When you've experienced times of trial and difficulty, does that have an impact on your faith? Do you ever wonder where is God when life is hard for you? What if your best life in the mind of God involves the dismantling of your life? What if he wants to lead you into a deeper understanding of why Jesus Christ never defined a good life in terms of how long it lasted, and how healthy you were while it lasted, and how much stuff you collected on the way? Despite what culture teaches, God does not always lead his people into lives of comfort and ease and tranquility.
Anyone who tells you that faithful Christians are guaranteed material comforts and blessing is lying to you. Sometimes life is just simply hard. Sometimes God wants us to walk through situations that are difficult. He certainly did that in the life of Daniel, and we're looking at one of those times today.
This is Wisdom for the Heart, and today Stephen Davey continues through his series on the life of Daniel with this lesson called, But If Not. In a journal article I read, recently the author asked a question that provoked my thinking. He wrote, imagine you've been handed a script of your child's life, and then you're given an eraser, and you're told you have five minutes to edit out whatever you want. Whatever you read that you don't want in your child's life to experience, you can erase out of the manuscript. So you begin to read as fast as you can.
You soon discover that a learning disability will cause your child to find reading difficult, making education laborious and tiring. Do you erase that disability? You read further and notice that he or she makes a number of friends in high school, but then one of their closest friends dies of cancer. Do you edit out that friendship and the grief it will cause? Still further, you discover that your child gets into the college of their choice, but while there they get into a car accident and end up losing a leg. Do you erase the accident?
A few years later, you read that they land a wonderful job in their field of expertise, but then an economic downturn causes them to lose that job and face difficult and stressful times. Do you erase those months or years of difficulty? Imagine, with the script of someone's life in your hands, what would you erase? What would you leave for them to experience, no matter the suffering or pain or uncertainty? I couldn't help but think that even though you would never want your child to suffer loss or rejection or adversity, if you could erase every failure and every disappointment from their lives, wouldn't that actually hinder rather than develop them into faith-filled, fruitful believers? By the way, if that's true for your child, what should we expect for God's children?
The Apostle James makes it very clear that the trials and testing of our faith produce endurance, depth, maturity, James 1, verses 2 through 4. The trouble with the average view of Christians today is that God doesn't seem to know what to erase, or maybe he doesn't have an eraser after all, which is why the predominant question on the American mind verbalized on the street in the form of an accusation is something like, why did God let that happen? I mean, if he exists, why didn't he erase that?
He ought to erase all that bad stuff. At the same time, false teachers in the church who seem to multiply like rabbits jump in and make things worse by fleecing the flock and believing that what you really need to do is learn how to declare your faith in God. You need to learn how to speak so that God gets his eraser out. Faith becomes a series of declarations or statements you need to learn how to say, and if you say everything just right, you can kind of create a spiritual force field around you which keeps anything bad from getting into your life. And the more powerful your faith, the more powerful your force field. Unfortunately, one best-selling book on the Christian market promises readers that if you make these positive declarations, in fact, there's one a day for a month, that you will, and I quote, be blessed beyond your normal salary, beyond your normal income. God will suddenly change things in your life. In other words, you'll be able to guarantee God's richest blessings now. I think I'm going to start calling that lottery theology, which is why so many people line up for it. You buy this ticket and maybe you'll hit the jackpot. So these words every day, this author, pastor, tells his megachurch audience as he smiles from ear to ear, and I quote, you will speak your destiny into existence.
He promises further, and I'm still quoting the blurb on Amazon.com because I didn't buy the book. In my engine light just came on again today on my way into church, so I'm doing something wrong. He promises, and I quote, use my book as your guide for declaring your victory every day. Declare health. Declare favor. Declare abundance. End quote. He didn't just say the right words. God the mighty genie will give you the greatest, happiest, best life imaginable, and the lottery winnings are going to come by the truckload. I mean, who doesn't want that?
Millions of people are going to line up to buy it and try it. What if your best life in the mind of God involves the dismantling of your life? What if he wants to lead you into a deeper understanding of why Jesus Christ never defined a good life in terms of how long it lasted and how healthy you were while it lasted and how much stuff you collected on the way?
