Posts Tagged 'Nebuchadnezzar'

Jeremiah Was a Prophet, Part 2

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We can learn a lot from Jeremiah and his writings. Sure he lived in ancient times, but his words are just as relevant today as they were then. The names have changed, the nations have changed, and the times have changed, but man hasn’t. Looking at the actions of the Israelites, we see distorted previews of ourselves. We who enjoy the blessings of the Lord through a relationship with Jesus Christ aren’t too far removed from the Hebrews of old, who enjoyed the blessings of God yet continuously strayed from Him. Their backsliding serves as a stark, blatant warning to Christians today who think they can serve God and themselves at the same time; live with one foot in the Kingdom and one foot in the world. We can’t, any more than Jeremiah’s could.

God’s people forsake Him, Jeremiah 2:4 – 13; 22:1 – 5

Scholars seem pretty sure that what Jeremiah wrote in chapters 2 – 6 was written during the reign of Josiah and during the great religious revival that took place during those years. All the prophecies and sermons Jeremiah delivered during this time showed that in spite of outward appearances, he saw a very deep-seated problem with his people. Some of his messages seem to be addressed to the northern kingdom of Israel, others to his own kingdom of Judah, but the theme is the same, and expressed best in verse two of chapter two –

This is what the Lord says: “‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown.’” (Jeremiah 2:2 NIV)

Ah yes, even God had His “good old days.” To Him, the “good old days” were the days when His people actually loved Him and depended on Him. It’s a little odd that God’s “good old days” were actually years of wandering and privation in the wilderness for Israel. The best years, in God’s estimation, were the years when Israel was so bad off they depended on Him for everything, even their daily bread, or manna. It was in the desert that they were, more or less, forced to rely on Him for everything, and He had no rivals for their affection and devotion.

It’s like that, more often than not for Christians. We are closest to God, not when our bank accounts and pantries are full to overflowing, but when we feel hard pressed from all sides because it is during those times that we, just like the Israelites before us, are forced to look to God and trust Him. How much easier would be for us is we just trusted Him all the time, not just during the hard times!

“’Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,’” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 2:3 NIV)

In those “good old days” under the leadership of Moses, Israel was holy. Israel was holy, not because they were a nation of Mother Theresa’s or of pious old people, but because she belonged completely and unreservedly to Him. That’s the definition of holiness, by the way. It’s not your actions that make you holy, it’s that you (like Israel before you) have been “separated” from the rest of the population to God for a sacred purpose. Because of that relationship, of course, your actions will necessarily change. But the separation comes first, not the other way around.

That idyllic relationship didn’t last long at all.

“What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. (Jeremiah 2:5 NIV)

Under the covenant relationship, Israel had it good; they enjoyed God’s richest blessings, including His divine, supernatural protection. But something happened to disrupt that relationship. It was a covenant relationship, which may not make a lot of sense to us, but we can understand a marriage covenant. It’s the same idea. Israel broke faith with God by running after other gods – they were committing spiritual adultery. The real stinging indictment in verse five points to the fault of Israel, not with God. God did nothing wrong. They did. Israel left Him; Israel strayed; Israel broke the covenant and because of that, Israel suffered: they became as worthless as the idols they worshipped.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)

Jeremiah was a prophet, but here he sounds more like a lawyer, summing up his charges: Judah’s sin was a two-pronged one: they rejected the truth and accepted error. The pagan nations surrounding them had committed only one sin – idolatry, but Judah had far exceeded them in disobedience as they actively rebelled against God and renounced His word in order to serve false, made up gods that didn’t even exist.

The metaphor of cisterns is all the more powerful when you take into consideration that Palestine is an arid, desert land. How rational would it be for people to stray from a source of water that provides free, flowing, fresh water to an area of the desert where there is no water? That’s what the Israelites had done by straying from God, and it was irrational, just like all sin is irrational.

Cruising ahead to chapter 22, the prophet makes a case about the leadership of Judah.

This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there…” (Jeremiah 22:1 NIV)

The book of Jeremiah isn’t always chronological, but thematic. Jeremiah’s sermons and prophecies aren’t necessarily grouped by dates but by themes. So, jumping ahead to chapter 22, we read some interesting things that concerned the prophet. Back in chapter 32 he railed against the nation as a whole. But you can’t separate a nation from those who lead it. A nation rises or sinks to the level of those who are leading it, be they kings, prime ministers, or presidents. Our prophet wrote these words during the reign of King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. But who was he, and where did he come from?

When Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army invaded Judah in 597, they took King Jehoiachin captive along with some 10,000 of the land’s best and brightest. The youngest son of Josiah, a loser by the name of Mattaniah, was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar, who changed the kid’s name to Zedekiah. Think about that for a minute. Why would Nebuchadnezzar do that? It’s because he had no interest in killing people. All he wanted was to build his empire by accumulating the property of other nations, and by putting kings of his choice on their thrones. That way he would be the global ruler over all manner of nations and kingdoms. Judah could have lived at peace with Neduchadnezzar, except Zedekiah was loyal to Nebuchadnezzar in word only and eventually joined in a revolt against Babylon. This was the political cause for the Babylonian invasion of Judah, which led to Jerusalem’s fall. But the spiritual cause of the fall of Judah is the subject of the whole book of Jeremiah: the rebelliousness of God’s people. Jeremiah’s people couldn’t be loyal to God, even though being loyal to Him would have meant eternal blessings, and they couldn’t even be loyal to Nebuchadnezzar, which would have meant temporal blessings! These people were rotten to the very core of their being. The root of rebellion ran so deep it was part of their national fabric.

Jeremiah’s word to Zedekiah was a simple one:

Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3 NIV)

Sure, he was a puppet king, but Zedekiah was still king of a kingdom, as shrinking as it was. And he had a responsibility to care for his people and treat his citizens rightly and justly. Obviously, the kings of Judah were notorious for taking advantage of their people. That displeased God. The very least the king should have treated his people with respect.

There were four groups of people that King Zedekiah needed to protect. First, “the one who has been robbed.” That’s a large group. People got robbed all the time, and justice needed to be exercised on their behalf. But people during this time had been robbed by the Babylonians, especially robbed of their sons, if they were talented and smart. The second group, “the fatherless,” were men of Judah who had been killed in battle or taken captive, who left families behind that needed to be looked after, not taken advantage of. Another group was “the widow.” Her property didn’t need to be taken by the government as tax payments or taken by other family members. Widows needed to treated fairly and justly. But who were these foreigners? Modern politicians want us to believe they were illegal aliens, migrant workers, or refugees. During Jeremiah’s time, there were many kinds of foreigners in Judah, including people from Babylon who had been relocated to Judah just as some people from Judah had been relocated to other nations within the greater Babylonian empire. Those strangers needed to be protected and not taken advantage of or persecuted. The leaders of Judah, especially King Zedekiah, would have been blessed and Judah would have prospered if they had done what Jeremiah had told them to do. But, even as Jeremiah told them what to do, he also indicated that the die had been cast –

“People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?’ And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.’” (Jeremiah 22:8, 9 NIV)

God’s call to return

The end was in sight, but God was still interested in the souls of His people. Ultimately, the Israelites would be vindicated, but until then, only judgment was coming. In the midst of judgment, though, God was calling His people to return to Him.

“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:14, 15 NIV)

God always wants “faithless” people to return to Him. The “faithless,” or “backsliders,” refer to both Israel and Judah. God has plans for His people. God is sure that His people will learn their lesson and in time they will be ready to follow Him and serve Him. He said as much in 29:10 – 11 –

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

But it’s not just the Israelites who God has plans for. He has plans for all His people, from all time, from any nation.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:6 – 10 NIV)

Jeremiah Was a Prophet, Part 1

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The Old Testament prophets were a strange lot. They had to be. Life was hard enough back then, but add into the mix having to preach messages that put you on the wrong side of most people, and you’ve got men with few friends and fewer supporters. Here’s a very brief description of the last Old Testament prophet, John the Baptist:

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4. TNIV)

But no Old Testament prophet is so misunderstood as Jeremiah. What most Christians know about Jeremiah they know from sound bites. He was “the weeping prophet.” He was “temperamental and neurotic.” But if that’s all you know about him, you’ve missed the essence of Jeremiah. He was, in fact, a prophet of hope.

He messages were hard but not unique to him. Jeremiah’s messages of warning were really restatements of what his predecessors had preached; they were messages of the sure final doom of the nation he loved so much, yet he was able to see beyond the coming judgment to a new and better day. Reading the sermons of Jeremiah, I can’t help but think of the words of Mote’s classic hymn, The Solid Rock:

When darkness hides his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace,
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

No matter how dark, depressing, and distressing his circumstances had become, Jeremiah was absolutely convinced that there was a light just ahead. His was not an empty hope, but a hope built on his faith in God and God’s promises.

People who are filled with confidence in themselves and their own abilities worship at the altar of “the god of immediate success” and tend to avoid reading Jeremiah. Their immaturity forbids them reading what a realist wrote. And yet, Jeremiah stands today as the greatest figure of his generation. He wasn’t appreciated back then, but his messages resonate with a new generation of believer, looking for the hope Jeremiah was convinced of that is so needed today.

Jeremiah the prophet began his ministry around 627 BC and continued for some 40 years until his nation dissolved around him in 586 BC. He lasted through the final five kings of Judah, and while Isaiah also preached during the reigns of a number of kings, Jeremiah was never welcomed anywhere near the royal courts as Isaiah was.

God knows whom He calls

The message the prophet was never some kind of nebulous theory, a figment of his over-active and deranged imagination, but rather the prophet’s message came out of the history of his time. Jeremiah was a real man who lived during a real time in history. The opening words of Jeremiah’s book of prophecy nail down this man’s history:

The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. (Jeremiah 1:1 – 3 TNIV)

Jeremiah was born in a town about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. His father was a priest, and we may be sure Hilkiah had high hopes that his son would follow in his priestly footsteps. He didn’t. Jeremiah, whose name means “Jah is high” or “Whom Jah appoints” would, instead, become one of those weirdo prophets.

Jeremiah was a young man when he began his ministry in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign. His years of ministry occurred during a tumultuous time in history for the Jews. There were great social and political upheavals going on which Jeremiah witnessed firsthand. From Judah’s last righteous King (Josiah) to its last actual King (Zedekiah), Jeremiah lived long enough to experience a glorious revival and to witness Jerusalem’s utter destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. This latter event came as no surprise to the citizens of Judah, as Jeremiah warned them for decades the day was coming because of their stubborn obsession with idolatry.

This prophet was a man for his times. Just a quick survey of the kings he ministered under will give you an idea of Jeremiah’s temperament. Josiah, the first king mentioned, came to power at eight years of age! At that time, Judah had fallen so far from God that there was not a single copy of the Law in the land. And yet, when he was 26 years old, Josiah began a Temple reconstruction project. The high priest at that time –  Hilkiah – found a copy of the Law hidden away in the rubble of the Temple! When the young king read it, he was overcome with fear and conviction and instituted a number of religious reforms that led Judah into an incredible spiritual revival that lasted until Josiah left the throne.

In spite of that, Josiah entered into a deal with the devil, specifically, Josiah got involved in the convoluted world of international politics and went to war against Neco, the Egyptian King. Jeremiah did his best to dissuade Josiah from this course of action, but Josiah was determined. Sadly, this godly King was killed in battle and the army of Judah trounced. Jehoahaz, Josiah’s third son, was chosen to be king. Judah quickly degenerated to a mere vassal to Egypt. Jehoahaz managed to hang on to the throne for three months before Neco had him deported to Egypt.

Another son of Josiah, Jehoiakim, was chosen to replace Jehoahaz. Jehoiakim was one evil king. He was greedy, dishonest, and treated his people mercilessly. During his reign, Babylon defeated Egypt in battle, and they soon took notice of Judah. It was during Jehoiakim’s reign that Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judah. It was then that Daniel and the best and brightest of Hebrew children were taken captive back to Babylon. King Jehoiakim tried to have Jeremiah killed but was unsuccessful. He sat on the throne for eleven years, and was eventually taken by Nebuchadnezzar captive during a failed revolt against Babylon.

Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, succeeded his father. After only three months the mighty Babylonian army came and carried him off to Babylon. It was during this invasion that Ezekiel, another prophet, was taken captive as well. Ezekiel lived in exile for some 40 years. He never saw Judah again, dying in exile.

Zedekiah was Judah’s final king. He ruled for eleven years, but by then Judah was literally falling apart. Jeremiah had given Zedekiah some sound advice, which the king disregarded. Instead of living in peace with his Babylonian overlords, Zedekiah joined in a doomed rebellion against them. Nebuchadnezzar, by this time, had no more patience with the Hebrews and in a final siege against Jerusalem which last two years, he breached the walls and entered the city only to find its citizens starving and dying. With no more resistance, the forces of Babylon destroyed the Temple and much of the city. Jerusalem was left almost empty and decimated.

This was what the world was like when Jeremiah was ministering. Martin Luther observed:

Next to faith this is the highest art – to be content with the calling in which God has placed you.

Jeremiah was called to preach at a horrible time in history. But he kept on, never stopping, and fulfilled God’s calling.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. “. (Jeremiah 1:4, 5 TNIV)

Jeremiah was probably in his late teens or very early 20’s when the Lord spoke these words to him. Verse 5 is really a phenomenal verse for a couple of reasons. First, it says God actually knows us. Jeremiah isn’t unique, God knows all people this well. That’s either very comforting or terrifying depending on your spiritual state! There’s just no way to misinterpret what God is saying here. He KNOWS people. Nothing is hid from Him. That’s why this is such a powerful verse for those of us who view abortion as an abomination. When an unborn child is aborted, regardless of when, a person is being killed – a person God knows personally. But, second, we can see how well God knows people; His knowledge isn’t just passive. In the case of Jeremiah (and others mentioned in the Bible), God had definite plans in store for him. The unborn Jeremiah was “set apart” for a very specific task: to be a prophet. Theologically, this “setting apart” by God is how the Old Testament views sanctification. For a person or even a nation to be “holy” means that God had chosen them to be His own to be used for His purposes. In the case of Jeremiah, God had chosen him for a very specific purpose.

God provides the message

Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:6 – 8 TNIV)

God commanded him to be a prophet, but Jeremiah was worried. He was young. He felt completely under qualified. But whom God calls, God equips. The Lord didn’t care about Jeremiah’s age or his inexperience. He promised to be with the prophet and to protect him. The Lord’s personal and abiding presence would be forever accompany Jeremiah.

This exchange reminds us of another conversation:

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”. (Exodus 4:10 – 12 TNIV)

We really should learn to relax and stop being so self-centered and live more God-centered lives. Nothing is impossible for God! God always implements His own plans.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9 TNIV)

That’s the essence of prophecy; a person speaking God’s word. When a Christian tries to speak using his own words – or, as we might also say, using his own talents and abilities – his message must necessarily be suspect. Remember what James wrote:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by human beings… (James 3:6, 7 TNIV)

The true prophet; God’s genuine ministers, will be like Moses and Jeremiah and be humble enough to realize their shortcomings. Paul did. And that’s why he wrote this:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 TNIV)

That’s not an insignificant sentence of self-realization: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” That’s because when a person finally realizes their genuine weaknesses or shortcomings, he will finally start trusting in God. Self confidence is a wonderful thing, but it can work against the Christian unless self confidence is viewed as having confidence in your position in God.

God’s message to the people through Jeremiah was a depressing one. There was no “light at the end of the tunnel.” The die had been cast and there was no way to avoid the coming judgment. This was Jeremiah’s message. Jeremiah was given the job nobody would have applied for. But even though the message was a tough one, God consoled His prophet with this:

Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.” (Jeremiah 1:17 TNIV)

 

Daniel: Nebuchadnezzar’s Ruin

It's Lon Chaney as The Woflman.  Did Nebuchadnezzar suffer a similar fate?

It’s Lon Chaney as The Woflman. Did Nebuchadnezzar suffer a similar fate? 

This is the proclamation of Nebuchadnezzar the king, which he sent to people of every language in every nation of the world:

Greetings:

I want you all to know about the strange thing that the Most High God did to me. It was incredible—a mighty miracle! And now I know for sure that his kingdom is everlasting; he reigns forever and ever.  (Daniel 4:1—3  TLB)

These are the last recorded words of King Nebuchadnezzar.  They were written after the events of chapter 4.  The way this chapter is written and its use of familiar expressions found elsewhere in the Old Testament, suggests that Nebuchadnezzar had Daniel’s help in writing it.  It gives us more information about the king of Babylon than we had before, and we discover that Nebuchadnezzar had a real problem:  a mental problem.  He suffered from some sort of insanity.  He was a little different from other people.

Nebuchadnezzar…ate grass like the cows, and his body was wet with dew; his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.  (Daniel 4:33  TLB)

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet, thought to have similar mental disturbances, was sent from Denmark to England because, it was decided, everybody in England suffered from mental disturbances.  But what happened to Nebuchadnezzar graphically shows how truly small man is and how tenuous his grasp on the world is.  What happened to Nebuchadnezzar also illustrates perfectly these verses:

The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right.  It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone.  (2 Timothy 3:16, 17  TLB)

Nebuchadnezzar had his problems, but so do we.  We can learn a lot about God’s dealing with us by looking at how God dealt with this king of Babylon.

1.  Nebuchadnezzar’s privileges

God made Nebuchadnezzar into the great king he was.  In chapter 2, the king saw, in a dream, a great statue, topped by a head of gold.  That head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom, Babylon.  When Daniel interpreted the dream for the king, Daniel made it clear that Nebuchadnezzar was where he was because God put him there.

Your Majesty, you are a king over many kings, for the God of heaven has given you your kingdom, power, strength, and glory.  You rule the farthest provinces, and even animals and birds are under your control, as God decreed. You are that head of gold.  (Daniel 2:37, 38  TLB)

Later on, Nebuchadnezzar witnessed the incredible power and grace of God in the deliverance of the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace.  After seeing this great miracle, the king declared:

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, for he sent his angel to deliver his trusting servants when they defied the king’s commandment and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own.”  (Daniel 3:28  TLB)

In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar was solemnly warned:

“O King Nebuchadnezzar, listen to me—stop sinning; do what you know is right; be merciful to the poor. Perhaps even yet God will spare you.”  (Daniel 4:27  TLB)

This man, Nebuchadnezzar—a pagan king—had more communications from God than anybody else of his time, save the prophets.  He was given dreams and visions from God.  He was specifically warned by God to shape up.  How many chances does one man need to get right with God?  A better question might be, how many believers are ignoring God when He tries to get through to them?

God does not speak to most people in the world because most people in the world don’t know God and aren’t listening to God.  But God does speak to His people, all the time.  And many of His people seem deft at turning a deaf ear to Him.

2.  Nebuchadnezzar’s pride

Twelve months after this dream, he was strolling on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon, and saying, “I, by my own mighty power, have built this beautiful city as my royal residence and as the capital of my empire.”  (Daniel 4:29, 30  TLB)

This king had a lot to be proud of.  Archeology has shown how magnificent Babylon was.  The accuracy of Nebuchadnezzar’s boasting has been confirmed historically.

About a year had elapsed since Nebuchadnezzar had been warned by God.  It was a year of grace before his judgment.  God is patient, but that patience doesn’t last forever.

Because God does not punish sinners instantly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.  (Ecclesiastes 8:11  TLB)

That bit of wisdom, courtesy of the Preacher, says a lot.  Nebuchadnezzar, instead of changing his life during that year of grace, started to feel safe in his sin.  And when anybody starts to feel safe in their sin, they become “dark in their thinking” and they don’t see things in perspective.  He got prideful.  He forgot all that God had shown him, done for him, and told him.  His outburst of pride came just before his fall.  He was on the very verge of a mental break and he didn’t even know it.  Even though God warned him, Nebuchadnezzar felt safe in his sin.

3.  Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall

While he was still speaking these words, a voice called down from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you: You are no longer ruler of this kingdom.  You will be forced out of the palace to live with the animals in the fields and to eat grass like the cows for seven years, until you finally realize that God parcels out the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he chooses.”  (Daniel 4:31, 32  TLB)

Like the old saw goes, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.”  God gave Nebuchadnezzar so much, including his sanity.  And God took it all way; but He gave the king plenty of warning and he gave the king an entire year of grace to make things right.  Nebuchadnezzar squandered that entire year.  God wrought this terrible judgment at the height of the king’s most blasphemous attitude and statement.   Consider the great patience of God; that He allows such words and attitudes at all!

Believe it or not, medicine has given a name to Nebuchadnezzar’s strange kind of insanity:  boanthropy (ox-man).  One stricken with boanthropy takes on the behaviors of an ox, especially in his diet.

There is a school of thought that says the king suffered from lycanthropy—as in werewolf-ism.  In this case, the full moon causes the inflicted one to think he is a wolf.

What really caused Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity?  It was a case of simple rebellion against the Word of God.  In refusing to heed the warnings and turn to God in true repentance, the king lost his mind.

4.  Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration

When my mind returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My counselors and officers came back to me, and I was reestablished as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before.  (Daniel 4:34—37, verse 36 cited  TLB)

Exactly as God had promised, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom had been returned to him.  It took seven years, and during this time some scholars believe Daniel was the one in control of the government.  He was the only one who knew the king would return to his senses after seven “times” or seven years.

“Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of Heaven, the Judge of all, whose every act is right and good; for he is able to take those who walk proudly and push them into the dust!”  (Daniel 4:37   TLB)

Bible scholars and students have wondered about this verse and Nebuchadnezzar’s exaltation of God.  Was he genuine?  Did he have a real change of heart?  Some scholars, like Calvin, say no.  They say Nebuchadnezzar never genuinely turned to God; he never recognized God’s grace and mercy.

At the same time, however, others have argued that near the end of his life, the king finally acknowledged God and recognized that He had dealt graciously with him.    When we read what Nebuchadnezzar said, it’s hard to believe God didn’t get through to him.

Something else that bothers some scholars and students of the Bible is why God restored Nebuchadnezzar’s fortunes at all.  Why did God bless such an ego-centric man in such a way?

This is the sovereignty of God at work.  God had designed this experience specifically as a way to discipline the king the only way that could reach him.  Everything Nebuchadnezzar went through—the good, the bad, the humiliating—had a single, sovereign, divine purpose:

…until you learn that the Most High God dominates the kingdoms of men and gives power to anyone he chooses.  (Daniel 4:25  TLB)

We should also note that Nebuchadnezzar’s recovery didn’t happen until he did one thing:

I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned…  (Daniel 4:34a  TLB)

This is what it takes for the “spiritual sanity” of all people to return!  When man looks to God, he gains perspective.  Nebuchadnezzar gained perspective.  You can to, if you would just look to God.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  (Psalm 121:1, 2  NIV2011)

 

 

Daniel: A Man of Faith

daniel_nebsdream

Daniel 2:14—28

Babylonians were spiritual people by nature, and they put a lot stock in dreams.  Nebuchadnezzar, supreme ruler of the Babylonian Empire, had a disturbing dream, yet when he awoke, that dream faded from his mind.  This drove him crazy!  He just knew this was an important dream, but he just couldn’t remember it.  So he called for his “theologians” to tell him what he dreamed.  But it wasn’t that easy.

The astrologers replied to the king, “There isn’t a man alive who can tell others what they have dreamed! And there isn’t a king in all the world who would ask such a thing!  This is an impossible thing the king requires. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they are not here to help.”  (Daniel 2:10, 11  TLB)

Well, this attitude incensed Nebuchadnezzar, and he ordered all the wise men to be put to death.  And this included Daniel and his three friends.

This punishment was not unusual among the Babylonians.

“Therefore, I make this decree, that any person of any nation, language, or religion who speaks a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and his house knocked into a heap of rubble. For no other God can do what this one does.”  (Daniel 3:29  TLB)

And dismemberment was their favorite form of extreme judgment.  So, things looked bleak for Daniel and his friends, and they weren’t even involved in the incident in the first place!  They were not part of the group that had been summoned by the king to tell him his dream.  They were at home, minding their own business when a knock came at the door:

And Daniel and his companions were rounded up with the others to be killed.  (Daniel 2:13  TLB)

But, Daniel was a man of faith, not fear.  For too many of us, bad news is an opportunity for fear to gain a foothold in our hearts.  Not so Daniel.  Bad news was, for him, an opportunity for God to manifest His power.

1.  Faith exercised

If Daniel was shaken by the arrival of Arioch, the chief executioner, he certainly hid it well.  Instead of protesting his innocence and that of his friends, Daniel engaged Arioch in conversation, much like a counselor would do with a troubled client!

“Why is the king so angry? What is the matter?”  (Daniel 2:14  TLB)

Remaining calm in the face of an impossible situation must be a trait of all believers.  To show fear or anger is to bring disrepute upon God.  Daniel not only remained calm, he did something else very telling:

So Daniel went in to see the king. “Give me a little time,” he said, “and I will tell you the dream and what it means.”  (Daniel 2:16  TLB)

The fact that he had such free access to the king showed the respect Daniel had earned.  And it showed that Daniel had no fear of the king.  In the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel stepped out in faith, and put himself on record:  he alone would do what no other human being alive could do!  Talk about faith!

But Daniel knew beyond the shadow of any doubt that in this deadly crisis there was no one to trust but God Himself.  He knew God could do the impossible:  reconstruct an entire dream and give its interpretation.  Not even the great Joseph had been called upon to do such a thing; all he ever did was interpret dreams.  But Daniel took that step of faith and spoke out in faith because he had faith in God’s abilities.

Paul was like Daniel.  Once, during a storm at sea when it looked like all hope for survival was lost, the great apostle said this to those in the ship with him:

So take courage! For I believe God! It will be just as he said!  (Acts 27:25  TLB)

Are you like that?  Do you encourage others when things look bad?  How is your outlook?  If you trust in Christ, then it should be positive no matter the circumstances.

2.  Prayer answered

Then he went home and told Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions.  They asked the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not die with the others.  (Daniel 2:17, 18  TLB)

These two verses give us a look inside Daniel’s heart of faith, and shows us why Daniel was such an effective instrument of God in a lost world.  Daniel had faith in God and Daniel prayed in faith.  But not only did Daniel believe in the power of prayer, he believed in the power of believers praying together.  Believers uniting in faith to pray cannot be stopped.  God will honor their collective faith and answer that prayer.  We see it time and again throughout the Bible.  It’s good to pray by yourself—there is nothing wrong with that.  But prayer with other believers, in unity, is an important part of a life of faith.

For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I will be right there among them.   (Matthew 18:20  TLB)

But you must help us too by praying for us. For much thanks and praise will go to God from you who see his wonderful answers to your prayers for our safety!  (2 Corinthians 1:11  TLB)

Jesus and Paul, like Daniel, knew the vital importance of believers uniting in prayer.

Daniel and his friends laid bare their hearts before God, and God honored them:

And that night in a vision God told Daniel what the king had dreamed.  (Daniel 2:19a TLB)

The thing about prayer is not that it brings God down to our thoughts and actions, but it brings our thoughts and actions up to His level; the more time we spend in prayer in God’s presence, the more like God we become.

3.  Time for thanks

Then Daniel praised the God of heaven, saying, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for he alone has all wisdom and all power.  World events are under his control. He removes kings and sets others on their thrones. He gives wise men their wisdom and scholars their intelligence.  He reveals profound mysteries beyond man’s understanding. He knows all hidden things, for he is light, and darkness is no obstacle to him.  I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers, for you have given me wisdom and glowing health, and now even this vision of the king’s dream and the understanding of what it means.”  (Daniel 2:19b—23  TLB)

The response of Daniel and his friends is the proper one for those who have received an answer to prayer.  Take time to be thankful!  Don’t rush off…pause, and give God the credit that is due Him.

But his paragraph tells us something else about the character of Daniel and his friends.  Not only did they have faith, but they were faithful.  From a spiritual standpoint, we see that Babylonian culture had NOT corrupted these young men.  Even after three years of intense training and education in all things Babylonian, they did NOT turn into Babylonians.

A major cause of backsliding and apostasy among Christian young people are the secular, ungodly influences in school and in society in general.  Christian parents would do well to be more concerned about developing a godly character in their children than in their so-called “integration” into American society.  Not that that is a bad thing.  Daniel and his friends were part of Babylonian society, and let’s face it, we can’t—nor should we—isolate ourselves and our children from the world around us.  But they need to be shown and taught how to maintain their Christian values in a society that sometimes is hostile toward those values.

Daniel and his friends took time to be thankful.  If we would pray more, we would praise more.   The secrets of the Lord are revealed to those that spend time with Him.

Do you know the mind and purposes of God? Will long searching make them known to you? Are you qualified to judge the Almighty?  He is as faultless as heaven is high—but who are you? His mind is fathomless—what can you know in comparison?  His Spirit is broader than the earth and wider than the sea.  (Job 11:7—9  TLB)

We need God’s wisdom to survive in our world!  We need to pray and praise Him.

4.  A public witness

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, who had been ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said, “Don’t kill them. Take me to the king, and I will tell him what he wants to know.”  (Daniel 2:24  TLB)

This sentence might well be the most surprising thing Daniel ever said.  Wouldn’t you think that Daniel, a believer in the One true God, would take advantage to rid the Empire of these pagan, heathen “wise men?”  They were, after all, opposed to the ways of Yahweh.  Joshua, hero of the Hebrews, was known to have destroyed the Canaanites and their priests and Elijah, another prophet of God, killed the prophets of Baal.  So, why did Daniel step in and intercede on behalf of these godless men?

Daniel was not a prophet in the Holy Land of Israel, where God’s standards of life were to be the norm.  Daniel was living and working outside of the Promised Land.  Forcing the Babylonians to abide by the Law of Moses would have accomplished nothing; they would still have been Babylonians.  Someday, when Christ returns, the whole world will worship Him and abide by His Kingdom Laws.  But that will only happen when He returns.  You and I as Christians living in a lost world have no right to compel any unbeliever to live by God’s Word.  This was something Daniel understood.  We ought to share the Gospel of salvation with the lost, that’s our “debt” to them – our obligation to God.    Imposing Kingdom Laws on the world will not speed up Christ’s coming in power and grace.

So, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar what he needed to hear:  the content of his dream and what that dream meant.  But Daniel said something significant and noteworthy:

there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has told you in your dream what will happen in the future.  (Daniel 2:28  TLB)

Daniel was careful to give God the credit.  Over a thousand years before the days of Babylon, another man of God wasn’t afraid to testify of God’s greatness:

Pharaoh sent at once for Joseph. He was brought hastily from the dungeon, and after a quick shave and change of clothes, came in before Pharaoh.  “I had a dream last night,” Pharaoh told him, “and none of these men can tell me what it means. But I have heard that you can interpret dreams, and that is why I have called for you.”

“I can’t do it by myself,” Joseph replied, “but God will tell you what it means!”  (Genesis 41:14—16  TLB)

Daniel refused to take credit.  The Holy Spirit gave Daniel the wisdom he needed to not only survive in a dark and lost world, but to live and thrive.  What He did for Daniel, He does for believers today, if we would just let Him.  Many Christians want to live a successful and prosperous Christian life but they aren’t willing to do the work.  What they want are the results of living by faith in obedience to the Word of God without actually doing that.  Take time to look at how Daniel lived.  How he treated his faith resulted in God blessing him mightily.


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