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Daniel 6:1-9; Integrity and Conspiracy

11/14_Daniel 06:1-9; Integrity and Conspiracy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211114_dan06_1-9.mp3

Isaiah’s Prediction [c.740-681 BC]

October 12, 539 BC, Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian forces under Cyrus. Cyrus was named by God in Isaiah more than 150 years earlier.

Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, 25 who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, 26 who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Isaiah 45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: 2 “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 …that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Daniel no doubt was aware of this prophecy of Isaiah. We are told in Daniel 9:2 that he had a copy of Jeremiah’s prophecies to study. It is likely that he also had Isaiah, which was written 100 years before Jeremiah.

Cyrus, whether directly or indirectly, was ruling Babylon. Was Daniel looking at the prophecies, wondering if this Cyrus was the one the Lord had named as his shepherd, to fulfill all his purpose, to rebuild Jerusalem and the holy temple? The wicked king Belshazzar is dead, and now Cyrus is in control. After 66 years of captivity (605-539BC), finally there was hope. Things were looking up!

6:1-3; Daniel promoted from third to first

Remember, Belshazzar, on the night he was killed, promised to make Daniel the third ruler in the kingdom, an empty promise from a lame-duck king whose empire as they spoke was coming to an end; an offer that Daniel declined, although Belshazzar made the empty proclamation anyway.

Now Darius is establishing his rule.

Daniel 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

Where the wicked Belshazzar offered to make him third in his fallen kingdom, ironically Darius appointed Daniel as one of three high officials, and purposed to elevate him to first place, over the whole kingdom. The appointment of the three high officials was to hold the 120 satraps accountable, ‘so that the king might suffer no loss.’ Darius was ruling over newly conquered peoples, and those peoples would be expected to offer him tribute. A failure to pay the tax would be a treasonous act of rebellion. He needed trusted people to look out for his interests.

Cyrus was known for seeking peace and the goodwill of the people he conquered, so like Daniel, many of the officials may have been those who had served the previous administration. But there needed to be some accountability to ensure the stability of his rule. We are not told the period of time Daniel served as one of the three high officials, but during that time he ‘became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because and excellent spirit was in him.’

This was the same excellent spirit with which he served under Nebuchadnezzar, the excellent spirit that the queen mother informed Belshazzar was in Daniel (5:12, 14). God had given Daniel ‘learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams’ (1:17).

Jeremiah had instructed the captives in Babylon to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare’ (Jer.29:7). Daniel indeed was not seeking his own interests, but selflessly seeking the welfare of the city. He spoke truth even when it was costly; he did what he knew was right, even when no one else was. Because of this, ‘Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps …And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

The events of this chapter may have even taken place after Cyrus’ proclamation to release the Jews to rebuild the temple, which was given in his first year (Ezr.1:1-2; 2Chr.36:22-23). Things are looking up for Daniel. But sometimes the way up is down (Valley of Vision).

6:4-5; Jealousy and Integrity

Daniel 6:4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Why seek fault with Daniel? Here’s the problem with people of integrity. If their standards are higher than yours, they may make you feel guilty or look bad. Their integrity may prevent you from taking advantage of situations you feel entitled to take advantage of. These officials may or may not have been after his promised position over the whole kingdom. But they understood the accountability this would create for them, and they resented him.

This is an amazing testimony to the integrity of Daniel. When your own PR department writes up your credentials, that is one thing. But if your enemies are digging and digging, trying to find any dirt they can on you, trying to take you down, and they come up with nothing, that says something. Daniel was above reproach.

Remember, Daniel is a captive who had been uprooted from his land as a youth; everything he had had been taken away. Home, family, hopes and dreams, a future. Everything had been stripped from him by the enemies of God’s people. He could have easily justified just about anything, thinking ‘they took everything from me; it would be right for me to demand compensation.’ He even could have thought ‘they dishonored God and plundered his temple; I’m going to reclaim for God what is rightfully his.’ Daniel could have simply let things slide, not willing directly to steal, but reasoning ‘these are the enemies of God’s people; if I work hard for them, I am cooperating with the enemies of God, and ultimately I would be advancing their cause against God. But if I am lazy and neglect to do my job well, that will hurt the enemies of God, and God would want me to do that, wouldn’t he?’

The other high officials and satraps knew Daniel was an exile from Judah. They may have seen these kinds of justifications in other Israelites, so they fully expected to find something with which to accuse Daniel. But ‘but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.’ What high praise from the lips of his own co-workers!

Obey God and Man

So they concluded that if they were to find any fault, it would have to be a point at which the law of God required Daniel to disobey the king. They knew enough about Daniel to conclude that his devotion to his God was even greater than his submission to the king. But even that they could not find. We love to cite the verse ‘we must obey God rather than men’ (Ac.5:29) to give us a pass on anything we find inconvenient or distasteful, or permission to do something we just want to do. But Daniel somehow managed to live in pagan Babylon serving a pagan king with integrity and without ever compromising his faith in God. As Peter says,

1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. …13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

Paul says that governing authorities have been established by God.

Romans 13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. …

This is the general rule. Obeying God and seeking the good of the community ought to be rewarded, not punished. Galatians 5:23 says there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit.

Now there are times where we will legitimately have to make that choice and stand in obedience to God regardless of the cost. Peter goes on to say:

1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

For Daniel, this conflict between the law of his God and the law of the land had to be manufactured by his jealous and malicious adversaries.

6:6-9; Conspiracy and Flattery

Daniel 6:6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

This was a true conspiracy. The other high officials and satraps conspired together, and came together as a group to the king. The word translated ‘came by agreement’ is interesting; literally it means to gather tumultuously; to gather as a mob. It is unlikely that this describes the outward manner with which they approached the king, but rather the inner motive; they did not abandon proper court etiquette, demonstrated by their introduction ‘O king Darius, live forever!’ This shows what was in their hearts. This is a verbal link to the equivalent Hebrew word in Psalm 2

Psalm 2:1 Why do the nations rage [gather tumultuously] and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed…

Although they put on a good face, their appearance before the king was a result of a vicious and tumultuous conspiracy. They were plotting to murder an innocent man out of sheer jealousy, because they felt threatened by him. And they were willing to manipulate the king to serve their own ends and carry out their execution.

They flat out lied to the king’s face. They claimed that all the high officials were agreed, but clearly Daniel, one of three, the one the king intended to appoint over them all, had not agreed. Likely not even all the 120 satraps had agreed, as they were scattered ‘throughout the whole kingdom’, carrying out their duties for the king.

But they flattered the king, and flattery blinded him to what they were scheming. They wanted the king to be esteemed, and they had come up with a plan to test everyone’s loyalties. This did not necessarily imply that the king was divine, otherwise why limit this edict to only 30 days? The point was to consolidate power, that everything had to go through him. Darius would serve as the one mediator between his subjects and the gods of all the nations. All the gods had their priests, but for a month, Darius was to be acknowledged as the source and the provider of their every need.

This was the equivalent of the test in chapter 3 where ‘the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered’ and were required ‘to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” (Dan.3;3,5-6)

Darius probably didn’t realize it, but this was a greater blasphemy that Belshazzar’s defiling of God’s holy vessels at his drinking party. He was claiming, if only for a time, to be the one mediator between God and man. Jesus said

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is our only access to the Father.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

We gain access to the Father as a free gift, when we put our trust in Christ alone. He stands in the gap, he paid our price, he died in our place to reconcile us to God.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Darius was claiming to be something he could never be, and he had no idea what it would cost to be that Mediator. ‘There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for you!

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

November 15, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:29-31; Sovereign God of History

11/07_Daniel 05:29-31; Sovereign God of History; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211107_dan05_29-31.mp3

In the face of imminent danger (the Persian army was camped outside the walls of Babylon), Belshazzar had arrogantly attempted to display his dominance over the conquered people of Israel and their God by drinking wine from God’s holy vessels with his lords, his wives and his concubines. But instead of a show of power, he was humiliated in front of his thousand. God disrupted his party by writing in the plaster of his party room ‘Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided.’ The king lost control of himself. He shouted for his wise men to interpret the writing, but all they could do was admit their incompetence.

Then the queen mother entered and reminded the king:

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

So Daniel was summoned, and after declining the king’s offer of gifts, he rebuked the king with a history lesson. Daniel reminded the king of Nebuchadnezzar, who because of his pride was driven insane for 7 years:

Daniel 5:21 …until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

This king who had arrogantly put Daniel in his place now had to listen to a lecture from this exile from Judah. The king was displayed as lacking in both power and wisdom, dependent on this exile to read to him and give him the interpretation of the writing. He was put in his place by this prophet of the living God. Daniel then read the writing.

Daniel 5:24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Your days are numbered. You have been weighed, evaluated by God and you have fallen short. Your reign is over; God is giving your kingdom to someone else.

Exile Honored

Daniel 5:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Many have asked why Daniel received these honors after earlier refusing them. But Daniel may not have had a choice. The king had made a promise in front of his thousand, and he would have been obliged to keep his word. This verse describes what was done to Daniel, not how Daniel responded to this treatment. His earlier up front rejection of the offer of gifts demonstrated that he would not be bought; he was not interested in the king’s gifts, they would not compromise his telling of the truth to the king, as became obvious by his straightforward interpretation of the writing.

But there may be something bigger going on here. The book of Daniel opens with this statement:

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.

