Sunday, September 29, 2013

Daniel 2:1-30 - The UnWise Men

Daniel 2:1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. 2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.

At the conclusion of chapter one, Daniel and friends, newly minted graduates of the University of Babylon, had passed their final exams with flying colors and impressed Nebuchadnezzar, who had himself personally administered the exam, with their knowledge. But they were still the new kids on the block. In the greater scheme of things, they were at the bottom of the food chain, the low man on the totem-pole. Being new and inexperienced, and Hebrew on top of that (not a proper Chaldean as wise men should be), they most likely started their career as assistants to the assistant to some low level functionary within the kingdom. When Nebuchadnezzar summoned the wise men to tell him his dream, they were apparently not considered important enough to come before the king.

But God was about to change all of that. In an act of divine providence God was about to catapult Daniel and his three friends into national prominence. And so, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream.

Daniel 2:3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. 4 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. 6 But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.

Now there is some question as to the interpretation of verse 5, as to whether or not the king had forgotten the dream. The phrase “The thing is gone from me” may also be translated “The matter is decided by me,” indicating that the king remembered the dream, but had decided to make the ability of the wise men to tell him what the dream was a test of their ability to also give him a correct interpretation of its meaning. This is further indicated in verse 9 where Nebuchadnezzar says “tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.” A test that would hardly be possible if the king had truly forgotten the dream. Also, it is apparent that the wise men believed that Nebuchadnezzar still remembered the dream, otherwise they could have simply made up a dream and given its interpretation - for they knew full well that Nebuchadnezzar meant exactly what he said when he said to them “if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.” But instead, what we find in the next few verses is a desperate life and death struggle on the part of the wise men to persuade Nebucahdnezzar to tell them the dream.

Daniel 2:7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. 8 The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me [alt translation: 'firmly decided by me.'] 9 But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.

One thing that becomes apparent as you progress through the first few chapters of Daniel is that God was working not only to promote Daniel and his friends to prominence within the kingdom, but also to save Nebuchadnezzar. God was reaching out to save the soul of this heathen king. And to do so, He first had to break the hold that the wise men of Babylon, with all their mystic arts, had over him.

And just as God had designed, the wise men were totally discredited. Even under the threat of death they were unable to reveal the dream to Nebuchadnezzar.

In the first few chapters of Daniel there is a progressive discrediting of the wise men of Babylon. Here in chapter 2 we find that they cannot reveal a dream, much less interpret it. But they had boasted that if they knew the dream they could interpret it. So God gives them their chance. In chapter 4 the king has another dream, and he plainly tells it to the wise men, yet they cannot interpret the dream even after it has been told them. And in finally chapter 5 God literally spelled it out for them, writes it on the wall, and they still don‘t get it.

Why did the wise men of Babylon fail so miserably? Because, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

In other words, human wisdom is worthless in understanding spiritual things. We must have wisdom from above, God’s Spirit in our hearts, if we are to understand His Word.

Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

There was nothing unreasonable in Nebuchadnezzar’s demand that they should make known to him his dream. After all, these wise men claimed to be able to make known hidden mysteries. They claimed to have communion with the gods who reveled secrets to them. But when they declared that “there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh,” they in effect slit their own throats. By these words they confessed before the king and all present that they were frauds, that they had no communication with these gods, and therefore knew nothing beyond what their own scheming minds could devise, and that all their doings were just so much mumbo jumbo. There was most probably a real “Oops” moment among the wise men when that little statement slipped out. Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction was immediate.

Daniel 2:12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: 15 He answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. 16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Although Daniel was not among the wise men who failed Nebuchadnezzar, the king’s decree apparently included all the wise men, whether they were present before the king or not. It would seem that the first Daniel and his friends knew about the matter was when the king’s men came knocking on their door. Fortunately, (and here we see divine providence in action) the officer who came to take Daniel and his friends was not only willing to explain things to them but also apparently willing to arrange for Daniel (a nobody, and a captive at that) an audience with the king. And miracle of miracles, the enraged king granted it, and more than that, granted Daniel all that he asked of the king - time. Time to pray. And note how positive verse 16 is. Daniel was not going to “try” to show the king the interpretation, he “would” show the king the interpretation. A brave statement considering that Daniel did not yet have the slightest clue what the dream was.

As soon as his request for time was granted Daniel went straight to his friends - and together they did the one thing they could do. They prayed.

Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

And God was there with them.

Daniel 2:19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.

Contrary to popular opinion, the rise and fall of nations is not by the will of man. No, not at all. Although the shaping of events seems to a great degree to be determined by man’s power and by man’s ambition, or even by random chance, that is not at all the case. In the Bible the curtain is drawn aside, and through its pages we catch a glimpse of the providential workings of Almighty God above, behind, and through all the play and counter-play of human interests and power and passions, ever so surely working out His will in this world of ours.

This is the essence of what the prophecy of Daniel 2 reveals -- A God who is in absolute control of the events of human history. Nothing happens that God is not already aware of and has not allowed. We may not understand what is happening in our world today, but Daniel tells us clearly that God is in control.

Daniel 2:23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.

This was an occasion to praise God, and that is exactly what Daniel and friends did. They immediately offered up praise to God for being so gracious and revealing the dream to them. The prayer Daniel and his friends prayed asking to know the kings dream is not recorded, but their thanksgiving and praise to God is. And there is a lesson in that for us. God is honored by our praise to Him for the things he has done for us. We all need to be more like Daniel in this respect.

Daniel 2:24 Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation. 25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.

Daniel’s first plea was for the wise men of Babylon. “Do not destroy them, the kings secret is revealed.” They were saved because a man of God was among them. And so it ever is. For the sake of Paul and Silas, all the prisoners with them were set free. (Acts 15:26). For the sake of Paul, the lives of all that sailed with him were saved. (Acts 27:24). Time and again the wicked are saved from destruction by the presence of the righteous among them.

What holds the world back from total destruction? For whose sake is it still spared? For the sake of the few righteous persons who are left. How long would the wicked be allowed to go their way if the righteous are taken out of the way? No longer than the antediluvian’s were allowed to go on after Noah entered the ark, or the Sodomites after Lot departed from their presence. If only ten righteous persons could have been found in Sodom, Gomorrah and all the cities around them the whole multitude of their wicked inhabitants would for their sake have been spared. Yet the wicked will despise, ridicule and oppress the very ones on whose account it is that they are still permitted life and all its blessings.

Daniel 2:26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? 27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; 28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; 29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. 30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.

Instead of being totally absorbed in the here and now, instead of thinking only of himself, the king apparently truly desired to know what the future held. It may be for this reason that God gave him the dream.

