Daniel 9, pt 1 God of All Nations: A Model Prayer

Daniel 9, pt 1

God of All Nations

A Model Prayer

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me, if you would and turn to Daniel chapter 9. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Daniel chapter 9 is an important chapter. It is a chapter that it is almost impossible to read without bringing preconceived ideas and assumptions into it. The last 4-8 verses are some of the most complicated, debated and unclear verses in all the Bible. No matter where you fall in what those last few verses mean, most commentators agree that these are amongst the most complex verses.

And yet, before those verses, we have an amazing number of verses. The first 19 verses of this chapter get almost no recognition or love. They often get passed over or ignored in favor of those last few, but they are full of rich, deep, theological and encouraging content.

So, we are going to make sure that we don’t pass over them or ignore them, but see what Daniel and God have for us to hear. So, we will start with Daniel chapter 9, verses 1 & 2. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I greatly encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel chapter 9, verses 1 & 2, Daniel records:

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

So, we remember that the first 6 chapters of Daniel were a history of him and some friends in exile in Babylon, a history that spanned close to 70 years. As we started the second half of the book, we have gone back In time to revisit or visit for the first time, chunks of that 70 years where Daniel had a vision form God, or a dream, or an appearance by an angel. And we are going through and looking at those sections.

So today, with chapter 9, we pick up at the same time as Daniel chapter 6. We are in the first year of King Darius’ rule in Babylon, the first year of the rule of the Meads and Persians. And Daniel is going to lay out a prayer that should be the envy of all of us and that we should all strive to emulate. That prayer is likely where we will spend the most time, but that prayer is not where we start, and it won’t be where we end. It is however what sets the context for everything else we talk about.

One of the first things we see here, other than the date, is that Daniel reads scripture. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but it may be a surprise to know what he considered scripture.

Jeremiah was a prophet who ministered from 626 BC till 587 BC. As a frame of reference, David was brought from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC and the Babylon fell to the Meads and Persians in 539 BC, which is when this is taking place.

And so, Jeremiah was not long established in Jewish history as a prophet of God. Instead, he was much closer to a contemporary of Daniel. We have already established throughout this series that Daniel had the Holy Spirit working in and through him. HE was real. And the phrase used today is Real Recognizes Real.

Daniel recognized that Jeremiahs prophecies were truly a word from God. They were scripture. Those who are going to be a part of scripture often can recognize scripture as it is being written.

We saw this in the New Testament as well. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says that Paul’s writings are scripture as well. The internal testimony of Scripture is one of our biggest reasons to trust what the scriptures say and to know that they are in fact, God breathed and inerrant.

So, Daniel recognized Jeremiah as a prophet, oh ya! Who was speaking the Word of God. And he saw in Jeremiahs writings that Jerusalem would be desolate for 70 years.

There are two specific texts in Jeremiah that speak to this. Ill read both of them to you. First is Jeremiah 25:11 & 12, which reads:  This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.

 

And then the context for one of them most famous bible verses, Jeremiah 29:10, in which God declares:  “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

 

Now, we remember that often times, the dates and numbers of prophecies are not meant to be taken completely literally. Sometimes they are round numbers, close to actual numbers, sometimes the are symbolic based on what the numbers represent. And sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above.

If the 70 years of exile started in 605, when Daniel was taken of out Jerusalem and brought into Babylon, (there’s no consensus that this IS when it starts, btw,) then Daniel would have been reading this text and praying the prayer we are about to look at in 539, then 66 years would have already passed. And the point of that is that Daniel new that the point where God was going to restore Jerusalem was somewhat close at hand.

He knew what God had promised. He knew it was going to happen. He knew a general timeframe. There was no doubt. And he would have started to see some of those promises begin to be fulfilled. The Babylonians were defeated. The time was nigh.

One of the common troubles, or temptations that we face as Christians is trying to maintain the balance of knowing and acknowledging that God is completely sovereign and his will will be done no matter what and that tendency and temptation to use that as an excuse or reason to not act.

But we see and hopefully have experienced that reading Gods Word will prompt us to prayer. Seeing Gods promises should prompt us to pray. Yes, even praying for him to fulfill the very promises that we know he will fulfill. As we see those promises start to be fulfilled, as Daniel did, that should not prompt us to relax our prayers, but should increase our urgency to pray.

And so, next we will look at Daniels prayer. This is, in all likelihood, not the prayer that we see that Daniel prayed in Daniel chapter 6. But this was in that same time frame, the first year of King Darius, and it was likely the same type of prayer, maybe the same subject content.

Daniels prayer is recorded in Daniel 9:3-19:

 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us,[a] by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[b] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

 

 

What a prayer! Gods foreknowledge and his predestination, other words for his complete sovereignty are shown by Daniel throughout this prayer. And though God has everything already figured out and determined, Daniel doesn’t sit back, instead he devotes himself to prayer. One commentator says it that Gods sovereign purposes should spark us to act, in both prayer and action. I love how Sinclair Ferguson notes that our prayers in this situation should often sound like kids talking to their parents, continually reminding the parents of what they never forgot, “You promised!”

 

 

Daniel turns his face to the LORD, and he seeks him by prayer. He pleads with the LORD. We are reminded by the prayers in the Bible, that prayers are us talking to God, prayer is not God talking to us. Hebrews 1:1 reminds us that there is only one way that God talks to us today and that is through his Word, the testimony of Jesus Christ who is the Word. This prayer from Daniel is him seeking and glorifying God.

All true prayer should first and foremost seek to magnify God and to humble oneself. That last part is one of the reasons why we see fasting, and sackcloth and ashes are so intertwined with prayer in the scriptures. They are partly to humble us as we go before God. Another part of that is that fasting eliminates distractions and helps us to focus on God much more clearly. It reminds us that our dependence is on God and nothing else.

Daniel has four parts to this prayer. And that’s not saying that all of our prayers need to follow this preset formula or anything like that, but its good to see some of the parts of biblical prayers so that we can utilize them on our own personal prayer life.

These four parts include worship, confession of sin, both individual and corporate, the justice of God and the judgment of sin, and finally, a plea for Gods mercy on our sin.

Prayer needs to start always with confession. Again, this is not referring to a legalistic format that prayer needs to take, but at our heart prayer needs to have as its basis two things. First, we need to recognize Gods, “Godness.” And second, we need to see the covenantal nature of our relationship with God.

When we see these two things in reality, we must see the true nature of our sins. Daniel says, we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have rebelled, we have turned aside from your commands. All different ways of saying the same thing. We sinned.

But God is a perfect and holy God. God has not sinned. He has only loved. He has given us his commands and he has shown us His ways. And in response to him, we have all sinned and only sinned always. Daniel says, we have not listened to your prophets, we have not listened your Word. We have not listened to what you have already told us.

In verse 7, Daniel compares Gods righteousness with our own righteousness. We should be ashamed of our sin. Our sins, the sins of our past are directly responsible for present and our troubles. We are responsible for the consequences of our sins.           Judah and Israel were in exile, Judah here in Babylon, punished because of their sin and turning their back on God and His Word.

 

And yet, just like salvation belongs to the LORD, so do mercy and forgiveness belong to the LORD. We have rebelled, no. We need to call it what it is. We have sinned. All of us. And so, because we have sinned, we are in need of Gods mercy and forgiveness.

Verse 11 reminds us that ALL Israel transgressed, or sinned. Just as Paul tells us in Romans 3, that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. WE all have sinned, and we have all made the conscious choice to sin. And we have all suppressed that truth in our unrighteousness.

Gods wrath and justice are poured out on those who deserve it. Those who have sinned against the Holy God. None of us are worthy of mercy and forgiveness. None of us are innocent. We will revisit that later on.

 

One of the things that Daniel does here that I think is a good habit to get into, is praying scripture back to God. We confirm his word and help us to remember what he has already told us.

 

It is important to remember that it is not our suffering that grants us favor with God. The previously mentioned fasting and sackcloth and ashes do not grant us favor with God or make us more holy. Israel and Judah’s exile and the troubles they were going through in said exile did not grant them favor with God.

What does grant us favor with God is God himself. When we repent of our sins and believe in the truth of Gods Word, meaning the witness of his Son Jesus Christ) that is a gift from God as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2. Gods grace poured out and delivered through faith in Christ.