What if God does want to change your life and he changes it from bad to worse? Like North Korean congregations who were herded out into the streets 40 years ago so that under the orders of Kim Toosung they could be run over by bulldozers. Thousands of believers were crushed to death not because they lacked faith, but because they refused to renounce their faith, and their bodily remains were used to line roadbeds throughout surrounding cities. What happened to their force field of faith? See, anytime you hear any of that stuff or you read the blurb on the dust jacket, ask the question, will that translate into North Korea?
Will that work outside America? Today there are more than 200,000 believing descendants of those who were crushed to death. They're now living under Kim's son, the new dictator. And when a believer was asked what they were praying for, he said the church is praying that we will be faithful to the will of God. Has it ever occurred to you that the promise of immediate and guaranteed comfort is actually the offer of Satan? That's his gospel. Eve, you can have it all.
I'll back the truck up right now. When Jesus was tempted, according to Matthew chapter 4, one of his temptations, Satan said, Just bow to me, the verb 10 says, just one time, just once, and I'll give you everything. In that same scene of temptation, he told Jesus, You know, you really shouldn't be suffering from hunger. I mean, surely that's not the will of God. Your father turned those stones into bread, what do you say? Eat up and serve yourself. Come on, it's time to speak some words of favor and blessing and abundance. What if God takes you from bad to worse?
Where's your faith then? Like the missionary Adnayim Judson, I'm halfway through his astounding biography. He was imprisoned after being unjustly accused of collaborating with the British government who'd sent troops in. He was an American, but he spoke English, so he kind of got thrown into the same pot in the early 1800s as Great Britain moved against Burma. Adnayim's wife, Anne, did everything she could do to see that Adnayim got some food while in prison, but after unbelievable months, nearly a year of unbelievable suffering and deprivation, it actually went from bad to worse, and she became so deathly ill, she was unable to even feed their three-month-old daughter, Maria. The jailer finally permitted Adnayim to leave the prison for a few hours each day so that he could carry his starving baby girl to a nearby village to beg nursing Burmese mothers to feed his daughter to. Where's his force field?
Is he not saying it right? Listen, as the apostles wrote letters to the churches and believers in the first century, he discovered that the end of suffering and this glorious rest and glorious comfort of the believer, they were in fact guaranteed, but never in this life. There was no force field for sickness or hunger or bankruptcy or persecution or suffering or sorrow or pain. In fact, our faith will be demonstrated in our response to those things. What the apostles did do, however, was elevate all of our perspectives away from what seemed to be the finality of earth, that this was all there was. They pointed us to the coming glory of the soon-appearing Lord and Savior. We're living for that and walking by faith. See, the apostles basically said, what health is there now compared to an immortal glorified body?
What wealth is there now compared to such opulence that the city of God is built on gemstones and gold is asphalt? What comfort is there now compared to the presence of Christ and the joy of his glorious appearing and our ability to worship him face to face? Peter, the apostle, many Bible scholars believe that when he wrote that paragraph, including the phrase, don't be surprised when you encounter a fiery trial which comes upon you for your testing, that Peter was thinking about an event that had happened centuries earlier, a literal trial by fire. And one of the greatest statements of faith in the Bible, not from believers who were saying the right thing in order to get what they wanted from God, but from believers who were saying the right thing even though they thought they were going to die. Many believe the apostle Peter was thinking of Daniel chapter 3. So with that as my introduction, turn to Daniel and the third chapter.
And let's just rehearse a story that's commonly known to the church, but it includes a demonstration of faith that is entirely uncommon and growing more and more uncommon each day. Now, in our last discussion, Daniel and his three friends have just arrived as captives of Nebuchadnezzar. They walk through the rediscovered gate of Ishtar, one of the amazing wonders of the ancient world preserved over time thanks to Nebuchadnezzar's groundbreaking development of firing his bricks so that they lasted longer. The gate has actually been reassembled in the Berlin Museum just as it was when these young Hebrew captives walked through it. In fact, they saw what you are seeing now.