Yet though he gave the dream to the king, he sent its interpretation through one of His own people. God works in this world though His church. We are His messengers.

Daniel did not take any credit for the interpretation of the dream, but went to great lengths to show that all the praise and glory should go to God. If there were more people in the world like Daniel, who would give the credit to God where it is due, instead of trying to glorify themselves, we would see far more manifestations of God’s power in this world than we now do. But God can’t do this, not because he is unwilling, but because we would glorify ourselves saying. “look at what I have done.”

In chapter 1 we saw how God gave Daniel and his companions wisdom and knowledge. And now Daniel acknowledges before all that he has nothing, no ability, no wisdom, that he did not receive from God. “But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living” In other words, to God be all the glory. This should be the attitude of every Christian.

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.

The Bible tells us “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3). And again, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes." (Proverbs 3: 6-7).

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Revelation 1:4 thru 9: Greetings from Above

Revelation 1:4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia.

The book of Revelation, although meant for all of God’s people through the end of time is specifically addressed to seven churches which were located in Asia. These were not the only churches in Asia, nor were they by any means the only Christian churches in existence at the time. The reason Revelation was addressed to those seven churches is because these particular seven churches possessed certain characteristics that would characterize the spiritual health of the church through all the ages to the end of time.

Revelation 1:4-5 … Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.

The apostle John now relays a salutation of grace and peace. This salutation, this greeting, comes from “Him who is and who was and who is to come,” that is, the Father, and “from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,” which is the Holy Spirit, and “from Jesus Christ.”

Yet these words, “grace to you and peace” are so very much more than a simple greeting from the Godhead. Let’s look at each component.

Grace. Grace is most commonly defined as being unmerited favor. And so it is. Our salvation is an act of grace from God. We have not done, nor can we do, anything, to deserve it.

Lamentations 3:21-23 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the LORD'S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

Every mercy we receive from God is an act of grace. Like Jacob we can all honestly say, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant.” (Genesis 32:10).

But God’s grace is much more than merely undeserved, unmerited favor. It is a power in our lives. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is God’s grace that gives us the power to bear all the trials and tribulations we meet in this world. It is a power that enables us to overcome all the snares Satan may set for us, all the darts he may throw at us.

All this is encompassed in this salutation of grace.

Peace. The peace here offered is unlike anything the world has to offer. It is a peach that is unconditional, unchanged by the circumstances of life. A peace so full so complete that it surpasses all worldly understanding – so much so that it is difficult to explain, but must be experienced if you would know what this peace is.

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This peace is more than just a feeling; it is also a power that works in the heart of the believer. It has the power to guard the heart and the mind against temptation, power to keep the thoughts from straying. “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” we are enabled and empower by the peace of God to think instead of merely reacting. It is power to think on those things which are good and noble and right and true.

Commit this text to memory:
Philippians 4:7-8 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.

Revelation 1:5-6 … To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Upon hearing this salutation of grace and peace coming from the three members of the Godhead, John cannot refrain from uttering a spontaneous express of worship and adoration. One sentence so complete, so full of meaning that whole sermons could be preached on it, but we will strive to cover it in a few brief words.

“To Him who loved us.” How can you even begin to express the fullness of that love? “The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’ “ Jeremiah 3:13.

“And washed us from our sins in His own blood.” Can we even really comprehend what this really means? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Romans 5:8-9.

Words fail us, and we, like the apostle John must simply call on people to behold that which is indescribable. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” 1 John 3:1.

“And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.” In the kingdom to come we will sit with Jesus on His throne as kings. But the part of this phrase that should be of special interest to us now it that He also makes us priests. That is, as Christians were are to stand before a lost world presenting to them a living Savior, preaching a gospel of hope and salvation. “Go,” Jesus says,” into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. We are not called in Christ to be spectators, but we are called in Christ to stand before the world as priests proclaiming the blessed hope to all mankind.

Revelation 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Everybody likes to know how a story ends, and that is why many will take a peek at the end of a book they are reading. That is what is happening here. John is right here, at the beginning of the book, giving us a sneak peek of how it all ends. And Revelation ends gloriously with Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven to redeem His people that they may ever be where He is. But not all will rejoice when that day comes. There are those who will mourn because of His coming because they will be found unready for that day. Nevertheless, ready or not, John’s prayer is “Even so, Amen.” And such should be our prayer too. We are always to be ready, and while ready and waiting for our Lord’s appearing, we are always to be working to bring the light of salvation to those in darkness, that they too may be ready when that day comes.

Revelation 1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

God now speaks declaring that He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, and consequently of all that comes in between. In other words, God is all in all.

“Who is and who was and who is to come.” This is Jesus speaking, and we know that it is Jesus speaking because in verse 12 when John turns to see who is speaking he sees a vision of a glorified Jesus. Yet this phrase echoes the description given of God the Father in verse 4. “Him who is and who was and who is to come.” This should not surprise us as both the Father and the Son are fully God. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit relationship between the three co-equal members of the Godhead exists for our benefit, to enable us poor feeble minded humans to better relate to them and to the roles each respectively performs in the fulfillment of the plan of salvation. However it is not at all uncommon to see an overlap of titles attributed to the various members of the Godhead, as all are absolutely and fully and equally One God.

Note that both the Father (verse 4) and Jesus (verse 8) are described them as Him “who is to come.” That is because at the second coming it is not just Jesus who will appear in the clouds of heaven, but the Father also. Speaking of His second coming Jesus says, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels.” (Matthew 16:27). And again, “Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power [that is, of the Father], and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ " (Matthew 26:64). And again, “"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38).

Revelation 1:9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

When the Roman emperor Domitian (81 - 96 AD) decided to make a big issue about being worshiped as a god, he issued a circular letter which began with the words, “Our Master and our God bids that this be done.” "Our Master and our God" of course being Domitian.

Many Christians got caught up in the persecutions that followed, and the apostle John was no execution. As the story goes, John was sentenced to die by being place in a vat of boiling oil. The emperor himself, desiring to witness the death of the apostle, was present as John was placed into the vat of boiling oil, but to the utter astonishment of everyone - not only did he not die, he was not even hurt. He was delivered just as the three Hebrews were delivered from the flames of the furnace in Daniels day. To say the least, the emperor was somewhat unnerved by this turn of events. But what do you do with a prisoner you can’t kill? You banish him to a tiny island far far way away from Rome. And that is where John now finds himself, on the tiny island of Patmos.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Revelation 1: The First Three Verses

Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
These are the opening words of the book of Revelation, and are its true title. These words tell us that the book is a revelation, a revealing, and an unveiling. But it is not a revelation of the beast, nor is it a revelation of the dragon or of any of the other multitude of horrors that have become associated with the book of Revelation (Greek “Apocalypse). It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ which means it is a book of good news.