So, suffering does not grant us favor with God, but suffering does often lead us to the recognition that we need Gods grace and forgiveness and we need to repent. We look around at our lives, at our actions, at our hearts, and at the people and the world around us and we see sin. We see the consequences, the brokenness of our lives and of this world and we see the need to repent and put our trust and faith in someone bigger, greater and stronger than ourselves.

 

In verse 14, Daniel prays what just might be the key verse in all the Bible. He says “the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice” If you take nothing else away from my sermon this morning, remember that verse. It is the basis of everything.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

 

In verses 16-19, as Daniel gets to the end of what we see recorded of his prayer, we see that Daniel is praying for justified wrath and justice that he is pouring out on those who deserve it, he is praying that God turns that into mercy. He is praying for the liberation of and the return to Jerusalem. He has already been told that it will happen.

Verse 18 Daniel again clarifies that we petition, or ask these things of God, not because we are owed anything or because we have earned anything, it is not of our righteousness. No, it is Gods righteousness. IT is Gods Mercy. It is Gods grace and his holy character, his promises that we base our petitions to Him on.

In verse 19, we see the key point that all things are done to Gods glory. Daniel prays that all of Gods actions, Him hearing us, Him seeing everything, Him forgiving, all of it, Do it LORD because of and for your glory.

Sinclair Ferguson tells us that “Daniels ultimate motive for prayer was the glory of God because it was his great motive for living. Daniel clearly saw the need of the people. His praying was clearly people oriented, but it was God centered. The bottom line of his heart cry was “Save your people, LORD, for your own sake,”

That’s where we are going to leave off this morning, looking at Daniels prayer to God. Next week we will look at Gods response to Daniels prayer. Again, a complicated and confusing section. We wont all agree, but we will all love each other and unite under the cross of Jesus Christ.

Israel’s exile would end, but their rebellious heart would continue. All of our rebellious hearts continued. It is only the Holy Spirit rewriting our hearts, Jesus Christ making us a new creation that wipes our slate clean and allows us to be reconciled to God. For now, even as our hearts have been renewed, we still live in this world as exiles, just as Daniel was an exile in Babylon. The day will come when our exile will end. We will get to go home, and we will get to live and serve in the true and eternal kingdom, the kingdom of God.

We get to do that because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Let’s Pray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 8 God of All Nations: Knowing the Future in Advance

Daniel 8
God of All Nations
Knowing the Future in Advance

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 8. As usual, if you do not own a bible or do not have a bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.
This morning we are looking at Daniels second vision as recorded in his book. This vision is going to be different from the first in that this is going to much more historical, more specific and have a more speck and given interpretation.
Because this is going to be more focused on what, for us, is contained in the past, and it may seem to have less practical application. But it was all taking place in the future for Daniel and so we will see two major points that we can take from today. These two points are two major points that we have been looking at over the past number of weeks. There is not anything new in these two points that we haven’t been seeing.
First, God knows the future. He reveals the future in many instances in the Bible, one of the reasons He reveals the future is to show that He is indeed God. And God knows the future because he determines the future. And that leads to our second point. God is in control of all Nations. This is why we have named this sermon series “God of All Nations.” God is not just the God of Israel. He is not the God of only those who believe in Him. He is the God of everyone, everything and every nation. He is behind the rise and the fall of all nations. He orchestrates the rise and fall of all nations until, His Kingdom will be the only Kingdom left and will reign forever.
But back to the first point for a moment. God often in the scriptures “predicts” or prophecies the future, or he unveils specific details of the future that will come to pass in history hundreds or sometimes thousands of years in the advance.
He does this with the Israelite Exile that Daniel is in the midst of here in the book of Daniel. He does this with the birth of Christ. He does this with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And what we will see this morning, he does it with the Greek empire and Alexander the great and another ruler, a type, or foreshadowing of the antichrist.
This vision is going to take a look at this morning in chapter 8 will fill in some of the gaps that were left in the 2 and 3 kingdoms of last chapters vision.

So, let’s go ahead and read the first part of Daniel chapter 8, we will look at the vison first, verses 1-14. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 8:1-14, Daniel records:

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some[a] of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression,[b] and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me,[c] “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

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

So, we are moving around in time again, as we pick up 2 years after the vision in chapter 7, before the events of chapter 5 take place. Remember that unless it is specified otherwise, rarely do the events of the Bible take place chronologically. We can get ourselves into trouble when we read through certain sections and try to take them chronologically. The other keynote is that Chapter 8, starting with this vision, is where Daniel switches back to Hebrew from Aramaic. There are some ideas as to why, though no consensus, but on surface level investigation, it seems to have to do with whether Daniel is addressing Israel or the nations as a whole.

Now, onto to the vision itself. Daniel saw himself, not aside some general sea, as he did before, but in a very specific location. This helps show that the vision is not in general about the future, but about specific events to come.
Daniel saw two animals. The first was a ram with two horns, the second horn being bigger than the other. This, we will find out, represents the Meado-Persian empire that was conquered Babylon and that Daniel was serving at the end of the historical section of the book. This was the empire symbolized by the bear in the vision in chapter 7.
One of the things we see with the two horns is that the horn that came second was bigger and stronger. Historically, this is quite accurate for the Meads and the Persians. The Persians came along second but were much bigger and much stronger than the other part of the alliance. This is also possibly alluded to in the bear where it says that he was raised up on one side.
The Meads and the Persians would come from the east and they would be all powerful. None, not even the all-powerful Babylon could end up standing against the powerful Ram with two horns.
Then, we see a goat coming from the west. He is not touching the ground, a reference to his great speed and striking power. Out of the goat was a great horn, representing a great leader. And they demolished the Ram with two horns.
In reality, this big horn would become Alexander the Great, whom he mentioned briefly last week. He became exceedingly great and he conquered the know world at the time. He only ruled for 10 years, dying young. And it only took him 4 years to crush the great and mighty Persian empire. But His empire did not last long. The Great horn was broken, to be replaced by four little horns. Out of one of those 4 horns, a little horn grew that is what much of our focus will be on this morning.
This horn, out of the four horns that had come up would be an evil and powerful, a cunning and ungodly ruler. He would wag ware on God and terrorize the Jews. WE will get into more specifics in a little bit, but he would deface and make unclean the Temple and he would put an end to the sacrifices for 2300 days.
Now, there is a lot of unknows about this number, including whether its literal or symbolic. There are no exact matchups in terms of time frames and dates matching, that we know of. Iain Duguid suggests that is a significant but limited period of suffering. I concluded that it is either symbolic or God has not revealed to us the exact fulfillment.
We see in verse 12 that it will be because of transgression that this ruler will be able to do the things that he does. Some see this as the ruler himself is transgressing by doing what he is doing. More likely this is the transgressions of Gods people that cause him to raise up this ruler and allow him to do his evil, for a time.
So, a lot of what we see here, a lot of the details that Daniel sees we will touch on after we read the next section, the interpretation of this vision, verses 15-27. Daniel continues:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat[d] is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his[e] nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

All right, so we see again that Daniel doesn’t understand what he just saw! Now, yes, he understands some of it, and he will understand the big points. But this should be a big neon sign reminder that most often, WE WON’T UNDERSTAND PROPHECY AHEAD OF TIME! Please, let’s all remember that.

