Archive for June, 2016

Daniel 8:1-27

Daniel’s Vision of a Ram and Goat

Wow! Daniel who gained quite a reputation for explaining God’s vision is baffled by his vision in this chapter, Chapter 8. Because it is a vision of future events, there is really not much in it that I can extract from it that compares to personal experience so let’s go straight to the text:

 

8 In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. 2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.

 

5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6 It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. 7 I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. 8 The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.

 

9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people[a] and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

 

13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”

 

14 He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”

The Interpretation of the Vision

 

15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”

 

17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,”[b] he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.”

 

18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.

 

19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.[c] 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.

 

23 “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

 

26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”

 

27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.

 

 

For some background to this mysterious vision that baffles even Daniel, the great interpreter of dreams for Babylonian kings, lets identify some things (literary credit goes to the footnotes in my Chronological Life Application Study Bible):

 

  • Susa was the winter capital of the Babylonian empire’s government. It later became the capital of the Medo-Persian empire after it conquered Babylon. Susa was a well-developed city both militarily and culturally. It was the location that the first set of codified laws known to man was found (the Code of Hannurabi).
  • The two horns were the kings of Media and Persia who had a confederacy of sorts that worked together to overthrow Babylon and begin establishing their own empire. The longer horn represents the fact that Persia was growing stronger while Media was growing weaker as time progressed.
  • The goat represents the Greek empire of Alexander the Great. At the time of this vision in 551 BC, Greece though culturally significant was not yet even close to becoming a world power. It was only under Alexander the Great, the military genius that he was, that Greece became a world power. Because of his military genius, Alexander conquered much southern Europe, the Middle East, northeastern Africa, and southwest Asia in swift order. It was during Greek dominance of the Middle East that the Greek language became the language of commerce that continued to exist in the time of Jesus.
  • Although Alexander may have many greater exploits in him, he died suddenly at the age of 31 at the height of his power. His vast kingdom was then eventually split up into four separate kingdoms under the four highest ranking generals under Alexander. Ptolemy ruled Egypt and Palestine. Seleucus ruled Babylon and Syria, Lysimachus ruled in the Asian provinces, and Antipater ruled southern Europe and Greece. These are the four horns.
  • It was under Ptolemy that he appointed Antiochus IV as the ruler over the Jerusalem and it is Antiochus who appointed himself the High Priest of the Temple. He then proceeded to place Greek idols in the Temple of God. This is the abomination of desecration that is referred to by Jesus in Matthew. A further fulfillment of this prophecy will occur under the Anti-Christ at the end of all things (see 2 Thessolonians 2:4).
  • The 2,300 days refers to the time between Antiochus’ desecration of the temple until it the temple was restored to proper worship under Judas Maccabeus in 165 BC.
  • The time of the end refers to the whole period from the end of the Exile to the Second Coming of Christ. Many of the events described would happen under Antiochus will be repeated on a larger and broader, maybe even worldwide scale, just before the Second Coming of Christ.
  • The fierce king has an immediate focus in Antiochus but also has a end times pointing toward the time of the Anti-christ.
  • The Prince of princes is God Himself. No human power could defeat the king whom Daniel saw in his vision but God would bring him down. Antiochus eventually went insane and died in Persia in 164 BC and God will ultimately defeat the Antichrist at the end of time.

 

The thing that continues to be hammered into my head about the dreams and visions is that things will get worse before they get better. We will live through times where it will be tough to be a Christian. We see that happening all around us all the time. It is easy to be a Christian in America even now compared to the rest of the world. Persecution is a real thing for most Christians around the world from being cut off from family, from being economically discriminated against, from being imprison and even being killed for being Christian. The time will come in America that we will be silenced and even imprison and maybe even murdered for our beliefs. It will come. Mark it.

 

However, one thing God promises is that there will be an end to it all. He is holding back from bringing an end to the world to give everyone the last available opportunities to turn to Him. Meanwhile, man continues to turn his back on God and descending into further self-indulgence and idol worship. God is being patient but at some point, the Father’s patience will run out. Time will be up and Christ will return.

 

That brings us to two points that we must remember. First, we are safe in Jesus’ arms. We are secure in our fate. Regardless of if we die right now, we are safe in His arms. If the world ends right now, even though things will be pretty doggone horrible, we will be safe in His arms. The second thing is that it calls us to evangelism. God is being patient but we must tell the world that there is something better than this world and its self-indulgence and recklessness. The fact that there is an end of times that we, according to Jesus, must be ready for at all times should spur us on to evangelize the world. It’s not something we should be putting off. The world could come to an end at any time. Do you really want to put off having that conversation with those people that are in our spheres of influence?

 

We are safe in the Lord’s arms but our job is to make sure as many who will listen are safe in His arms also.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 7:1-28 (Part 3)

Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts

 

When I began thinking of today’s blog, a song that jumped into my head was the song, “The End of the World as We Know It” by the alternative rock band of the 80’s and 90’s, REM. It was a catchy little tune. Some of the lyrics went like this:

 

Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped

Look at that low plane, fine, then

Uh-oh, overflow, population, common group

But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself

World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed

Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right

You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light

Feeling pretty psyched

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

 

It was a fast paced song that was unusual for the era in which it was released. That was what made it popular I guess. Preoccupation with the end of the world as we know has been an obsession of man throughout the centuries, practically since the beginning of recorded history. In every society, we have some form of end times reckoning. Some type of closure to the existence of the world and mankind as we know it now. Some conjecture that the Judeo-Christian Bible simply has borrowed from pre-existing cultural notions about the end of the world as we know it. However, it is my conjecture, based on what Paul says in Romans 1:18-25, that we have all known of the one true and we are without excuse. We are all created by God to worship. We often chose and have as entire societies turned away from what is the One True God. But that does not take away the fact that He designed us. Therefore, we are all wired to understand that there is an end to all things. As Rachel Green once said on Friends, “…and that my friend is cloooosure!” So throughout history, man has created his own ideas of the end times.

