Friday, November 29, 2013

Daniel 5, The Fall of Babylon, part 2; The Revelation Connection

The fall of Babylon is of great importance to our understanding of the overall message of Daniel and Revelation. The historic fall of Babylon form the typological basis for understanding the end-time Babylon spoken of in Revelation.

I am not going to get into a discussion of whom or what end-time Babylon is, only to note some of the parallels between the events mentioned in Revelation and those we have just studied in Daniel 5.

Revelation 16:12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.

The Medo-Persian armies came from the east. They marched into the city of Babylon along the dry river bed of the Euphrates. Just so, at the end of time there will once again be a drying up of the Euphrates, preparing the way for the kings of the east. In the case of ancient Babylon, the coming of the kings of the east resulted in the deliverance of God’s people. From the east came the armies of the Medes and the Persians. And they attacked and they conquered until in all the Middle East, the city of Babylon alone held out against them.

Cyrus, commander of the Medo-Persian armies laid siege to Babylon. The Babylonians, gathered within their seemingly impregnable walls, scoffed at Cyrus and derided his seemingly useless effort to conquer them. According to all human wisdom no means of warfare then known could take that city.

Cyrus knew that there was no way he could ever enter Babylon unless he could find an entrance where the Euphrates River passed under the cities massive walls. Cyrus therefore decided to divert the river and use its channel as his means of entry into the city. This is a very interesting typology as in Revelation waters are stated to symbolize peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

Revelation 17:15 Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.

Accordingly he divided his army into three divisions. One division he stationed a few miles upstream with orders to divert the river into a new channel. The other two divisions were stationed on either side of the city where the river passed under its walls, with orders to enter the channel as soon as the river became shallow enough to ford, then to make their way under the walls and into the city, and on to the palace, where, on that very night Belshazzar was holding a drunken feast in praise of his gods.

But there was one major flaw in Cyrus’ plan, and if it were not for the direct intervention of God, Cyrus’ plan would have failed. You see, on each side of the river, for the entire length of the city, were walls just as high and thick as the outer walls surrounding Babylon. In these river walls were huge, massive gates which when opened allowed access to the river, but when closed and guarded barred all possibility of entrance from the river. If those gates had been shut, Cyrus’ army might have marched into the city along the river bed, and marched out again for all the good that it would have done them. And here is where a rather remarkable prophecy from Isaiah comes into play. (Remember as you read this Isaiah prophecy that the coming of these kings of the east resulted in the deliverance of God’s people, allowing them at last to leave Babylon and return to their own land.) (Note also God’s reference to the wise men of Babylon in verse 25.)

Isaiah 44:23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, And glorified Himself in Israel. 24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: "I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself; 25 Who frustrates the signs of the babblers, And drives diviners mad; Who turns wise men backward, And makes their knowledge foolishness; 26 Who confirms the word of His servant, And performs the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, 'You shall be inhabited,' To the cities of Judah, 'You shall be built,' And I will raise up her waste places; 27 Who says to the deep, 'Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers'; 28 Who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," And to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid."'

Isaiah 45:1 "Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held-To subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut: 2 'I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel. 4 For Jacob My servant's sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.

Impressive considering that Cyrus would not even be born until some hundred fifty years after this prophecy was spoken. And there is in the prophesies concerning the fall of ancient Babylon some very interesting typology crucial to a right understanding of the fall of Revelations' end-time Babylon.

Cyrus recognized the hand of God in bringing him to power. And one of the first things Cyrus did after the defeat of Babylon was to issue a decree allowing all exiles and their descendants to return to their homelands if they desired to do so. And this was not for the Jews only, but also all the other peoples whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away into captivity. All were given their freedom. Cyrus further offered to return all their captured gods that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away. In the case of the Jews, who of course had no images of God, this meant the return of the sacred temple utensils and even a promise to rebuild the Jerusalem temple at state expense. And so the coming of the kings of the east resulted in the deliverance of God’s people. Cyrus’ decree concerning the Jews is recorded in Ezra.

Ezra 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. 4 And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.

This decree by Cyrus has caused many to think that Daniel may have shown the above Isaiah prophecy to Cyrus.

Revelation makes it very clear that there will be another Babylon at the time of the end. The Babylon spoken of in Revelation is not the same as the Babylon of Daniels’ day. When Cyrus conquered ancient Babylon, that was the beginning of the end for that city. It became a heap of ruins and has remained so to the present day, and prophecy declares that the city will never be rebuilt. But the Bible foretells the rise of another end-time Babylon which will do to God’s people on a global level what ancient national Babylon did to the Jews. Modern Babylon, according to Revelation, is the great final oppressor of the people of God.

Revelation 16:18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. 19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

Revelation 17:1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

Babylon’s great sin is fornication and adultery. Adultery is an illicit relationship. Obviously in this case it is not physical adultery, but spiritual adultery. Spiritual adultery is an illicit relationship that combines the worship of God with various elements of paganism, as typified in Daniel 5 by the use of the temple vessels in the worship and praise of the Babylonian gods. It is a mingling of the true with the false, of righteousness with unrighteousness, with light with darkness. In Daniel 5 we saw ancient Babylon in the person of its king defiantly mixing elements of the worship of God with the worship of pagan deities. Revelation's end-time Babylon’s fornication, or adultery, likewise is an illicit relationship that mixes elements of the worship of the true God with the worship of pagan deities. And the influence of this end-time Babylon is global in extent. Revelation equates this fornication with drunkenness, which again ties in nicely with the typology established by the historical fall of Babylon.

Revelation 18:2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. 3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. 4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

And just as ancient Babylon fell when it openly defied God, so spiritual Babylon will also fall for much the same reasons. Babylon the Great is a worldwide spiritual apostasy from truth. Her adultery is worldwide, and nearly all people will be deceived by her.

Interestingly, as we read in Revelation 18:5, God states that just as he did in ancient Babylon, He also has a people that He calls His own in modern spiritual Babylon. Just as God had a few faithful people in ancient Babylon, so too, today some of God’s faithful people are in modern end-time Babylon. But God is now calling His people to come out of this end-time Babylon before His final wrath is poured out on her. Spiritual apostasy may surround us on every side, corrupting everything we see and hear. How important then that we remain loyal to God’s Word. That is our only safety from the snares of the final great apostasy. God clearly warns us so that we will not be deceived by the apostasy of the end times. In love, God warns those trapped by modern spiritual Babylon to get out as soon as possible, before the final wrath of God is poured out on Babylon.

2 Corinthians 6: 14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

Again, as I noted at the beginning of this article, the fall of Babylon is of great importance to our understanding of the overall message of Daniel and Revelation. The historic fall of Babylon form the typological basis for understanding the end-time Babylon spoken of in Revelation. Here are just a few of the more notable parallels between the two Babylon’s.