The first thing we see is the king of Babylon conquering Jerusalem, taking the holy vessels, and also taking

Daniel 1:3 …some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

These youths were to be thoroughly reprogrammed, indoctrinated, Babyon-ized. But a few of these youth refused to compromise and stood firm in their faith in YHWH, regardless of the cost. Now, 66 years later (605-539BC), Daniel was still found faithful. The Lord’s holy vessels had been defiled, and Daniel had been disrespected by Belshazzar, but the final official act on the final night of the kingdom of Babylon, Daniel the exile was honored by the final king of the Babylonian dynasty.

When all seems hopeless and out of control, is God still in control? Nebuchadnezzar learned that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will’ (4:32); that he ‘lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation’ (4:34). God can raise up whom he will, and humble whom he will (5:19); and at the close of the Babylonian empire, he humbled proud Belshazzar and lifted up dishonored Daniel.

Stubborn and Unrepentant

Daniel 5:29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

Belshazzar honored Daniel. What is missing here is any acknowledgment of God. In chapter 2, when Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream,

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

In chapter 3, when the three came through the fire unharmed,

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 …there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

In chapter 4, after he had lived like a beast for 7 years,

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

Nebuchadnezzar was humbled. He honored Daniel and his friends, and he blessed and praised and honored the one true God. Belshazzar kept his word and honored Daniel, but even to the end he refused to bow the knee to God.

Darius the Mede

Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

We don’t know with certainty who this Darius was. But many were skeptical of the existence of Belshazzar until 1854 when the first of several cylinders inscribed with his name was unearthed in the ruins of Ur and then Sippar and other cities. We do know that this is not the same Darius mentioned in Ezra-Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. That is Darius 1 Hystaspes, who ruled 17 years later (522-486).

We do know that Babylon was taken by Gubaru or Gobryas, who governed Babylon from 539 to at least 525/524BC. Many important people in history were known by different names, and it is possible that this Gubaru was also known as Darius, although we have no evidence of this. Verse 31 says that he ‘received the kingdom’. This could mean that he was entrusted with the kingdom by Cyrus his superior, or it could be a theological statement that he received the kingdom from God, as the beginning of the book Daniel tells us that ‘the Lord gave the king of Judah into his hand’.

Another more likely possibility is that Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede are two titles for the same person. Cyrus’ father was Persian, but his mother was the daughter of Astyages, king of Media. Cyrus led the combined armies of Media and Persia. Daniel may have intended to communicate that at the end of chapter 6:

Daniel 6:28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

This could be read as two distinct and successive reigns of different individuals, or the conjunction ‘and’ could be translated ‘even’ (as in 1 Chr.5:26), where two titles referring to the same individual are paralleled.

Cyrus Cylinder [6th cent. BC; discovered 1879 Babylon]

We know from history that Babylon fell to the armies of Cyrus. Cyrus’ own account as inscribed on the Cyrus Cylinder says this:

Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshippers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e. Cyrus’) good deeds and his upright mind (and) ordered him to march against his city Babylon. He made him set out on the road to Babylon going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops – their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established – strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon, sparing Babylon any calamity. … All the inhabitants of Babylon as well as of the entire country of Sumer and Akkad, princes and governors, bowed to him (Cyrus) and kissed his feet, jubilant that he (had received) the kingship, and with shining faces. Happily they greeted him as a master through whose help they had come (again) to life from death (and) had all been spared damage and disaster, and they worshipped his (very) name. [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1880-0617-1941]

Herodotus Histories [430 BC] 1:190-191

Herodotus records that the Babylonians:

…had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards.

191. Therefore, whether it was some other man who suggested it to him when he was in a strait what to do, or whether he of himself perceived what he ought to do, he did as follows:–The main body of his army he posted at the place where the river runs into the city, and then again behind the city he set others, where the river issues forth from the city; and he proclaimed to his army that so soon as they should see that the stream had become passable, they should enter by this way into the city. Having thus set them in their places and in this manner exhorted them he marched away himself with that part of his army which was not fit for fighting: and when he came to the lake, Cyrus also did the same things which the queen of the Babylonians had done as regards the river and the lake; that is to say, he conducted the river by a channel into the lake, which was at that time a swamp, and so made the former course of the river passable by the sinking of the stream. When this had been done in such a manner, the Persians who had been posted for this very purpose entered by the bed of the river Euphrates into Babylon, the stream having sunk so far that it reached about to the middle of a man’s thigh. …as it was, the Persians came upon them unexpectedly; and owing to the size of the city (so it is said by those who dwell there) after those about the extremities of the city had suffered capture, those Babylonians who dwelt in the middle did not know that they had been captured; but as they chanced to be holding a festival, they went on dancing and rejoicing during this time until they learnt the truth only too well. [https://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/hh/hh1190.htm]

Xenophon Cyropaedia [c.370 BC]

Xenophon records in his Cyropaedia:

[Book VII; c.5] (7) When they were encamped, Cyrus called a council of his officers and said, “My friends and allies, we have surveyed the city on every side, and for my part I fail to see any possibility of taking by assault walls so lofty and so strong: on the other hand, the greater the population the more quickly must they yield to hunger, unless they come out to fight. If none of you have any other scheme to suggest, I propose that we reduce them by blockade.”

(8) Then Chrysantas spoke: “Does not the river flow through the middle of the city, and it is not at least a quarter of a mile in width?”

“To be sure it is,” answered Gobryas, “and so deep that the water would cover two men, one standing on the other’s shoulders; in fact the city is even better protected by its river than by its walls.”

(9) At which Cyrus said, “Well, Chrysantas, we must forego what is beyond our power: but let us measure off at once the work for each of us, set to, and dig a trench as wide and as deep as we can, that we may need as few guards as possible.”

(10) Thereupon Cyrus took his measurements all round the city, and, leaving a space on either bank of the river large enough for a lofty tower, he had a gigantic trench dug from end to end of the wall, his men heaping up the earth on their own side. …(13) Thus his army was employed, but the men within the walls laughed at his preparations, knowing they had supplies to last them more than twenty years. …

(15) However by this time the trenches were dug. And Cyrus heard that it was a time of high festival in Babylon when the citizens drink and make merry the whole night long. As soon as the darkness fell, he set his men to work. (16) The mouths of the trenches were opened, and during the night the water poured in, so that the river-bed formed a highway into the heart of the town.

…(21) To-night we go against them when some are asleep and some are drunk, and all are unprepared: and when they learn that we are within the walls, sheer astonishment will make them still more helpless than before.

…(24) …he said, turning to Gadatas and Gobryas, “show us the streets, you know them; and once we are inside, lead us straight to the palace.”

(25) “So we will,” said Gobryas and his men, “and it would not surprise us to find the palace-gates unbarred, for this night the whole city is given over to revelry. Still, we are sure to find a guard, for one is always stationed there.”

“Then,” said Cyrus, “there is no time for lingering; we must be off at once and take them unprepared.”

Xenophon [Book IV, (C.6), 2-7] records Gobryas as defecting from Babylon and joining Cyrus to seek vengeance on ‘this vile king …the prince, who is now king’ because out of jealousy the prince had murdered his only son.

[Book VII; c.5] (26) Thereupon they entered: and of those they met some were struck down and slain, and others fled into their houses, and some raised the hue and cry, but Gobryas and his friends covered the cry with their shouts, as though they were revellers themselves. And thus, making their way by the quickest route, they soon found themselves before the king’s palace. …(28) As the din grew louder and louder, those within became aware of the tumult, till, the king bidding them see what it meant, some of them opened the gates and ran out. (29) Gadatas and his men, seeing the gates swing wide, darted in, hard on the heels of the others who fled back again, and they chased them at the sword’s point into the presence of the king.

(30) They found him on his feet, with his drawn scimitar in his hand. By sheer weight of numbers they overwhelmed him: and not one of his retinue escaped, they were all cut down, some flying, others snatching up anything to serve as a shield and defending themselves as best they could. [https://gutenberg.org/files/2085/2085-h/2085-h.htm#2H_4_0007]

Daniel records:

Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Jeremiah [c. 628-586 BC]

Some 50 years earlier the Lord had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah 51:5 For Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the LORD of hosts, but the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel. …

…11 “Sharpen the arrows! Take up the shields! The LORD has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, because his purpose concerning Babylon is to destroy it, for that is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance for his temple. 12 “Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon; make the watch strong; set up watchmen; prepare the ambushes; for the LORD has both planned and done what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. 13 O you who dwell by many waters, rich in treasures, your end has come; the thread of your life is cut. 14 The LORD of hosts has sworn by himself: Surely I will fill you with men, as many as locusts, and they shall raise the shout of victory over you.

…24 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the LORD.

…28 Prepare the nations for war against her, the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies, and every land under their dominion.

…39 While they are inflamed I will prepare them a feast and make them drunk, that they may become merry, then sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, declares the LORD. 40 I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter, like rams and male goats. 41 “How Babylon is taken, the praise of the whole earth seized! How Babylon has become a horror among the nations!

…57 I will make drunk her officials and her wise men, her governors, her commanders, and her warriors; they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts. 58 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground, and her high gates shall be burned with fire. The peoples labor for nothing, and the nations weary themselves only for fire.”

The Lord had not forsaken his people.

Isaiah [c.740-681 BC]

At least 140 years earlier, God spoke to his chosen people through Isaiah the prophet, reminding them that he alone is God, warning of the folly of idolatry

Isaiah 44:24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, 25 who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, 26 who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

Isaiah 45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: 2 “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 …that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Isn’t this exactly what we see here in Daniel? God makes fools of diviners, dries up their river, and names Cyrus, who will loose the belts of kings? God is still on his throne, sovereign over history. ‘The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ ‘He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”’ (4:32, 35). ‘Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases’ (Ps.115:3).

