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Daniel 6:21-23; The Presence of God in the Pit

02/27_Daniel 06:21-23; The Presence of God in the Pit; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220227_dan06_21-23.mp3

Daniel was conspired against by those who were envious of his favored position. They could find no ground of accusation against him, so they manipulated the king to mandate that all prayer go through the king alone.

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.

For Daniel, it was unthinkable to alter his habit of communion with his God. Every good thing comes from God, and it would be sin to fail to give him the thanks he is due.

Daniel 6:13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

The trap is sprung, the king is caught, Daniel will be the defenseless casualty.

Daniel 6:14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

Despite his best efforts, king is cornered, helpless to effect any deliverance for Daniel.

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.

Daniel was beyond help. His fate was sealed. No one could intervene, for good or evil, except the Lord alone. The king knew that, so he entrusted Daniel to God’s intervention; “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” It is not clear if he was stating the desperate facts ‘your God must deliver you,’ expressing his confidence ‘your God will deliver you,’ or offering a wish or prayer ‘may your God deliver you.’

Daniel 6:18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Whatever he knew of Daniel’s God, he spent a uncomfortably long sleepless anxiety filled night.

The Living God

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?”

The king had hope. He didn’t stay home and assume the worst. Had he spent the sleepless night wrestling in prayer? What did he learn about Daniel’s God during this night? The day before he had said ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you.’ Today he adds ‘O Daniel servant of the living God.’ Has he come to recognize, regardless of the outcome, that Daniel’s God is more than just Daniel’s God, that he is the living God? Daniel would only be alive if his God proved to be alive and active, at work, intervening on behalf of his servant. Jeremiah, some 50 years earlier said:

Jeremiah 10:10 ​But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.

Job said:

Job 12:10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Daniel himself back in chapter 5 rebuked the wicked Belshazzar on the night Darius conquered him:

Daniel 5:23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. …but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

Darius now acknowledges Daniel’s God as the living God. A king who understands that God is the living God, who understands where his own life comes from and who sustains his every breath, will be a better ruler than a king who does not recognize the God who gives life.

Higher Allegiance

Darius addresses Daniel as ‘servant of the living God …whom you serve continually.’ Daniel was his top administrator, put in a position of authority to serve the interests of the king. Back in chapter 2 the Chaldeans referred to themselves as servants of the king (2:4,7). Darius rightly could have addressed Daniel as ‘O Daniel my faithful servant.’ Why doesn’t he? It had become clear that although Daniel did faithfully serve the king and the kingdom, he held a higher allegiance. He faithfully served the king because he served his God, and this is what his God would have him do. When the edict of the king contradicted the will of his God, there was no question whom he must obey.

And this does not sound derogatory on the lips of Darius, as if he were frustrated by the fact that Daniel had a higher allegiance. Rather it seems to be a title of honor and respect, Darius recognizing the privilege and value of having a servant of the living God in his administration.

O King Live Forever!

The king’s voice was filled with anguish, but he spoke out loud, addressing his question to a Daniel he didn’t know was alive or dead.

Daniel 6:20 …“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.”

The first thing the king heard from the lion’s den, and the first words recorded in this chapter that were spoken by Daniel was ‘O king, live forever!’ Not ‘help!’ Not ‘how could you?’ Not ‘hurry up and get me out of this pit!’ Daniel was more concerned about the life of the king than his own situation or safety. Daniel showed appropriate honor and court etiquette addressing the king even from the lion’s den.

Remember, his accusers had:

Daniel 6:13 …said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Daniel demonstrates that he does pay attention to the king and is genuinely pursuing what is best for the king, even if that means disobeying the king’s own edict at great personal cost. To pray to God, no doubt praying for the king and for the kingdom, is what is best for the king, whether the king likes it or not.

Daniel states that he was found blameless before his God, and also before the king he had done no harm. Again, notice the persistent priority. It is more important to be found blameless before God than it is to be found to have done no harm to the king. But this is also cause and effect. It is precisely because Daniel was seeking to please his God above all else, that he had done no harm to the king. It was God’s command through the prophet Jeremiah to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile’ (Jer.29:7). His obedience to God resulted in seeking the good of king and kingdom.

The Justice of God

Daniel 6:22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; …

Once the king saw through the conspiracy, he was much distressed and made every effort to protect the guiltless and bring about justice, but he could do nothing to deliver Daniel. He was constrained to execute the innocent. Murderous jealousy had won the day. But that was not the end of the story.

God is just. But so often justice does not prevail. We often ask ‘Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? (Jer.12:1). But God is just, and this is not the end of the story. ‘Leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord”’ (Rom.12:19). The Judge of all the earth shall do what is just (Gen.18:25).

Daniel may have cried out for justice like David in Psalm 7

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. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, 4 if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. — Selah

The Presence of God’s Messenger

God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths. Is this one thing or two things that God did? Did God send his angel and that angel shut the mouths of the lions? Or did God shut the lions’ mouths, and God sent his angel to be with Daniel? We are told precious little about what actually happened that night in the sealed lions’ den.