Ancient Babylon > “You who dwell by many waters” (Jeremiah 51:13).
End-time Babylon >“Seated upon many waters” (Revelation 17:1).

Ancient Babylon > “A golden cup in the Lord’s hand” (Jeremiah 51:7).
End-time Babylon > “a golden cup” (Revelation 17:4).

Ancient Babylon >“Babylon is fallen” (Jeremiah 51:8).
End-time Babylon > “Fallen, Fallen is Babylon” (Revelation 14:8).

Ancient Babylon > “I shall be a mistress forever… I shall not sit as a widow” (Isaiah 47: 7,8).
End-time Babylon > ”A queen I sit, I am no widow” (Revelation 18:7).

Ancient Babylon > ”Go ye out of the midst of her, my people” (Jeremiah 51: 45).
End-time Babylon > ”Come out of her, my people” (Revelation 18:4).

Ancient Babylon > At her fall “the heaven and the earth … Shall sing for joy” (Jeremiah 51:48).
End-time Babylon > At her fall, heaven, saints, apostles, prophets rejoice (Revelation 18:20).

Ancient Babylon > As a stone, “shall Babylon sink, and rise no more” (Jeremiah 51:64).
End-time Babylon > “like a great millstone [thrown] … into the sea … so shall Babylon … be thrown down” (Revelation 18:21).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Daniel 5, The Fall of Babylon

The date was October 12, 539 BC. The Medo-Persian armies were camped outside the city of Babylon, having already conquered all of the Babylonian empire except the city itself. And Belshazzar, being the brilliant person that he was, decided that this would be a really great time to throw one wild bash of a drunken party - and mock God while he was at it.

Nebuchadnezzar was one of those rare leaders whose brilliance defined an age. But those who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar had nothing of his ability to rule. In general they were incompetent, ineffectual, weak and unimpressive rulers. Since the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon had fallen far from its golden age. Now Nabonidus and Belshazzar, father and son, shared the throne of Babylon as co-regents. This explains Belshazzar’s statement in verse 7 about making whoever could interpret the handwriting on the wall “the third ruler in the kingdom.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion in chapter 4 was real and deep. All indications are that Nebuchadnezzar fully turned away from the worship of the gods of Babylon and devoted himself wholly to the worship of the One True God of Israel. Accordingly the services of the Babylonian gods, which were largely dependent on state support, fell into decay. Nabonidus, who was at this time the first ruler of Babylon, set his heart on restoring the gods of Babylon to their former glory, and so that he might devoted himself wholly to the restoration of the worship of these gods, especially the worship of the moon god, he entrusted the kingdom to his son Belshazzar, making him the second ruler of Babylon. Having entrusted the kingdom to his son Belshazzar, Nabonidus left the city of Babylon and traveled throughout the kingdom and devoted himself avidly to the restoration of the worship of the Babylonian gods.

Meanwhile, Cyrus the Great had begun his rise to power. Having welded the Medes and the Persians into a united kingdom, he then proceeded to conquer Lydia. And now having defeated the armies of Nabonidus some 50 miles north of Babylon without a fight, his armies surrounded the walls of Babylon.

The empire was lost. Armies were at the gate. But why worry? The walls of Babylon were strong. Its storehouses were filled with food. The Euphrates flowed with water. Babylon was undefeatable. As undefeatable as the Titanic was unsinkable.

A Drunken Feast

Daniel 5:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. 2 While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.

God is very patient with people and with nations. This is clear from his dealings with Nebuchadnezzar. (And sometimes we mere mortals get frustrated by just how longsuffering He is toward the wicked. The wicked of course being those other guys we’re not so fond of.) Yet there comes a time when God must, so to speak, ring down the curtain if there is no response to His entreaties. There is a limit even to God’s forbearance. God worked long with Babylon. For over 30 years God struggled to win the heart, mind and soul of Nebuchadnezzar - and He did.

Jesus once said that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Upon hearing that the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus’ answer was that “with God, all things are possible,” meaning that by the power of God even the rich can be saved. (Matthew 19:24-26). And Nebuchadnezzar is proof. Here is a man who had it all. Wealth, power, fame - the whole world did his bidding. And yet by the power of God this "rich man" found salvation and entrance into the kingdom of God.

But Nebuchadnezzar was the exception rather than the rule. Those who followed him to the throne did not heed the lessons that Nebuchadnezzar had learned, and stubbornly walked in defiance of God.

On this night in the course of their drunken feast in honor of their pagan gods, Belshazzar called for the sacred temple vessels that were used in the worship of the God of Israel, that they might mock Him as they praised and worship the gods of Babylon. The spirit that inspired Belshazzar was the same spirit that in more ancient times inspired the Philistines, who after they had captured the Ark of the Covenant, placed it in their temple at the foot of their god Dagon, thinking to exalt the power and glory of Dagon over the God of Israel. However instead of bringing glory to Dagon, it brought disaster to the people.

The mingling of paganism with Christianity is an abomination that God deals with very severely, and for good reason. This mingling of righteousness with unrighteousness is one of Satan’s most effective devices for deceiving and ensnaring the people.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people." 17 Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."

Writing on the Wall

Daniel 5:5 In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 6 Then the king's countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other. 7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, "Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom." 8 Now all the king's wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly troubled, his countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished.

Once again the wise men of Babylon are discredited. In Daniel 2 they could not make known the king’s dream, but they boasted that if only the king would tell them the dream they could give him the meaning. And so God gave them a chance to prove their point. In Daniel 4 God gave another dream to the king and made certain that Nebuchadnezzar told it this time. But the wise men of Babylon failed once again. Even after they were told the dream they could not interpret it. Now, to their total discredit, God literally spells it out for them, writes it on the wall, and they still didn't get it.

The wisdom of the wise men of Babylon is the same that is today being repackaged by the devil in bright new packages and being sold to the public as New Age wisdom. But this New Age wisdom so popular with so many today is, however, still just as incapable, just as incompetent, just as powerless, just as bankrupt as it was in Daniel’s day. And those who turn to it to solve their problems and to unravel the mysteries of life will find just as Nebuchadnezzar did and just as Belshazzar did that it has no answers. They will discover that the New Age religion is just an empty shell - a lot of pretence, a lot of glitter and glitz, a lot of empty promises, - but no power, no answers, no wisdom.

Queen Mother

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, "O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change. 11 "There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father-your father the king-made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. 12 "Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation." 13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, "Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 14 "I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 "Now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing. 16 "And I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom."