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

November 14, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:24-28; Weighed and Found…

10/31_Daniel 05:24-28; Weighed and Found…; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211031_dan05_24-28.mp3

The night Babylon fell,

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. 5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

The king shouted for the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. But in spite of his offers of reward, ‘all the king’s wise men …could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation.’ So Belshazzar’s color changed again and he was greatly alarmed.

The queen mother entered the panicked party and pointed the king to the disregarded Daniel, who was highly esteemed during the reign of ‘king Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king.’

So Daniel was brought. Skeptical Belshazzar put Daniel in his place, reminding him of his position as an exile, a captive of the conquered people of Judah. He extended the same offer of reward to Daniel ‘if’ he could read the writing and make known the interpretation.

Daniel’s Rebuke

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel will interpret the writing on the wall, but first he issues a strong rebuke to the king.

Daniel 5:18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

Folly of Idolatry

The king was an idolater, praising ‘the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know.’

In Isaiah 44 the Lord challenges idolaters:

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Isaiah goes on to mock the idolater in verse 9

Isaiah 44:9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

Idolatry ends in the idolater being put to shame. The idolater becomes just as blind as the idol he worships. Next Isaiah highlights the ironic folly of the one who makes an idol:

Isaiah 44:12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” 18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Daniel rebukes Belshazzar for praising inanimate gods; gods which do not see or hear or know.

Daniel 5:23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

The king was an idolater. He may or may not have been an idolater in the sense we often think of it, bowing down before carved images of the deities that he served. What we are told is that he ‘drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.’ He may not have been religious at all; rather his trust was in tangible things like financial security, military strength, and impenetrable defenses. He certainly liked to drink wine with his lords, his wives and his concubines. He was proud, and he pursued his own pleasure. Those were his gods. He was an idolater, and he was a fool.

All Seeing, All Hearing, All Knowing, Living God

At the Exodus of God’s people out of the hand of their captors, God contrasts himself with idols that do not see or hear or know. He says to Moses from the burning bush:

Exodus 3:7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…

Our God is a God who sees, who hears, who knows. He is the God who comes down to deliver.

Belshazzar is a fool to trust in silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood and stone, and to pursue his own pleasures, when he knew that there is a God who sees all, who hears all, who knows all, and who intervenes in the affairs of mankind. He knew there is a living God in whose hand is his breath, and whose are all his ways. But he refused to honor him. The fool says in his heart ‘there is no God’ (Ps.14:1; 53:1).

Judgment of Tongues

Daniel 5:24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN.

Daniel reads the writing as Aramaic, which is what chapters 2 – 7 are written in, the common language of Babylon. We have the Aramaic transliterated as ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN’, so it sounds foreign to us, but to them it would have sounded familiar, like something they would frequently hear from merchants in the market; ‘numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.’ Why none of the wise men of Babylon could read something written in their own language is not explained. But if you are familiar with the history of Babylon (or Babel of Genesis 11) where the people said ‘let us make a name for ourselves’ so God confused their languages; then this confusion of language in judgment on a king who lifted up himself against the Lord of heaven is not surprising. In fact, we see this confusion of languages threatened as a sign of judgment against God’s own people who have gone astray throughout the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 28:47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart… 49 The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand,

Isaiah 28:11 For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people, (cf.1Cor.14:21)

Jeremiah 5:15 Behold, I am bringing against you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, declares the LORD. …a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say.

So the Psalmist prays against his enemies:

Psalm 55:9 Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city.

The words to Belshazzar were in his own language, but he could not understand the meaning without someone to interpret them. And we see Daniel not merely reading the words, but communicating the message God was speaking through those words.

Weighed and Found…

Daniel confronts the king; ‘you knew, you were proud, you exalted yourself, you desecrated God’s vessels, you committed idolatry, you dishonored God’

Daniel 5:24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Numbered, numbered, weighed, divided. Your days are numbered and brought to an end. You have been weighed in and come up short. Your kingdom is divided and fallen. Just as God gave the kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar, now he is giving it to the Medes and Persians.

Weighed and Found Wanting

Belshazzar was evil. He didn’t learn from the experience of others. He knew, but he didn’t act appropriately based on the knowledge he had. He took for granted the good things that were given to him by God. He failed to honor God as God or give thanks to him. He disrespected and disregarded God’s messenger. He even took what belonged to God and acted as if it belonged to him. He was weighed in the balances and found wanting.

We are aghast at the brazen insolence of Belshazzar, but isn’t that us? Doesn’t that describe you? We fail to learn from the experience of others. We don’t live consistent with the knowledge we have. We take for granted the good gifts God gives. How often do we fail to honor God as God or give him the thanks he deserves? How often do we act as if what we have been given is ours to use however we please?

If I were to be weighed in the scales I too would be found wanting. We all come up short. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None is righteous, no not one.

Weighed and Found Worthy

Well, all but one. Jesus was weighed in the scales and found worthy. On two occasions, at the beginning and end of his ministry his Father declared from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17;17:5). Jesus

1 Peter 1:22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

Mark 14:55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none.

Three times Pilate attested publicly to his accusers ‘I find no guilt in him’ (Jn.18:38;19:4,6).

Jesus was weighed in the scales and found worthy. Jesus said:

John 5:30 …I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 8:29 …I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

God

Acts 17:31 …will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

The Father attested to the perfect righteousness of his only Son Jesus by raising him from the dead.

We are told in 2 Corinthians 5

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The Father placed my sin on the sinless Jesus, and Jesus paid my price in full.

Clothed in His Worth

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus was weighed and found worthy, and when we are found in him, we are made worthy; we become the very righteousness of God!

Isaiah 61:10 … for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, …

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Because I am in Jesus, the Father looks at me and says “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”!

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

November 6, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:17-23; Revelation Ignored

10/24_Daniel 05:17-23; Revelation Ignored; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211024_dan05_17-23.mp3

The king held a feast the night Babylon fell. His father Nabonidus had been defeated and fled days earlier. Cyrus and his Medo-Persian army were camped outside the city.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

Belshazzar, brazen and bold, with total disregard for what is right and good, desecrates the holy vessels from the temple of the God of Israel and praises the inanimate gods of his own wealth and defenses; gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, stone. The living God sobers the drunk king by writing with living fingers in the plaster of his party room where all could see, and reduces this brash king to a pale and paranoid collapsing puddle of incompetence.

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

The queen, likely the queen mother, part of the old administration, rebukes her son and points him to the wisdom of the old administration, particularly the aged Hebrew Daniel.

The young Belshazzar, regaining some of his impudence, insults Daniel by questioning his capabilities and putting him in his place, reminding him that he is a mere exile brought captive by the mighty Babylonian empire of which he, Belshazzar, is currently in charge.

Theology Lesson

Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation.

Daniel skips the formalities of the court and the ‘O king, live forever’ nonsense, which was clearly not going to happen; the king will be dead before the night is over. He declines the king’s offer of gifts and rewards as useless and unattractive. He is interested in truth, and won’t be compromised by a bribe.

Daniel will read the writing on the wall and give the king the interpretation, but he doesn’t start with that. He starts with God, he is thoroughly God centered, because it really is all about God.

Daniel 5:18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him.

Belshazzar is acting as if he were God. He needs a theology lesson. He needs to know that it is the one true God who gave the kingship to his father Nebuchadnezzar. The Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. All this was a gift. It was from the Most High God, the very one whose vessels Belshazzar profaned at his illicit feast. God is the giver of every good gift.

Contrast Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar

There is an implicit contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar in what Daniel says to him. Nebuchadnezzar was given the kingship, greatness, glory, and majesty. Belshazzar is the acting king, and he can put on a great feast, but that’s about all. He lacks the greatness, the glory, the majesty of his predecessor. Nebuchadnezzar had conquered kingdoms, and was the king of kings. Belshazzar through a series of deaths, coups and assassinations inherited that kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar was a builder, fortifying Babylon and making her beautiful, a wonder of the world. Belshazzar was hiding behind Nebuchadnezzar’s walls, throwing a party in one of his palaces. Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and plundered the temple. Belshazzar drank wine from the vessels his father had seized. All peoples, nations and languages trembled and feared before Nebuchadnezzar, but now Belshazzar was trembling in fear before all his dinner guests. Nebuchadnezzar killed whom he willed, but Belshazzar is about to be killed. Nebuchadnezzar had much to be proud of, and God Almighty humbled him. Belshazzar stood small in his shadow, and acted even more presumptuously and arrogantly than his father.

His father was great, entrusted by God with godlike power to rule and govern, ‘to kill and to keep alive, to raise up and to humble’ but when ‘his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down.’ In his own words from chapter 4 (:37) “all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

History Lesson

Daniel gives Belshazzar a history lesson. He reminds him of the lesson learned by Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.

Structure and Symmetry

Daniel chapter 4 is Nebuchadnezzar’s own record of that event. There is symmetry to the book of Daniel, and the end of Daniel 4 is the hinge connecting the two halves of the Aramaic portion of Daniel. Starting in 2:4 and going through the end of chapter 7 the book is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. This section has a mirror structure:

2 The King’s Dream -4 kingdom statue

–3 The Fiery Furnace -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

—-4 Nebuchadnezzar’s Beastly Pride – repentance → worship

—-5 Belshazzar’s Blasphemous Pride – unrepentant → destroyed

–6 The Lion’s Den -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

Chapter 2 parallels chapter 7, which are both dreams of four kingdoms, one given to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great statue, one given to Daniel in the form of beasts. Chapter 3 parallels chapter 6, where the faithful are persecuted for their faithfulness to God and thrown into a pit, the three into the pit of the furnace in chapter 3 and Daniel into the pit of lions in chapter 6. Both are supernaturally preserved and delivered. At the center of this structure is the pride of pagan kings; Nebuchadnezzar warned, humbled and repentant, acknowledging the Most High God as God; Belshazzar blasphemous, warned and humiliated but unhumbled, whose end is death.

