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

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

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

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

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

God’s Gift of Authority

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

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

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

Glory and Thanks Owed to the Giver

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

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

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

Pride and Fulfillment of the Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ungratefulness Leads to Bestiality (Rom.1)

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

Ungratefulness leads to a debased mind, to bestiality.

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

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

Hope for the Worst of Sinners

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

Reasonable Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He closes his letter this way:

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth or Tickled Ears

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

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

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

True Forgiveness

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

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

One commentator writes:

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

Beastly King of Beasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promised Restoration

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

The Gift of Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call to Repentance

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

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

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

Sins of Omission

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

Do Righteousness and Show Mercy

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

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

God’s judgment is on his people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Daniel 4:1-5; God’s Good Purpose

09/05_Daniel 04:1-5; God’s Good Purpose; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210905_dan04_1-5.mp3

We are in Daniel chapter 4. Daniel and his friends, exiled to Babylon in 605 BC, refused to compromise their convictions by eating the king’s food. God gave them favor with their captors, and God gave them learning and skill in all wisdom. They proved ten times better than all the others in the kingdom.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s second year, he had a dream which none of his wise men could reveal, but God revealed to Daniel both the dream and its interpretation. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold, but his empire would be followed by other empires of increasing strength but decreasing value, ultimately all destroyed by the divine kingdom crushing stone. Nebuchadnezzar recognized Daniel’s God as God of gods, Lord of kings, and reveler of secrets, and Daniel and his friends were promoted to positions of leadership.

In chapter 3, rebelling against the vision he was given in chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar asserted his authority with a 90 foot image of gold, and demanded the worship of all peoples, nations and languages. Daniel’s three friends refused to bow, so they were thrown into his superheated furnace. But the flame had no affect on them; indeed, they enjoyed fellowship with the Son of God in the midst of the fire. When they came out of the fire unharmed, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged their willingness to ‘set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.’ So he issued another death decree, this time against ‘any people, nation or language that speaks anything against’ their God, ‘for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.’

Now in chapter 4 we fast forward ahead maybe close to 30 years. Daniel is probably approaching 50 years old. This chapter contains the last words we have recorded from Nebuchadnezzar, and it is his own account of his experience. It takes the form of an official edict, a letter to all his subjects, to all peoples, nations and languages. It communicates his experience with another dream that made him afraid, of the failure of his religious experts to make known the interpretation, of Daniel’s interpretation of the dream, of the fulfillment of the dream a year later, and after a seven year humiliation of the king, he now writes this letter as an expression of worship to God.

A Different King

This letter from Nebuchadnezzar stands in stark contrast to the last chapter, where he ‘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.’ ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of … every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.’

Look at what he writes here in chapter 4.

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

Imagine yourself years earlier as having been one of the officials from the many peoples, languages and nations in attendance at the dedication of the image, having been required to demonstrate your allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar the king of kings, having bowed to worship his image of gold. Imagine now receiving this official letter from the king. ‘Here we go again!’ But you notice the dramatic change both in tone and in focus. He begins by wishing peace on all peoples, nations and languages. He does not make one single demand on the peoples, nations, and languages that he addresses this edict to. And his focus is no longer on himself; it is all on God. It seems as if this is a different king altogether! What happened?

Signs and Wonders

‘It seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.’ Signs and wonders is a phrase that throughout the rest of the Old Testament refers to what God did in Egypt, specifically what God did against Egypt and against Pharaoh. Here’s one example:

Deuteronomy 6:22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes.

Signs and wonders were done to Pharaoh or against Pharaoh and against Egypt, they were great and grievous acts of God, they were trials and great deeds of terror to demonstrate the mighty hand and outstretched arm of the Lord (Deut.4:34). And they were acts of judgment, meant to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex.7:3-5).

This is basically what God is doing to Nebuchadnezzar. If you’ve read ahead, you know that Nebuchadnezzar is pictured as a great tree, and the tree is cut down and stripped of its branches, leaves and fruit; the kingdom would be taken from him, and Nebuchadnezzar himself would be driven away from people and go insane, behaving like an animal for seven periods of time, likely seven years.

But notice Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective. He writes to ‘show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.’ Not against me or to me, but for me. This is not the response of resentment or hostility; Nebuchadnezzar considered it a gift.

What is your perspective? Think of the worst thing, the most humiliating thing that has happened to you. How do you think about it? Do you feel that God is against you, do you question what kind of a God would let that happen to you or do that to you?

We are not told what he thought or even if he could think at the time, but looking back Nebuchadnezzar viewed it as God’s grace toward him, as the greatest gift, the greatest kindness God could have shown him.

Daniel 4:2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!

God’s signs are great and his wonders are mighty. Remember, he is talking about being cut down, destroyed, turned into an animal. Do you like to talk about your most humiliating experience? Is that the first thing you share with strangers? Remember, Nebuchadnezzar is writing to ‘all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth.’ God humiliated me; he is great and mighty.

God’s Good Purpose

Nebuchadnezzar understood that what happened to him had a purpose. A good purpose. This purpose is given in verse 17.

Daniel 4:17 …to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

That the living may know. This letter is his attempt to fulfill that purpose, to communicate to all the living that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. God Most High is in control. He is in control of kings and leaders. God gives authority to whom he will. He establishes rulers and he removes rulers. He sets over the kingdom of men the lowliest of men, the basest of men. It doesn’t mean, if you have been entrusted with authority, that you are somebody great. It might actually mean that you’re the bottom of the barrel.

The purpose is restated in verse 25:

Daniel 4:25 …till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.

And again in verse 32:

Daniel 4:32 …until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

God is in control. The Most High rules the kingdom of men. He possesses all authority. And he chooses to give authority to whomever he wishes.

If you recall, Nebuchadnezzar was told this by Daniel back in chapter 2.

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

God gave you the kingdom, the power, the might and the glory. God gave the authority over all his creation into your hand. It is a gift. You didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it, it’s not a reward for your abilities or performance; it’s a gift. God owns all authority, and he chooses to freely entrust it to you. Daniel said it, Nebuchadnezzar heard it, but he didn’t know it.

He asked Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah ‘Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hand?’ Nebuchadnezzar found out that ‘there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way,’ but he still didn’t really know that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ He had been given it, and he thought he somehow earned it or deserved it.

He needed to be shown, and that meant God had to take it all away. He had to be cut down. He thought himself a god, and he had to live for a time like a beast so that he could learn what it meant to be truly human.

Kind Cutting

Remember Jesus’ story about the Pharisee and the tax collector:

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The most kind and gracious thing God could do for us would be to humble us, to cut us down, to show us our need for him.

Nebuchadnezzar was told that his kingdom would not last forever. He was shown the kingdom crushing stone that would fill the whole earth and stand forever. So he made a 90 foot image of gold and demanded that all peoples, nations, and languages fall down and worship the image that he had made.

Here he acknowledges that there is a Most High God, and that God is at work in his life. He acknowledges that it is God’s kingdom that is an everlasting kingdom. It is God’s rule that will outlast every generation.

Daniel 4:2 …His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Prosperous Ease

Nebuchadnezzar gives us the setting for the dream.

Daniel 4:4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me.

I was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. He was doing well. He had what he needed. He was experiencing a measure of peace and security. He had worked hard, he had built much, and now he was finally was able to relax and enjoy it all. Isn’t that what we’re all after? Prosperous ease? We don’t necessarily want to become billionaires, but if we could just make enough to be comfortable and enjoy a measure of security… The American dream is dangerous! This is what Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed, and it was into this context that he was confronted by a dream to warn him of what was coming.

You remember what the sin of Sodom was? In Ezekiel 16, God is rebuking Jerusalem for her unfaithfulness, and he compares her with Sodom and says this:

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease. Prosperous ease sounds so appealing, but it is dangerous! It is dangerous, because we so easily slip into complacency and forget that it was all a gift and who it came from. We forget to honor God as God or give thanks to him. We want to relax and enjoy what we worked so hard to get, forgetting who gave us the ability to work so hard. We so naturally inflate our expenses to absorb any extra, rather than recognizing it as a gift entrusted to us with which to bless others.

