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God Is Still on the Throne (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 1, 2021 4:00 am

God Is Still on the Throne (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 1, 2021 4:00 am

In a culture that’s increasingly hostile towards Christianity, how are we supposed to live? Is it enough to remind ourselves that this world isn’t our home? Alistair Begg addresses these concerns on Truth For Life as we begin a study in the book of Daniel.



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As believers we know that this world is not our home.

But is that knowledge enough to sustain us in a culture that seems increasingly hostile toward Christianity? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg begins a new series called Faith Under Fire, where in the book of Daniel, learning that no matter what we face, God is still on the throne. Here's Alistair. Daniel chapter 1, I'll read it in your hearing. In the third year of the reign of Jehiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehiakim king of Judah into his hand with some of the vessels of the house of God.

And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his God, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his God. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance, and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate and of the wine that he drank.

They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time, they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names.

Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food or with the wine that he drank. Therefore, he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuch said to Daniel, I fear my lord the king who assigned your food and your drink, for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age?

So you would endanger my head with the king. Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you and deal with your servants according to what you see. So he listened to them in this manner and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king's food.

So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables. As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar, and the king spoke with them. And among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

This is the word of the Lord. Well, you can see that this is clearly more than history, but it is history the way in which it begins in the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, and it ends as Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus. If Daniel was in his late teens or early twenties at the beginning of this book, by the time you get to the end, he must have been in his eighties or in his nineties, a life of peculiar faithfulness lived in the service of God. And so often the studies in the book of Daniel end up being just that kind of thing—the story of a great man and the way it is taught is he was a great man, and there's an opportunity for you to be a great man or a great woman, so why don't you buck up and try and be a good man and a good woman? Which of course is a great idea and very necessary, but it's not the reason that we have the book of Daniel. A lot of people have turned the book of Daniel into a gigantic comic book, and some of their explanations are as comical as any of the books that I've ever read. Fortunately, most of that comes after chapter 6, when I will be long on my way back to Ohio, and the rest of you can enjoy yourselves with the remainder of it.

But this morning and in these mornings, I want to tackle it in a different fashion, I think. I regard it as a great privilege to have spent over half of my life as a resident of the land of the free and the home of the brave, and for about 50% of that time now as a citizen of this country. And for the first time since I've lived here, that is since the 3rd of August 1983, I sense a significant shift in the mentality of the people of God. I use the phrase the people of God purposefully to distinguish between just the general populace of religious interest or perhaps church attendance, to designate those who would name the name of Christ, who would be committed to the Bible and committed to living for and following Jesus.

And amongst that group of people, I wouldn't want to overstate this, but I don't want to understate it either. There is, I sense, a definite shift in their perspective, in our perspective, and it goes along these kind of lines. I'm not going to spend time on it, but people are beginning to say, for the first time, I feel like we're part of a minority. We are long removed now from the days of the moral majority. Jerry Falwell is gone, and Pat Robertson will be following him, I would imagine, at some point.

And those heady days, if you regard them as such, are certainly in the rearview mirror. And the people of God now are living with the awareness of the fact that we are being pushed back, in the words of the psalmist, and in the words of the psalmist, about to fall. The encroachments of secularism and all that goes along with that, paganism, is beginning to take its toll. And I find that American Christians are now looking over the Atlantic Ocean in a way that they haven't done previously. Routinely, they would say, what a wonderful place it is to visit, and then they would ask and inquire about the emptiness of the churches, not least of all in my own homeland of Scotland.

We had a team just come back from Scotland. Our young people who were there said that it is the most secular place that they had ever visited in their entire lives, and they speak the truth. But what is happening now is that American Christians are beginning to realize that we are starting to look ourselves a lot like Europe. And the notion of a persecuted church, which we have always understood theoretically and prayed for at a distance, now is beckoning ever closer. It's finally beginning to dawn on American Christianity that the things that we've sung about, many of us since we were teenagers, are actually true. We didn't really know what we were on about when we sang, this world is not my home, I'm just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

I hadn't a clue what that was about, and, frankly, I wasn't remotely interested in it, but I sang it. But now, along with you and many others, we are finally facing the fact that this broken, sinful world in which we live is not actually our home, and that what the Bible says concerning the believer in the world is really true, that we are aliens and that we are strangers. And so that when James or when Peter begin their letters in the New Testament as we have them, they begin them along those lines. They're writing to those who are aliens and strangers in the world. And I think for many years, because of the way in which American life has been formed, American Christians have said, oh, I wonder what that's like, to be an alien and a stranger in the world.