Daniel draws our attention to this comparison and contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Those who walk in pride God is able to humble. Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened; he was proud but God humbled him. And he came to know ‘that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.’ Nebuchadnezzar repented. He looked to God. His reason returned and he acknowledged the Most High God as sovereign. He praised and extolled and honored the King of heaven. He worshiped.

Without Excuse

Daniel 5:22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

You knew all this. You are responsible for what you know. A fool doesn’t learn from his own mistakes. A smart person makes mistakes and learns from them, but a wise person is able to see the mistakes of others and learn from them. Belshazzar is a fool. He knew that proud Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by God, lost his reason, went wild and ate grass like an ox for seven years. He knew all this, and yet he did not humble himself.

We often hear concern over remote unreached people groups; would a loving God really send them to hell when they had no opportunity to hear the gospel? Paul writes in Romans 1

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

God has revealed himself in creation, his eternal power, his divine nature is made plain, is clearly seen, so all are without excuse. Our problem is not that we don’t know there is a God; we do. Our problem is that we refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to him. We become futile in our thinking and we would rather give our worship to creation than the Creator. We would like to think that he does not exist, so that we are not accountable to him; so we pretend like he doesn’t exist. We know he’s there, but ‘no one seeks for God …not even one’ (Rom.3:11-12). We all are without excuse.

Belshazzar was without excuse. ‘you …have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven.’ His was not a mere passive ignoring the existence of God; his was intentional active rebellion. By taking the vessels of God’s house and drinking wine from them with his lords, his wives and his concubines, he is acting as if he were God, claiming to be more powerful than God. He was exalting himself against the Lord of heaven. He was doing exactly what Romans 1 warns against; he refused to honor God as God; instead he ‘exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator’ (25). He praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know. But God sees. God hears. God knows.

Breath of God

Belshazzar refused to honor the God ‘in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways’. Did you know your every breath is from God? Job challenges the idolater:

Job 12:7 “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; 8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Beasts, birds, plants, fish; all creation knows that our very life and breath are under God’s control.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Do you acknowledge that every breath that you have drawn from birth up to this present moment was ordained for you by God? Do you acknowledge your next breath is in the hand of God? You knew all this. You are without excuse. Will you honor God as God and give him thanks, will you use this breath to worship and serve the Creator, who is blessed forever? (Rom.1:21, 25)

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 26, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:7-16; Wisdom Scorned

10/17_Daniel 05:7-16; Wisdom Scorned; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211017_dan05_7-16.mp3

The fifth chapter of Daniel jumps ahead from the death of Nebuchadnezzar 23 years and 4 kings. Nabonidus was king of Babylon, but had entrusted his son Belshazzar with the rule of the kingdom, while he followed his archaeological and building pursuits 500 miles south in the city of Tema in Arabia. He had returned to Babylon toward the end of his reign, and on hearing Cyrus was approaching, had led his troops 40 miles north to meet Cyrus in battle. He was defeated and fled. Daniel 5 picks up the story 2 days later.

Belshazzar’s Confidence

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Belshazzar apparently felt secure behind the massive walls of Babylon, with supplies stored up to outlast any siege (or at least he wanted others to perceive him as confident), so he threw a massive party to display his opulent wealth, military might and strong defenses.

Spitting in the Face of God

But to call for the sacred temple vessels and to drink wine from them at his party his was arrogant and offensive. This was a symbolic act in direct defiance of the gods, saying in effect, I am greater, more powerful than the gods of other nations. My people have conquered the God of Israel, and now I can drink from his cup. We will also defeat the gods of the Persians encamped outside our walls.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

His confidence evaporated as God supernaturally crashed his party by writing something no one could understand in the plaster of his party room.

Incompetence of the Wise Men

Daniel 5:7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

Notice that the offer of Belshazzar is to make the interpreter the third, not the second ruler of Babylon. Although he is not mentioned in Daniel, this would account for Nabonidus as first, with Belshazzar as second or co-regent, the successful interpreter being offered the third position, ruling alongside father and son.

By now we chuckle at the mention of the enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, because the incompetence of Babylon’s wise men has already been repeatedly demonstrated. Back in chapter 2 ‘the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans’ were summoned to tell the king his dreams, but they proved incapable and their very lives were spared only by the action of Daniel and his friends, with Daniel himself appointed as chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

In chapter 3 when the Chaldeans ‘maliciously accused the Jews’, they became witnesses of God’s ability to preserve his people even through the fire. The result was an edict defending the Jews, with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego promoted in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 4, ‘all the wise men of Babylon …the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers’ were brought before the king to interpret his dream, ‘but they could not make known to me its interpretation.’ ‘At last Daniel came in …in whom is the spirit of the holy gods’ and he was able to make known the interpretation to the king.

Here again in chapter 5,

Daniel 5:8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

It seems the thing that had the king scared at least as much as seeing a supernatural hand writing on his wall was not knowing what the writing meant. The king has lost all control, he is shouting for someone to come help him out. The enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers can’t even read the inscription let alone make known the interpretation. The king’s color had already changed back in verse 6; now it changes again in verse 9. The people who should be able to help him have failed him. Words are written on the wall, and no one understands.

The Wise Queen

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

We don’t know who this woman was, except that she is called the queen. She is not the wife of Belshazzar, because from verse 2 we know his wives and concubines are already drinking with him at his feast. She enters unbidden and with authority and dignity politely rebukes Belshazzar.

She refers repeatedly to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father, which is a general word that is broader than our word ‘father’ and could apply to a grandfather or simply a predecessor. For that matter, we don’t really know what Belshazzar’s lineage was, other than that Nabonidus claims him as his only son. It is likely that this is the queen mother, possibly a daughter of the late Nebuchadnezzar or even his wife Nitocris, possibly married by Nabonidus to secure his position. It is possible that Belshazzar is the literal son or grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who was adopted by Nabonidus. We aren’t told the details.

The Incontinent King

But this wise woman enters the banqueting hall and rebukes the incontinent Belshazzar and points him to Daniel who can untie his knots for him. Back in verse 6, we are told that the knots of the king’s loins were loosed; probably meaning that he lost control of his bodily functions. The queen, wittingly or unwittingly uses a double entendre, telling her son that the wise man Daniel is able to untie his knots for him. The king himself obliviously uses this phrase again in verse 16, where he says to Daniel ‘I hear you are able to untie knots.’ As one commentator notes: ‘from the point of view of an Aramaic speaking Israelite who had suffered much at the hands of the Babylonians …this ignominious spectacle is enough to elicit hoots of derisive laughter on the part of the audience …The unwitting double entendre [of the queen mother] evokes more derisive laughter. Finally, the king himself comes face to face with Daniel …and says, in effect, “I understand that you can untie my knots for me” Again we imagine the audience’s uproarious laughter as the hapless pagan king unwittingly makes a fool of himself before the prophet of the Lord. We see how the story uses burlesque humor to underscore the sovereignty of the Israelite God, before whom the great kings of the earth can at a moment’s notice be reduced to figures of fun, preparatory to being brought to justice.’ [Schwab, p.76 (citing Al Wolters, JBL 110, 1991: 117-122)]

Rebuke of the Queen

The queen mother reminds Belshazzar

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

There seems to be a motherly scolding in her tone; king Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king. The man you demoted and won’t even listen to, your father promoted him and put him in charge because of his surpassing wisdom. You should listen to him. This woman enters the chaos boldly and answers the fear with wisdom and confidence.

The queen mother may have observed first hand the abilities of Daniel and his interaction with Nebuchadnezzar. She may have even come to believe in the God of Daniel herself.

Belshazzar has no other options than to comply with the queen’s recommendation.

Lady Wisdom

We are reminded of the lady wisdom in Proverbs 1;

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,

…20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. 32 For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; 33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

She says again in Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.

And Proverbs 9

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Belshazzar obviously had no fear of the Lord, and terror is striking him like a storm and calamity like a whirlwind; he is about to eat the fruit of his own way and have his fill of his own devices.

Daniel Dishonored

Daniel 5:13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

The king puts on a face of being in control. Daniel is brought in, and the king addresses Daniel as ‘that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah.’ Belshazzar wants to lift himself up and put Daniel in his place, making sure that he knows that it was his father (or predecessor) who conquered Judah and took Daniel captive, and that Daniel is a mere exile from conquered Judah.

Keep in mind, Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel captive at the beginning of his reign, and he reigned for 43 years, so Daniel has now been in Babylon for 66 years. If he was about 15 when he was taken, he would be over 80 years old. And he is being talked down to by this arrogant young king. He seems to have no respect for age or wisdom.

All the positive things he says are prefaced by ‘I have heard of you’. He extends the same offer he made to the other failed wise men, but prefaces it by ‘if’, expressing skepticism about the capabilities Daniel.

The Fool and the Gospel

Belshazzar is the classic fool.

