Saturday, June 25, 2016

Triplets of Christ-Mind: Pride Demands God’s Judgment, Bringing Wisdom

Photo by Reinhardhauke 2012

As we began to explore last week, God gave Daniel the wisdom to interpret three visions for Babylonian kings, all of which were divine prophetic warnings. The first warning was Nebuchadnezzar’s dream symbolizing three future kingdoms that would replace his kingdom (Daniel 2:1-45). The second warning was Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great tree, foretelling how God would humble him (Daniel 4:4-27).The third warning was God’s handwriting on the wall, declaring judgment on the Chaldean king Belshazzar, who was Nebuchadnezzar’s son (Daniel 5:5-28).

The narrative of Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream begins with his proclaiming to all people, nations, and languages about God’s great signs and mighty wonders He had shown the king, and His everlasting kingdom (Daniel 4:1-4). This suggests head knowledge of who God is, but his subsequent words and actions reveal that he lacked wisdom to love and fear God and understanding to obey Him. Sadly, that is the situation with many who claim to follow God (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 7:15; Mark 7:6). Even the demons believe in God, yet will spend eternity in hell because they despise Him (James 2:19).

Although Nebuchadnezzar had been at leisure in his house, and thriving in his palace, he became frightened by a dream, subsequent thoughts, and visions in his head ((Daniel 4:5). The king himself could not understand the dream, nor could all the wise men of Babylon, except for Daniel.

Although Nebuchadnezzar praised Daniel, calling him master of the magicians, who was not troubled by any secret, he misunderstood the source of his wisdom, believing he possessed the spirit of the holy gods rather than the understanding that comes only from a heart relationship with the One True and Living God (v. 7-9).

We therefore can assume that Nebuchadnezzar was still unsaved, for he continued to believe in multiple gods rather than in Jehovah, and he repeated that he had given Daniel the name Belteshazzar, “according to the name of my god” (v. 8). Our One true God is a jealous God, commanding that we have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3-5), and telling us that the Name of His Son is the only Name by which we may be saved (Romans 10:9-13; Acts 4:12). Only the Lord Jesus Christ could be the perfect sacrifice reconciling sinful man to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18), so that all who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) will have eternal life (John 3:16).

Nebuchadnezzar recounted his dream of a tree growing strong, high enough to reach heaven, and broad enough to be visible throughout the earth, with beautiful leaves, plentiful fruit, and roomy branches. It provided food for all, shade for the beasts of the field, and shelter for the birds. But this lovely vision was disturbed by a “watcher” and a “holy one” Who “came down from heaven” (Daniel 4:10-13).

This Holy Messenger cried for the tree to be cut down, for the branches to be cut off, and for the leaves and fruit to be scattered. He commanded the beasts to get away from under it, and the birds to leave its branches, but the stump of the tree’s roots to be left in the earth. Curiously, the stump was to be bound with iron and brass, yet left in the tender grass of the field, wet with the dew of heaven (Daniel 4:14-15).

At this point the language of the dream report shifts so that the tree more clearly represents a person, later interpreted by Daniel to be Nebuchadnezzar himself. The judgment was to let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth; to let his heart be changed from man's; and to let a beast's heart be given unto him, until seven years had passed (v. 16). He would be insane, roaming the earth like a wild animal. When men refuse to acknowledge their Creator, He turns them over to their own depravity (Romans 1:18-32).

Even Nebuchadnezzar, who was most concerned about the specific interpretation of the dream as it applied to himself, had the knowledge to realize it also was of general significance to all men. It was by the decree of the watchers, and the word of the holy ones, for instruction of all the living. Although Nebuchadnezzar then lacked the wisdom for a heart relationship with God, and the understanding to obey God, he at least had knowledge of God’s power. He knew that the most High rules over the kingdom of men, gives power to whomever He chooses, and appoints a wicked ruler, if that is what the people deserve (Daniel 4:17).

When Daniel heard Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he was stunned by the warning it contained, troubled by his thoughts concerning the interpretation, and diplomatic as began presenting it to the king, voicing hope that the dream would not apply to Nebuchadnezzar, but to those who hated him, and to his enemies (v. 19).

But there was no denying the interpretation God had given Daniel. The tree represented Nebuchadnezzar, who had become great, strong and powerful throughout the earth. Yet he lacked the wisdom to understand in his heart that all this came from God (James 1:17), even though he had acknowledged that with his words. God’s judgment was that the king would therefore lose the company of men, live with the animals, and feed like the oxen, eating grass and drinking dew (Daniel 4: 20-25).

He would be humbled in that debased state for seven years until he knew in his soul that God rules over all and apportions power as He chooses. But Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom would remain, so that when he came into his right mind he could reclaim it. Daniel advised the king to turn away from his sins, to seek the righteousness of God, and to show mercy to the poor, so that God might be merciful and delay His judgment on the king’s pride (v. 25-27).

Evidently God did give Nebuchadnezzar a full year to repent, but he still failed to acknowledge God’s power, mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16). Instead, he bragged about having built the kingdom of Babylon by his own power and for his own glory. As he boasted, a voice from heaven announced that the kingdom had departed from him, that he would live with beasts instead of men, and that he would eat grass as cattle do (Daniel 4:28-32).

All this came to pass within the hour and lasted for seven years. Nebuchadnezzar’s body was wet with the dew of heaven, his hair grew out like eagles' feathers, and his nails became like birds' claws (v. 33). When man’s heart is filled with self-righteousness, pride, and rebellion, God may allow trials into his life to allow him to come to the end of himself and to seek God (Acts 17:27), as in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Only when we realize we are sinners doomed to hell and need the Savior Who redeemed us (Romans 5:16-18) can we be saved by faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).