But the arch angel Gabriel comes along. Gabriel, who is only named here in Daniel and in Luke chapter 1, is going to interpret this vison for Daniel.
First, when is this vision for? Verse 17 tells us this is for the time of the end. This means the end of a time. This does not mean the end of time or the “end times.” This is the end of the time that is prophesied about in this chapter.
The Bible has a lot to say about the end times and the end of time. But just because it says a lot about that doesn’t mean that we should think that everything is about then. What happens is that Christians often end up looking like kids on a long car ride, continually asking God, “Are we there yet?” We will get there, there is no question about that, but we are not there yet, and only God knows when we will be.
This vision is not looking a few thousand years into the future. It is looking a few hundred years into the future. This vision is looking to the end of the Greek empire and the reign of Antiochus IV and there should be no less amazement at that just because the timing is different.
Gabriel identifies the ram with two horns as the Meads and Persians as we already looked at a few moments ago. Then he identifies the Goat as Greece. It has the great horn, which breaks. Then four horns grow out of it. Four kingdoms come out of the Greek kingdom.
The Greek kingdom is divided between 4 of Alexanders generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. It is out of the Seleucid line that this other little horn will grow. None of these will be as powerful as the first, as Alexanders rule.
But at the end of the time of the Greek empire a King arises who would become a type, a foreshadowing of the antichrist. Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. His power and his authority would not be his own we see in scripture.
Sam Storms comments on this, saying, “is an allusion either to God’s providential role in putting him in place or a reference to Satan’s energizing presence in his oppressive rule.”
It could also be both. Either way, he gets a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going throughout history. Satan was using this ruler to wage war on the people of God, and through them God himself. God ultimately is on control of all these things and allowed it to happen for a season and for a purpose.
The Jewish people have faced a lot of persecution over the years. When the persecution under Antiochus took place, it was by far the worst they had seen yet. I mentioned earlier that he ended the sacrifices in the temple for 2300 days. HE replaced the high priest with one of his own and then later had the real one assassinated. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.
In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.
He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.
More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings. At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through Gods grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

As Gabriel finished up the interpretation of the vision, he told Daniel to seal it up, for it refers to many days from now. Duguid points out that to sela up is not to keep it a secret, but instead Daniel is to keep it safe during turbulent and troublesome times.
And this vision does take place many days from then. The time that Daniel received this vision was somewhere in the 550 BC range. Alexander the Great reigned and conquered from 333-323 BC. Antiochus IV ruled from roughly 171 BC till his death in 163.
Daniel obviously would not live to see the fulfillment of these visions and prophecies. Daniel, as we all are, are in time. We are a part of time. We go along in our lives in a chronological time flow and we can’t do anything in regard to that. God however is outside of time.
He created time. He is in the future, he is with us here today and he is with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and everywhere and every time in between, all at the same time. Time is more like a movie film, the actual film itself, spread out in front of him where he can see all the scenes all at once. So, these prophecies and visions where he “predicts” events hundreds and thousands of years in advance should not surprise us. It isn’t surprising him after all.

In the last verse if the chapter, we see that Daniel was sick over what he saw in these visions and that he didn’t fully understand it. Remember this is the guy who understood and interpreted two dreams by Nebuchadnezzar and the Handwriting on the wall (though that event would not have happened yet when Daniel got this vision). My point is that if anyone would understand this vision, we would expect Daniel to. Again, we are not going to understand all of or even much of the prophecies that we are looking at in Gods Word.

But Daniel wasn’t going to harp on and get down on himself based on what he saw. He had work to do. He had his life to live. He had to get up and continue on about the Kings business. I love the dual meaning here. First, Daniel was working in service of the King of Babylon, who was Belshazzar. That was his job and he had served three kings up till this point with at least one more to come. But this also alludes to out going about Gods business. He is our King and we serve him above all and any others.
God has put us here and now for a reason. For such a time as this, as Esther is told. One commentator says that to go about the business of our king is to “serve the culture with all the Ability that God gave us.”
And this is my big takeaway from Daniel chapter 8. We learn and we read, and we see these things going on around us and going to happen in the future and much of it is terrible and terrifying. And the end result will be glorious and will be worth it all. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And those are super important things because they will help answer the big question. What does that mean for us here and today?

Sinclair Ferguson says this: Daniels attitude illustrates an important biblical principle: In view of what the future holds, we must live holy lives now. He caught a glimpse of realities that would take place centuries later. These events were shadows of the last conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world.
He continues: How then shall we live? Passage after passage gives the same answer: Do the Kings business, walk in obedience, live in holiness, purify yourselves as He is pure.

God has called us for here and now and he has promised that he is coming, and he has won. But he has warned us that our focus should be on Him and today.
The other question I ask as I read this chapter is What was the purpose and reason for God sharing this vision he had given to Daniel?
Sone, I believe is to show the true nature of good vs evil. We see this vision, including some of the behind the scenes parts so that we would take spiritual warfare seriously. We remember that Paul writes that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but powers and principalities. Sinclair Ferguson says that this vision gives insight to the nature and causes of the conflict. We see the true nature of evil and how far it will go to try to win. As one theologian says, evil Finds attractive what is offensive to God precisely because it is offensive to God.
The other thing I think we see here is the consistent pattern of opposition that comes against the work of God. We see Antiochus trying to eliminate the sacrifices made to God. And he did for a stretch. We see that Satan was doing everything he could to eliminate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We see the desecration of the Temple of God by Antiochus. Today, we look around and what do we see, desecration of the temple in every sense of the word. Our bodies, giving in to every lust, ever temptation, every desire. Houses of God slandering the character of God, dismissing his word, deceiving and preaching as true what is false and evil. And Jesus Christ himself, dismissed as a fairy tale, as a good moral teacher instead of God, instead of the Messiah and the savior that he is.
We see lastly, the weakness of even the greatest and strongest of men. None can do anything, none can rule anything, none can live, without God. We have seen throughout this book that Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius all ruled their kingdoms because God allowed them too and set them up to rule. We see today the rule and reign of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes are allowed, determined and set up by God, well ahead of time.
This isn’t just our physical lives either. Spiritually we are born dead into sin. Spiritually we are born dead and will remain dead unless and until God intervenes. And our God is a good and loving God who of course knew this ahead of time and God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit put into effect their rescue plan. The Messiah coming and redeeming us. Saving us by Gods grace, from the wrath of God. His blood shed, the penalty of sin, paid. Death defeated. We are then saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
And that salvation is what allows us to live the life that God has called us to live as we wait on the coming of Christ. We focus on and find our fulfillment, not in waiting, but in doing what God has called us to do, serve him and his kingdom. To use our gifts for his glory and the glory if the kingdom. To love our neighbors as our selves and to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Todd Friel has a Christian radio program called Wretched Radio and I’m going to steal his sign off call this morning before praying. Every day at the end of his show, without fail, you hear him say, Now, Go Serve Your King!
Let’s Pray

Daniel 7 God of All Nations: Gods Kingdom Forever

 

Daniel 7

 

God of All Nations

 

Gods Kingdom Forever

 

 

 

          Good Morning! Please Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Daniel chapter 7. If you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

 

We have been reading through the book of Daniel in a series we have been calling “God of all Nations.”  We are gong to see why again today. Chapter 7 of this book is both a transition chapter and a connective chapter. The historical part of the book is over. The story of Daniel and his friends time in Babylon is over.

 

Now, we are going to go start in the prophetic or the apocalyptic section. God shows Daniel a series of visions that both show some of the future and some of the behind the scenes things about the eternal, victorious Kingdom of God.

 

It is important to keep, at the front of our mind, that these visons and dreams are necessarily symbolic and utilize a lot of imagery that stands in for reality. We need to be careful to not interpret some of this symbolism and imagery into things that God never meant it to be.   One Bible teacher makes the point, “The text cannot mean what it never meant.”

 

Many commentators and theologians will make a lot of specific interpretations of these things in the visions and dreams. Some of them may be right. Most of them will be wrong, or at the very least, incomplete and out of context.

 

And don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to figure out the details and identify the real-world side of the symbolism. But it is to say a couple of things. First, be careful. Don’t read things into the text that are not in the text. Second, ask yourself, what is the Bible trying to communicate with this text? Third, and most important, is this bringing closer to and focusing more on Christ? Or is this distracting me and taking my focus off of Christ?

 

We will get more into some of those things during the sermon, but as we continue, there are some more tidbits we need to recognize as we continue on. Daniel chapter 7 is still being written in Aramaic. This is the last chapter that will be written in that language before switching back to Hebrew in chapter 8. This helps bridge the book instead of only being slit in to two different and distinct sections, almost like they were two different books.

 

There are also a number of correlations between Daniel chapters 2 and chapter 7. We will get into many of these, specifically and especially the four kingdoms that are mentioned and represented. 

 

Last thing before we jump into the text, our goal when reading the Bible is to figure out what God is saying to us. Not what we want him to say, or what we think he should say, but what he is and already did say. There is a reason that one of the first rules of theology, which simple means Study of God is that we don’t build our doctrines off the cloudy and the unclear. We build our doctrines off what the Bible says crystal clearly. We build our doctrine on what the Bible is most clear on.

 

Ok, so Daniel chapter 7. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Versions and I greatly encourage you to read along in your preferred translations as we read Gods Word. I’m going to start with verses 1-9 and we will walk through this chapter.

