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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 6:24-28; Poetic Justice and Pursuit of the Nations

03/06_Daniel 06:24-28; Poetic Justice and Pursuit of the Nations ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220306_dan06_24-28.mp3

Daniel’s confidence in his God was unshaken regardless of his circumstances. What he thought, what he felt, what he did was not contingent on what other people thought of him, or expected of him, or even what they plotted against him.

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Those who conspired against him had planned well. They understood enough of the character of Daniel to know that he would remain committed to his God no matter what. They knew enough of the king to know that he could be taken by flattery, and their plan to get him to sign his name and then use his own words against him worked. They now had gained the upper hand, their jealousy found vent, and the king must carry out their desire to have their rival executed.

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Daniel’s fate, and his tomb, was sealed. The king was greatly distressed, but despite his best efforts, could do nothing to change the outcome. He was driven to his knees.

Unharmed

Daniel 6:19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

The king’s great distress turned into great gladness. The Lord was indeed able to deliver Daniel. ‘My God sent his messenger.’ Jesus was present with Daniel in the den of lions. And he came out unscathed. No kind of harm was found on him. I don’t know how deep the pit was into which he was cast, but you would think that a man in his 80’s, maybe so full of grit and gristle to be unappetizing to lions, would at least come away from that with a broken hip or ankle. But ‘no kind of harm was found on him.’

He was cast into the pit, but he had already cast himself fully on the Lord his God. He was quietly leaning into the Lord alone, and it was his Lord who delivered him.

Blind Jealousy

Daniel 6:24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

This is a grizzly scene. If there was any question if the lions were too tame or old or overfed to be interested in eating someone, what happened next removed all doubt. The other officials had thought they had gained the upper hand. Even if their open manipulation of the king and the law to carry out their own desires worked in disposing of Daniel, their jealousy had blinded them to the reality that their actions would cause the king never trust them again.

Their plan was carefully crafted, but they didn’t think through the full implications of their actions, and they certainly didn’t believe Daniel’s God would actually deliver him from the lions.

Poetic Justice

There is a principle we find in Proverbs:

Proverbs 26:27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. 28 A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

This is poetic justice at its best. The one who digs a pit will fall into it. The one who sets a trap for others will himself fall into the trap he has made. This principle is rooted in God’s law against bearing false witness:

Deuteronomy 19:16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, …18 … and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

You shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. Jesus gives the positive side of this teaching:

Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (cf. Lk. 6:31)

Whatever you wish others would not do to you, you must not do to them. God will bring about justice. You will reap what you sow. We see this principle throughout the Psalms. Psalm 7 begins with a declaration of trust in God.

Psalm 7:1 O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

The Psalm concludes with a description of his adversaries, and the outcome of their evil plans:

Psalm 7:14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 17 I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.

Psalm 57 begins the same way, with a declaration of dependence on the Lord for protection:

Psalm 57:1 ….in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. … 3 ​He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. — Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

Then he states the danger he is in:

Psalm 57:4 My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

He goes on;

Psalm 57:6 They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. — Selah

And he concludes with worship.

Psalm 57:11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

There is a poetic justice that God will bring about, ultimately to his own glory. Those who dig a pit will fall into the hole they dug. Those who manipulated the king to destroy the blameless are consumed by the very lions they expected would eat Daniel. God is just, and ultimately God will bring about justice.

Parallels between 3 and 6

If we look at the structure of the book of Daniel, we see that chapter 6 is the mirror of chapter 3, and there are so many instructive parallels between this and the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar.

The background of both chapters is the elevation of captives from Judah to positions of authority, and the jealousy of their peers.

In chapter 3, it is the king in his pride who sets up his own image and demands that all bow to pay allegiance. In chapter 6 it is the other officials who by subterfuge manipulate the king to pass a law that feeds his own ego, that all would pay allegiance to him.