Jesus is the subject of this book. His presence is found throughout this book. To read and study this book without always having Jesus in view is to misread and miscomprehend its message. Its message may only be rightly understood in the light of the cross.

Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” John 5:39. And if this is true of any part of scripture it is especially true of Revelation. Revelation testifies of Jesus.

Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God [the Father] gave Him to show His servants.
The next words show that the message presented in the book of Revelation emanates directly from God the Father Himself. Speaking to His disciples Jesus said, “The Father Himself loves you.” (John 16:27). Indeed, it was the Love of the Father for fallen humanity that sent Jesus to rescue a dying world. “For God [the Father] so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God [the Father] did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17.

It was the Father Himself who presented the message contained in this book to Jesus that Jesus might in turn present it to His servants, that is, to His Church here on earth. For what reason?  Because as the next words say, the things presented in this book are soon to take place.

Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God [the Father] gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place.
God the Father, in his love for Christ’s church, sent this message that the church might have an advanced warning of what was coming. Not to inspire fear, but that they may make preparation. So that when they see these things coming to past they might know that none of these things have taken God by surprise, but that He has foreseen all and had already made provision for His people to see them through whatever may come their way.

But beyond this, because the Church is Christ’s, the Father is willing to take them into His confidence and show them what He is about to do. “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7.

And why does God show us what He is about to do? When God was about to send judgments on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah He first went to Abraham. And God asked a question. “And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” (Genesis 18:17). There God revealed to Abraham what He was about to do. Abraham’s response was to humble himself before the Lord and most earnestly plead for the inhabitants of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And God heard and agreed to every plea on their behalf that Abraham made until finally God agreed to spare them all if only ten righteous could be found among them. This is what God wants us to do. He tells the things that are coming upon the world not that we might gloat over the fact that the wicked will be getting their just reward, but rather that we, like Abraham, may plead on behalf of the wicked that they may be saved. 

"The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:29-30). God is seeking people who like Abraham will stand in the gap before Him on behalf of the land. Will He be disappointed again?

Revelation 1:1 … And He [Jesus] sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.
After receiving the message of Revelation from the Father, Jesus signified it, that is, He encoded it in symbolic language, and passed it along to John. Jesus did not encode the message in symbolic language in order to hide its meaning from His people, for the promise is that “the wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:10). Nevertheless for the sake of His people its meaning would be hidden from the wicked, that is, from those who willfully turn a deaf ear and blind eye to God’s word.

But another reason Jesus signified the message of Revelation was to arouse man’s curiosity and thus to stimulate study. Everybody loves a mystery and so by encoding the book in symbolic language interest would be generated. Jesus wanted this message to be studied. He wanted people to be interested in it. But spiritual things are spiritually discerned, as it is written: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14). You must allow God’s own Word be its own interpreter, comparing scripture with scripture. For “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21). And since prophecy is of the Holy Spirit then it must be by the Holy Spirit that we receive a right understanding of prophecy. Man’s wisdom is utterly inadequate, as it is written: “These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13).

Revelation 1:1-2 … And He [Jesus] sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.
A person can only bear witness to that which they have personally experienced. They can only testify to that which they themselves know by firsthand knowledge. We are called to be witnesses for Christ, to bear a testimony of life to a dying world. Consequently we are called to have a real personal experience, a living relationship with Jesus.

As we read and study the book of Revelation we too, like the apostle John, are called to a personal experience in the things of God, to be able to bear witness of His Word and to give a true testimony of Jesus Christ to all. We are commanded to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15.)  Jesus says to us, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." Mark 5:19.

You may have great knowledge of the prophecies, but if you have not been sanctified by the word, if you do not have a living faith, if you cannot tell what great things God has done for you, then all that knowledge is of no value. We like the apostle John must be able to say, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life--the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us--that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:1-4).

There is a power our testimony when we honestly tell what God has done for us. Power to win souls, a power to break the bounds of Satan – and not only the bounds by which others are bound, but bounds Satan may have on us.

There is a story told of a man who in the late 1800’s, journeying on a winter's day through the deep, drifted snow, became benumbed by the cold which was almost imperceptibly stealing away his vital powers. And as he was nearly chilled to death by the embrace of the frost king, and about to give up the struggle for life, he heard the moans of a brother traveler, who was perishing with cold as he was about to perish. His humility was aroused to rescue him. He chafed the ice-clad limbs of the unfortunate man, and, after considerable effort, raised him to his feet; and as he could not stand, he bore him in sympathizing arms through the very drifts he had thought he could never succeed in getting through alone. And when he had borne his fellow traveler to a place of safety, the truth flashed home to him that in saving his neighbor he had saved himself also. And so it is with us. As we strive through our testimony to bring the life giving words to another, we shake off the devil shackles and save ourselves. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Revelation 12:11

Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
There is a blessing in the reading and the studying of the book of Revelation, but it is a conditional blessing. There are three conditions to receiving this blessing. The first is to read the book, that is, to acquaint yourself with its content. The second is to hear the words of this prophecy. What does it mean to hear? To hear the words of this prophecy is to give ear to it and consider what it is saying. “Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my meditation..”  “Consider and incline your ear.” (Psalm 5:1, 45:10). There is no blessing in merely reading the Revelation as though it was an idle tale, nor is there a blessing when you do not take time to think upon, meditated upon and consider what it is that you have read.

But there is one last condition to receiving the promised blessing. And that is, hearing and believing, to act upon that word. “Blessed is he who … keep those things which are written in it.” This injunction harkens back to Jesus’s closing statement in His Sermon on the Mount. 

Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

Revelations promised blessing is also a call to action. It is not good enough to merely believe the prophecies of Revelation. There are many who believing never act upon their belief. Such is an empty faith. Belief, faith calls for action.

“For the time is near.” This is the second time in just these first three verses that mention has been made to the immediacy of the events depicted in the book of Revelation, giving urgency to its call for action. Time is short.

Luke 11:28 But He [Jesus] said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

Monday, September 16, 2013

In God's Image, A Plurality of One

Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

We are told that “the invisible things of [God]  are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20). If that is true, then in the creation of man we should be clearly able to see God, for man is expressly said to have been created in the image or likeness of God.

The concept of God [singular] being a plurality is found right at the very beginning of the Bible where the word used for God is consistently in the plural.