But I think we can take some cues from what happened in the fiery pit in chapter 3; there it was Nebuchadnezzar who observed “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Dan.3:25). He concluded ‘God …sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him’ (3:28). Should we imagine the angel busily fending off and muzzling lions all night, or should we rather see Daniel enjoying sweet fellowship with the divine messenger throughout the night?

As we see throughout the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord or the angel of God often seems to be a divine person; God himself, not merely a created angel. Likely this divine messenger is the Word who was with God and who was God, before he became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1,14). God is with his people in the fire, and he is with his people when they are unjustly accused and thrown to the lions. God is personally with us when the stone is put in place and the tomb is sealed and we are left for dead. Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5).

Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 ​When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. …5 ​Fear not, for I am with you;

The king was worried, anxious, stressed all night, in anguish, at daybreak came in haste to the sealed den. But now we see why Daniel was not hurried or anxious to get out of the den. In the midst of his darkest night, he was experiencing intimacy with his God. The one he spoke to regularly three times each day was with him.

Daniel might have been singing Psalm 57

Psalm 57:1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. 2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. 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! 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. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! 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 7 ​My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! 8 ​Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

Joyous Good News!

Daniel 6:21 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, who was much distressed and had labored until the sun went down to rescue Daniel, the king who had spent a tormented sleepless night, the king who went in haste at the break of day to the den of lions, who cried out in anguish on the way, is now overjoyed at the good news that God was able and Daniel is alive. Finally, Daniel is taken up out of the den, and he is seen to be unharmed.

The Gospel

Do you see yourself in this story? So much of this story is about Darius. We see his circumstances, his efforts, his emotions. Proud, thinking the world of himself, he fell for flattery and was sold a bill of goods. You don’t need God; you can live for yourself, get glory for yourself.

But when their lie is exposed and you come to your senses, you realize the ones you thought were your friends were playing you, using you to accomplish their own ends.

But you’ve made foolish choices that can’t be reversed. Distressed, you labor to right your wrongs, to make up for what you’ve done, but you simply can’t. What you’ve done can’t be undone.

But you are undone. In your grief you recognize your foolish pride will cost an innocent person his life. You cry out to God as a last resort, hoping against hope that somehow he can rescue. In anguish you cry out, and surprisingly, you hear an answer. You find out that God can deliver. God can even raise the dead. This is grounds for exceedingly great joy.

This is the gospel. I’ve been lied to. My pride, my self-sufficiency doesn’t ultimately satisfy; rather it is an offense to the living God in whose hand is my very breath. I can labor and try, but I can never undo what I have done. And the wages of my sin is death. It is agonizing to see an innocent man die because of what I have done, but Jesus died willingly, in my place, he was sealed in a tomb, but he didn’t stay dead. He conquered death and rose from the grave and gives me real joy in his presence.

***

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

February 28, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 6:11-15; Paying Attention

02/13_Daniel 06:11-15; Paying Attention; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220213_dan06_11-15.mp3

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. 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.” 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.

No legal battle, no protest, no petitions, no arguing his case or even asking permission.

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.

Daniel, conspired against, facing death, is not controlled by outside influence or circumstance. He continues to do what he loves, what he is committed to. Daniel acts as a truly free man, in contrast to the other high officials, consumed by jealousy and lust for power; in contrast to the king, blinded by flattery and manipulated.

Making Petition and Plea

Daniel 6:11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.

They came as a group, as a mob. Remember, Daniel is in his own house, in his upper chamber, down on his knees. Not the most public or conspicuous place to be caught, except by those so consumed by envy that the assembled together to catch him in the act.

We are told they found Daniel ‘making petition and plea before his God.’ What radical rebellion! What a menace to society! What a dangerous man. Daniel is in his 80’s, probably around 83 years old, a threat to public order, praying alone in the privacy of his home.

He was ‘making petition’; this is the very language of their edict, found in verses 7, 12 and 13. Daniel was making petition; he was seeking, he was asking, he was requesting. What his enemies had manipulated the king to outlaw was the very thing they found him doing.

He was making petition and plea; this word ‘plea’ can mean either to seek or to show mercy; to ask or to give favor or grace. This same word was used in 4:27 to encourage the king to show mercy to the poor. Daniel was seeking grace and mercy, maybe even for those who had conspired against him.

Before His God

Daniel was making petition and plea before his God. Not the king. That’s the issue. It doesn’t matter the content of your prayers so much as to whom they are directed. You can make a request and seek mercy and grace from the tree in your back yard, or a special rock you carry around in your pocket, but that’s not going to help you. You can pray to your own conception of God as you imagine him to be, but that is not the same as praying to the God who really is.