It was when king David was enjoying some well earned rest, taking a break from the war, walking on the roof of his house, when he got himself into so much trouble.

We pursue prosperous ease, but Nebuchadnezzar had it, and he considered it a great sign and mighty wonder when God stripped it all away. He worshiped the Most High God for his sovereign ability to humble the proud.

Let’s close today with the words of Agur:

Proverbs 30:7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

***

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

September 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering

07/25_Daniel 03:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210725_dan03_13-18.mp3

In response to his dream that he was the head of gold, to be succeeded by lesser empires, and ultimately replaced entirely by the kingdom crushing stone, Nebuchadnezzar made an image all of gold, 90 feet high, and demanded that all ‘peoples, nations, and languages’ fall down and worship the golden image. God had given into his hand authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens,’ but he did not give glory to God; rather he attempted to make a name for himself.

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. 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.” 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.

Judging from the parallel event in chapter 6, it is possible that this event was politically motivated, orchestrated or encouraged by the Chaldeans out of jealousy of the king’s appointment of Jews to positions of authority over them.

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.”

The Chaldeans remind the king of his decree, and of the consequences he established for disobedience. Now they bring to the king’s attention that there are three Jews whom he had appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon who stand in defiance of the king’s decree.

Where Was Daniel?

After Daniel’s revealing of the king’s dream and its interpretation, at the end of chapter 2 we read:

Daniel 2:48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

This is likely meant to answer the question ‘where was Daniel in chapter 3?’ Daniel remained at the king’s court. With the king and all his governing officials assembled several miles south of Babylon in the plain of Dura, someone would have needed to remain in Babylon to maintain order in the city in the absence of the king.

There was obvious resentment on the part of the Chaldeans toward these foreigners who had been promoted above them. They maliciously accused the Jews; literally they ‘ate the pieces of’. Their animosity was thinly veiled. They wanted to consume them, to see them destroyed. They even implicate the king in unwise decisions; appointing foreigners to positions of power who are secretly rebels against the king and his authority. They said:

Daniel 3:12 …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.”

This is only partly true. Indeed they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. This was not a gray area; the Scripture is clear that:

Exodus 20:3 “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…

Their conscience was captive to the word of God, so they could not bow to the image or serve the gods of Babylon.

Christian Work Ethic

But the allegation that they ‘pay no attention to’ the king was false. They were summoned to the plain of Dura, and they obediently came. There is no evidence that they acted with anything short of the greatest integrity in their positions of authority over the province of Babylon. In fact if they had performed poorly, shirked their responsibility or undermined the authority of the king in any way, the Chaldeans surely would have brought it to the attention of the king. They were following the instruction of Jeremiah;

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: …7 …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.

Those who know and follow Jesus should have the greatest integrity, be the best employees, have the highest work ethic, because we know that we are not just working for an earthly boss for a paycheck, but we are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

We are not told how the three Hebrews refused to bow. There is no evidence that they petitioned the king for an exemption to his decree. We are not told that they drew attention to themselves in their refusal to worship. There is nothing that says they attempted to persuade others to join them in refusal to bow, carrying signs, waving banners, shouting the danger of bowing to false gods. It seems that when the music played and all the peoples, nations and languages fell down and worshiped the image, they quietly stood their ground.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Raging Pride

But Nebuchadnezzar was foolishly persuaded by the flattery of the Chaldeans, he allowed his raging pride to overshadow clear headed judgment, and he took offense against these three Jews.

Daniel 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, … But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

The king, in raging pride, asks if it is true that they do not serve his gods or worship the image he has set up, but he doesn’t give them time to respond. He starts to say that he is going to give them another chance to worship the image, but doesn’t finish his sentence. Instead he reiterates his threat of punishment for refusal to worship.

It is likely that this furnace had been used to refine and melt the gold for the construction of this colossal image there on the plain of Dura. Mesopotamian smelting furnaces had a large opening at the top to add the ore, and a smaller opening at ground level for feeding the fire with wood and charcoal. It was kept burning as a visual reminder of the consequence for failure to worship the king’s image.

King Nebuchadnezzar makes this arrogant and blasphemous statement ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ He had learned in chapter 2 that there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, who is all-knowing and wise, but he had yet to learn that this God is also all-powerful and sovereign over all mankind.

Nebuchadnezzar was the god-maker, who set up this image for all peoples, nations and languages to worship. If he could set up the image, it meant that he was in control, more powerful even than the god the image was meant to represent. It was into his hand that God had given dominion, and it was out of his hand that those who opposed him would need to be rescued. The Chaldeans accused, the Jews were apprehended and brought before the king, the furnace was blazing, and there was no way on earth for these three to escape from the alternatives; either bow in worship or be burned in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was in absolute control, and he knew it.

Submission to Sovereign Wisdom

Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

No negotiation, no begging for mercy. No discussion, no need to give a reason or argue in their own defense. No need for the orchestra to play the symphony again. They were resolute, and they were willing to suffer the consequences of their stand. They were glad to serve the king and seek the good of the city but they will not serve the gods of the king, and they will not worship the image he has set up.

Compromise would not be seeking the good of the city. God had sent them on mission in exile in Babylon so that the nations would know that there is a God in heaven. They were willing to submit to the king’s God given authority, but they would not compromise their testimony by acknowledging false gods.

Yahweh is Gracious, Who is What God Is, and Yahweh will Help (those are the meanings of their Hebrew names; Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) testify to the God they serve. God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. God who created all that exists with his word, God who destroyed all life on the earth with a flood, God who rescued his people from bondage in Egypt with displays of his mighty sovereignty over the false gods of Egypt, God who took his people safely through the Red Sea and closed that sea over their enemies, God who brought down the walls of Jericho, God who sent an angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians who had besieged Jerusalem in response to Hezekiah’s prayer, God who had given them favor with the chief of the eunuchs and prospered them, God who answered their prayers and revealed the king’s dream, this ‘God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.’

Our God is able. There is no limit to his power. His hand is not shortened that he cannot save (Is.50:2). Nothing is to difficult for the Lord (Jer.32:17). There is no king too powerful, no furnace too hot, no cancer too advanced, no prodigal too far gone. Jesus spoke into the tomb of his friend who had been dead four days, and Lazarus came out! Our God is mighty to save. Nothing is impossible with God (Lk.1:37). God can deliver people from the burning fiery furnace, God can deliver his people out of the hand of the most powerful king. These three had no doubt about the ability of God to do whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

But If Not

The next three words are stunning. But if not. There was no question about God’s power, God’s ability. But there was a realistic realization that although God can save, sometimes he does not save, and this is not a lack of either his power or his goodness. God saved Jerusalem from the Assyrians in response to Hezekiah’s prayer (2Ki.19:32-35). God gave Jerusalem into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Dan.1:2). God could have saved Joseph from his brothers who conspired against him and sold him into slavery. But instead God sent Joseph ahead, into slavery, to preserve life for many people (Gen.45:5,7; 50:20).

So many of us love salvation by grace. God freely gives good to those who do not deserve it. But we don’t want to live by grace. We want to live by works. When bad things happen to us, we begin to ask ‘what did I do wrong to deserve this?’ If we want to live by works, the answer is that I am a sinner, and what I deserve is hell, the eternal wrath of God. I am a sinner, and that’s what I deserve. But to those who live by grace, we enjoy a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, a gift God is free (not obligated) to give. But somehow the works mentality is so ingrained in us that we easily switch over to our default thinking that if we do the right thing, then God is obligated (not free) to reward us with good things right now. We so easily forget that any good we do is ‘not I but the grace of God that is in me’ (1Cor.15:10).

We want to come to Jesus on our terms, not his. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, to all who believe in him? Great! I’ll take that! Reconciliation with God, an all-satisfying relationship with him? Sounds good to me! Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at his right hand? Sign me up! Take up your cross and follow me; in the world you will have tribulation? Wait, I think I’ll pass. God hears and answers prayers? That’s great! Sometimes he says ‘No’? I think I’d rather have a genie in a bottle.

These three give us a beautiful example of bold confidence in the omnipotence of God and humble submission to the sovereign wisdom of God. God is able to save. But if he doesn’t save right here right now, will I walk away? Will I doubt his goodness, his love? “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” When Jesus said some things that were hard to swallow, many stopped following him. When he asked his disciples if they too would go away, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Jn.6:68). Job in the midst of his anguish and suffering, said ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him;’ (Job.13:15).

Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

The author of Hebrews celebrates the faith of those:

Hebrews 11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. …

Stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire; these are exciting stories of miraculous deliverance; but Hebrews saves the best ‘till last.

Hebrews 11:35 … Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy

Paul said:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

These are heroes of the faith. Some are rescued miraculously. God is able. But if not… may he find us faithful even unto death.

***

Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

***

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

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:24-30; The Humility of the Messenger

06/13_Daniel 02:24-30 The Humility of the Messenger; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210613_dan02_24-30.mp3

Daniel and his friends are on death row, because king Nebuchadnezzar demanded of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans that they give him not only the interpretation of his dream, but he would test their authenticity by demanding they tell him the dream that he dreamed. Their response? “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand …no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (v.10-11).

Dependence

But Daniel knows the God who is Immanuel, God with us.

Daniel 2:16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel received what the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. Daniel was granted time to give the interpretation to the king. But Daniel didn’t depend on his own abilities and gifting. He sought mercy from the God of heaven. And he didn’t go it alone. He asked his friends to join him in prayer.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

Grace and Gratitude

But Daniel doesn’t rush off to Arioch with the good news. He sought mercy, because he knew what he deserved. As a sinner before God he deserved hell. God doesn’t owe us anything but justice, and we don’t want that. We want mercy and we want grace. We don’t want what we deserve; instead we want what we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Daniel understood God’s mercy, so he pursued mercy with his friends in prayer. And because he really had a grasp on grace and mercy, because he really understood what he deserved, he responds to grace with gratitude. Those that think themselves entitled to good things in this life are more prone to take for granted God’s blessings and fail to give him thanks. But Daniel had a firm grasp on grace, and so his heart overflowed with gratitude.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel worships. Daniel received a gift he didn’t deserve, and he doesn’t fail to give God thanks and praise. He worships God for his character, and he gives him thanks for specifically answering his prayer.

Confidence and Compassion

Daniel 2:24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

Daniel showed great confidence. But he also showed great compassion. He was confident in his God, in God’s answer to his prayer. He was bold to go before the angry and very furious king rather than run away from him, because he knew God had given him what the king required. But he was also compassionate. Remember what he prayed for? ‘Seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon’ (v.18). Now he asks; rather he commands the executioner not to destroy any of the wise men of Babylon.

Daniel could have played his cards differently here. He could have anticipated that his access to the one true God through prayer would arouse jealousy in the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans, and that jealousy could get he and his friends in trouble; maybe thrown in a lion’s den or into a fiery furnace. Daniel could have seized this opportunity to secure his unrivaled position. God had proved the wisdom of the wise men of Babylon bankrupt, and Daniel could have used this situation to secure the destruction of all the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans. He could have encouraged Arioch and the king to follow through with the threat; tear them all limb from limb and bury their houses in excrement. The God of the Hebrews is the one true God and all others are false deceivers.

But instead, Daniel shows compassion. He understands the character of God, that he is ‘slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). He is ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9).

Daniel reflects the character of God here. The wise men of Babylon don’t deserve to be spared, but Daniel seeks to protect them, to extend mercy to them, to give them time to repent and turn to the one true God. He seeks to protect those who under Old Testament law deserve death.

Deuteronomy 18:10 There shall not be found among you …anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD….

Daniel understands that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom.3:23); that he is really no better, that he too deserves the wrath of God. And this gives him compassion toward other sinners.

The Triumph of True Wisdom

Daniel actually commands the captain of the king’s guard to disobey the orders of the king. Nebuchadnezzar had given the order ‘and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed’ (v.12). Here in verse 24, Daniel commands Arioch ‘Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon.’ Daniel is the one with true wisdom, who is really in charge, even overriding the edict of the king.

We see the king whose spirit was troubled, who can’t sleep, who is angry and very furious, making unreasonable demands and reacting in irrational extremes. We see all the wise men of Babylon at a loss, confessing their own incompetence. We see Arioch flip-flopping, going to carry out the king’s command, but then taking orders from a captive of Israel in direct disobedience to the king.

And we see Daniel on death row, yet calm, cool and collected, answering with prudence and discretion, seeking and gaining audience with the king. Then in humble dependence, seeking God in prayer together with other believers, responding to God’s gracious answer first with worship and praise, then confident and bold, overriding the rash command of the king, requesting audience with the king to meet his demands with wisdom that can only come from the God of heaven.

Psalm 119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

Arioch’s Power Grab

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”

This was a risk for Arioch; if Daniel failed, he would be putting his own neck on the line. He was himself persuaded by the confidence and compassion of Daniel.

Notice how Arioch seeks to promote himself. In haste he goes before the king and claims credit; ‘I have found a man…’ Really it was Daniel who had questioned the urgency, interrupted the executions, and offered to interpret. But such is the nature of humanity, that we seek credit when no credit is due.

The King’s Demand Re-stated

Daniel 2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”

The king wants to be sure that Daniel is not just going to feed him a standard textbook interpretation from some dream manual. He wants to know if Daniel can meet his demand that all his wise men claimed ‘no man on earth could meet …only the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.’ ‘Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?’

Impossibility Affirmed

Daniel’s answer is shocking, and I imagine Arioch went deathly pale as he heard Daniel begin by answering ‘No.’ His jaw must have hung open as he saw the king’s rage begin to return.

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,

Daniel affirms that what the wise men said was true.

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, 11 …The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

The king must have begun to seethe. ‘You delay my executions, you ask for time, and you come back with the same line that the rest of the wise men gave me?’ He may have shot a sideways glare toward Arioch who had just confidently presented Daniel as the answer to the king’s demand. Daniel admits his own incompetence, along with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

But God

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

But God… When there is no human hope, God steps in.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, … 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

We need to feel the hopelessness of our situation before we are ready to hear where hope can be found. None is righteous, no not one. Every mouth must be stopped (Rom.3:10, 19).

The Humility of the Messenger

Daniel wanted Nebuchadnezzar to recognize his hopelessness outside of God. There is no hope outside of God. Nebuchadnezzar was looking to his wise men, enchanters, magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers to give him what he needed. His focus now turned to Daniel, and Daniel deflected the king’s gaze from himself to God. No wise man can do this, but there is a God in heaven. He is the one to whom you must look. Don’t look at me. Look instead to God.

Where Arioch sought to grab some of the credit, Daniel refused to take any. He knew where hope was to be found, and it wasn’t in him. Daniel together with his friends sought mercy from the God of heaven, and when mercy came from the God of heaven, Daniel wasn’t about to interpose himself, as if he were the source of anything.

Daniel understood mercy. Daniel had received an undeserved gift, so Daniel first gave thanks back to God, and then Daniel showed appropriate humility before the king.

God in Heaven who Reveals Mysteries [Elah Shamayin Gelah Raz]

Daniel 2:27 …“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.

God is the mystery revealer. God is the one who made known to the king what will be in the latter days, what would be after this, what is to be. God is history writer;

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 …I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God can say with absolute certainty what will happen, even in the far distant future, because he is sovereign over history. He accomplishes his purpose; what he says he himself will bring about.

Liberal scholarship wants to attribute the accurate world history unfolded in Daniel to a nameless writer after the fact, at the time of the Maccabees, pretending to be Daniel and writing already completed history as if it were prophecy. But this is to deny the very character of the God who Reveals Secrets.

This is one way God shows us who he is.

Jesus gave this authentication to his disciples:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am [he].

Authentication. Believe that I AM, I am God and there is no other, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done. I am telling you now, before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe that I AM.

We need to sit up and listen, because God is revealing to Nebuchadnezzar (and to Daniel, and through Daniel to us) ‘what will be in the latter days, what would be after this, what is to be.’ God is revealing something that spans history, up to the very end of time. The book of Revelation in the New Testament expands this vision;

Revelation 4:1 … I will show you what must take place after this.”