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

We can look at Belshazzar and recognize a fool. We might even be tempted to laugh and scorn. But Psalm 14 tells us that we are looking in the mirror. There is none who does good. Not even one. None seek God. Not even me. Romans 3 quotes this Psalm and concludes:

Romans 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Is my mouth stopped, or am I looking down my nose at Belshazzar, amazed at his folly, thinking I am so much wiser than he? Am I able to recognize by God’s grace that I am looking in a mirror, and this is what my pride looks like? Am I willing to acknowledge that

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned [I have sinned] and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

I fall short. I am inadequate. I am not enough. I need a gift I don’t deserve. I need grace. I need redemption. My only hope is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. I am the God-belittling fool, and without God’s supernatural intervention, I will eat the fruit of my way, and have my fill of my own devices.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence

10/10_Daniel 05:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211010_dan05_1-6.mp3

History of Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar reigned in Babylon for 43 years. He died in 562, and was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach; 2Ki.25:27-30). After an arbitrary and licentious reign of only 2 years, he was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, (Nergal-Sharezer; Jer.39:3,13), who reigned for three years eight months. When he died in 556 BC, his son Labashi-Marduk took the throne. He was young and inexperienced, and was assassinated after only a few months, and Nabonidus, part of the coup to overthrow him, was appointed to rule. History tells us that Nabonidus was the final ruler of the Babylonian empire, until it fell in 539 BC to Cyrus the Persian.

Belshazzar and the Nabonidus Cylinder

Daniel chapter 5 records Belshazzar as the final ruler of Babylon at its fall to Cyrus, and critics of the Bible were quick to point out this historical ‘inaccuracy,’ and the fact that a king named Belshazzar was unknown to history outside of the biblical record.

That is, until 1853. The Nabonidus cylinder was discoved in a ziggurat in Ur in, which contains a prayer of Nabonidus to the moon god Sin:

ii 3–16) O Sîn, lord of the gods, king of the gods of heaven and earth, god of the gods, the one who resides in the great heavens…

ii 18–22) (As for) me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great divinity and grant me a long life (lit. “a life of long days”)

“ii 23–26) Moreover, with regard to Belshazzar, (my) first-born son, my own offspring, have the fear of your great divinity placed in his heart so that he does not commit a(ny) sin. May he be sated with happiness in life.” [RINBE 2, p.163]

Since that time, several other inscriptions on cuneiform cylinders and tablets have been found in the ruins of Ur, Sippar, and Borsippa attesting to the historicity of Belshazzar (or Bēl-šarru-uṣur – Bel protect the king).

Even Babylonian administrative documents recording business transactions naming Belshazzar as the crown prince have been discovered. This clay tablets is dated to the ‘24th day of Kislimu in the 11th year of Nabonidus, King of Babylon’. It mentions a ‘slave of Bel-sharra-utsur (Belshazzar), son of the king.’ [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1898-0514-558]

Things like this are still being found. In July of this year, a 26 line inscription depicting Nabonidus was discovered in northern Saudi Arabia. This inscription has not been published, so we don’t yet know what it says.

No one today can question the existence of Belshazzar son of Nabonidus.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

We learn from the Verse Account of Nabonidus that:

… -when the third year was about to begin- he entrusted the army [?] to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command.

He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him, and, himself, he started out for a long journey. The military forces of Akkad marching with him, he turned to Tema deep in the west.

He started out the expedition on a path leading to a distant region. When he arrived there, he killed in battle the prince of Tema, slaughtered the flocks of those who dwell in the city as well as in the countryside. And he, himself, took residence in Tema, the forces of Akkad were also stationed there.

He made the town beautiful, built there a palace like the palace in Babylon. He also built walls for the fortification of the town and he surrounded the town with sentinels.

Nabonidus spent most of his 17 year reign in Tema in Arabia, 500 miles south of Babylon, entrusting his son Belshazzar with the responsibilities of overseeing the affairs of Babylon. Although Belshazzar does not refer to himself as king of Babylon in any of the known inscriptions, he was indeed entrusted with the kingship by his father, and it would be natural for Daniel to refer to him as king.

Cyrus’ Siege of Babylon

Nabonidus had returned to Babylon around 543 BC, so he was in the province when Cyrus attacked in 539 BC.

Josephus records for us what the ancient historian Berosus said about the attack of Cyrus on Babylon:

…but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army; and having already conquered all the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus perceived he was coming to attack him, he met him with his forces, and joining battle with him was beaten, and fled away with a few of his troops with him, and was shut up within the city Borsippus. [Josephus c. Ap. 1:151-153 (1:20)]

This is the historical backdrop of Daniel 5.

Why Feast?

The night was the 16th of Tishri (October 12) 539BC, and the army of Cyrus was camped outside the walls of Babylon. Two days earlier, Belshazzar’s father Nabonidus, had led his troops to battle at Sippar, less than 40 miles north of Babylon on the Euphrates river. Nabonidus was defeated and fled.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

When we put the historical details together, we must ask why? Why was Belshazzar making a feast in Babylon after the defeat of his father two days earlier, and with Cyrus encamped on his doorstep, preparing to lay siege?

It could be that news of his father’s defeat and of the Persian army had not reached him. It could be that he was oblivious to the threat. Or it could be that he was well aware of the imminent demise of Babylon, and he chose to ‘eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ But it seems from his actions that he was proud and defiant, thinking he was safe within the city’s walls. The feast could be a way to rally the leaders and demonstrate to them that they had nothing to fear.

Herodotus in his Histories gives us a possible explanation;

…Cyrus …when the next spring was just beginning, then at length he continued his advance upon Babylon: and the men of Babylon had marched forth out of their city and were awaiting him. So when in his advance he came near to the city, the Babylonians joined battle with him, and having been worsted in the fight they were shut up close within their city. But knowing well even before this that Cyrus was not apt to remain still, and seeing him lay hands on every nation equally, they had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards. [Herodotus Histories 1:190]

The walls of Babylon were massive, impenetrable. The city was built around the river Euphrates, so they had a constant supply of water. If they had stored up many years worth of supplies, they may have been confident that they could outlast any siege.

Belshazzar’s Profanity

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

This is a bold act. Belshazzar is saying that he is greater than the God of Israel. He is greater than his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar had taken the sacred vessels of the Jerusalem temple and placed them in the temple of his god (1:2). There was an understanding that if I conquer you, that means that the gods I serve are greater than the gods you serve, so I take the treasures that belong to your god and put them in the temple of my god, because my god is greater. Nebuchadnezzar was great, and Nebuchadnezzar was proud, but he dared not touch the sacred vessels or use them for any common use. They were dedicated to his god, and they remained in the temples of his god.

In Numbers 18, after the rebellion of Korah, God set aside the Levites to serve alongside Aaron and his sons the priests, but he made a distinction.

Numbers 18:3 They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. …7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

Not even the Levites were allowed to come near or touch the holy vessels, or they would die. Belshazzar, under the influence of wine, orders that the holy vessels be brought to his immoral feast so they can use them to get drunk. ‘The king, and his lords, his wives, and his concubines’ is repeated to emphasize the audacity of this act.

Saying that they ‘praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’ is a long list declining in value that may be intended to mock the inanimate and worthless gods that the Babylonians worshiped.

But Belshazzar may be saying ‘I don’t believe in any god I can’t see. I put my trust in tangible things like gold and silver; I can buy my way out of any situation. I trust in bronze and iron, tools of war. I trust in wood and stone, physical defenses, walls. I trust in what I can see, in what is real, tangible, solid, strong. I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in any gods. I don’t believe in the supernatural.’

Divine Graffiti and the Incontinence of the King

This is when God shows up to crash his little party.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

In the excavations of the palace of Babylon, there is ruins of a room 165 feet long by 55 feet wide, and the walls were plastered. There is a recess in the middle of one of the longer walls, opposite the entrance to the room, where the king would have sat on a raised platform, illuminated by the lampstand. In the plastered wall of his party room, the king was confronted by the supernatural. His confidence crumbled in an instant. He went from proud to pale, from cocky to coward, from arrogant to incontinent, from defiant to debilitated. The ruddy color of fine wine drained from his face. The phrase translated ‘his limbs gave way’ can be literally translated ‘the knots of his loins were loosed’; very likely this means that he lost all control of his bodily functions. This one who was so self assured to defy the living God publicly soiled himself in front of his thousand party guests. God has a way of humbling the proud. And God has a sense of humor!

Back in Genesis, when all the people gathered against the Lord on the plains of Shinar to make a name for themselves, and to make a tower whose top reached to heaven, the Lord stooped down to see what it was they were building. This one who asserted his power over YHWH’s bowls lost control of his own bowels (Schwab). As Nebuchadnezzar said at the close of the last chapter, “…all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (4:37).

God will not be mocked (Gal.6:7). Biblical ‘scholars’ who accused Daniel of historical inaccuracy in fabricating a Belshazzar character are now shown to be the fools who disbelieved God’s word. Belshazzar who defied the living God and trusted in the things that were solid and reliable now has the knots of his own loins untied.

Application

What are your idols? What do you praise? What do you treasure? Delight in? What is it you value most?

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.

Proverbs 27:21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

What are your idols? What do you praise? What are you trusting in? Gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone? In what does your confidence lie? Who or what do you rely on, depend on?

1 Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Take a moment to evaluate your affections. What do you love? What do you rejoice in? That which you can see, or the unseen realities? If Jesus is not supreme in your affections, your faith is misplaced.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 11, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4; Jesus and Nebuchadnezzar

10/03_Daniel 04; Jesus and Nebuchadnezzar; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211003_dan04.mp3

Lessons From Nebuchadnezzar

We’ve been looking for several weeks at Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar’s own account of God’s humbling him. We’ve seen that God is sovereign, that God is able to humble the proud, even a proud dictator like Nebuchadnezzar, and that that is a good and gracious gift. Repentance is a good gift that God gives to those who don’t deserve it. God brought king Nebuchadnezzar to his knees, and Nebuchadnezzar responded with worship.

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

We saw in Daniel a picture of Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies; that although Daniel had every reason to be bitter and resentful toward this arrogant and evil king, he had genuine care and compassion for him; he desired blessing and prosperity for him. He was grieved at the prospect of seeing the consequences of his sins poured out on him.

Daniel 4:27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

We saw that it is the responsibility of rulers to practice righteousness and to show mercy to the oppressed. Failure to do what is right and protect the vulnerable is to sin against God. It is evidence of idolatry, that we believe others exist to be used to serve our own self interests. It seems Nebuchadnezzar was more interested in building monuments for himself than he was in doing righteousness and showing mercy.

Daniel 4:29 …he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

We’ve seen that his refusal to acknowledge God as God or give thanks to him was an offense against God, and that this kind of pride is insane, a loss of reason. Worship of God is the truly rational thing human beings were made for.

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever…

It’s All About Jesus!

Today I want to look back over this account of Nebuchadnezzar, and see how Nebuchadnezzar points us to Jesus, because the Bible is really all about Jesus. I wonder if on the road to Emmaus Jesus taught his two disciples about Nebuchadnezzar. We are told in Luke 24:27

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

All the prophets, including Daniel, point us to Jesus.

How Nebuchadnezzar points to Jesus; Image of God; Dominion

But how does this evil and arrogant king point us to Jesus? Look at Daniel 4:20-22;

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.

When we read that kind of description applied to the wicked tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, conqueror of Jerusalem, plunderer of God’s holy temple, the one who took God’s people captive, the one who heated the furnace seven times hotter and threw the three obedient Hebrews in, it makes us uncomfortable. When we read that his greatness reaches to heaven, and his dominion to the ends of the earth, we rightly feel that this greatness and this dominion does not belong to a mere man, much less a proud idolater, a man of Nebuchadnezzar’s character. Only God is the rightful ruler of all. Daniel rebukes this proud king for failing to do righteousness or to show mercy.

Nebuchadnezzar was given dominion over birds and beasts, to the ends of the earth. This is a clear connection to the creation mandate in Genesis 1; humankind, made in the image of God to reflect the glory of God, blessed to be fruitful and given ‘dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen.1:26-28). Psalm 8 says of mankind:

Psalm 8:6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

This is what man was meant to be, reflections of the glory of God ruling his creation under him, but we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23).

One way the Old Testament points us to Jesus is to recount history in a way that leaves us longing for something more, something better. We have a sense of how things ought to be, and what we see falls so far short. That lack creates in us a hunger for the ideal, the way things were meant to be.

Provider and Protector

King Nebuchadnezzar is pictured as a beautiful tree, an abundant tree, that provides food and shelter for all living creatures. He is the source and supply, the provider and protector of all creation.

Ezekiel, a fellow exile in Babylon, was given a vision of a new and glorious temple in chapters 40-48. In chapter 47, he sees water flowing out of the temple that becomes a great river that flows into the dead sea and makes the water fresh.

Ezekiel 47:12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

The Revelation of Jesus given to John picks up this theme

Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Jesus the Lamb is the one who is to be seated with his Father on the throne. He is the true source of life and protection. Nebuchadnezzar is a dark shadow pointing to Jesus, the greater king.

King of kings

Daniel even addresses Nebuchadnezzar as the king of kings in chapter 2.

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

Only God deserves the kingdom, the power, the might and the glory. We hear the title ‘king of kings’ applied to a man like Nebuchadnezzar and we shudder. But as conqueror of the world, with kings of other nations subjected to his rule, the title is accurate. This title is used three times in the Old Testament, twice of Nebuchadnezzar, (Ezek.26:7; Dan.2:37) and once of Artaxerxes (Ezra7:12). But in the New Testament, this title is reserved exclusively for Jesus who is both King of kings and Lord of lords (1Tim.6:15; Rev.17:14; 19:16). After the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19,

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus is the true and holy King of kings. Keep in mind, some of the kings that Jesus rules over will not willingly bow to his authority, but all will bow. If you have a view of Jesus that is exclusively nice, then your view of Jesus is wrong. He is indeed merciful, gentle and kind;

Isaiah 42:3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

But he is also just, and he will judge and make war. His eyes are like a flame of fire. He will strike down the rebellious nations with a sword and rule with a rod of iron. He is the coming King who will right all wrongs and vindicate the oppressed and defenseless. We need a king who is strong, and who uses his strength to protect those in his care and to crush those who do evil. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Exalted and Humbled

Daniel 4:29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you,

King Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself. He built great Babylon as a royal residence for the glory of his majesty. His heart was lifted up; he was full of himself. And he learned that ‘all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing (4:35); and those who walk in pride he is able to humble (4:37). Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride, selfish ambition, he was conceited and considered himself more significant than everyone else.

Contrast this with Jesus. Philippians 2 says:

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Nebuchadnezzar through selfish ambition lifted himself up, made a name for himself, made himself great. He refused to humble himself before God, and God humbled him.

Jesus, being eternally equal with his Father, did not cling to the glory of his position, but willingly became nothing. Nebuchadnezzar went from king of the world to a beast eating grass. But Jesus stooped infinitely lower; being Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, being one with his Father, he became human. He entered his own creation as a servant, ‘despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Is.53:3). He was rejected by his own people, abandoned by his friends, falsely accused and executed as a criminal.

Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself; but Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

God humiliated proud Nebuchadnezzar, but God exalted his Son high above every other name.

Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Worship of the Nations

Back in chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar demanded that all peoples, nations and languages fall down and worship his golden image (3:4-7). But in chapter 7, Daniel is given a vision of

Daniel 7:13 …one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

In Revelation 5, we see the Lamb who had been slain standing, and all in heaven fell down before him:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

And in Revelation 7,

Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29), the Lamb who was slain to ransom people for God, Jesus, the one who is God and who became man, Jesus the Lamb who died and is now alive is worthy of worship from every angel, every seraph, from all peoples, nations and languages. Jesus is worthy! Jesus is worthy of our worship!

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 9, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:28-37; Beastly Pride and Humble Praise

09/26_Daniel 04:28-37; Beastly Pride and Humble Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210926_dan04_28-37.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that made him afraid and alarmed. All his magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers were unable (or unwilling) to give him the interpretation to his dream. Finally Daniel appeared before him. The king knew there was something different about Daniel. In fact, 3 times he repeats (in verses 8, 9 and 18) that ‘the spirit of the holy gods is in you’. He expressed confidence that Daniel, unlike his other wise men, would be able to tell him his dream.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Daniel understood that the dream was God’s warning, indicating bad news was coming, and Daniel was concerned for the well being of the king. He genuinely cared about this wicked king, and didn’t want to see him humiliated.

God’s Gift of Authority

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness had grown to heaven and his dominion to the ends of the earth, but all this was a gift of God to him. In chapter 2, Daniel made clear that

Daniel 2:37 …the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all…

Glory and Thanks Owed to the Giver

God had given power, might, and glory to Nebuchadnezzar. God had given to him authority over all living. This was a great gift, great responsibility, and a great gift deserves a great response. Romans 1 (18,21) tells us that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against the unrighteousness and ungodliness of unthankfulness. Daniel encouraged the king to practice righteousness; the right thing when given a great gift, is to acknowledge the giver. But we tend toward stealing glory for ourselves as if there were no God and we deserve it all. Romans 1:21 could have been written directly for Nebuchadnezzar.

Romans 1:21 For although [he] knew God, [he] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [he] became futile in [his] thinking, and [his] foolish heart [was] darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, [he] became [a] fool, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [an] image resembling mortal man…

Nebuchadnezzar had been given authority and power by God. He knew this, but he refused to honor God as God or give him thanks. Instead, in his folly, he built a 90 foot image of gold and demanded worship of the image that he, Nebuchadnezzar, had set up. He was a glory stealer. Daniel here calls the king to repent and practice righteousness, giving glory to God. But he would not. His response to Daniel’s rebuke is not given. If he did listen, it was short lived and didn’t last. In verse 28 the story jumps ahead one year.

Pride and Fulfillment of the Vision

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

Do you hear the first person singular ‘I, me, my’? ‘I have built by my mighty power …for the glory of my majesty’. Understand, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was expansive and his rule was glorious. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was home to two of the seven wonders of the ancient world; the massive walls of Babylon and the famous hanging gardens.

Josephus [Against Apion; 1:19:(141)], quotes Berosus’ History of Ancient Times. [Berosus was a Chaldean priest of Bel Marduk in Babylon at the beginning of the 3rd century BC]. He writes of Nebuchadnezzar:

“but for himself, he adorned the temple of Belus, and the other temples, after an elegant manner, out of the spoils he had taken in this war. He also rebuilt the old city, and added another to it on the outside, and so far restored Babylon, that none who should besiege it afterwards might have it in their power to divert the river, so as to facilitate an entrance into it; and this he did by building three walls about the inner city, and three about the outer. Some of these walls he built of burnt brick and bitumen, and some of brick only. So when he had thus fortified the city with walls, after an excellent manner, and had adorned the gates magnificently [slide: Ishtar gate], he added a new palace to that which his father had dwelt in, and this close by it also, and that more eminent in its height, and in its great splendor. It would perhaps require too long a narration, if any one were to describe it. However, as prodigiously large and as magnificent as it was, it was finished in fifteen days. Now in this palace he erected very high walks, supported by stone pillars, and by planting what was called a pensile [or hanging] Paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to please his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.”

S. R. Driver writes: “Nebuchadnezzar was emphatically a builder; and ‘nearly every cuneiform document now extant dating form his reign treats, not of conquest and warfare, like those of his Assyrian predecessors, but of the building and restoration of the walls, temples, and palaces of his beloved city of Babylon’ (Prince, p.31).”