Here’s another excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s fictional correspondence from the demon Screwtape:

“But even if He defeats your first attempt at misdirection, we have a subtler weapon. The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives. If you look into your patient’s mind when he is praying, you will not find that. If you examine the object to which he is attending, you will find that it is a composite object containing many quite ridiculous ingredients. There will be images derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during the discreditable episode known as the Incarnation: there will be vaguer—perhaps quite savage and puerile—images associated with the other two Persons. There will even be some of his own reverence (and of bodily sensations accompanying it) objectified and attributed to the object revered. I have known cases where what the patient called his “God” was actually located—up and to the left at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the wall. But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him. You may even encourage him to attach great importance to the correction and improvement of his composite object, and to keeping it steadily before his imagination during the whole prayer. For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers “Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be”, our situation is, for the moment, desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it—why, then it is that the incalculable may occur.” [C.S.Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, IV]

It didn’t matter so much that he was praying, as to whom he was praying. That is the real threat. If he truly has access in prayer to the God who is, if that God actually answers his requests and grants him favor, what does that mean for his enemies?

They recognized the danger of prayer, and attempted to outlaw it, to redirect it. Daniel’s enemies were manipulating the king, and if they could reroute all prayers to go through the king, that would put them in ultimate control.

The God-King Entrapped

Daniel 6:12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.”

The trap is fully set, not only for Daniel, but for the king. Unbeknownst to him, they have the king backed into the corner they contrived. They address him as ‘O king, O king, but they had no regard for him or his position. They merely intend to use him to secure their own desires.

They boldly came near the king with their cornering questions. This is the same word used back in 3:8;

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man …shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

They came forward or came near to the king. To come near the king uninvited is presumptuous and dangerous as we learn a bit over 50 year later from Queen Esther when she risked her own life entering the court of Ahasuerus (or Xerxes I), king of Persia.

Esther 5:2 And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

These men presumptuously draw near to the king and ask him to confirm that he did indeed sign the injunction forbidding the petitioning of anyone but the king, and that the consequence for disobedience was death. The king affirms that it is now law and that it cannot be revoked.

Daniel Defamed

Daniel 6:13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Notice how they introduce Daniel. Not Daniel, one of your top three officials, not the Daniel who became distinguished above all the other officials because an excellent spirit was in him, not Daniel whom you intend to set over the whole kingdom, not Daniel the man of integrity that has served under the administrations of multiple kings. No, they introduce him as Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah. That was almost 70 years ago! He has lived through the rise and fall of the Babylonian empire, served multiple kings with integrity, and now is highly favored by the king of the Medo-Persian empire. And his resume? ‘He is one of the exiles from Judah.’ He is basically a slave, a captive, a nobody. He is one of the leftovers of one of the many conquered peoples deported by Babylon from their homes. An exile has the audacity to disregard both the king and his laws. This cannot be tolerated.

No Respecter of Persons

He ‘pays no attention to you, O king’. This assumes that there is a person who ought to be respected. They argue from the king’s priority of position, that he ought to be the one to whom everyone owes attention. This is how they got the injunction signed in the first place. If he pays no attention to you, who is he paying with his attention? To whom do we owe our attention? (Rom.13:7)

There is some truth to the accusation. Daniel is truly no respecter of persons. His allegiance is to no human. God alone deserves our undivided attention, our utmost respect, and this is exactly what Daniel understands. ‘He went to his house… He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’ because he knew to whom he was in debt to pay attention. (Mt.22:20-21)

This is exactly what made him the right man for the top job. Allegiances change, empires change, kings and kingdoms fade away. If his allegiance as an exiled Jew was to the Jewish nation, he would do what he could to undermine those currently in power. If his allegiance was to Nebuchadnezzar or the Babylonian empire, could he be trusted by subsequent kings or by the conquering empire? If his primary allegiance was to himself and to seeking his own advancement, like these other high officials, could he be trusted to do what was in the best interest of the king and the country, or would he use other people, including the king, to advance his own interests?

His allegiance was to God alone, who transcends all kings and kingdoms, and who is unchanging and unchangeable. This higher allegiance required him to make sacrifices and decisions that were not in his own personal interest, but in the interest of others.

Or To The Law

He pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed. It’s personal. He pays no attention to you. But it’s also official. He disregards the law. If it was only a personal offense, you could choose to let that offense slide; you might be considered gracious. But you can’t let an offense against the law slide, or you would be unjust, and risk the total breakdown of society. That’s why these officials made sure to get it in writing and have the king sign it so it could not be revoked.

But Daniel did pay attention to the king, and he did keep the laws. He would not be trusted by the king if he did not. But he also knew when a law was out of its jurisdiction. Laws are meant to be for the good of society, the protection of people, to maintain proper order. Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Spirit and concludes ‘against such there is no law’. What is more loving than to pray for someone, to bring them before the throne of grace and plead for their good and the blessings of God to be on them? A law that forbade prayer was in effect attempting to outlaw love, and that is no law! Daniel understood, as the apostles understood, that authority is appointed by God and rulers are God’s servants for your good (Rom.13:1,4). They also understood that when government reaches beyond its proper jurisdiction and attempts to regulate or prohibit our obedience to God, ‘we must obey God rather than men’ (Act.5:29).