Not Anything in Me; Conduits of Glory

We are going to have to wait to get into the content of this dream.

Daniel 2:30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Daniel wants to be clear; this is not about me. It is not my wisdom. It is not that I have more wisdom than anyone else. It is not that I am better than all your wise men. Listen to his tender hearted humility! God is simply using me as a conduit through which he can bring his truth to the world. We are nothing more than anyone else; mere conduits of God’s grace. May we always remember that we are only ever recipients of mercy, may he fill us with humble gratitude, and may he see fit to use us as conduits to bring his grace to a hurting and broken world.

***

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

June 19, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise

06/06_Daniel 02:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210606_dan02_17-23.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. So he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell him his dreams. They confidently assured the king that he could tell them the dream they would give the interpretation. Archaeology has unearthed extensive dream manuals that offer explanations of different dream symbolism based on centuries of case histories.

But the king was apparently skeptical of the ability and authenticity of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. He insisted they tell him not only the interpretation, but also the dream that he had dreamed to demonstrate that they indeed had access to the supernatural, and that he could trust their interpretation. They argued, ‘that’s not how this works; you tell us the dream, and we will show its interpretation’. They even appeal to his pride ‘No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean; surely you want to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings, don’t you?’ But he had made up his mind. He offered gifts and rewards and great honor to the one who made known the dream and its interpretation, but if they failed to tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses buried under a pile of human excrement.

Because his wise men proved incompetent to provide the validation of their legitimacy that the king required, because he suspected them of trying to buy time, of conspiring to speak lying and corrupt words to him until the times change, he became angry and very furious, and ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. If the teachers were corrupt, their students would also be suspect, so this extended even to Daniel and his friends, who recently completed their training in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

We see the utter bankruptcy of magicians, enchanters, diviners, sorcerers. Even this pagan king was able to see through their treachery and deceit. They confidently claim and make a living selling their secret and hidden wisdom, but they are incompetent and speechless when it comes to true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The wise men of Babylon argued that only the gods could fulfill the demand of the king, and they do not dwell with flesh. But Israel’s God is Immanuel, God with us, a God who is near to all who call on him, who desires to dwell in the midst of his people, a God who we now know ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

When Arioch the captain of the king’s guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends to put them to death, Daniel, who knew the one who is the source of all wisdom, answered with prudence and discretion.

Daniel 2:15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed boldness and humble confidence both with Arioch and with king Nebuchadnezzar. By God’s grace, Daniel gained audience with the king and received time from the king, the very thing the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

Here we begin to see where Daniel’s humble boldness came from. Before we move forward, let’s back up and look at something we were told in chapter 1 that is important background for this part of the story.

In verse 2, we were told it was God who gave the king of Judah and the vessels of his holy temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 9 we learned that God gave Daniel favor and compassion; grace and mercy in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. Then in 17,

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We are told that God blessed all four with learning and skill, but Daniel specifically was given understanding in all visions and dreams. This is much more than a proficiency with the dream manuals of the Chaldeans. This is God’s gift to one of his children, a God given ability to understand dreams and visions. We are not told if Daniel even knew about this gift before this chapter. But if he was aware of his specific gifting from God, this would be a source of great confidence in approaching both the captain of the king’s guard and the king himself.

The Reminder of God’s Character

Daniel requested and was granted a time to show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Wait, I thought back in chapter 1 they were re-named with Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Why revert to their Hebrew names here in chapter 2?

Let’s read it again. Remember, names have meanings. ‘God is My Judge’ went to his house and made the matter known to ‘YHWH is Gracious’, ‘Who is What God Is’ and YHWH Will Help’. Their lives were literally on the line. They were on death row. They needed to remember that God is my judge, not Arioch, not even Nebuchadnezzar. They needed to be reminded that YHWH is gracious. They needed to be reminded that there is no other God like the Lord our God, that he is above and sovereign over all the false gods of Babylon. They needed to be reminded from where their help comes; ‘My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth’ (Ps.121:2).

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Wait, I thought we just read in chapter 1 that Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams, and here in chapter 2 that he confidently went to the king and offered to interpret his dream. Why pray? Why call a prayer meeting and ask your friends to pray? Why not just use your gift and interpret the dream?

We don’t know at this point how much Daniel knew about his gifting from God. But Daniel did know that gift or no gift, he and his friends were utterly and completely dependent on God.

Daniel didn’t presume on his gift; that because God gave him understanding in all visions and dreams, he didn’t need to pray. Exactly the opposite; we see Daniel’s gift operating through prayer. Expressing dependence on God in prayer was the means through which his gift became operational.

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

And Daniel didn’t go it alone. Daniel’s gift didn’t puff him up. He didn’t think of himself more highly than his three friends because he had this gift and they didn’t. He demonstrates humility and the need for unity with his brothers, that together they need to seek God’s mercy. God’s gifts are given for building up the body, for through love serving one another (1Cor.12:7; Eph.4:8-12; Gal.5:17).

We need to remember that we are completely dependent on God. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing. We must acknowledge our dependence on God in prayer.

And we need to remember that we need each other. We need to remind one another that the Lord is gracious, that there is no one like our God, that the Lord will be our help, that we are accountable ultimately only to him. We are meant to function as a body, to complement one another. We are incomplete on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

These four knew the character of God, that he ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). They knew that God is abundantly merciful, but they didn’t presume on his mercy. They knew that God is also just, and they understood what they deserved. Remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Daniel and his friends understood that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23); they were all sinners, so sooner or later, they deserved death. Life is a gift, grace from God, something we don’t deserve. They knew their lives were on the line, so they sought mercy from the God of heaven. They asked. They prayed.

We know the character of God. We know the grace of God. But we need to remember to ask. God loves to give good gifts to his children in response to our prayers (Mt.7:11). Sometimes ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (Jas.4:2). If you are in need of help, if you are in need of mercy, if you are in need of grace, ask! God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4); it is not in short supply. And he loves us with a great love. We need only ask. ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (Jn.16:24).

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

Daniel 2:18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

They don’t just ask God for general mercy. General prayers get general answers. They have a specific need, they are in a specific crisis. And so they ask for very specific help. Seek mercy concerning this mystery, we need to know the king’s dream, so that we will not be executed along with the rest of the satanic practitioners of Babylon.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for specific help in time of need.

God Answers Prayer

Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

God answers prayer when we ask! God may not give us what we ask for, but he will always give us what is best. God loves to bless his children. God promises to answer our prayers. And he loves to give specific answers to specific prayers.

The Necessity of Praise

In Luke 17, there were ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy. He told them to go show themselves to the priests (the priests were responsible for declaring people clean or unclean). In going, they were cleansed, but only one turned back ‘praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks’ (Lk.17:15-16). Jesus asked ‘where are the other nine?’ Why did only one return to give praise to God?

Daniel and his friends recognized their dependence on God, they asked God for mercy, and they did not fail to thank God when that mercy was extended. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation (remember, the ‘king was angry and very furious’, the decree of the king was urgent, and they ‘were about to be killed’) it would have been natural to rush with the answer in hand to Arioch to tell him the good news. After all, that would be giving glory to God, right?

First, Daniel worships.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

God’s name is to be praised forever and ever. He is eternal. God owns wisdom. God owns strength. God is worthy of worship, omniscient, omnipotent.

God is the author of time, of history. It is truly His story. He changes seasons. He can turn a season of grief, of mourning, of terror, into a season of joy and dancing. God is sovereign over empires, over nations, over politicians and kings. He is absolutely sovereign over history. He removes from power whoever he will, and he puts into power whoever he will.

God owns all wisdom, and he gives it to whom he will. The wise are wise because it is given to them by God. Those who have understanding have it because knowledge is a gift from God. God is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge (not the dark powers sought out by magicians, enchanters and sorcerers).

God is the revealer of deep and hidden things. No secret is hid from his sight, and he can reveal it to whomever he wills. Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). God knows what we dream in the dark. God is ‘the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas.1:17). ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn.1:5). Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn.8:12).

