Saturday, September 27, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Deliverance of God (Part III)

"Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon." (Daniel 3:28-30)

The king's response to this miracle was one of humility. He could have chosen to resist the authority which he had witnessed; but instead, he chose to bow the knee to it. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar's humble response was one reason why God was so longsuffering with this particular king.

In the end, the actions of these three men brought glory to God. This is as it should be. The believer's deeds should lead others to glorify God. When a believer's way of life leads others to distrust the genuine nature of Christianity, that individual is not living a Spirit-filled life.

The king declared that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had done three things. They trusted, they changed, and they yielded. They forsook the fear of man and placed their full trust in the Lord. This, in turn, gave them the courage to change the king's word. Such was not a gesture of disrespect. They simply fulfilled the heart of what Peter said when he told the Jewish leadership, "We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)." Lastly, they fully yielded their bodies to God, realizing that the destruction of the flesh is no threat to the man who is safe in the arms of Jesus Christ. This same mindset is what will aid the believer in overcoming the assaults of Satan during the Great Tribulation. Concerning this battle between God's saints and the powers of darkness, Revelation 12:11 says, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." They loved not their lives! For the believer, death is nothing more than the door through which he enters in order to be with the Father. If a believer is not walking in the Spirit, he will soon forget the comfort of this truth, and he will fail to yield himself as he should to God's service. The unregenerate fear death and rightly so, but God's people should not live in the bondage of such things, because they have been liberated by the blood of Christ, as Hebrews 2:14-15 testifies, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, [Christ] also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." When a professing Christian lives in fear of death, it can mean one of two things; either he is living in a spiritually depressed condition apart from the Spirit's filling, or he is not experiencing the assurance of the Spirit because he is not truly saved. It is time for God's people to love their Master more than their flesh. It is time to shift the focus from the temporal to the eternal. It is time to cease being enamored with the treasures of this world and "...lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matthew 6:20)."

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Deliverance of God (Part II)

"Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them." (Daniel 3:26-27)

The king calls the Lord the most high God. He exalts the God of these men above all other gods. This title is definitely singular in the Aramaic text which is indicative of the fact that the king has an elevated view of the God of Israel. The king had just said, "...and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" He now receives his answer. He is the God of Israel! Nebuchadnezzar was not the only one who witnessed this miracle. Numerous royal officials were present and had the grand opportunity to behold the salvation of God. In this very fact, God's mercy toward these unregenerate souls may be seen.

The text declares that the fire had absolutely no affect on Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Neither their bodies nor their clothes were changed in any way. This pictures the complete deliverance of God in salvation. The Son of God had come down to personally deliver these men from the flames, and His deliverance was absolute. Any one who is willing to put his faith in Jesus Christ will experience this same full salvation. Jesus said, "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one (John 10:28-30)." The believer has the privilege of knowing that he is perfectly safe in the hand of God. Although the body may be destroyed, the soul can never be touched, not even the smell of fire may pass upon it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Deliverance of God

"Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." (Daniel 3:24-25)

The word astonied means astonished or startled. The king was absolutely amazed to see the three Hebrew men walking in the midst of the fire, accompanied by a divine Messenger. God promised the nation of Israel, "...when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee (Isaiah 43:2)." Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah experienced a practical application of this promise. God is free to allow His people to pass through death for His glory, and He is also free to bring about miraculous deliverance, which He often does. One purpose of such deliverance is the conversion of the heathen to Christ. Through this miraculous event, God was seeking the souls of the king and his people. The believer should always be aware of the fact that God is seeking the souls of men through the trials which He allows to come upon His servants.

The phrase and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God has been the topic of much debate. A literal rendering of the Aramaic text behind the English would read and the form of the fourth is like to a son of the gods. The word gods is indisputably plural, and it is very similar to the Hebrew word elohim (God, gods) which is also plural; however, there is a difference. When Hebrew uses a plural form for this word, it is often speaking of God in a singular sense. This is because God is three Persons in one. Therefore, elohim (plural gods) is often simply translated God when it is definitely speaking of the one true God. This peculiarity of the Hebrew word elohim (God, gods) cannot be transferred over to the Aramaic word elahin (gods). The Aramaic form of this noun does not use a plural form to refer to the one true God. When Aramaic refers to God, it strictly uses the singular form of the word, and when it refers to gods it consistently uses a plural form of the word. This pattern may be seen throughout the Aramaic text found between Daniel chapters two through seven. With that said, this event does seem to be a Christophany. Being a heathen king with no exposure to the Hebrew Scriptures, Nebuchadnezzar is associating the glory of this divine Messenger to what he understands of the supernatural, and thereby calls Him a son of the gods; however, since this was likely a preincarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, this phrase was translated the Son of God, likely out of respect for Who is implied in the context.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Determination of the Hebrews (Part IV)

"Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace." (Daniel 3:19-23)

"The form of his visage" is "literally the image of his face." The king became so angry at their response that the expression of his entire countenance changed for the worse. It is at times like this when a man may be tempted to compromise and seek some means of pacifying those who reject his stand for holiness, but the Lord Jesus said, "...Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him (Luke 12:4-5)." If a man fears God, he has nothing else to fear.

God allowed Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to be cast into the furnace. God is not bound to follow man's expectations. He does not have to work in they way that men think He should. In this instance, He chose to allow His saints to actually descend into the fire. He is free to deal thus with His people because He is the Creator of all, and His ability to deliver is not limited to "pre-fire" circumstances.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Determination of the Hebrews (Part III)

"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Daniel 3:16-18)

The phrase we are not careful to answer literally means we have no need to answer. They did not have to apologize for what God has commanded concerning the reverence of His person and the rejection of false deities. These men had no reason to be afraid because their conscience was clear before God. Romans 13:3 says, "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil." This verse is not teaching that man's governments will never persecute the righteous, and neither is it teaching that believers have the right to rebel against government when it does begin to persecute them. It is simply teaching that if a man is being obedient to God's established authority structure then he need never fear divine retribution through the channel of that authority. The man who pays his taxes does not live in fear of the tax collectors, but the conscience of the tax-evader knows no peace. Why? Because God-ordained authority is designed to be a threat to the sin nature of man (I Timothy 1:9). The collection agency can choose to be dishonest and oppressive, but this will not affect the clear conscience of the man paying his taxes because he knows that he has done right. Rulers are never a terror to the conscience of the man who does right, but they are a constant terror to the conscience of the one doing evil. These three men walked with God in obedience; they had a clear testimony before all men. They had nothing to hide, and they were not rebelling against God's authority structure; therefore, when that established structure demanded something which opposed God's word, they were able, with perfect peace, to rest in God's ability to deal with it.

These men had full confidence in God's ability to deliver them out of the king's hand; however, they also acknowledged the fact that God was not required to do so. Although God often chooses to deliver the bodies of His people, Scripture makes no guarantee that such will always be the case; in fact, Christ promised, "...The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you...(John 15:20)." Ultimately, true deliverance is not found in physical relief but in spiritual well-being. The body may be destroyed, but the powers of evil can never molest the spiritual rest of the believer, as Paul put it, "...I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39)." Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah understood that God could overcome their circumstances, but if He chose not too, He was still entirely worthy of their utmost loyalty. They understood that the destruction of their bodies simply meant the advent of their eternal rest.

The believer's loyalty should never hinge upon God's physical deliverance. If it does, a Christian will become bitter and confused when God chooses not to bring deliverance from the circumstances. It is time to put away such carnal and childish views of God's help. It is time to realize that the true peace of salvation is found in the Spirit's keeping of the human soul, and it is time to say, "God is able to deliver, but if He chooses not too, I still will not bow to the flesh."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Determination of the Hebrews (Part II)

"Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" (Daniel 3:13-15)

The fact that the king was willing to give them a second chance indicates that they had gained his respect and favor. Undoubtedly they were known for being respectful and wise men, so it is likely that the king was reluctant to do away with them. The testimony of these men went before them. Although they had no part in the worship of Babylon's idols, they were not known for being troublemakers. Being filled with the spirit and taking a stand against sin does not mean that one has to be caustic and disrespectful. Just like these three men, it is possible to stand for holiness and at the same time have a spirit which is peaceful. One can seek to cooperate where possible, as Paul said, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18)."

The king's victories and accomplishments had gone to his head. His question at the end is not so much a question as it is a challenge. He is declaring himself to be more powerful than the God of the Hebrews. He is soon to find out that he is not. God's grace is evident in the fact that He did not do away with Nebuchadnezzar upon his uttering this blasphemous challenge. While it is easy to sit back and condemn the king for making such foolish statements, his declarations are not unlike those often made by God's people. O, perhaps the challenge is not so blatant. Perhaps it is somewhat masked to the observer, but when the believer gets his heart set on a direction which is in violation of God's commands, he is often guilty of the same attitude which motivated this heathen king. The Christian is just as capable of resenting God's authority when his own human will is challenged.   

Friday, September 19, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Determination of the Hebrews

"Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." 
(Daniel 3:8-12)

Not many years prior, these three men were partakers in the deliverance of these Chaldeans as they assisted Daniel in seeking God's face concerning the interpretation of the king's dream, and now they are rewarded by being put on display as rebels of the empire. Such is human nature. The believer is not above rewarding evil for good; therefore, when the unbeliever engages in such things, it should come as no surprise. A Christian must guard against becoming bitter towards those that persecute him in such a fashion. He must remember that were it not for the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, he too would be consistently serving others in such a manner. Undoubtedly, these Babylonians resented the place of authority which these three men held and saw this as their opportunity to regain their positions of prominence.

The accusation against the Jews is introduced with an exaggerated degree of negativity. They say, "...these men, O king, have not regarded thee...." This statement almost comes across as though these three men cared nothing for the king's authority; yet, such was not the case. Their testimony previous to these events bears witness to the fact that they regarded the authority which God had allowed the king to exercise over them. They simply knew that God is the ultimate authority, and they were not willing to pay the king more respect than God who had established the king.

The statements of these Chaldeans makes it clear that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had already gained a reputation for their refusal to worship any of Babylon's gods, not just the golden image which inhabited the plains of Dura.

The believer should have a similar testimony. Even though he will be consistently misrepresented by his enemies, he should be known as a man who consistently denies worship to the gods of this world. These gods can take many forms. They are not limited to physical idols made of gold, silver, stone and so forth. The pursuit of riches and pleasure can be an idol. The believer can regard his relationships with other people more than his relationship with God and by this become guilty of idolatry. Infatuation with the world's pleasures and philosophies is idol worship and spiritual adultery as James 4:4 puts it, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."

The determination of these young men is admirable. When the rest of their countrymen fell down before the image, they calmly remained standing. Their dedication to God was firm. They did not see these events as merely political. They viewed them as a spiritual battle; therefore, armed with the shield of faith, they reserved their loyalty for the God of heaven. Matthew 4:8-10 depicts this same spirit of loyalty in the Lord Jesus Christ when He was tempted of Satan, "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." Accessed through the channel of faith, the Spirit of Christ empowered these Old Testament believers, and in this they found strength to do the impossible.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Decree of the King (Part II)

"Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up." 
(Daniel 3:2-7)

Man's political maneuvers are inseparably linked to his spiritual beliefs. In requiring such things of his people, Nebuchadnezzar was not only declaring that he was the supreme potentate, but also that he and his empire were the supreme objects of worship. Such a monument to himself was undeniably associated with the reverence of his person. When viewed from a merely political standpoint, the worship of the image was perhaps justified in the minds of some. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were not the only Jewish captives in the province of Babylon. This unholy gathering was undoubtedly speckled with numerous Jewish captives who were aware of the second commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image...Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God...(Exodus 20:4-5)." Yet, as will soon be seen, no one stood against this wickedness except for three men. Perhaps the others did not have a conviction one way or the other, or perhaps they saw it as their political duty, something which God would overlook since He had allowed them to be there in the first place.

The believer must ever be on guard against failing to take a stand against such things. Pressured by the fear of man, the human heart will often make excuses in an effort to justify certain actions. Prodded by the expectations of the world, falling into the worship of things other than God is often more easily accomplished than some people realize. Human nature tends to simply follow the flow of the general populace without considering if such things are acceptable to the God of heaven.   

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Duplication of the Great Image: The Decree of the King

"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon." (Daniel 3:1)

This chapter is not unrelated to chapter two; on the contrary, it displays the king's reaction to the interpretation of his dream, a reaction which came about some time after his initial awe had worn off. The Bible does not disclose how many years had passed since the king's dream. Many have speculated, and some have, with confidence, presented a specific number; however, if one is honest with the text and with history, he will soon discover that no biblical or archeological evidence exists as to the definite number of years between chapters two and three. One thing is for certain, the years following the interpretation of the king's dream were adorned with many Babylonian victories. The time between 598 and 597 B.C. saw king Jehoiakim deposed and buried with, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah, "...the burial of an ass (Jeremiah 22:19)." After only three months on the throne, Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, was desposed and carried to Babylon while Nebuchadnezzar placed his uncle, Zedekiah, on the throne. Sometime near 594 B.C., a rebellion had arisen in the city of Babylon, and the king had personally brought about its demise. 586 B.C. witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar's general, Nebuzaradan, and in 573 B.C. the great city of Tyre fell into the hands of the king after a thirteen year siege. Based upon these facts, one may more easily understand how the king could have been lifted up in pride. These consecutive victories coupled with the natural pride of man would have motivated the king to think that he was invincible.

Even though God had promised that the kingdom of Babylon would come to its end, he still allowed numerous victories to preceed its demise. The Lord used these victories to punish the disobedient nations; yet, the king saw them as grounds for his own exaltation. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Rather than being humbled by God's goodness and grace, man often takes advantage of it and continues on in his arrogance. This same wicked heart is alive and well in all men, and the believer must guard against its consistent attacks.

Daniel had said to the king "Thou art this head of gold." Such was not sufficient for Nebuchadnezzar. He wanted to be the whole statue. He wanted his kingdom to endure forever. The text does not say that the image was an image of a man; however, based upon the king's dream, the image was likely of human form. If it was, the dimensions are very odd. It was ninety feet tall but only nine feet wide. Some have suggested that it was on a pedestal. Regardless, its construction was in direct defiance of God's revealed will. Nebuchadnezzar had spent all of his life manipulating his own gods and the gods of other nations; therefore, it is not surprising that he should attempt such things with the God of heaven.

Daniel's absence is conspicuous. He is not mentioned one time in the text, and if he had been there he would not have been partaker of the image's worship. Likely he was out of the country on the king's business, but no one speak of his whereabouts with absolute surety. The fact that this chapter is included even though Daniel is absent from it bears witness to the reality that this blessed book is not primarily about Daniel, but rather it is primarily about the God of Daniel.   

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Image: The Insight of Daniel (Part XI)

"Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king." (Daniel 2:46-49)

The king was absolutely amazed at what God had revealed through Daniel. He believed that "spirit of the holy gods (4:18)" was in Daniel; therefore, he worshiped Daniel as deity according to his base and faulty understanding of religious matters; yet, even in this he confesses that Daniel's ability stems from a much higher power; consequently, he gives glory to God. Nebuchadnezzar assigned three titles to the Lord. First of all, he called Him a God of gods. Through this experience, the Lord had demonstrated to this lost king that there is only one high and holy God who rules over all. Secondly, the king called Him a Lord of kings. In this statement, Nebuchadnezzar demonstrates his understanding of the fact that there be powers much higher than his own. Lastly, he calls God a revealer of secrets. Daniel had done that which all of Babylon's religious leadership had categorically failed to do.

At the end of it all, Daniel's conduct brought glory to God. His submission enabled others to see, not himself, but the God of heaven. When a man is truly following the Lord in humility, his conduct and conversation will encourage others to glorify God; however, when his motives are selfish, he will work toward promoting his own personality and wisdom. In humble faith, Daniel bowed the knee to God and responded appropriately to a terrifying situation. The end result? Numerous heathen were given the blessed opportunity of being introduced to the high and holy God of heaven, the one who cares about the souls of all men. Similarly, may God's people in every dispensation take advantage of the many divine appointments which God routinely sends their way. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Image: The Insight of Daniel (Part X)

"Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure." (Daniel 2:45)

The stone has come about apart from man; therefore, he can do absolutely nothing to stop its course. With each passing day, the stone draws closer and closer the image's feet. The man who accepts this and turns to Christ in faith will be delivered, but the man who rejects it will be crushed under its mighty load, as Jesus said, "Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Luke 20:18)."

Daniel ends this inspired discourse on a note of certainty and confidence. The dream will surely come to pass, and the interpretation is without error. The ways of man are destined for certain destruction. Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome have come and gone. Only the antichrist's kingdom remains, and the destiny of it has already been determined by divine decree. All of man's motives, passions, and rebellions are doomed to be destroyed by the righteous stone of Jesus Christ, why then should a Christian choose to serve his flesh? Why should he choose to continue to struggle against the Spirit's leading, knowing that all such struggles share the same miserable end? The dream is certain. The interpretation is sure. The lusts of the flesh which include, "...Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like..(Galatians 5:19-21)." are all doomed. Although many of these things bring temporary satisfaction, their peace is false, and at the best transient. Let each and every Christian be clothed with the fruit of the Spirit, ", joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..(Galatians 5:22-23)," because "...against such there is no law (Galatians 5:23)." The works of the Spirit are the only works which will bring eternal reward, and they are those works which will characterize Christ's kingdom, the stone which will become a mountain and fill the whole earth!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Image: The Insight of Daniel (Part IX)

"Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." (Daniel 2:37-44)

Daniel is quick to point out that Nebuchadnezzar's power is the direct result of God's allowance. Under normal circumstances, such bold declarations before a proud monarch would not be possible; however, the king was held captive by his amazement at Daniel's ability to expound the dream; therefore, his ear was more open than it normally would have been. God often allows His people to experience such divine appointments. The believer should be careful to take advantage of them just as Daniel did.

The interpretation of the dream focused on the head and the feet. The middle portion of the image, which represents the empires of Persia and Greece, is reserved for discussion later in the book. The domination of Jerusalem and the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24) began with Babylon's conquest and both will end at the return of Jesus Christ; therefore, the top and bottom of the image are the key points of focus. God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to subjugate the Jews on account of their sin; however, the Lord now makes it clear to the king that such domination will not last forever, and eventually the control of the holy city and the holy people will return into the hands of the rightful Prince. The despots of history with all their terror have been under the complete control of God's sovereign will. No king has ever done more than what God has allowed. Ultimately, Nebuchadnezzar was nothing more than the servant of God for he was declared to be such in Jeremiah 27:6, "And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him."

After the remnants of Greece's power faded into the shadows of history, the empire of Rome came onto the scene. Beginning somewhere near 60 B.C. and lasting until 476 A.D., it had the most longevity of any of the kingdoms mentioned. It was also the largest. As history bears witness, the Roman empire did break in pieces and subdue all things. Yet, regardless of its strength and its attempts to gain power through intermarriage and political associations, the kingdom fell and was divided into ten smaller kingdoms which were never again renunited. The weakness of clay permeated its entire structure and it could not stand.

Although the legs and feet of the image clearly speak of the fallen empire of Rome, they also speak undeniably of the future kingdom of the antichrist. The text says, " the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom...." By referencing the book of Revelation, it is evident that the end times will witness the rule of ten kings who will eventually ally themselves with the antichrist and oppose the return of the Lord, "And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful (Revelation 17:12-14)." It would seem that the ten toes of the image's feet represent, at least in some way, the ten kings of the end times since Christ's return is linked with the days in which these kings rule.

The interpretation ends with the establishment of Christ's glorious kingdom. Located in the fertile crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the geography of Babylon was flat, and the ground consisted of clay from which bricks were made. The entire city of Babylon was constructed mainly of brick and mortar; therefore, this stone which destroyed the kingdoms of men and then proceeded to become a great rocky mountain would have presented some contrasting thoughts for the king and his courtiers. The strength and stability of God's character, and consequently His kingdom, are seen in the picture of this great stone mountain. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, "He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." He is specifically called the Rock of Israel in II Samuel 23:3, and in the end of the last days, He will fully redeem His people from their sin and from the oppression of the heathen. All of these truths were clearly laid out before the king in the picture of this great stone mountain. God's deliverance and protection are also part of this symbolism. Psalm 18:2 declares, "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." Not only was Nebuchadnezzar faced with the truth that the God of heaven would forever destroy his godless kingdom, but he was also faced with the truth that God's kingdom would provide him with a place of refuge should he so choose to repent and flee to the righteousness of Jehovah.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Image: The Insight of Daniel (Part VIII)

"Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." (Daniel 2:31-35)

Before moving on to the interpretation, it would be beneficial to pause and take notice of the specifics of this image. It is in the form of a man because it concerns the governments of men. The text says that its form was terrible. This word means fearful. It was a frightening thing to behold, not because it possessed some holy awe, but because it represented man and all of his oppressive wickedness. Man's sin always makes his dominion a fearful thing. Even in the best of governments, his cruelty and oppression may be clearly seen.

The various metals seem to cover more and more of the body as one moves from the head to the feet. The head, being the smallest area in relation to the rest of the body parts that are mentioned, represented the kingdom of Babylon. The Babylonian empire lasted just over eighty years. The chest and arms cover a bit more area, and they represent Persia which ruled for a little over two hundred years. Greece is identified as the belly and thighs (upper legs), and it reigned for approximately two hundred and seventy-five years. The legs, which would encompass the area from the feet to just above the knees, pictured the Roman empire, and its duration was just over five hundred years. The future kingdom of the antichrist is included in this, being often referred to as the revived Roman empire due the shared characteristics as revealed in other Scriptures.

The densest metal was at the top, and the least dense at the bottom. If the exact same volume of gold, silver, brass (copper), and iron were placed side by side, gold would be the heaviest, then silver, then copper, iron and finally clay, which is obviously the weakest. Structurally speaking, the image was unsound. No architect in his right mind would construct something so unstable; yet, such is the nature of man's government. Although he perceives himself as strong, he is doomed to certain failure. His kingdoms appear impressive and fearful, but they are spiritually unstable and destined to meet their end.

The most valuable material was on top, and the most useless was on the bottom. As time progresses, man does not become better, he becomes worse. All of humanity is slowly progressing toward the fearful days of the Great Tribulation and the all-out worship of Satan and his image. Morally speaking, man's kingdoms become increasingly less valuable. Yes, by God's grace there have been times of reform and movement toward God, but on the whole, the world is steadily becoming more wicked, and the kingdoms of men are becoming more and more unstable.

As Daniel patiently and faithfully expounded to the king his dream, Nebuchadnezzar was suddenly introduced to the kingdom of God. He was first introduced to its power. The text says, "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them...." This stone represents the Lord Jesus Christ and His future kingdom of righteousness. The stone was carved out without the aid of hands. In other words, it came about without the assistance or intervention of man. Christ and His kingdom are entirely the divine work of God. From before the foundation of the world, God the Father ordained that God the Son should accomplish the work of salvation and reign forever in righteousness. His first advent into this world was apart from the hand of man, and his second advent will also be free of man's effort. This stone which was carved out by the divine will of God came crashing down on the feet of this unstable image and completely destroyed it. Not even a trace of the golden head was left. Nothing of all its splendor and pomp could be found. Such is the case with all of man's vain attempts at power. Archeology has revealed structures of ancient civilization which were once impressive; but, what is left? nothing except a few tattered remains buried under layers and layers of dust. Artists have attempted to reconstruct the grandeur of the ancient cities, but no one can visit the original splendor of Babylon, nor can anyone with absolute certainty recreate its original proportions. Its pomp and pride have been carried away just as chaff is carried off by the wind.

Nebuchadnezzar was next introduced to the preeminence of Christ's kingdom. The text says, "...and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." When the Lord Jesus Christ returns, the armies of the earth which have gathered themselves together to Armageddon will be defeated by the word of His mouth, and His righteous kingdom will be established forever. Concerning those blessed days, Isaiah wrote, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9)." Unlike the demonic, oppressive empires of mankind, this great stone of Christ's kingdom will fill the whole earth for the purpose of guiding all people toward the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Before the king could express any awe at such divine revelation, Daniel simply says, "This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king." (Daniel 2:36)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Image: The Insight of Daniel (Part VII)

"As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart." (Daniel 2:29-30)

Ezekiel 28 attributes great wisdom to Daniel; yet, in this passage, he displays great humility concerning his gifts. Daniel viewed his wisdom and ability as gifts and mercies from God. Such an attitude of humility should characterize all of God's people. Were it not for the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, no believer would have anything more than any other man.

God gave the king an answer for at least two reasons. First of all, He answered the Daniel's prayer so that he and his friends might be preserved. Secondly, He wanted the king to come face to face with the thoughts of his heart. The Lord is merciful in allowing a man to see the malignity of his own heart. Rebellion and resentment are the natural human responses to having one's motives and thoughts put on display, but such should be viewed as God's mercies. Without His gracious intervention, every man would be in hopeless pursuit of damnation. Little did Nebuchadnezzar know that he was about to meet the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Image: The Insight of Daniel (Part VI)

"Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation. The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;" (Daniel 2:25-28)

Daniel is very careful to introduce the king to his God. From the very beginning, Daniel saw this whole event as a glorious opportunity to present the one true God to Nebuchadnezzar and his people. Daniel categorically exposes the failure of Babylon's most revered members of the religious society. Although the powers of darkness are strong, and its servants endowed with a certain degree of authority, these powers and abilities cannot pass beyond the bounds which God has set, and when He is ready to expose the darkness for what it is, no one is able to stand before Him. Daniel was not cruel in exposing these men; yet, neither was he intimidated. He speaks the truth in love and boldness, completely unconcerned with the political affects of his actions. If a believer is more concerned with politics than he is with holiness, he will never display such righteous zeal.

After exposing the weakness of the religious leadership, he quickly points out that there is only one true God, and His main habitation is in the heavens. This book frequently uses the title the God of heaven. Daniel uses this title to point out the place of authority which God holds. Nebuchadnezzar needed to understand that there be those higher than himself. Strong as he was, he was no match for the God of heaven. Man's heart must be continually reminded of God's authority, and the believer is not above such reminders. The wicked old flesh is quick to forget that there is a God in heaven, and it has to be repeatedly brought into subjection to His authority.

Once a person bows the knee to the authority presented in this high and holy title, a sense of peace and security is the result. It is comforting to know that there is a God in heaven who holds the highest seat possible. One who is capable of directing the affairs of men and watching over all. There is comfort in knowing that He is intimately involved in His creation, and that He is "...the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe (I Timothy 4:10)."