At the end of seven years of abasement, Nebuchadnezzar finally sought God, Who gave Him understanding (Daniel 4:34), for He always answers a sinner’s prayer to find Him. Nebuchadnezzar blessed, praised and honored God Who lives eternally, rules forever, and whose kingdom is continuous, lasting from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:34-35)

As Nebuchadnezzar finally knew God in his heart, God restored his reason, honor and brightness. His former cabinet once again supported him, he was established in his kingdom, and God gave him greater majesty than he had before (v. 36). The king ends his narrative with:

Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. (v. 37)

May we daily seek God, recognize His strength and our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and praise Him so that He does not need to humble us for our pride (Luke 14:11). May we not only know about God, but seek wisdom to love Him in our heart and understanding to obey His Word!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Triplets of Christ-Mind: Others Learn from Daniel’s Wisdom

Photo by Andreas Borchert 2012

As we saw last week, Daniel exemplified triplets of Christ-mind in that he knew God’s Word, took it to heart, and applied it to his life by obeying God. He shared his God-given wisdom with Nebuchadnezzar, for he correctly told and interpreted the king’s dream. 
This was the first of three interpretations Daniel would share with Babylonian kings, as we shall see in subsequent posts.

This first dream was of a great (powerful), bright (brilliant), and terrible (frightening) image (Daniel 2:31), symbolizing three future kingdoms that would replace Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. The king revered Daniel for his wisdom, falling on his face before him, worshipping him, and offering sacrifices to him as one would to a god (Daniel 2:46).

Although the king spoke favorably of Daniel’s God as a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets (Daniel 2:47), indicating head knowledge regarding the one true God, he lacked heart wisdom to fear God and understanding in his heart to worship God, not Daniel. Nonetheless, God used Nebuchadnezzar’s admiration for Daniel to place His faithful Hebrew servant in a position of great power in a pagan kingdom, as he did with Esther, “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon, as well as chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon and minister of affairs over his newly promoted companions, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 2:48-49).

Because of the king’s lack of wisdom and understanding, however, it was not long before his thoughts turned from Daniel’s interpretation of the vision to gratifying his own ego. He had an image (presumably of himself) made of gold, threescore (three times twenty, or sixty) cubits tall and six (three times two) cubits wide (Daniel 3:1). 

Although three is God’s perfect number reflecting the Trinity, six is the number of man (Genesis 1:27-31; Revelation 13:18). These dimensions are therefore fitting for this statue glorifying man rather than God. Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the political leaders, judges, and civil servants of all people, nations, and languages to hear a special proclamation. Whenever they heard special music, they were to fall down and worship the idol or be thrown into a burning fiery furnace within the hour (Daniel 3:2-6).

But Daniel’s three companions, who were now in charge over the affairs of the province of Babylon, refused to worship the idol, for their allegiance was to the one true God. Here was the proof of Daniel’s leadership: these young men had not only learned from David’s example in following God’s dietary law (Daniel 1:8-14), but now they were making even bolder wise decisions on their own to obey, worship and serve only God, regardless of the consequences (Daniel 3:12).

By following God alone, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had disobeyed the king; they refused to serve his gods, and they did not worship the golden statue. When Nebuchadnezzar confronted them, they stated their position without fear, trusted God’s power to deliver them from the fiery furnace and the king, and would not disobey God even if His will was not to rescue them (Daniel 3:12-18).

In his fury, Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to be thrown into the burning fiery furnace (three words emphasizing the extreme heat, foreshadowing the flames of hell; Mark 9:43). But hell has no power over those who are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Although Nebuchadnezzar demanded that the furnace be heated to seven times its normal temperature, it could not harm those under God’s protection (Daniel 3:19-21).

Seven is God’s number of perfection or completion (Genesis 2:2-3; Matthew 18:21-22, etc), indicating that His power is absolute, and man’s schemes against His children are no match for it (Romans 8:31-39).

The guards who threw the prisoners into the furnace were themselves burned to death, while the prisoners remained unharmed, thanks to a fourth man “like the Son of God,” namely a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ Himself. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the prisoners were “servants of the most high God,” commanded them to exit the furnace, and ordered them to come close to him so that he and his entourage could get a better look (Daniel 3:22-26).

As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego left the blazing furnace that had no power over them, not a single hair of their head was singed, nor was their clothing changed, nor did they even smell like smoke! Nebuchadnezzar said their God was blessed, for He sent His angel, and delivered His servants who trusted Him. They had proved their trust in their God by not following the king's decree to worship his false god, by offering their bodies to God’s will, and by worshipping Him alone (Daniel 3:27-28).

Despite his personal knowledge through experience of God’s miraculous power, and his subsequent actions which seemed to show understanding of what God would have him do, it still appeared that Nebuchadnezzar lacked a heart relationship with God. Instead of naming God as his own Lord, he referred to Him as “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” Nonetheless, he ordered that every people, nation, and language saying anything bad against that God be cut in pieces and their houses brought to ruin.

God rewarded His three faithful servants by sparing their lives, by giving them an amazing testimony before the king and his court, and by increasing their political influence, for Nebuchadnezzar promoted them (Daniel 3:29-30).

Daniel must have blessed, thanked and praised God when he learned that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had not only followed his example of obedience, but exceeded it and used it for God’s glory! May we be Godly mentors like Daniel, leading not as dictators but by example! May those who come behind us find us faithful!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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