-35 (NASB)

God revealed the secret dream to Daniel, and the king knew it was true.  Therefore, the interpretation that Daniel would provide had to be true, as well.  Surely the king was all ears as Daniel prepared to interpret the dream.

Reflection

When God brings in His kingdom on His terms, peace and security will finally reign over the earth.  Hunger, suffering, and tears will be a thing of the past.  His great light and love will replace all darkness.

Lord, teach us to number our days so as to use them for Your glory.  Help us to get off of paths which are not prescribed for us by You, and to follow You on the ones where we belong.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Times and Seasons – Daniel 2

What started out as a great advantage for the prophet Daniel and his friends had suddenly turned into a great peril.

Far from their home in Judah, unlike most of their fellow exiles in Babylon, they were being raised in King Nebuchadnezzar’s luxurious palace.  They were treated with favoritism and being given every avenue of training to help shape and form their young minds into future leaders of quality.

The problem was that a dream from the Lord troubled the king greatly and took all sleep from him.  He now demanded that his cadre of spiritual advisors get in touch with their gods to immediately let him know the meaning of the dream.  And in order to prove the veracity of their consultations, he demanded that they not only tell him the meaning but the undisclosed dream itself.

10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is no person on earth who could declare the matter to the king, because no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any soothsayer priest, sorcerer, or Chaldean. 11 Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.”

12 Because of this, the king became angry and extremely furious, and he gave orders to kill all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued that the wise men be killed; and they looked for Daniel and his friends, to kill them.  Daniel 2:10-14 (NASB)

Though Daniel and his friends had not yet officially entered the king’s service nor had any idea what was going on, these young men suddenly found themselves under a sentence of death, one that was to be carried out immediately.

14 Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon; 15 he said to Arioch, the king’s officer, “For what reason is the decree from the king so harsh?” Then Arioch informed Daniel of the matter. 16 So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him a grace period, so that he might declare the interpretation to the king.  Daniel 2:14-16 (NASB)

Daniel apparently had a high enough standing among the trainees that he could personally approach the king to ask for more time to get the needed interpretation.  His favorable impression and credibility convinced the king to allow a little more time before the fatal punishment order was carried out. 

Having succeeded in getting a little more time, Daniel knew what to do next: turn to the Lord in prayer and supplication and enlist his equally endangered friends to do the same.  It is safe to assume that their prayer time was desperate, heartfelt, and sincere.  The Lord would hear their plea.

17 Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, 18 so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his friends would not be killed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  Daniel 2:17-18 (NASB)

The Lord answered Daniel and his friends in their time of great need.  He has promised all of us that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; 20 Daniel said,

“May the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
21 It is He who changes the times and the periods;
He removes kings and appoints kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men,
And knowledge to people of understanding.
22 It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
23 To You, God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”  Daniel 2:19-23 (NASB)

The Lord is powerful enough to change the times and seasons for kings of the great world empires, but He also cares enough for us to help guide us through our most difficult seasons.  As we seek to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God, He will do His part and never let us down.

The troubles we are facing today will be removed by His loving hand, in His timing.  New problems will always be coming along, but He will heal us from those and resolve them as they come.  One day we will look up to suddenly realize that those problems are no longer weighing us down.  He is good and will lift them away even as we do not realize He is doing it.

No matter what has come against us, Daniel’s trials remind us to always call upon the name of the Lord and to never lose hope.  God knows what lies in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.

Reflection

Lord, we lift our troubles to You today.  Our times and seasons are in Your hand.  Thank you for all the many trials and tribulations You have safely brought us through, and we thank You that You will always continue to do so.  We praise You for your goodness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.   John Newton, 1772

Nebuchadnezzar’s Troubling Dream – Daniel 2

What sorts of things keep you awake as you lie in bed at night?  Hopefully nothing.  But for some, simply thinking about the list of things that need to be done the next day can interfere with a restful night’s sleep.

For others, lack of sleep on any given night can have a more serious cause.  It may be a damaged relationship, a loved one’s troubles, an unavoidable conflict, pain or a medical condition, hunger, fear, depression, worry, or even our own nagging conscience playing and replaying an imaginary tape of something regrettable we have said or done.

King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon had a fitful night like this.  Known historically as Nebuchadnezzar the Great, he was the most powerful person of his day.  Though he had absolute authority over every living creature within his empire, he could not go back to sleep because of a troubling dream, a dream sent to him directly by the Lord.  It would lead to the elevation of the prophet Daniel to the upper echelons of the king’s court and lay out the coming framework of Gentile world empires from the times of the kings of Israel until the coming return of earth’s final King, Jesus Christ.

The book of Daniel gives an account of the events surrounding the king’s dream.

1 Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. Then the king gave orders to call in the soothsayer priests, the conjurers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. The king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.”  Daniel 2:1-3 (NASB)

King Nebuchadnezzar had a vast court of spiritual advisors, the wisest and most powerful people in his empire.  These were top representatives from every known spiritual group, but without the inclusion of Daniel and his friends, this court did not yet have any believers in God Almighty.  The group would soon discover that without access to the one true God, they would be helpless in a most desperate situation, and totally dependent upon the mercy of a God they did not know to save them.

King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that the advisors draw upon all of their spiritual powers and forces to interpret his troubling dream.  But, to ensure that their interpretation was truly from the gods, he insisted that they tell him the dream first.  This would be an easy test of the validity of their interpretation of the dream.

The advisors suddenly found themselves in a very dangerous situation.  None of them had any idea what the dream was, and whatever forces they called upon did not either – this was a dream directly from the Lord.  They begged King Nebuchadnezzar to reveal the dream to them so they could accurately give its meaning.  But in his distrust of them, he would have none of it.

Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” The king replied to the Chaldeans, “The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be turned into a rubbish heap. But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” The king replied, “I know for certain that you are trying to buy time, because you have perceived that the command from me is firm, that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, so that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is no person on earth who could declare the matter to the king, because no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any soothsayer priest, sorcerer, or Chaldean. 11 Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.”  Daniel 2:4-11 (NASB)

Nebuchadnezzar had the authority to kill them all for being fraudulent, and he was fully intending to give the order to begin doing so if they failed to present him with the dream.

Meanwhile, Daniel and his friends had no idea what was going on either with the dream or with any of the deadly consequences that were about to ensue.  This little group was on the fringe of the larger group of spiritual advisors, and though they had not been called upon by the king, they would suffer along with all the others under the king’s judgment.

12 Because of this, the king became angry and extremely furious, and he gave orders to kill all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued that the wise men be killed; and they looked for Daniel and his friends, to kill them.  Daniel 2:12-13 (NASB)

There are times in life when we are absolutely powerless over evil and distressing events around us and the only hope we have is to earnestly pray and to put our desperate situation in the hands of a loving and powerful God.  That is exactly what Daniel and friends are about to do, and God will answer their prayers in a remarkable way.

Reflection

When was the last time you were in the middle of a life crisis?  How did God bring you through?  Are you in one now?

Lord, we lift up those who are going through difficult times, both in the things we know about and the things we do not.  Bring them Your peace and presence in the eye of the storm and guide them safely through to the other side.  May You receive all the praise, honor, and glory for their deliverance.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The King’s Favor – Daniel 1

Sometimes in life we get warm treatment and appreciation from those above us in authority, while other times, we cannot seem to gain their approval no matter how hard we try.

Mostly these are just the ups and downs of a normal life.  But there may be occasions when we face unique circumstances, difficult or otherwise, which were put there by God to achieve His divine purposes through us.

It is evident from the Bible that God likes to use people of faith as instruments to help reflect His power and glory to others.  Two examples are the prophet Daniel, who will serve under King Nebuchadnezzar, and Jacob’s son Joseph who served under Pharaoh of Egypt.  Both youths were carried off from their homes as captives and placed into situations not of their own choosing.  But God raised both to be in their king’s court and to provide a vital service to the Lord’s people.

God granted Daniel and his three friends great favor in both intellectual learning and spiritual discernment.  Like Joseph before him, Daniel would become the most trusted advisor to the king as well as a prophet and messenger from God.    

17 And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every kind of literature and expertise; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.  Daniel 1:17 (NASB)

When it came time for the four youths to be presented before King Nebuchadnezzar, the hand of God was evident.

18 Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. 20 As for every matter of expertise and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the soothsayer priests and conjurers who were in all his realm. 21 And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.  Daniel 1:18-21 (NASB)

Daniel and his friends had made the decision to put God first in their lives, and they were used by Him to provide a great service.  Their journey would not be an easy one, though, even living in the king’s palace.  There always seemed to be some enemy or challenge to come against them, just as we often find today.

Few of us are in a position of privilege such as residing in luxury or can make the claim of being “without blemish” as these four youths were reputed to be.  Face it, most of us are quite blemished!  But that is why Jesus Christ came to earth the first time, to die as a sacrifice for our blemishes and failings, and to be raised from the dead so that we may enjoy newness of life. 

As Daniel’s prophesies will point to in meditations to come, Jesus will return to earth one day to establish and reign over a global eternal kingdom. This will replace the succession of four great world empires as discussed in Daniel’s writings, and their derivatives that are still found in our world today.

Like the four youths in Nebuchadnezzar’s court, may the Lord grant us the strength to stay faithful to Him no matter what trials we are facing today.  May His hand of favor extend to us and deliver us from our troubles by His strength, purity, and power.

Reflection

Lord, we are not without blemish in our lives.  Forgive us for our sins and shortcomings and help us to follow You, walking as godly women and men.  Use us to shine Your divine light in a lost and hurting world.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Relying Upon God – Daniel 1

I think it is safe to say that most of us have a battle with something we are failing to win in our own strength.  It is difficult to faithfully wait out God to come to our aid, so we often decide to help Him out with our own ideas and schemes.  As a good friend once asked me when I tried this, “How did that work out for you?”  Pretty poorly, to be honest.

One speaker I heard had some good advice on the topic:

“If you are willing to choose God’s way, God will make a way.”  B Gallatin

The young, future-prophet Daniel was in this type of predicament.  He and his friends were carried off against their will from Jerusalem to Babylon as part of a mass deportation by King Nebuchadnezzar.  But unlike the vast majority of exiles, Daniel’s group was hand-picked to live in the king’s palace to be trained and educated for leadership in their new home.  They were definitely getting a first-class treatment in a situation that was otherwise anything but.

Realizing their exclusive opportunity, the obvious choice was to not make any waves or raise any objections that might end their special treatment. 

But Daniel and his friends had a deep faith in God and first and foremost wanted to walk in a right relationship with Him.  For a young Jewish person in Daniel’s time, this meant keeping a kosher diet in accordance with the law of Moses.  The luxurious food from Nebuchadnezzar’s table that was to be put before them came into direct conflict with the will of the Lord for them. 

Rather than compromise to get along, Daniel followed his conscience and did the risky thing: speak up.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.  Daniel 1:8 (NASB)

Life offers no shortage of temptations to compromise with God’s will.  Sometimes there are gray areas where we are not sure exactly what God’s will is for us.  Other times, we know exactly what it is, but are tempted to just put it out of our minds and move forward anyway.  For Daniel, it was clear what he needed to do, and he bravely declined the temptation to ignore God’s wishes.  Because of his faithfulness, God granted Daniel favor with his commander and overseer.  But the overseer then had some concerns of his own.

Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials. 

10 The commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has allotted your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking gaunt in comparison to the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.”  Daniel 1:9-10 (NASB)

Now the overseer of the commander was also at risk.  If Daniel ever had an excuse to back out of what he knew to be right, this was his chance.  But he would not.

11 But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please put your servants to the test for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

14 So he listened to them in this matter, and put them to the test for ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their appearance seemed better, and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. 16 So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.  Daniel 1:11-16 (NASB)

God rewarded the faithfulness of Daniel and his friends by providing for them (and their overseer) in an unexpected way.  If we are willing to do things God’s way, He will never let us down.  Things may not happen as quickly as we would like to ease our concerns, but if we will be faithful, He will be too.  As someone has said:

God is never too late, but rarely early.   Anonymous

The New Testament makes clear that Christians are free to enjoy all foods, but many Jesus- (Jeshua-) worshippers of Jewish descent continue to follow kosher dietary laws to honor their original calling.  

Reflection

What ongoing battle in your life has a hold over your thoughts and emotions?  Most of us have something negative going on that is beyond our ability to control.

Let us take this moment to turn them over to God and ask Him to help us honor and wait upon Him rather than to do something reactionary and foolish that will only end up making things worse.

Lord, we are powerless over certain negative things in our lives that are coming against us.  We ask You to step in and help resolve these situations.  Grant us Your peace and serenity by the power of the Holy Spirit as we wait for Your action.  Help us to resist the temptation to take things into our own hands.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.