Second Person Worship

Notice, verses 20-22 are about God, in the third person; God is referred to as ‘he’. Daniel is declaring God’s greatness, he is talking about God to others. Many of our worship songs are in the third person, declaring God’s greatness and worth to each other. That is an appropriate form of worship, and Daniel uses it here.

But notice, in verse 23, Daniel switches from the third to the second person, from talking about God to talking to God. He addresses God directly in worship. This too is an appropriate form of worship.

Daniel 2:23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel and his friends know the character of God and worship him for his eternity, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his sovereignty, his grace and mercy. But they have also experienced first hand a specific answer to their specific request, and so they address him personally.

Have you experienced God personally? Have you prayed to him, and has he answered your prayer? Our God is a personal God, he answers personally. We can experience him, experience intimacy with him, speak to him and know that he hears, that he cares, that he knows you fully and answers you personally. The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Ps.34:18; 145:18).

***

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

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man

05/30_Daniel 02:1-16 The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210530_dan02_1-16.mp3

Daniel chapter 1 tells the story of God’s grace even in the midst of trauma, oppression, exile. Daniel and his friends were ripped from their homes, taken hundreds of miles away to a pagan city, a city opposed to God, but we learn that God was still in control; that it was God who gave the king of Judah and the treasures of his own temple into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. We learn that in the face of pressures to conform, to assimilate, God gave Daniel and his friends grace and mercy, favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. And God gave these four youths learning and skill in all literature and wisdom. They resolved not to allow their hearts to become ensnared by the pleasures of Babylon, and their God-given wisdom proved ten times better than all their teachers.

Dream Interpretation and Dream Manuals

Chapter 2 moves the story forward with a demonstration of God’s wisdom in action, when the gifts of Daniel and his friends are put to the test in contrast to the wisdom of Babylon.

Daniel 2:1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”

Dreams were considered significant, meaningful, communication from the gods. Not to be able to interpret a dream was considered a worse omen than even a dream which predicted unfavorable events.

We have discovered ancient dream manuals; the extensive Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, (668-627 BC) was discovered in Mosul, or Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. This library contains over 1,000 Babylonian divination texts, including the 11 tablets of the Iskar Zaqiqu, a manual on interpreting dreams. These manuals catalog various dream symbolism and potential outcomes based on the records of the experiences of others with similar dreams in similar circumstances. The library pre-dates Daniel by 50 -100 years, and is representative of what would have been available to the various groups of Babylonian dream interpreters. This would have been part of the training of Daniel and his friends in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

Aramaic

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…

This is a language cue. The text from this point to the end of chapter 7 was written in Aramaic, the common language of the world in that day. Up to this point Daniel wrote in Hebrew, and chapters 8 to the end are again in Hebrew, the language of the people of God. Chapters 1 and 8-12 address the concerns of Israel more specifically, while chapters 2-7 have a more universal scope.

The Confidence of the Chaldeans

Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”

The magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, the Chaldeans are confident in their ability to interpret dreams. They had studied the dream manuals and case histories of dreams, they were experts in the art of dream interpretation. They could look up any dream scenario and give an interpretation.

Daniel is so relevant to today. A simple internet search to find information on these ancient dream interpretation manuals, and the majority of things that come up are modern day versions. You can enroll in a course to teach you how to unlock your dreams, an online dictionary with ‘over thousands of skillfully interpreted dream symbols for people who want to access the deeper parts of their minds’, a dream interpretation manual ‘written by a scientist who has decades of experience and great expertise in dream interpretation.’ And of course, there are principles of Christian dream interpretation, a biblical dream dictionary, and prophetic training to unlock your dreams. We are still captivated today, even Christians, by the hope of accessing hidden wisdom.

The King’s Demand for Proof

The Chaldeans address the king with the appropriate formalities and respect, and ask to be given the contents of the dream so they can offer an interpretation. They are confident there is no dream they cannot interpret. But king Nebuchadnezzar throws them a curve ball.

Daniel 2:5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”

King Nebuchadnezzar is asking for more than the interpretation of his dream. He demands that they give him both the dream and the interpretation. The consequences for failure are severe, the rewards are great, and the demand is resolute. Make known to me the dream and its interpretation.

Skeptical Demand for Evidence

There must be some misunderstanding. That’s not how this works. You tell us the dream and we tell you the interpretation.

Daniel 2:7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”

Here we learn that Nebuchadnezzar is a skeptic. He wants proof. This is the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, probably not counting the year of his accession to the throne after the death of his father in 605 BC. These would have been the counselors to his father, likely older than him, and for whatever reason, he was suspicious of them, of their loyalties, of their abilities. He is going to test them. If they really are magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, in touch with the gods, then they ought to be able to tell him his dream. If they can accurately describe to him what he alone knows, then he can have confidence that their interpretation of the dream would also have a supernatural source.

Nebuchadnezzar is the opposite of the evil king Ahab of Israel, who preferred 400 prophets who told him pleasant lies over one prophet of YHWH who told him the hard truth; ‘I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil’ (2Chr.18:7). Nebuchadnezzar cared about truth.

The Admission of Incompetence

Listen to how the Chaldeans respond to this skeptic’s demand for proof.

Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

They admit their own incompetence. They can’t bluff their way out of this one. In the face of this demand for evidence, they are empty handed. They resort to say that the thing is too hard, it is humanly impossible. They even appeal to his pride – no great and powerful king has asked such a thing. You need to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings and not ask such things. You ask too much of us; only the gods could grant your request, and we don’t have access to them. All the magicians, the sorcerers, the enchanters; the wise men of Babylon admit their lack of the required wisdom.

The wisdom of Babylon is ultimately bankrupt. Sorcery is bankrupt. Magic is bankrupt. Divination is bankrupt. Astrology is bankrupt. Over and over again we are shown the bankruptcy of this world’s wisdom, and yet we still run to it time and again as if we don’t know the one who is sovereign over all.

The Very Furious King

Daniel 2:12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

The king was furious with his deceiving wise men. But he was not just furious. He was very furious. He was not just very furious, he was angry and very furious. He had proved them all frauds. They failed to give evidence of ultimate supernatural access. He may have been thinking back on all the times they offered interpretations and counsel to his father Nabopolassar, and how they tried to explain their way out of circumstances not going exactly according to their predictions. He may have based his own decisions on their so-called wisdom in the past, and he was angry at being conned. He had entrusted them with the education of the best and brightest of his conquered peoples, and they had wasted three years worth of his lavish resources. “You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change…there is but one sentence for you… You shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.”

These were the experts, the Chaldean teachers. If the teachers are corrupt, their students likewise would be corrupted. All the wise men of Babylon, teacher and student alike, were to be destroyed.

God’s Favor and Daniel’s Wisdom

Daniel 2:14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed great wisdom to his executioner. In chapter 1 we were told that ‘God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs’ (1:9). Here it is not stated, but something happened behind the scenes to give Daniel favor and compassion now in the sight of Arioch the king’s captain. Arioch didn’t owe Daniel an explanation. He didn’t have to make the matter known to Daniel. In fact, he had every reason not to waste his time answering questions of the trainees. He had been given a huge task, and the king was in no mood to put up with delays in carrying out his orders. In fact this would entail personal risk. If he fails to carry out the king’s edict, he could expect the kind of punishment that he was commanded to carry out on others. Although God is not mentioned, he is evidently at work behind the scenes.

Where the Chaldeans approached the king with confidence in their own ability, Daniel approached the king with confidence in his God. Where the Chaldeans were treated with suspicion, ‘accused of trying to gain time,’ Daniel is treated with respect, granted the time he requests. Where the Chaldeans were helpless in the face of the king’s impossible demand, Daniel knew exactly where real help was to be found.

God Who Dwells With Man

Look back at the confession of the Chaldeans:

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand… 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

The Babylonian gods may not dwell with flesh, they may be aloof and inaccessible, distant and devising, but the God of Israel is different. He is a God who dwells in the midst of his people (Ex.25:8; 29:45-46); who ‘will walk among you and be your God’ (Lev.26:11-12). The Chaldeans only knew their false gods. They didn’t know the one true God of Israel. Daniel is set to show them what God is really like.