Mighty To Save

Daniel 6:14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.

Notice the contrast between the calculatingly vengeful officials set on destruction, and the distressed laboring king with his mind set on deliverance. These officials should have been the ones laboring to protect the interests of the king; after all, he had appointed them ‘so that the king might suffer no loss’. And losing Daniel would be a great loss to the king. Under ordinary circumstances, the king would give the order for someone serving him to come up with a solution to his problems. But he is realizing he really has no friends in his own administration. Daniel is the accused, and everyone else is a co-conspirator against him. The king himself had fallen into their trap. If there is to be any help, he must see to it himself.

The response of the king demonstrates the depth of his respect for this exile from Judah who ‘pays no attention to you’. He ‘was much distressed’. He ‘set his mind to deliver Daniel.’ ‘He labored …to rescue him.’ His eyes were opened to the conspiracy, their jealousy, and his own folly. So he sought to do whatever was in his power to save Daniel.

But it is God alone who saves (Is.63:1; Zeph,3:17). And we may try, but we can’t help him. The king labored till sundown, but all his labor was in vain. This was out of his hands. It is God who rescues, who delivers.

The Folly of the Wicked

Daniel 6:15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

The audacity of these men! They show up as a group and lecture the king about his own laws. They have the king trapped; they know it and he knows it, and they gloat.

But I don’t think their plan was very well thought through. They were after Daniel’s position. He was in the way and they wanted him gone. But did they actually think, after openly manipulating the king and cornering him to act against his will in executing his most trusted official, that he would then turn around and entrust them with anything? We have to expect in the folly of the wicked, that even if they succeed in destroying Daniel, they inevitably will fall into the trap that they have set. Psalm 7 says:

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.

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.

***

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

February 18, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 6:1-10; True Freedom

01/30_Daniel 06:1-10; True Freedom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220130_dan06_1-10.mp3

In Daniel chapter 5, Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. Belshazzar had proclaimed Daniel third in the kingdom for interpreting God’s handwriting on the wall, an empty promise and a short-lived position, but it became the final official act of the final king of the Babylonian empire to honor an exiled Jew. We read at the end of chapter 5

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.

Darius the Mede (probably the Median name of Cyrus the Persian) came to power in Babylon on October 12, 539 BC.

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.

Darius installed Daniel as one of the three highest officials in his kingdom, and intended to elevate him over the entire kingdom. But prominence comes at a price; those elevated to high positions are exposed to greater scrutiny and criticism.

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.

The king’s favor toward Daniel aroused the jealousy of the other high officials, who desired to lift themselves up by finding fault with Daniel. But they could find neither guilt nor negligence. Not only did Daniel not do wrong, he did not omit to do any good that he ought to have done. Despite their search, they uncovered no sins of comission or omission. Daniel was a man of integrity.

Daniel 6:5 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.”

Their failure to find fault did not deter them in their lust for power to take down Daniel. So they hatched a conspiracy. They would use Daniel’s integrity against him. They decided to manufacture a conflict between his devotion to his God and the law of the land.

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.

They lied. They said all the high officials agreed; but Daniel was obviously not privy to their plot. They used flattery to manipulate the king. They leveraged political advantage; it would benefit the king to consolidate power and test the allegiances of the diverse subjects in his empire. They pushed for a legally binding edict.

Daniel 6:8 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.

Who is Truly Free?

Let’s think for a moment about freedom. We cherish freedom. We talk a lot about freedom, and historically we in this country have been willing to fight for our freedoms. But what is freedom? Let’s think about the freedoms of the characters in this narrative.

The king – was he free? We would say, of course he was free! He was the king, the conquering king, the highest authority in his Medo-Persian empire. He got to make the laws. He was free to execute whomever he willed. He was the final authority on right and wrong in his vast empire. He passed this law, which was within his authority. It was what seemed best to him; it was what he wanted to do, and he was free to do it. He was free.

But we also see behind the scenes how he had been manipulated and played by his top advisers. They used him to accomplish their own ends, they entrapped him with his own law, and by the end of the story we see this king with his hands tied, forced to submit to his own law and do what he did not want to do, that which was not to his own advantage, to enforce the execution of his most trusted official, who had likely become a trusted friend.

What about the conspirators? Were they the ones with true freedom? They were able to use the king to carry out their own desires. He became a puppet, and they were seen to be pulling the strings. They did what they wanted, they got what they wanted, and the king and the law served their purposes. But were they truly free? They did what they wanted, but they are seen to be slaves to their own jealousy and lust for power. Their desires controlled and consumed them, and in the end, they end up being thrown into the very trap that they had set for their enemy.

Daniel: Freedom in Captivity

What about Daniel? He had been elevated to a high position that came with a measure of authority, but ultimately he was an exile, taken captive by the previous empire and displaced from his homeland. He was now serving the conquering king of the victorious empire. And he found himself trapped, hard pressed between two laws; he was caught between obeying the law of his God, and obeying the law of the land. He was forced to make a choice, but it was a lose-lose decision. He was neither king nor conspirator – he was the victim of the conspiracy. He found himself accused, arrested, and sentenced to die with no one who could rescue him. In this story, he is the one with the least freedom of all.

But who is truly free? The manipulated king or the conspirators who are slaves to their own lust? Look again at Daniel:

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.

Daniel is an exile, victim of conspiracy, subject to the hostile laws intended to entrap him, and yet he is the one who appears to be acting with true freedom. Where the king was blinded by flattery and lies, Daniel’s eyes are wide open. He sees through the conspiracy and understands the intent of the new law. But he is not manipulated by it; he continues to do what he has always done. Where his enemies are obsessed with their desire for power, he is content in his place as servant to the king, and ultimately as servant of the Most High God.

Even the fear of death holds no power over him. His actions seem truly free, simply continuing to do what he most desires to do, what he considers most important, without being influenced in the least by his changing circumstances or the winds of popularity or the actions of others.

I know it seems far-fetched, but what would we do if the government told us that we could no longer meet together to worship and pray? What would you do if prayer was suddenly outlawed in our country?

Notice what Daniel doesn’t do. He doesn’t run to petition the king, he doesn’t seek to expose the conspiracy, he doesn’t try to rally people to his cause. He doesn’t make himself a spectacle. Neither does he try to justify a neglect of prayer or attempt to conceal his practice of prayer. He doesn’t allow circumstances to control his response. He does what he has always done, in the same way he has always done it. He prays.

Under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar he prayed. Under the reign of Belshazzar he prayed. Under the reign of Darius he prays. When it was legal he prayed. When it became illegal, he continues to pray. He prayed as he had done previously.

Daniel acts as a truly free man. One author writes:

‘In fact, Daniel’s “seemingly innocuous act” was “more … revolutionary than outright rebellion would have been. Rebellion simply acknowledges the absoluteness and ultimacy of the emperor’s power, and attempts to seize it. Prayer denies that ultimacy altogether by acknowledging a higher power” [(Wink, Naming, 110-11) cited by Goldingay, p.131]

This author goes on:

‘So “what happens when a state executes those who are praying for it?” It is “demonstrating the emperor’s powerlessness to impose his will even by death. The final sanction had been publicly robbed of its power.”’ [(Wink, Naming, 111) cited by Goldingay, p.133]

Daniel was truly free.

Prayer and Thanksgiving

Notice the content of Daniel’s prayer. We aren’t told what he prays, but it seems he isn’t crying out to God in a desperate plea for help in his present emergency, or calling down judgment on his adversaries. We aren’t told the content of his prayers. We are simply told that ‘he prayed and gave thanks before his God’.

Here’s some of what the New Testament commands us about prayer and thanksgiving.

Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Do you suppose ‘always’ includes both good circumstances and those we would consider bad? Do you think that ‘for everything’ includes giving thanks for trials and tribulations as well as for blessings? Peter (1Pet.4:13) and Paul (Rom.5:3) and James (1:2) all tell us to rejoice in trials and sufferings. Jesus goes so far as to tell us

Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Give thanks always and for everything, even for trials and suffering.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Daniel understood that the king was sovereign. He was aware of the king’s edict. He was likely aware of the jealousy and conspiracy of his peers. He understood the risk, he knew the penalty for disobedience was death, and he prayed anyway. We don’t know if Daniel’s heart was pounding out of his chest when he went to his upper room to pray, but we know he was human, and he probably had normal human physiological responses to threat and risk and danger. We know Jesus was human, and when he agonized in prayer anticipating the cross and all that that meant for him, his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground (Lk.22:44). Daniel had every reason to be anxious, and he may have been, but he took it to his Lord in prayer with thanksgiving.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Do everything you do with thankfulness to God. Not merely with a thankful attitude, but actually giving thanks, saying thank you with words.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Daniel had a great reason to cease praying. It would very likely cost him his life. But he did not cease to pray. His circumstances were adverse. He was alone and the world was against him, and yet he gave thanks to God.

The Habit of Gospel Thankfulness

There is always something to thank God for. I think it would be fair to argue that Daniel had less to be thankful for than we do. He lived the majority of his life as an exile in a foreign land. Most of his life his people were scattered and the temple of his God lay in ruins. He lived before the cross, hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus to save us from our sins. I think it is fair to say he understood the gospel less clearly than we do today. And yet he made a habit of giving thanks to God. Get in the habit of daily reminding yourself of the gospel, the good news, and giving thanks to God for his great salvation.

Freedom from the Fear of Man

Daniel understood the essential and necessary nature of prayer. It may cost him his life to do it, but he refused to live without it. We can discipline ourselves to develop the habit of gospel thankfulness, but how can we overcome our fear of man?

Jesus said:

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Daniel knew he could compromise to save his life, but by saving his skin, he would forfeit what was truly life. Jesus said:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Daniel’s fear of the Lord weighed greater than his fear of man. And his fear of man was legitimate and real. But his fear of the Lord set him free, truly free from the fear of man.