God did not leave us in the dark when it comes to understanding His triune nature. God has given us some hints concerning the nature of the Trinity - as much that is as our feeble human minds can comprehend. And it is in the creation of man himself that God provides one of our best insights into the nature of the Trinity.

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: … 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Notice what the text says concerning the creation of man. God said, "let us make man in our image, after our likeness." So in man, as man was originally created, we will see an image or likeness of God. So just what is the image of God that is revealed in the creation of mankind?

When God made man in his image He did not create man as a singular being. When God formed Adam He molded him from the dust of the earth. But Adam alone was not a finished creation. When God concluded the creation of mankind He did not mold Eve from the dust of the earth as He did Adam, but instead He took a rib from Adam and from that rib made a woman. Eve therefore was not a separate creation apart from Adam. Both Adam and Eve were part of a single creation - a single life, a single being if you will. They collectively were called man (mankind). Eve was in a very literal sense an extension of Adam. His flesh was literally her flesh. His bone was literally her bone. His blood was literally her blood. His life was literally her life. They [the two of them] were literally one.

It is interesting to note that in Genesis 2:24 where it says that man and woman are to "become one flesh," - : the word for "one" is "echad."

Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one (echad) flesh.

That is very significant. Why? Because in Deuteronomy 6:4 where it says "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one (echad) LORD" the exact same word is used.

What is so significant about that? Simply that Moses did not have to use that word. He could have used (yachid) which means (only one, unique). But he didn't. Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit used instead the the word "echad" to describe God's oneness - the very word he was also inspired to use in Genesis 2:24 to describe the oneness of the unity of man and woman.

And so, it can be said that God is one (echad) in the same way that He created Adam and Eve to be one (echad). As God created them Adam and Eve are one (echad), a single life, a single creation, yet two distinct individual beings.

And so it is with God. God is one (echad), and yet three distinct individual beings.  A plurality of one if you will.  A difficult concept to grasp, yet God is by no means limited to concepts that we can grasp.  There are those who would like to shrink God down to something they can comprehend, but God is so much bigger than anything we can conceive with our minds.

God is "echad." Therefore, for God to create man in His image, Adam and Eve also had to be created "echad."

Jesus takes up the oneness of humanity and uses it as an illustration of the oneness that exists between the members of the Trinity. In John 17:22, Jesus says, “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”

"That they may be one, even as we are one." Here the concept of human oneness is extended to include all the many members of God's church. And Jesus compares the oneness that ideally should exist among believers as a kind or type of the oneness that exists between the "We" of the Trinity.

Paul takes this concept a step further and provides yet another illustration of this oneness that God created man to be. Paul uses the illustration of the body to demonstrate this oneness. You are one individual, in possession of one body. Yet that body is composed of many distinct components, each performing a different function within the body. Paul also uses the illustration of the stones of a building to illustrate the concept of the oneness of many.

Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office.

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

But going back to the words of Jesus, we find something else of interest. Let’s look at John 17:22 in context with the surrounding verses.

John 17: 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Man was not created to exist independent of God. But as a result of the incarnation, man is now more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. We are not made so many ‘gods’ by this union. We possess no divinity. We remain created beings. But by the incarnation, (God becoming one of us), there now exists a degree on union between man and God that had never before existed between any created creature and God. And so, the head of the body is Christ. And the capstone, the cornerstone, the foundation of the building is Christ.

Think of it as the "image" of God created in mankind coming into a sharper focus. An image, no matter how sharp, no matter how good its quality, is still just that, an image. It is never the real thing. God is the real thing. In Christ, humanity, as an image of God, is brought into sharper focus - but humanity is still just the image of God. Man is not made God - for man will forever be a creation, not The Creator.

Remember, the "incarnation" is God becoming man, not man becoming God. It is in God becoming man that the union, the oneness, that Jesus speaks of lies.

And so we find all through the Bible the underlying concept of the oneness of many individuals, a concept that is used in both the Old and New Testaments to illustrate the nature of God.

As a final note, look at Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The first thing to notice here is that the disciples were to baptize people "in the name." [autos eis onoma] (SINGULAR, not plural) of the Father, AND of the Son, AND of the Holy Spirit:

And also note, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are each given as individual names within that one (singular) name in which the disciples were to baptize. Each of them (including the Holy Spirit) are spoken of as distinct individuals within that name.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why Crucifixion?

Luke 23:21 But they shouted, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!" 22 Then he said to them the third time, "Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go." 23 But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.

John 19:7 The Jews answered [Pilate], We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

Ok, let’s take a close look at this verse. First of all the Jews say, “We have a law.” The law they are referring to is found in Leviticus 24:16 where we read: “And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death.”

Blasphemy was the primary charge the Jews had against Jesus. It is a charge that the religious leaders had been making against Jesus all through His ministry. When He was finally brought to trial before the Sanhedrin, it was the charge of blasphemy that secured His condemnation before that tribunal.

Matthew 26:62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" 64 Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 "What do you think?" They answered and said, "He is deserving of death."

And so yes, they had a law, and by their judgment Jesus was guilty of transgressing that law, and thus by their judgment “deserving of death.”

So the question is, Why in John 19 were the Jewish religious leaders still standing before Pilate trying to secure Jesus’ death? If you go just a few verses back to John 18:31 we find that Pilate had already told them to go and deal with Jesus according to their law.

John 18:31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.

Pilate, who most likely had been called out of bed a little sooner than he would have liked, and who had probably not yet had a chance to have his morning cup of coffee, was saying in a quite irritated manner to the Jews, “What in the world are you doing bring one of your petty religious squabbles before me. Go and deal with him according to your own law.”

So then, why didn’t the Jews simply take Pilate at his word and take Jesus and deal with Him in accordance with their law? After all they had already judged him guilty and deserving of death. Their answer to Pilate was, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”

OK - Time for a reality check. That last statement was not exactly true. Remember the woman caught in adultery?

John 8:3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?"

They had brought this woman before Jesus, ready to stone her on the spot, and except Jesus had intervened they most likely would have, and that without having first sought any permission from the Romans to do so.

Then there is the case of Stephen.

Acts 7:58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Again, no permission from the Romans needed. At this time a great persecution broke out against the Christians and Paul speaking of his role in this persecution says:

Acts 26:9 "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 "This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 "And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

And so, yes, contrary to what the Jewish leaders had just said to Pilate, it was lawful for them to put people to death, and they could do so without any Roman permission - and they did so with great zeal in persecuting the church.

They had even tried to stone Jesus at various times in the course of His ministry. In one instance it was their intention to pick Him up and throw Him onto the stones.

Luke 4:28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.

In another instance they picked up stones to throw at Him.

John 10:31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?" 33 The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God."

Whether the stone hits you or you hit the stone, the results are pretty much the same.

And this was fully in accordance with the law given in Leviticus 24:16. Not only did that law say that one guilty of blasphemy was to be put to death, it specified that that person was to be killed by stoning.

[A little side note here: We all stand guilty and all are deserving of death. And the Bible clearly states, in full accordance with the law given in Leviticus 24:16, that every person who ever has or ever will live, will be stoned. Don’t believe me. You can read all about it in Luke 20:18 (also Matthew 21:44)

Luke 20:17 Then He looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone'? 18 "Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

Yes, you will be stoned, and one way or another you will die. You are either going to hit the stone (the Rock of Ages) or the stone (the Rock of Ages) is going to hit you. Your choice.]

As we have already seen, stoning was the one form of execution that the Jews were freely allowed to use.

So the question remains: Now that they finally at last truly had Jesus under their control, why didn’t they simply take Jesus out and stone Him as they had tried to do at other times. Why did they even bother with bringing Him before Pilate? Why all of a sudden this incessant insistences on crucifixion? Especially when the very law they claimed, the very law by which they had condemned Him, specified stoning as the means of death?

Leviticus 24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

Coming back to John 19 beginning with verse 6 we read:

John 19:6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.

Remember, in chapter 18 Pilate had already told the Jews to go and deal with Jesus according to their law. But the Jews refused, claiming that it was not lawful for them to put any man to death. What they really meant was that it was not lawful for them to put any man to death BY CRUCIFIXION. As we have already seen, they could and did freely put people to death by stoning. But putting someone to death by crucifixion, which is what they wanted for Jesus, was strictly a Roman prerogative. That they could not do.

Now it may look as if Pilate is giving them permission to crucify Jesus in John 9:6, but appearances can be deceiving. The Jewish leaders had been incessantly insistent that Jesus be crucified. At this point an exasperated and somewhat irritated Pilate essentially says to them: “OK, let’s just see how badly you want Him crucified. I find no fault in Him. I find Him innocent. So if you’re really that desperate to crucify Him, take Him and crucify Him yourself - without Roman authority, without Roman consent, on your own responsibility, and in the face of Roman justice.” The Jewish leaders did not take the bait. They knew full well that any such act on their part would be seen as usurpation of Roman authority, and could easily result in them hanging on a cross. And so they rather lamely answered Pilate with the text we read at the beginning:

John 9:7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

A lame answer because as we have already seen there was nothing preventing them from following through and executing sentence according to that law. But why did they want Jesus crucified? What was the real reason for this fixation of theirs? Was it simply because they wanted Jesus to suffer all the more? After all death on the cross was one of the most awful deaths imaginable. No, that was not it. The agony Jesus would endure on the cross (though it might be considered an added bonus by the religious leaders) was not what the Jews had in mind.

The answer has to do with another Old Testament text.

Deuteronomy 21:22 "If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 "his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.

By this time merely killing Jesus was not enough. He had stepped on too many raw nerves. They did not just want Him dead. They wanted Him to be accursed of God. They wanted him eternally dammed. And they believed that by having Him crucified (hanged on a tree) they could accomplish this end.

As we know, Pilate eventually caved in to the demands of the Jewish leaders and handed Jesus over to Roman soldiers for crucifixion. Now the question is, did God do what the Jewish leaders hoped He would do? In other words, when Jesus died on the cross (hanging on a tree) was he accursed of God, eternally dammed? The Bible says of God:

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

So, was God true to His word? Yes God was true to His word. Jesus was cursed, and died not the death of sleep that all must die and from which all will awaken, but died the second death from which there is no hope resurrection. However, Jesus did rise from the dead. Jesus conquered the hopelessness of the second death because although condemned by the Jews and hanged from a tree, He was truly innocent. Had there been but a single sin to be found in Jesus, just one, the grave would have held Him forever. But because He was truly and absolutely innocent, the Bible says that it was not possible for the grave to hold him. Because He was truly and absolutely innocent not even the second death could hold him in its grasp.

Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-- 23 "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 "whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

The New Testament writers fully understood the true significance of Jesus hanging on the cross. We read:

Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Time and again you find the writers of the New Testament making reference to Jesus being hanged on a tree. They understood the significance of what was written in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 as it applied to Jesus.

Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

Acts 10:39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

Acts 13:28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. 30 But God raised him from the dead:

1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

And it is because Jesus was hanged on a tree, that is, because He was cursed for our sakes that we have hope of life. God was true to His word. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). And because God was true Jesus conquered not merely the death of sleep, but the second death itself. Jesus took upon Himself the very curse that rightfully should fall on each of us and conquered on our behalf. We live because He died.

Like the thief on the cross, our only hope is to put our faith in the One who had conquered the second death itself. So long as our lives are hid in Christ His death is our death, and consequently His resurrection is our resurrection. As the apostle Paul put it:

Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

[An interesting note before we finish here.

The fact that God in Deuteronomy 21:23 had declared that anyone who is hung from a tree is “accursed of God” helps to explain why it was so hard for the disciples to understand what Jesus was saying whenever He tried to tell them about how He was going to be crucified and then raise up again the third day. When Jesus said such things as “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20: 18-19) it just boggled their minds. To speak of crucifixion (death by hanging on a tree) and resurrection in the same breath was totally nonsensical to the disciples. They just could not wrap their minds around it. The “accursed of God” just did not go around rising from the dead. By everything they had ever been taught what Jesus was saying simply made no sense at all.

And if it was hard for the disciples to grasp what Jesus was trying to tell them about His crucifixion and resurrection, imagine then the sheer magnitude of the leap of faith that the thief on the cross had to make. Here he was, hanging a cross, doomed by everything he had ever been taught to be eternally dammed. What faith then did it take for this man to reach out to yet another man hanging on a cross, doomed to the same faith, and ask for eternal life. We can hardly comprehend the magnitude of faith for the thief on the cross to utter those words, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).]

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Daniel 1:3-21; The Secret to Spiritual Success

What is the secret of staying true to God in a world where every influence that surrounds you screams for compromise? How do you stay true to God in a world that is more than ready to rationalize away the truths of God’s word, and give you every reason or excuse you could ever possibly need to sooth your conscience as you let go of God and embrace the world?

The secret - which is so well illustrated in Daniel - was expressed very nicely by Jesus.

Luke 16:10 "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.

It is our faithfulness in the things that we most often consider to be small and trivial that is the true test of our character. If you are not faithful in that which you consider to be a small matter - if you will compromise on the little things in your life - Jesus says you will not be true when the big tests of life comes your way. It is not so easy to change the course of your life when the crisis comes. The way you lived when things were easy is [more likely than not] the way you will go when the going gets tough.

Daniel 1:3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

The book of Daniel began with a story of defeat. God’s chosen people found themselves defeated and in subjection to a pagan nation, their cities destroyed, and they themselves carried away as captives into a foreign land. However the story ends with a note of victory.

At the very beginning of Daniel’s exile we find the hand of divine providence working. Daniel, through no fault of his own was taken prisoner to a foreign land, yet God was working out His purpose in all this.

Daniel was found to be “gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.” Evidently he had not only received considerable education back home in Judah, but also had some good solid common sense and quick wits about him. Daniel had, so to speak, done his homework - and his faithfulness in his studies while at home opened the doors of providence once he was in Babylon. A reminder that we never know what the results of our faithfulness in the common daily routines of life will be when God takes matters into His own hands.

Daniel 1:5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. 6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

As captives Daniel and his friends could have become slaves living out the remainder of their lives in mindless drudgery. As captives, members of a repeatedly rebellious nation, Nebuchandezzar could well have decided to make an example of them. But instead of playing the despot, he chose young men from among the captives to be educated “that they might serve before the king,” and enrolls them in what was in its day the most prestigious college in the world. Babylon was in its time the preeminent center of learning for the arts and sciences. In addition to this, as will be seen in the next few verses, he appoints them daily provision of his own royal food and drink. Instead of giving them that which some would have thought good enough for mere captives, he offered them the very best the kingdom had to give.

Daniel 1:5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.

Although the provisions made by the king were most generous, Daniel and his companions had a problem on their hands. The food and drink, especially that favored by heathen kings, most probably consisted of much that they could not eat or drink without disobeying God. Nebuchadnezzar meant well, but the diet very probably was most decidedly contrary to the dietary rules ordained by God in Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11. Also much of it no doubt had been offered in sacrifice to the idols of Babylon. Thus eating it would have constituted a kind of communion service with the Babylonian gods.

What then should they do? Everybody else apparently went along with the program. Why should they be different? Why should they make waves? After all, they were captives in a foreign land. Shouldn’t they be grateful for the generous treatment they had been given? Besides, what could they do? They had no leverage with the powers that be. Unless God Himself should give it, they had no power, no influence, not even with the lowliest of the officials in Babylon.

How easy it would have been to rationalize the situation, to say, “There is nothing we can do. Let’s Just go with the flow and make the best of a bad situation. After all, God will understand.”

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

It is important to note that the real issue here is not food and drink, but loyalty to God and standing firm in your faith. Food and drink were only the outward manifestations of this issue. Will they be obedient and loyal to God no matter what the cost to themselves? Or will they bow down to the will of man? Will they compromise their position with God for earthly favors? Will they use the difficulty of their circumstance as an excuse for disobedience? Daniel and his friends had already made their decision. They, like every one of us must also do, answered Joshua’s challenge.

Joshua 24:15 "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Every one of us have a choice to make. Will we serve the gods of this world, or will we serve the LORD.? Jesus says:

Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Which is the same as saying that you cannot serve both God and the world. -You have to make a choice. The issue is not legalism verses faith. The issue is loyalty to God verses obedience to men or compromise for convenience sake. This is the time to say:

Matthew 26:39 "O My Father … not as I will, but as You will."

This is full surrender to God, even at what may appear to be great personal loss. This was a decision that could have cost Daniel and his companions everything. But that was a price they were willing to pay. This is real living faith in action. Faith is not so much what you say or profess or feel or think. Words and feelings come cheap. Faith is what you live.

All profession of faith is worthless if it is not lived. Either you will trust God to be able to handle every situation, no matter how hopeless it may appear to be, or you compromise saying, “God will understand, He knows the situation I am in. What else could I have done?” The life you live, especially when things look the most desperate, will tell if your faith is true or false. A person will live the faith they have.

Easy words to say and as noted above, words come cheap, but when you come to an overwhelming situation that literally staggers your faith, what do you do? There is a little prayer in the Bible that we should always keep in mind. Short, simple, but very effective, and Daniel and his friends may very well have prayed something like it. "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). We must never forget that faith is a gift. We must never confuse faith with willpower or stubbornness or obstinacy, or pigheadedness.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

The person of faith can be a doer of the word, because they recognize that the “doing” is a gift. They understand that “it is God who works in [them] both to will and to do His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) and that though “there are diversities of activities … it is … God who works all in all.” (1 Corinthians 12:6).

There is a Pharisaic form of obedience that is legalistic. But true obedience is not to be confused with legalism. Legalism is obedience with the thought of “earning” merit with God. A legalist has the mindset of an employee working for wages. “I have done this, therefore I am owed that.” True obedience is by contrast the outflow of a living faith, a gift from God.

After Jesus was baptized and he went into the wilderness for forty days to pray and fast, the devil came to Him to temp Him to turn stones into bread. Jesus answer was a quotation straight from the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 8:3 "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.

And at a later time Jesus went on to say:

Matthew 6:31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

And this is exactly what Daniel and his companions did. They decided to seek God and his kingdom above all else, and trust God to provide them with the food and drink that they needed. This is real faith. A quiet determination to follow God no matter where, no matter what. Trusting God in every situation. To be willing to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. 10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, "I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king." 11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 "Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants."

Another point to note, Daniel and his companions did not allow their convictions to make them discourteous. a lesson in life that many Christians could use today. But rather, they very politely requested from the proper authorities permission to be served a simple vegetarian diet.

Even though God had “given up” the kingdom of Judah as a whole, He still stood by individuals. God stood by Daniel and his companions even in their captivity - and God still stands by His people today.

The Bible says that “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the prince of the eunuchs." KJV. And the Bible says that “God gave” Daniel and his friends learning and skill in all letters and wisdom.

Daniel 1:14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. 16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

Our God is a God who gives. Service to God is never a loss, no matter what the circumstances. But it is forever a gain to those who believe. The knowledge and skill that Daniel and his friends possessed was not theirs by their own ability, but was given them by God.

Daniel 1:18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.

They were better than everybody else, but don’t miss the point -- The reason they were better was not that they were naturally superior to everybody else, but because it was a God given gift.

God gives no guarantee that things will go smooth and easy for you in this life. And you can be sure that the devil is out to make absolutely sure that it doesn’t. But:

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

Trials and tribulations we will have in this world. But what is the very worse that the world can do to us in comparison with the glories of heaven?

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Troubles and trials we will have. But these are not to be the focus of our thoughts. Don’t dwell upon all the evils, all the injustices, all the wrongs in this world. The Bible says:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Daniel 1:1-2: When God Gives Up

The opening words of the book of Daniel is a record of defeat. The defeat of God’s chosen people by a pagan nation.

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
But Jerusalem’s defeat should have come as no surprise. Prophet after prophet foretold this event. For ages they had given counsel, first on how to avoid such a fate, and when that was no longer possible, how to make the best of a bad situation. But the prophets preached to the wind. Twice again the Jews would revolt against Babylonian rule, and twice again the city would be captured by Nebuchadnezzar. And the Jews would find themselves more heavily oppressed each time, and finally at last the city itself would be burned to the ground - and for that they had none but themselves to blame

Daniel 1:2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.
Nebuchadnezzar of course attributed the success of the conquest to his gods, but the Bible sets the record straight. Jerusalem and Judea were conquered not because of the powers of any heathen gods, nor by the military ability of the Babylonian armies, but because, and only because God GAVE the nation and the city to the Babylonians.

But how could God give His nation, His chosen people, into the power of a heathen king? As far as the Jews had backslidden, were not the Babylonians even worse?

So then, why did God allow Judah to be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar?

Jeremiah 2:11-13 Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, And be horribly afraid; Be very desolate," says the LORD. "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns-broken cisterns that can hold no water.

The Bible tells us the God had selected the Israelites in a special sense to be His people. They were to be witnesses to the nations around them. They were to be a blessing to the world, a light in the darkness of this world. But they turned away from God, who alone is the source of light. They turned away from their only source of spiritual strength. Destitute of the power of the Spirit, destitute of the living waters, they could not fulfill God’s purpose for them. But nonetheless, they were loved by God, and it is written that those who God loves, he chastises. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19).

The chastisement was severe, but then their case was desperate. But through it all (not withstanding their sins) they were in the hands of a loving God.

It was to Abraham that God first spoke of his purpose for His people. To Abraham God said, speaking not only of Abraham but also of his spiritual descendants: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2).

In order to witness effectively about God’s goodness, to be the blessing God desired them to be, the Israelites would of necessity have had to live in harmony with His laws, walking in His light, walking in His Spirit - seeking to reflect His pure and gracious character. But God does not compel obedience. He left the Israelites to make their own choice. And sadly the greatest desire of the Israelites was to be just like the nations around them.  Bickering and squabbling they split into two rival kingdoms, each in their own way hell bent on turning from God.  The northern kingdom almost immediately sunk into idol worship when their king had two golden calves made for the people to worship.  The southern kingdom, though still giving lip-service to God, in time also sunk to overt idol worship, even setting up pagan altars and idols within the temple grounds itself. 

But God did not immediately or willingly “give up” Israel.  For centuries He sent prophet after prophet after prophet to both the northern and southern kingdoms offering complete pardon if only the people would repent.

But God shows no partiality. “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” (Acts 10:34).


They may have been His chosen people, but that would not excuse their sins. If Israel insisted on going her own way God would have no choice but to let her go and suffer the consequences of their choices.  -  just as we also must if we willfully turn our back on God to go and do our own thing. But God, because of His great love for us, does not easily let people go. Listen to the anguish in His words as He contemplates “giving up” Israel, the northern kingdom.

Hosea 11:7-8 My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.

But finally He was left with no choice. In the case of the northern kingdom, God “gave up” Israel to the Assyrians.

Hosea 4:17 "Ephraim is joined to idols, Let him alone.

How sad these words. What can be more awful than having God just give up on you? And yet, does not the same hold true today - even among Christian churches? How long will it be before God just gives up on us?

Note verse 7 of Hosea 11. Look at these two phrases from that verse: “My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High” Do you see the contrast? Hell bent on backsliding, bent on going their own way, doing their own thing, while at the same time presuming to call on the Most High. That’s called presumption.

Read Revelation 3:14-16, the message to the Laodiceans -- God last day message to His last day church. Truly we have a work of repentance before us. Here again we see a people complacent, self-satisfied in their presumed relationship with God, and yet clearly, they too are blindly going astray - and like the nation of Israel before them, in danger of being cast out from the presence of the Lord.

Revelation 3:14-16 And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

But all is not lost. Read the rest of the chapter too - As bad as things are, God still holds out hope for those who are willing to humble themselves and receive his counsel. Some of the most glorious promises made to any of the seven churches are made to the Laodiceans.

Finally, when no more could be done for them, God gave Israel up, and its people were scattered to the four winds. This should have been a lesson for Judah the southern kingdom, but sadly it was a lesson that fell on deaf ears and blind eyes, and in the course of time they sank to even greater depths of apostasy than that for which God had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel.  And their sins could have come straight out of today’s headlines.  You had theft and fraud and murder.  You had prosperity preachers promising prosperity with no condemnation of sin.  You had Baal worship, which by the way included a variety of “alternative sexual lifestyles” including homosexual sex. 

Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

We would do well to learn the lesson. God says to us: "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isaiah 58:1).

By the way, did you catch the phrase “Tell My people.” This is not a call to point fingers at the world and tell them how bad they are. This is a call for preachers to speak plainly to their own people, to their own churches. It is a call to call sin by its right name - in the church itself.

Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them: 'As I live,” says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”

Prophet after prophet appealed to the southern kingdom of Judah as others had appealed to the northern kingdom of Israel. Micah, Isaiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Jeremiah and others offered pardon in exchange for repentance - but they preached to the wind.

But whether they hear or not, we are still to present Christ Crucified, a living hope, the only power to turn from sin and death to righteousness and life. We may be preaching to the wind, but we are to lift up Jesus before a dying world, tell them that there is power in His blood to wash away all sin. Some will hear.

2 Chronicles 36:15-17 And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand.

When God “gives up” a person or nation it is not so much that God has separated Himself from them, but rather it is they who have separated themselves from Him.

Isaiah 59:1-2 Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Christians and Politics

Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

There is enough in this one statement to fill a book, but right now I want to focus on just one phrase. “There is no authority except from God.” Nowhere is there ever an exception given to this rule. And this is a fundamental principle that is repeated in one way or another all through the Bible. And that means that whoever won the last election, (Even if it was that “other guy,” the one you so love to hate, whichever one that happens to be.) you can be sure of one thing - that win was by God’s election -- that person was put into office by God’s appointment. As Jeremiah says, God gives power to whomever it seems proper for Him to give it to.

Jeremiah 27:5 I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me.

Now, nowhere in this is there a promise that God will give power to the one you think proper for it to be given to. Nor is there a promise that you will agree with or even like God’s choices. But what you will find, not only in these texts, but all through the Bible, are emphatic statements that whoever is in a position of authority, that person is in that position by God’s own appointment. As Romans 13:1 says, “the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

Daniel 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

In Proverbs 8:15-16 we read: “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.”

And so, if all “authorities that exist are appointed by God,” and “there is no authority except from God,” how then should Christians conduct themselves toward that authority? Especially, How should Christians conduct themselves if the person they voted for loses and that other guy wins?

One thing is for certain, and the Bible is very clear on this -- God has no sympathy for gripers and complainers. Also, there is no place in Christianity for speaking evil of those God has placed in power. Search the New Testament through and through, and you will not find a single political rant in the whole book. Rome was about as corrupt and as oppressive as governments come, and not at all Christian-friendly, but wherever you find Christians coming in contact with the powers that be, they always approach them and speak to them with the utmost respect. So far as it was in their power to do so, Christians sought to live in peace and harmony with whatever government God saw fit to place them under. And in this they were following the example of the great men of God of earlier ages.

So just where do we draw the line between honoring the government God has placed over us and obeying God?  In Daniel 3 we find a clue.

Daniel 3:1-2 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.  And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

But why should Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, since they knew they could not worship the image, be present on the occasion? It was because they were willing to comply with the king’s requirements as far as they could without compromising their religious principles. The king required them to be present. With this requirement they could comply, and they did. He also required them to worship the image. This they could not do for God had expressly forbidden such worship, and this they therefore refused to do.

The course that these three men of God followed is the same course that we find written in the New Testament, the same course that the apostles counseled Christians to follow in regard to their conduct and attitude toward the requirements of civil governments.

1 Peter 2:13-15 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men--

Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

So far as it is possible to do so without violating the commandments of God, without violating conscience, we are to comply with the requirements of whatever government God has seen fit to put over us. Even if that power, that government, is corrupt and abusive of its powers as Rome was in the apostles’ day.

But these words of Paul and Peter do not require the Christian to obey either persons or governments when their requirements come into conflict with the Word of God. The Christian, as a loyal citizen of whatever government God has seen fit to place them under, will go as far as possible in compliance with the will of that state. -- Even if, figuratively speaking, that means standing on the plain of Dura before a golden image. Why? Because as Peter said, “That by well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

Consider Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon. Consider how they conducted themselves toward those in positions of authority. By worldly standards, did they have cause for complaint, to rant and rail against the powers that be? Yes. But you won’t find them wallowing in that mud pit. By the grace of God they rose above the petty and political.

The people of Judah who were carried away to Babylon felt that they had cause for complaint, cause to rant and rail against Babylon and its king. Yet Jeremiah wrote to them to make themselves at peace with their new masters.

Jeremiah 29:-74 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters-that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

Consider Saul and David. Saul was an evil king, and David was anointed by the prophet Samuel to take his place on the throne of Israel. Yet even after God had Samuel anoint David to sit on the throne of Israel, God kept Saul on that throne for many long years. And in all those years David’s conducted toward Saul was most respectful. By worldly standards, did David have cause for complaint, to rant and rail against Saul? Yes. But you won’t find him wallowing in that mud pit. By the grace of God he rose above the petty and political. David understood that it was God who placed Saul on the throne of Israel and that it was God who would in His own time remove Saul from that throne. And when Saul was at last killed in battle, David wrote a most heartfelt Psalm as a tribute to him. (2 Samuel 1;17-27).

But now days casting disparaging remarks against those God has placed in office has become the national pastime. It has become a game to dig up every fault, every slip of the tongue, to tear people down and bring them to ruin if at all possible. And sadly even Christians have joined in the game. Indeed, sadder yet, Christians have almost made it their religion to speak evil of the nation’s leaders. But Paul writes “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.” (Acts 23:5) and Peter writes of those who are all too willing “to speak evil of dignitaries,” saying that they are little better than "brute beasts," and will as a consequence receive their just condemnation.

2 Peter 2:10. 12-13 They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, … But these, like natural brute beasts … speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, …

And Jude echoed the words of Peter when he wrote: ”Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. …  But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.” (Jude 1:8,10).

For better or worse, for good or evil, our words count. They have an effect on those around us. And the mudslinging political rhetoric so commonplace today is not the kind of words Christians have been bidden to speak. It should not be regarded as a light thing to speak evil of others or to make ourselves judges of their motives or actions. “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” (James 4:11) For there is only one Judge -- and you are not Him.

In Ecclesiastes we read that we are not to curse the king, not so much as even in our thoughts.

Ecclesiastes 10:20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

And yet, what is the reality? Consider Jeremiah 20:10, a text that all too truly describes the attitude of all too many Christians; “For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it.”

Now you would expect this kind of conduct from the world. But with such plain statements from Scripture, how is it that Christians often lead the way in bringing railing accusations against those put in positions of leadership? Is it that we have forgotten that this is not our home, that “our citizenship is in heaven”? (Philippians 3:20) Have we forgotten that we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth”? (Hebrews 11:13) Have we forgotten that we have a higher and holier calling than mere earthly politics?

How about if Christians all decided to do something really radical? Something like what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 for example. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”

Wow!!! We can only imagine. Verse 3 says that “this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” And isn’t that how as Christians we should wish to live and conduct ourselves; in a manner that is “good and acceptable” to “God our Savior”? On the other hand, coming back to Romans 13:2, we find this warning; “whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Ask yourself this question, and give an honest answer. Which side of this equation do you stand on?

Scripture tells us to “speak evil of no one” and to be “subject to rulers and authorities.” (Titus 3:1,2). Many Christians fail on both parts.

Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

Now notice that Titus 3:1-2 quoted above, is a single sentence. Therefore it follows that the ones that we are not to speak evil of are the rulers and authorities to which we are to submit ourselves. Peter expands on this, writing:

1 Peter 2:13-16 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men-- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

So far as it is possible to do so without violating the commandments of God, without violating conscience, we are to comply with the requirements of whatever government God has seen fit to put over us. Even if that power, that government, is corrupt and abusive of its powers as Rome was in the apostles day.

But these words of Paul and Peter do not require the Christian to obey either persons or governments when their requirements come into conflict with the Word of God. The Christian, as a loyal citizen of whatever government God has seen fit to place them under, will go as far as possible in compliance with the will of that state. Why? Because as Peter said; “That by well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

But there is a boundary beyond which the Christian will not pass. Though ever loyal, though ever polite, courteous, and respectful to authority; and in spite of any threat or enticement to encourage compliance, the true Christian will steadfastly refuse to take a single step beyond the boundaries set by God in His Word. But even this does not give the Christian license to be in any way disrespectful or discourteous in their conduct toward those in authority.