The God of Israel is not only a God who will dwell with flesh, he will dwell in flesh. The divine Word who was with God and who was God, himself became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1, 14). He is God with us, Immanuel (Mt.1:23; 28:20).

God Who Knows Our Thoughts

The Chaldeans were right. There is not a man on earth who can tell you the secrets of your heart. Paul asks ‘who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). But in John 4, a man was at a well looking for a drink of water from a Samaritan woman. She went away and told everyone

John 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” …39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” …41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Multiple times in the gospels we read:

Matthew 9:4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? (cf. Mt.12:25; Lk. 6:8; 9:47; 11:17)

Not even Satan knows our thoughts. No doubt, he has learned to guess well, but Jesus knows the thoughts of our hearts. And Jesus said:

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Jesus controls the future. He can tell what will happen before it happens so we know that he is the I AM, the one who writes history. The Old Testament test for genuineness of a prophet was 100% accuracy (Deut.18:22).

Christ In You

The God of Israel is a God who dwells with his people. Daniel and his friends had the Spirit of God with them to help them. But Jesus promises something even better for us. Jesus promised that the Spirit who dwells with you will be in you (Jn.14:17). Jesus said I and the Father, ‘we will come to him and make our home with him.’ (Jn.14:23). Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). The riches of the glory of God’s mystery is ‘Christ in you’ (Col.1:27).

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

June 5, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 1:8-21; The Grace of God in Affliction

05/23_Daniel 01:8-21; The Grace of God in Affliction; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210523_dan01_8-21.mp3

Last time we looked at Daniel’s resolve. He, along with maybe 50 other Hebrew youth of the nobility had been taken captive, deported to Babylon, enrolled in a re-programming regimen to erase their identity and make Babylonians of them. The name of their God was replaced with the names of the Babylonian deities. They were to be indoctrinated with the culture, the belief system, the world view of Babylon, this great city opposed to God.

Daniel and his friends answered to their new names, submitted to learning the Chaldean material, but Daniel resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food. He would not break the law of God, he would not risk betraying his allegiance to God alone, who is the provider of every good thing. He recognized the danger of appetite, the danger of compromise in seemingly trivial matters like food and drink.

This was risky. To refuse the king’s food would show great ingratitude toward the kindness and generosity of the king. These boys were royalty, and they were being treated royally. The king was extending and expending great hospitality to these young men. To say that the kings food would defile him would be quite offensive. We find out in chapter 2 that Nebuchadnezzar was the kind of king who liked to tear people limb from limb and make their houses a dung heap. So Daniel was taking a great risk with this request.

Daniel’s Tactful Request

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

This was risky, but notice also Daniel’s tact. He has resolved in his heart not to defile himself, and he could have made demands out of national pride and arrogance; ‘we Jews won’t lower ourselves to eat your unclean Gentile food; what you pagans eat is loathsome and foul. I would rather die than defile myself.’ Rather he uses tact; he graciously asks for permission. He makes a humble request.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

We are commanded to use gracious speech. We are called to use respect, gentleness, appropriate tact.

1 Peter 3:15 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.

God’s Grace in Adversity

Daniel 1:8 …Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,

This is the second of three acts of God in this chapter. In verse 2, God gave the king of Judah and the temple vessels into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Here in verse 9, God gave Daniel grace and compassion in the sight of the one who was entrusted with their care.

Grace. Undeserved favor and kindness. The chief of the eunuchs didn’t owe them anything. He didn’t have to be nice to them. He was under no obligation to entertain any requests from them. But God gave them grace – favor, and compassion – tender love in his sight. This grace came from God. We read in John 1

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is full of grace, and he gives gives grace to his people to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God is the giver of grace, Daniel sought to honor God. Daniel asked, and God gave him grace to help in his time of adversity, when everything seemed against him. Do you look for glimmers of God’s grace in your affliction? Or do your circumstances loom so large that they obstruct your view even of the good God who loves you and shows himself even in the midst of adversity? God gave grace.

Grace to Persevere

Don’t you almost wish that Daniel’s request would have been denied, so that we could learn how Daniel’s resolve would have held up in the face of rejection? Read on! That is exactly what happens.

Daniel 1:9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”

This doesn’t seem to follow. God gave grace and compassion, and the official refused his request. How is this evidence of God’s grace at work? He basically says, ‘I’m sorry, I like you and all (and I don’t know why) – I want to be gracious and compassionate, but I’m scared for my life. I cannot grant your request without endangering my own head with the king.’ So God’s gift of favor with this official doesn’t really seem to get Daniel any help.

Daniel easily could have walked away with a relieved conscience, saying ‘well, I tried. I asked. I got shut down. What more could I do?’

In 1 Corinthians 10, in the context of strong cultural pressure to compromise and eat food sacrificed idols, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is faithful. But God’s grace does not mean giving us what we want. It may not even be giving us what we think we need. We might imagine the escape we think he ought to provide, but his way may be a different way. The way of escape, as in 1 Corinthians, might be that he gives you the grace to be able to endure the temptation. He gives the strength to stand firm, come what may.

Persistence in the Face of Rejection

What does Daniel do in the face of a seemingly closed door? What would you do?

Daniel 1:9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” 11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.

Daniel doesn’t argue with the chief of the eunuchs. He doesn’t become obstinate and say ‘let the king take your head, I don’t care! I won’t eat the food!’ He is sensitive to the fears of this man. He genuinely cares for his captors. But he doesn’t give up either.

The chief of the eunuchs didn’t grant his request, but he didn’t say ‘no’ either. He expressed his concern. This was favor. Daniel didn’t deserve an explanation. He wasn’t obligated to give any more than a flat ‘no’. But he gave a reason. So Daniel went down the chain of command to a lower official, and proposes a test. He shows sensitivity to the concern, so he keeps the trial short enough to lower their risk, to give time to change course if things don’t go well.

Grace on Display

Daniel 1:14 So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

This is God’s grace on display! The steward listened. He was willing to carry out their proposed test. For this steward, lower in the ranks, this may have been a win-win. He got to ‘dispose of’ the king’s food and wine, while he gave up his own vegetable and water diet.

Some have sold books and made a big deal about Daniel’s diet plan. I haven’t read those books, so I can’t comment, but if the focus is the praise of a vegetarian diet, they completely miss the point. This has nothing to do with the health benefits of vegetables and grains; if anything it is the opposite. The the outcome was surprising. The text doesn’t say they were leaner and more physically fit. It says they were ‘better in appearance and fatter in flesh.’ That is the same word that is used in Pharaoh’s dream, where the ugly thin cows ate up the attractive plump cows, and the thin and blighted ears of grain ate up the plump and good ears (Gen.41). Today we might opt for the gaunt thin cows over the plump cows; how fickle is fashion!

When the prodigal’s father commanded a celebration, he didn’t order vegetables; the fattened calf was to be killed (Lk.15:16,23; cf. Prov.15:17). The wayward son had had enough of husks and pods. The point is you don’t get fatter eating vegetables and water. This is God’s grace. This is not natural, this is supernatural. It’s quite possible the steward who ‘took away’ their food and wine was getting fatter too.

God’s Gift of Learning

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.

Here is the third of the acts of God in this chapter. God gave them the gift of learning, skill in literature and wisdom. These are gifts that Solomon asked for and was given by God (2Chr.1:10-12). The wisdom and learning necessary to rule well are gifts of God. This sets up the rest of the book. Remember, the book of Daniel is not about Daniel and his three friends. The book is about God, who gives good and gracious gifts, God who is greater than all rulers and kings and nations.

Daniel and his three friends display wisdom because God made them wise. They show resolve in the face of adversity, because God was at work in them, taking care of them even in exile, hundreds of miles from home.

Understand, this was not limited to Bible knowledge and theology. I doubt Nebuchadnezzar quizzed them on their monotheistic theology or Bible history or how many Torah verses they had memorized. This was the language and literature of the Chaldeans. God gave them the ability to excel in their pagan education beyond their peers.

Psalm 119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.

They had a God-centered world view, and keeping God at the center gave them categories to catalog the information they were exposed to. They knew what to do with what they were taught. And when tested, they proved exponentially better not only compared to their classmates, but compared to their teachers.