The fact of the matter is, it has always been true. It has just been clouded. It has been obscured.

And the obscuring elements of popularity and of size are beginning to be stripped away. And in being stripped away, there is the awareness that when Jesus addresses his followers in John chapter 15, it had relevance beyond his immediate disciples. Remember what he said, if the world hates you, you know that it is hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own.

But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Those are dramatic words, and they're not difficult to understand. Now, we could spend time, and we're not going to, seeking to devise a strategy for how to deal with our new lack of status. But what we're going to do is we're going to look at these chapters in Daniel in which we find comfort and challenge by considering just how incredibly relevant the message of Daniel is for the church in every generation. And the message of Daniel is essentially this, that God is a sovereign and all-powerful God, and he is in control of the world and the nations of the world, and in spite of the present conditions, our gaze must be upon his kingship. In light of that, we'll make our way through chapter 1, recognizing that in verses 1 and 2, we have the scene set for us.

The prevailing peace of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the invasion of the Babylonian forces, the arrival of a foreign power. Some of us are old enough to remember the scenes. I remember seeing them on the BBC when the Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia. I think that was the first time that I, as a youth, had thought in those terms at all.

Some of you, of course, are able to remember when the tanks in which you were rolled into other places of the world, and you can tell me about that afterwards. But for now, the notion is simply that the dramatic impact of the invasive forces crushed the people of God in those days. It had been prophesied by both Isaiah and by Jeremiah, and what had been prophesied became a reality.

And the extent of the victory of these Babylonian forces is revealed in the way in which the vessels of the house of God were snatched up and taken away—vessels both inanimate, as is referenced here, and animate, insofar as these young men are representative of the nobility of the time. And as a result of that, almost inevitably the people would be asking where is God? Apparently, we have been called to serve God, we serve a powerful God, and now this powerful God of ours, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has apparently been defeated by the gods, with a small g, of the Babylonians. Is this God actually in control of his people? Is he a kind God?

And if he is a kind God, why then would he allow our children to be snatched up and taken away? We didn't raise our children, they might have said to one another, to be repatriated, to be dislocated, to be taken away from us and under the rule of a foreign power. Now, we may never have had occasion to say that, but many of our brothers and sisters in the world today have. And without being alarmist in any sense at all, the generations that come behind us, and perhaps not too far removed from us, may have occasioned in this land to say similar things.

And some of us this morning, because of the circumstances of our individual lives, may be asking similar questions. You see, the symbol of God's power and the symbol of God's presence in these vessels of the house of God there in verse 2, have now been stored in the land of Shiner. That won't mean much to you unless you did your homework and you went back to Genesis chapter 11 that I told you about, and the raising of the Tower of Babel. And when you did, you read these words, now the whole earth had one language and the same words, and as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shiner and settled there. Where did they take the vessels of the house of God? To the land of Shiner. Where was the land of Shiner? The land of Shiner was where the people said, we do not need this God of Israel. We do not need him.

We do not only not need him, we don't want him. We will build our own empire. We will build our own kingdom. And you have the great clash between the city of God and the city of man. In passing, there's something to note, something we must never forget, and that is that there is a spiritual conflict that runs through the heart of human history—a spiritual conflict. Indeed, ultimately, all conflict, whether it is between a man and his wife, a father and his child, a nation and another nation, or the wars within local churches, at the heart of that, ultimately, we may trace it to the very beginnings of the fall of man in Genesis.

And that spiritual conflict, that sense of alienation, is the great alienation under which all other alienations are gathered. Now it is in that context that we read in verse 3 that the king commanded Ashbenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, and so on, and to bring them into the context of this foreign land. And it is, we're told quite dramatically in verse 2, the Lord who gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his hand. Now, you don't want to miss that. It's the first of three the Lord gave, and I'll give you the other two in a moment.

But this is the first of them. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his hand. Into whose hand? Into the hand of the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar.

Now you see, the people, when they read this letter, they would say, now wait a minute. How did this happen? This happened because a more powerful force, exercised a more effective military strategy, came against us and defeated us.

Yes, on the human plane, that is absolutely right. But what do we know? We know that God is the creator of everyone and everything, that nothing happens except through him and by him and according to his will. And so Daniel wants the people who are in exile to know that in actual fact, behind the invading forces of Babylon was the hand of God itself. That he was in control, if you like, of the defeat of his own city and of the exile of his own people.

It cannot be otherwise. He sets them up. He brings them down. Says Isaiah 40, what are the nations?

There is nothing to God. They are as the fine dust in the battle. When you used to buy five pounds of potatoes when I was a boy in Scotland, and you want to get your four or five pounds as a Scotsman, you're not going to die. No potatoes will be left behind. No, no.

Not if you're shopping for my money. No, they will not be left behind. But I never bothered about the dust. I never paid any attention to the dust.

There was always dust left in the balance. All the building of our proud empires, all the exaltation of ourselves from a divine perspective is actually scant. And they need to know this. And if we're wondering why it is that God would allow such a thing to happen, you find the answer in the Bible, but you find it later on in the book of Daniel. When Daniel himself prays, and this is in chapter nine, when of course you will all be reading on your own later on, and in chapter nine, he prays to God, and he says, to us, O Lord, belongs open shame. To our kings and our princes, to our fathers, because we've sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and the oath that are written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed the word that he has spoken.

God is working his purpose out, albeit in mysterious ways. Now, the family members who were still left back in Judah would inevitably have had occasion to wonder whether these youths, particularly the cream of the crop that had been taken from them, would actually be able to stand, or whether they would fall. And when we read on, we discover that these individuals, championed particularly by Daniel, are faced by a real dilemma, and they are prepared to make a bold decision. They were no longer in the place of familiarity. They were no longer in the realm where the routine of their day gave them opportunity for religious expression. And it may well be, of course, that just the change of scene in itself will be enough to dampen their zeal and silence their tongues and shut down their praise and cause them to give up praying to this God. After all, where is he?

If he was really this great and powerful God, surely they would still be back with their friends and their family, going to church as usual. And here they are, look at this mess. Maybe the change of location will be enough for them. Let's be honest, the change of location is enough for some of us, isn't it? We get out of our usual little routine, our favorite little place, our favorite little gathering.

We find out just how much we have a love for God, a love for his word, a love for his people. Oh, no, we don't go. Why? We're on vacation.

Oh, really? God's on vacation as well, is he? There are no people of God in Devon. There are no people of God in Maine. There are no people of God in wherever it is. Oh, no, we just like to go where we go.

I understand that. Could a change of location silence your tongue, your praise? Could it do it for these fellows?

No. Our assignment from God is to honor him in any location under any circumstance. That's from part one of today's message on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Today is an exciting day because it marks my first opportunity to tell you about a brand new book written by Alistair. The book is titled Brave by Faith, God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World. This new book addresses the shift in our culture away from Christian beliefs and toward beliefs like paganism and secularism. In the book Brave by Faith, Alistair examines Daniel's experience living in Babylon, a pagan culture. He draws comparisons between Daniel's world and the world we now find ourselves in, a world that is increasingly less tolerant of biblical faith. This book is about being a Christian in a world that is indifferent, sometimes even hostile, to the gospel. You will benefit greatly from the encouragement that Alistair provides in this book.

And with its focus on the book of Daniel, Brave by Faith is the perfect supplement to the Faith Under Fire series we have begun today. So request your copy when you donate to Truth for Life today. It's easy to give through our mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate. You can also give by calling us at 888-588-7884. If you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at PO Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Join us again tomorrow as we conclude this message by learning how God's favor prevailed in Daniel's life even after he was forced into captivity. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-11 14:04:34 / 2023-11-11 14:13:05 / 9

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