In chapter 3 the danger is a sin of commission; the command requires that they do something; to commit idolatry by bowing to the king’s statue. In chapter 6 the danger is a sin of omission; something regularly to be done is now forbidden. The three refused to bow; Daniel continued to give thanks to his God in prayer, as he had always done. In 3, the disobedience is public; in 6 it is private.

In both chapters, the rebellion is observed by the jealous opponents and they ‘draw near’ to accuse them before the king; and the rebellion is framed as personal; they ‘pay no attention to you O king’. In chapter 3, the king offers them another chance to bow, but they decline; in chapter 6, the three times a day disobedience precludes the need for another test.

In chapter 3, the king is furious at the insolence of the rebels and demands that the punishment be exaggerated. In chapter 6, the king is greatly distressed, and seeks to find a way to rescue from the consequences of his own law, but fails.

In chapter 3, the king issues a challenge ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ In chapter 6, the king expresses his hope ‘may your God …deliver you’.

In chapter 3, the three believers confess their unshakable faith that their God is able to ‘deliver’, but even if he does not, they will not be unfaithful to him. In chapter 6, Daniel is silent, and it is the king who offers the hope of deliverance by God.

In both, the offenders are ‘cast’ into a pit. In both, the Son of God is with them in the pit. In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar observes the fourth man in the fire, and invites them to come out. In chapter 6, Daniel gives testimony of the one who was with him in the pit, and the king orders him to be lifted out. In both, those who serve their God come out of the pit without the least harm, and those around them are able to inspect them and testify to the miraculous deliverance by God.

In 3 the soldiers inadvertently die in the superheated furnace while obeying the king’s orders, where in 6 those who conspired against Daniel are commanded by the king to be thrown to the lions.

These two episodes are paired in the record of the faithful in Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11:33 who through faith …stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, …

What can we learn from this?

-God cares just as much about our private as our public devotion to him.

-Sins of omission (failing to give him thanks) are just as real as sins of commission (worshiping false gods).

-God may not exempt us from suffering, but he is with his people when they go through trials for the sake of his name.

-We learn from their examples that this life is not all there is; they knew that obedience to God, even if it cost them their lives, would be worth it. As Hebrews puts it,

Hebrews 11:13 …having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. …16 …they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. …

Learning Theology from Sufferers

Both chapters end with an edict; Nebuchadnezzar blessed God and made a decree that no people, nation or language should speak anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego under penalty of death, and he promoted them in the province of Babylon.

Here in chapter 6,

Daniel 6:25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Through this ordeal, Darius began to understand what the true God is like. He learned that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. All people ought to tremble and fear before him. He is the life-giver, the source and sustainer of all that is. In him is life. He is alive and active, at work in this world today. He is eternal, with no beginning or end, he is the unchangeable uncaused cause. He is the ultimate king, and no one can conquer his kingdom. The kingdoms of this earth rise and fall, come and go, but his rule will go on forever.

Not only is he the sovereign eternal living God, but he is the Savior. He is the only one who can deliver and rescue. He can save his people from the power of the lions. He is a miracle worker. He does signs and wonders in heaven and on earth to draw attention not to the signs and wonders, but to himself. He is eternal king and mighty to save. And he wants us to know him.

Darius, like his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar, learned some good theology from believers in this God who simply lived out their faith even in the face of suffering and death.

On Mission to Bless the Nations

Remember, it was not by random chance that God’s people ended up exiled in Babylon; God sent them into exile. And he had multiple purposes for doing so. He was punishing their disobedience, but he was also sending them out on mission with good news to the nations. He chose them and blessed them so that they would be a blessing, and that ‘in you shall all the nations be blessed’ (Gal.3:8). God had a purpose in their circumstances.

What is your circumstance today, and how might God be intending to use that for his glory and to bring good news to the nations?

***

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

March 7, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 11:30-33; Boasting in Weakness

01/31_2 Corinthians 11:30-33; Boasting in Weakness ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210131_2cor11_30-33.mp3

We are going to jump back in to our study of 2 Corinthians today. We have been away from this book for the holidays, so a quick overview to orient ourselves in this letter from the Apostle Paul to a troubled church.