 

Daniel 7:1-9, Daniel records

 

 

 

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared,[a] “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.

 

 

 

 

 

          All right! So, we go back in time, back to between chapters 4 & 5, to the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. And God sent Daniel dreams and a vision. This vision starts with four winds from heaven blowing over the great seas. The sea, in the Bible, was often a symbol for great turmoil, chaos or of sinful nations.

 

Out of the seas, four beasts rose up, one after another. Each one was different from the last. These are snapshots of these beast coming out of the sea. And these four beasts are almost universally considered the same 4 kingdoms that were in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Daniel interpreted back in Daniel chapter 2.

 

The first beast that came up was like, that’s a key word for us to remember, especially in prophecy and apocalyptic literature. But this beast was like a lion with the wings of an eagle.  This was represented Babylon as the greatest empire of the time. Babylon was often represented by lions in art from that time. And one of the things we see, starting with the first beast, with Babylon is that these empires and beast get their power and authority and success directly from God, not from within themselves.

 

The second beast is like a bear. This bear represented the Medo Persian Empire. Now, we don’t have much time to get into the historicity of this empire, if you like history, read up on them. Its fascinating. It really is.

 

Now, this bear like beast was raised up on one side. This has been said to mean anything from its up on two legs and ready to pounce, or it could be the difference in the power dynamic between the Meads and the Persians, to any number of other things.

 

The bear had three ribs in its mouth and was told to go and devour. Now, many try to attach special significance to these three ribs and what they represent. I tend to agree with the theologians who give no special significance to the number three, that there are no people, nations or whatever to be identified by these ribs. It looks to me like this is a sign that the bear is hungry and ready to go devour, to conquer many nations, to feast on power.

 

The third beast that rises up is a weird looking leopard with four wings and four faces. This would be the fast acting, fast moving Greek empire under Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world and was then dead at 33.

 

The fourth beast is one like no other. We don’t get an animal to compare it to. It was dreadful and terrifying. This is the Roman empire. It came up and assimilated all the other kingdoms. One Kingdom to rule them all.

 

Here we see the infamous 10 horns, with one little horn pushing out three of those 10 horns. A lot of people will look towards future or current fulfillment of this here. They will see end times and antichrist allusions here. And they are likely right, but many also insist on trying to identify every single one of the horns here and I think that’s a mistake.

 

As we are going to see later in this chapter, the identities of these horns are not vital to understanding what God is communicating through this vision. It can be useful to study and speculate, but more often, what I have seen is that it takes our eyes off if Christ and instead, puts too much trust and fear into todays current events.

 

What we have seen here is that this vision builds with four successive kingdoms building, conquering each other and ending with one kingdom ruling the known world. Iain Duguid simplifies this point, summarizing the begging part of the vision, saying, “The vision declares that our world is being run by a succession of fearsome monsters that will go from bad to worse, each one more frightening than the one before.”   

 

Daniel’s vision continues in verses 9-14:

 

“As I looked,

 

thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.

 

11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

 

13 “I saw in the night visions,

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

And here we are introduced to the Ancient of Days. Father God himself. Contrasted with the chaos and the energy of the four beasts coming up out of the sea, God is patiently sitting on his throne, waiting for the fullness of time. He is never surprised; He knows all that is happening and will happen. He is in control of all the world and all their kingdoms.

 

He is seated on a fiery throne and is surrounded by and worshipped by so many multitudes, reminding us of the scene is Revelation 5 and Revelation 7 which show all the saints surrounding the throne in heaven.

 

The fourth beast is struck down, showing that he too is under the sovereign control of the almighty God. Duguid again comforts us, saying, “The purpose if the passage is not to give us nightmares but to calm our nightmares.”

 

In this vision, after we see the Ancient of Days on his throne, we see one coming like the Son of Man. This is of course Jesus Christ. And he is presented by God with the throne and the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He comes down on clouds. This is important because in the Old Testament, only God is shown to come on the clouds. So fully God, and like the Son of Man, appearing as a man, Fully Man. This is Jesus Christ.

 

His humanness here is contrasted with the beasts we just saw. Jesus is the fulfillment of man, who man was supposed to be. Where Adam failed and severing our relationship with God and condemning us to a life of sin, Jesus succeeded. He lived a sinless life, earning our redemption, accessed through the Grace of God and through our faith in Christ. Jesus redeemed us, restored our relationship with God the Father and defeated death and sin.

 

This is not referring to the Second Coming of Christ. This is referring to his first coming. His entrance into this world. This is referring to him getting the keys to the kingdom. Jesus himself said, in his earthly ministry, that the kingdom of heaven is here. And he earned those keys with his life, death and resurrection. Then with his ascension, he went back up to heaven and was seated on the thrones and is ruling over the kingdom at this very moment, as we speak.

 

This is an everlasting kingdom. A kingdom that rules over all other kingdoms. This kingdom will never be destroyed and none who are citizens of this kingdom will be left behind.

 

Babylon rose and fell.

 

Persians rose and fell.

 

Greeks rose and fell.

 

The Romans rose and fell

 

But the Kingdom of God will rise and will not fall/ Gods kingdom remain forever.

 

 

 

We finish up this chapter with Daniel 7, verses 15-28, where he writes:

 

 

 

“As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me[b] was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So, he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

 

19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.

 

23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,

 

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’[
c]

 

28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”

 

 

 

These visions understandably make Daniel nervous. He wants to know what all these details mean. See? Daniel is a man, just like us! We are not alone. I know that’s the interesting part to many people of these stories, these visions. And so, Daniel walks up to an angel that is standing there and asks him to interpret this vision.

 

Notice that the angel is not concern with identifying the kingdoms, who all the horns were or who the beast is/will be. Instead his focus is on what God has made clear. To me, verses 17 & 18 are the key points to the entire chapter, maybe even book.

 

Everything else is interesting, but this is the main point. Christ became man to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. The general gist of this vision is what’s ultimately important and we all have to agree in.

 

Then we also that the saints of the Most High will also receive their portion of the kingdom. Paul tells us in Romans that we will be Co heirs with Christ.

 

Daniel essentially says, I don’t care about that! Yeah sure, I know the general stuff. I know that things are going to end up working out in the end. That the other kingdoms are going to be knocked down by you and will end up pointing towards you as the ultimate ruler. But I want to know the all the intricate, unknowable, cloudy, unclear minutia and details.

 

This is what we often do. James made sure to point out that Elijah was a man, just like us. The same holds true for Daniel as we see in this section, making him much more relatable.

 

 

 

The angel answered Daniel and essentially told him what we already knew. He says that the fourth kingdom will be widespread and super powerful. He mentions the 10 horns and the three horns and says they are rulers of kingdoms. I read this and I see these numbers being used as specific, symbolic numbers like scripture often does. 10 being a number for completeness. Three being a significant portion of that 10 and one coming out of them to be the ultimate leader and ultimate representative of sin. This one will blaspheme God; he will persecute believers and he will change laws of the land.

 

Many try too hard in my opinion to make specific correlations to these 10 horns. A specific example is a number of years ago, when England joined the European Union, this made it so that 10 countries were a part of it. Many saw that this was triggering end times events.  

 

But we need to be careful to not be too literal in places where God does not mean or the text to be literal. Sinclair Ferguson makes this point, saying:

 

Such anticipations of fulfillment of the details of visionary teaching may be fundamentally mistaken. It would be like looking for exact doctrinal equivalents to the Fathers kiss, the robe, the ring, and the fatted calf in the Parable of the Prodigal Son., or the donkey, innkeeper and the coins in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is to fail to grasp the genre of the passage whose details do not have on to one equivalent. Where details of the symbolism of the vision are not given further weight, the symbolism probably has general significance. Where that symbolism is underscored and elaborated, then it is fitting that we pursue the matter further.

 

 

 

And so we see that there are details in these visons that God does want to us to think on and investigate, but he, nor the angel interrupting this vision give any indication of the identities of the leaders that these horns represent, nor does he give any indication that they are specific individuals, or specific kingdoms either.

 

Now, it is commonly understood that the little horn that supplants the three other horns symbolizes the end, ultimate antichrist that will rise up. God will give him power and authority for a time, times and a ½ a time. We saw the same phrasing with Ol Nebbys mental issues, when he was made to be like the beasts of the field for 7 times. Many assume that a time equals 1 year, though we have no biblical evidence for this. If this happened to be true, the little horn would be in power for three and ½ years.

 

We know from 1 John especially that there have been, are and will be many antichrists in the world, who will come against God and his people. Gods people spend a lot of time trying to identify them and dig them out. This little horn will be the apex of evil in the world. He will be the culmination of all that is being built to in the world today. He will be what brings the world to that point where it was right before the Flood, where God has determined the time for his coming back and when he will put an end to all these things. As Ferguson says, “The Ancient of Days will bring all this activity to a halt with his righteous decree.”

 

Again, the important aspect of this, Gods rule reigns. His Kingdom prevails. His saints will rule. His kingdom will rule forever over all other kingdoms. Eventually every earthly kingdom will fall away. When that happens now, another one rises up to take its place as a world superpower. Eventually, there will be no more and only Gods kingdom will stand.

 

 

 

Daniel says in verse 28 that this vision and the thoughts associated with it alarmed him and his color changed. He was concerned for what the future holds for Gods people. This vision is a picture of Gods church through history and it is a warning that we would know that hard times and persecution would be coming. But it is also an encouragement that God will bring us through it and will and is in fact already victorious over sin and death. Sinclair Ferguson wraps things up well, regarding the ultimate purpose of this vision and this chapter of the book of Daniel.

 

The overarching concern of this chapter is to focus our attention on the age-long conflict between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. Just when Daniel is anticipating the deliverance of the kingdom of God from its oppression in the form of the return from exile, he learns an important lesson: This conflict is endemic to world history until the end. Rather than decrease, it will be perpetuated until it reaches its zenith in the ferocious blasphemies of the Little horn.

 

 

 

And yet, and yet in all this, we go back again to verse 18, But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

 

The affect this had on Daniel was to pray for the future saints and what they will be going through. So too should we. We look and see what fellow believers are going through around the world. And we need to occasionally focus on that, instead of always focusing on how that persecution will be coming for us. Pray for fellow believers and future believers and what they will have to go through. Pray boldly and powerfully, knowing that the end is already achieved and determined by the power and sovereignty of God. Look beyond our present situation, look at church history, look at the church’s future and look at the good and bad for both. The good infinitely outweighs the bad, because God himself is pure good.

 

Things can and will be tough. This is not meant to downplay that. But the cure for the disease has already been administered. Now we wait for the symptoms to cease. God is God. God is powerful. God is sovereign. And God wins in the end. What an encouragement to not eliminate the tough times, but to help get us through them.

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

]

 

Daniel 6 God of All Nations: Daniel Ends Well

Daniel 6

God of All Nations

Daniel Ends Well

 

          Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel, chapter 6. So, During the whole shutdown thing, we started a series through the book of Daniel that we are calling God of All Nations. This was the overall theme of the book, that God is the God of all nations. He is sovereign over everything single thing in this universe. He is King over all people and nations even if they don’t believe so.

The first half of the book of Daniel, which we finish up today, is key parts of the life of Daniel and three of his friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. Even more than that, we are seeing parts of their lives in exile, away from their home in Jerusalem, captured and put into service in the kingdom of Babylon, and now, as of the last verse of chapter 5, the Medo-Persian Empire.

Babylon defeated Jerusalem and brought Daniel and his friends over to Babylon when he was roughly 15 years old or so. He served and gained the confidence of Nebuchadnezzar, probably his son, and then Belshazzar briefly, again, as we saw in Chapter 5. He is in his eighties at the point where the events of chapter 6 are going to take place.

We have seen over those almost 70 years, God work some amazing miracles to the rulers of these empires, and we have seen him prove that he is the Most High God. These unbelieving rulers have even declared that the God of Israel, the God of Daniel is a god above the other gods. You can obviously see there that there is not necessarily a saving faith, that God is not the exclusive God, but one of many gods. But it is saying something that they would see him as the greatest of the gods.

So, in Chapter 5, we saw the Babylonian empire fall and be taken over by the Medo-Persian empire and Darius the Mead was installed as ruler of Babylon.

I think that is all the pertinent information we need to jump back into the book of Daniel, and we will read and look at chapter 6 this morning. We are going to start with Daniel 6, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel 6:1-9:

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

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

 

May God Bless the reading of His Word.

 

So, Darius becomes the ruler of Babylon and he starts to set up his government. He sets up different regional leaders called Satraps and he installs 3 vice presidents, or governors, three supervisors above the regional leaders, under only Darius himself. Daniel was one of those three supervisors.

Daniel’s reputation preceded him, and he continued to live up to that reputation of working hard, being completely honest and incorruptible. HE quickly rose above even the other two of the supervisors and made quite the name for himself. The text shows exactly what we have already seen Daniel do time and time again, and that is that the credit for all the Daniel was able to do was all because of God. The text gives credit to an “excellent spirit” in Daniel.

Daniel was doing such an impeccable job that Darius was going to set him up over the entire kingdom. All signs point to this being very similar to Joseph in Egypt, where he was technically not the King, but he was in charge of everything, answerable only to the King himself.

Now, of course, the other supervisors were totally jealous of Daniel. They wanted to get rid of Daniel. They didn’t do as good of work. They were typical of most politicians, both then and today. They didn’t want to put in the work. They wanted to get more out of the job, with the perks and the benefits, than they put in. Daniel wasn’t like that and it made them look bad.

So, they attempted a smear campaign against Daniel. Only there wasn’t anything about him to smear. They couldn’t find any transgressions. They couldn’t find any legal reasons to get rid of him. He was, in the words of 1 Timothy 3, above reproach.

And so, because they weren’t able to find any reasons to get rid of him, they had to make them up. They knew that the only thing that would cause Daniel to break a law of the kingdom is if it meant breaking a law of God. His loyalty to the King was under only his loyalty to God.

SO, they concocted this idea. Hey king, we all agreed. Let’s make it so that, for thirty days, no one may pray to or make petitions of the gods from anyone but you.

What they were doing was sinister. They were implying that Daniel was aware of and approved of the plan. They were appealing to the Kings pride and King and politician’s natural nervousness about their power base. This was not a religious law being passed, not in intent anyway. This was a way for King Darius to solidify his standing as the new King over Babylon. It was a way for him to consolidate his power. He would be the sole mediator between the people and the Gods. Of course we know what Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5,  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, But the satraps were tempting Darius with the very thing the serpent said to Eve in Genesis 3:15, saying, you too will be able to be like God.

 

          And of course, the punishment for anyone who betrays the King and doesn’t recognize his power and authority will be thrown to the lions. As was common in those days, in many of the cultures, once the king made a law, it was nearly impossible for that law to be changed or revoked. And so, Darius signed the decree and made the law into effect.

I want you to notice something about these satraps that plotted against Daniel. These were men who portrayed outward holiness and godliness. They acted as if they were serving the King and being public servants. But inside they were bitter, grumpy, their hearts were cold. The King didn’t see through it right away. When we encounter people like this, we can often not see through the outer façade right away. But eventually we do. When we look to see who people truly are, we can eventually see through the mask that people put on. These men, and so many today, even inside our churches are wearing a mask of godliness and yet they are mean spirited, they are deceitful, they are passive aggressive, and they take offense very easily.

We also must be careful not to be this ourselves. Things that are obviously easier said than done but start with not taking offense when others say something or do something that hurts or goes against you. We were discussing part of this Wednesday morning, but we are all human beings and none of us is perfect. Over the course of our lives, everyone in here will do something to everyone else in this room that will hurt, or will say something they shouldn’t have, or in whatever way sin against them. Our ability, through Christ and our duty is to forgive and move on. If someone sins against us, guess what, its entirely likely we also just accidently (or even more rarely, on purpose) sinned against Someone else.

Guard your hearts, not against others in this room, but against growing cold, bitter and distrustful. Guard your heart against taking easy offense and against shutting itself off from those around us.

 

 

Let’s continue with verses 10-18:

 

 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

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

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

 

So, of course Daniel is put into a tough situation here. And what we are seeing is wave after wave of spiritual attacks coming against Daniel. Attacks from the enemy on his faithfulness and his perseverance. This is spiritual warfare, against powers and principalities. And Daniel has been putting on his armor of God. In Ephesians 6, where Paul lists out the Armor, he ends it in verse 18, saying praying always in the Spirit.

Daniel has been fighting these battles for almost 70 years now. We see another battle here. But one battle does not the war make. One thing we see often in scripture is that the temptations that the enemy slings at us grow stronger over the course of our life walking with Christ.

We see for example Jesus, who was tempted in the dessert right after his baptism. He was able to refute those temptations with scripture and go on. He faced a more ultimate temptation when he was faced with his impeding death. He prayed the night before, Father, if there is any other way, please take this cup from me.

The stronger our faith grows as we walk with Christ longer, the stronger the temptations need to be. The same temptation you get right after you respond in faith to Christ is nothing after you grow. The temptations grow and change as well. One commentator wrote: past faithfulness was not meant to be compensation for present unfaithfulness, it was preparation for more faithfulness.

When Daniel found out about the Kings decree, there was likely to be a temptation. We see Daniels normal routine. He went up to his open-air room, where he faced Jerusalem and he prayed to God three times a day. It likely was tempting to at least pray inside, where no one could see. It may have been tempting to adhere to the temporary law so as not to cause any trouble.

Daniel knew that the exiled Jews in Babylon time was coming near to an end. Jeremiah prophesied that the exile would last 70 years. Daniel knew that time was coming, and he clearly would love to go back and see his earthly home once again. But he clearly also had the same heart and attitude as Paul, who wrote in Philippians, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Daniel did what Daniel does. He went straight home and started praying and he prayed just as he always prayed. Now, we all know how easy it is to get distracted when getting ready to pray. It could have been quite all day, but suddenly, the phone starts ringing off the hook. You could have been bored all afternoon, but you start praying and your To-do list starts flowing through your head. There’s a knock at the door. All the kids decide to jump off furniture and kill themselves all at the same time. Whatever it is, it always happens.

Daniel is showing us that we should focus on and surround ourselves with the things that drown out those distractions and help us to focus on God. One of those things in his case was his home city of Jerusalem. There is no way to think that this is a mandate or that his prayers were better or better received because he was facing this city, but he was able to focus on God and to focus his prayers better by doing so. Find those things that work for you.

Now Daniel wasn’t trying to hide, but neither was he trying to virtue signal. He was doing exactly what he had always done. And he started by praying thanksgivings to God. Its easy to pray our requests to God. Its easy to pray our questions. But especially in our tough situations, it can be hard to pray thanksgivings. And yet, that’s exactly what we should be doing.

I saw this JC Ryle quote this week. He said: Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to life. How a man can live and not breathe is past my comprehension. How a man can believe and not pray is past my comprehension too.

Again, Daniel was nothing if not predictable. He went and prayed just like he always did. The satraps knew he would and made sure they witnessed him praying. They went straight to the King and again, in their holy language, straight ratted Daniel out to Darius.

The king was greatly distressed at this. He did not want to throw Daniel in with the lions. He knew Daniel. He could trust Daniel. And know he realized that he had been tricked. He saw that the true purpose of this decree was to get rid of Daniel, not to honor or serve him. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to not throw Daniel in with the lions. But ultimately, he had no choice.

Daniel was thrown in with the lions. One of the things we see throughout the book of Daniel is that God does not save us from trials, but instead he saves us through our trials.

Darius regretfully sentenced Daniel AS he put him in, he prayed that Daniels God would save him from this death. Darius genuinely hoped God could do it, and I think genuinely thought God could do it. Its hard to see if he thought God would save Daniel. But that is at least a kernel of what might develop into faith.

Darius went right to his room and spent the night pacing, worrying, waiting. Let’s read the rest of the chapter, verses 19-28:

Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So, Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

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

As soon as the day broke, Darius ran down, moved the rock from the cave and yelled, Daniel? Has your God saved you? And He had! Daniel was just chilling down there; I picture him lying against one the lions.

Now, notice this. Darius was the King. He had every possible earthly luxury. Anything he wanted was at his disposal. But he was going against God and he had a miserable night. He was uncomfortable, irritable and had no peace. Daniel on the other hand was operating in Gods Will. He was thrown in a cold, dark, damp cave with a bunch of meat-eating lions, likely kept hungry for times just as this. But Daniel spent the night in Peace. He was much more comfortable and had a much better night than Darius Did. This is the power of the Hoy Spirit.

Daniel responded to Darius that he was indeed alive, and that God had sent an angel down to close the mouths of the lions. Hebrews 11 also says that is was the faith of Daniel that closed the mouths of the lions. Daniel was declared righteous in front of God and he had not done anything bad against the king.

The King was exceedingly glad and brought Daniel up out of the pit. The King was not glad about the satraps and those who conspired against Daniel, however. He threw them and their families down in the pit and the lions reacted quite differently, pouncing on them before they even hit the ground. Justice was swift and severe. And of course, we know that Darius was not able to control the lions. He didn’t decide that they would eat the officials and not eat Daniel. God decides what happens, not us here on earth. God is in control. He is supreme and sovereign overall things, even whether the lions do what lions do.

Darius then follows in the footsteps of Ol Nebby where he decrees that all his people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel and he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

 

And isn’t that what we have been hearing all book long? Especially and specifically that his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall. Darius and the Medo-Persians had just risen above and watched and caused the fall of the Babylonian kingdom. But the Kingdom of God will last forever.

We don’t see here a clear profession of saving faith by Darius here, we see that he acknowledges God as, in the words of Nebby, the Most High God, but not as the exclusive and only God. But we also don’t see the hedging that was apparent in Nebbys praises. So, we are left to wonder about the eternal destination of King Darius.

Daniel however finished well. He stayed faithful until the end. He was faithful in his work, his service, his living in his life regardless of the administration that was in charge and regardless of what was going on around him.

Daniel was the epitome of Matthew 5:16, where we are called to let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. We are to be salt and light to our world around us.

We don’t know anything about Daniels life after this. Did he make it back to Jerusalem? It seems unlikely. But the early church recognized the same truth we know today that Daniel himself and the book of Daniel are all types and foreshadowing the coming Christ. Just as Daniel was an exile, looking back to his true home, and Hebrews 13:14 tells us, for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

In all this, in all scripture, it is to be used to look forward towards Jesus. HE is the fulfillment of all things Bible. There are so many things that we see clearly are types and prophecies of Jesus, but there are so many more that we don’t realize. Iain Duguid writes on this regarding Daniel 6, saying:

Like Daniel, Jesus was falsely accused by his enemies and brought before a ruler, Pontius Pilate, who sought unsuccessfully to deliver him from his fate, before handing him over to a violent death. Like Daniel, Jesus was condemned to die, and his body was placed in a sealed pit so that his situation could not be changed by human intervention. Jesus trial went even deeper than Daniels, however. He did not merely suffer the threat of death. He went down into death itself. Although Jesus was innocent, he suffered the fate of the guilty ones. There was no angel to comfort him in the presence of God in his pit. On the contrary, he was left in the blackness, utterly alone and abandoned by God, suffering the fate that we, the guilty ones, deserved.

 

In the end, our ultimate verdict, whether ourselves or Daniel, is not based on our actions, our goodness or our obedience. Our verdict is based solely on the grace of God, given through our faith in Jesus Christ, all to Gods glory, above and everything else. Amen. If you have not repented and believed the Gospel, if you have not trusted and turned to Jesus Christ as your salvation, now is the time. IF you have, you, like Daniel are a citizen of an eternal kingdom that is to come as we live and serve as exiles in this kingdom today. May our lives, actions and faithfulness be salt and light to the lost world around us.

 

Let’s Pray.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Ambassadors for Christ

 

 

 

          Good Morning everybody! If you would, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We are just going to take a few minutes today to look at some scripture. This is intended to be more of a short devotion or maybe a sermonette, than a full sermon.

What I want to do is show you one of things that I’ve seen over the past 2 plus months. I have seen a lot of Christians fighting and tearing each other apart over what’s right, over what’s wrong, and over how they think we should respond and react to the wrongs going on in the world around us.

And my point is not going to be that one way is clearly right or that one way is clearly wrong. I’m not here to say that one method or one decision or one reaction is clearly right or clearly wrong. I think there is a lot of leeway for Christian Liberty here.

But with the passage I’m going to share this morning, what we will see is that in all times, in all circumstances, in all situations, that we are to model Christlikeness to all people.

Its easy to forget that, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard than this world adheres to. Actually, kind of the point is that we are all held to the standard, but we acknowledge the eternal truth and reality of that standards, whereas no Christians do not recognize the authority of God to set that standard.

We are not held to the standard of the world. We are not held to the standard of society and culture. We are not held to the standard of America and the Constitution even. We are held to higher standards than that. We are held to harder standards. WE are called to die to our selves daily. We are called to bear our cross.

We are called not to respond to people and groups in the same way that they talk to us, how they act to us, or how they treat us. We are called to the standard of Christs righteousness.

This is a foreign concept to much of the world. This is a concept born of the flesh. The prevailing instinct is to treat others how they treat you, or worse, and often, before they get a chance to.

 

 

Every single life, every single human being is born in the image and likeness of Christ. This goes for Americans and non-Americans. This goes for Democrats and Republicans. This goes for Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. This goes for liberals and conservatives. This goes for black, white, brown, red, yellow, purple, green, polka dot and chartreuse.

Every single human life on earth is created in Gods image and likeness. This is the entire basis and the entire and full foundation of our pro-life position. If we do not believe this, we have no right to say anything is regards to the whole sale slaughter of millions of unborn babies.

Now, born in the image and likeness does not equal a child of God. It does not mean that all are saved. That is reserved for those who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

But we are not called to only be nice and to only treat well other Christians. We are called to treat every single human being in this world with the same dignity and respect that we want others to treat us with and the Bible does not give us any exceptions. We are to remember that our battle, our war is not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm, against powers and principalities.

That brings us to our text this morning. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 16-21. In this passage, Paul writes:

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

 

So, we start with Paul showing us that our duty is t treat others around us with Christs Spiritual standards, as opposed to the worlds physical, fleshly standards. We used to live, believe in and act according to those standards. We are born into those actions and beliefs.

But God… Remember, what I considered one of the greatest truths of the Bible. But God, through his grace alone, delivered through our faith alone in his Son Jesus Christ alone changes us. It brings us out from death to life. It changes us from the inside out. It changes our heart. It changes our identity and it changes our nature.

We are then New Creations. We are now reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ. Once we are reconciled to him, we are new creations, the old identity is gone, though habits, temptations and actions will remain.

Charles Spurgeon, in one of his devotions says: In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active and loses no opportunity of employing all the weapons in its deadly arsenal against newborn grace: while on the other hand, the new nature is always on the lookout to resist and destroy its enemy.

 

          When we are new creations in Christ, the change in us should be clear and noticeable. And when that happens, we have one single job to do. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ, Ambassadors on the behalf of the Kingdom of God.

We speak and share the official position and official view of the kingdom of Heaven. Now what we want the official view to be. Not what we think it might be or should be. But we are a conduit. We are to funnel the Word of God to the people who need to hear it.

We present and announce what our King has already decreed. We do not make laws. We do not determine official positions. We share Christ and he crucified. We Preach the Word and We Love the People. We fulfill the Great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the Christ has commanded.

Jesus Christ is our King. He is reigning today, here and now. He is not waiting to reign. He reigns now and forever. There is no waiting for tomorrow. Christ is King. And he will be our savior if, by Gods grace we put our faith in his son.

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

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,

Jesus says, repent and believe in the gospel.”

So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

These are the Words of Christ, written down in the Bible you hold in your hand, that is accessible to so many, so many more than ever in history. He is our King; He is our savior. We literally owe our eternal life to him. He does this free and clear, nothing we can do to earn it or to influence it or to cause it or to bring it to bear.

Jesus does, however, tell us, after we are saved, we have certain responsibilities. Top of that list and I think summing up all the others is that we are to be Ambassadors of Christ and all that this means. I encourage you to reflect on this. To think about what it means to be an Ambassador.

How are we supposed to act? IS it how we have always been taught? Or is it more complex and nuanced. How influenced are we by our family, our society, our culture, our nation, our history, our morality, our nation? Or are we influenced by the Bible, the written and inerrant and inspired and sufficient word of our King, of God himself, creator of Heaven and Earth, creator of the universe and the ultimate authority of all that is?

 

 

Now, Speaking of Jesus as our King, He was more than that as well. He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis and no matter when our first week back was going to be, we were going to celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

Daniel 5:1-31 God of All Nations: The Night Babylon Fell

Daniel 5:1-31

God of All Nations

The Night Babylon Fell

 

Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 5. As you are turning there, as you have all hopefully heard, this is my last week of online only sermons. We are opening back up, next Sunday, June 7 at our regular time of 10 Am. Finally, we get to come back together and worship the LORD together as a church family.

But in the meantime, Daniel chapter 5. The era of Nebuchadnezzar, Ol Nebby, is over. We start off here seeing his grandson, Belshazzar is in charge. And we are going to see the continuation of the main theme that we see in this book, That God is sovereign.

He controls kingdoms. He raises up rulers and he tears them down. Romans 13 tells us that all rulers in government were put there specifically and purposefully by God. Nebuchadnezzar was not unique. God has his hand in the reign of all rulers and kingdoms.

And we don’t know the eternal destination of Nebuchadnezzar. I myself am doubtful that he trusted in the God of Daniel, the one True God and his God. But he was teachable. And he did acknowledge Gods power and sovereignty. We look today at someone who was not teachable.

This chapter takes place, we know, in 539 BC. Historically we know this because 539 is the year that the Babylonian empire fell to the Meads and Persians. The city was, in all likelihood, already under siege at the point this chapter takes place, making the decisions made by Belshazzar all the more curious.

So, before we go any further, we will go ahead and read the first section of the Daniel chapter 5, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to grab your own Bible, in your preferred translation and follow along as we read Gods Holy Word.

Daniel chapter 5:1-9, Daniel records:

 

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

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father[a] had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

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

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

The first thing we see, in the midst of the Persian siege against the last stronghold of the Babylonian empire, is that Belshazzar throws a massive feast, a great party. WE see in him shades of the rich young ruler in Luke chapter 12. Nothing else matters to him expect his riches, his persona, what others think of him. Belshazzar is going to be the perfect epitome of when Jesus warns us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

And he does sell his soul, while blinding himself to the reality around him. His city was falling. His empire was crumbling, and he was eating, drinking and being merry. And that was not enough for him either.

In verse 2, Belshazzar decided to take his rebellion against the Most High God up another notch. He called for the golden vessels that were taken, by Nebby from the temple in Jerusalem and he called for them to be brought to him as drinking vessels.

They were symbols of the Jewish religion and they were symbols of God himself. And anyone that thinks that Belshazzar didn’t know what he was doing, Paul tells us in Romans 1,  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

          This act by Belshazzar, using these vessels as regular china, getting drunk out of them, and toasting and praising a variety of false gods, this was the ultimate act of sacrilege, of disrespect and of blasphemy. This is the kind of thing that you would expect God to act against. This is the kind of thing that you want to step a few steps away from him because you just know God is going to smite him with a lightning bolt any second know.

 

 

And God does act. In a way we might not have expected. In a way that is so uniquely Him. A human hand appears and writes on the wall in front of everyone. Belshazzar has failed the test. He has, as we will see coming up, weighed in the balance and found wanting. As Iain DuGuid points out, the Babylonian gods failed here too.

HE writes:

Belshazzar praised his gods of wood and stone and gold and silver, ascribing to them glory and honor, yet his gods couldn’t keep the LORD’s messenger from disturbing the peace of his feast. Nor could they keep him safe from the Medes and the Persians. It may have seemed to the Babylonians that when they defeated Judah and destroyed the temple, they were thereby triumphing over Israel’s god as well. However, as the book of Daniel unfolded, it became clear that the reality was that Israel’s God could effectively defend the honor of his sacred vessels and the lives of his faithful servants, while Babylon’s gods were impotent.

 

Belshazzar did not know what the words said that were written on the wall, but he knew that his gods did not do it. He knew that they were judgment against him. We see how scared he became. His color and his face changed. Some of the original language seems to imply that he lost control of his bodily functions. He was shaking. Because he knew that it was a judgment against him, he needed to know the exact meaning of what was written.

And this was as close as he came to channeling Nebuchadnezzar. We something happens and scares you, who you gonna call? Chaldeans! Wisemen! Enchanters! Astrologers! Ghostbusters! Oh, wait…

Anyway, they came quickly, and they were, once again, offered high status and riches, possibly even becoming the third in line for the throne, to the one who could interpret these words for the Belshazzar.

Now, this part is completely just my imagination, but this is how I picture this playing out. Between the fact that the city was under siege and the fact that Belshazzar was not being as brutal and was not as respected as Belshazzar, the wisemen may not have taken him too seriously. I picture responding something like, “Sorry, don’t know, can’t help.” Maybe sounding bored with the whole situation. That’s probably not how it happened, but that’s how it played out in my imagination.

 

 

However, they responded, it reinforced his fear, as we see again, his color changing, he was shaking and showing all signs of being afraid. What is he going to do now?

We will continue with verses 10-16:

 

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

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

 

 

So, right when Belshazzar is at his wits end and doesn’t know what to do, the Queen comes in. Now, we know that this is not Belshazzar’s wife. WE saw in verses 2 & 3 that the wives and concubines were there at the feast as well. This would have been the Queen Mother, a woman of High power, high standing and with authority in the kingdom. I speculate that this was likely either Belshazzar’s mom, or his grandmother, who would have been Nebuchadnezzar’s wife.

She is quick to compare and contrast Belshazzar with Nebuchadnezzar and not in a positive light on Belshazzar either. She quickly reminds him of what he would have already known. See, there’s this guy, named Daniel… or Belteshazzar if you prefer, and he is the spirits of the holy gods. He kind of has a history with interpreting messages from the Most High God. Why Don’t you give him a call…?

 

We see that Daniels reputation preceded him. He would have been in his 70s or 80s at this point. He epitomized what Paul would later put down as one of the requirements for an elder in 1 Timothy 3:7, where” he must be thought well of by outsiders.” We are going to see that Daniel not only has a good reputation going into this, but he is going to live up to it as well. That should be a challenge to each of us. Do outsiders and those that are around us think well of us? And do they have good reason to? Do we live up to that view they have to us?

Belshazzar brought Daniel in and kind of gave a combination of flattery and skepticism when he welcomed him. Or maybe it was skepticism trying to masquerade as flattery. I’ve heard this about you…If you prove it, I will give you riches, power and status. He offered Daniel the same rewards he offered to the wisemen before him.

 

 

Daniel responds and interprets the writing on the wall in our last section, verses 17-31:

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

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered[g] the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed[h] in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”[i]

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

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

Maybe I’m reading onto this, but it seems that Daniel has no use for Belshazzar. He says, keep your gifts and keep your rewards. I don’t want them. But I will interpret what’s going on here.

Now, Daniel has accepted the rewards that Nebby, for example, has offered to him. And yet, he dismissed what Belshazzar is offering. We have lots of theories, but no for sure answers.

Was the difference the person offering.

Was the difference the scenario? That Daniel knew Babylon was falling?

Was it to show that the gifts of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit cannot be bought? We see this with Simon the magician in Acts chapter 8 as well.

I suspect that the first is the biggest factor here. There doesn’t seem to be much honor within Belshazzar and there doesn’t seem to be much respect for him from the people around him. This is a big difference between how people treated and respected Nebuchadnezzar and how they did with Belshazzar.

As we have seen in the last number of chapters, Nebuchadnezzar was not a perfect man. Not even close. He had to learn lessons the hard way. He had to learn the hard way who God was. He had to learn the hard way about Gods sovereignty, his power. He had to learn the hard way that God was the Most High God. He was humbled severely as we saw last chapter, and this was a man a King who had, from man’s perspective, a lot to be proud of.

Daniel says, You, Belshazzar, on the other hand, you already should have known. You already should have remembered the lessons that Ol Nebby had to learn the hard way. You have not humbled yourself and there is nothing for you to be proud of. And tonight, tonight was the last straw.

The words written on the wall are Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Literally, numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.

 

Mene; God has decided to bring your kingdom to an end. God has numbered the days of every kingdom that raises up in this world both in the past and in the future. God has numbered the days of the Babylonian kingdom and those numbered days are over.

 

Tekel; You have been weighed in the balance and you have been found wanting. You don’t measure up. All those things that you thought would balance the cosmic scales, they don’t add up to a hill of beans in Gods eyes.

Belshazzar and so many of us, we trust in ourselves. We have an elevated sense of self worth and pride. We think that we are good enough to rebel against and thumb our nose at the Most High and holy God and to get away with it. We think that Gods holiness demands nothing of us. That we can live it up today, that we can do whatever we want, that we can do our own thing, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, that we can do it all ourselves.

We think if we do enough good, be nice to enough people, live moral enough lives, protest against bad things, follow the rules of society, give to enough charities, that we can outweigh the sin in our lives on those cosmic scales. And there is no truth to any of that. It is a lie that sends people to hell.

 

 

Parsin; Your kingdom is divided. It is now out of your hands. It is being given to the Meads and Persians. God decides who is in control and he decides who takes over and who gains power and who loses power. God decided that it is time for the Medo Persian empire to rise and tonight is that night.

 

Well, none of that, obviously was what Belshazzar wanted to hear. But he knew, he could tell Daniel was telling him the truth. He gave the rewards that he promised to Daniel, whether he wanted them or not.

That very night Belshazzar died at the hands of the Meads and Persians. Babylon fell. Gods words were proven true. Darius the Mead, whom we will look at next chapter takes over.

Now, If Belshazzar had praised and trusted in the True God instead of his Babylonian gods, he likely would not have died that night. Now, don’t get me wrong, God does not play the Quid Pro Quo game. He does not give because he got. We don’t earn anything. We do not work enough to earn anything. But God does take care of and have mercy on those who believe in him, who trust him and him alone and who offer their full praise up to him and him alone.

God showed mercy to Nebuchadnezzar. He gave no mercy to Belshazzar. And his reason is simply because he said so. OF course, there’s more to it than that, but there doesn’t need to be more than that. God knows what he is doing and why and he is in control of all of it.

God shows the ultimate mercy on those who trust in him and his Son Jesus Christ. Many stories in the Old Testament point towards Jesus with the people we see. Daniel is of course one of them. Moses, Joseph, David, so many more have attributes that are partials of the ones that Jesus has in perfection. But we also see Jesus clearly in the opposites of some of the people we see, including Belshazzar.

Iain Duguid lays out Belshazzar as an anti-type of Jesus. Writing:

 

In contrast to the Kingdom of Belshazzar, which is weighed in the balance and found insubstantial and wanting to be divided among the enemies, there is the kingdom which God has established in Jesus Christ. Ironically, Jesus had none of the outward glitz and glitter for which the world clamors so loudly. He had virtually no possessions and relatively few followers. He had no outward beauty or majesty to commend him, appearing on earth as a humble carpenter, not as a mighty emperor. Jesus never had the resources to throw a star-studded party for a thousand of his closest friends, though he did brighten up a banquet that he attended by turning water into rich wine. His kingdom is not of this world.

          Yet when Jesus life was weighed in gods balance, it was found to be perfect and complete, able to satisfy fully the demands of Gods holiness, not just for himself but for all those who come to God through him. His great banquet awaits us in the future, at the end of time; on that day, in place of Belshazzar’s nobles, there will be thousands of Christs saints in attendance upon him- all those who have washed their robes and made them clean in the blood of the Lamb. At that banquet there will be no place for our pride or for toasting our achievements: rather, every single person who is there will confess freely that they have been saved by God’s grace and purified by God’s mercy. On that day, there will be no unseemly interruptions of the banquet: God’s rule will be established forever and ever. His kingdom will not be divided and given to his enemies: on the contrary, it is formed of a people who are made one in Christ.

 

Powerful and encouraging words of the reality to come. IF you don’t know Jesus Christ, if you have not repented of your sins and believed the Gospel, if you are trusting in your goodness instead of Christs perfect righteousness, now is the time to turn to him and to move from eternal death to eternal life. Salvation belongs to the LORD and today is the day of salvation.

If you do know Christ, if you are washed by His blood, if you have submitted your life to His Word, His commands and His will, if you have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, then rejoice, that banquet that Duguid mentioned is waiting for us, as one in Christ, as one family in Christ, co heirs of the eternal kingdom of heaven where God will be praised and worship for all of perfect eternity.

 

Let’s Pray.

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 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.

 

 

 

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