“The third ruler in the kingdom.” Remember, Belshazzar ruled as second ruler, co-regent with his father Nabonidus. This offer would make Daniel king of Babylon, third in power after Nabonidus and Belshazzar.

Daniel was now an old man probably well into his 80's, and possibly living in retirement. To most of the current leadership of Babylon he was ancient history. However, there was one who did remember Daniel, the queen. Not one of Belshazzar’s wives, but rather the queen mother, possibly Nitocris, either the wife or daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, (it is not clear which), and quite possibly a convert along with Nebuchadnezzar to the worship of the God of Israel, which may be the reason she was not invited to the party. An indication of her power is the fact that she was allowed to approach the king without the king’s permission. (See Esther 4:11).

This woman lived to the exceptional age of 107 and was probably an eye witness to some of the events described in the earlier chapters of Daniel, and as soon as she heard of what was happening in the banquet hall she came in. Her first words were to remind Belshazzar that while the wise men could not read the writing, there was one in the realm that could not only read the writing, but also interpret it. Yes, she remembered Daniel.

At the urging of the queen Daniel was brought in. It is clear that Belshazzar was not too thrilled at the prospect of having to resort to asking a worshiper of the God of Israel to interpret the handwriting for him. Belshazzar’s first words to Daniel was a sneering reminder to Daniel that he was nothing more than a captive from Judah. You can imagine the scene, “You’re Daniel, right, that captive from Judah” a drunken Belshazzar sneered, as he held up a golden temple cup from which he had just been drinking in praise of his Babylonian gods. “Well I’ll make you a deal. If you can tell me what this writing means, I’ll not only make you rich but also the third ruler of the kingdom.”

Reaping What We Sow

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, "Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation. 18 "O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. 19 "And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down. 20 "But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. 21 "Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses. 22 "But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. 23 "And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.

Daniel did not give the king any salutation. There was no “O king, live forever“ as was the case when Daniel spoke with Nebuchadnezzar. It would have been rather pointless in this case. Daniel was not being discourteous to the king, but he spoke bluntly and to the point. In front of the assembled guests and leaders of the nations, he reminded Belshazzar of the judgment which had fallen on Nebuchadnezzar on account of his pride, of how his mind had become like that of an animal until he confessed that the most high God rules in the kingdom of men. “And you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though thou knew all this.

God is well aware of our weakness, “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14).

God protects us for a time from the consequences of our sinful ways. He provides persuasive evidence to help us choose the way of life. Belshazzar had the example of Nebuchadnezzar before him. He probably grew up hearing the stories. But God also leaves us free to obey him or not as we please. The choice is ours to make. And in the judgment, he permits us to meet the ultimate consequences of our choices, whether good or bad.

Centuries prior to the days of Daniel, Joshua spoke these famous words; "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.” (Joshua 24:15).

Belshazzar had made his choice. He would serve the gods of the land. God weighed these choices to see how they measured up. In the judgment Belshazzar’s choices were found wanting, and God gave up Belshazzar to the consequences of his choices. Belshazzar had known all about Nebuchadnezzar’s experience, but deliberately ignored the lessons that Nebuchadnezzar learned at such great cost.

God allowed Belshazzar to make his own choices, and after a time, when Belshazzar refused every effort of God to save him, God allowed him to face the consequences of his choices. Belshazzar by his own choices declared that he did not want God in his life, and finally the day came when he reached a limit beyond which God could not allow him to pass.

The apostle Paul speaks of how God deals with those who chooses to live as Belshazzar did.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 20 . . . . . they are without excuse; 21 for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. . . . . . . .28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. 29 They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them

Such was the case with Belshazzar, and so it is with our modern society. Scripture says that God is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8). Can we then expect to escape the judgment that fell on Belshazzar and on Babylon 2500 years ago? Daniel reprimanded the drunken king of Babylon for desecrating the sacred vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the temple in Jerusalem. In desecrating these vessels in the way he did, by drinking alcoholic beverages from them, Belshazzar became guilty of profaning not only the Jerusalem temple, but also his own body temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are.

God was not abiding within Belshazzar on that October night. Belshazzar’s body was a violated, desecrated and empty temple of God. “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matthew 23:28). Of how many of us can God just as justly speak those word regarding our body temples.

Belshazzar’s body temple was desolate because Belshazzar chose to ignore God as much as possible and to use his living temple for unholy purposes. And so God gave him up to his unholy passions.
And God in an act of judgment decreed that king Belshazzar should be permitted to meet the consequences of his free choices.

The Interpretation

Daniel 5:24 "Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." 29 Then Belshazzar commanded, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put about his neck, and proclamation was made concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

The armies of the Medes and the Persians had come from the east to conquer Babylon. That very night Cyrus, the commander of the Medo-Persian armies had the Euphrates River diverted into a new channel so that his armies could march into the city of Babylon via the river bed. And that very night Babylon fell, never to rise again. That very night Belshazzar perished.

As a little side note here: There is some question as to the identity of Darius. Was Darius a sub-commander of the Medo-Persians armies to whom Cyrus gave temporary command (kingship) of Babylon, or was Darius the Babylonian throne name of Cyrus himself. Evidence can be found to support either position, but I lean to the idea that the name “Darius” was the Babylonian throne name of Cyrus the great, which name by the way means “The Royal One.”

The use of throne names was a common practice, and there are a number of examples of kings using throne names in the Bible. There is Tielath-pleser who was also known as Pul. Azariah who went by the name of Uzziah. Solomon who at times use the name Jedidiah. And Jeoiachin who is also called Coniah by Jeremaiah.

Daniel 6:28 which in our English Bibles reads “So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” may also be rightly translated to read “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius which is the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” The difference being a question as to whether the word translated “and in” in our English Bibles is a conjunction or an explicative. And the evidence points to it being an explicative. Also Daniel 5:31 tells us that this Darius was about 62 years old at the time, and it is known that that Cyrus was in his early 60’s at the time of his conquest of Babylon.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Who are the "sons of God" in Job 38:7

Job 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth … 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

The question here is the identity of the “sons of God” in verse seven. Who are they?

I am aware of three interpretations that have been given to the plural phrase “sons of God.” Two of them have strong Scriptural support. The third, however, despite being wildly popular in Christian circles has in my opinion not only has no Scriptural support but is actually forbidden by Scripture. We will take a look at each of them and then determine which of the three fits in the context of Job 38:7.

Are the "sons of God" angels (either fallen or unfallen)?

The first occurrence of the phrase “sons of God” appears in Genesis 6. Here is the reference in full context.

Genesis 6: 1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Now there are many who identify the “sons of God” in this text as angels, and teach that these angels took human wives and bore children by them, and that those half-angel/half-human hybrid children became the giants spoken of in verse 4. But the Bible forbids that interpretation. First of all, Jesus made it clear that Angels do not marry.