Again, this sets us up for the rest of the book. This is not about the wisdom of ‘God is judge’, ‘Yahweh is gracious,’ ‘who is what God is?’ and ‘Yahweh will help’ against the Chaldean magicians and enchanters. This is about God supreme over all the false gods of Babylon. The false world systems are proved incompetent in the presence of the one true God working through his people. Babylon may have conquered Jerusalem, but only because God gave Jerusalem into their hand.

Outlasting an Empire

Daniel 1:21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

What is this about? The chapter begins and ends with a historical note. It begins with the third year of Jehoiachim king of Judah, when Jerusalem and the temple treasures were given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar in 605BC. It ends with the first year of King Cyrus, 539BC, who issued the decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, and the treasures that had been kept in the house of Nebuchadnezzar’s god he sent back to Jerusalem.

Daniel was taken captive. But this humble servant outlived his conqueror. He outlived the sons of his conqueror. He outlasted an empire. He saw the rise and the fall of Babylonian empire to the Medo-Persians. Daniel literally lived through the exile to see the treasures that were taken from the temple returned, and the temple begin to be rebuilt.

Questions were raised at the beginning of the chapter, ‘Is Israel’s God really sovereign, is he faithful, is he good? Has he abandoned his people?’

2 Chronicles 36:22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’”

Ezra 1:7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the LORD that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.

Daniel 1:21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

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

May 24, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing

04/18_2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210418_2cor13_12-14.mp3

Paul has shown the Corinthians what authentic ministry is. By his life and teaching he has marked out for them and for us the way of the cross. He leaves them with this final exhortation.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Paul addresses the wayward Corinthians affectionately as brothers. He gives five commands: rejoice, be restored, be comforted, think the same, make peace; and he follows these commands with a promise, the promise of the presence of God, that the God of love and of peace will be with us. God with us – the motive and power to live in unity, to reconcile, to be courageous, to find true joy.

The Holy Kiss

Then he gives us another command.

2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

We firmly believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable, and we want to heed James’ instruction:

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

So greet one another with a holy kiss. What do we do with a command like this? Here’s what we don’t do. This is the word of God. We don’t just squirm for a moment because it sounds uncomfortable and then move on and forget about it. We want the word of Christ to dwell in us, to change us, to change our behavior, to change how we relate to one another.

Here’s what else we don’t do. We don’t lift this out of its context and take it as biblical license to pursue our passions and make moves on someone we might be interested in. Note it says ‘one another’; that means everyone, no exclusions. Note, it also says it is to be ‘holy’; not impure, not selfish.

Here’s what we do. We need to look at a command like this in its context; its historical context, its cultural context, and the context of the letter in which it appears. This is a letter that is almost 2,000 years old, it was written by a Jew who became a follower of Jesus and it was written to a church planted in a Roman colony on the Achaian peninsula.

This is not the Song of Solomon (1:2) kind of kissing (there is a place for that, and God takes pleasure in our enjoyment of his good gifts to us). The holy kiss is commanded in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 Thessalonians, and also in 1 Peter.

Jesus, in Luke 7 rebuked the Pharisee Simon who invited him over, for failing to give him a kiss.

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

Jesus points to a number of cultural customs that are foreign to us in the West today. It was appropriate hospitality to offer water for washing the feet, and to welcome with a kiss. Simon was rebuked for being inhospitable and rude to his guest. The kiss, on alternating cheeks, even today in the middle east, is used as a greeting, an expression of welcome and respect.

In Corinth, the culture was stratified. There were wealthy patrons and those who were indebted to them. There were slaves and those who had gained their freedom. There were rich and poor. And in 1 Corinthians Paul rebuked the divisions among them, especially at the Lord’s Supper:

1 Corinthians 11:21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Those kind of divisions are eradicated at the cross. They do not belong in the church. We are to welcome one another. No one is to be excluded because of social or economic status. Because of Jesus we can ‘in humility count others as more significant than ourselves’ (Phil.2:3). We are commanded to extend welcome, extend hospitality to those we might naturally be uncomfortable with, because we are really no different; we are sinners saved by the undeserved kindness of an extravagantly merciful God.

All The Saints

2 Corinthians 13:13 All the saints greet you.

Often Paul sent greetings from specific individuals or groups. But here he makes the greeting universal, reminding this church that they are not on their own or in a class by themselves; rather he connects this church to the wider body of Christ. You are part of something bigger than you.

The word ‘saints’ is the same adjective translated in the previous phrase as ‘holy’; they are to greet one another with a holy kiss, and all the holy ones greet you. We enjoy a holy unity with every other believer made holy by the blood of Christ, ‘Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Rom.15:7).

And we are to express that unity in a tangible way.

Trinitarian Blessing

Paul concludes the letter with this blessing:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

As Paul opens every one of his letters with some variation of ‘grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’, he closes every one of his letters with some form of the benediction ‘grace be with you’, or ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you’. But here in 2 Corinthians he expands this to include a blessing from God the Father and from the Holy Spirit.

This is a rich trinitarian blessing. He places the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit in parallel phrases, on an equal level, and he attributes each respectively as the source of grace, of love and of fellowship. God is the source of every blessing, and he asks specifically that God’s undeserved grace would flow to them through Jesus, that God’s love would be poured out from the Father, and that fellowship would be experienced as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is Only One God

It was in light of plain statements like these, and in response to false teachers who began to teach things about God that contradicted the plain teaching of God’s word that the early church formulated the doctrine of the trinity.

The Scriptures clearly teach that there is only one God, that he has always existed, that there were no Gods before him and there will be no Gods after him. God will not share his glory with another (Is.42:8; 48:11). When Jesus was asked about the great commandment,

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There is not two Gods or three or many; there is one. You shall have no other gods before him (Ex.20:3).

Three Persons are God

And yet it is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus claimed to be God; in John 10, when Jesus said ‘I and the Father are one’, ‘the Jews picked up stones again to stone him.’

John 10:32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

The Jews understood what he was claiming, and they considered it blasphemy. Jesus in many ways on many occasions claimed to be God, did things only God can do, and received worship as God.

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Lord or the Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians we are told:

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

God’s temple is inhabited by God the Spirit. In Acts 5, Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit, and in the next breath he said that he lied to God (5:3-4, 9).

The Father is God, Jesus claims to be God, and the Spirit is God.

The Father is not the Son is not the Spirit

But it is also clear from the Scriptures that Jesus is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or Jesus.

Jesus regularly prayed to his Father. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended on him like a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven.

These are the Scriptural data which must be held together; there is only one God; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God; but the Spirit is not Jesus or the Father, and Jesus is not the Spirit or the Father. There is one God who eternally exists in the three distinct and unconfused persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No confusion of persons, no division of substance. Three in person, one in essence or being, they three share the God-ness of God.

John begins his gospel:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Word, who at a point in time became flesh, had eternally existed both with God and as God. He is and always was himself fully deity, and he is and always was in fellowship with his Father, in a relationship of one person with another. Jesus said:

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as ‘the helper, whom’ – note the Holy Spirit is a whom not a what; a he not an it. The Father will send the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus. Three divine persons; one eternal God.

Enjoy the Truth

The truth of the one who is three is not esoteric and theoretical, not something for academics alone to ponder and defend. This is a truth to be enjoyed. By the church. By everyone. Paul calls down a blessing on the church from these three who are one.

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Grace, God’s undeserved unearned favor and kindness, when we justly deserve his wrath and hell, finds its source in the once-for-all wrath propitiating substitution of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord in my place, paying the debt I own and crediting me with his own perfect righteousness.

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

Grace, the grace of the Lord Jesus extended to me, undeserving sinner. We are given ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (4:6). ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image’ (3:18).

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Jesus said ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (12:9).

Love, the infinite love of the Father, ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction’ (1:3-4). It is God in whom we hope, the God who raises the dead (1:9-10); God who is faithful to all his promises (1:18, 20). God commanded light to shine in the darkness of our hearts (4:6). God through Christ reconciled us to himself (5:18). It is God who said

2 Corinthians 6:16 …as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

God desires to dwell among us, to be with us.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

God is the God of love (13:11) and the love of God is extended to you!

Fellowship, intimacy, communion, union with God and one another brought about by the Holy Spirit of God. It is the Spirit who gives life (3:6). The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom and transformation (3:17-18).

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

We are given the gift of the Spirit who lives in our hearts; we are established, anointed, sealed. The Spirit is given as the guarantee (5:5) of one day being at home with the Lord.

It is ours to enjoy the present fellowship we have with the Spirit, and the fellowship created among us because the same Spirit lives in each of us.

In the Old Testament, God commanded that his threefold name be placed on the people of Israel in blessing:

Numbers 6:24 YHWH bless you and keep you;

25 YHWH make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

26 YHWH lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Let us make this our prayer: may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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

April 23, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Our Response to Trials

02/21_2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Our Response to Trials; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210221_2cor12_7-10.mp3

2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.

Paul shares his own experience in the third person, distancing himself from this amazing event and bringing it down to our level; it happened to a Christian; to a man in Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.

Paul reminds us that supernatural experiences don’t validate ministry. The life and teaching of the minister are what must be looked at to authenticate ministry. And gospel ministry, ministry in the footsteps of Jesus will be ministry that mirrors Jesus. It will be characterized by weaknesses, by sacrificial suffering for the good of others. Paul resolves to boast only in his weaknesses.

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to pummel him. This was a gift; it was God’s good gift to him, to keep him from being lifted up with pride, because pride is deadly and dangerous, more dangerous to us than demons.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.

Paul didn’t want the thorn, didn’t like the thorn. He didn’t ask for the thorn. In fact he asked for it to be removed. Three times he asked, just as Jesus asked three times of his Father that if there were any other way, for the cup of God’s almighty wrath toward my sins to pass from him (Mt.26:39,42,44).

Jesus is a sympathetic High Priest who understands our trials. He has experienced and endured the same kinds of trials, yet without sin (Heb.4:15). So Paul petitioned Jesus that the thorn, the satanic messenger be taken from him.

God always answers the prayers of his children, but not always the way we would expect or hope that he would. Jesus wanted to be spared from suffering as the sin-bearing Lamb. But more than he wanted to be spared from suffering, he wanted his Father’s will to be done, for his Father to be glorified.

Joyful Endurance?

So Jesus joyfully endured the cross for us. Hebrews tells us “For the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb.12:2). How do you endure trials, suffering, adversity? Reluctantly? Avoid at all cost? Grudgingly? With grumbling and complaining? Paul’s authentication for ministry was not only that he endured trials for the sake of the Name, but how he endured those trials.

Jesus’ Answer

Listen to Jesus’ answer to Paul’s petition. This is the word of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” …

Sufficient Grace

Sufficient to you is my grace. It is adequate. My grace is enough. In John 6, Jesus tested Philip, asking him were they could buy bread to feed the crowd that numbered 5,000 men, plus women and children. Philip answered him (v.7), “Two hundred denarii (days wages) worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” No one would be satisfied. It would not suffice. There would just not be enough to go around. You know the story. Andrew found a young boy who had brought his lunch. Jesus gave thanks, and after everyone had eaten their fill, as much as they wanted, they gathered 12 baskets full of the leftovers. It didn’t look like it was enough, but in the hands of Jesus it proved to be more than enough. It was sufficient.

This word ‘sufficient’ comes first in the original for emphasis. Christ’s grace is fully sufficient, completely satisfying, abundantly enough.

Jesus says ‘you can be satisfied with my grace.’ You can be content with my grace. It is enough to carry you through adversity, through opposition, through trials. It is sufficient to allow you to withstand the onslaughts of hell. It won’t run out. It won’t come up short or leave you unsatisfied. Sufficient to you is my grace.

Grace. Grace is God’s unearned, undeserved favor and kindness. Grace is the opposite of wages. Wages are payment for services rendered (Rom.4:4-5). The wages we earned by our sin is death. We earned God’s just wrath. We deserve hell. But instead we are freely given a gift we didn’t earn, we don’t deserve. God smiles on us. God’s favor is extended to us (Eph.2:8-9). You may have heard the acronym for Grace: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Jesus paid the price in full, purchasing for us a gift we don’t deserve and could never pay for ourselves. Jesus says that his grace is enough.

Jesus says that his grace is sufficient, for power is made perfect in weakness. Jesus parallels power and grace, as if they are almost synonymous. Christ’s grace is powerful. Grace answers my ill desert. His power answers my weakness, my sickness, infirmity, disability. His grace is divine enablement to endure the pressure.

Power to Endure

Paul asked for the trial to be removed. But God answered by pointing Paul to his all sufficient divine enablement. Paul encouraged in 1 Corinthians 10:13

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is faithful. He will provide a way of escape, but the way of escape may be that he gives the strength to bear up under it, to endure the pressure without collapsing. He may give the grace needed to see you through.

The Purpose of Power

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” His power is made perfect. It finds its fulfillment, it comes to its intended purpose or end, it is completed. Power is intended to answer weakness. Power is not meant to lie dormant; it is meant to be engaged. Power is expressed and finds fulfillment when it overcomes weakness. Our weakness is the playground where God’s power can show off.

So Paul says ‘bring it!’ If my weakness is the place where God’s power and grace is glorified, then I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses.

With Great Pleasure

Do you hear how Paul responds to his own weaknesses?

2 Corinthians 12:9 …Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

He is not grudging or grumpy. He is glad. This word that he puts up front for emphasis is ‘with great pleasure’, from the adjective ‘sweetly’; its root is where we get our word hedonism, indulging in pleasure and sensual delight (Lk.8:14). With great pleasure therefore, I will to a greater degree boast in my weaknesses. Paul didn’t stoically endure the thorn; he came to take delight in it. Not in the thorn in and of itself; he wanted to be rid of it. But understanding that his weaknesses, his thorn, the satanic angel sent to crush his pride provided a platform to put the powerful grace of Jesus on display brought him great pleasure. It became sweet to him.

He took pleasure not only in its pride demolishing effect, but also in its God glorifying, grace exalting, power displaying purpose. If my weakness is the way God is most glorified in me, and if I understand that the ultimate all satisfying purpose for my existence is to glorify God, then I exult in my weaknesses, because Christ is seen to be powerful more through my weaknesses than through my strengths.

Christ’s Power Encamping

2 Corinthians 12:9 …Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul gladly boasts in his weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon him. This word ‘rest upon’ carries a beautiful picture. The word is a compound of ‘upon’ and ‘to tent or encamp’. This connects us back to God’s tent, the tabernacle in the wilderness, where “I will dwell in their midst” (Ex.25:8-9). This connects to the Word in John 1, who was with God and who was God,

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

He dwelt, he tabernacled, he pitched his tent among us. Paul is saying that it is in his weakness that the power of Christ encamps upon him, sets up his tent over him. He finds great pleasure in his weaknesses, because it is in his weaknesses that he enjoys intimacy with Jesus.

Well Pleased

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Here again Paul uses a pleasure word. He is content. This is the word the Father used of the Son at his baptism and again at the transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17; 17:5). Paul is well pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in calamities. Two of these words he used as credentials for authentic ministry back in 2 Corinthians 6:4;

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

Paul now delights in those hardships and calamities for the sake of Christ, because they display the glory of Jesus more vividly.

Strength In Weakness

Paul concludes “When I am weak, then I am strong.” He does not say that trials and weakness produce strength (he says suffering produces endurance in Rom.5, also James 1). He does not say that strength comes after weakness. He says that the strength is actually in the weakness. He is at the same time weak and strong. When he is weak in himself, weak in his circumstances, it is at that time that he is more transparent and the power of Christ is more evident in him.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Our Response

How do you respond to trials, to oppression, to difficult circumstances? Do you grumble and complain? Do you become resentful and bitter? Or is it sweet to you because the presence of Christ dwells on you and the power of Christ is displayed through you? For the believer who has been justified as an undeserved gift by grace, every bitter thing can be made sweet.

Paul exults in Romans 8

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

February 27, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment