Daniel 4:1-37 God of all Nations Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream

Daniel 4:1-37

God of all Nations

Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream

 

Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 4. We are continuing through our series through Daniel, entitled “God of all Nations.”

          This week, this chapter, we see a difference in format from the previous few chapters. We see the same focus and the same theme as we have seen so far that God is sovereign over all. Period. But this week, we are going to see things told through the perspective of King Nebuchadnezzar himself. And we are going to bring to a close the King Nebby part of our story.

We don’t know the exact time that this chapter was written, though it is obviously likely that it was towards the end, at least the latter half of Nebby’s 43-year reign. And this story, this chapter is told and written from His perspective instead of Daniels, and it is him looking back, from towards the end, in order to share what God has done for him and what he has learned from God.

In that sense, this has a feel similar to the book of Ecclesiastes to me. This is what I’ve learned, this is what God has shown me. And this I pass on to you. And he says that his audience of this story is to all people, all nations and all languages.

So, lets go ahead and read the first section of this chapter, Daniel chapter 4, verses 1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to read and follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 4:1-7, Daniel records what Nebuchadnezzar wrote”

 

King Nebuchadnezzar,

To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:

May you prosper greatly!

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;
his dominion endures from generation to generation.

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers[b] and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his word.

 

We have seen leading up to this point some of the things that Nebby has seen and experienced as a witness and testimony of the Most High God. We have seen Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abed-nego prosper and grow strong on a diet of water and vegetables. He had a dream that not only could no one interpret, but no one except Daniel could tell him what the dream even was. He saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refuse to worship him and his statue and get thrown into a super-hot fiery furnace, only for them to come out not even smelling like smoke. The man has seen some things.

And here he is going to share one more thing he has seen God do. In verse 3, along with what we are going to read in verses 34 & 35 are going to be the theme of this chapter, God and his absolute sovereignty, his eternal kingdom that endures from generation to generation.

Through those previous instances, we see that Nebby has acknowledged the power of the God of Daniel, and the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, but we haven’t seen him acknowledge Him as the God of Nebuchadnezzar. We haven’t seen him turn to the LORD as exclusively God. Will this one last story of Gods Work in his life be the one that changes Nebbys soul?

 

So, we immediately see from Nebby that he had another dream. He had it when he was comfortable, when he was prospering, when he was, from what we can tell, when he was complacent. This would have made him immediately think back to his other dream that we covered in chapter 2.

But this was different than the first. Nebby was different. His circumstances were different. The dream itself was different. And his reaction was different. This time he didn’t withhold his dream from the wise men that he brought together. HE told it to them straight up. But he hadn’t changed completely because he still expected them to be able to interpret his dream. And they still were not able to. We do see that Nebby has mellowed some because he is not threatening to tear them limb from limb and all that, but that still had to be hard for the wisemen to admit to him.

 

We pick the story up in verse 8 through verse 18:

Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)

I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.

13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger,[c] coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.

“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times[d] pass by for him.

17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’

18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

 

So, Daniel finally shows up here and I notice a few things first. These are the things that tells me that Nebby has not fully accepted the God of Daniel as his own personal God. First, he says that Daniel is filled with the spirit of holy gods, not the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of the Holy God. Second, he insists on calling Daniel by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, which is a tribute to the Babylonian god, Marduk.

He tells Daniel his dream and tells him to interpret it for him and then we get to see what the dream is. A great big tree, reaching towards heaven. It was seen throughout the world, seen by all. It was fruitful and abundant. It was beautiful, it provided food, shelter and security for many.

Then came a message from heaven, Chop It Down! Chop it down and leave the stump and the roots as a sign to all. His mind will be made as a beast instead of a man. And the purpose of this dream is very specifically for the purpose of making the Most High God known to all.

So, Mr. Daniel, Mr. God is with you. Tell me what this dream means.

 

And so, Daniel responds to him in verses 19-27:

Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”

Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— 22 Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.

23 “Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’

24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”

 

 

Now, this dream kind of freaked Daniel out. The King tried to calm him down, but this dream was intense for Daniel to hear about and to think about. And the standard formality of that time is to wish that the dream is about the Kings enemies, as Daniel says here.

Then in verse 20, he starts his interpretation. The tree is about you, oh King. Your greatness reaches to the heavens and your dominion is to the ends of the earth.

But the messenger came down and said that you would be cut down and sent out into the fields to dwell with the beasts to eat grass. This time will last for 7 times. Now, there is no consensus about how long a time is. It could be 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months or 7 years. No matter the assuredness that some may speak with, it is an unknown. But we know that God said that it would be for a specific and finite amount of time.

Daniel continues that the stump and the roots of the tree will be left. This is to show that Nebbys kingdom will be held for him during these 7 times and that once he “Knows that Heaven rules,” his kingdom will be returned. In other words, when he acknowledges Gods sovereignty and humbles himself, he will be allowed to return from the field and have his mind returned to him.

The message that Daniel ends with is a message that is delivered by men throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, including by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of Mark are “Repent and believe the Gospel!” Jonah told the Assyrians in Nineveh something he didn’t want to tell them, repent or you will be destroyed!”

God is a holy God and has holy standards. We are an unholy people from before birth, at least we are since after the fall in Genesis 3. Repentance is when we turn away from our unholy behaviors, our sins. We turn from our sins and turn to God, putting out trust, our faith and our dependence on him. That is where salvation comes from. By the grace of God, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, he saves us from the consequences of our sins, eternal torment and suffering in Hell.

Often times in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, we see more earthly examples, some practical examples of the need to repent. Often times, what we see in the Old Testament is that you are in a poor situation because of the sins you have committed. Not always of course. Job shows us clearly that this isn’t across the board true and it should not even be our theology. Jesus again addresses the misapplication of this idea as a rule with the blind man that is brought to him. He is asked, why is this man bling? Is it his sins or the sins of his parents? He answers them and says, Neither, this is the case so that the power and glory of God would be shown.

But as we saw with Jonah, as we see with many of the prophets, the message that God sends is to turn away from your sins, Repent! And I will save you from your situation. Repent and I will relent of your judgement. Repent and I will relent of your punishment. Here, we see, Repent and you may not have to spend 7 times as a beast in the field, eating grass and with the mind of a beast.

Daniel sees the message that God is sending to Nebby and he begs with him not to continue on the path he is on. God is going to humble you because your self-pride is too much. Repent and you may be spared this situation!

If Daniel is this passionate about saving his King from acting a fool for a period of time, how much more should we be passionate about saving everyone we know from Hell. How much should we try to show them how to escape the eternal torment that is waiting at the end of their path, that was waiting for each of us at the end of our paths before God intervened.

Ultimately, the power is in Gods hands. He and he alone is the one with the power to save. Jonah cries out, Salvation belongs to the Lord! Our job is to faithfully plat the seeds of the Gospel. Romans 10 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Our job is to speak the words of the Bible, the Words of God into their lives. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations. Our job is not to make converts, but to grow people in wisdom, knowledge and obedience of the LORD.

This should not be a secondary issue or a backburner issue. If we have unbelieving friends, unsaved family, it should consume our prayers. And I know for a lot of you it does. I know it does for me. As a church family it should be vital for is all together, for all of our families and friends, not just our own individually.

          Charles Spurgeon puts into great words how passionate we should be about this, he says: If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

 

 

 

Now, we see that Nebby didn’t heed Daniels pleadings as we continue along with verses 28-37, finishing this chapter. It reads:

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

1 year after the dream and its interpretation, Nebby was walking around his palace and thinking to himself, “I did this! I built the kingdom of Babylon! All of it! I did it!”

So, God essentially told him, “All right, your hubris has caught up with you. I am in charge here. I am in charge of the kingdoms of the world, and I am taking yours away from you!”

Immediately his dream came to fruition and he was made to act like and live like the beasts of the field. Usually we tend to think of Cattle in this story. That’s what I’m thinking about as we talk about this. Nebby spent 7 times living like the animals, eating grass, growing long hair and long nails. Exactly as his dream told him would happen.

And then, at Gods appointed time, he says, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praised God. I blessed him. I honored him. There is a balance in this. We both see, because of who Nebby is, that he is still taking partial credit for the end of his time as a beast. But we also see that one of the main balances, or tensions, that the Bible strikes is that God is completely sovereign, and nothing happens with him saying so, but also that we, Man, are responsible for our actions. We can’t blame God for our sins, for our problems and certainly not for us being sent to hell. We freely sin of our own volition.

So Nebby is both proud and truthful in his words. And when he praised God, in Gods timing, God restored him to his right mind. All of his kingdom, his power and his glory were restored, and he was actually given even more than he had before.

Again, a theme in the scriptures. Using Job as an example, once everything ended, his rewarded was even more than they understood God was going to give them. Everything that was taken from Job was restored plus some. Here, Nebby was not only restored but given more once he praised God.

We can make the parallel connection that if we trust in God, and we are saved by his grace, that our reward is going to be so much better than we are to expect. We are not only avoiding the punishment of hell; salvation is not just fire insurance. But we get to spend eternity in perfect communion, in perfect relationship with our LORD, the God. We get to spend eternity in perfect creation, worshipping him, praising him and full and perfectly complete.

I love the last line of this chapter and I’m going to leave you with that as we close for the week.

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Let’s Pray.

The Church & a PAstors Response to Covid-19’s effect on our Church

Hi Guys! Hope and I are back for another conversational interview. Today we talk about this whole coronavirus/COVID-19 dealy-o, and the effect it is having on our church. We look at some biblical responses we should consider and some of the great encouragement I have received over the past few months as the Pastor at Bangor Community Church.

 

Hope you listen, enjoy and are encouraged.

Pastor Casey

Daniel 3:1-30 God of All Nations: 3 men and a Furnace

Daniel 3:1-30
God of All Nations
3 men and a Furnace

Good Morning Bangor Community Church and anyone else that may be listening. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 3. In the book of Daniel, especially the first 6 chapters, there are a lot of stories that we are at least partially familiar with, and we may think that we are intimately aware of. These tend to be classic Sunday School Lessons.
Today, the story we will look at in Chapter 3 is a prime example. We are going to look at the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego (Babylonian names) getting thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. And I think that we are going to see a lot of things that we assume were part of the story, or that we assumed we understood that we just didn’t see before now. I know that’s at least what happened with me.
Before we get into that, however, let’s look at what’s already happened n Daniel, that led to this point. Ol Nebby had, in chapter 2, had a dream revolving around a huge statue where he was the golden head. When Daniel was able to tell him what his dream was and to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream for him, The King acknowledged Daniel’s God as “God of gods and Lord of Kings.”
What the King did NOT do, however, was turn to and acknowledge Yahweh as exclusively God. He still ruled over, lived in and believed in a pluralistic community. There were many gods, over many things, each nation had their own god, and all were valid and powerful.
In this, Daniel was put as, essentially, the Kings right hand man, he was given authority over all the magi and wisemen. Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego were appointed as governors over the province of Babylon.
As we move forward into chapter 3, we see that the theme of this chapter and the theme of the entire book as a whole is that God is not just a god among gods but is God over all. He is the God of all Nations. He is the God of all Kingdoms. He is the God over all other so-called gods. He is the God of all people. That is why I have titled this series, God of all Nations.
So, with all that being said, let’s go ahead and start reading Daniel chapter 3. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your Bibles, with your preferred translation. So, Daniel chapter 3, we will start with verses 1-7, though we will cover the entire chapter 3 this morning.
Daniel 3:1-7, Daniel writes:
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits[a] 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.

May God Bless the Reading of His Word
So, we see from the beginning a couple of questions that pop up to me, but that we won’t find answers for in the text. First, we don’t know how long after chapter 2, that this chapter takes place. It could have been very shortly afterwards, when the dream was still fresh in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, or it could have been much later on, as the impact of the interpretation has faded just a bit. We also don’t know where Daniel is during this story. He may have been left behind to tend to business while all the other officials were at the statue. He could have been alongside Nebby during this, and just exempt from the command and punishments. The truth is we just don’t know.
But we start this chapter off with very clear connections to Nebbys dream. He builds a statue made of gold, and he builds it 90 feet tall. This is a huge statue for the day, but it’s also not unheard of, meaning it’s incredibly impressive, but not unbelievable. To give an example of the scale, the Sphinx in Egypt is 66 feet tall.
I want us to look at one possible motivation here as well. Nebuchadnezzar built this statue out of Gold. Now it was likely Gold plated, but it was still, the entire thing was Gold. It is likely and it seems obvious to me that Nebby was trying to ignore or to undo the interpretation of his dream. Daniel was clear that, while Nebby was the golden head of the four kingdoms and that the ones who came after him would be progressively inferior. Nebby was a narcissistic sociopath. He would have greatly accepted that he was the golden head. He may have, though probably not have accepted that strong and superior kingdoms would have defeated him. But he most certainly would not have been willing to accept that inferior kingdoms would replace him. And so, in the imagery of his statue, he eliminated them and made it all about him.
So, he builds this monstrous monument to himself. And all the movers and shakers, all the government officials, all the influencers, all of them came to stand before the statue, came for the event of the dedication and the unveiling. They all came to pay homage to Ol’ Nebby.
Nebuchadnezzar tells them how. When the signal hits, in this case the orchestra playing, when you hear this, you will bow down and worship this golden image of me!
Now, for me, when I usually think of this story, I think of it as, every time you hear music you have to bow down. But that’s not what we see here. This is not an ongoing thing, this is a onetime event, a show, or maybe a test of loyalty.
And here is the law. If you do not keep this command, you will be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive. This was not an uncommon punishment for those days. And there would have been a giant furnace, or a kiln may be a better way for us to think about it, right there. It would have been used to forge and smelt the metals and the gold used in the construction of the statue.
And yes, it seems odd to us today that people would bow down and worship a statue of their king, or that Nebby would build a 90 foot statue of himself in order for people to worship, but it’s not that odd. It is that days manifestation of Romans 1:25, where Paul writes: they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
Today we see it in our practical worship of our jobs, our schooling, our sports teams, our politicians, our favorite celebrities, even our families, husbands, wives, kids and their activities. John Calvin wrote that the “human heart is an idol factory.” It can even be our way of life, our comfort, or our nation that we make an idol in these days.
We are rarely called to literally bow down before our idols, though in some places and to some idols that still happens today. But we sacrifice for them. We put them first. We put them above God himself, even if we believe in God.
Our politician says something, no matter what, no matter what the Bible says, and we agree with it and we manipulate the bible to make it fit. We forget that the Bible is more important and more applicable to a Christians life than the Constitution is. We have kids who have activities Sunday mornings and so we justify ignoring church to worship at the altar of our kids, or our own hobbies and interests. These idols are still out there, and we are still bowing down before them, even today.
In verse 7, the music played. The band struck up a tune and the people all bowed down to the statue. All bowed down. All nations, all languages, all tribes. False gods don’t discriminate.
Music can be very powerful. That’s why we like to have music when we sing our songs of worship and praise at church. That’s one of the things, outside of fellowship, that I miss the most in this time of not meeting together.
But music can be used to manipulate as well. Many of the false teachers today use music to manipulate their congregation into emotional experiences. When you can make worship an experience, you can focus and steer that experience towards the desired object of worship.
You may often hear of these places where during the worship was a spectacle, it is described as an environment, people get caught up in the moment of that worship.
Sinclair Ferguson has some good things to say about this in his commentary on Daniel. He writes about this story: there was an aesthetic effect in abundance on the plain of Dura. A person would have had to be extremely narrow-minded not to share on the sheer magnificence of the occasion and the splendor of the music.
He continues: The sad reality is “all that glitters is not gold.” The important thing about worship is its object. Do we worship God or ourselves? The test of whether worship is God centered or centered on ourselves will be found in the question: Do we worship God according to His revelation or according to our own disposition? In worship, the statement, “How I like to worship is…” is irrelevant. All that matter is how God chooses to be worshipped.
And of course, worshipping and bowing down to a 90-foot statue in the image of Nebuchadnezzar is not how he chooses to be worshipped. Songs more about our feelings and emotions are not how he chooses to be worshiped. But worship these people did.
Let’s continue on with Daniel 3:8-18, as he writes:
Therefore, at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared[b] 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.”
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, well and good.[c] 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?”
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.[d] 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.”

King Nebby didn’t discriminate. He didn’t care what nation you were from. He didn’t care what language you spoke. He didn’t care which gods you chose to worship. As long as you worshipped him. Again, same thing we saw in Rome. You can worship Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD. We see it today. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you worship science, inclusivity, tolerance, self-reliance, America, comfort, social justice, celebrity culture, communism, capitalism, achievements, worth health, Obama or Trump. As long as you bow down and worship at least one of those, go right on ahead and believe in Jesus.
And we see that the Chaldeans came to Ol Nebby and told him of three men who would not bow down to hum and his statue. They were very pointed in their accusations as well. It says they, “maliciously accused the Jews.” Some see some anti-Semitism in this, in how they singled out that they were Jews. That’s definitely possible. Some see this as personal jealousy that these three guys had such privileged positions after so short a time. That’s definitely possible. Some say it was a combination of the two. That seems most likely.
The fact is that all the people in attendance were told to bow or they would be punished by law. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t. Sinclair Ferguson uses them as an example to point out that we are not to make big shows of ourselves when we take stands like this. The three men didn’t make a big deal. They didn’t protest the statue. They didn’t sit down and so a hunger strike. They didn’t boycott. They just stood quietly and off to the side. They didn’t hide obviously, but they didn’t draw any undue attention to themselves.
We have a tendency, as human beings, to think like this,” Did you see me not doing that thing that everyone else was doing? Yup, I’m pretty holy. Did you see me doing that thing that nobody else was doing? Yup my faith in God is strong and uncompromising.”
We have seen this in the last two months, where churches have decided not to listen to the various state at home orders by the governors and the opened up anyway and various things have come if those situations. But most of them are not quietly meeting, not making a big deal of it, many of them are flaunting their disobedience in the name of religious liberty.
But Shad, Mac and Abe didn’t do that. They just stood to the side and refused to bow down. The Chaldeans kind of come across as annoyed children. I know I see in my house, “Daaaaaaad! They’re not doing what they are supposed to be! They are not listening to you!”
And if course, Ol Nebby was furious, to put it mildly. He brings the 3 guys in to give them a chance to make things right. It may be that he couldn’t believe it because he trusted. It could be he didn’t believe it because he could believe that anyone would dare disobey him.
Either way, it is surprising what happens. He gives them a second chance. He says, “They told me you wouldn’t listen, well here’s your chance. Ill strike up the band again, and if you bow now, we can put thus whole scenario behind us. If you don’t, well… you know the consequences…”
In fact, he says, who is the god that can save you. Essentially, he is saying that he is the one with ultimate power and authority and their god has none and cannot save them. Part of this seems to be that the furnace, or the kiln, is right there. There is no transportation. There is no waiting or delay. So, there is no time for another god to step in and help them.
Of course, the decline the invitation. They make their point; No matter what God can save them. He may choose not to, but even if that’s the case, we will still choose to worship Him, and we will never bow down to you.
Stephan Miller writes: although no doubt existed in the minds if Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-ego about the ability of their God to deliver them, they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants.

The early church father and historian Jerome, also says this: Thereby they indicate that it will not be a matter of Gods inability but rather of his sovereign will if they do perish.”

In addition to Gods ability to deliver and save regardless of whether he chooses to, here’s I, I think, the biggest point that I can take away from this. Yes, we are to obey Gods laws over man’s laws. Yes, they were right to take their stand and not bow to the statue. But man’s laws still stand. God puts every leader into authority, and he has granted governments their power and authority. So, if we decide that a situation or a law goes against Gods law, we may be right in choosing to not obey or submit to the situation or the law, but, and here is the kicker, You need to be willing to, and expect to face the consequences of your choices.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were right to obey God instead of man, and not bow down. But they were also willing to submit to the punishment and consequences of their decision. This is one spot where, here in America, I think, Christians are soft. We want the right to disobey the laws and rules that we think are unbiblical and wrong, but we also want immunity from doing so.
We saw a crystal-clear example a few years ago, after the supreme decided that same sex marriage was legal. There was a county clerk in Kentucky. Her job was to sign the marriage licenses to make them legal. She decided that she was not going to sign the licenses for same sex couples. That was her conviction regarding obey Gods laws instead of mans. But then there was a whole uproar after she was arrested for not complying with the law. She was well within her rights to refuse to do so, but that doesn’t mean she should not have been punished for it. Christians, brothers, sisters, there are times and circumstances when it is right and good to reject man’s laws because they go against Gods laws. As Martin Luther famously said as he came before the synod at Dort, as he was told to recant of his 95 Thesis, he said he would not recant, he would not back down. He said, and I quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
But we have to remember that there are consequences that come with it and we may not like them. We may be harmed, we may be imprisoned and killed for these stances. We need to know that ahead of time and we need to be willing to go through with that if and when we choose to stand for God against man’s laws.
Ok, so let’s read the next chunk of verses, Daniel 3:19-23:
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,[e] their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Now, their response, as you would imagine, did not go over well with Ol Nebby. In fact, his fury raged. He was incensed. He ordered the furnace to be heated up to 7 times hotter than normal. It seems obvious with eh number 7 being used that this is an expression meaning to get it as hot as possible. He ordered that the 3 men would be thrown into the furnace immediately.
The guards tied them up, still in their clothes and took them to throw them in the firs. The furnace had gotten so hot that the guards throwing them in where overwhelmed by the heat and died. Many suspect that this was either because of the urgency of Nebuchadnezzar’s command, that they didn’t have time to prepare themselves, protect themselves from the heat. Or that there was a sudden shift of the wind direction right as they were throwing the guys in. I personally like the second one, because if that’s what happened, it speaks to God acting in the situation regardless of if he decides to save the 3 men in the furnace.
Let us read the last chunk of verses, Daniel 3:24-30:
4 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Highest God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
What a scene that must have been for Ol Nebby. He had the three of them thrown in, tied up, into a fiery furnace that was made as hot as it could possibly be, so hot that it killed the guards who threw them in. And Nebuchadnezzar looks in and is shocked and amazed. He says, not three, but four men! Unbound! Walking around! He couldn’t believe it! He had to show others as well to make sure he wasn’t seeing things!
And the fourth had the appearance as a son of the gods. Now, there has been a lot of speculation about this. Whether this was a physical appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus, otherwise known as a Christophany. I believe that it is. Some believe, as many of the Jewish scholars did, that this was the archangel Gabriel. It isn’t explicit in the text, but here is what we do know. Nebby didn’t know who it was either, but from his appearance, it was clear that this fourth person was divine. He was more than a man. He would not have had any idea who Jesus was or that this was Jesus, but he knew that this was a divine being in there protecting Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
Nebby was so amazed that he called for the three to come out, along with the “Most High God.” Now, to the Jews and to Christians now, this title refers to the one and only, living God. But to the unbelievers, especially of the day, to those in a polytheistic, pluralistic society, this would have meant the highest of many Gods.
So, the boys came out and everyone around saw that they were unburned, unsinged and that they did not even smell like fire.
Nebuchadnezzar is so amazed, and he declares that their God is a god. That he sent an angel to save them. Their god saved them because they wouldn’t bow down to any other gods.
He then, for this particular instance, reverses his course and his decree. He says that anyone who says anything bad against their god will be punished. By not saying anything about it, he says that they no longer need to bow before his statue.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar repented of his idolatry or his blasphemy. There is no evidence that he tore down his statue. There is no evidence that he trusted in the one true God, the God of Israel, the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The god of the Jews was a great god, a god to be feared and respected and a god of which nothing may be said against, but he was not the god of Nebuchadnezzar.
In the end, Nebuchadnezzar restored the boys to their positions over the province of Babylon and even gave them a promotion of sorts.
This is the biblical story of 3 men in the furnace. This is not the typical Sunday School story. This is not the veggie tales’ story. This is what happened. The more I preach on stories in the Bible, that are supposedly well known, the more I see that God is incredible and he puts so much more into these stories than we see on the surface. It inspires me to try to look deeper and I hip it does the same for you.
Again, the main point of all this is that God is over and above all. He is over and above everything else. He is not one of many. He is not the greatest of many. He is the only and the highest. He is the all holy, all knowing God of all tongues, tribes and nations. As the only God, he sends only one means of salvation.
By his grace and his grace alone, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, truly man, and truly God. ON that note, I will leave you with a passage from the Gospel of John. John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Let’s Pray

Daniel 2:24-49 God of All Nations Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Daniel 2:24-49

God of All Nations

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

 

Good Morning Bangor!   Please grab your Bibles with me and turn on them to Daniel chapter 2. As you are turning there, let me say that it does seem like we are moving closer and closer to being able to meet together physically and in person once again. I do not yet have an idea, or a guess as to when exactly that will be, but I do know that the first week we are back together will be a celebration. We will have communion, we will sing together and we will have a potluck following the service. Please plan and pray accordingly.

So, last week, as we  looked at the first half of Daniel Chapter 2, Hope pointed out that we kind of left off on a cliffhanger. So, in that vein, we will start with, Previously…In Daniel…
Last week we saw that King Nebby had a dream that disturbed him greatly. He brought together all his wise men and his sorcerers and magicians and what not, got them all together and told them to both tell him his dream and then to tell him the interpretation of said dream. If they could do that, great rewards were awaiting them. If they could not, well, death is the nicest and the least painful for them, way to put it.

OF course, they couldn’t do this. As they said, no man on earth could do what the King was asking. Only the gods could do that and the gods don’t dwell with man. So, the order was sent out to kill all the wise men in the kingdom and this included Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael. Daniel asked for some time to receive the interpretation from God. His request was granted and he and his three friends prayed to God. God answered their prayers, Daniel received the information he was seeking and he and his friends gave thanks to God.

That’s where we left off. We spent all that time leading up to it and we never even shared what the dream was! Thus the cliffhanger. So now, this week, we will look at the second half of chapter 2. And this will include an important discussion between Daniel and King Nebby, this will include his dream and what it meant. We will look at the big picture, what God was trying to tell Nebuchadnezzar specifically and the Babylonian kingdom and what that means for today, as opposed to getting bogged down in every minute possible detail or possible interpretation of every single aspect of his dream.

Details are important and every word of the Bible, every word of these dreams and prophecies are important and inspired By God, making them the very Word of God. However, we sometimes get so distracted by the cloudy, the unclear, the unanswered, that we loose view of what God is clearly telling us and wanting us to see.

So, with that in mind, lets goa head and read the first section of our scripture this morning. Over all, we will be reading Daniel chapter 2, verses 24-49. But we are going to break that into a few sections at a time. So, first, We will read verses 24-30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along and follow along in your preferred translation at home. Lets go ahead and read, Daniel 2:24-30. Daniel records:

 

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.”

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?” 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. 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. 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.

 

May God bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

So, after Daniel had his vision or dream from God, which gave him the dream and the interpretation of the Kings dream, he went to Arioch, remember, he is likely the executioner, Daniel went to him and said, “Good News, you don’t have to kill us all! I can interpret his dream!”

Interesting, isn’t it? That Daniels response is not, “Don’t kill me,” but instead, “Don’t kill all these wise men!” Daniels life is one mark with humility. His life is one where he is looking at god first and foremost, but then he is look at others even before himself. We see that humility not only later on in this story, but again in the next two verses.

The next thing we see is Arioch having the exact opposite attitude. “King, I found someone who can tell your dream!” Completely contrasting the humility of Daniel, Arioch was trying to take credit for something that wasn’t his. Daniel was the one who approached him, both beforehand, and after God revealed the truth to him. But, Daniel was not worried about who was getting the credit.

Let me just saw, I have been in Daniels position here. I’m sure many of us have. You did something good, but someone else is trying to get either some or all of the credit. Trust me when I tell you, its almost never worth the time or the energy to fight and make this right. IN the grand scheme of things, does it matter. Yes, the Truth matters. But does it matter if its you that gets the credit? God knows and as Jesus tells us in Matthews Gospel, their reward is here and now and our reward is in heaven, which will never perish or go away.

So King Nebby asks Daniel, “can you really interpret you my dream?” The expected and mostly true response would be Yes. But that’s not what Daniel said. He surprised the King by saying, “NO, I cant. Not only cant I do it, but your wisemen were right, no person on earth can do it.”

That must have stopped the King short. What is this guy doing in front of me? Why am I wasting my time? Also, can you imagine Arioch’s face at this point? “He lied to me! I stuck my neck out and took credit for finding him!” He must have been scared for his life right then.

But out of the dark comes the light. The motto of the reformation in the 1500s was Post Tenebras Lux, meaning, Out of Darkness, Light. We have to know the bad and see the dark in order for the us to be able to know the Good and see the light.

Daniels says, No man on earth can do what you are asking, BUT…

One of the greatest phrases in the Bible is But God. We see it often, things are bad, they are at their worse, we are dead in our sins, But God. Ephesians 2:4-5 are one of my favorite examples. Paul tells us we are dead in our sins, unable to do anything that might save ourselves. And he writes:

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

 

We have no hope, no anything, no salvation, no wisdom, no nothing, But God.

Daniel says that no man on earth can do what the king wants, But there is a God in heaven who can and did. There is a God who dwells with us. Jesus is prophesied to be Immanuel, God with us.  That’s who he was and what he did. He came down from heaven and was born a man here on Earth. God became man to save sinners.

The wise men were right back in verse 11, when they said, 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.” But God did show it to Daniel. He showed the dream and the interpretation both. And he tells the King, he did so and he gave Ol’ Nebby this dream to tell him what coming.

One commentator says, “That there is a God in Heaven, as against man-made gods and defiled men, is the supreme theme of the book, even as it is the cardinal principle of the Bible.”

Daniel here is very politely telling the King that all of those other religions, all the other so called gods are, quite literally, worthless. And he tells the King that God told me your dream, not because of anything about me. Just like he saves each of us, not because of anything about us, but for his glory and his purposes. Here, that purpose is so that Nebuchadnezzar would know what his dream meant and he gave him the dream so that he would know what would be to come.

So, now to satisfy the first part of the cliffhanger, Daniel tells the King what his dream was. Daniel 2:31-35:

“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

This dream is incredible. Stephan Miller calls this dream “one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible.”

 

 

Imagine in your head, if you can, a statue, great and tall. Many presume that is must have been 60 cubits tall, which I think is 90 feet, based on the statue that Ol Nebby builds of himself in the next chapter.  So, a statue 90 feet tall, that’s 9 stories tall. The head was gold. The arms and the chest was silver. The midsection and the thighs were bronze. The legs were iron. And the feet were a mixture of iron and clay.

This is obviously symbolizing something, but Daniel doesn’t get into that just yet, he simply tells the King what his dream was. He continues, a stone cut out of a mountain, but cut by no man, was hurled and hits the weakest point of the statue, the feet, made by the iron/clay mixture/

It hits that spot and the statue crumbles and disintegrates. The dust blows away and it cannot be found. The stone would grow and grow until it became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

That’s the dream. Just in and of itself, sounds like a dream. Dreams are known for their interesting symbolism and imagery. And just like most dreams, the actual, full meaning of it is not readily apparent on the surface. Let us not forget that even if Daniel stopped talking here, he would have amazed Nebuchadnezzar and done the impossible. The King didn’t tell any one his dream. That was the test to make sure that ones interpretation was correct, that they could also tell him the dream itself. So Daniel would have already amazed Ol Nebby and we are only getting started.

Daniel will now share the interpretation that God gave him as we read Daniel 2: 36-45:

 

“This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 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. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage,[c] but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

 

 

That’s quite something, isn’t it? All right, brief rundown. The statue stands for 4 kingdoms, the first of which is the golden head, which is Babylon. There is much speculation, much time spent on figuring out who the other three are and we will touch on that in a moment.

Starting with the head made of Gold, down through to the feet made with a mixture of iron and clay, the kingdoms deteriorate, or are progressively inferior. Each Kingdom shall rise to power and each kingdom shall fall. But there is a kingdom which will rise that will never fall. That Kingdom will crush every other kingdom and will the only and the last kingdom left standing, forever and ever.

Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom is powerful, mighty and full of prestige. Among earthly kingdoms and by earthly standards, It is the pinnacle and it is the Gold Standard, pardon the pun. And yet, When Gods Kingdom is established, not even the strongest of earthly Kingdoms will be able to stand.

The most common view, and the one that I think sounds the closest to right is that these four kingdoms are, in order, The Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian empire, the Greek empire and then the Roman empire. But the text does not give us the answer to this line of questioning. Again, like many things we look at, and especially many things we think we know and we take for granted, its all speculation.

Iain DuGuid cautions us:

It doesn’t take long before we find our heads spinning with the variety of interpretations offered, all of which go far beyond the interpretation and application that Daniel himself gives here. It is important to notice however, that the passage itself gives us virtually no data about the specifics of any of these three kingdoms because it intends to give a philosophy of history rather than a precise analysis of history ahead of its time. As John Goldingay puts it, “In the drama of the story the description has to be allowed to remain allusive. People miss the point when they spend time arguing who the empires were. The focus of the dream itself and its interpretation are more concerned with what the future holds than when it will come to pass.

 

          And I think that DuGuid makes a great point there. When Jesus gives his Olivet discourse, where he addresses the disciples with what to look for in the future, he is more concerned that they focus on the fact that He will be coming back rather than when He will be coming back.

In Daniels time, Jesus hadn’t even yet come the first time. And as Miller points out, the Old Testament prophecies that point towards Christ do not distinguish between his first and his second coming.

 

This dream is pointing towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. Its not actually worried about the earthly kingdoms. We are not going to spend time arguing about who they are or what they mean, but instead we are going to look at the coming of the kingdom of God.

See, the one thing that we see with the kingdoms of this earth is that they get progressively inferior to the ones before it. We know that many have been more powerful or more expansive than the ones before it. But one pattern we have seen over and over again in history, specifically in the BC era, and Ill explain why that is in a minute, is that the various kingdoms of the earth have gotten more and more morally inferior.

From Genesis 3 with  the fall in the Garden, to Genesis 6 with Noah and the complete degeneracy of man, then God starting over and almost immediately back to Genesis 11 with the tower of Babel.  We see this pattern over and over in the Old Testament. And we see it with Babylon and then on through Meda-Persia which conquered Babylon, and then the Greeks which conquered Meda-Persia and the Rome which conquered everybody. And we all know about the moral degradation within Rome.

But the Kingdom of God changed all that. And the Kingdom of God will change that. Its interesting. See, a little over 2000 years ago, the Kingdom of God was inaugurated with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Came down from heaven, as we said, born not by man, and was thrown at the base of the statue of this world. He came down and utterly destroyed the kingdoms of this world, defeating death and sin utterly and completely. He has and will destroy every kingdom in this world. Gods Kingdom will stand forever and Christ is sitting right now on his throne in heaven, reigning over all of creation.

Jesus first coming demolished the kingdom of the worlds in sort of a behind the scene way. When Jesus walked this earth, he said, The Kingdom of God is at hand. Its not a future Kingdom, its here and now.  Now the battle is over.

But we look around in this world and we don’t see it yet. We see the world continuing to descend more and more into the moral degradation we see in the Old testament pattern. And that can make us misunderstand. That can makes us think only in the future tense when thinking about the coming kingdom of God. And then we get into all sorts of trouble, adding years to prophecies, especially in Daniel where the text doesn’t justify it. We start getting to focused in trying to identify the specific who’s and when’s and the details that God never told us the answers to.

There is a term, especially when referring the kingdom of God, and it’s the already and the not yet. The Kingdom of God is here and now. Its is already. Jesus Christ first coming brought it into this world. The Kingdoms of this earth have no eternal power or authority.

But, right now, they continue to have earthly power and authority. We are to be in submission to those authorities above us. And we are right now, struggling to find out what that really looks like today in a way that we haven’t had to yet, at least here in the United States. They will continue to try to grab more and more power. They will try to exert more and more authority. Moral Fabric of society will continue to deteriorate.

And then, at some undetermined point in the future, that the Bible tells us we cannot know, that not even the angels in heaven now, Jesus will, in language convenient to the analogy if not 100 percent accurate, be hurled out of the sky and will hit the base of the kingdoms of this world, destroying and disintegrating the powers and principalities that we are struggling against. All sin and evil and all kingdoms outside of the kingdom of God will cease to exist and we will move from the not yet, to the already.

 

 

Daniel tells the King, God is trying to get your attention. As powerful and as wonderful as you are, as much power as you wield, your greatness pales in comparison to what God wields in his pinky fingernail.  Babylon cant save you. Your power, greatness and authority cant save you. Only God can save you. Repent and turn to him. Bow to him and worship him as King.

 

The King had said back in verse 6 that whoever could tell him his dream and the interpretation would be showered in gifts and praise and given great honor. And that’s what Ol Nebby now showered on Daniel. Again, those parallels to Joseph in Genesis that you are supposed to be reading about, Daniel was now given a very high ranking government position, essentially the governor f the most important and powerful state within the Babylonian kingdom. Daniel did decline this to serve as the Kings right hand man, but was able to secure that position for his three friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, now referred to with their Babylonian names.

The last thing I want to point out this morning is the Kings response to the dream, Nebuchadnezzar declared that Daniels God was the God of Gods and the LORD of kings. He affirmed the power and greatness of God. But, what he did not do was to affirm the exclusivity of God. He was not the only God. This is not showing that he converted to Christianity. HE simply sees God as the strongest of all the gods around. He recognizes that God is sovereign over the nations, but it does not go further than that.

Don’t acknowledge God as powerful and important but fail to recognize the exclusivity of God. As we continue to point out, Jesus does not say in Johns Gospel that he is a way, a truth and a life. But he is instead, THE way, The truth and THE life. Don’t settle for almost Christian or partially Christianity, which does not actually exist. There is not shade of salvation. There is eternal life in Christ or eternal torment without. Recognize that God is sovereign and in control of everything, that he raises up and tears down Kings. That he is reigning as king now. His kingdom is already inaugurated, and we are just waiting for the final culmination.

Bow to Him, worship him and only him. Repent and trust in him. Trust and obey. For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Lets Pray.

Daniel 2:1-23 God of All Nations: God Grants Wisdom

Daniel 2:1-23

God of All Nations

God Grants Wisdom

Good Morning Bangor! As you are listening along or reading along with us here this morning, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Daniel chapter 2. To start off first, before we get into any of Daniel 2, After we are finished with this sermon, I am giving you a suggestion homework assignment. I want you to read Genesis chapters 40 & 41 and note the parallels between Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon.

So, as you may have surmised, chapter 2 here will show us Daniel interpreting the Kings dream for the first time. And within that, what we are going to see is God giving wisdom and knowledge to those whom he desires to. Now, I mentioned last week that some of these chapters are pretty long, and this is one of those examples. So, instead of reading the entire thing in one setting, we are going to break it up as we go through it.

I do plan to get through verse 30 this morning. Before we get into that, a few reminders from Chapter 1. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire siege Jerusalem and God gave Jerusalem into his hands. He brought out many captives into exile into the land of Shinar and picked the best and the brightest of the exiles and put them into re-education and re-training schooling. Their names were changed, their religion was replaced with the religion of Babylon. They were taught the language and the writings of their new culture and they were seduced with comfort and fine foods and drink into conforming to this new culture and leaving their old behind. Soon, the idea was, they would forget they were Jewish exiles and they would think of themselves as Babylonians.

Daniel and three of his friends have already shown themselves to be different than the rest.  They showed that there was a balance we can strive to maintain between serving the community that we are placed in, even with it being quite hostile to our true identity, and not forgoing the commands and standards that God has set before us. Daniel would not allow himself to be defiled. His friends were right there with him, standing faithful to God. God granted them extra wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and for Daniel, the ability to interpret visions and dreams.

So, with all that said, lets go ahead and jump into the first block of verses. We will start with verses 1-11. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation as we go through these and the future verses. So, Starting with Daniel, chapter 2, verses 1-11, Daniel records:

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 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. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic,[a] “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” 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. 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.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 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— 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.” 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.”

 

May God Bless the reading of his Holy and perfect Word.

 

 

So, the first thing we see is that this takes place in the second year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Now, based on the variety of ways that the different cultures kept records, it is equally likely that Daniel was already completed with his 3-year training or that he was towards the end, at least the second half of his training. We know that at least he had already appeared before King Nebuchadnezzar along with his friends and impressed him with wisdom and knowledge.

Either way, not very long after the exiles arrived from Judah, after the Babylonians sieged Jerusalem and had it handed into their hands by God, the King started having bad dreams. Or A bad dream to be exact.  And it was troubling him. It was causing him to not get any sleep. It got bad enough to the point that Nebuchadnezzar gathered all his magicians, his sorcerers, all the wise men and magi, he gathered them all together.

He was convinced that these were more than just dreams. In most ancient cultures, and most certainly in the near east during that time, the common belief was that the gods communicated to people through their dreams. Maybe more clearly, dreams were communication from the gods. So, the King was driven by the need to know, to find out what his dream meant. A right understanding was absolutely vital for him.

So, he gathered the wise men and magicians and told them, I’ve had this dream and I need to know what it means. After he says that, in the middle of verse four, we see that the original language turns from Hebrew and continues in Aramaic. The book switches from a focus on the Jewish exiles and what happened into Jerusalem and turns to bigger world view implications.

So, the wise men told him, “Tell us your dream and we will tell you what it means.” Seems to be an appropriate response in my opinion. You want to know what your dream means, then tell me your dream and let’s figure this out. Would you have expected a different response?

Nebuchadnezzar, however, has a different view. He told them, “You will tell me both the dream and the interpretation, or you will die horribly and painfully. And if you do, then great rewards will come to you.”

Its important to remember, despite the kind treatment we see of Nebuchadnezzar, especially to Daniel, this was not a kind man. He was a harsh and cruel man often times. These wise men would have had no doubt that he would have followed through with his threat.

And we also see that it is clear that he was skeptical of the abilities of these wise men. This was a broad collection of religious and spiritual backgrounds, there were many different gods represented in this court. But this dream was not from one of those gods. This dream was from God. From the true God. And you can just see that things are subconsciously starting to occur to the King. He gathered these wise men for a reason, to cover his bases with as many different gods as possible, and yet, he still doesn’t trust that the servants of these gods can actually answer his desire to know the meaning of these dreams.

That’s a part of why he is challenging these wise men. Because he doesn’t trust the answers he will receive. There are also some who speculate that Nebuchadnezzar didn’t fully remember the details of his dream. And I get that. How many of you have had dreams and once you wake up the vividness of them fades, the details fall away, or get fuzzy and cloudy. The longer it goes, the less you actually remember of it. You might remember some of the points, or the big picture or whatever, but a lot of it fades away or the course of time. So, I don’t know if that’s the case with ol’Nebby here, but It also wouldn’t surprise me if that played a role in the way he handles the wise men and his court.

So, they try again, “Tell us your dream and we will tell you what it means.” And the king responds, “You are trying to buy time and you will lie to me. Tell me both the dream and the interpretation or you all die!”

And finally, some honesty from these magicians, enchanters, sorcerers. They cry out, “No Man can do what you are asking! Only the gods could do this! And the gods don’t dwell with man!”  They were saying that the gods won’t tell us that, they are the only ones who know these things. What god will dwell with and communicate like that with us? We will see Daniel answer this very question coming up in a bit. I’m sure you all listening can answer that question here and now too.

So, the wise men give Nebuchadnezzar their answer, and I’m sure they didn’t want to tell him that, but they were given no choice. They couldn’t deliver what the King was demanding from them.

 

From there, lets continue with verses 12-23:

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. 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[b] 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.

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. 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.”

 

 

So obviously, based on the answer he received, the King was not happy. In fact, he was furious. He was going to follow through on his threat. He ordered that all the wise men, all the magicians, all the astronomers, enchanters, magi, sorcerers, all of them, all of them were to die. This included Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

One commentator notes: Again, notwithstanding the perilous situation and the utterly unreasonable demands and decree of Neb, Daniel refused to panic. He neither despaired nor ranted. His behavior is marked by tact and common sense. There is a place for diplomacy.

Now, notice verse 14. Daniel, with prudence and discretion he asked Arioch why this was happening.  He didn’t start screaming and crying about the injustice. He didn’t protest, he didn’t march, he didn’t boycott. He didn’t kick and scream and shout. He asked with prudence and discretion, “Why is the decree from the King so urgent?”

In all likelihood, Arioch was the executioner. This was very likely the guards gathering everyone up to be executed. This was not just an announcement that this was going to happen, but this was the actual gathering of the wise men up to kill them. And Daniel remained calm to inquire what the reason was.

I wonder what was going through Daniels head when he heard that the King needed a dream interpreted.    We saw back in chapter 1, verse 17 that God gave Daniel that gift, that skill. He had to be smiling on the inside. Might he have been almost jumping for joy? Obviously, we see that Daniel always gives God the credit and the glory, but he might have been thinking, “Oh, I’ve got this!”

So, Daniel, whatever his emotional state, asks Arioch if he can appear before the King so that he can provided that dream interpretation. It was kind of like being on death row and getting a last-minute stay from the governor. God here directly intervened and saved Daniels life and soften Arioch’s and likely soften the Kings heart towards Daniel here. Daniel was granted his request to go before the King at an appointed time, possibly as soon as the next morning. We see the contrast. The wise men before the king asked for time and the king sentenced them to death, convinced they were going to make up lies. Daniel asks for a bit of time and its granted, saving everyone’s life. Gods sovereignty, control and power and faithfulness is on full display in that situation.

Daniel goes back and tells his friends, which, by the way, are still referred to by their Hebrew names. Daniel tells his friends the situation, why they were going to die and the opportunity to change their circumstances and they all start praying.

It rings true in all circumstances, the more people you can get praying for a situation, the better, We certainly saw that this week in our church family as we had  a dear member of the church suffer a stroke. Its terrible timing in all of our eyes, because with the hospitals on lock down due to COVID-19, his wife can’t even visit him. So, we immediately sent the information we had out of the prayer chain. The little bit \of information that has come out so far is relatively good news. No facial drop, no limb paralysis, and we will see on the rest. We know that our prayers were heard. We know that God responded. It was terrible timing by human eyes, but we also know that God’s timing is perfect, even if we don’t know how or why. What comfort we have that when we are going through the things that we end up going through, that our church family is praying with us and for us and that God hears those prayers.

And God does hear our prayers. Daniel and his friends immediately started praying and God heard their prayers. God answered those prayers and he gave Daniel a dream that revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the interpretation. They prayed and God answered.

 

 

Daniel, when his prayers are answered, immediately does what should come first for all of us, but often we neglect or fall short on. He lifts up praises and thanksgiving to the LORD.

Let me reread Daniels blessing here, verses 20-23:

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.”

 

 

Amen, right? God is God, that’s the theme of what Daniel is saying. This specific point we will get into more next week at the beginning, but God is God and the Babylonian gods are not. God is powerful. They are useless and worthless. God is in control. They can do nothing. Blessed be His name forever and ever.

Daniel praises God and lifts up his wisdom, his sovereignty and his goodness. One commentator states that the wisdom here is, “not something human beings achieve, but something they receive by God.”

Wisdom here in this chapter of Daniel in general and in this thanksgiving psalm lifted up by Daniel specifically is one of the major points brought up by many, many commentators and theologians. And wisdom, true wisdom is only and fully from God.

We know where our wisdom comes from, Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. We look to God and him alone as our source of wisdom. We are not guessing; we are not covering our bases and we certainly better not be trusting or believing in ourselves.

We don’t look or seek for our wisdom from our work, or from politics, or from our nationality, or from our achievements, or from our church attendance. We don’t even seek it from our Bible Knowledge, even though, if we have a right understanding of the Bible, we know that Bible Knowledge helps grow our wisdom.

Daniel also mentions that God changes the seasons, he has control over nature and the sun and the stars themselves. This is pointed directly at the wise men and sorcerers of Babylon who were highly into astrology, astronomy and the stars.

God also sets up and removes Kings. This is referencing the interpretation of the dream that we will look at next week. I love what Sam Storms says about this when he writes:

Note well: Daniel makes these affirmations of God’s sovereignty in the context of the domination of the Jews by Gentiles! In other words, God not only controls the history of his own people (whether Israel or the Church), but also of the ‘secular world as well. And the oppression of his own people is no indication that he has lost control or that he is any less sovereign than when his people are safe and blessed.

 

The last point we will touch on in Daniels thanksgiving is in verse 22, where Daniels says of God, he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

TO me, this brings to mind the beginning of Johns Gospel. John 1:1-5, he writes:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And then in John 1:9:

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 

 

Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He is God become man. He is Immanuel, God with Us. He is perfect wisdom personified. He came and did what we couldn’t do, live with perfect wisdom, in perfect communion with God the Father, never once leaving His Will. He lived the perfect life that we are called to live, but wholly unable. Even though that’s exactly what we are called to by God.

Jesus gave up his life, to overcome the darkness, to receive the wrath of God, the punishment for our sins. He died on the cross so that we could be forgiven, so that we could receive everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.

As Iain Duguid says: “Simply living his life wisely would not have saved Daniel by itself. After the decree for his death went forth from the king, nothing but the direct intervention of God could save him.

And that’s a great point, because similarly, if we live our lives simply based on the moral teachings, the wisdom that the intellectual wisdom that we get from the Bible, that won’t save our eternal lives. Nothing but the direct intervention of God himself, come down from heaven, born a man, nothing but Jesus Christ himself can save us.

Trust in Him and repent of your sins. Submit yourselves to his wisdom, his grace and his love. He came to give us life and life abundantly. But only through faith in Him and him alone.

 

Let’s Pray.

Daniel 1:1-21 God of all Nations: Daniels Character Established

Daniel 1:1-21

God of all Nations

Daniels Character Established

 

          Good Morning. Please go ahead and grab your Bibles with me and turn to the book of Daniel. Daniel, despite being a largely historical book, because of the prophecies in the second half of the book, is placed as the last of the Major prophets in our Bible.

Last week, we look briefly at the first few verses and generally looked at the background and introduction of the Book of Daniel. This week we will look at the whole of the first chapter and we will see the character of Daniel established. This is really the foundation for the rest of the book, and an introduction to Daniel and his friends, as well as an example of his dealings, interactions, and work that they would have with Babylon.

One of the things we will see clearly in this chapter, as well as, I think the main theme of this entire book, is Gods sovereignty over anything, anyone, and everything. God is in control. Everything that happens, happens because God allows it and decrees it. And we see that starting right at the very beginning of chapter 1.

This morning we are going to read and look at Daniel chapter 1. That is a bit of materiel to cover, and so there will be a lot of scripture being read. I am going to attempt to do this throughout the book. I have found that many of the Old Testament books are best broken down into those chapter segments. The New Testament can be broken down into smaller chunks and some of the Old Testament can as well, but especially with Old Testament books with historical narratives, I find it keeps its context best and keeps the flow best by breaking it down by chapter.

So, Daniel chapter 1, verses 1 through 21. I will be reading out of the ESV, and I greatly encourage you to read along at home in the translation of your preference. Daniel writes, according to the Holy Spirit:

 

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

Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.

They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.  Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

 

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. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 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.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 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.

So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. 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.  So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 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.  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.

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. 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.

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

 

 

May God bless the reading of his holy and inspired word.

 

So, as I was saying, we see right from the beginning, that God gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, over to Nebuchadnezzar. This is why we have titled this series, “God of all Nations.” God raised up Babylon, made them a world power, brought them into a fight with Judah and handed Judah over to them. We looked last week at the reasons why, about Israel and Judah and their constant apostasy, or turning away from God, that God prophesied that he would turn them over to other nations as punishment and as judgment. And for Judah, the southern Kingdom, that time was now.

God handed them over to Babylon. They were told this was coming, all the way from Moses, through to the prophets, including but not limited to Jeremiah and Habakkuk. God not only knew ahead of time, he orchestrated it all ahead of time.

Nebuchadnezzar not only besieged Jerusalem and defeated Judah, but we took many treasures and vessels from the house of God, artifacts from the temple. This will come into play in a few chapters especially.

And just like the vessels and treasures of the house of God were carried away from Jerusalem, so too were vessels and treasures of God himself. Gods people were captured and carried away and brought out of their homeland of Judah to be exiled into a foreign and hostile land in Babylon. And not just to any foreign and hostile land, but to the land of Shinar. This was the place of the tower of Babel. Stephan Miller, in his commentary on Daniel, says that Shinar is “a symbol of rebellion against God.” And so, it is apt that Nebuchadnezzar brings the vessels and treasures of God including the vessels of God, his people, and takes them to the place of his gods, the physical location that most represents in that day, rebellion against God.

And again, we see that God is in control of all of this, as he is in control over everything. Not just the big picture stuff, like this is what the outcome will be, but everything that happens is under Gods complete control. Jesus tells us about the sparrows in Matthew 10, that if even a tiny sparrow falling to the ground is not out of his control.

We even see in the scriptures that the death of Jesus Christ was permitted, determined, and orchestrated by God far ahead of time. The reason that death exists in this world is because of sin. Adam and Eve brought it into this world in Genesis 3. Paul tells us the wages of sin is death. That means that our sin makes us deserve of death. Death is the penalty or the payment of sin. And we all sin, we are all guilty of sin the moment we become alive. That is our fallen sin nature.

Jesus, being himself God, God the Son, never had that sin nature. He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, all One and all God, the trinity. They, before time began, figure out this plan to rescue and save those who would become his children.

Jesus was God, came down from Heaven, was born a man, lived a perfect and sinless life, therefore, having no need to die, no penalty to pay. His death on the cross was unmerited and therefore was big enough to cover our sins and he died in our place. By the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to Him and the penalty for our sins are paid. Jesus then was risen from the dead, by god the Father. In order to defeat death so that we may have eternal life with Him. All of this was planned, orchestrated, and fulfilled because God said so. Because he willed it. Because he is sovereign overall, even life and death.

 

 

And so, the defeat of Jerusalem and the exile of many of the Israelites who were in Jerusalem and the placement of Daniel and his friends, all was orchestrated and planned out by God.

And Nebuchadnezzer wanted the cream of the crop from Jerusalem. He wanted to incorporate those he was bringing back from Judah to Babylon into the culture. He wanted to win them over as opposed to having to keep them all under guard or under lock and key. One of the ways to do that is to get the young generation and make them committed to you. Look around us today. If you win those who have influence, you will win those whom they influence. So, he called for young men, cream of the crop, from royal and noble blood. They were to be good looking, in good shape, they were wanted to be to be a good face for the regime. They were to be smart and wise, “to be competent to stand in the Kings palace.”

And as part of their re-education, they were to spend three years learning the ways, the language, the wisdom and the writings of the Chaldeans, the Chaldeans being the controlling culture within the Babylonian empire. This is what Iain DeGuid calls in his commentary, “Spiritual reprogramming.” We are not going to spend too much time on this because we spent some time on it last week as well, but this is what the world around us is trying to do.

All religions are good and valid. None are THE one. Even redefining Christianity to the point that Christ is not God, or the Bible is not the Word of God or Christ comes below our nation or political affiliation. That is exactly what Babylon was doing. Sure, Christ is fine, as long as He comes below Nebuchadnezzar. That’s what Rome did. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD.

Remember I quoted a number of weeks ago, Voddie Baucham. He said, “There is an easy way to avoid persecution. All you have to do is compromise.” And that’s what we constantly see the world around us, the cultures throughout history, including America and both sides of the current political climate are trying to do to us.

Yes, Yes, believe in Jesus, but make sure that you put America first. Make sure that you put these social issues first. Make sure that you vote for us first.

 

Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah. These are all names that have an el or a yah sound in them, showing that they are names that give credit and tribute to God. The true, God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Yahweh and Elohim.

In Babylon, their names were changed to names that gave credit and tribute to the Babylonian god, Marduk. Their new Babylonian names were Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego.

 

One of the things that we see through the book of Daniel is that he was willing to serve the King and to work for the good of the Babylonian Kingdom. He was not willing to go against his strong foundation of his faith in the true God. Part of that is that, though they answered to and responded to their new, Babylonian names, they did not fully embrace them. They still went by and answered to their Hebrew names as well.

Second, we have the words of the prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah 29:4-7 says:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.

Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

 

And that’s what Daniel and his friends would do. They worked for the good of their new community. We know that Paul tells us that all that we do, do it to the glory of God. Seemingly, Daniel knew that God was orchestrating all that was happening to he and his friends. So, he knew that God had placed him right there in the Kings court. He was going to bring God credit and glory by do what he was called to do to the best of his God given abilities.

And yet we see in verse 8, that he would not allow himself to be defiled by eating the king’s food and drinking the kings wine. Now, the Bible does not tell us how he would have been defiled or why that was the line that he would not cross. Of all the theories I have read, the one that makes the most sense to me specifically, is the fact that the king’s food would have gone against the Jewish dietary laws that were laid out in Leviticus. However, again I must say that all speculation into why that is exactly, speculation.

Miller, in his commentary makes the point: It would have been completely natural to argue that since God had not protected them from captivity- this horrible situation- they did not have to be careful to obey his commands. They could have become bitter toward God during this time. Sometimes believers fall into this trap. All these factors could have caused some people to compromise, but Daniel and his friends remained faithful to their God.

 

Daniel was not going to allow himself to be defiled. But notice how we acted. He did not fight. He did not protest. He did not do whatever he wanted, and the King and his servants would just have to deal with it. This wasn’t a hunger strike, and this certainly is not a recipe for a godly diet today, no mater how many books that would sell. I was reminded this week of a quote by Oswald Chambers, when he says, the only right a Christian has is the right to give up his rights.

Daniel did not appeal to his rights, Daniel simply asked. The man that was in charge of him and his friends, was in charge of feeding and providing for these young men. God worked on Daniels behalf and gave him favor in the head Eunuchs eyes. This guy did not want to stick his neck out. The King wanted Daniel and his friends to be in their tip physical shape. If they weren’t, it could cost the chief eunuch his head. He liked Daniel, but not enough to die for him.

Scientifically and nutritionally, Daniels diet was terrible. IF you compare it to someone eating a full complete diet, vs eating vegetables and drinking water, you see no protein, no fat, no calories, etc. One of them would be in much better physical shape.

That’s why the king didn’t want to agree to this. But Daniel offered a 10-day free trial. Let him and his friends try it for 10 days and if it doesn’t work out, they would rescind their request and the king would not hear another word about it.

Again, the point is not that Daniels diet was better, or even good. The point of it is that God took care of Daniel. He rewarded Daniels faithfulness and his hunger for righteousness. God caused Daniels diet to make him big and strong and then he was brought before the King. And we see in verse 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. 

Again, using their Hebrew names at this juncture.

 

We see again, in verse 17, the phrase, “God gave…” God gave these four youths knowledge and wisdom and understanding and all the things, the skills and the talents they needed to stand before the king and serve him. They impressed the king and they were 10 times better than all the other of the king’s magicians and enchanters. In a bit of foreshadowing, though not too far into the future, we also see that Daniel was given by God the ability to interpret dreams.

 

 

Now, the moral of the stories of Daniel and especially of this first chapter of Daniel is not, repeat, not Be like Daniel. The moral of this story of Daniel and this first chapter especially is Gods sovereignty and his faithfulness.

I am going to finish us off with an excerpt from Iain DeGuid’s commentary on this first chapter of Daniel. He writes:

 

There is one final note that we must not miss in all of this. The reality for most of us is that when we look at our own lives, we find that we are not like Daniel and his three friends. We are far more like the nameless multitude who were deported along with Daniel, who adopted foreign names, ate the king’s food, and all together became like the Babylonians. In many respects, we are assimilated to the world system in which we live, and our futures are mortgaged to it. So, if the message of this book is simply, “Be like Daniel and all will be well,” then we might as well stop reading now. The more we get to know Daniel, the more we come to realize that we are not Daniel.

The Good News of the Gospel, however, is not simply that God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. It is that a savior has come to deliver faithless and compromised saints like us. Our salvation rests not on our ability to remain undefiled by the world, but rather on the pure and undefiled that Jesus has provided in our place. Jesus Christ came voluntarily into this world, with all of its pains and trials. He suffered far great temptations and sufferings than Daniel did, or than he ever will (Heb 4:15). Yet he remained entirely faithful and pure until the very end, without spot or blemish, and grants the perfection of his obedience to all who trust in him by faith (1 Peter 1:19). What is more, Jesus has already returned from his time of exile ad now sits at his Father’s right hand in Heaven. He has prepared our places there, and his presence there already is our guarantee that one day we will be with him there as his people. The cross is the means by which Gods faithfulness redeems the unfaithful; the resurrection and ascension are the surety of our inheritance in heaven.

Remind yourself often of this Gospel. Fix your eyes on Jesus Christ crucified, raised, and exalted. He has not only pioneered the route home; He is the route home. Trust in him and ask him to work in you a true faithfulness. Ask him to put you in places where you can be a blessing to your community. Be a breath of heavenly wisdom in your home, your school, your workplace. Be constantly dependent on his sanctifying work, looking to him to keep you faithful, not your best efforts to “Be a Daniel.” Finally, long for the day when his heavenly kingdom will invade this earth and bring the fullness of your inheritance.

 

Let us Pray

Daniel 1:1-8 God of all Nations: Introduction and Background

Daniel 1:1-8

God of all Nations

Introduction and Background

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Daniel. We finished up our series through 1 & 2 Timothy, called Life in the Local Church, right before Easter. Today we are starting a new series through the book of Daniel that I am calling God of All Nations.

As you all know, my philosophy in preaching is to go through a book of the Bible, line by line, verse by verse and look at both the immediate context and the bigger picture. I do try to alternate between Old Testament and New Testament books, and I do that, partly so that I don’t just end up going through Paul’s letters and a Gospel every once in a while.

And so, going through some of these other books challenges me and I hope, they will challenge you too. Now, Daniel is unique. It is part Historical, that is where we are going to spend the first long chunk of our series. And It then is part prophecy, that is why, in the Christian Bible, it is placed in the prophets. Because of the prophecies and because of the lens that we view those prophecies in, Daniel can be a very divisive book if we let it be. But we are not going to let it be. Suffice it to say, that we wont all agree on what the prophecies say and what they mean, especially in todays world and with todays current events.

Daniel is also unique in that it is written in two different languages. Daniel 1:1 through chapter 2, verse 3 is written in Hebrew, as is Chapters 8 through 12. The middle section there, chapter 2, verse 4, through chapter 7 is written in Aramaic. Now, Hebrew was the language of the Jews, the language of Israel. Aramaic was the official and the common language if the Babylonian empire.

That leads us to some historical context regarding the book of Daniel. Now, this book was written, despite recent scholarly suggestions to the contrary, in the neighborhood of 530 BC. So that’s 500 years before the birth of Christ. It starts however, back in 605 BC. So, the book of Daniel spans about 70 years.

To understand what happens in 605 BC, we need to go back even further in Israel’s history. Under the Kingship of David and then, his son Solomon, 400 years prior, Israel was more united and more powerful than ever. Then, shortly after the death of Solomon, Israel split into to countries. The kingdom of Israel in the North, comprising of 10 of the 12 tribes. Then there was the Kingdom of Judah in the south, comprising of Benjamin and Judah.

Both kingdoms fell into apostasy, idolatry and general unrepentant sin and divided, they were both weaker militarily and because of the sin, they were subject to the wrath and judgment from God. Israel fell first, to the Assyrian army roughly around 730 BC. Judah lasted another 130 plus years, though they too fell, this time to the Babylonians with various levels of conquership happening between 605 BC and 587 BC.

Daniel was presumed to be around 15 years old in 605 BC when he and his friends, which we will get to in a moment, where captured in Jerusalem and hauled off to Babylon. So, he spoke Hebrew there. And as he lived for 70 plus years in Babylon, serving the courts and the king, he learned Aramaic pretty fluently. Now, there is no consensus, no across the board agreement as to why Daniel was written in both languages.

But the one that makes the most sense to me, that seems to have a lot of traction amongst those who study these sorts of things is that the parts written in Hebrew were specifically being written to the Jews. This would be the introduction, what happened to Daniel and his friends and so forth. This would also include the prophecies in the last half of the book. Obviously, prophecies regarding the coming Jewish Messiah and the coming Kingdom of Heaven, would be much more applicable and interesting to the Jews than to the Babylonians. The middles section, the history of the exiles in Babylon, the dealings of with the various kings and the history during that time would be more interesting to those who spoke Aramaic.

One thing that does not hold merit is the view that because there are two languages in Daniel, that it was written by two or more different people, or at two different times. There has been a lot of skepticism that Daniel was written during the time of the Maccabees and/or by multiple authors, but there is no credibility to these theories. Jesus himself credits Daniel as a specific, historical person who wrote this book in Matthew 24:15. IT just means that there were multiple audiences in view when Daniel wrote it down.

 

 

So, 605 BC rolls around. Babylon has grown big and powerful. Nebuchadnezzar was either co-regent with his father, or all prepped to take over for him when he would soon pass. He defeats Jerusalem and takes many Jews captive and back to Babylon.

That is where the book of Daniel starts, and this is where I want us to start reading. Daniel chapter 1, verses 1-8. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along at home with your preferred translation as well. Daniel 1:1-8, Daniel opens his book, writing:

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and Perfect Word.

 

 

 

Now, one of the first things we see in this book is that Daniel, and his friends, will essentially in modern language, go into Government service. They will be working for the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Christians today tend to have one of two views on situations like this. First, we need to avoid stuff like this and politics and culture are so very toxic that we need to avoid ourselves from it as fully and as completely as possible, so that they can see that we are separated, we are set apart. Second, they say that we need to be a part of they culture and bring ourselves into the culture and politics because its so toxic, and the more we conform to that culture, the more difference we will make.

And yet, Jesus prays to the Father for us that we are to be in the world but not of it. Both of those positions miss a part of what we are called to be and what we are called to do in this world. The truth is that there is a right and a wrong way for Christians to participate in politics. There is a right and a wrong way for Christians to fight for rights, to fight for religious liberties and to participate in civil disobedience. The problem is when we decide on which ways are right and wrong based on our national identities, or our moral beliefs or what we expect to be the practical outcomes of our actions. But the truth is that the only way for us to decided what ways or methods are right and wrong based only on the scriptures, solely on what Jesus, the Word of God says. We are going to see Daniel show us some of the right ways to do this very thing.

But there is a right way and wrong way to read and to approach the scriptures as well. We remember that we are to approach the scriptures just like the Apostles did, and the early church leaders did, and that is to let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament. We don’t insert things into the text. And we rarely can lift the Old Testament up, full block and drop it on to our current context and situations. As Ron Sallee says in our Contenders classes, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.”

We cannot try to affirm our believes by opening the Bibles and reading passages. We do need to let the text speak for itself. We do need to let what we read form our beliefs, not let our beliefs form what we read.

And because of how we read the book, because of what we have been taught, from our parents, from pastors and Bible Study leaders, and from books we have read, from friends around us, and yes, even from the society and the culture around us, whether we recognize it or not, because of how we read the book, we have differences of opinion in what certain parts mean, and we can think that our opinion is not opinion, but fact and is the only biblical thing that it can mean.

Daniel can be divisive. If we let it. But we are not going to let it. Especially when we get to the prophecy section of Daniel. Daniel does speak to the future and to the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. That is unavoidable in the book of Daniel. But that’s not going to be a main focus of this series.

The main focus that we are going to see in Daniel is that, as we see in all the Old Testament books, that all these Old Testament scriptures will be about and point directly to Jesus Christ, the looked for and promised Messiah, the Savior. What does Daniel teach us about Jesus? How does Daniel point to the coming Jesus? What does Daniel teach us about the Kingdom of God and especially how it relates to the kingdoms of men? Those are the main points we will be looking at.

Part of that, but secondary to that, how can we apply Daniel to today and what we are going through in these times. How do we spend our days today living in and serving a kingdom that is not ours? How do we live in and serve a kingdom that is openly and actively hostile to the kingdom that we do belong to? And how do we do so, while continuing to serve the Kingdom of God here and now and continue to do so first and foremost. How do we balance those things, both of which we are called to?

Daniel was taken into exile. He was brought out of his homeland and his home Kingdom and was brought forcibly to serve the Kingdom of Babylon, and he did so faithfully and admirably.

 

If we are in Christ, if we belong to Him, if we can rightly call ourselves Christians, then we are not citizens of this world. Peter calls us sojourners and exiles. We are travelers here, temporarily living in this kingdom, in this world. We are to love, to care for, and to serve this world while we are here, and to do so in the name of Jesus, by the Word of Jesus.

Paul writes in Romans 13:1 & 2,

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Daniel shows us that we can do this while still maintaining our loyalty to Christ and his commands. We can do this while fulfilling our purposes of serving, worshipping, and working for the one in whom we are true citizens of. Christ is our King and we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

That balance is not easy. That loyalty is not easy. Daniels home has been destroyed. His friends and he are conscripted into government service and their names are changed from ones that honor the One true God, to ones that honored the Babylonian Gods. They were taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.

Daniel and his friends were even given new names, supposed by many to assert ownership and possession over them, to attempt to change their identity from those of Gods children to those who belong to the gods of Babylon.

And yet, if our identity is in Christ, nothing can change that. Our identity used to be that of rebel, sinner, and damned. But in Christ, our identity is changed by the one who we belong to. Our identity is changed so that we are now Christs beloved. We are now children of God. We are now saints, citizens of Heaven. Babylon tried to change their identity, to make them forget their true identity, but their foundation in God kept them faithful.

This world will try to change our identity. It will try to make you forget your identity. Try to get you to put any other identity above Child of God, above Saint. They will say that all are children of God. Or they will say that you are still a sinner. They will tell you that your other identities are more important than your identity in Christ. They will tell you that you are American first, Christian second. That was a hard one for me to come to grips with. The world will try to tell us that our political identity is first and foremost. Only Republicans can be Christians or Democrats are loving like Jesus. OR worse yet, when we go against our Christian conscience and vote for someone just because they happen to be our party’s nominee. Remember something, voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.

 

Daniel and his friends were immersed in the foreign culture and they would show us how to stay true and faithful to God in spite of that.

That’s one thing for us to remember. Yes, the culture and society around us may be toxic. It may be actively against what God wants, what He says and what He stands for. It may actively try to corrupt us and bring us over to their side. But there is some redeeming value in some of the culture around us.

We are not called to bunker down, separate from everything except this building and eschew everything around us. We are not called to separate ourselves so far as we don’t have a witness. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to bring the Gospel to the ends of the world, making disciples and teaching them to follows Gods commands. Showing them that We are sinners, that we are not able to be good enough, that there is only one God and that He has perfect wrath and perfect grace. That we are saved by his grace, through our faith in the one and only Jesus Christ, God become man to save us sinners. We have a job and a duty while we are here in this earth and it is to serve and worship our King.

Now, the way that Daniel and his friends were able to be part of this culture and to study their teachings and still stay faithful to God is that they had a strong foundation in their faith.

Studying all of Gods Word is crucial to having that strong foundation. Knowing that Gods Word is inspired and without error is crucial to our studying of it. The more we know of it, the more we can discern. The more we can discern, the more we can discern what is truth and what is not. The more we can discern, the more we can fix our eyes straight upon Jesus, who is our foundation and our stronghold and our sabbath.

 

Let’s go ahead and Pray.

 

 

 

Mark 16:1-8 Easter 2020 Jesus is Alive!

Mark 16:1-8

Easter 2020

Jesus is Alive!

Good Morning! Good Morning! Thank you for listening this morning as we celebrate the single most important event in History. Gods timing is really shining through this morning. And I just want to say that this is usually one of the biggest weekends of the year for churches and I am missing you all right now. As I talk with you all throughout the week, I know that you are all missing being here as well!  But the good news is that we celebrate the LORD Jesus Christ rising from the dead every Sunday, the LORDS Day that we do gather together in worship. And that time will come again, hopefully soon.

This morning, this Easter morning, I want to look at the Gospel of Marks account of The Resurrection. We are going to see Marks focus on the historicity, the historical facts of the Resurrection. We will see that Marks method of writing is to focus on the main points and keep moving. His writings read very quickly, and he doesn’t get down into a lot of the details that the other three Gospels share.

The section that we will look at today is in the last section in Mark, chapter 16, verses 1-8. I am reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to read through from which ever is your preferred translation.  Mark 16:1-8, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Mark writes:

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

God Bless the Reading of his Holy and Inspired Word of God.

So, what we see previously in Mark, is that Jesus of Nazareth, the man who called himself the Christ, the Messiah, was crucified by the Roman Government and this has been historically proven. This week we see what takes place after he was buried. Jesus was buried late on a Friday afternoon, right as the Sabbath was getting ready to start. There was no time to properly take care of, to anoint and prepare the body. So, he was put in the tomb, wrapped in linen and the stone was rolled in front of the entrance to protect the body and the tomb. Here we see that, as soon as the Sabbath is over, the Sabbath lasts from Sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, as soon as the Sabbath was over, first thing early Sunday morning, these ladies came to the tomb to properly care for the body.

We also saw, much earlier that Mary, the sister of Martha and brother of Lazarus had anointed Jesus body days before his death, by pouring a bottle of expensive perfume on him. Jesus said that this was too early but that she had done a good thing. These ladies were on their way to do the right thing, showing respect for their friend and rabbis’ dead body. Their biggest concern as they walked up to the tomb was how they were going to get in, who was going to move the stone from the entrance.

When they get close, they are amazed to see the stone is moved and they were able to get into the tomb! The stone was rolled away. They went in and saw a man dressed in a white robe. An Angel. A real live angel. How can we tell? The Bible tells us. We see the language used to describe angels in the scriptures and especially in the other Gospels. But most of all, we know because of their reactions.

Today, when someone says that they have seen an angel or encounter something like that, it tends to calm, warm, soothing, something along those lines. But we need to remember that the Truth of Scriptures trumps our experiences. Our experiences can be important and shed light on things, but our experiences can be easily misinterpreted by ourselves. It is very easy for us to lie to ourselves, to read into things what we want. But when we look at the scriptures, when we look at the Bible, we see the unfiltered truth. And the truth is that every encounter of a person with an angel we see in scriptures results in an incredible amount of fear and trembling at the sight of the angel. Most of the time, the person falls flat on their face and can barely look at the angel.

In this case, Mary Magdalene does not fall down on her face, but Mark does say that she was alarmed. Now this doesn’t sound too bad in English. “Oh, nothing wrong, I was just a little alarmed.” But what the word means in the original language is more like “to alarm thoroughly, to terrify” or “to be struck with terror.”

The Angel immediately tries to calm her down and explains a little bit about what is going on. Notice the way the angels speak. Again, it is to verify the facts and the historical truth. He identifies Jesus of Nazareth, so there is no confusion who he is referring to, or who the ladies were looking for, that it was not an impostor. Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, confirming that he was actually dead, not just in a coma or passed out.

But if this is the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, where is the body? Why is this angel here? His next words let us know, “He is risen!” His body is not here, this is the ledge his body was laid, and his body is gone. The other gospels tell that the linens he was wrapped up in after death were folded and set on that ledge. The body wasn’t there. And it’s not because someone moved it, or stole it, or anything like that, instead, “He is Risen!”

What does that mean? Why is that important? I’m glad you asked. See, God created everything in Genesis 1. Specifically, he created this world, he created the Garden of Eden, and he created Human beings, Adam and Eve. And it was very good. It was all working just like God created it, in perfect, peaceful, shalom. In perfect rhythm. The way this was all intended to be.

Adam and Eve got to walk perfectly with God, worship him, dwell with him, talk to him anytime about anything. They had a perfect, full relationship with God. The way it was intended to be. Then it all went away. Adam and Eve sinned, brought sin into this world and we are all corrupted, all affected by it today. That perfect, full relationship with God has been broken.        

We have been removed from that walk, that dwelling with God. And we have no way of restoring that relationship. In Genesis 3, after the fall, after sin ruined things, God told Adam, Eve, and Satan what some of the consequences would be. He also promised Adam and Eve that he would make things right. That he would provide a way for the relationship would be restored.

In the Old Testament, God provided temporary restoration with the sacrificial system. An animal had to be sacrificed and his blood shed in order to cover up our sins temporarily. We do not have the power to stay sinless on our own. We are slaves to sin and we don’t have the power or the ability to restore the relationship with God on our own. We need his help. He says blood needs to be shed.

And then, Jesus of Nazareth, was born. He manifested as a man, preexistent as part of the trinity, fully God, fully man. Because of this, he was able to live a human life, be tempted, know the pain and the struggles that we go through each and every day, and yet, because he was also God, he was able to resist that temptation, able to live a life without sin, able to live a perfect life, to maintain that relationship with God the Father.

And because he had no sin to atone for, to shed blood for, to make right, because he had none of his own, he was able to offer himself as the perfect, permanent, complete sacrifice to atone for our sins, to make us right with God. But it’s not a blanket statement that everyone always everywhere ever is suddenly right with God. It is a gift designed to be accepted by faith or rejected by lack of it.

And that’s what it is, a gift. Jesus didn’t have to do this. He didn’t have to make himself human. He didn’t have to be tempted, mock, despised, beaten, betrayed, spit on, and crucified. He could have stayed up in heaven, reigning as God, with the Angels to serve him, lacking nothing, needing nothing. But God loves us. He creates us out of that love. And since he, being holy, couldn’t dwell with us, couldn’t ignore the rebellion that we are in against him, couldn’t look at us with seeing all of the sin in our lives, God wanted to do something. Jesus wanted to restore that relationship. So, this was the plan that they came up with.

We are completely dependent on this gift, on this plan to have any hope to save our relationship with God. We can’t not do anything on our own to help it along. None of our, quote, “Good Works” none of our moral behavior, none of our good feelings, none of our tolerance, none of our anything, plays any part in our salvation, plays any part in restoring our relationship with God.

This gift is called salvation because of what is does for us. It saves us. Without Jesus blood paying the price for our sin, we are destined to be apart from God for eternity. The Bible calls this Hell. It’s not a good place, it’s a place of eternal torment, and fire and every bad thing you can think of, the full, perfect, complete Wrath of God poured out on us. All that we do ourselves cannot get us out of Hell. But Jesus death and resurrection allow us to trade places, leaving a destiny of eternity in Hell, for a destiny of eternal life in Heaven with Jesus. That is our salvation. That is our gift that is offered to us. That is what you need to decide if you will accept or reject.

If you accept this gift, you become a part of Gods family, you become adopted in as one of his children. When we are one of his children, we can never be removed from that status. But that doesn’t fully change who we are, not yet any way. The Bible calls those who are saves, Christians, the Bible calls them saints. But it is also clear that we will continue to slip up, to occasionally sin, to not be perfect.

When God looks at us before the cross, before the resurrection he sees sinner. When he looks at us after the cross, after the resurrection, he sees Jesus blood, not our own righteousness, but Jesus righteousness.

We will continue to have imperfect, human moments. And nothing we do before we become saved, before we become Christians will have any effect on our salvation, won’t help it be accomplished or anything. But what we see in the Bible, after we come to know that Jesus of Nazareth is who he said he was, that he was Jesus Christ, literally, physically, truly, then he gives us commands to follow. Then we have holiness to pursue, then we have disciples to make and then we have a job, to bring the Kingdom of God to right here, and right now.

But none of that matters if we don’t know that Jesus is who he said he is and if we don’t believe he did what the Bible says he did. The crucifixion is what proved that Jesus was human. The resurrection is what proves that he was God. John Calvin said, “the resurrection of Christ is the most important article of our faith, and without it the hope of eternal life is extinguished.”

What hope do you have? Where is your hope and your faith placed? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Christs resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth’s resurrection is simply put, the most important event on history. If it didn’t happen, it he stayed dead, then our hope of eternal life is extinguished, and our faith and preaching are in vain.

But, if the evidence is true, if the historical evidence holds true and Jesus did what the Bible says he did, and he proved that he was who he said he was, than what other choice is there than to put all of our faith, all of our trust and all of our hope in Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Messiah.

I challenge you to look at the evidence, not through scientific eyes, or religious eyes, but through open eyes, eyes seeking the Truth. If you do, you will see that not only is this the most important event in history, but his death and resurrection are one of the most historically documented events as well.

 

And all of this, because God became man to save sinners. I will leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul, writing Romans 5:8-11:

 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

         

Amen, Thank you Jesus.

Let’s Pray

 

 

 

 

Passover Sermon: Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Passover Sermon
Exodus 12 and Luke 22

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me as we open up Gods Word. This is a special week for Christians. Today, the Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and many bystanders laid down palm branches as a way of honoring Jesus. This would kick off the week known as Holy Week. Much of the Gospel stories take place during this week. We are going to especially focus on one of the nights of this week.
Jesus and his disciples met in an upper room on a Thursday night for a dinner celebration. The twelve that were with Jesus did not have any idea that this would be there last meal together. They had no idea that one of them was about to betray Jesus, that he would be illegally tried three times that night. They had no idea that he would die the next day and they had no idea the things that he would reveal to them that night. This was not an overly special week to them, with one exception. All they knew was that it was Passover, and they were there to celebrate.
Today we will take a look at the Passover we will look at a number of different texts, but if you want to open up your Bible, we will be starting in Exodus 12, and then moving over to Luke 22. When I read the scriptures, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in which ever is your preferred translation.
To know about the Passover, to see why it was a celebration and how important it was to the Jews in that time, we need to start in Exodus 12. The setting of Exodus 12 is that the people of Israel were slaves to the Egyptians. God was done with that and was ready to free his people and bring them to the land that he had promised Abram 400 years ago. So, He told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite go. Pharaoh would not so God sent a number of plagues on Egypt to show his power and might and Pharaoh would still not let them go.
So, God decided to send one final plague. A plague that was so harsh, so brutal, that Pharaoh would not be able to stop the Israelite s from leaving. God was going to kill all the first-born males in Egypt. This included all the first-born Egyptian sons. This included Pharaohs first born son. This even included the first-born male cattle. And this was going to so complete and so total that it would have included the first-born male Israelite s, except that God gave them a way out.
Exodus 12 lays out the way out of this plague. Starting in verse 3, God tells Moses and Aaron,
“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers house, a lamb for the household….” V.5, “Your lamb shall be without blemish…”, and picking up in v 7 & 8, “Then they shall take some of the blood (from killing the lamb) and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
OK, so God told them how to eat a very specific meal and to wipe the blood of the lamb on the doors. But it doesn’t yet tell us that God will spare the Israelite s from this plague. But God then goes on to spell it out for them and us.
Starting at the end of v11, “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
God told them to sacrifice a lamb without blemish, and that the blood of that lamb would protect them from the wrath of God that would be poured out on the nation. More on that in just a little bit.
The LORD also went on to describe to the Israelites how they were to continue to celebrate this Passover celebration every year for all the future generations to learn as well.
We pick right back up in v 14, “ This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” and later in v 25, when Moses is telling Israel what the LORD told him about Passover, he shared this with them for the future, “And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (v25-27)
God told the people that this was a joyous occasion, that he had spared them from this wrath and that they needed to celebrate it and teach their kids what had happened. Sometimes, in the church, we forget that our kids don’t know as much as we do about some of these things. We forget that they have not had the experiences that we have. In this case, the children would not have seen Gods wrath passing over the nation of Israel and sparing them. To this day, in the Jewish Passover celebration, the youngest child asks the question and the father then tells the Passover story.
I heard a quote a couple years ago. I don’t remember who it was that said it and I couldn’t find it this week, but they said, “What the first generation knows, the second generation forgets, and the third generation never knew.” What this is saying is that we need to constantly remember to teach our kids, not just church, but the gospel. This was one of Israel’s big problems throughout the Old Testament. Israel would turn to God and experience a revival, but within one or two generations, they were back to worshiping false idols and, as God puts it in numerous places, committing spiritual adultery on him.
God knows all this ahead of time and told the Israelite s that part of this yearly ritual and celebration was to pass the story on to the younger generation.
I also saw a quote recently that reminds just how smart our kids can be. It said, “As soon as we assumed that children were too stupid to figure out what the pastor was talking about, they were” Our kids are much smarter than we ever give them credit for and if we teach them and talk to them as if they are smart enough to get it, they will.

But this is also a reminder to ourselves. How many times, how often do we receive an answer to prayer, a miracle from God and we forget about it shortly after it happened? I know it happens to me all the time. And with big things even. Right after Hope and I got married, I lost my job and was out of work for 6 months. I happened to get placed in a company through a temp agency, and through circumstances that could only be brought about by God, I got hired on full time. Not only was this a job, but this was a job that paid well, and had great benefits. To be completely honest I would have taken a decent pay cut just to have had those benefits. But I would often forget how God arranged all this and I would take it for granted and I would look for other jobs and I would get frustrated there. Then something would remind me.
This is why the disciples were celebrating the Passover with Jesus on this Thursday night. To Remember. They didn’t know that the Jewish leadership was planning on arresting Jesus. Well, one did.
Luke tells is right at the beginning of Chapter 22 that the Jews were afraid of the people and that was why they were looking to put him to death. They were afraid of the people because Jerusalem was packed full of Jews traveling there to celebrate the Passover. Luke tells us earlier in his book, that the religious leaders had trouble coming up with ways to kill him because the people were hanging on every word to come out of his mouth. There was no way that all those people would stand for the arrest of Jesus. They would be whipped into a frenzy. It would become a mob mentality and there would be no predicting what would happen. So, to protect themselves, they would wait until they could encounter Jesus away from the crowds.
Even with the evil in their hearts, their preference was to not do this during Passover. They did it because the opportunity came up and they did it because they could not see who Jesus was.
Jesus revealed himself to be THE Passover Lamb. The New Testament shows us this in many places. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking towards him in John 1:29 and recognized Jesus for who and what he was. He said to himself, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” It wasn’t just that John called him that that made it so. There were many reasons the scriptures point out. Exodus calls for the Passover lamb to be one without blemish. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter says “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
The lambs that were chosen for sacrifice in the Old Testament times were very purposefully to be without blemish. We are blemished, we are sinful and full of defects. We are told that “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) In the Old Testament, we would offer blood sacrifices to atone for our sins. But that was just temporary, we could not stay perfect, no matter how hard we tried. We needed someone who was perfect, who had no sin, no blame. The only person that could accomplish this was a perfect man. The sacrificial lambs were sacrificed in place of us to pay the temporary payment of our sins. Jesus was the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins permanently.
While the blood on the door for the Israelites signaled for Gods wrath to Passover that household, so does the blood of Jesus on our hearts signals the wrath of God to Passover us when stand before him in judgment.
The Passover ended up being the final plague on Egypt. After the death of all the firstborns, Pharaoh wanted them to get out and they left. They were now freed from slavery. In the same way, we are slaves to sin. The New Testament is very clear on this. In the same way the Passover freed the Israelites from slavery of Egypt, Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin.
Now, as I said, the Israelites were commanded to pass along the tradition and celebration of the Passover. We are no longer under the law. On the night of the last supper, Jesus replaced the Passover celebration, and the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But Jesus orchestrated the Passover to be the time when he was going to be crucified. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
What he is saying is that while Jesus is THE fulfillment of the Passover lamb and he secured freedom for us from Gods wrath, that freedom will not become totally seen until we are with God in Heaven.
He replaced the Passover meal with communion. Instead of eating of the Passover lamb, sacrificed and drained of blood, we are to partake in eating the bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, who was THE Passover Lamb and drink the wine which was the Blood of Jesus who was THE Passover lamb.
Instead of celebrating the freedom from slavery every year, we are to celebrate the freedom from sin and the freedom from eternal torment whenever we gather together. But that doesn’t mean that we are to forget. Hope and I enjoy celebrating Passover and Hanukah, some of the Jewish holidays. Of course, it is not required as it was previously, but, for me it helps make the Bible more real. It helps us to remember that Jesus is our Passover lamb. It helps us to remember that his blood allows Gods wrath to pass over us.
We forget that sometimes. If not intellectually than definitely practically. We all have things that become our practical Passover lamb, our idols, our practical saviors. For some of us, it’s that we are a good person. We think that is enough to save us. That was what mine was. For most of my life I figured I was a good enough person and that’s all that was needed. That is one that I still find myself struggling with at times.
For some of us, it’s our good works. If we do, do, do, if we help the poor, if we protest against abortion or homosexuality, the we can outweigh whatever bad we may do on the scales at the end. I’ve heard one pastor describe this as trying to wear the same set of white clothes for eighty years and trying to keep them pure and spotless. And I think that’s a good illustration, but it doesn’t go far enough. Because, even if we were to physically keep the outfit pure and spotless from our environment, we could not keep our sweat, tears, that sort of thing, just as our mind, our heart, our sinful nature has already ruined the outfit. We all have these things that come between us and Jesus.
And the Passover, and communion remind us that Jesus closes that gap. Between us and him. It is not through anything that we do, but through his blood, his love and his grace that are out white outfits stay pure and spotless.
Finally, the Passover is an intrinsically important part of our history. It’s not just world history, or Jewish history or American history. But it’s your history and it’s my history. Its believer’s history. If you are a follower of Jesus, who was Jesus?
Jesus was not a Christian, not in the sense that we understand it. He was not American; he was not white. He was not gorgeous. He was not anything like we picture. He was a plain looking, brown skinned, middle eastern Jewish man.
Most of us spend our time in the Bible in the Gospels and Paul’s letters… We might go through the Old Testament for our daily reading plan, but how often do we spend intentional, studious time in Numbers, or Deuteronomy, or Lamentations, or Joel? Joel is one of the Old Testament prophets by the way…
But what Scriptures did Jesus know? The Gospels weren’t written when he was alive. Neither were Paul’s letters. Jesus had the Old Testament. He had the writings of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. He had the historical books, starting with Joshua and going through Esther. He had the wisdom books, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the like, and he had the Prophets, Isaiah through Malachi.
These are the scriptures that Jesus had, and the Jews had, and they were vital for understanding God, his story and his redemption plan. Now, most of us are not Jewish, ethnically speaking. But Once Jesus came, he followed the Old Testament, and he came as a Jew, to the Jews, and offered them salvation. Then he turned to all the rest of us and we were allowed to receive the gift of salvation as well.
For us to know Jesus better, we need to know who he was, when he grew up, what the culture was. That’s one of the things that The Old Testament does for us. Jesus celebrated the Passover, for us to know Jesus better, to have a better relationship with him, we don’t have to celebrate the Passover, but you have to understand it and why Jesus celebrated it.
My challenge to you, to me, to us, is, are you, are we utilizing all of the resources available to us to understand Jesus better, to grow closer to him.
We have our Bible, are we reading it? All of it? Or just our favorite parts? Are we only skimming it because it’s in our daily reading plan or are we actually reading it? Both Testaments?
Are we praying? This hits a couple of areas. Are we praying for those around us? In our congregation and in our family? Are we praying the list of prayer requests that come in the bulletin each week? What about prayer requests that come in Bible Studies? Or even just your everyday conversation with friends, family, coworkers, and the trials and troubles that come up in their lives. What about personal time in prayer just for you and God. Time to pray, meaning talk to him, listen to him and just be with him.
Are you talking to the people in your life that you can learn from? If you’re not sure who that might be. My phone is always on and my office door is always open. Are you reading or listening to things that bring you closer to God? This could include things on TV, music on the radio, but it includes books about Jesus, in includes sermons online, podcasts, things like that. I’m not saying you have to do all, or even any of these things. If you belong to God, you belong to God, but these are resources that you have, that can help you know Jesus Christ better, help you grow closer to him.

As I referenced at the beginning of the sermon this morning, this week is what is called Passion Week, or Holy Week. Today is Palm Sunday. The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. He was there this week specifically because it was the Passover. Thursday night is when he had the Last Supper with the disciples, the Passover meal, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thursday was the night the Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the Romans and Jewish leaders. He was illegally tried through the night, with false witnesses on trumped up charges, the loudest of which was blasphemy.
Friday he was beaten to within an inch of his life. The beating the Romans doled out was called the half death, because half of the prisoners who received it, died from it. He was then forced to carry his own cross and then crucified on it.
The details are horrendous, and I won’t go into them today, but there was a reason that the Passion of the Christ was Rated R. Jesus died on that cross. He died for me, he died for you, he died for all of us.
And on Sunday morning, he accomplished all he came here to do, by being raised back up from the dead by God the Father and proclaiming victory over death and sin.
This is the most important week in Jesus life. We today tend to celebrate Christmas as the most important date in Christianity. And don’t get me wrong, the birth of Jesus Christ was a monumental moment in history. It was world changing, to say the least.
But then, 30 plus years later, Jesus would have yet another, greater world changing moment. This week is designed by God to be one of reflection. Do you understand what Jesus went through this week? Do you see that what he went through allowed you and I to be passed over in our sin? That his life, and his death, were a fulfillment of the Passover, and that his resurrection made that Passover permanent? Take some time this week, think about it. Reflect on that. How serious are we about our relationship with God? And what are we doing to bring ourselves closer to him?

Let’s Pray

2 Timothy 4:9-22 Life in the Local Church: Relationships Matter

2 Timothy 4:9-22

Life in the Local Church

Relationships Matter

 

                Good Morning and hoping you are all staying healthy and safe and washing your hands! If you would, please open up your Bibles with me to the very end of 2 Timothy. If you are listening at home and you do not have a Bible, there are many websites and apps that you can use to read the Bible from your computer, tablet or phone.

So today, we come to the end of Paul’s letters to Timothy. We come, in fact, to the end of Paul’s recorded letters, period. At some point shortly after this letter, Paul would stand trial before Caesar, be found guilt and history says that he was beheaded at that point.

Paul knew this was coming, and so he wrote these letters to Timothy to encourage, challenge, teach and warn Timothy. Timothy beware of those who are in and will come into the church teaching what is not in and what goes against the Bible. Many will astray. Teach and Preach the Truth. Structure and format the church as it is supposed to be. Stand Firm in the Faith and Stand up to those who oppose you, the Truth and ultimately, God Himself. Our behavior, our faithfulness and our steadfastness during these times and all the way up to the end will be a great testimony to those watching and will be the goof fruit borne from our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our only means of salvation.

So, Paul is done teaching at this point of the letter, though he does have, as with much of his letters, greetings and instructions for Timothy as he closes out his letter.

So, lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, 2 Timothy, verses 9 through the end of the letter, verse 22. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to have in your hands, your preferred translation and follow along, both here and throughout the sermon as we read the Words of God.

Paul, in the last recorded words of his life, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:

Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia,[b] Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. So, I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.[c]

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.[

May God Bless the reading of his Holy Word.

 

Paul knows what time it is. Both of these letters were written when Paul was either imprisoned or under house arrest. He knew ahead of time, as we looked at last week, what the result of the upcoming trial was going to be. And Paul wants to see Timothy one more time before he dies.

One of the things we see with Paul and the progression that takes place over the course of his letters, we can be assured of what comes after this life. We can know that we are going to be with Christ in the kingdom of Heaven and we can be assured of our salvation. We can have a pure trust in Gods perfect timing. We can have true, pure and complete joy, trust and longing to see Jesus and we can be ready to go home to be with Him and yet…

And yet, we can still have things that we want to happen first. We can still have things that we wish could have been different. We can still have things that we wish we could have done. For Paul, one of those things is that he wishes to see Timothy before he passes.   Now, we have no biblical evidence that Timothy did, or dint make it to Rome to see Paul. Personally, I hope he did, but I suspect he didn’t. We can see how much Paul wants this by looking back chapter 1 of this letter where Paul says in verse 4 that he longs to see Timothy.

Now, there are also some that Paul does not long to see. Many deserted him during his previous and current troubles, his imprisonments and what not. Demas is an example. Paul says that he was more in love with this world than the world to come. We have to be very careful of that. Love of this world, and the trappings of it can be very persuasive, very seductive. And yet, what does the wisdom of man, the success of money and influence, that love of human beings have when compared the Glory of the Sovereign and almighty God and all the riches and glory that is to be revealed?

But many choose this world over the next. And then, when the going gets tough, they hightail it away and look for their comforts. I shared the quote a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating here, Voddie Baucham says that there is one way to avoid persecution in this World. All you have to do is compromise.

Jesus, during his parable of the sower, talks about two of the seeds in Mark 4:5-7:

Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.

Jesus explains these two a few verses later, Mark 4:16-19:

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

 

Focus on what is to come. Be aware, respond to and acknowledge what is going on around us. A great example is the pandemic going on around us today. That’s why I put up on the church sign: Be safe, Wash Your Hands, Trust Jesus. To totally ignore what is going on in the world would be, not only irresponsible and unloving to our neighbors, but would be unbiblical as well. But our focus, our eyes are to be on the LORD.

There’s an old saying that you can be so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good. But in reality, that’s simply not true. To be truly heavenly minded, to be focused on the glory of God that will be revealed and focused on the truth and the power and the glory of Jesus Christ, one can’t help to do good here on earth. That is the fruit that will be borne through true saving faith.

But Demas was not heavenly minded, he was very much earthly minded, and he left Paul during his time of need. Left him in the lurch. But Paul also acknowledges that not all who left, did so under poor terms. Titus, for example, left to pastor the churches on Crete, so history tells us.

Paul tells us in verse 11that it is only Luke, his friend, his physician, his travelling partner, who is still physically with him. He has been traveling with Paul for a long, long time at this point. He has been recording Paul’s ministry and his missionary travels, which tuned into the last 2/3rds of the book of Acts. He has been investigating, researching and learning the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, turning into the Gospel of Luke. He has been loyal and faithful to Paul, taking care of him as has been needed.

We talked last week about how we are to finish our race. But one application we can take from these couple of verses is that when others are finishing their race, let us be Luke, not Demas. Let us stay faithful, show loyalty and bring comfort to those whose race is ending.

 

Paul surprisingly asks Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes to see Paul. Mark and Paul were travelling and ministering together early on in Paul’s missions, but they split after a disagreement, causing Barnabas to leave Paul as well. What we see here is that reconciliation either already had, or more likely was going to occur. Paul wanted to make things right while there was still time.

If Timothy never made it to see Paul, then it stands to reason that Mark never made it there either. So, despite Paul’s desire to reconcile, there was not enough time left. Don’t wait until the last minute. Don’t wait until the finality of our mortality weighs on you. Reconcile things with the people you know and love and do it now. You never know if tomorrow will come.

 

We do see that Paul, here towards the end, is still thinking practically as well. In verse 13, he tells Timothy to bring his cloak, expecting to need it during the cold winter that was approaching. He also says to bring his books and parchments. These could be blank parchments, meaning that Paul was planning on writing more letters, continuing to teach and spread the Gospel, or these could be his copies of the Old Testament writings.

Either way, one of the things we see here is that Paul knew the end was coming, but he didn’t know when. He didn’t expect it to be tomorrow. And he was going to keep living, working and studying, right up until the very last minute.

Verse 14 seems to show the opposite of what Paul had to say about Mark. With Mark, there was a separation and then, at least an intended reconciliation, which to me means that there was some repentance, probably on both sides. Here, we see that Alexander the coppersmith did Paul great harm and that there was no repentance, because Paul warns that he will do the same to Timothy if he gets the chance.

I want to point out here a key difference, not in eternal destination, but possibly in heart and potential repentance and reconciliation. Demas also left Paul when Paul needed him.  But Alexander seems to have actively opposed Paul and the message of the gospel. Alexander was more direct and purposeful in his actions against Paul. Demas just seemed to have fallen away, and to me, reading into what Paul is saying, if Demas repented and came back, Paul might be open to reconciliation. It doesn’t seem as if Paul sees any chance of that with Alexander.

And that’s something to remember. There are different levels of involvement that people can have in your life. Not everyone has to have full access to your life. Even in these situations that Paul is mentioning we see a variety of levels of forgiveness or at least potential forgiveness. Mark is back in, or will be, if they meet together. Demas, is not, but there is an open door making it possible. If Alexander were to repent and ask forgiveness, I think we know that Paul would forgive him, but I don’t think, the way I read this, that Paul would open up his life or ministry to have Alexander involved in them.

Forgiveness is required from us. But that does not mean that we have to allow people who have hurt us in the past to be in a position to hurt us again. Forgive does not mean that automatically forget. If you need to keep someone out of your life, even after forgiveness and reconciliation occur, you can do just that.

Now, remember that this is Paul’s second Roman imprisonment and his second trial. He mentions that during his first trial, he was all alone. Everyone had left him. They scattered, though Paul asks that it not be held against them. Why? Because God had designed it that way. He had a purpose.

There are very strong allusions here to Jesus on the cross. The Apostles, his followers at the time scattered and went underground. Jesus was alone during his trials and only John and his mother, Mary were there with Him while He was on the cross. Jesus did not hold this against any of them and welcomed them all when he rose and appeared to them again. Jesus knew that the Father had a purpose for all these things.

Paul was lonely during that time, but he trusted God and now, years later, he could see what God was doing in that situation. I know that right now, things can feel very lonely. We are cut off from each other in ways that we have not had to be before.

Trust that God has a plan. Trust that this will all work together for His plan and His glory. Through all that, Paul says, the LORD never abandoned me. God is clear on this all through out scripture, from the Old Testament on through the New. Joshua 1:9, one of my favorites, says:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

 

And in the New Testament, Matthew 28, the very last words of Matthews Gospel, Jesus says:

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

 

So why did Gpd allow Paul to be put through all this? He used it to spread the Gospel and the name of our LORD Jesus Christ. God brought Paul through all those circumstances to glorify himself. Paul says God brought him through all the tough situations, the hard circumstances and brought him right into His arms and His kingdom. RC Sproul points out that this is “the Ultimate Hope of all who Trust in Christ.” All of this, all things, including our salvation, sanctification, and our glorification, all to the Glory of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

In the last couple of verses here, from verse 19 on, Paul closes this letter how he closes most of his letters. He sends greetings to those around the one he is writing to and sends greetings from those who are around him. Greetings and love to all those mentioned.

And finally, The LORD be with your spirit. Grace be with you. God gives and pours out his grace on us. It is only through his grace that we have faith in Jesus Christ. It is only through his grace that we are saved. It is only through his grace that we have received the forgiveness of sins, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace be with you and the Glory be to God.

There are a bunch of minor points that we touched on this morning, but if you only take away one point from Paul’s conclusion to 2 Timothy, know this, meditate on this, remember this. The grace that is with you is purely from and is a gift from God. And all the credit for all things goes to God. He has a plan; he implements it and all of it is done for His Glory. All the Glory goes to God. We don’t always see it. We may not see it right now, we may not see it in the future, but we have the assurance that God works all things together and nothing, not one single thing will happen in this world without God allowing it to happen. Not one single atom can move outside of the will of God.

What a wonderful thought. What a wonderful reminder. What glorious knowledge that we don’t have to worry about anything. God has this all in His hands.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Let’s Pray.