Here are some extracts from the East India House Inscription [slide]: Nebuchadnezzar writes of his palace in Babylon:

‘That house, for admiration I made it, for the beholding of the hosts of men I filled it with magnificence. Awe-inspiring glory, and dread of the splendour of my sovereignty, encompass it round about; the evil, unrighteous man cometh not within it. I kept far from the wall of Babylon the hostile approach of the foe; the city of Babylon I made strong as the wooded hills’ (ix. 29-44).’ [Driver, xxiv – xxvi]

He records his prayer to Marduk, offered at the dedication of a temple:

‘I am Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the exalted prince, the favourite of the god Marduk, the beloved of the god Nabu, the arbiter, the possessor of wisdom, who reverences their lordship, the untiring governor who is constantly anxious for the maintenance of the shrines of Babylonia and Borsippa, the wise, the pious, the son of Nabopolasser, king of Babylon’,’To Marduk, my lord I make supplication; Oh eternal prince, lord of all being, guide in a straight path the king whom thou lovest and whose name thou hast proclaimed as was pleasing to thee. I am the prince, the favourite, the creature of thy hand. Thou hast created me and entrusted me with dominion over all people. According to thy favour lord, which thou dost bestow on all people, cause me to love thy exalted lordship. Create in my heart, the worship of your divinity, and grant whatever is pleasing to thee because thou hast my life’, ‘By thy command, merciful Marduk, may the temple I have built endure for all time and may I be satisfied with its splendour; in its midst may I attain old age, may I be sated with offspring; therein may I receive the heavy tribute of all mankind; from the horizon of heaven to the zenith, may I have no enemies; may my descendents live therein forever and rule over the people’.

This is just some of what history and archaeology tell us about the pride of king Nebuchadnezzar. In this prayer, he gives his god Marduk credit for his authority rather than God Most High. He believes that the gods exist to make him great.

Ungratefulness Leads to Bestiality (Rom.1)

Romans 1:21 For although [he] knew God, [he] did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but [he] became futile in [his] thinking, and [his] foolish heart [was] darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, [he] became [a] fool, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for [an] image resembling mortal man… 28 And since [he] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave [him] up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Ungratefulness leads to a debased mind, to bestiality.

Daniel 4:28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

Nebuchadnezzar became a graphic picture of the decline of humanity from dignity as the image bearer of God, meant to reflect God’s glory and to point to him, to the insanity of seeking that glory for oneself. He became a fool, his foolish heart was darkened; God gave him up to a debased mind.

Hope for the Worst of Sinners

But even for Nebuchadnezzar, the epitome of arrogance and pride, there was hope. There is hope in the promise of God. Until. ‘Until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. God set a time limit for his humiliation. God was in control, and God was bringing about his purposes. God was extending grace to Nebuchadnezzar. Repentance is a gift, and Nebuchadnezzar would not repent until God humbled him. God was giving him the gift of repentance.

Reasonable Worship

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.

My reason returned to me. His first sane act was to bless, praise and honor the most High. Worship is what we were made for, and it is reasonable that we give worship to whom alone worship is due. It is unreasonable to refuse to worship God; it is insane to think we are worthy of worship.

Nebuchadnezzar learned some things about God. God is the Most High, worthy of praise and honor; he is eternal, and he is the sovereign king.

Nebuchadnezzar learned something about himself. ‘all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing.’ He learned his own insignificance. He thought he was somebody. He learned he was nothing, so that he could enjoy relationship with the one who is everything.

He learned that God is free and God is sovereign. God does whatever he wants, in heaven and on earth. He gets to do whatever he wants because he is God and everything he wants is right and good. He is unstoppable; ‘none can stay his hand’. He is always able to accomplish his will. No one can thwart his purposes.

And no one can question his character; as if he did something wrong, because all he does is right. Nebuchadnezzar was humiliated, and he came out of the experience recognizing the righteousness, the rightness of all that God did to him. He did whatever he wanted, and what he wanted was right and good, because he is God.

Nebuchadnezzar finally understood his purpose. He was made to worship. He was meant to live for the glory of another. He was a builder, and he was meant to build, but not for his own glory, but for the glory of God. As Jesus said:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Nebuchadnezzar finally learned his purpose, what he was meant for. Remember, this is a letter that Nebuchadnezzar wrote ‘to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth’ showing ‘the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me;’ telling the world the story of his humiliation and exaltation.

He closes his letter this way:

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 28, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:20-27; King of Righteousness and Mercy

09/19_Daniel 04:20-27; King of Righteousness and Mercy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210919_dan04_20-27.mp3

Daniel 4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

This is Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony of what God had done for him.

Truth or Tickled Ears

Daniel 4:5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.

Daniel was brought before the king after all the other magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers because although the king respected Daniel and knew Daniel was able to interpret his dream, he did not really want to hear what Daniel had to say. He knew that Daniel would speak the truth, but he would rather have his ears tickled than to be held accountable. He was not yet ready to listen to the one man who spoke on behalf of the Most High God, and he was not yet ready to come to terms with Daniel’s God.

Daniel 4:8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

True Forgiveness

We saw last time, that although Daniel had every reason to be hateful and bitter toward this wicked king, he genuinely cared for him. For what he had done to his nation, his family, his friends, himself, he had forgiven him from the heart. He wished nothing but good for him.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

One commentator writes:

“Daniel encourages us here to long for God to have compassion on world rulers, specifically the wicked ones, and he encourages the world to assume that judgment is never inevitable. If we bait the tyrants and dare them do their worst, they may. Daniel invites us to care about people in power, even people who abuse power, to appeal to their humanness not their sinfulness, and to treat them as people given a responsibility by God and people who may respond to an appeal to right and wrong.” [Goldingay, p.94]

Beastly King of Beasts

Daniel treats the king with compassion, and he tells him what others feared to tell him; he told him the truth

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.

The tree is you. Daniel confirms the king’s fear. This dream, like the king’s dream in chapter 2, had good news and bad news. That dream affirmed the greatness of the king.

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

By the time of chapter 4 (around 30 years later) the glory of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom had been established. The tree whose top reached to heaven reminds us of the tower being built in Babylon back in Genesis 11

Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Nebuchadnezzar had been given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory. It had been given to him to rule over and provide for the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and all the children of man.

But the dream of chapter 2 also communicated that there would be an end to his kingdom. It would be succeeded by another, and ultimately crushed by the kingdom crushing stone, God’s kingdom that will endure forever. Here in chapter 4 the consequences are more immediate and personal.

Daniel 4:23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.

Nebuchadnezzar, who provided for the beasts of the field, would live among the beasts of the field and be provided for by heaven. The one to whom it was given by God to provide for others would himself become dependent on God to provide for him.

Promised Restoration

But the most surprising part of this prediction was that there would be a positive outcome. This is simply unprecedented! Any sign of weakness in a powerful king and those around see it as an opportunity to seize power. David was on his death bed when his son Adonijah with the support of Joab and Abiathar sought to establish himself as king (1Ki.1). Ben Hadad king of Syria had fallen sick, and his servant Hazael smothered him with the bed cloth dipped in water, and became king in his place (2Ki.8). For a ruler like Nebuchadnezzar to go insane and leave a leadership vacuum for 7 years and then have his leadership restored is nothing short of miraculous. Nebuchadnezzar would be humbled, but through the experience he would come to know that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ And ‘your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.’ This is an amazing promise.

The Gift of Repentance

But even more amazing than the fact that God removes kings and sets up kings (2:21) is the fact that God gives the gift of repentance to those who don’t deserve it. In Acts we read

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (cf. 2 Timothy 2:25)

Repentance is a gift from God. And Daniel assures the king that God will give him this gift. The purpose of his humbling is ‘till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ God gives his word that Nebuchadnezzar will know and that after 7 years his kingdom will be restored.

This sounds similar to what Jesus tells Peter, predicting that proud Peter is about to deny him three times.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus doesn’t leave a shadow of doubt as to what will happen. Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail. When Jesus prays, the Father answers. There is complete confidence; it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’. Peter’s self confidence will be destroyed. Jesus even gives him the time it will happen. But Peter will turn again because God is the one who gives repentance to whom he will.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Nebuchadnezzar’s pride will be crushed. But it is for a redemptive purpose. It is so that he would come to know the Most High God.

Call to Repentance

Here Daniel stops interpreting and starts meddling. We saw in verse 19 how much Daniel cared for the king. He must have built a great amount of trust to be able to say what he says next, and even then, this must have required great courage. This verse, even more than verse 19 displays the selfless care Daniel had for the king, for confronting an absolute monarch over his sin would come at great personal risk.

Daniel 4:27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he is a guilty sinner, and he needs to repent. But he tells him this in a way that demonstrates both his personal concern for the king, and his confident hope in his merciful God. It is counsel meant for the king’s good, to prolong his prosperity. Daniel knows his God is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). God often communicates the threat of his judgment to persuade us to turn from our sins and experience his compassion.

Sins of Omission

Daniel doesn’t confront the king over sins of lust or immorality or selfishness or greed. In fact he doesn’t confront him over anything he has done. Rather it is what he has left undone that is the subject of his rebuke. The way to break off his sins and iniquities is by beginning to do the good that is expected of him. As king, he had been entrusted by God with great responsibility. And ‘to whom much was given, of him much will be required’ (Lk.12:48). Nebuchadnezzar was made abundantly fruitful, and he was given the responsibility of caring for the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the children of man. Daniel instructs him to practice righteousness and show mercy.

Do Righteousness and Show Mercy

Four short years before Daniel and his friends were exiled to Babylon, the Lord sent Jeremiah to confront the king of Judah over his sins. He says in Jeremiah 22

Jeremiah 22:2 and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3 Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

God’s judgment is on his people

Jeremiah 22:9 …“Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”’”

This failure to do justice and righteousness and to show mercy to the oppressed is ultimately a worship problem. They failed to do righteousness and show mercy because they were worshiping the wrong things. He goes on:

Jeremiah 22:13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages, 14 who says, ‘I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms,’ who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion. 15 Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the LORD. 17 But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.”

Josiah’s son Jehoahaz only reigned for three months, because he was worshiping and serving the wrong things. He was given authority to do what was right in God’s eyes and to extend mercy to the oppressed. But instead he oppressed the poor and did what was evil for his own personal gain.

Jesus is held up as the ideal ruler, he fulfills the role all kings were meant to serve.

Isaiah 11:3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The king was to use his position, power, and strength to defend the poor and needy, to protect the vulnerable, to do what is right. He is not to use people to achieve his own ends.

Jesus is the king who comes both to practice righteousness and to show mercy. It is easy to point the finger at leaders who fail to do what is right, but we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Our righteous deeds are as a polluted garment; our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Is.64:6). We are the ones who are in need of mercy.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 4:6-19; Love Your Enemies

09/12_Daniel 04:6-19; Love Your Enemies; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210912_dan04_6-19.mp3

We saw last time a dramatic change had happened in the heart of this monarch. God did great signs and mighty wonders for him, God extended grace to him, to humble him, to bring him to acknowledge his need, to show to him and to all the living ‘that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men’ (v.17).

Daniel 4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony

Nebuchadnezzar wrote to all peoples, nations, and languages to give all glory to God Most High. He sent out his testimony, his personal story of what God had done for him.

Daniel 4:4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation.

This sounds like a repeat of chapter 2. Except that in chapter 2 the king tested them by demanding that his magicians, the enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans reveal both the dream and its interpretation. And he threatened to tear them limb from limb if they failed to meet his demand. Here he tells them the dream, but they did not interpret it. With the dream and all their dream manuals, they ought to have been able to look up the symbols and give him an interpretation to his dream. It is unclear if this means they could not or they would not. It may be that they understood enough of the dream to realize that this was not good news for the king, and to be the bearer of bad news to a king like this was dangerous business – remember the tearing limb from limb and the superheated fiery furnace? They were out for self-promotion, or at least self-preservation, and they knew what communicating the contents of a dream like this might get them, so they could not bring themselves to tell him the truth. Whatever the reason, they again demonstrated the bankruptcy of their occult practices.

Why Not Daniel?

Daniel 4:8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.

Here the king confesses that the god he worshiped (among others) was Bel, after whom Daniel was renamed. He had been confronted with the God of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but as yet he had refused to repent, refused to turn from his own gods, refused to face the Most High God on his terms.

‘At last Daniel came in before me.’ The question we are compelled to ask is why?

Why did Nebuchadnezzar bring in the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers? Had he forgotten what he learned back in chapter 2 that their wisdom was powerless and bankrupt? Remember, he had tested them by demanding they give him not only the interpretation, but also the dream. Now he returns to them and even concedes to tell them the dream if perhaps they can provide him with an interpretation. Given his experience in chapter 2, why did the king not summon Daniel alone? He alone had proved able to interpret dreams, and at the end of chapter 2, the king acknowledged that Daniel’s ‘God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery’ (2:47).

We saw in chapter 3, that although Nebuchadnezzar saw four in the fiery furnace, and the fourth was like a son of the gods, Nebuchadnezzar was careful to summon only the three to ‘come out and come here’. He was not yet ready to meet God. He was not yet willing to repent.

Young writes: “With this God, Nebuchadnezzar as yet, wanted no dealings. If others can interpret the dream, he will go to them rather than to Daniel. As Calvin says, it is ‘extreme necessity’ which compels the ruler to turn to Daniel ‘and hence we gather that no one comes to the true God, unless impelled by necessity.’”

Nebuchadnezzar understood that to acknowledge Daniel’s God as the Most High God meant that he was under this God, that this God has the right to make moral demands on his life. He was willing to acknowledge him from a distance, to recognize him as a god, but he was not yet willing to deal with him directly, he was not willing to surrender to him, turn to him alone.

Nebuchadnezzar obviously remembered Daniel. He held the title ‘chief of the magicians’. He confesses ‘I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you.’ So either Daniel didn’t come immediately when summoned, or Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the other magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers, all except Daniel.

Daniel was a man of integrity, a man of character, a man of prayer. This kind of man made the pagan king uncomfortable. Don’t be surprised if you are a person of character and other people find it uncomfortable to be around you. You may not get invited to the thing that others are invited to. It might not mean that you are doing something wrong or have a holier-than-thou attitude. Someone who lives in the presence of God is a reminder of what we were made for, and our mere presence can bring conviction to unbelievers. Daniel may have been summoned out of desperation, as a last resort, after all the other wise men again proved incompetent. ‘He would never have given glory to God, unless when compelled by extreme necessity’ [Calvin].

The Dream

Daniel 4:9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.

We could easily see the connection with the dream in chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was told

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

But here is where the dream gets troubling.

Daniel 4:13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

Notice in verse 15 the shift between the impersonal pronoun ‘it’, referring to the tree, to the personal pronoun ‘him’. The tree is a metaphor for a man, and he will be cut down, reduced to a stump, shackled, driven insane.

No wonder the wise men of Babylon hesitated to interpret the dream!

Daniel 4:18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” 19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him.

Daniel also hesitated, but for a very different reason. He was not concerned for himself, but for the king. The wise men were seeking self-promotion, self-preservation. Daniel’s eyes were not on himself. He was dismayed and alarmed by what this dream meant for the king.

Compassion for a Proud Enemy

Daniel 4:19 …The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Nebuchadnezzar could see the grief this dream brought to Daniel. He had complete confidence that Daniel could tell him what the dream meant, and he encouraged him to do so without fear. Daniel’s answer? “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!” Daniel evidently cared deeply for the king, and he wished the dream applied to the enemies of Nebuchadnezzar.

Let’s put this in context; Nebuchadnezzar was the king who crushed Jerusalem, who was responsible for uprooting Daniel and his friends and transplanting them into a foreign land and culture. We aren’t told what happened to Daniel’s parents, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that they were killed by Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers. Whatever happened to them, it seems Daniel never saw them again. In fact, Daniel never saw his homeland again. We are not told if Daniel and his friends were actually castrated, but they were put in the care of the chief of the eunuchs, and there is no record of Daniel marrying or having children, even though the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon:

Jeremiah 29:5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Daniel’s people were the conquered enemies of king Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel had every reason to harbor bitterness, resentment, hatred, both personal and national toward the king.

The king was evil. You don’t become absolute ruler over the known world by being nice. In 2 Kings we read that because King Zedekiah of Jerusalem rebelled against him, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city for a year and a half, literally starving them out. Zedekiah was captured, and brought before Nebuchadnezzar. He had Zedekiah’s sons slaughtered before his eyes, and then they gouged out his eyes and brought him in chains to Babylon.

This is the king who was ready to rip every wise man in his kingdom limb from limb and turn their homes into outhouses. And remember, this edict applied to Daniel and his friends. This is the king whose mightiest soldiers were burned to death because in a rage he had his furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, and remember, the soldiers died because they actually carried out the king’s order of throwing Daniel’s three friends into the burning fiery furnace.

How do you respond when you hear news that this evil and exceedingly proud king is about to be cut down and utterly humiliated? Your response will show what is truly in your heart. Daniel was genuinely free of any bitterness or resentment. He genuinely loved this pagan king. He was dismayed at the thought of the humiliation of the king.

How? Nebuchadnezzar certainly never apologized for the atrocities he committed against Daniel, his family, his friends, his people. How could Daniel release him from that infinite debt? How could he genuinely love and care for this evil man?

God is Sovereign and No One is Beyond Hope

Daniel knew two things. God is sovereign, and no one is beyond hope. God is sovereign. Nebuchadnezzar had done great evil. ‘Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.’ But ‘the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand’ (Dan.1:1-2). God was in control, bringing about events for his glory, and for the ultimate good of his people, and for the nations. This, by the way, is the context of the oft misquoted verse:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Daniel probably couldn’t see as clearly as we, over 2,500 years later can see, how God was at work in his circumstances, but he trusted in a God who was in absolute control over every atom in his universe, and even over the will of this evil king. This was the lesson Nebuchadnezzar was about to learn, that ‘he Most High rules the kingdom of men’. Daniel trusted in the absolute sovereignty of God.

And Daniel believed that no one is beyond the reach of God. Jeremiah had instructed Daniel and his friends to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf…’ (Jer.29:7). Daniel did not merely go through the motions of seeking the welfare of Babylon. It came from his heart. He truly cared. He cared about this hard and ruthless king. He could look the king in the eye and say ‘My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!’

Ezekiel, a fellow exile in Babylon, prophesied that God was able to remove a heart of stone and give in its place a heart of flesh (Ezek.11:19; 36:26). Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones, and was shown that God is able to make dead things live again. Daniel recognized that if there is hope for hard and dead faithless Israel, maybe there is hope for this heard hearted pagan king.

Here’s something to think about. Daniel knew that the humiliation of the king was temporary and would serve a good purpose. It was revealed to him that it would only last for 7 years, and only ‘till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ Through this humiliation the king would come to know God; it was for his ultimate good, and as a testimony to the nations. But the prospect of the humbling of the king still grieved and dismayed Daniel. He truly loved the king and didn’t want to see him hurt.

Daniel here provides a great picture of what the teaching of Jesus looks like in real life.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment