Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Final Kingdom Prophesied (Part IV)

"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13-14)

Having seen the certain demise of man's kingdoms, Daniel's attention was then turned upon the Lord Jesus Christ. He is this Son of man. This title is that which is most used to describe Him in the gospel of Luke. When the high priest questioned Jesus concerning His deity, he said, "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 26:63)." In reference to this very passage here in Daniel, Jesus answered and said to him, "Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64)."

The time has come for the King of kings to receive the title deed to earth; therefore, He is seen approaching unto the Father. The very thought of His ability to approach the Father deserves comment. The text has already described the fearful holiness of God's throne. All about Him are seen the consuming fires of His holiness, and yet the Lamb of God is able to approach. What a comforting aspect! Christ is completely holy; therefore, He is able to stand where no one else can. Outside of belief in Christ, sinful man is destined to be removed from the presence of such a holy God, but clothed with the righteousness of Jesus through simple faith, he is able to approach his holy Creator. In Christ there is no fear of rejection or condemnation because the believer has been made a king and a priest (Revelation 5:10) through the pure blood of the Holy One of Israel.

After the Son is brought near He is given the title deed to this tired old earth. Misappropriated and abused by the wickedness of mankind, the earth will rejoice to see the righteous reign of its Creator and "all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12)." Revelation 11:15 pictures this glorious event when it declares, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."

The totality of His kingdom is first seen. All people shall serve Christ. Though rejected, blasphemed and scorned by most of humanity, Christ will someday be Ruler over all, and His kingdom will not tolerate wickedness.

Lastly, the eternality of His kingdom is seen. It is that which shall never be destroyed. The lion, the bear, the leopard and the beast all met their end. The coming antichrist will meet his end, but the kingdom of Christ will never end.

As the believer ponders these things, he should be reminded of the vanity of this life. Apart from the pursuit of God, all is vanity. The book of Ecclesiastes declares such to be the case. Every Christian should guard his soul against fleshly pursuits. He should separate from the world and its ways. He should shun foolishness and the misuse of time, and he should pursue the things which have eternal value. These passages are more focused on God's kingdom than they are on man's temporal reign; the Christian's life should bear this same quality.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Final Kingdom Prophesied (Part III)

"I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time." (Daniel 7:11-12)

Daniel looked on with great anticipation. He already had heard the blasphemous words of this little horn (the antichrist), and now he wanted to see what would be his end. The text boldly declares the end of the antichrist and his kingdom. He is slain, destroyed along with his kingdom, and his body permanently consigned to the everlasting flames of damnation. Concerning this event, Revelation 19:20 says,

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

The last part of this verse is difficult to expound. Certain elements of the Babylonian, Persian and Greek Empires did continue on even after their demise. Perhaps this is what is meant by their lives being prolonged. Regardless, God guides the affairs of the nations, and they may not continue a moment beyond what His righteous decree allows.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Final Kingdom Prophesied (Part II)

"A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened." (Daniel 7:10)

This verse speaks of judgment day. Before the throne of God are found not only those who minister to Him but also those who shall be judged by their works. By God's grace, this is not the place where God's redeemed will find themselves. Those who have trusted Christ as their savior are clothed with His spotless character and delivered from this fearful time of judgment. Paul spoke of this blessed truth when he wrote, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him (I Thessalonians 5:9-10)."

Whether Daniel was seeing the judgment which will immediately follow the return of Christ or the judgment which will immediately precede the eternal state it is difficult to determine; however, the principle is the same. Every thought, motive and work of every individual has been recorded. God keeps perfect records. These books are not kept for the purpose of aiding God's memory; they are kept as a witness to men and angels. Every injustice which has ever been committed, every foul thought and sinful deed is recorded with frightening accuracy. Jesus said, "Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops (Luke 12:3)." Outside of Christ's blood no one will be able to stand. The books will declare it to be so, and the Book of books has given ample warning.   

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Final Kingdom Prophesied

"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire." (Daniel 7:9)

Daniel's description of the four kingdoms combined takes up five verses, and his description of Christ's singular kingdom takes up five verses. This portion of the text focuses more on God's final victory than it does on the temporal terror of man's kingdoms. A believer must be careful not to lose sight of what is most important. It is easy to become distracted and weighed down with all the troubles of one's wicked environment; however, God's final victory is a sure thing and an encouraging truth. Just as this portion of the passage is weighted more heavily towards Christ's victory, the believer's conduct and conversation should always be heavily seasoned with the supremacy of his Savior.

The first thing Daniel noticed about God's kingdom was that the thrones of the previous four kingdoms were cast down and God's throne firmly established. Regardless of how powerful and frightening man's governments may be they all come to the same end, yet God's throne has an enduring quality which is unparallelled.

God the Father is the first Person of the Godhead to be introduced. He is referred to as the Ancient of days. This reverent title declares His eternality, His wisdom, His omniscience and His stability. Time, with all of its accompanying troubles and limitations, does not affect Him. He is not the least bit intimidated by the hatred and rebellion of men. He is sovereign enough to use their hard hearts for the purposes of accomplishing His divine will. Let the lion, the bear, the leopard and the terrible beast of the antichrist exalt themselves, yet "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision (Psalm 2:4)."

This verse pictures the great King seated upon His throne. He is ready for judgment.

The LORD'S garments and hair are pictured as gleaming white. Such an illustration bespeaks of His holiness. Before anything else, God is first and foremost holy (Isaiah 57:15). This is why He demands the holiness and separation of His children (I Peter 1:15-16). A Christian is saved unto a holy lifestyle, and he will never be truly at peace until he is reflecting the character of the One whose garments are white as the snow. In the whiteness of His hair, one is also reminded of His unparalleled wisdom. People expect the elderly to be wise. A man is supposed to increase in wisdom and discretion as the years go by, but such is not always the case. Proverbs 16:31 says, "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." The hairs of an old man have value of an eternal quality if they reflect the righteous wisdom of God, but if they do not, they are of little worth. God's hairs reflect this wisdom in its purest and most exalted sense. Every believer should strive to reflect God's wisdom. This reflection should only grow stronger as the believer grows older, and this growth is accomplished only through submission to biblical truth as one seeks the righteousness of God through the fear of the Lord.

As the fires of God's holiness were seen on Mount Sinai, they are also seen before His holy throne. Apart from the blood of Christ, none may approach unto such a holy God because "the LORD [our] God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24)." The wheels parallel the throne-chariot of God seen in Ezekiel's vision.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented (Part V)

"After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things." (Daniel 7:7-8)

The text now focuses on the fourth kingdom. This fearful beast represents two things. First of all, it represents the ancient Roman Empire which was then future to Daniel; however, the representation does not stop here. As the text progresses, the second coming of Jesus Christ makes up the context of the passage, and the destruction of this kingdom is described within the context of those last days; therefore, this beast is also picturing the future kingdom of the antichrist, a kingdom which is often referred to as the revived Roman Empire due to the similarities between the two.

The beast is described as dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly. Lasting some 500 years, the Roman Empire continued longer than the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia and Greece combined. The caesars took over the entire known world and added to the Roman Empire territories which had not been previously conquered. The great iron teeth bespeak of Rome's strength and endurance. They also identify this fourth kingdom with the iron legs of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter two. The iron not only speaks of the strength of a kingdom gone by, but it also speaks of the strength which will be vested in the future kingdom of the antichrist.

Future to Daniel but past to the present reader, the ten horns may be representative of the fact that the Roman Empire was divided into ten nations upon its fall; however, in a future sense, these ten horns most certainly speak of the ten kingdoms which shall arise in the latter days and serve the beast of the antichrist (Revelation 17:12-13). The antichrist is next described as the little horn. Although horns represent power, it should also be noted that the text calls this horn little. In comparison to the strength of God, His enemies are nothing more than little. It is true that this future foe will be invested with all the powers of hell, yet it must be remembered that he is still nothing more than a little horn in the eyes of an infinite God.

As Daniel considered this little horn, he noticed that it had human features, particularly a mouth which spoke great things. The word for great means much or many. This future foe will exalt himself against God and pour out unimaginable blasphemies which will seem to have no end.

Although the true antichrist is yet to come, his spirit may be seen in many of the Roman rulers who encouraged their subjects to worship them as deity. As all of humanity moves toward the second coming of Jesus Christ, this same spirit of antichrist may be seen throughout the world just as John said, "...and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (I John 4:3)."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented (Part IV)

"After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it." (Daniel 7:6)

The Greek Empire is represented by a leopard. Sleek and quick, this animal adequately represents the speed at which Alexander the Great conquered the hated Persians. This speed is further brought to light by the wings which adorned the beast. In just ten short years Alexander rose to power. His empire extended from Macedonia to India and from Egypt to the Caspian Sea; however, he died in the height of his youth and was succeeded by his four generals. These men are represented by the four heads.

After Alexander's death his kingdom was divided among these four men. Cassander took over Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus received Asia Minor and Thrace; Seleucus took Syria, Upper Asia, Babylon and the Eastern parts, and Ptolemy took hold of Egypt, Palestine and all of Arabia.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented (Part III)

"And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh." (Daniel 7:5)

The second beast pictures the Persian Empire. The bear was higher on one side than the other. Originally, Media controlled the Persians, but the tide turned when Cyrus defeated Astyages and seized the throne. Media was swallowed up by the stronger Persian power thus the picture of the lopsided bear.

The three ribs seem to represent the three kingdoms which fell to Persia in its initial conquest. These three kingdoms were Egypt, Lydia and Babylon. Amasis of Egypt was overcome in 568 BC. Croesus of Lydia was captured in 547 BC, and Nabonidus was suppressed in 539 BC along with his son Belshazzar.

A bear is larger and more clumsy than a lion. By means of great strength it overcomes its prey. The Persian Empire reached farther than that of Babylonia. It employed almost unimaginable amounts of people in its armies. Persian war tactics were centered around outnumbering and crushing the enemy through shear strength. Darius employed over 700,000 troops in his war against Scythia. In his march against the Greeks, Xerxes I took approximately one million men. Understanding the Persian's tactics of waging war aids one in understanding the heart behind the words "Arise, devour much flesh."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented (Part II)

"The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it." (Daniel 7:4)

This first kingdom is that of Babylon. It is identified as a lion, the primary Chaldean symbol. The Babylonian Empire is compared to a lion in Jeremiah 4:7. It is also given the characteristics of an eagle in Ezekiel 17:3. During the reigns of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon devoured the surrounding nations as a ravenous lion carries off its prey. It accomplished this with surprising speed. This may be what is pictured in the wings; however, in the latter years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Babylon ceased to be the aggressive force which it once was. Its power and ferocity steadily waned until its fall to the Persian Empire in 539 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar had once stood upon the porch of his magnificent palace and proudly exclaimed "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?" Yet, its days were numbered. The lion's power was reduced to that of a man and its rule brought to a close.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Destiny of the Gentile Kingdoms: The Four Kingdoms Presented

"In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another." 
(Daniel 7:1-3)

Chronologically, chapters seven and eight find there events cradled between chapters four and five. By the time Daniel interpreted Belshazzar's dream he already had knowledge of Babylon's future. Surely this would have heavily influenced Daniel's answer to the king. Belshazzar's promise of gifts would have been doubly contemptible to Daniel in light of the knowledge which God had given him concerning future events.

Chapter seven contains the final portions of the Aramaic text. As previously shown, the Aramaic text began in chapter two. In that chapter God opened with the direction of the world's kingdoms and now He ends with the same theme. At both ends of God's revelation to the Gentile world one finds the destructive course of man's governments compared to the glorious triumph of Christ's righteous kingdom.

The dream begins with the four winds of heaven striving upon the great sea. In Ephesians 2:2 Satan is called "the prince of the power of the air." In the turmoil of these four winds one cannot help but see the powers of darkness at work as they struggle to raise up the kingdoms of Satan's minions. The governments of this world are owned and swayed by satanic influence (Luke 4:5-6), and the powers of darkness are consistently attempting to thwart the righteous kingdom of Jesus Christ through the opposition of man's kingdoms.

In the books of Numbers, Joshua and Ezekiel the term the great sea is consistently in reference to the Mediterranean Sea. This terminology identifies the Middle East as the location of the events which are soon to follow. The Garden of Eden was found there. The Bible's events are centered there. History's major empires all claimed territory in this location, and it is within this district where the final events of biblical prophecy will unfold. This great sea also pictures the sea of humanity from which the kingdoms of Daniel's dream would arise (Daniel 7:17).

These four kingdoms are immediately presented as four beasts. Regardless of how moral a country's government may or may not be, at its heart it is nothing more than a beast. If for a time this true nature is suppressed, the grace of God should be given the credit. Man's governments are by nature violent and oppressive. They are easily corrupted and incredibly vulnerable to the forces of evil. Man is basically wicked (Romans 3:10-18); therefore, all of his governments are eventually corrupted and turned into a beast. For this reason, God's people should never find themselves looking to man's government for peace and security. Believers are commanded to be exemplary citizens as was Daniel, but they are never commanded to take their focus off of God and place it upon man. In fact, Psalm 146:3-5 commands the direct opposite.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Praise

"Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." (Daniel 6:25-28)

Darius' praise of God mirrors that of Nebuchadnezzar found in chapter four. In stark contrast to the lifeless idols of mankind, the king declares God to be living and steadfast forever. His kingdom is indestructible, and it will still be firm long after man's rule is over. Psalm 8:2 says, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger." With the humility of a little child, Darius declared the splendor and wonder of God. Only the Lord knows the final spiritual condition of this Median ruler. Through Daniel, God shined a bright light into the dark recesses of the Babylonian and Persian kingdoms in search of lost souls. By permitting Darius to witness such events, the Lord showed the king that those who resist God's authority will be destroyed, but those who place their trust in Jehovah shall be well.   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Penitence (Part III)

"And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den." (Daniel 6:24)

"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (Luke 19:27)." Jesus Christ declared such to be the end of all those who resist the righteousness of God. Daniel's authority was found in God; therefore, when his adversaries resisted him they ultimately resisted God. Their terrible end will forever be the expectation of all who reject the fear of the Lord. God delivers the man who casts himself upon the mercy and sufficiency of God, but He destroys the man who walks in his own ways. This truth is clearly taught in Isaiah 50:10-11.

"Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow."

Although the believer cannot be condemned to hell because he has been delivered by the blood of Christ, his flesh is still capable of resisting the righteous authority of God. A Christian may resist the godly admonitions of a pastor or parent. He may buck against the rebuke and help of a righteous friend. Whatever the case, it is a dangerous thing to resist the authority of God especially when that authority is walking in holiness and seeking to lead its subordinates into the fear of the Lord.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Penitence (Part II)

"Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God." (Daniel 6:21-23)

Live forever! This was not simply a statement of respect or formality. Coming from a man of Daniel's spiritual caliber, this was a heartfelt wish for the king's welfare. Daniel did not view Nebuchadnezzar as the enemy and neither did he view Darius as the enemy. The conversion of souls was important to Daniel as it should be to all of God's people. Had Darius come to saving faith in the God of the Hebrews, Daniel would gladly have endured a thousand lion's dens.

Daniel was quick to give God all the glory. He took this event as a unique occasion to expose Darius to the power of Israel's God. Daniel pointed out the fact that he was innocent before God. Such security is known only to those who are trusting in the righteousness of Christ and consequently walking in obedience. Darius needed this same relationship with God. Daniel's confidence in his relationship with his Creator would have been a catalyst for some thoughtful reflection on the king's part.

No manner of hurt could be found on Daniel. God had fully delivered him from the lion's mouths. The truth is, had God permitted Daniel to perish in the den, God would still be good; however, for purposes of witness to this heathen king and for purposes know only to Himself, the Lord chose to completely deliver Daniel. In this physical deliverance is a beautiful illustration of how God fully delivers the souls of all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Although the body may perish by a martyrs death, the soul of God's redeemed may never be molested.

Daniel accessed the riches of God's deliverance through the channel of simple faith. The text says that Daniel "believed in his God." The boundless riches of God's redemption will never be realized apart from turning to God in faith. The exercising of faith does not stop after the choice to believe in Christ. The believer must live in the principles of faith everyday. The agency of faith by which salvation is appropriated is the same agency by which salvation is lived out. This principle is taught in Colossians 2:6, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him." Christ is not received apart from faith and neither is He pleased apart from faith. Daniel simply believed in his God; therefore, he simply obeyed Him and lived out His holy commandments.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Penitence

"Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" (Daniel 6:18-20)

The king demonstrated a heart of repentance. The Hebrew word behind the English word repentance means to turn around. Repentance is a change of mind and heart which results in some change in behavior. No one would have believed that Darius was truly brokenhearted had he passed the evening in genuine glee. His actions may have been different from those of another person but they contained an undeniable quality of humility. Darius' behavior is a fine example of what characterizes true sorrow over sin.

With a sad (lamentable) voice the king cried out to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Unlike the lifeless idols of his kingdom, Darius knew that Daniel's God lives. He recognized that Daniel served his God in a continual fashion. Unmoved by man's whims and political maneuvers, Daniel served God with righteous consistency. This should be said of every Christian. God's people are not required to go astray. No one has to have periods of rebellion. Righteous consistency is the Spirit's desire for His people, but it will not come as long as the believer holds the things of the flesh in higher regard than the things of the Spirit.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Predicament (Part III)

"Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel." (Daniel 6:15-17)

Seeing that the king was obviously reluctant to carry out the sentence against Daniel, his wicked counselors remind him that the laws of the land must be carried out without exception.

Snared by Persian law and the consequences of his own pride, the king commands the execution of Daniel's punishment. This was done in great sorrow as is evidenced by the king's words, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee." God was not only doing a work in Daniel's life; He was also doing a work in Darius' soul. The souls of men have always been of the utmost importance to God, and it is the pursuit of souls which characterizes the true believer.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Predicament (Part II)

"Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him." (Daniel 6:11-14)

O the sting of pride! The king had been completely blinded by its deceptive nature. His own wicked heart had once again proven to be his own worst enemy. A wise Christian will take heed to this. Following one's own wisdom is dangerous. Each and every decision must have a biblical foundation; otherwise, the end may be very bitter.

The king's pride not only exposed him as a fool before his adversaries, it also proved to be harmful to the man he most respected. A man's sin never affects just himself. In the end, others suffer. When a mother turns from God, her husband and children suffer. When a pastor turns from following the fear of God, everyone under his ministry will feel the effects. Christ's believers are His body. Not one member of that body is permitted to be ill without the rest of the body being made aware.

Realizing that he had allowed himself to be deceived by these men, the king labored with all his might in an effort to find some judicial loophole. He had great love and respect for Daniel, and he showed it by his actions.

Daniel's adversaries were playing with fire. Not only had they harmed the king's most trusted president, but they had also made a fool out of Darius. They had become so comfortable in their sin that they were blind to its potential consequences. Even if their scheme could be carried out, the king would forever be their enemy. They were apparently unmoved by such realities. They were so desperate to be out from under the righteous rule of Daniel that they were willing to gamble with the king's power.

Man's wicked heart will stop at nothing to break itself free of God's law. Such actions are vain, yet men continually attempt to throw off God's authority. The believer is not above demonstrating this same heart attitude. Discussing God's word is one thing, but it is quite another to actually apply it to everyday life. Talk is cheap, but application will quickly reveal whether or not the believer is submitted to God's righteous rule over his life.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Predicament

"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." (Daniel 6:10)

The Lord Jesus Christ is "...the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8)." During His earthly ministry, the Lord walked in righteous consistency whether He was seated at supper or weathering the storms of Galilee. Empowered by the Spirit of Christ, Daniel exhibited this same righteous consistency. He was a man who was at peace in the sufficiency of God. His peace was not dependent upon the cultural, political or religious climate. Daniel believed that God is in control and his life fully reflected it.

Because Daniel was accustomed to seeking God when life was calm, his first reaction was to seek God when life was disturbed. He simply resorted to that which he always did. A Christian will not first turn to God in life's big trials if he is not accustomed to putting God first in everyday life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Pride

"Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree." (Daniel 6:6-9)

The Medo-Persian government was not an absolute monarchy. The king himself was subject to the various laws which were put into place. Unlike the Babylonian kingdom, Darius would be a slave to whatever writing he signed. When one considers the nature of this decree, he cannot help but notice how foolish it was. In the most extreme case, it would prohibit a man from asking his wife for a cup of water. If carried to its logical conclusions, this law would require the desires of every living thing to pass through the king. The decree attempted to make Darius God, but he was not God. No one can usurp God's position. Only God has the ability to open His hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16).

In their deception to gain their desires, these ungodly men took advantage of the king's pride. They knew that he would be so flattered over such a position that he could not help but sign the decree. Man's pride is at the root of every sin, and these men knew just how to use it. Had Darius stopped and considered their proposition he would have noticed that Daniel's signature was missing. These men lied to the king by telling him that all the presidents had signed the decree, but Darius' self-centered heart was far too full of itself to notice that his most trusted president had not signed.

Darius' folly has the potential to fall upon anyone. The believer needs the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit to protect him from falling prey to such deceptions. This is especially true when others attempt to play upon his pride. Destruction is always preceded by pride (Proverbs 16:18). Pride fogs the judgment and prevents biblical thinking. If a Christian will consistently keep in view his dependency upon God, he will be less likely to fall prey to such lies.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Witness to Darius: The King's Presidents

"It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God." (Daniel 6:1-5)

Although Cyrus the Persian was on the throne at this time, he had placed Darius the Median on the throne in Babylon. One of Darius' first acts was to put in place a system of accountability by which his royal revenues could be collected. Man's government has always been corrupt. Darius knew that if he did not have some means of closely monitoring the royal taxes much would be lost to embezzlement and bribery.

Daniel quickly proved himself to be a man of integrity. Even though he knew full well that man's government is vain, he also knew that he should be diligent with all that God entrusted to him (Colossians 3:23). His honesty and godly wisdom made him preferred above the other two presidents. The king, a lost man, was able to see something different in Daniel. Rather than being consumed with selfish desires, he was completely preoccupied with righteous conduct. Rather than engaging in political schemes to build himself a temporal empire, he busied himself with bringing glory to God by means of a holy lifestyle. His actions were so pure that Darius pondered the possibility of making him vice-regent.

Daniel's co-laborers hated him. He stood in the way of their covetousness. Thievery and bribery would not be tolerated under his rule. He was well acquainted with the value of a clear conscience toward God and men; therefore, he kept a close eye on all for which he was responsible. Furthermore, Daniel was a captive, a Jew; therefore, his subordinates refused to submit themselves to his godly conduct and quickly set about to bring him down to the grave. There was only one problem. He was blameless. This does not mean that Daniel never experienced sin or failure, but it does mean that he quickly repented of such things. He lived an open and honest life. Daniel would not have been afraid should any portion of his life have been put on display. He lived in the fear of the Lord. He daily practiced biblical wisdom, and most important of all, he walked in genuine humility. He was not too proud to say, "I am wrong." He was not afraid of what people thought. He was completely preoccupied with pleasing God. Simply put, he was blameless.

Daniel's conduct was nothing different from what every believer's conduct should be. One of the first qualifications of a New Testament pastor is that he be blameless (I Timothy 3:2). His example is to set forth that which God desires for all of His people. God wants every Christian to be blameless. God knows that His children will sin this side of eternity, but when such things happen, He desires their speedy repentance and restoration. God wants His people to walk in obedience. He wants separation from the world. He wants the lost to see a difference in attitude, motive, dress, desire, enjoyment and focus. He wants the lost to see that the believer does not serve the same master. Darius saw in Daniel what God wants every lost man to see in every Christian - the Holy Spirit.

Daniel's consistency in worship enabled these men to find false grounds for their accusations. They knew that the current cultural and political climate would have no effect on Daniel's love for God.

Could such things be said of God's people today? Would the adversary have to look as far as worship in order to find fault, or would the inappropriate conduct in the home or at the workplace be sufficient grounds for an accusation? In Daniel may be seen the faultless Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament believer enjoys the ever-present help of the Spirit. Are God's people allowing Him to fill and control them, or are they pushing Him back and quenching His conviction? Concerning Jesus' character, Hebrews 7:26 says that He is, "...holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners...." Daniel exhibited Christ-like character. He did not have near the same amount of Scripture and privileges that modern day Christians enjoy, yet among a whole army of political adversaries could not be found one legitimate accusation against the man. The sad truth is it would take much less to condemn most of the professing Church.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

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

"Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old." (Daniel 5:29-31)

Surprisingly, Belshazzar followed through with his promise, but the glory was short-lived. Concerning the fall of Babylon, Jeremiah wrote, "...the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted (Jeremiah 51:32)." While the king had been leading his orgy, the Persians had been busy diverting the Euphrates River (stopping the passages) to a nearby lake by means of a man-made canal. The Persian army was then able to march under the water gate and enter the city. Years prior, Jeremiah had prophesied of Babylon's fall. He commanded Seraiah to pronounce God's judgment against Babylon and then cast the prophecy into the portion of the Euphrates which ran through the middle of the city (Jeremiah 51:59-64). Perhaps the Persian army marched directly past the scroll of Jeremiah on their way to victory.

The text declares that Darius the Median took the throne of Babylon while history and other portions of Scripture make it clear that Cyrus the Persian became the next world ruler. A probable explanation would be that Darius was coregent under Cyrus. Originally, the Medes were the stronger of the two people groups; in light of this, their influence continued into the reign of Persia.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

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

"And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN." 
(Daniel 5:25)

MENE means a maneh or a mina which is a unit of measurement. Ezekiel 45:12 equates it to sixty shekels. TEKEL means a shekel. UPHARSIN is a plural word and it means a half shekel.

"This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." (Daniel 5:26-28)

Although MENE, TEKEL and UPHARSIN are nouns, Daniel interpreted them as verbs; therefore, when combined, the basic message read numbered numbered weighed divided! The verb hath numbered is the Aramaic verb manah (to number) which is from the same root as MENE. The verb art weighed is from the Aramaic word tekal (to weigh) which shares the same root as TEKEL; and finally, the verb is divided is from the Aramaic word paras which means to divide. Its root is the same as that used for PERES. In interpreting the last phrase, Daniel did not use the plural form PHARSIN (the U being a conjunction) but instead he used the singular form PERES. Perhaps this was a play on words because the Aramaic word for Persia is Paras.

In bringing Belshazzar to judgment, the divine scales had been set up. The maneh which consisted of sixty shekels had been placed on one side, and the tekel which consisted of only one shekel had been placed on the other. Obviously, the maneh greatly outweighed the insignificant shekel; therefore, Babylon (the shekel) would be conquered, divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Had Belshazzar humbled himself before his Creator the fearful scales of judgment would have been unnecessary. His position was one to be avoided at all costs. Hebrews 10:31 says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Concerning the scales of God's judgment, David said, "And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified (Psalm 143:2)." Belshazzar was not the only man who has ever been found wanting when placed on the righteous scale of God. Apart from the imparted righteousness of God, every individual would be found wanting.