Mark 12:25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

That statement in itself should have been enough to squash any idea that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are referring to angels. Jesus made it clear, angels do not marry, and if not among their own kind, then especially not with fallen humans. This is a case where people are following along with what some supposed authority said once upon a time without ever really thinking the matter through.

Aside from the statement from Jesus in Mark 12:25, think of what would be required for angels to have children of human mothers. First of all angels are spiritual beings. Humans on the other hand are creatures of flesh, made of the dust of the earth. True angles can at times take on the form of humans, but they are still spiritual, not physical beings. To mate with humans they would have to have a cellular biology, with chromosomes and genes. And not just any set of chromosomes and genes, but human compatible chromosomes with human compatible genes. But cells, and chromosomes and genes are material substances, made of the dust of the earth, and thus presumably not part of the make-up of spiritual beings.

Also, we have this statement from the book of Hebrews, which clearly says that God has never called any of His angels “sons.”

Hebrews 1:5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"?

And so, I believe it would be safe to say (in spite of the popularity of such an interpretation in Christian circles) that both in Genesis 6 and in Job 38, and wherever else the phrase “sons of God” appear in Scripture, it is not speaking of angels.

Are the "sons of God" the faithful?

This brings us to the second of the common interpretations of the phrase “sons of God.”

In the context of Genesis 6, I believe the sons of God are better understood as being those people, descendants of Adam and Eve, who have remained faithful worshipers of God, as opposed to those who have followed after Cain in rebellion against God. There are a number of texts that back up that identification:

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

Romans 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

Philippians 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.

So then, Who are the “sons of God?” We, the worshipers of God are the sons and daughters of God. Scripture seems to establish that point very strongly. This one is pretty much a no-brainer.

In the course of time as population levels increased those who remained loyal to God and those who followed Cain in his rebellion against God began to intermingle with each other, and of course - human nature being what it is the results was a degrading of the spirituality of the children of God until at last the whole world was so corrupt that God was forced to bring on the flood. This probably did not happen all at once, but as the children of God mingled with the children of men they became ever more desensitized to evil, just one little step at a time, until they were totally corrupted in every way.

Genesis 6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

The word translated “giants” here is “nephilim” which means a bully or tyrant. It is derived from the root “naphal” meaning to fall, fugitive, overthrow, overwhelm, slay, smite out, throw down.

Think about it -- Bullies, fugitives, tyrants, people who overthrow, overwhelm, smite and slay, etc. They sound a whole lot like terrorist, petty oppressive dictators, drug lords, and other really bad elements that we have so many of in our world today. To put it in one word, you might say they were the terrorist and gangsters of their age, which meaning far better fit’s the context of these verses (the ever increasing wickedness of man) than the word “giants” does.

Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And so here, in studying Genesis 6, we find the first two of the three common interpretations of the phrase “sons of God.” The first, that the “sons of God” are angels in my opinion has no support from Scripture but is simply a story that has been told for so long that most people just assume it must be true. The second, that the “sons of God” are the faithful find strong Scriptural support.

Now on to the third usage of the phrase “sons of God.”

Are the "sons of God" the Adam and Eve equivalents of other worlds God has created?

A Plurality of Worlds?

Although the Bible is primarily concerned with the creation and subsequent history of the Earth, it does not imply that the Earth was either the first or only world God had created. However the Bible only makes only a few passing references to the existence of other worlds. In Hebrews for example we read of "worlds" (plural) that God has created.

Hebrews 1:2 (God) has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.

When God first created this earth that we live on he gave dominion over it to Adam and Eve. When Satan deceived them and they sinned they effectually gave the dominion of this world to Satan on the basis the principle "for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage." (2Peter 2:19). And so the bible styles the Devil as the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), indicating that the dominion once given to Adam and Eve now belongs to Satan.

And this brings us back to the book of Job, and the “sons of God.” In the opening chapters of the book we find two additional mentions of the “sons of God.”

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."

Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."

And as the ruler of this world (having usurped the rightful ruler-ship from Adam and Eve) Satan attended the grand universal councils mentioned in Job as this earth's representative. I believe that the “sons of God” mentioned there in Job are most likely the representatives (the Adam and Eve equivalents) from all the other inhabited worlds that God has created. However, what I think is not what matters. Do I have any Scriptural support that the phrase “sons of God” is ever used in that manner. I believe so. If you look at the genealogy of Jesus as recorded in Luke 3:38 you will read the following: "The son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God." (Luke 3:38).

Here Adam, by virtue of direct creation by God, being the first of humankind, is called the “son of God.” And as already noted, it is my belief that the other “sons of God” spoken of in Job 1 and 2 are the representatives, the Adam and Eve equivalents, of the other worlds that God had created.


And so we have our three possible definitions of the “sons of God.”

1> Angels
2> The faithful human followers of God
3> The Adam and Eve equivalents of God’s other inhabited worlds.

And so, returning to our opening text Job 38:1,7; “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth … When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
The question remains which of these three definitions of “sons of God” fit’s the context. The process of elimination is simple. I have to reject the first option out of hand as there is no scriptural support for such an identification, and strong scripture against it. The time frame rules out the second option too. When the foundation of the earth was being laid, we humans were not around to “shout for joy.” That leaves only the third as a viable option. The “sons of God” shouting for joy at the laying of the foundation of the earth were the Adam and Eve equivalents of other worlds God had created. They were celebrating the expected soon arrival of a brand new member of the family.

Now I have in this covered every text in the Bible where the phrase the “sons of God” can be found. But just for completeness sake, there is one other OT text that has a slight variation of that phrase, (and fits in with definition #2). It is Hosea 1:10 “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”
And with that you now have in this posting a complete list of all “sons of God” texts to be found in the Bible.

Now if you had looked in most any commentary, the standard interpretation given to Job 38:7 is that the “morning stars” and “sons of God” are synonymous terms, both references to angels. I agree that the phrase “morning stars” does refer to angels, but as you can see, I have a somewhat different opinion when it comes to the phrase “sons of God.” I hope I have shown good Scriptural support for my position here.

Now as for the identity of the “morning stars” While I agree with the standard interpretation that this is a reference to angels, it is ironically, the harder position to prove from Scripture. The evidence is much more circumstantial in nature. In fact, the only place in the Bible where the plural phase “morning stars” occur is right here in Job 38:7. Now the singular “morning star” can be found twice in Revelation - but both are clear references to Jesus.


The Bible says nothing about God sending the flood because of what some angels supposedly did. It states very clearly time and again that it was because of the wickedness of man, not angels, that God sent the flood. Genesis 6 is all about the ever increasing wickedness of man, not about some imaginary angelic orgy with human women.

From the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary:
4. giants--The term in Hebrew implies not so much the idea of great stature as of reckless ferocity, impious and daring characters, who spread devastation and carnage far and wide.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Daniel 4, Mad King Syndrome, A Story of Salvation

God patiently works with people. He keeps working with people long after we would have given up on them. And God’s long suffering and patience with Nebuchadnezzar is a classic example. God worked long to reach Nebuchadnezzar with the gospel. Finally, at last, God takes drastic measures to win Nebuchadnezzar, and as a result we have in Daniel 4 the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion, and there is a lesson here for us. We must never forget that God is just as patient with us as he was with Nebuchadnezzar. For 30 years God worked with Nebuchadnezzar. For 30 years God never gave up on Nebuchadnezzar. We may slip and fall into old habits and modes of thought. We may, so far as the world can see, be the most hopeless of cases. But so long as there is life, God does not give up. We may rebel, we may refuse and reject God’s offer of mercy and pardon, but He never gives up

So just what is a conversion story doing in the middle of a book of prophecy? Just as we have seen in the earlier chapters, this story also illustrates the experiences of God’s people in the last days. Only, this story is about an experience God’s people in the last days MUST HAVE  in their own personal lives if anything else in the book of Daniel is to have any real meaning for them at all, because, without a living relationship with Jesus all the prophetic knowledge in the world will do you no good. It is the personal knowledge of Jesus that gives substance and meaning to the prophetic word. The only people who will overcome in the final days of earth’s history are those who have been truly converted, those who have a deep, abiding and personal relationship with Jesus.

In Daniel 4 we will see something of just how far God is willing to go to save one lost soul.

Daniel 4:1 Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.

This chapter in Daniel is unique in that Daniel did not write it, Nebuchadnezzar did. This is Nebuchadnezzar’s own personal testimony of how God saved him. And already in this first verse you can see a radical difference in Nebuchadnezzar from what we have seen of him in earlier chapters. Remember from chapters 2 and 3, how at the end of those stories Nebuchadnezzar in his enthusiasm made such inspirational statements as “Who ever speaks anything amiss against God shall be cut in pieces, and their houses made a dunghill.” But now in these opening words of chapter 4 there are no threats, no attempts to compel people to worship God. Instead we find a simple telling of his conversion story and a simple salutation of peace. “Peace be multiplied to you.” Nebuchadnezzar is no longer the proud overbearing king, but the humble servant of God.

Daniel 4:2 I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. 3 How great are His signs, And how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation.

As you read these words, It is almost as if the Nebuchadnezzar we had come to know in the earlier chapters had become completely different person, and indeed he has. That is what the born again experience will do to you. A change has come over him. Every word out of his mouth now breathes praise and glory to God. Babylon is forgotten and only God’s everlasting kingdom is acknowledged.

People are always ready to tell what God has done for them in the way of blessings. But how many are ready to tell what God has for them in the way of humiliation and chastisements. Nebuchadnezzar sets a good example in this respect. He frankly confesses the vanity and pride of his heart and freely tells the method God used to humble him. With a genuine spirit of repentance he thought it good to show these things, that God might be exalted. Nebuchadnezzar no longer makes great claims for his kingdom, but makes a full surrender to God, acknowledging God’s kingdom alone to be everlasting, and His dominion from generation to generation.

Another Dream

Daniel 4:4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace. 5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. 6 Therefore I issued a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers came in, and I told them the dream; but they did not make known to me its interpretation.

Yet again Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, and yet again he calls in all the wise men of Babylon to interpret it for him. At the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 the wise men had declared that if the king would only tell them the dream, they could give him the interpretation. Now God gives them their chance to prove their point. On this occasion Nebuchadnezzar distinctly related his dream to the wise men. But again they failed. And once again the impotence of the wise men is made apparent to all.

It was out of God’s love for the wise men of Babylon that God brought this about. He did not humiliate them just for the sake of humiliating them. He was also trying to reach out to them and reveal Himself to them. He was trying to show them the worthlessness of mere human wisdom and of the pagan systems of divination that they practiced. As the Lord said through Ezekiel, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die.” (Ezekiel 33:11).

The Bible is silent as to if any of the wise men ever saw the light and turned with all their hearts to God, but we do know from the testimony of chapter 4 that God did succeed in winning the heart and mind of Nebuchadnezzar

Daniel 4:8 But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him, saying: 9 "Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation.”

It seems that Daniel’s arrival had been providentially delayed for a time. I believe that it was by God’s providence that Daniel showed up late. God was still working to show Nebuchadnezzar the folly of placing his confidence in Babylon’s wise men and all their mystic arts. Had Daniel been there at the first God’s purpose in discrediting the wise men of Babylon would have been thwarted.

Here is the dream as Nebuchadnezzar related it to Daniel

Daniel 4:10 "These were the visions of my head while on my bed: I was looking, and behold, A tree in the midst of the earth, And its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong; Its height reached to the heavens, And it could be seen to the ends of all the earth. 12 Its leaves were lovely, Its fruit abundant, And in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, The birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches, And all flesh was fed from it. 13 I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 He cried aloud and said thus: 'Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, Strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it, And the birds from its branches. 15 Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, Bound with a band of iron and bronze, In the tender grass of the field. Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, And let him graze with the beasts On the grass of the earth. 16 Let his heart be changed from that of a man, Let him be given the heart of a beast, And let seven times pass over him. 17 'This decision is by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.' 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.”

“The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.” One theme that runs strong throughout the book of Daniel is the sovereignty of God over the nations. It is no wonder then that Nebuchadnezzar, a proud pagan king, was anxious to know the meaning of the dream.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for a time, and his thoughts troubled him. So the king spoke, and said, "Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation trouble you." Belteshazzar answered and said, "My lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies.

It has been suggested by some that Daniel’s hesitation in giving the interpretation, his sitting astonished for an hour, did not come from any difficulty in interpreting the dream, but on how to make the matter known to the king. What Daniel said now could literally be a matter of eternal life or death to Nebuchadnezzar. God was about to do a mighty work in Nebuchadnezzar, and how Daniel presented the matter could make all the difference. As a true servant of God Daniel did not gloat that calamity, a humiliating chastisement, was about to fall upon Nebuchadnezzar, but showed the real concern of a true servant of God. God’s people never rejoice when the wicked suffer. They have pity and concern for people who are outside of Christ.

It seems that Nebuchadnezzar anticipated that the interpretation of the dream would not be good news for him, and so he encouraged Daniel to go ahead and tell the interpretation of the dream no matter what bearing it may have on himself. And so Daniel proceeds to give the interpretation of the dream. And he does not water it down but presents it plainly before the king.

Mad King Syndrome

Daniel 4:20 The tree that you saw, which grew and became strong, whose height reached to the heavens and which could be seen by all the earth, 21 whose leaves were lovely and its fruit abundant, in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and in whose branches the birds of the heaven had their home- 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 And inasmuch as the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, 'Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze in the tender grass of the field; let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him'; 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. 26 And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.

The threatened judgments were conditional. There was a chance Nebuchadnezzar could avoid them if he was to repent and change his ways. And so, we find Daniel offering the king advice on how he might possibly avoid this chastisement. No denunciation or condemnation of Nebuchadnezzar’s sins came from Daniel’s mouth, but only word of kindness and persuasion. “Let my counsel be acceptable unto thee.” “Break off your sins” “Break off your … Iniquities.“ “[Show] mercy.” If Nebuchadnezzar would break off his sins “by righteousness,” and his iniquities “by showing mercy to the poor,” it might, just might, result in a turning away of the threatened judgment.

Perhaps at first Nebuchadnezzar did make some attempt to change his ways. But as the months pass and nothing seems to happen, initial impressions are brushed aside and forgotten. So it was with Nebuchadnezzar, his heart was not yet transformed. He still indulged in a spirit of self-glorification, and in the course of time dismissed his fears. A whole year had passed and the dream was now ancient history. But God had a purpose. These chastisements were teach the king (and us) “that the Heavens do rule.” And God has a way of getting His point across.

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" 31 While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses." 33 That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws.”

For a full year God waited, hoping that Nebuchadnezzar would respond. Yet sometimes God in His love must let people sink to the very depths before they recognize their need of Him. Sometimes in His mercy God must strip us of all that we cherish and hold dear in this world to break the idolatrous grip that these things may have on us.

God bore long with Nebuchadnezzar, yet all that time he cherished pride in his heart, and at last it reached a point beyond which God could not allow it to pass. The king was walking in the palace, and as he looked on the splendors of Babylon he forgot the source of all his strength and greatness, and exclaimed, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?”

Pride. There are two kinds of it in this world. The good kind of pride can be defined as a reasonable self-respect or a justifiable sense of satisfaction, as in a job well done. But there is another darker kind of pride defined as inordinate self-esteem. This is the pride that Nebuchadnezzar cherished. The Bible tells us, ”Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18). One reason that God hates this dark kind of pride is that when we think too highly of ourselves we tend think less highly of others and treat them unkindly. So it was with Nebuchadnezzar as evidenced by Daniel’s counsel to Nebuchadnezzar, “Break off your sins … by showing mercy.” “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).

This dark kind of pride also separates us from God. This pride always leads us to forget our dependence on God. “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:17).

The Lord Reigns

In Daniel 4:17 the heavenly watchers tell us that God wants the living to learn first that God “rules in the kingdom of men” and second that He “gives it to whomsoever He will.” A lesson that many still need to learn today. Almost everybody criticizes leaders these days. It is almost the national pastime. Is it really possible that God is the One who puts our leaders into public office? That’s what the Bible says.

In Daniel 1 we saw how God gave up the kingdom of Judah to be conquered by Babylon. But that was not God’s first choice for Judah. It was the sinfulness of the people that led to God’s decision. If people reject God’s leadership He will often go ahead and give them the leadership they deserve, which is rarely a good thing.

In this account of God vs. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, we see God as the ultimate ruler of every nation, reserving the right to give authority to this or that person, or to take it away as He sees fit. Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the greatest nation on the earth in his day, but in an instant God removed him from the throne and turned him out into the fields like an ox

But as harsh as this chastisement was, God did this to Nebuchadnezzar in order to help him. God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to repent so He could save him and grant him eternal life. God wanted to give Nebuchadnezzar something so much more than the throne of Babylon. In the New Testament, Paul says, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Please note that it says to pray for not against those that are in authority. Prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings. How long has it been since you thanked God for our leaders? Even bad leaders? Disagreement is one thing. Disrespect is another.

The message that God rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whoever He will is repeated by Paul in Romans 13: 1-5, “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. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake." And remember - Paul wrote that at a time of unbelievable government corruption at the highest levels.”

Yet Christians sometimes find themselves in a situation where they feel obedience to a particular state regulation would be a violation of conscience. In the trials that are to characterize the last days, such situations will increase. Regarding such cases the Bible says, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). But it is important to remember that part of our obedience to God is obedience to the state. “For he is the minister of God to thee for good,” and, “ye must needs be subject … for conscience sake.”

So what are we to do when conflict arises between a “thus saith the Lord,” and a “thus saith the state.” The Bible is our guide here also.

As a worshiper of the true God, Daniel probably had some concerns about enrolling in the Babylonian state college of his day. He knew it was corrupted with idolatrous principles, but he knew of no Bible command that said he should not, so he obeyed the king. But when unclean food which the Bible forbid was served, he refused to eat it at the risk of his life.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would no doubt have preferred to stay away from the Plain of Dura. But the king ordered them to attend, and knowing no Bible command against doing so, they obeyed. But the Bible plainly says that we are not to bow down to images, so they refused to bow, even at the risk of being burned to death.

God respects leadership, and He wants us to do so as well. We may disagree, and at times we may as did Daniel and his companions find ourselves in situations where we must disobey. Still we must show respect, knowing that it is God who gave us these leaders. If you want a really good Bible study on this - consider the relationship between David and King Saul.


Daniel 4:34 And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation.

At the end of seven years Nebuchadnezzar’s first act was to praise and bless God. As the text says, it was when he lifted up his eyes to heaven that his understanding returned to him. It has been said that no one can rightly be said to have understanding who does not first bless and praise God. Those who do not bless and praise God may justly be judged void of understanding. Nor do men ever rightly use their reason until they begin to seek the Lord. Nor do they live as men till they live to the glory of God.

Daniel 4:35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, "What have You done?" 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

It took God over thirty years to reach Nebuchadnezzar, but at long last Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Him as the true God. No longer did Nebuchadnezzar exalt himself. Instead he exalted and praised the God of heaven. Once people recognize God as the rightful ruler of their lives, they have true peace.

The genuineness of his conversion is seen by his willingness to tell the story, including the details of his own disgrace and the amazing grace of God toward him a sinner. God by His grace took a seemingly hopeless case and made him a member of the family of God.

This is the last scripture record we have of Nebuchadnezzar. The decree is dated at about 563 BC. There is no record that the king ever slipped back into idolatry. We may therefore conclude that he died a believer in and worshiper of the God of Israel.

God is eager to save people. Sometimes He has to permit us to go down to the very depths before he can lift us up and redeem us. But he will allow whatever needs to happen in order to reach us with the gospel. God did not save Nebuchadnezzar because he was good. Nebuchadnezzar was a proud and arrogant ruler. But God reached out and saved Nebuchadnezzar in-spite of that. God looked past what Nebuchadnezzar was to what he could be in Christ. And God is just as willing to look past what you are to what you can be in Christ.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Daniel 3, part 2 - The Revelation 13 Connection

In the first 2 chapters of Daniel the issues were obedience and loyalty to God. Here in chapter 3 this is taken one step further to include the issue of worship. Here in chapter 3 we have an attempt by the powers that be to impose a form of false worship on the people. And the whole world apparently is willing to go along with the idea, all that is except for three young men who dared to stand firm for God when the whole world bowed down before an image of gold.

Now there is more than a passing resemblance in what happened that day long ago on the plain of Dura and the events presented in Revelation 13: And that is by design. The stories in Daniel illustrate the experiences that God’s people will go through near the end of time. They illustrate the kind of living faith, of solid determination to remain loyal to God no matter what, that God’s people in the last days will need. And the story found in this chapter illustrates one of the greatest crises, one of the greatest tests of faith that God’s people will be called on to endure at the end of time. It is a test that will shake out every pretender, leaving behind only those who love the Lord above all else, even more than their own lives, those whose faith cannot be shaken by the scorn, the ridicule, or the threats of the world.

Revelation 13 tells us that at the end persecuting authorities will erect a symbolic image and require everyone to worship it. Increasingly severe penalties will be imposed to compel this worship, beginning with severe economic sanctions and ending with death decrees. Daniel 3 tells about an attempt to compel the worship of a literal image under pain of death. It also tells how God stood by those who stood for Him.

Keeping in mind the lessons of Daniel 3, let’s take a brief look at Revelation 13.

Revelation 13:11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

I will not be going into a discussion on the identity of the beasts mentioned in this passage at this time. Right now we are most interested in the issue of worship. Here, as in Daniel 3, the real issue is loyalty to God, and the worship of God and of God alone in the face of overwhelming pressure to participate in the worship of the beast in the place of God.

Revelation 13:13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.

Once again an image is being set up. Not an image of wood or stone or even of gold as the image on the plain of Dura was, but an image none the less. But then again, perhaps in its own way it is a golden image after all, for as we shall see in verses 16 and 17, if you refuse to worship this image you will not be able to buy or sell anything at all.

Revelation 13:15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

Tell me, is this beginning to look familiar. It should. Revelation 13 is Daniel 3 played out on a global scale.  In the story of Daniel 3, God has graciously given us an actual case history of just exactly this kind of situation. In Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God has shown us the character that God’s people must have in the end if they are to successfully resist the overwhelming pressures placed on them to worship the image. God has shown us the kind of determined faith that we must have even in the face of death, even when there appears to be absolutely no possibility of deliverance. Remember, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego saw no token of deliverance before they were tossed into the fire. Not until they were actually tossed into the flames did God intervene.

So it will be in the end. There will come a time when to all appearances it will seem as if evil has won and God’s people have been abandoned by God and left to their own fate, and they will echo Jesus’ cry on the cross when he said “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” But God’s people are not forsaken. This last trial that God’s people will have to face will reveal to all the world whose are God’s and whose are Satan’s. It will purge all pretenders. Only those who have a real and personal relationship with Jesus will remain.

Revelation 13:16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Here is why so many, almost the whole world, will worship the beast and its “golden” image -- MONEY!!! To be brutally honest, money is the god of this world. It is even the god of many who call themselves Christian. People will go to almost any lengths for it. You threaten to take away their money, to take away their ability to buy or sell, and you will be amazed how quickly the vast majority, will rationalize all kinds of reasons why it is ok for them to worship the beast, or at least to pretend to worship the beast and its image.

Revelation 14:7 Saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."

At the same time that the beast is commanding all people, on pain of death, to worship the image to the beast, (At the same time that the beast is enforcing its command to worship the image with severe economic sanctions), God also calls all people to worship Him, the only true God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

It is easy to be brave before the crisis comes, it is easy to be brave when you are standing with the crowd, but it is when the crisis comes and we must stand alone that we see ourselves as we really are.

Jeremiah 12: 5 "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?

Jesus told a parable about two men who found themselves facing a crisis. "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." (Matthew 7:24-27).

There is one major lesson in the story of the wise and foolish builders that we want particularly to notice. The storm does not change foundation upon which the house is built. When the crisis comes in your life, you don’t change foundations. The crises only reveals upon what foundation you have already built. It is only after the storm, when rebuilding takes place that foundations are changed.

Therefore it is the love of God that allows the small winds to blow against us to show us our true condition beforehand, so that we can prepare for the big winds that are to come before it’s all over. God’s love allows the small winds to blow, to open our eyes to our true condition, before the big storms come. He allows us to be tested by the footmen, so that we will know how we are going to do with the horses. (Jeremiah 12:5). Can you appreciate that kind of love?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Daniel 3, God in the fire

Babylon Forever

By the end of chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar had been deeply impressed by the ability of Daniel to not only tell him what his dream had been but also to provide an intelligent interpretation of it.  But Nebuchadnezzar apparently was not totally thrilled about the idea of another kingdom rising up in the place of Babylon. And so, (perhaps at the instigation of some jealous Babylonian wise men) he determined one day to rewrite the prophecy. Why should only the head be gold? He would make an image entirely of gold from head to toe, symbolic of a golden Babylon that would last forever.

Daniel 3:1 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 so Nebuchadnezzar made his golden image. No silver, bronze, iron or clay here, just gold all the way, right down to the toes. Babylon forever! Nebuchadnezzar must have been very proud of his creation.

Daniel 3:2 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. 3 So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then a herald cried aloud: "To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."

Once the image was finished there was only one thing left to do. Throw the biggest party anyone had ever seen. Everyone who was anyone was there. Everything was in place. The golden image shone brilliantly in the sunlight, the crowds were gathered, the band was ready to play, and Nebuchadnezzar had just given his inspirational bow-down-and-worship-or-else speech. Nebuchadnezzar had an agenda. But so did God. And God was about to use Nebuchadnezzar’s agenda to reveal His truth to Babylon.

Standing on the Plain of Dura
Daniel 3:7 So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Well, almost all the people fell down and worshiped the image. When that great multitude prostrated themselves before that image three men stood out in stark contrast. There was no way they could be missed, they were the only ones standing. Now wouldn’t this have been a really good time for them to suddenly discover that their sandal straps were untied. “I’m not bowing down to the image; I’m just tying my shoe laces.” It is easy to be brave when the multitudes stand with you, when you can blend in with the crowd, but how much harder it is when you must stand alone, and stand out from the crowd. How easy it would have been to rationalize some action on their part to blend in with the crowd. But if they had done so, their testimony would have been forever destroyed. Whether we know it or not, whether we want them to or not, people are watching us. Yes, we are being watched and what we do, and what we do not do, will have an influence for good or evil.

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. 9 They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up."

The Chaldeans [these are the wise men of Babylon] who made the accusation were probably still smarting under their failure to interpret the king’s dream in chapter 2, and perhaps more than somewhat jealous of the high positions of honor into which Daniel and his friends had been thrust because of their trust in God.

Where was Daniel on this occasion? We do not know. But it is probable that Nebuchadnezzar, knowing that Daniel would never bow down and worship this image, sent him off on some business of the empire at this time in order to avoid mutual embarrassment. However it seems he either overlooked or misjudged the character of Daniel’s three companions.

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 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 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. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Romans 13:1 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. 2 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.”

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.

The Christian in the last days will have many enemies ready and willing to cry treason at the slightest pretext. Just as it was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego every move they make or don’t make will be watched by jealous enemies that they may find some reason to accuse them, to discredit and destroy them.

On the flip side there are many who call themselves Christians who by their fanaticism bring reproach upon the cause of God. And this is just as Satan would have it. These fanatical ones seem to think that religion consists of great excitement and noise and paranoia. They talk and act in such a manner as to deliberately provoke a negative response from authorities, and then they play the rule of persecuted martyr. That is not the Biblical example.

1 Peter 2:19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.

Jesus said: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11).

Although many throughout history have sought to create a false persecution by deliberate provocation, this is not what the three Hebrews did. They did not deliberately set out to bring persecution on themselves. In every way possible they complied with the requirements of their king. And as we shall see, even after accused by their enemies and brought before Nebuchadnezzar for questioning, they remained courteous and polite and respectful all the way - but also stood solidly and boldly for God the whole way too.

“but if not”

Daniel 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?" 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."

Nebuchadnezzar was enraged. (Yes, he had anger management issues). He ordered the three men to appear before him. He knew, of course, that they did not worship his gods. He was not asking them to abandon the worship of their God. All he required was that they bow down (just this once) before this image in recognition of the greatness of his kingdom, Babylon. But these men recognized a greater power - that of God.

The situation was not unlike that which early Christians would face in Rome, where many suffered great persecution because they steadfastly refused to make a token offering of incense in worship of the Caesars. Every age has had its golden image to which Christians have been urged to bow before. And many Christians have suffered much for not bowing down to whatever happened to be the golden image of their age.

To disobey the king’s order was treason punishable by death. But Nebuchadnezzar, offered to give them another chance. However they did not need another chance. Their answer was decisive. “We are not careful,” they said, “to answer thee in this matter.” That is, “There is no need for you to give us another chance. Our minds are made up, and it will not change. ‘We will not serve your gods, nor will we worship the golden image. Our God can deliver us if He so desires, but if not …’

Scripture says: “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” And again, “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.” (Psalm 46:1; Psalm 34:7). And God had promised through Isaiah; “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God was more than able to deliver them, but they also knew that God did not always work a miracle to deliver His people. In Gethsemane Jesus prayed; "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39).

The answer to Jesus’ prayer was death by crucifixion. Many Christians are willing to say with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand,” and here they stop. But faith is willing to take the next step and say, “But if not.” The phrase “But if not,” like Jesus’ nevertheless, epitomizes real faith, the kind of faith that says, “not my will, Lord, but yours be done.” The kind of faith that says, “I trust the Lord no matter what.” “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15).

Deliverance is not the issue. Let me repeat that. Deliverance is not the issue -- Loyalty to God is. You need to decide before the crises come in your life to follow God from principle and not from convenience. Know in your heart, to the very depth of your being, that no matter what the cost you will follow God - even if He doesn’t work everything out for you in this life as you would like Him to. Be willing to say with Job “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15).

These three men were ready. When they first came to Babylon they resolved not to compromise their faith even as seemingly small a matter as the king’s food and drink. Now, when a much larger test of their faith has come they still stood firm for God. Having been faithful when times were easy, having been faithful in the little things of life, they could now stand firm when things looked most bleak.

These three men did not want to die. But come what may, they would not deny God.

The Fourth Man

Daniel 3:19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king's command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" They answered and said to the king, "True, O king." 25 "Look!" he answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

Thing were looking bleak for these three men. Nebuchadnezzar was not the type to make idle threats. Bound tightly so they could not move, they were picked up and tossed into the furnace like so many logs. Not till then, not till they were flying through the air and into the flames did God step in. Not till that moment did these three men see the slightest hint of deliverance. 

When man has done his absolute worst, God can always add a final chapter. And what a chapter it was. In his fury Nebuchadnezzar had challenged God saying: “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (verse 15). There was another king once upon a time who made a very similar statement, a king who by the way who had also held the children of Israel in captivity. “And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:2).

Like Pharaoh before him, Nebuchadnezzar did not realize the power he was opposing. In a matter of minutes Nebuchadnezzar got the revelation of his life. Suddenly all thought of his golden image was forgotten. The impossible had happened. Those three men were walking around in the fire completely unharmed. And they were not alone. Nebuchadnezzar saw the very God that he had defied walking in the fire with His three faithful servants. Yes, God did not prevent them from being thrown into the fire, but He was right there in the fire with them.

Daniel 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here." Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king's counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this." 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.

Notice that Nebuchadnezzar did not call the fourth man out of the fire. We are not told why, but we can speculate that Nebuchadnezzar was too afraid to meet that One face to face. Yes, the image was forgotten. God’s faithful servanst were now the center of attention. Once again God had used the wrath of man to His own glory, as it is written; “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You.” (Psalm 76:10).

These faithful men, instead of being destroyed were promoted. Their humble courage in the face of bitter opposition has inspired countless thousands throughout the centuries. We would do well to study their example in these days when loyalty to God is often regarded as obstinacy.

That was not blind obstinacy. It was faith - the faith of Jesus that will characterize the last witnesses of God’s true people on earth. We need such faith today.

It is easy in such a situation to rationalize. Some might have reasoned that a simple genuflection was little enough to do for a king who had treated them so kindly. But these men could not compromise, for they were first of all God’s servants and only second servants of Nebuchadnezzar.

They knew God could deliver; however, they went on to add, “but if not.” How hard those words are to say. God does not always intervene in such a miraculous way.

God’s deliverance of His servants “changed the king’s word,” as He can change the words of any and all who challenge His right to rule.