Acts 18 recounts Paul’s first visit to Corinth (around AD 50 or 51), where he spent 18 months preaching the gospel and establishing the church. But shortly after leaving, he heard there were troubles in Corinth, so he wrote them a letter (AD 52) confronting some of the issues, a letter that was misunderstood. He again received visits from some in Corinth communicating that all was not well, so he wrote them again (AD 53; the letter we have as 1 Corinthians). About a year later (AD 54), he heard of more problems, so he traveled in person to Corinth, a visit that did not go well. He quickly retreated, and wrote them a letter through his tears. Having sent his co-worker Titus ahead to Corinth to try to patch things up, he was now traveling through Macedonia en route to visit them again, and he wrote this letter (AD 55) to prepare them for his visit.

Chapters 1-7 seek to re-orient their thinking about ministry. They had developed a distorted understanding of what ministry is all about; Paul argues that gospel ministry is ministry that is shaped by the gospel. The good news is that God humbled himself, became one of us, to seek and to save the lost, to lay down his life for us. Christian ministry is not all about paychecks and positions and privilege. Gospel ministry must be shaped by the gospel, by the cross. It must look like humility, like sacrificial service for others. It must pattern itself after Christ crucified. It must conform to the cross.

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. …7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

In chapters 8-9 he reminds us that this gospel grace that has been extended to us by God will so transform our hearts that we will overflow in practical generosity to others. Part of his purpose for this trip through Macedonia to Corinth is to take up a collection for the poor and persecuted believers in Jerusalem, so he extends them the opportunity to participate in this practical ministry.

In chapters 10-13 he confronts head on the false apostles who had gained a hearing in the church, who were proclaiming a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

Paul changes his tone in this section to biting irony. The false teachers are engaged in foolish boasting, so he answers fools according to their folly so that their folly will become evident to all. He warns the Corinthians are being led astray from a sincere devotion to Christ, and that the false apostles are taking them as slaves, devouring, taking advantage of, putting on airs, even striking them in the face (11:20).

2 Corinthians 11:21 …But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I.

Paul possesses the credentials to meet them in their foolish boasting. In fact, he can go further than that.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman…

But here he switches gears on them. He reminds them that a servant of Christ is just that, a servant.

2 Corinthians 11:23… —with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

Res Gestae Divi Augusti

When we put this in historical context, we see Paul is making a parody of the typical self-praise of the powerful.

Augustus Caesar (who reigned 31 BC to 14 AD) had his lengthy autobiography inscribed on two columns in Rome. Here is a short excerpt:

“the achievements of the deified Augustus by which he placed the whole world under the sovereignty of the Roman people, and of the amounts which he expended upon the state and the Roman people”.

[4] Twice I triumphed with an ovation, thrice I celebrated curule triumphs, and was saluted as imperator twenty-one times. Although the Senate decreed me additional triumphs I set them aside. When I had performed the vows which I had undertaken in each war I deposited upon the Capitol the laurels which adorned my fasces. For successful operations on land and sea, conducted either by myself or by my lieutenants under my auspices, the Senate on fifty-five occasions decreed that thanks should be rendered to the immortal gods. The days on which such thanks were rendered by decree of the Senate numbered 890. In my triumphs there were led before my chariot nine kings or children of kings. At the time of writing these words I had been thirteen times consul, and was in the thirty-seventh year of my tribunician power.

It was common for the powerful to catalog their accomplishments. Paul meets the super-apostles in their boasting, but he takes it in a direction they wouldn’t anticipate. We expect boasting to be in accomplishments, in victories, in triumphs. But Paul boasts in his trials, in his brokenness, in his sufferings.

Divine Commission

We pick up on some of the credentials they were looking for from chapter 12, where Paul says ‘I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. …The signs of a true apostle were performed among you …with signs and wonders and mighty works’ (12:1,12). They expected the supernatural; visions, revelations, signs, wonders.

We could think of the divine commissioning of the Old Testament prophets, like Ezekiel, who said “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” or Isaiah; “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” or Jeremiah; “Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” or even the Apostle John “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book…”

We would expect Paul to share with us his commissioning by the risen Lord that we find in Acts 9:

Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (cf. Acts 22:6-11; 26:12-18)

No doubt this was well known to the Corinthian church, as Paul had referenced it in 1 Corinthians 9:1. But that’s not what he says here.

Glory To God Alone

Paul says

2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Paul is answering a fool according to his folly, but he refuses to play their game on their terms. He will not answer a fool according to his folly. He changes the criteria. He says ‘You make it necessary for me to boast, but I’m going to boast about that which puts on display my weakness, so that God gets all the glory.’

2 Corinthians 11:31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.

God must get all the glory. God alone is blessed forever. God is related to Jesus as his God in his humanity, and he is the Father of our Lord Jesus in his eternal divine nature. Christian ministry is intimately linked to the Father through our Lord Jesus.

Paul takes an oath by the God who is Truth, that he is telling the truth. This heightens our expectation of what he is going to say next. He brings up his Damascus experience, but not in the way they expect.

Damascus Escape

2 Corinthians 11:32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me,

This account, by the way, is anchored in history. Aretas was a royal title. This was Aretas IV, a Nabatean vassal king who reigned in Petra from 9 BC to 39/40 AD; he was the father-in-law to Herod Antipas. Herod divorced his daughter to marry Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip (Mat.14:3-4; Mk.6:17-18 Lk.3:19). This is the Herod whom John the Baptist rebuked, and was eventually executed by. Aretas avenged his daughter by attacking and defeating Herod Antipas in 36 AD.

2 Corinthians 11:32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (cf. Acts 9:20-25; Gal.1:17)

This is shocking. He turns boasting upside down. Paul was powerful, triumphant, marching in broad daylight to Damascus with authority to persecute and imprison followers of Jesus. This is the posture of the false apostles. But he didn’t know Jesus. Jesus knocked him from his high horse, lowered him to the dust, so that he could reveal himself to him.

And then he was helpless, blind, weak; he had to be led by the hand. He had to be prayed for by a reluctant disciple from Damascus that he was coming to persecute. Ananias laid his hands on him to restore his sight. He immediately began to proclaim Jesus, and this soon got him in trouble. The hunter became the hunted; the persecutor became the persecuted. The powerful became weak. The pursuer was pursued. The one who came to take lives had to flee for his life. In a humiliating turn, those he came to persecute helped him escape; he was lowered in a large basket under cover of night, a basket normally used for salted fish or produce.

Saul the persecutor came to know what it was to be persecuted for the name of Jesus. But he had met Jesus, and Jesus was worth the cost. Christian ministry is characterized by humility, willingly sacrificial for the good of others.

Corona Muralis

It was well known that one of the highest military honors for valor was the Corona Muralis or Wall Crown. It was awarded to the first Roman soldier to successfully scale the wall of an enemy city. Ironically, Paul boasts in his weakness. He didn’t scale the wall in victory; he was lowered down the wall and slunk away under cover of darkness.

The false apostles wanted credentials, they wanted evidence of divine commissioning. They wanted an account of a vision or evidence of divine favor. In bringing up Damascus, Paul alludes to his divine call and commissioning, but instead he recounts his shameful exit from the city.

Jericho and David

But Paul was not the only one to escape down a city wall. Under Joshua’s command, the two spies who entered Jericho were let down a scarlet cord through an opening in the wall by Rahab the prostitute (Josh.2:15). David escaped from King Saul when Michal let him down through the window, and he fled (1Sam.19:12). In each of these accounts, what seems like an ignominious and shameful escape turns out to lead to a display of God’s power.

This is exactly Paul’s point. God’s power is displayed most vividly through human weakness. So he is glad to boast in the things that display his weakness, so that God alone would get all the glory.

***

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

February 2, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment