Friday, October 31, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Doom (Part III)

"And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written." (Daniel 5:22-24)

Daniel's boldness and zeal are enough to put any believer to shame. The Christian is often intimidated by the slightest confrontation when he should be ready at all times " give an answer to every man...(I Peter 3:15)." In spite of God's warning through Nebuchadnezzar, you have rebelliously exalted yourself against God was Daniel's pointed rebuke to the king. Should Belshazzar have killed Daniel for his words what would it have mattered? Daniel's soul abode "...under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1)." When a believer lifts his eyes from the temporal pain to the eternal glory, he too may enjoy such liberty to speak as he ought in the midst of impossible circumstances.

Nabonidus had collected the various false deities from the surrounding villages and deposited them in Babylon in hopes that they would bring about deliverance from the Persians. Daniel boldly points out the useless nature of these false gods. His speech was anything but politically correct; however, it was entirely biblical and that is all that matters.

Daniel ends his sermon by drawing the king's attention to the fact that his very breath and movements are in the hands of God. When dealing with people, the believer must never forget that every person must be brought face to face with this reality. Unless there is a willingness to acknowledge God's supreme authority, there can be no conversion. Many false professions have been a result of failing to deal appropriately with God's authority.

Belshazzar's time was past. More than likely, he had reached the point of no return in his blasphemy; however, for the sake of principle, his root sin needed to be dealt with and perhaps there was a soul in the midst of it all who had been adequately moved by the evening's events so that such words would take effect. Only eternity can tell.

Romans 1:21 says, "...when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Belshazzar is a supreme illustration of this truth. He came to some understanding of who God is through the records of Nebuchadnezzar as well as through the testimony of Daniel, yet he chose to reject God. When a person comes face to face with who God is but then proceeds to reject Him, the end is always fearful and dark. In principle, a believer can practice this very same concept. How terrifying it is to trifle with the principles of such a horrible sin! Let every child of God consistently give Him glory. May the believer never attempt to rob God of His glory in even the slightest way. Such actions are not only dangerous, but ultimately they are doomed to failure (Isaiah 42:8).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Doom (Part II)

"O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will." (5:18-21)

Before reading the handwriting on the wall, he pauses to give the reason as to why it was written. Belshazzar had utterly rejected his Creator, and although he may not profit from Daniel's admonitions, perhaps someone in the midst of that godless assembly would humble themselves toward God. He first pointed out the Source of Nebuchadnezzar's authority. Were it not for the most High whose vessels Belshazzar had desecrated, Nebuchadnezzar could not have left behind him such a vast empire. Daniel then points out the failure of Nebuchadnezzar. Like Belshazzar, he too had lifted himself up in pride only to discover that there were higher than himself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Doom

"Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation." (Daniel 5:17)

As an older man who was probably in his early eighties, Daniel was completely unimpressed with the king's rewards. By this time, Daniel had already received the revelations of chapters seven and eight. He was already aware of Belshazzar's miserable end as well as the fall of the Babylonian empire. He knew full well that the head of gold was about to be overthrown by the arms and chest of silver. Beside all this, Daniel was not a man to be enticed by the world's riches. Even though he had been placed in a position of politics by Nebuchadnezzar, he cared nothing for the principles upon which man's politics operate. Daniel's main preoccupation was the service of the Holy One of Israel, and his answer reflects it.

Daniel's answer to Belshazzar is conspicuously void of any respect. Daniel was not a rebel but neither was he a fool who blindly gave deference to just anyone. Nebuchadnezzar often displayed some tenderness toward the things of God; however, Belshazzar's character was entirely evil. He was not worthy of any respect. All around him lay the defiled vessels of God's temple; therefore, Daniel's terse response is befitting to the king's vile character. Belshazzar stood for all that is evil and wicked, and Daniel stood for that which is pure and good. His soul hated the very principles for which Belshazzar lived. He could rightly identify with the words of David when he said,

Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:21-24).

Despite Daniel's contempt for the entire situation, he did not fail to use this opportunity to proclaim a very pointed sermon.

Only God's Holy Spirit can impart to the believer such careful balance when dealing with people. Not every soul is a Belshazzar; however, there are those with whom a Christian need not prolong discourse. Paul was a very patient man but when dealing with the Judaizers which plagued the Church of God he said, "To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you (Galatians 2:5)." Some people should not be given much time in argument and explanation because they will never receive truth regardless of how much they hear it. Isaiah 26:10 teaches this principle. "Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD."

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Distress (Part III)

"Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not shew the interpretation of the thing: And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom." (Daniel 5:13-16)

Belshazzar is quick to remind Daniel that he is a captive. Little did the king realize that he was the true captive. His sinful choices had enslaved him as II Peter 2:19 testifies, "...for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." Physically speaking, Daniel was a captive; but spiritually speaking, he was completely free. The man, woman or child whose faith is in the righteousness of Christ enjoys complete liberty from the bondage of sin because "...our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6:6-7)."

Nabonidus was the official ruler of the kingdom. His son Belshazzar was coregent thus making him the second ruler of the kingdom. This is why Belshazzar offered the position of third ruler to the man who could interpret the handwriting.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Distress (Part II)

"Now the queen, by reason of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation." (Daniel 5:10-12)

This queen is thought to have been a wife of Nebuchadnezzar and not the wife of Belshazzar. This would explain why she was not initially at the banquet hall. As an older woman who had seen the coming and passing of each one of Babylon's kings, she would have been well equipped to provide some wise counsel. Apparently, Daniel's testimony had a lasting impact upon her life.

As mentioned previously, Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar; therefore, the term "thy father" is used in the sense of ancestry.

After Nebuchadnezzar's death, Daniel had apparently withdrew from the spotlight of governmental leadership either voluntarily or by choice of the Babylonian administration. Belshazzar was basically unaware of his presence. This bears witness to the degraded nature of this king's reign. He had at his right hand a man who could give him the counsel of God but he was unaware of his presence. With one of the greatest prophets ever known living within the city walls, all the king could do was blaspheme God and then call his useless prognosticators when he found himself in trouble. Such is the plight of those who reject the light which God brings their way.

A Christian should appreciate and utilize the godly influences in his life. It is a sad thing indeed when a believer is so preoccupied with following his own heart's desires that he cannot even recognize the righteous influences all around him. No one is above repeating Belshazzar's behavior. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Distress

"In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied." (Daniel 5:5-9)

The king had crossed that mysterious yet distinct line between God's patience and His wrath. Belshazzar had spent his entire life in rejection of God's witness to Nebuchadnezzar; therefore, his defilement of God's holy things was one step too far. This event occurred while the king was engaged in his blasphemy so it would have been obvious to anyone that it was a divine answer to the king's wickedness. Perhaps this is the reason why he was struck with such overwhelming fear. What remained of his warped conscience bore witness to the fact that God had directly answered his foolish challenge.

The wisdom which so often had failed his ancestors now proved to be of no help to him. With the Persian army encamped just outside the walls busily engaged with plans of overcoming the city, the uselessness of the king's gifts is amplified.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Defiance (Part II)

"Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone." (Daniel 5:2-4)

The king's response to God's light was the direct opposite of Nebuchadnezzar's. This chapter is the antithesis to chapter four. Belshazzar was not simply holding a party; he was in defiance against the God of the Jews. These vessels were for the holy ministry of the temple. They were to be used for such services as sprinkling the blood of the sacrifices. By using them for his drunken party, the king was purposefully desecrating them in order to prove that his gods were stronger than the God of Israel.

At this point in history, the army of the Persians resided just outside the city walls. Nabonidus had returned to Babylon by this time but not before collecting the gods of the surrounding villages and transporting them to Babylon. This act was performed in hope that these many gods would serve to protect the city.

Belshazzar and his people had a false sense of security. They believed their city to be impregnable. Babylon was situated such that a portion of the Euphrates River ran directly through the city from north to south. Such a situation ensured an adequate water supply for the entire metropolis. Also, enough provision for twenty years had been stored within the city walls so no one was concerned about going hungry. When the princes and the rulers should have been engaged in warfare with the Persians, they were drinking themselves into a stupor while praising the many false deities in which their hopes resided. As Jeremiah 51:57 prophesied, they would soon sleep a deadly sleep. "And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts."

Although the Babylonians had just been defeated by Cyrus' army and were forced back into the city walls, they reveled in the supposed safety of their position. This act was foolish enough, but to make matters worse, they crossed that invisible boundary and overextended God's patience.

A Christian must be careful not to rest in false security. Obedience is the only attitude that guarantees spiritual welfare, and safety is only realized in the center of God's will. Defiance is inseparably entwined in every person's heart; therefore, it must be guarded against.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Wickedness of Belshazzar: The King's Defiance

"Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand." (Daniel 5:1)

At this point in history, Nebuchadnezzar had been dead for quite some time. He died in 562 B.C. and was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach who is mentioned in Jeremiah 52:31; however, he did not reign long before being assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar (the Nergal-Sharezer of Jeremiah 39:3). Neriglissar reigned for approximately four years and was then succeeded by his son Labashi-Marduk who was then assassinated by Nabonidus. Nabonidus reigned until the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. along with his son Belshazzar whom he appointed ruler of Babylon. Nabonidus was physically absent from Babylon during much of his reign. He spent ten years in the desert regions of Edom and Arabia. For all intents and purposes, Belshazzar was the king of Babylon even though he was co-regent with his father. In light of all these facts, when the Scriptures speak of Nebuchadnezzar being the father of Belshazzar, it is in the sense of ancestry and not strict physical relation.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Tree: The King's Confessions

"And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase." (Daniel 4:34-37)

Nebuchadnezzar's confessions are in perfect harmony with the other Scriptures. In Psalm 145:13, David wrote, "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." The wording is almost identical to that of the king's. This is not surprising since the same divine Author superintended the writing of both men.

The king acknowledges the fact that God has power over the celestial as well as the terrestrial. He says, "He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." The sentence "None can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" echoes that of Job found in Job 9:12. "Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?" No one knows for certain if the king came to a place of monotheistic thinking, but at a minimum he was convinced that Daniel's God was the highest.

When God opened the king's understanding, he responded in humility. Rather than resisting the light and becoming harder, he acknowledged it and became softer. The believer needs to follow this example. When the Lord makes it clear that He has chastened His child for purposes of restoration, the Christian must respond in repentance and gratefulness. To harden oneself against such revelations is to court certain destruction.

For seven long years God protected the king from being killed and his throne being seized. This in itself was a great miracle. Under normal circumstances, the absence of a ruling monarch would have created a power vacuum, but in this case the Holy Spirit restrained the wickedness of man and preserved Nebuchadnezzar's place in the kingdom. Were it not for God's restraining hand, man's sin nature would carry him to unimaginable depths.

Nebuchadnezzar ends by praising, extolling and honoring God. The word praise means to laud or adore. The word extol means to lift up, and the word honor means to glorify. In these things, the king was acknowledging that God is always right and man is always wrong. His attitude reflects the heart behind Romans 3:4 which says, "...yea, let God be true, but every man a liar...." The king gives deference to God as the supreme Authority by calling Him the King of heaven. He acknowledges that all of God's ways are truth and all of His works judgment. If Nebuchadnezzar did not come to a saving knowledge of God, he came as close as any man ever did.

His final admonition of "those that walk in pride He is able to abase" calls to mind the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. "For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 14:11)." Regardless of whether or not the king ever came to saving faith in the blood of Christ, one thing is for certain, every man would do well to follow the overall message of this amazing chapter - "Humble yourself now while there is still time."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nebuchdnezzar's Dream of the Great Tree: The King's Chastening

"All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws." (Daniel 4:28-33)

God is gracious. He gave Nebuchadnezzar a full year to allow the message of the dream to lead him to repentance. The Lord " longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9)."

Rather than acknowledge God's hand in the establishment of his kingdom, the king acknowledges himself. Concerning his kingdom, he says "I have built," "my power" and "my majesty." The dream had troubled the king but not enough for him to give deference to God as the supreme Authority. His attitude was not unlike that of many Christian leaders who seek to build their church, school, mission board or fellowship "by the might of [their] power, and for the honor of [their] majesty." It is quite hypocritical for a man to ascend into the pulpit and preach against Nebuchadnezzar's attitude while practicing it himself.

God is extremely longsuffering, but when it is time for judgment, nothing can stay His hand. While the king was speaking, the judgment fell upon him. God will not give a man an indefinite amount of time to repent. That very same hour the king was driven from men. Many commentators have attempted to explain what actually came upon the king, but the truth is, no one knows. Whatever it was it was not simply a disease. God changed his heart to that of a beast. This was a supernatural act. Likely, the king's affliction was unlike anything anyone has ever seen. Ancient history is silent concerning this event; however, this is not surprising because ancient empires did not make it a practice to record failures or humiliating events.   

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Tree: The King's Challenge

"Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies. The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth. And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity." (Daniel 4:19-27)

Daniel answers the king with both honesty and genuine compassion. After hearing the dream, Daniel spent one hour in astonishment over what would befall the king. Undoubtedly, this visible expression of concern enabled Daniel to admonish the king when such words may have been otherwise impossible. Most people will better receive a rebuke when they are convinced that the one issuing it truly cares. Before expounding the dream, Daniel makes an amazing statement. He says, "My lord (a term of respect), the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies." This opening declaration reveals a heart of godly love. Nebuchadnezzar was Daniel's captor. He had destroyed Daniel's home, temple, and land. He had killed many of his countrymen, and he had deprived Daniel of a family as well as the opportunity of ever returning home; yet, Daniel has nothing but concern in his heart for the king's soul. Instead of being filled with glee at the interpretation, he is filled with sorrow. He did not consider himself to be among those who hated the king. Daniel practically lived out the second great commandment found in Leviticus 19:18, "...thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD." The Christian is often guilty of taking pleasure in the demise of his enemies. He is often guilty of desiring their destruction when he should be desirous of their redemption. Every believer would do well to follow Daniel's example. Surely, Daniel had many more reasons to hate Nebuchadnezzar than most Christians have for hating their enemies; therefore, if he could find it in his heart to say "...Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34)," surely any believer may find it possible to exercise the same forgiveness.

Daniel then turns to the honest interpretation of the dream. He does not soften its message but faithfully presents the truth. The great tree of the Babylonian empire would be cut down. Although God did restore Nebuchadnezzar to his throne after the events of this chapter, the fate of Babylon was sealed. Nebuchadnezzar was the only able king that Babylon ever saw. His time was drawing nigh; therefore, the tree was as good as gone. The band of iron and brass represented the fact that God would preserve the king's throne for him while he underwent the divine punishment soon to be inflicted. God was about to humble the king by allowing him to live in the open fields for seven years (seven times) as some wild animal. Daniels ends by saying, "This is the interpretation."

Daniel is quick to explain to the king God's purpose in all this. It is to remind Nebuchadnezzar that "...there be higher than [himself] (Ecclesiastes 5:8)." Daniel's boldness must be admired. His admonition is clothed with respect, but it is also adorned with godly courage. God's child will never be as bold as he should be so long as he is more concerned about political correctness than loyalty to the Highest.

Before leaving the king to ponder these things, Daniel makes one last compassionate plea for the king's repentance. He does this knowing that no other response but humility from the king will bring about his lasting welfare. He encourages the king towards the first and great commandment which says, "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might (Deuteronomy 6:5)." He does this by saying, "Break off thy sins by righteousness." Just like any lost individual, Nebuchadnezzar needed to be clothed with the righteousness of God, that righteousness which is only obtained through repentant faith in God's sacrificial Lamb. He then encourages the king concerning the second great commandment which says, "...thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself...(Leviticus 19:18)." The king needed to turn to God with a change of heart; this change would be manifested in showing kindness to fellow human beings. Showing mercy to the poor would not deliver the king's soul from hell, but such actions from the ruler of the entire known world would be an indication of his turning to God. By encouraging the king to show mercy to the poor, Daniel was illustrating what should be the result of true repentance toward God.

Daniel closes his admonition on another note of compassion by saying, "...if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility." In so many ways, Nebuchadnezzar had disturbed the tranquility of Daniel's life, and yet Daniel was able to feel nothing but compassion for this lost soul. Such feelings are only possible through one's yielding to the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Tree: The King's Cogitations (Part IV)

"Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee." 
(Daniel 4:10-18)

The tree represented the king and his empire. Although this empire was sinful and terrible in many ways, it did provide a certain amount of sustenance and security for the nations over which it ruled. This is one reason why it is pictured as a great tree. In chapter two, various other kingdoms were presented because God was giving an overall view of what the future would bring; however, He is now focused on dealing specifically with Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom thus there is no mention of any other empire. Due to the chronological progression of the book, it is likely that this dream came to Nebuchadnezzar toward the end of his reign. God was preparing to hew down the Babylonian tree and replace it with the empire of the Medes and Persians.

The purpose of this dream is given toward the end. The text says, " the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men." By saying these things, God was and is reaching out to the hearts of all men everywhere. His admonition in this passage is the same admonition which He has always given and will forever give; it is the admonition to repent and turn from the pride of sin to the humility of faith. It is the admonition to confess God as the One true Authority. Paul gave the same admonition when he wrote, "...if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:9)." This simple message is applicable to any people group at any point in history. From the Garden to the Great Tribulation, pride is that which keeps a man from eternal life; therefore, God consistently deals with it throughout the Scriptures.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Tree: The King's Cogitations (Part III)

"But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying, O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof." (Daniel 4:8-9)

"But many that are first shall be last; and the last first (Mark 10:31)." Physically, Daniel was the last one brought in, but spiritually, he was the first one. His testimony was such that the king knew he could trust Daniel. At this point, the king's view of Daniel is still heathenish. He says, "I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee." Yet, in spite of Nebuchadnezzar's base understanding of heavenly things, he knew that Daniel was different from the rest. If God's Spirit is controlling the believer, he will have this same type of testimony. People may not understand how to label it, but they will surely be able to see a difference. If no difference is seen, then either the Spirit is being quenched through carnality or He is simply not present. "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Romans 8:9)."

The king ignorantly labeled Daniel as a man "in whom is the spirit of the holy gods," and yet it does not seem that Daniel became angry and frustrated over a lack of understanding on the part of his fellow citizens. On the contrary, he seemed to be at peace preaching righteousness, faithfully interpreting dreams, living a holy life before God and others and resting in the Spirit's ability to enlighten those who would hear.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Tree: The King's Cogitations (Part II)

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

The passing of time did nothing to make these men more competent. Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." Some things never change. The wisdom of the world does not get better with time. Apart from "...repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21)," men will remain the same or become worse. In his hour of need, the king turned again to his worldly counselors only to find them as useless as ever. This same heart attitude is often practiced by God's people. God faithfully delivers His people and gives them rest, yet, when a trial arises, the first temptation is to run to human reasoning, rest in the false security of human relationships or draw upon the deceptive helps of physical possessions. The believer must guard against running back to his "Babylonian counselors" who have already proven themselves to be spiritually inept.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Tree: The King's Cogitations

"Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation." (Daniel 4:1-3)

At this point in the king's reign, his heart has been somewhat softened through his encounters with God as is evidenced by the warmth of his greeting. He says, "Peace be multiplied unto you." In the previous chapter, he was dealing out threats of death for anyone who failed to worship his golden image, and now he is expressing wishes of peace. Nebuchadnezzar chose to be humbled by God's dealings rather than become more obstinate. Many Christians would be benefited by following the king's example in this area. As God sought to get the attention of Nebuchadnezzar, He often seeks to get the attention of His wayward saints. When this happens, the believer should submit to such things and repent of his sin.

The king immediately indicates his purpose in writing this chapter of Daniel. He says, "I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me." Nebuchadnezzar exalts the God of heaven above all false deities. He uses the name God in a singular sense and adds the adjective high. The question of whether or not Nebuchadnezzar ever became a true believer is one which will forever remain unanswered this side of eternity. At the least, God used him in penning this chapter to be a witness to all the heathen kings who would reign after him.

Before proceeding with his testimony, the king pauses to give great glory to God. He says, "How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation." These confessions are in perfect harmony with the rest of Scripture. In writing this, the king is encouraging every reader to appreciate the fear of the Lord. This is a great deal more than what many believers do. Some professing Christians do not even appreciate the fear of God in their own lives much less encourage others to value it. It is a sad day when the thoughts of an ancient Babylonian monarch offer more godly encouragement than one would find in the average church meeting.