Daniel walked through that gate, no doubt his mouth hanging open in absolute amazement. This is not little Jerusalem anymore, is it? This is Babylon the Great, and Nebuchadnezzar is the king of the greatest empire on the planet. Chapter 3 opens with these words, Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was 60 cubits and its width six cubits, and he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Most evangelical scholars believe this event is taking place some 18 to 20 years after these boys had arrived. So now they are in their middle 30s or perhaps early 30s.
They had already passed their first tests and now they have another one. Now we have to stop long enough to ask the question, what would motivate Nebuchadnezzar to build an image of gold? Daniel has informed the king that his God gave the king that dream of a giant statue in the form of a human body. Different parts of the body were made out of different elements representing different world empires. We have yet to see the last empire form. Nebuchadnezzar was thrilled to hear Daniel interpret his dream because the interpretation informed him that Babylon was the head of gold.
It was the best. It was on top, made of gold. He also heard, of course, that there would be a future kingdom of silver and then bronze and then iron and then a mixture of clay and iron, but he didn't care about that. What he seized upon was that his kingdom was the head of gold. So I know, let's make a 90-foot tall, 9-foot wide statue and we'll make them, probably hollow out of wood, but then we're going to plate them with gold. I like that idea and all his counselors said, brilliant, king.
That's a wonderful idea. Never mind that Daniel's God said that they wouldn't last forever. There was a kingdom of silver in the future.
Never mind that. Babylon is the kingdom of gold. And so you have this image built in Dura, about 11 miles south of the capital city. Archaeologists, by the way, have since discovered a brick structure, 45 feet square in each direction, about 20 feet high. A structure they believed, dating back to Daniel's era, served as a pedestal for something huge.
Although whatever it was long since disappeared. No surprise there, the bricks were left and the gold is gone. You need to understand though, before we go any further, that this image is effectively Nebuchadnezzar's challenge to the God of Daniel in this prophecy. This statue represents his will for the future. We're not going to worry about silver and iron and that mixture stuff. We're going to be around forever.
Let's make it all of gold. This chapter is implicitly repeating a question that's going to show up if you read the book of Daniel time and time again. And you could simply say the question this way, whose God is the real God? Who is the God, the real God of history?
Who's in charge around here? The Old Testament scholars have also pointed out this image, this statue more than likely represented Nebuchadnezzar's patron god, Nabu. Nebuchadnezzar is effectively using this event to craft what we would call a state religion.
You don't have to give up your religion. You're a god, but you're just going to add this one, and this is going to be sort of the patron god of the Babylonian empire. Every leader, as we'll see in a minute, representing every strata of authority in the Babylonian culture is going to demonstrate his allegiance to the god Nabu and his servant emperor named after him, Nabuchadnezzar. So the image is designed, set up, and the invitations are now delivered.
Notice who got an invitation. Verse 2, the Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps. Think of those as state governors. Prefects, think of military commanders.
Think of leaders in the Pentagon. Governors, translated here, this word refers to leaders of smaller provinces. You might think of these as mayors of key cities. Notice next he refers to counselors. These are advisors. Think of these as senators, congressmen and women. And then you'll notice he references treasurers.
They're invited. Literally you could translate that treasure bearers. Think of these as Fortune 500 CEOs and CFOs of the kingdom. Then he references judges, law bearers.
You could render it. Here are your Supreme Court justices, probably of the nation and what we have in every state. Then next he mentions the magistrates. Think of the United Nations representatives. And lastly, the rulers of the provinces.
This term has a legal nuance to it and with authority attached to it, probably refers to what we would understand today as law enforcement officers, sheriffs, leading attorneys who represented the law. I say all that to let you know, and you probably already knew that if you were anybody, you were here. These are the movers and shakers of the kingdom of Babylon. And everybody who was anybody got an invitation. The invitation would have been sent out much like John Phillips, the British expositor, described the invitation of Queen Elizabeth when she was crowned in Westminster Abbey. He said that when she sent out royal invitations to all the lords and nobles and the aristocracy to academic and industry leaders and the government officials, to receive an invitation was a high honor, but it was more than just an invitation because it came with a statement in writing, quote, all excuses easing, which is a nice way of saying, if you don't come, you're toast.
See, a royal invitation was a royal command, and you didn't get a free pass if your wife was sick or you had a hay fever or whatever. You had to be there. Everybody showed up.
In fact, Shadrach will show up as well as Meshach and Abednego. Now, again, before we go any further, let's answer a question. Where's Daniel? Well, we're not told. He might have been with other members of the king's cabinet, perhaps off site. He might have been on the platform of the king. We're not given any indication that everyone was on the parade grounds ordered to bow before the image. In fact, it seems pretty clear that Nebuchadnezzar didn't bow himself. That's probably because he was on a platform, some great platform for this grand occasion overlooking the plain of Dura where everyone who was anyone gathered and around him would have been family and his closest officials. Daniel would have been one of them. In fact, Daniel, I've got to have you here because you're the man who gave me the idea of a golden image.
What do you think of that? Everybody's assembled. Just imagine. They're out on the parade grounds.
They're eating hors d'oeuvres and punch, you know. The herald stands and announces that the royal symphony is prepared to play a brand new composition in honor of his royal highness and this god statue standing there on its pedestal now stretching 120, 130 feet into the air. You're looking up at a ceiling about 30 feet high.
130 feet high. So dazzling in its gold plating that you can't look at it, but the herald tells you that's not a problem because you're not here to look at it, you're here to bow before it. As soon as the orchestra of flutes and harps and horns and panpipes, fascinating study all its own, whenever it begins to play, everybody, the herald says, is to fall down. You're going to put your forehead to the ground in honor of Nabu and his emperor-servant, Nabu Kenezer. Just in case you think it's optional that you bow, maybe you didn't dress for bowing, well, verse 6 tells you, by the way, whoever does not fall down in worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. And everybody feels like bowing now. So they stow away their plastic forks and plates and get ready for the music. And there it is, the orchestra begins.
Every Supreme Court justice, every attorney, every admiral and general, every CEO and CFO, every mayor, every senator, every sheriff, every judge, every governor falls to their knees, bows their head to the ground. What a sight. Nabu Kenezer is just so thrilled. What loyalty. What respect. By the way, the word worship shows up nearly a dozen times in this chapter. What an amazing collective act of worship to the new patron god.
Everybody's bowing, except for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If there was ever a time to rationalize, let's just go along with it. I mean, we can do more good by being officers into king's service than ashes into king's furnace. I like that, Meshach. You're right, I was thinking the same thing. Now let's now make a scene. I mean, what good is a fanatic?
I mean, what good does looking weird do? We've got to build a bridge to these idolaters. God won't mind one little bow. But love of genuine faith does not run around looking for loopholes.
It does what it knows to be right. These guys didn't even pray about it. They'd actually had days to prepare for it, actually. They knew it was coming.
They had in their minds already assumed that they would die. But not before one of the most remarkable statements of faith in the Bible. Listen, O king. Our God can take us and free us from your hand, but if not... Now wait a second, back up.
Our God is able to deliver us out of your hand. Stop there. That's faith.
That'll sell books. But they didn't stop there. They actually announced that God might not get out his eraser. This is faith. This is true faith.
Praying, Lord, this is what we want. But thy will be done. There are people that believe, oh man, you just trashed the whole thing. That's doubt. That isn't faith. Declare what you want.
These men went on not to express doubt, but the deepest kind of faith. My friends, you don't speak your destiny into existence. You surrender your destiny to the Lord of the universe. He does exactly what he wants to do. And we submit to him.
Thanks for joining us today. I hope this look at the life of Daniel has encouraged you. There's more to this lesson, and we'll be back next time to bring you the rest of it. In addition to equipping you with these daily Bible lessons, we also have a magazine that we publish. Stephen deals with a different topic each month and helps you better understand what the Bible says and how it applies directly to your life.
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Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-23 00:43:02 / 2022-11-23 00:52:54 / 10