Daniel probably resonated with David in Psalm 56

Psalm 56:1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; 2 my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. 3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? 5 All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. …9 ..This I know, that God is for me. 10 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

David acknowledges his fear, but he chooses to put his trust in God. Because his trust is in God, he will not be afraid, because ‘What can man do to me?’ They can ‘kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.’

Psalm 118 says

Psalm 118:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! …5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

Give thanks to the Lord. Fear the Lord, and he will set you free. Truly free. Free from the fear of death, from the fear of man.

Proverbs says:

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Are you entangled, ensnared, in bondage to the fear of man, or are you safe, enjoying true freedom, drinking deeply from the fountain of life of the fear of the Lord? Are you truly free?

Romans 8:31 …If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

***

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

February 4, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 3:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves

07/18_Daniel 03:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210718_dan03_1-12.mp3

Daniel 2 showed us the bankruptcy of human wisdom and even the dark arts. The king had a dream, and he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans; all the wise men of Babylon, and they were powerless to unravel the king’s mystery. They are more inclined to tell him what is expedient, to use flattery, to preserve their positions, than to tell him the truth.

Now we see in chapter 3 the bankruptcy of human government. Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold. God has given him authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all’ (2:38). The head of gold gathers all those he has set up to rule under him; “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces”; this list becomes comical in its sheer length and its repetition. These are representatives from all “peoples, nations, and languages” and they all buckle under the great pressure and threat of consequences; they all compromise to preserve their own skin. They act out of jealousy and self-interest; not the good of the people they are responsible to serve. They all, including Nebuchadnezzar, allow pride and preservation of position to eclipse simply doing what is right.

The Image of Gold; Opposition to God’s Revelation

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 2, God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the future of Gentile dominion, and what would happen after these things with ‘a great image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, frightening’ (2:31). After the head of gold would come three other empires represented by metals of descending value but increasing strength, followed by a divided kingdom. A divine stone would impact and obliterate all human kingdoms, crushing them to powder that the wind blew away, and God will establish his kingdom that will have no end.

In response to this, maybe even in proud opposition to this vision from God, Nebuchadnezzar sets up a massive image 9 feet wide and 90 feet tall that is gold from head to foot. He is saying as it were, my kingdom will last forever. My dominion will not decline or be given to another. My kingdom will never be crushed, never fall. He calls for allegiance to this statue as a symbolic act to unify his empire and rally all his people around an experience of worship.

Daniel had acknowledged God as the one who ‘removes kings and sets up kings’ (2:21), and he made it clear to Nebuchadnezzar that ‘the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory’ into his hand (2:37). Here Nebuchadnezzar is saying that he is the one who sets up gods for his people to worship, and that he can give life or take life away from those who refuse to bow.

The Plain in Shinar; Place of Opposition to God

The location of this statue is telling. It is on the plain, in the province of Babylon. In chapter 1, the author calls Babylon ‘the land of Shinar’ (1:2). This links all the way back to Genesis 11.

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 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.”

We were created in the image of the invisible God, to enjoy relationship with him and bring glory to his name. Instead we desire to make a name for ourselves, to get glory for ourselves, to establish a monument and create a legacy that will last forever.

On the plain in the land of Shinar, the people united in rebellion against God and his glory, God and his word. God had commanded man to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen.1:26-28). Instead they came together so that they would not be dispersed over the face of the whole earth as God intended.

Genesis 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The tower of Babel was intended to bring together all mankind united in rebellion against God. In that unity, nothing they proposed to do would be impossible for them, but it would not be for the glory of God and the good of others; they do it all to get glory for themselves, to make a name for themselves in opposition to God and his word.

Nebuchadnezzar’s statue on the same geographic location had the same purpose. In fact, he intended to reverse the confusion of Babel by bringing back together ‘people, nations and languages’ that the Lord had dispersed, to unite them all in worship before his image of gold.

Inclusive Worship of the Image

Daniel 3:2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

Note what Nebuchadnezzar is not asking. He is not demanding that all peoples, nations and languages renounce their own gods and exclusively worship his. But he is requiring that they acknowledge his god alongside theirs. In chapter 2, he was willing to acknowledge Daniel’s God as God of gods and Lord of kings without renouncing his own gods. He is requiring the same of all his subjects. It is fine if you worship your own gods, as long as you will also acknowledge mine. Nebuchadnezzar commands under penalty of death that all peoples, nations and languages fall down and worship the golden image that he has set up.

The Manipulative Power of Music

Notice what he utilizes to initiate the worship of this image? ‘When you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music.’ Some have commented that this bizarre combination of instruments would produce a cacophony of sound, but I don’t think so. Nebuchadnezzar understood the emotive and persuasive power of music skillfully played to manipulate a response from an audience. The image he had made was visually awe inspiring and impressive, and the strategically diverse ensemble was meant to elicit an emotional response from the people. The combination of sight and sound, of threat and hope, of uniting with such an unbelievably great and diverse crowd around something great would be almost irresistible.

And it worked!

Daniel 3:7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

We need to be careful with this. Music is a gift of God. Music is powerful. But music skillfully played at just the right time and in just the right way can manipulate the emotions of people. It persuaded a multitude from diverse backgrounds to fall down and worship an image. Music combined with fog machines and colored lights can create an atmosphere of sight and sound that is powerful and persuasive, and draw people in, whether they believe in Jesus or not.

Paul said, not in the context of music, but in the context of human oratory and eloquence that could please the ear in a similar way;

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

I think it is right and biblical to use instruments in worship of God (Ps.150:3-6). Even loud music and clashing cymbals can be appropriate in worship to God. But we need to be careful that we are not coming to be entertained, to be moved, to be awed by the band and the special effects. We must be careful that we are not using music and visual stimulation to manipulate an emotional response. We ought to be singing because God has genuinely changed our hearts, and we ought to be standing and singing in awe of him, who he is, and his grace, what he has done.

Music is powerful, and it can be used to move ‘all the peoples, nations, and languages’ to fall down and worship ‘the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.’ All but three young men that is.

Jealousy of Position

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

At the end of chapter 2 we saw that because Daniel upstaged all the ‘wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers’ of Babylon, he was appointed ‘ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon’ (2:48-49).

Now the hearts of the Chaldeans are exposed. They ‘maliciously accused the Jews’. They were full of resentment and jealousy toward these foreigners who had been appointed to positions of authority over them. They were watching, looking for opportunity to accuse the Jews. They were even bold enough to be critical of the king’s decisions; ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon…’

If we look ahead to chapter 6, where Daniel is thrown to the lions, we are told that the jealous leaders conspired to arrange circumstances to entrap Daniel and have him removed. Although we are not told, we could imagine that a similar thing could have happened here; the king’s counselors inflating his ego, encouraging the king to make the image and to institute the death penalty for conscientious objectors, knowing that the Jews were expressly forbidden to bow to any image.

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God,…

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah knew God’s commands. They feared God more even than the threats of the king.

Deuteronomy 6:13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Made to Worship

Although we were made to worship, made to supremely enjoy the one true God, our hearts are sinfully inclined to worship lesser things. We tend to suppress the truth. We exchange the glory of the immortal and invisible God for images resembling visible mortal man. We fail to honor him as God or give him thanks.

Like the Chaldeans, we value our own position, our own promotion, our own exaltation more than God. And we are willing to push others down if that will give us opportunity to advance. We want to be in places of power, we want to be honored. Like the people on the plain of Shinar, we want to make a name for ourselves.

But at the cross, the power of sin was broken. We can be free from our selfish desires. We are set free to look up, not to aspire but to adore. When we see God for who he is, we are set free from the pursuit of self-promotion, from seeking the approval of others. We can be free to forget ourselves and humbly worship the only one who is worthy. We were made to worship, and we find our greatest fulfillment when we pursue the glory of God in all we do.

***

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

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

Obey Jesus – Primary Allegiance (Matthew 10:24-39)

05/10 Obey Jesus: Primary Allegiance; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200510_primary-allegiance.mp3

We are looking at what it means to obey Jesus. Jesus instructed us to make disciples who make disciples who obey Jesus in everything. So What did Jesus command? We’ve been looking at some of the commands of Jesus, to know what he expects of us his followers, and to equip us to better disciple those who become his followers. He commands that we come to him and believe in him, that we believe what he says about himself, that he is the I AM come down from heaven to give life to the world. We are to find him in all of Scripture, because he said the whole of the Scriptures point to him. We are to meet with him there in his word. We are to abide in him, stay connected to him in relationship, pray to him and pray in his name so that we will bear much fruit and bring glory to God.

A Servant Not Above His Master (Matthew 10)

Today I want to look at what Jesus says about our primary allegiances. In Matthew 10 Jesus is preparing his followers for what it is going to be like for them in this world. He said:

Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

If we are following Jesus, we shouldn’t expect to be treated better than he was treated. If he was slandered and maligned, we should not be surprised if we experience the same.

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus talks to us about our fears. He knows our tendency to be afraid, and he reminds us who to fear. What anyone says about us falsely will be brought into the light, so we don’t have to lose sleep over it.

They may kill the body. Many of Jesus’ followers have been killed because of their faith in him. But he reminds us not to fear those who have the power to kill only the body but cannot touch our soul. He reminds us that God alone is to be feared. We possess an invincible hope, that even death cannot quench!

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Two sparrows were sold for one small coin. Luke 12:6 has five sparrows sold for two of these coins; they were of so little worth that if you buy four you got one thrown in for free. And yet not one insignificant sparrow falls to the ground apart from the sovereign will of their omnipotent Creator. He has numbered the hairs on your head, and he has numbered your days on this earth. You are of more value than many sparrows. So fear not.

Primary Allegiance

Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Our allegiance to Jesus matters. To be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge him before people is to say that what they think is more important, more weighty than what God thinks. It is evidence that we don’t really believe in him. Jesus continues:

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Jesus is the great divide [this is fulfillment of prophecy from Micah 7:5-6]. Jesus polarizes people. You are either with him or against him. He tolerates no lukewarm opinions about himself. Jesus divides.

I know some of you know personally the cost of following Jesus, and have experienced exactly what Jesus says here.

Jesus says:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

For Jesus to say that we are to love him above father and mother is to affirm the value of those relationships; family love and natural allegiance run deep. But he is to take precedence over even the highest of natural affections, the deepest of natural allegiances.

This is strong language. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, son or daughter, more than our own skin. He picks our closest ties, our deepest allegiances and demands that we are committed to him above all.

It is worth noting here that this demand would be audacious and unthinkable if Jesus were not God. To demand our unqualified allegiance is a clear claim to be the only one worthy of that kind of allegiance. Jesus is demanding that our love for God (and thus for him because he is God) must supersede every other affection and devotion

Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves his own skin more than me is not worthy of me.

Not worthy of me; not worthy not in the sense of not having earned or achieved the right, but rather not fit, not equal to the task. Those who are not willing to put God above all other loves are not willing to be Jesus’ disciples. They are not believing that the Lord is worthy of our highest love, not believing that in order to love others rightly, they must be loved in their proper place under God; the Lord must be loved first and above all.

In Luke 14, he says:

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is not justifying hatred toward family members. But some of our actions and decisions may be perceived that way, because of our overriding allegiance to him. When we put Jesus first, everyone else comes in second, and nobody likes to be second. This is not dislike or disdain, but a supreme loyalty.

What This Does Not Look Like

Jesus affirms that we ought to honor father and mother. He even rebuked the Pharisees who created a legal loophole so that children could get out of the responsibility of taking care of their parents. What they were doing, it seems was taking the resources that they should have used to support their parents, and declaring them as dedicated to God, to be given to the Lord at some future date. This was a hypocritical way to say they were putting God first, while really they were avoiding responsibility to their parents and keeping it all for themselves. Jesus

Matthew 15:3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (cf. Mk.7:9-13)

Jesus affirms that it is commanded by God to honor father and mother, but we must honor them under the Lord. Our loyalty must be to Jesus above all.

Government Submission

We can extend this to civil authorities, to states and empires. Peter tells us we are to

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Timothy tells us that we are to pray for those who are in authority over us;

1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

And keep in mind that the context of these letters would have been the evil emperor Nero who was no friend of the cause of Christ.

Jesus answered a question about paying taxes:

Matthew 22:21 …Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Their coins had the image of the emperor on them. We bear God’s image. We are to give the government its due, but we must give God that which bears his image.

But when it comes to it, when the two are in conflict, our allegiance is to Jesus above all earthly allegiances. When the Jewish leaders rebuked the disciples

Acts 5:28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We are to pray for our leaders and be subject to our earthly governments as far as possible, but when the demands of these two collide, we must submit to the higher authority. We must obey God rather than men.

Gospel Community

In Mark 10, when Jesus pointed to the difficulty people have with following him, with giving him their undivided allegiance,

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus demands that we put him higher than every other love. Although the cost of following Jesus may be great, the reward will be far greater. Because Jesus demands our highest allegiance, this will mean that we seek to honor him above all. For some, this may actually mean walking away from a close relationship with an unbeliever, although in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul clarifies that it will be the unbeliever who wants out; so far as it depends on us we are to seek to live peaceably will all (Rom.12:18). But according to Jesus, whoever leaves family for the sake of Jesus and the gospel will receive a hundredfold now in this life, brothers and sisters and mothers and children. What does he mean by this? Although in some cases blood relatives may want nothing to do with a believer, as believers we are adopted into the family of God. Although these relationships man never replace a lost relationship, we become part of a much larger family with a depth of unity through our common allegiance to Jesus. We become family. It is a beautiful thing to meet a believer from another place, maybe another country and a different culture, and discover that depth of connection we have in Jesus.

Invited In

In Mark 3, there was such a crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. The religious leaders were saying he was possessed by a demon, and his family came to get him, thinking he was out of his mind.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is not negating the importance of family. But he is inviting us in to his own family. My disciples, those who obey me, those who do the will of God, you are my mother and sister and brother. That’s the depth, that’s the intimacy, that’s the loyalty Jesus invites us in to. He takes the closest relationships we experience and says that is the kind of relationship I want with you.

What about you? Jesus invites you in. He wants that kind of depth, that kind of closeness with you. He is inviting you in. But he wants you to count the cost. It is costly to follow Jesus. He demands your highest devotion, your undivided loyalty, your absolute allegiance. He requires that you take him for who he is, to acknowledge him as God, with absolute rights over you. He commands that you devote yourself to him above every other affection. Will you take up your cross and follow him and not look back? Will you follow him wherever he leads? Will you obey everything he commands? Will you be his disciple?

***

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

May 11, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment