BOOK OF DANIEL – The Lesson of Pride

Posted by on Jun 13, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – The Lesson of Pride

The Lesson of Pride

If you read the Scriptures at the end of the last blog it would be apparent how God views pride. It is one of the most insidious sins a person can engage in and often because a person is so proud, they see nothing wrong with their elevated outlook. What many, if any, do not take into account is how pride is seen by God. To indicate the measure of the seriousness of pride, we should consider how this sin has affected all of us. We noted in Scripture that pride pulls a person down in God’s eyes and they are an abomination to Him. Satan and his demons are damned due to pride. Pride has damned an untold number of humans throughout the history of man. In fact, if we take it to its logical conclusion, we are all damned by pride due to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden until, of course, God provided His Son, Jesus Christ, as the way to escape such damnation by His sacrifice for our sins.

Why is pride so destructive, you may ask? Because it challenges God’s authority. It breaks His command that man is to have no other gods before Him. In the modern culture, a person can easily create their own gods. Ask a person if they are going to church on Sunday and many will mumble a sentence that they don’t have the time or they have something they have to do that is more important. Ask them if they are going to watch their football or soccer team play and they move everything out of the way to make sure they watch their idols, their little gods. Or it could be that a person has been promoted in a job several times and now has an “air” about how important they are. The company simply could not survive without them or, so they think. There are many other examples, but you get the point. Very few of us will ever have such an experience as leading a country, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. In the context of the book of Daniel, we have said that it is not only a prophetic book but also an historical one, as to the Times of the Gentiles – That is, when God’s chosen nation, Israel, rebelled against the rightful rule of God, God began the timeline of the Times of the Gentile rule, specifically by four world powers namely, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Currently, in Daniel chapter four, we are still in the time period of Babylon’s rule. We have seen in the first three chapters how proud Nebuchadnezzar has been. Despite him being exposed to two events that proved the supremacy of the Most High God, he quickly forgot, or worse, ignored what God was clearly showing him. One Scripture we quoted in the last blog was James 4:6b which says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (NASB) In other words, God will fight against a person who shows pride but when they are humbled [and they will be] He gives them Grace. Daniel chapter four is a lesson on this very fact by the way it plays out personally with Nebuchadnezzar. But don’t assume this lesson God gave to Nebuchadnezzar is written simply as a history lesson about him. It has a message for you and me also. It’s a warning, if you will, that any one of us who attempts to ignore God is actually an enemy combatant to God Himself. He will fight you and there is only one conclusion in that fight. If it is God’s will, He will humble you and, by that humility, God gives that person His Grace. It is a picture perfect lesson of the love of God that, despite our resistance to Him in our puffed up prideful life, He is prepared to show His Grace toward those whom He sees fit to bestow it upon. Many people now long gone, along with at least three of the empires discussed in Daniel, were dealt with by God. Such persons, whether a king or pauper, who insisted on being proud have long since lost the opportunity of His Grace and await their eternal fate. I say all this because Daniel chapter four relates to both you, me and every man, woman and younger person who, sadly, decide to set up their own little worldly empires and, by doing so, ignore the rightful place of God as their sovereign Ruler in their lives. It is a defiance we all fight with. But it is a defiance that, if we allow it to take control of our lives, will cause us to end up fighting God Himself.

The foregoing is what Daniel chapter four is revealing to us. As a teaser, if you will, I leave you with this thought. The message contained in Daniel chapter four was written by none other than King Nebuchadnezzar himself. How can that be, you might ask. The Bible is the inspired word of God. How could a pagan king be part of the canon of Scripture? Those tantalizing questions will be answered in our next blog.

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BOOK OF DANIEL – Introduction to Chapter Four

Posted by on Jun 12, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Introduction to Chapter Four

Introduction to Chapter Four

I confess when I began to research the fourth chapter of Daniel I was startled by what I was reading from a large number of scholars and theologians. I don’t mean startled in a bad way but more of a startling enlightenment. That thought caused me to research harder which is why you are reading this blog a day late! Based on what we will learn as we go through Daniel chapter four, it is clear that many believe that the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, came to a saving faith in God based upon how they have interpreted the text contained in the chapter. But is that a correct view or not? Hold tight to your seat as we reveal why such scholars, which include eminent theologians, believe this is so.

Perhaps no other book in the Bible has been vilified so much as in the case of the book of Daniel. We have already put to bed the argument of the timeline controversy of when Daniel was written and by whom. Now, as we dive into chapter four of this wonderful book, more controversy awaits us. Rather than take away the suspense of what I am talking about, let me give you a taste of what I am referring to by way of my own observations. What we are about to read in chapter four is rejected by every corner of mankind. Scholars don’t believe it. Historians mock it. Many theologians reject it. Academics laugh at it. And so on and so forth.

For all of those, and anyone else, who claims the book of Daniel is merely a collection of legendary tales written in a time period, those too ignorant to acknowledge God have plucked out of thin air, let me issue this warning. Meddle with the Most High God and His written word and see how that works out for you. Your ignorance of rejecting the word of God is frightening – not for me, but for you. See how you fare when you stand before your Creator to answer your proud mumblings as you shake in fear in the presence of the Almighty God. And yes, I already hear you laughing at the thought of standing before God but no, I’m not saying see who will be laughing at you then. It won’t be me or any other genuine true Christian. For we will have prayed incessantly for you and all of your number centuries earlier to repent and ask God to humble your foolish pride.

You see, the tendency (no that is too faint a description), rather, the attitude and “belief structure” of many (some of which remarkably include Christians) is that because no evidence has been found historically nor archeologically much of what is written in Daniel must be someone’s fictitious meddling four hundred years removed from when the actual writing happened, and only a “fool” [that would be us who believe every word of Daniel] would believe such nonsense. Those who disbelieve the events in the book of Daniel, (and sadly, we have not even reached the prophetic portion of the book which one would likely expect many to question even more so) show the very same characteristics of the very own king Nebuchadnezzar. In the preceding chapters of Daniel we have studied thus far, we have seen a king full of arrogant pride. Such pride blinded him into subjection but still, he resisted. Still, he disbelieved in the true God. If you thought God was silent on the subject of pride then please review the following Scriptures prior to our next blog.

Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.” (NASB)

Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” (ESV)

Proverbs 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” (NASB)

Proverbs 16:18-19, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (NASB)

Proverbs 21:24, “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.” (ESV)

Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (NASB)

aiah 2:17, “And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” (ESV)

James 4:6, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (NASB)

1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (NASB)

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BOOK OF DANIEL – Backfire!

Posted by on Jun 8, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Backfire!

BackFire!

After all of the events that occurred so far in Daniel chapter three, what was the net result? Daniel 3:28-30 tells us, “Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.” (NASB)

First, we see Nebuchadnezzar blessing the God of Israel. Sadly, he stops short of declaring that God is the God that all should worship. Hence, although Nebuchadnezzar knew (after two events now) that God was far superior to him or his gods, he still was not ready to give up his polytheism [the belief in or worship of more than one god]. He simply wanted to add, as it were, the God of Israel to his own list of gods. He acknowledges that God had “sent His angel” who delivered His servants due to their trust in Him. Nebuchadnezzar even acknowledges that this meant them violating his own command, despite the consequences.

If you recall, in Daniel 3:25, the term “like a son of the gods” is used. We mentioned that two predominant thoughts regarding the identity of the fourth person in the furnace were either an angel or the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. We also stated the Aramaic word used for this term was el-aw, which corresponded with the Hebrew word eloah, meaning God. We also said that Ezra used the exact same Aramaic word over forty times in referencing the God of the Jews. Now, however, we see in Daniel 3:28 that Nebuchadnezzar uses the Aramaic word malak which is actually translated as angel. Interestingly, when we arrive at Daniel 6:22, Daniel employs the same Aramaic word for angel in stating that the angel shut the mouths of the lion’s while Daniel was in the lion’s den.

The smart thing to recognize in all of this is simply to ask oneself the following questions.

  1. Could God have accomplished the miracle by using an angel? The answer to that is a resounding -Yes.
  2. Based on the text of Scripture did God use an angel? We cannot categorically answer that question.
  3. Did God appear Himself in the form of a Theophany [Theophany refers to the manifestation of God to a person or persons]? We cannot say for sure.
  4. Did the pre-incarnate Christ appear in the form of a Christophany [A Christophany is an appearance or non-physical manifestation of Christ]? Again, we do not know for sure.

Whomever the fourth person was in the furnace is of no relevance to the facts of what happened and the result of the miracle. The one thing we can be sure of is that God produced the miracle. Confirmation of that is also seen by the declaration by Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging that fact. My point is this. Focus on the miracle, not the circumstances, of how it happened. It happened by means of God and that is all we need to be concerned with. Too many Christians ask, “How did this happen or how did that happen?”. Or “was it this or that way?” Questioning the Biblical text in this way only causes confusion and, worse, doubt. The overriding point is if God wanted us to know the full facts He would have told us. What He has revealed is sufficient – or should be. If it is not, then a person needs to question their belief structure. I say that as a kind warning. If you find yourself questioning God’s word in such a way, are you going to question Him if you are faced with a circumstance that could mean giving up your life by remaining loyal to Him?

Nebuchadnezzar’s decree was simply adding God to his polytheistic belief system [a polytheist is one who believes in more than one god]. Nebuchadnezzar’s acknowledgment of God’s power was evident by his decree of punishing anyone who spoke against the God of the three young Hebrews. In short, Nebuchadnezzar was not showing allegiance to God but rather placing Him within his group of gods that he worshipped. You see that by Nebuchadnezzar saying that there was no other god who could deliver in the way God did. One could imagine this king thinking that God was useful for somethings so he would simply place Him in the list of all the other gods, in case he needed Him in the future. This was, of course, folly on Nebuchadnezzar’s part. Trying to place the Most High God within the pantheon [all the gods of a people or religion collectively] was totally misguided. He would again be taught a lesson in this regard also.

For the moment, Nebuchadnezzar gave honor to the God of Israel but he also gave honor to the three young Hebrew men whom he ordered to be killed and whom ultimately received God’s miracle by their faith in Him. Whatever positions of importance they held before their arrest, the king now ordered them to be promoted again, to what positions the Scriptures do not reveal. The tyranny of the Chaldeans who orchestrated the arrest of the Hebrews certainly backfired on them in ways they could not have imagined.

In the fascinating study of God’s word we never see or hear of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah ever again. What they did following these events we do not know. Given the miracle that they personally experienced surely strengthened their faith exponentially in their young years that would carry them through all of their lives.

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BOOK OF DANIEL – Witnesses

Posted by on Jun 7, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Witnesses

Witnesses

Scripture identifies Nebuchadnezzar as the only one seeing the fourth person in the furnace. Whether or not he motioned others to look into the furnace when he asked if three men had been thrown into the furnace and not four, we are not told. Let us assume that only he saw the fourth person so that we do not attempt to stretch Scripture. That being said, all those in attendance knew that the furnace had been heated up seven times higher than its normal temperature, ready to throw the three young Hebrews into its flames. Many are likely to have witnessed the mightiest soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar’s army perish as they took the condemned men to the edge of the furnace. What cannot be disputed, however, are the witnesses to what happened next. We are told in Daniel 3:27, “The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.” (NASB) Here we have confirmation that many individuals witnessed Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah unharmed and untouched after coming out of the furnace. God has, and will, continue to provide his protection for those whom He has redeemed. Isaiah 43:2 tells us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (ESV) While this Scripture was directed towards the Israelites, it applies to all of those redeemed by God. It has application on an individual level in that each individual makes up the entire body of the redeemed. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying here that we are each individually protected from such trials. History confirms that truth. Many of God’s people have been put to death by the enemies of God for their faithful testimony and many more will experience that fate. Our sin-riddled bodies are affected by sickness, disease and ultimately death. Being a true Christian does not give us a free pass to what we experience in this world. Isaiah is stating here that even the redeemed will, and must, pass through fiery trials. The examples given are, of course, the global flood of Noah’s day where eight souls were saved. The parting of the Red Sea is another, where the Israelites were able to escape the Egyptians. Exodus 12:37 and Numbers 11:21 confirm that over 600,000 Israelite men left Egypt on foot. These numbers excluded women and child so the grand total could well be in excess of between 1.5 and 2.5 million Jews who crossed the Red Sea. Yet another example is that of our current study where just three individual Jews were protected from the flame of a furnace. In all of these examples and those that others, and perhaps ourselves, have experienced or are yet to experience God’s promise is this. “I will be with you”. He is always with His redeemed. Never forget that. Never doubt it for one moment.

When Peter was crucified upside down (by tradition), when Paul was beheaded (by tradition), when Polycarp who was eighty-six years old and was viciously thrown from a carriage that is said to have broken his leg only to then be burned at the start and pierced by a spear; when William Tyndale was choked to death as he burned at the stake; when Jan Huss was bound by ropes and his neck chained to a stake while his executioners piled wood and straw that covered him to his neck; when Latimer and Ridley were burned together in Oxford, England – GOD was with all of them. These are just a few of the thousands of examples of God’s own redeemed suffering untimely deaths for their faithfulness. No matter what befalls us, or does not, God is with us. His promise is cemented in rock-solid concrete (my metaphor) and He will never forsake us.  That proof and promise are contained in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, for our eternal life with Him in His kingdom.

Nevertheless, God has intervened many times to physically protect His redeemed and will do so again in the future. The Scripture in Daniel that we have discussed today is one such example. We have all experienced being exposed to smoke as in a fire when burning some wood, for example. Or even those of us who can remember making a coal/wooden fire to keep warm. The smoke is unmistakable if it comes into contact with our clothes. You cannot get rid of it necessitating a change of clothes.

As the three Hebrews were examined by all those gathered around them, they could see as the Scripture says, “the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.” This indeed was a miracle of huge proportions. Not even a single hair on their head was singed. One could imagine (despite Scripture being silent on the matter) that many of these officials could have spoken, or repeated, the events of this miracle to others in their districts or, perhaps, family members for many days, weeks, months or even years to come. It was impossible to ignore. In all of the excitement of seeing the young Hebrews unhurt from the furnace, they had all forgotten something that was missing, that was destroyed by the fire. The ropes that bound the three Hebrews. Despite the young men’s clothing not being touched, the ropes were gone. The symbol of Nebuchadnezzar’s unbelief and wrath were destroyed in the flames by God Himself.

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BOOK OF DANIEL – Acknowledgment

Posted by on Jun 6, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment

One thing I mentioned previously was that the events of the three young Hebrews being thrown into the furnace is spoken of even today. I’m not talking about a church sermon but, in particular, storybooks that are written for children especially, but also in a chance discussion with an adult. Despite the shift in the educational authorities of this world removing God from the classrooms, many adults were exposed to stories such as this one and often remember it. Another, pertaining also to the book of Daniel, that we will go on to discuss, is Daniel in the lion’s den which is, perhaps, even more famous to many. I mention these two examples of actual miracles for a specific reason. That reason is this. Whether or not you believe that these two events actually happened is irrelevant. I am not saying they are not relevant to your eternal future, because they are. But it is irrelevant as to whether you personally believe them or not. Why? Because they did happen.  God had told us so through His word – the Bible. Your choice in believing or disbelieving makes no difference to an event that occurred by means of a miracle by God. The spectrum of such belief or unbelief is wide from those (such as me) who completely believe in the word of God to those who categorically think these events and others are simply fairy tales. In between there are differing degrees of belief or unbelief. But both of those degrees are induced by the thoughts of man. Actually, that also includes the person who categorically does not believe. Sadly, on the scale of those who disbelieve these events or, worse, try and suggest it was a symbol or water down what actually happened includes some who profess to be Christians. Do not be fooled and do not test the content of the word of God because of some man-made thought. We are told in Proverbs 3:5-6 to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (ESV) The Apostle Paul emphasizes this point in Romans 15:4 saying, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (ESV)

In Daniel 3:26 we are told, “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.” (NASB)

There are a couple of points in this verse that are not immediately apparent. The first is that Nebuchadnezzar was able to get close enough to the door of the furnace to call out to the three Hebrews. Given the fact that his mightiest soldiers had perished just trying to get to the entrance of the furnace due to the intense heat we could conclude that is was also miraculous in itself in the king getting close enough for the three men to hear his voice. However, the Scripture is silent in this regard, at least here. I say that because we see in Hebrews chapter eleven, which is known as the chapter of Faith, the exploits of several persons. Hebrews 11:32-34 says, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (ESV) Many scholars and theologians consider that verse thirty-four alludes to Daniel in the lion’s den and the power of fire being quenched sometime after the three young Hebrews were thrown into the furnace. How God quenched the power of the fire is only known to God and is not for us to know, other than it was done by miraculous means. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “quench” to “put out or extinguish” or to “put out the light or fire”. If this is what occurred to the furnace by God’s miracle then that would account for Nebuchadnezzar being able to approach the door to call the three men to come to him. If you notice, the Scripture mentions no fear of Nebuchadnezzar approaching the door or sending someone else in case of danger to himself.

The other thing you may not have noticed is the king never calls out to the fourth person to come out. Why? Scripture is silent as to that question but clearly, the miracle was complete. We will see one more reference to this fourth person a few verses later.

Despite the interpretation of his dream previously, Nebuchadnezzar had thought his gods, and even himself were more powerful than the God of the young Hebrews. That all changed by him acknowledging their God as the “Most High God” when he called them out of the furnace. It was a paradigm shift to acknowledge such thoughts and verbalize them. That did not mean he stopped worshipping his own gods but merely that he recognized, by the miracle he witnessed, that the Hebrews God was more powerful than any of his gods and, indeed, himself.

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