 

In this increasingly complex political, economic and cultural climate of the 20th and 21st centuries there are many who believe that we are end the end times predicted in biblical prophecies. Even though who are far from God are intrigued by the prophetic end times messages of Daniel, Revelation and other end time prophecies in the Bible. As Americans, we see ourselves as a never ending world power and thus many of the prophecies of end times out there involve the United States being a central part of the end times prophecies and it might be true. Who knows? According to Jesus Christ, only the Father knows. Only the Father aspect of the triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) knows. However, it does not stop us from conjecturing what the role of our nation will be if the end times are upon us within the next few generations of human existence. Here are some the ideas out there. From www.endtime.com, I found that the four beasts represent:

 

By examining this prophecy, we know this vision of the ten-horned beast hasn’t come to full fruition and that the other beasts represent nations that already exist.

 

 

 

  1. Daniel’s lion = England, whose coat of arms carries three lions. The eagle’s wings removed from the lion represent the United States, which we know separated from England during the American Revolution.

 

  1. Daniel’s bear = Russia, whose national symbol is a bear.

 

  1. Daniel’s leopard = Germany, whose Leopard tanks have been used predominantly in European armies since their introduction in the 1960s.

 

    We can understand the four heads of this leopard by remembering that Germany’s Third Reich historically attempted to gain world dominion during World War II, and that the Fourth Reich is emerging in our time.

    The leopard Daniel saw also had bird’s wings, which represent France and its national symbol of a rooster. France and Germany have not only collaborated on the design of Leopard tanks, but both countries are also founding members of the European Union.

 

But what is the fourth beast? It must be some form of world government, the last kingdom to be established upon the Earth. In Revelation 13:1-2, the Apostle John depicts Daniel’s four beasts again, now combined into one: a beast that is part leopard, part bear, and part lion, with ten horns.

 

 

  1. Daniel’s conglomerate beast = a world-dominating kingdom that will include Germany, Russia, and England. Since Daniel sees that the leopard is given dominion, we may also surmise that Germany will be the dominant nation in this world government. The new horn that emerges and dominates three others tells us this government will be controlled by the Antichrist.

 

Since the United States is not mentioned in the future prophecies of the Bible, we can assume that we will be one of those kingdoms that comes and goes that are mentioned in the Bible. We will become less of a world power at some point and maybe even become one of the ten kingdoms that is ruled by the rise of a charismatic Anti-Christ figure who will consolidate the world’s fragmented power when the end times do come. One thing is for certain, we are destined to become less influential than we are now and there will arise a new world power. There may be many new world powers before the end times come. There may be coalitions of world powers. There may even be complete chaos caused by groups like or similar to the radical anarchist group, ISIS, in this generation. Disruption of anarchist groups around the globe may lead to the consolidation of power under a single world government predicted in Revelation. This will be brought about by a smooth talking, charismatic leader who will be the Anti-Christ, when the end times are truly upon us.

 

Daniel’s dream is ample evidence that the end times will come. And, yes, man is obsessed with the end times. We have movies about end times. We have books about end times. These movies are so prolific, they are a genre unto themselves. There are whole sections of the bookstores dedicated to end times literature. We have seen many man over the centuries predict the end and we are still here. But that does not stop the obsession with it.  Let’s re-read the story with an eye to the modern, long-ranging arc of prophecy. Do you see the United States as part of it? Do you see the United States as being one of the specifically named beasts or one of the horns?:

 

 

7 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

 

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

 

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

 

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

 

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

 

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

 

8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

 

9 “As I looked,

 

“thrones were set in place,

    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His clothing was as white as snow;

    the hair of his head was white like wool.

His throne was flaming with fire,

    and its wheels were all ablaze.

10

A river of fire was flowing,

    coming out from before him.

Thousands upon thousands attended him;

    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated,

    and the books were opened.

 

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

 

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

The Interpretation of the Dream

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

 

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

 

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

 

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.[b]

 

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

 

28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

 

The takeaway for me though is that I believe our world and our culture’s obsession with the end times is like the kid left home by himself for the weekend while his parents are away. We are obsessed with the signs of the end times so that we can clean up the mess of our house before our parents get back home. Risky business that mentality is! Jesus tells us that we do not know when He will return to end and judge all things. We must remain every ready for the end times as they will come like a thief in the night, unexpectedly. We obsess with signs of the end times so that we can quickly get right with God. Why do you think that people have to spend so much time and paper and video to justify behaviors that are against God’s Word. We are trying to make right in our minds what we are wired to abhor. We have to justify it to make it right. End times are a coming. We want to know the signs so we can make right with God. We want the party to last right up until we see the signs and then we can get right. We are like the song by Prince called “1999”, “I want to party like it’s 1999. Two thousand zero zero, party over, whoops, out of time!” We want to indulge ourselves til we see the signs. When the signs come though we will rationalize them away so that we can continue the party like it’s 1999.

 

If you are right with God, though, through a relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then the end times are of no matter, no great worry. Our place is secured. We do not have to obsess over the signs. We know our place. We know that Christ will return and that He will take care of us. We may die before He returns but we will be with Him. Through Jesus Christ, we are victorious. Through Jesus Christ we can say, “It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s the end of the world as we know…AND I FEEL FINE!”

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 7:1-28 (Part 2)

Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts

Most Americans believe that our reign as the most powerful nation on earth will last forever. By most standards, we a spit of a country when it comes to age. We are only 230 years old as a declared independent nation. We have only been an organized society, however meager those beginnings were, for 495 years (if you count the Plymouth colony as the first successfully sustained European settlement). We did not have our own national military, however meager it beginnings were, until the Revolutionary War in the late 18th century. But, now, in the 21st century, The United States of America is the preeminent world power militarily and economically. Our military is so well-trained and so highly sophisticated, there is no country out there that could stand up against us. Economically, the American economy is the anchor of the world economy. All accomplished in a very short period of history. However, we have not been the world’s dominant power forever either. We have really only been the world’s dominant power since the end of the World War I – World War II time period. After World War II, we were one of the world’s two superpowers that emerged. Before World War I, yes, we were an up and coming nation with great potential, but we were not the great solo power that we see ourselves as now. We were one of many equally capable political players on the world scene. We were among the English, the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Russians. All vying for world supremacy. It was only after World War II was over in 1945 (just 70 short years ago) that the mighty America that we think of now emerged. But to us that have grown up in the post-World War II era, my parents’ generation (born during the World War II years), my generation, my children’s generation and to small kids of this new generation, we have only known the United States as a great military power and as a great economic power. So, there is certainly the idea in our minds that our way of life will last forever. We do not know any different. We complain about first world problems like why my cell phone doesn’t get its normal awesome signal while I am lounging seaside at the beach. But it is likely that our first world complaints may eventually be our own undoing as a nation.

 

However, if history is any teacher at all, we must realize that our time as the chief nation of the world is limited. All the world’s greatest powers have lasted not forever but limited times. The Egyptians were once a great empire. Israel was once a great kingdom. Babylon was once a great kingdom. The Persian empire was once a great empire. The Greeks were once a great empire. The Romans were once a great empire. Islamic empires of the Ottomans and Moors were a great empire during what we call the dark ages after the fall of the western portion of the Roman Empire. Then, there was the emergence of the great nation-states of Europe, each having its brief moment in the sun as the great world power. France, England, Spain and others have each had brief moments of world greatness. During the 1600’s – the 1800’s and the early 1900’s, each of these nations were almost equal in power and thus competed for world domination. It was only after World War II that America rose up as one of two great world powers. And after 1990, when the Soviet Union fell, we emerged as the world’s only superpower. Our time as one of two or as the only superpower has been short and it will be short in relative historical terms. I am not trying to scare anyone here, but it is simply the nature of man. And what destroyed the other world powers was internal strife or internal weakness to the point that they no longer were strong enough to defend their position as the world leader. Look at the Roman Empire, they had become so enamored with their own self-pleasures that they became weak, started defending the kingdom instead of expanding it, political intrigue, and all sorts of internal strife brought Roman down to the point that it was easy prey for the coalition of Goths and others that finally brought down the unified Roman Empire. It was weakened from within to the point that it was easy prey. Sound familiar? We are so enamored with our pursuit of everyone pursuing their own thing, are we likely to fall just the way the Roman empire did? Romans became so pampered of themselves and their pursuit of pleasure that they became weak without realizing it. They no longer had the guts they once had by the fourth century AD. They were focused within while there were barbarians at the gate. All great empires have fallen that way. It will happen to us. Maybe not in our generation or the generation of our children or grandchildren, but our time limit is out there and we are acting just like the Romans. Our time limit is out there. It may happen in the generation of our great grandchildren, but it will happen.

 

That is the thing that I see here from a strictly historical perspective when looking at Daniel’s dream (which has amazing parallel’s to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2). Let us re-read the chapter 7 again today below with focus on who these beasts represent in past history. Tomorrow, I will be off the grid due to traveling home from vacation, but Sunday we will look at some of the conjecture as to the future end times prophecy of who these nations are. Today, we will simply look at what they meant in the immediate present and immediate future of the time in which the book of Daniel was written. That is the thing about biblical prophecy is that it always seems to have an immediate future to it plus a long ranging future to it. Here is Chapter 7 below:

 

 

7 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

 

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

 

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

 

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

 

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

 

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

 

8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

 

9 “As I looked,

 

“thrones were set in place,

    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His clothing was as white as snow;

    the hair of his head was white like wool.

His throne was flaming with fire,

    and its wheels were all ablaze.

10

A river of fire was flowing,

    coming out from before him.

Thousands upon thousands attended him;

    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated,

    and the books were opened.

 

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

 

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

The Interpretation of the Dream

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

 

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

 

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

 

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.[b]

 

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

 

28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

 

From a strictly historical perspective at the time of Daniel, the dreams of Daniel here in Chapter 7 and of Nebuchadnezzar back in Chapter 2 have these immediate prophetic aspects for Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I have found the following at http://lifehopeandtruth.com/prophecy/understanding-the-book-of-daniel/daniel-7/

 

 

The Chaldean/Babylonian Empire

In Daniel 7:3-4 Daniel records, “And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.”

 

In verse 17 we are told, “Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.” The lion was symbolic of the kingdom of Babylon and the “man’s heart” was that of its most notable king, Nebuchadnezzar, who is written about considerably in the first four chapters of Daniel.

 

As The Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains, “The lion symbol was characteristic of Babylon, especially in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, when the Ishtar Gate entrance was adorned on either side with a long procession of yellow lions on blue-glazed brick, fashioned in high relief” (1985, Vol. 7, pp. 85-86). The eagle’s wings plucked off the lion were symbolic of Nebuchadnezzar’s time of insanity when he was humbled by God to learn that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:17, 34-37).

 

Nebuchadnezzar ruled from Babylon to Asia Minor and from the Caspian Sea to Egypt. Biblically, his most notable conquest was that of the nation of Judah, with Daniel being the most famous captive from that nation. Following his father’s death, Nebuchadnezzar reigned as king of Babylon for 43 years, from 604-561 B.C. (JewishEncyclopedia.com/Nebuchadnezzar). After his death, Babylon continued as a strong empire until 539 B.C., when it was conquered by the second rising power in Daniel’s vision, the Medo-Persian Empire.

 

The Medo-Persian Empire

Daniel 7:5 says, “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’”

 

This beast’s being “raised up on one side” represents the Persians being greater than the Medes in this federated empire. This is made plain to Daniel in a vision two years later when he sees a ram with two horns, one being higher than the other. Daniel is told by the angel Gabriel that the ram represents the kings of Media and Persia (Daniel 8:3, 20).

 

The three ribs that are devoured represent three empires conquered by Persia’s first great king, Cyrus the Great, and his son, Cambyses II. Cyrus came to power in 558 B.C. and conquered the Lydian Empire (Asia Minor) in 546 and the Chaldean Empire (Babylon) in 539; and Cambyses conquered Egypt in 525 (ibid. p. 86).

 

The Medo-Persian Empire lasted for 200 years and, under later kings, expanded to Greece in the west and to India in the east. At one point, the Persian Empire covered parts of three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. But, like the Chaldean Empire, the Persian Empire finally came to an end. A new beast was rising in the west, and its appointed time had come.

 

The Greek Empire

Daniel 7:6 says, “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.”

 

As with the second beast, the third beast is clearly identified by the angel Gabriel. It was Greece, and the “first king” was Alexander the Great. After his untimely death in 323 B.C., his empire was divided into four smaller kingdoms (Daniel 8:21-22).

 

The symbol of the leopard with four wings portrays the swiftness of Alexander’s sudden rise and conquest of the Persian Empire from 334-331 B.C. After his death, several years of struggle ensued that resulted in the division of his empire into four kingdoms. The new kingdoms were (1) Greece and Macedon, (2) Thrace and Asia Minor, (3) Middle East-Asia and (4) Egypt-Palestine.

 

““After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.””The last two were ruled by Seleucus, who began the Seleucid Empire, and Ptolemy, who began the Ptolemaic Empire. These two kingdoms are called the king of North and the king of the South in Daniel 11. Approximately two centuries later, the fourth beast conquered all four of these kingdoms and expanded far beyond the lands conquered by the previous beasts. These two kingdoms—called the king of North and the king of the South and having yet to be determined configurations—will revive and play major roles in end-time prophecies.

The Roman Empire

 

Next in Daniel 7:7 we read, “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”

 

The devouring teeth of iron and the trampling feet correspond with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the fourth kingdom being strong as iron, breaking in pieces and crushing all others (Daniel 2:40-41). When the Roman Empire came to power under the Caesars (44 B.C.) it devoured, broke in pieces and trampled the residue of its enemies with its feet—as was described in Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7.

 

The fourth beast is quite different from the previous beasts, in that it has 10 horns. Daniel 7:24 says, “The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom.” Historically, these revivals began to rise after the fall of Rome in A.D. 476, with the later ones under a new name: the Holy Roman Empire. (For additional information, see “What Is Babylon?”).

 

This fourth beast would continue to be revived off and on for over 1,500 years until the end-time 10th revival. The 10th and final revival will be destroyed by Jesus Christ at His second coming (Daniel 7:26-27). This leads to one other unusual feature of the prophecy of the fourth beast.

The little horn

 

Daniel 7:8 says, “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.”

 

This little horn represents a powerful religious system that would align with the last seven of the 10 political horns that were to arise after the fall of Rome. This coordination between church and state produced what ultimately became known as the Holy Roman Empire.

 

In verses 21-22 and 25, this little horn makes war against the saints, speaks pompous words against God, intends to change times and law, and persecutes the saints for a “time and times and half a time” (literally three and a half years, but using the day-for-a-year principle of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, 1,260 years).

 

Evidence of this persecution can be seen through the centuries, as hundreds and thousands of people in Europe lost their lives through the inquisitions of the Roman Catholic judicial system. They were tortured for confessions of being heretics and killed because they would not submit to the authority and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and the pope.

 

Though the inquisitions of that time were abolished, the Bible indicates religious persecutions from the “little horn” will come back and result in the death of many before the return of Christ. Daniel also saw the conclusion concerning the “little horn”—that when Jesus Christ returns, “the court [judgment] shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever” (verse 26; Revelation 18:2).

 

The Kingdom of God

The vision of Daniel 7 could not end with any greater news: “Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (verse 27).

 

This prophecy ends by revealing that Jesus will establish the Kingdom of God on earth and give it to the saints of the Most High.

 

This analysis by lifehopeandtruth.com is one of the best quick synopses that I have read that summarizes Chapter 7 well without leaving out necessary meat but without going into too much detail. It gives the immediate future of the succeeding world powers following Babylon and then gives the broad view of future history ending with the end of time when Christ returns to establish His eternal kingdom at the end of times.

 

The takeaway for today is that all man-made kingdoms are of a limited nature. One day the things that we count on as our reality is coming to an end. Our kingdom of the United States though the shining star of the moment. But it too will fall. We will go the way of all the great kingdoms of the past at some point. What we count on as reality will come to an end. Therefore, we must look to the things that are eternal rather than the things we count on now. Our material goods will not save us. Our first world problems will be minor at some point compared to survival at the hands of whatever kingdom arises after us. Our self-indulgence will give way to simply surviving. Nothing man-made last forever. The only thing that lasts forever is Jesus Christ. May we reconsider what we think is important and place our faith and trust in the only thing that lasts forever, the one who will judge all temporary things, Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

 

PS>Next blog we will consider some of the modern-day prophetic musings about what in our modern day these four beasts represent.

Daniel 7:1-28

Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts

Have you ever had a dream but cannot remember it the next day? You spend the whole next day kind of spooked by this feeling that you had an ominous or fearful dream the night before but you remember none of it. You feel like something bad has happened but you cannot remember why you feel that way. That’s happened to me many times. They, you know “they”, the experts on everything, say that the only way that we remember anything about our dreams is when we wake up in the middle of our dreams. Otherwise, they remain locked in our subconscious with simple residues of emotions left in our conscious thoughts. Would it not be amazing though if we had clarity of thought enough when we wake up from a dream and go run to our desk and write down on paper what we remember of our dreams. That would be pretty cool. My thought has been would it not be pretty cool to have the ability to record our dreams in some way for later playback? Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever? To be to peak into our subconscious and see our dreams on our TV screen later. To see all the rich colors, the characters, the monsters, the reliving of past experiences, the creation of altered states of past experience or dreams about our future that our minds can create. It is all pretty amazing when you think about what our brain can do while we are sleeping. Dreams themselves are difficult for scientists to explain. Why do we dream? The scientists can give you neurological, physical explanations of how dreams are created by the brain but not the reason for it, but not the what of our dreams. Psychiatrists can give us reasons from personal experience that dreams play out in our mind, but not why we dream. Dreams are one of the miracles of life that are attributable to our Creator. Sometimes, He gives us dreams of our future and we do not realize it until we get that feeling that we have been in this same place, having this same conversation, with the same people before. Ever had that feeling?

 

Sometimes, too, have you ever noticed that people who have been suddenly taken from us in a tragic accident have done some odd things right before they died. They have told people that they loved them when they have never done that before. They take care of certain affairs of their life that normally you would not have expected them to do otherwise. Some may accept Christ as their Savior in a matter of weeks before their accidental death. All of these things may be perceived by some as random and unconnected coincidences. I have seen these very instances happen in people’s live right before a tragedy took them from us. To me, God often operates at a subconscious in our minds to provide us with input that we would not recognize or accept in our conscious mind. He does give us messages in dreams, in thoughts that appear out of nowhere, and sometimes through the thoughts, actions, and words of others. He can speak to us in our dreams. In our dreams, we suspend disbelief. In our dreams, the laws of physics and nature are often suspended to allow us to understand messages that we might otherwise reject. In dreams, nothing is what we normally count on in our wakened state of reality. Scenes shift without warning. We are in one place one second and in another the next. Dreams can change characters and subject matter in a split instant. So, each of us, have come to expect the unexpected in our dream. We accept the unexpected as the norm in dreams. Why cannot God speak to us in these moments? We are already open to the unexpected in our dream states of sleep. Dreams free us from our predispositions. Is not most often that devout Muslims living in a Islamic country have had dreams, visions if you will, about Jesus Christ coming to them in a dream and making them understand who He is and leading them to become a Christ follower. God can speak to us through our dreams. He created the landscape of our minds after all!

 

So, to say, that Daniel’s dream is just some fiction made up by an author trying to explain historical events or was borrowed from some other society’s mythological genre is just plain meanness by someone who is predisposed to bashing the Bible rather than being open to the possibilities that God did, indeed, speak to Daniel in his dream.

 

We begin the last half of the book of Daniel today, the prophetic half (chapters 7-12). We will dive into the meat of Chapter 7 beginning tomorrow. But I wanted to open up this journey through Chapter 7 by talking about dreams. We all accept that we dream (whether we are believers or not). We all accept that in dreams anything is possible (whether we are believers are not). If we accept those things, then we must be open to the concept that God can give us visions in our dreams. We must be able to accept that because of the unique nature of dreams that dreams are God-given anyway and then that He can speak to us in this manner. He is God. He is God.

 

So, let’s just read Chapter 7 today. No thoughts of application to our daily lives. No thoughts of what the chapter means in the prophetic future of mankind. Just read the words and allow them to conjure up images in your mind that match the words. Let the words create the dream images. Be a witness to the imagery that Daniel is creating about His vision from God. Then, let that ruminate in your mind all day. Tomorrow, then, we get into the guts of this chapter. But, I think it is important to allow yourself to dream today. Let the images become vivid in your mind today. Meet me back here tomorrow. Here is Chapter 7 below:

 

 

7 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

 

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

 

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

 

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

 

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

 

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

 

8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

 

9 “As I looked,

 

“thrones were set in place,

    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His clothing was as white as snow;

    the hair of his head was white like wool.

His throne was flaming with fire,

    and its wheels were all ablaze.

10

A river of fire was flowing,

    coming out from before him.

Thousands upon thousands attended him;

    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated,

    and the books were opened.

 

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

 

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

The Interpretation of the Dream

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

 

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

 

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

 

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.[b]

 

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

 

28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

 

May God grant us the ability to see these images in full detail today and let these vivid images in our mind help us to discuss this passage over the next few days. Amen and Amen.

Daniel 6:1-28 (Part 5)

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

As we conclude our look at Daniel 6:1-28 today, the end of this five-part look at various aspects of this passage, there is a saying that comes to mind. That saying, which floats around Christian circles, is “You may be the only Jesus that a person encounters.” That is what I think of when I read the closing verses in Daniel. I am reminded of the situation that I presented to you earlier in this five-part series. I told you about the young man (age 31) who dates my youngest daughter (age 25) and who disagrees vehemently with me about how I have over the past year been severing the amount of continuing financial support to my youngest child. We are down to one final continuing assistance and that being to allow her to be part of my phone plan. In giving her notice that I was taking her off my phone plan in 30 days, it was the opportunity for this young man to tell me what he thought of me as a Christian and as a father. Because my youngest daughter and I also have had confrontations about her not achieving her potential in life, the last year has been difficult in our relationship to say the least. This email of his, then, has become a flash point in the relationship between me and my youngest child. It is one of those seminal moments in life that can change the course of a parent-child relationship forever, or at least for a very long time. I still have not responded to his Saturday morning email as of today, Wednesday, for that very reason. How I respond could easily be that moment we look back on years later as to why the relationship went cold. Therefore, it is clear to me that my response cannot be one of responding in anger. It has to be one that leaves room for reconciliation. It has to be one that honors God in how I choose to respond whether it be in writing or verbally. It is a classic WWJD moment. How would He respond to vitriol? How would He respond to hate? Sometimes, in certain people’s lives we may be the only Christ follower that they ever encounter. That would certainly be the case with my youngest daughter and her boyfriend. In the circles that they run in, there are few examples of Christ followers in their lives. Thus, they buy into the classic “all Christians are hypocrites” argument which is then used to stay away from church, the Bible, and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. How I respond to this young man may be the only Christ that He encounters.

 

That idea of being the only Christ that someone encounters in this world that is increasingly hostile to Christians is what was brought to mind by the Holy Spirit as I re-read this passage again this morning. Again we read Daniel 6:1-28 once more, but today we will pay particular attention to vv. 21-28:

 

6 [a]It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

 

6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.

 

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king

and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

 

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

 

13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

 

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

 

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

 

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

 

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

 

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

 

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

 

24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

 

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

 

“May you prosper greatly!

 

26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

 

“For he is the living God

    and he endures forever;

his kingdom will not be destroyed,

    his dominion will never end.

27

He rescues and he saves;

    he performs signs and wonders

    in the heavens and on the earth.

He has rescued Daniel

    from the power of the lions.”

 

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus[b] the Persian.

 

 

Here in these final verses, what strikes me are Daniel’s first words spoken when the king comes to the lion’s den opening that is covered by a large stone and calls out to Daniel. When the king calls him to see if Daniel is still alive, Daniel says, “May the king live forever!” He paid respects to the king whom he served. If anybody had a right to be pissed off at Cyrus, it was Daniel. Daniel could have let some expletives fly and told the king in no uncertain terms what he thought of him. Daniel did not do that though! He responded as any humble servant in service to his king would have. The way Daniel responded to this situation has a direct result in Cyrus coming to honor God himself in his speech after finding out how and why Daniel was still alive. Daniel could have responded in anger and that would have given no opportunity to speak of the power of the one true God. Daniel say that giving glory to God was more important than any feeling of revenge that he might have harbored in his heart.

 

Daniel was the only witness to the power of the one true God that Cyrus may have ever known. How we respond to situations in life where our fleshly response is to respond with anger and hate (and guise that in Christian principles taken out of context) can be the only Christ that some people ever see. How will you respond to someone who has ripped you off in a business deal? How will you respond when someone gossips about you? How will you respond when someone steals from you? How will you respond to someone whose lifestyle is clearly antithetical to Christian principles? How will you respond when someone says they hate you and wish that you were dead? Our responses to these situations may well be the only opportunity somehow has to see how Christ followers, who are living out the Christ following life, respond to tough situations. The expectation of the world is to come flying back with a tit for every tat. You fire your guns. I fire mine. Relationships are destroyed by this kind of response to life’s situations. We have to go against our flesh, as Christians, and decide to give glory to God through how we respond. God is a God of peace and reconciliation. His desire for peace and reconciliation is evident through what He did through His Son on the cross. Let us think about how our responses to the world around us will give God glory before we respond. We may be the only Christ a person ever sees. Amen and Amen.

Daniel 6:1-28 (Part 4)

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Right now, I think of brethren in the faith that live in predominantly Muslim countries or live in the countries the remain the final vestiges of the Marxist/communist movement of the 20th century (North Korea and China). I also think of brethren in the faith in any country where the Christian faith is a minor speck of the population such as in India that is predominantly Hindu. In the predominantly Muslim or in the communist countries, persecution to the extent that people are killed has happened and will happen. Imprisonment for long stretches can happen too. Being cut off from your family can happen in all of these societies. In Muslim countries, being a Christian can be economic and social suicide. You are taxed at two or three times the rate of the general population. You are ostracized from your family. And you might even be clandestinely murdered for your faith while the government turns a blind eye. In communist nations, Christians are often imprisoned for their refusal to renounce their faith. Christians have been known to disappear in the prisons that they are sent to. It is not pretty to be a Christian in a Muslim country or in a communist country.

 

Although India has been a place of tolerance for the minority speck that Christians are there, recently the popular movement that sees that the country is becoming “too Western” has caused problems for Christians there as well. This movement has gained so much momentum that it has won elections Since Christianity is seen as a Western religion, taxes have been imposed upon Christian missionaries and upon Christian properties and so on. The government has become increasing nationalist wanting to return the nation to its roots (same thing that happened in the Middle East in the 1970s). According to the web magazine, Christianity Today,

 

The Hindu nationalist ideology espoused by the ruling BJP party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing combination of social movement and paramilitary group, has led to hostility toward Christians in some areas of India. Open Doors, a Christian persecution monitoring agency, has ranked India as 17th in its list of countries where Christians’ lives are most endangered. A recent report by the Catholic Secular Forum named Madhya Pradesh, a province in India, as the province of India where Christians experience the most violence.

 

Although many of us think of India as a benign and friendly nation to Christians. We do not think of acts of terror when it comes to Hinduism as we immediately, often, think of when we hear the word, Islam. However, it is happening in India now. Generally, it is an economic persecution but in some provinces as noted above it has become violent. When anyone goes to India on a mission trip now, we cannot walk in with our International Mission Board banners and badges and t-shirts. We have to quietly move into the country and help our fellow brethren survive in a place that is increasingly hostile toward them.

 

And, what of our country? There will be a day maybe within a generation or in a generation or two that the intolerance of Christians in the age of tolerance will reach its peak and our nation will become one where having faith in Jesus Christ will be a liability to us. It always starts as a social stigma. Then, it becomes an economic one, then it becomes violent. Each step of the way, it becomes easier to write Christians off as unworthy of our time and that the country would be better off without them. It has happened before. It is happening now in other parts of the world. It will happen again in the future, the Bible promises us that. The future does not sound like a pretty place for Christians – even in the United States, the last great home for the Christian faith. Until the Father in heaven sees feet to send His Son to return to earth and bring an end to all of this, we can expect increasing persecution of Christ’s followers around the world. Are we ready for that?

 

It was that idea of being persecuted and how Daniel handled it was what came to mind today. Not only was he locked up in a prison dungeon but it was a dungeon full of hungry, ill-mannered lions. Again we read Daniel 6:1-28 once more, but today we will pay particular attention to vv. 17-23:

 

6 [a]It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

 

6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.

 

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king

and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

 

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

 

13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

 

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

 

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

 

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

 

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

 

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

 

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

 

24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

 

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

 

“May you prosper greatly!

 

26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

 

“For he is the living God

    and he endures forever;

his kingdom will not be destroyed,

    his dominion will never end.

27

He rescues and he saves;

    he performs signs and wonders

    in the heavens and on the earth.

He has rescued Daniel

    from the power of the lions.”

 

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus[b] the Persian.

 

 

Here, in the verses that we are concentrating on this morning, what is not said is as amazing as what is. We do not hear any words from Daniel. In these verses, where Daniel is convicted of worshiping God and placed in the lion’s den, we hear nothing from him. Daniel apparently accepted his punishment for being a God follower. He was going to honor his God no matter what the cost was to him. And there was apparently a peace about that to him since there is no mention of his reaction. He was willing to lay down his life for his belief in God. And there was peace about it. No caving in. No throwing God under the bus. Just peaceful acceptance that if God wanted him to die that this moment was as good as any.

 

Are you and I willing to die for our faith? I know we all say yes right now. But if you felt your life was threatened for being a Christian – which happens all over the world now – what would you do? Would you stick to your faith? Would I? Even if it is only a social stigma? Even if it is only a economic sanction such a high tax or exclusion from certain kinds of business activity? Would you and I stick to our guns as being Christ followers? If there was decree that public displays of worship were no longer legal, would you still stand up and go to your church on Sunday morning knowing full well that you would be arrested if you did? What would you do? What would I do? Let us treasure the freedoms that we do have still in our country and consider ourselves blessed that we can still worship Jesus Christ. Let us remember how precious our freedom to worship Him is. Let us not take it for granted. Lord, help us though in these times where we are still free to steel ourselves for the day that we may have to make a choice between freedom and belief. It may not happen to us but it may happen to our children or our children’s children. Let us remember though Daniel! He would not give up his faith no matter what. He stood tall in his trust in the Lord. Being a Christian in the future will be increasingly less profitable to us here in our own country. Let us see our faith as that which sustains us and makes us whole and makes us who we are in the sight of God almighty. Let us see God as the first priority in our life. Let us never give up Jesus Christ even in the face of danger. Let us have the faith and trust in the Lord that Daniel had.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 6:1-28 (Part 3)

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Throughout Clemson football history there have been those guys that you could count on for consistency. There were never flashy players. Some did not even make the pros. But these were guys that you could always count on when a first down was needed or to stop a play on a crucial third down. Some of these past greats were Jeff Davis at linebacker back in the 80’s, Bennie Cunningham in the 70’s, ones that quickly come to mind from the past. Both were ferocious competitors and went on to pro careers. Jeff Bostic was another. He was an offensive lineman who was not flashy but went on to have a long career with the Washington Redskins. These are the kind of guys that you build a college football program around. Sure, you need your peppering of superstar players each year in the recruiting cycle, but if you don’t have these go-to type guys, the guys that are not flashy but give their heart and soul to their team and give their best on each and every play every season, you will not go far in championship races.

 

As a student of the history of Clemson football, there are two players currently that fit into this mold.  There are two current players who are to match that label of go-to players. On offense, Hunter Renfrow is that unflashy but consistent guy. When the Tigers need a first down or a short range touchdown, Hunter is the guy. He’s just one of those students of the game who understands the weak spots in a defense and just gets open. When DeShaun Watson needs an open receiver anywhere, he can always find Hunter. He is just uncanny in getting open. He is not a deep threat, but he just gets open. He’s not flashy but he’s consistent. On defense currently, that guy has to be Ben Bouleware. He may not be pro football worthy but the guy plays his heart out on every play. When he is on the field, he is the most intense player on the field. If you are fan of football, you will never forget his raw emotion after the defense stopped Notre Dame on the two point conversion at the end of the game last year. And you remember that body flying collision between him and Dalvin Cook of Florida State on 3rd down and less than a yard that sealed the fate of the Seminoles in that game. Two guys that will either be late round draft picks when they are eligible for the draft. They will not be ones who exit college early for the pros after their junior seasons because millions await. Heck, they may not even be drafted because they may be considered too small for the pro game. But, if I was going to pick a football team based on heart and desire and consistency. I will pick these two guys hands down.

 

It is that idea of consistency that I thought of this morning as I have read this passage again for the third time. Again we read Daniel 6:1-28, but today we will pay particular attention to vv. 10-18:

 

6 [a]It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

 

6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.

 

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king

and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

 

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

 

13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

 

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

 

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

 

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

 

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

 

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

 

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

 

24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

 

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

 

“May you prosper greatly!

 

26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

 

“For he is the living God

    and he endures forever;

his kingdom will not be destroyed,

    his dominion will never end.

27

He rescues and he saves;

    he performs signs and wonders

    in the heavens and on the earth.

He has rescued Daniel

    from the power of the lions.”

 

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus[b] the Persian.

 

 

There is one thing that you can say about Daniel. Consistency. That is the one word description of this man. He was consistent in his faith. It was so much a part of his life that people knew him for his consistent faith. It was his hallmark. He was never one to compromise his faith to gain advantage or to prevent disadvantage. He honored God no matter what. It was because he was such a consistent believer in God and in obeying God’s Word that it was that one thing where his enemies chose to attack him. They knew that he would not compromise his faith in light of the new law enunciated by the king. The thing that we should notice here is that Daniel could have continued to worship God but just did it in secret. He could have shut his windows or chosen an inner room or left the city to go to some private place. No, Daniel did not do that. He went to his customary place to pray. He sat and prayed in his open window. He was not being showy. That was wear he always prayed. He was unashamed for people to see him pray. And, he was not going to hide it even now with the change in the law.

 

That is the takeaway for today. I am reminded of an old saying. It goes like this, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Does your lifestyle reflect Jesus Christ? The thing about Daniel was that his enemies knew enough of his reputation as a God-honoring man that it was his faith that they would attack. They knew that he was unwavering in his faith and his honor to God. That was where they would attack. How ‘bout you and me? Is there enough evidence of solid and consistent faith that people notice it? Is there enough evidence of how we live our lives that people even know that we are Christians? Are you that go-to, consistent guy or gal? Do people know you and I are a Christian? Is there enough evidence to convict you? Are you a Hunter Renfrow or Ben Bouleware type Christian where you are just that consistent of a Christian that people characterize you as that in the first word of describing you? Do you play your heart out for Jesus such that people recognize it? Are you that consistent in your life that people call you a Christian first thing? Let us examine our lives and resolve to be more consistent in our faith. Let us be known as Daniel-like Christians. Let it be our faith that people point to. Let it be our faith where people want to attack us. Let it be our faith that we are known for. Let it be that we have put God first in everything that we do!

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 6:1-28

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Have you ever had someone accuse of things that are not true? Have you ever had someone that has a different take on the reality of situation than you and have bent reality to suit their own needs? People want to tear you down? Where do they always attack you? They always attack you where they think it will hurt you the most. For me, there are several things that are important to me. First is my faith in God. Second is my role as a father and husband in my family. Third is my job. So, where would a person outside my family attack me. It would either be about my faith, about my abilities as a father or husband or about my abilities as an employee. Recently, I had a person outside my family attack me on the first two counts in an email. They began their email by attacking my faith and then attacking my abilities as a father. I am still a day later considering how to respond. In this email, I was accused of being a hypocrite for who they think I am compared to his concept of what I should be. Then, he proceeded to attack who I am as the father of my youngest daughter.

 

The reality of my relationship with my youngest daughter is that I love her but yet I and doing minor things now that are attempting to move her toward complete independence from me. Though at 25, she relies much less on me than she used to, there still are a few remaining vestiges of childhood dependency. I won’t get into the other details about pushing her with tough love toward reaching her full potential though she is simply skimping by in life doing the bare minimum (even though she probably has more potential than any of me, her sister, and herself).  To say the least, my relationship with my youngest daughter has been strained over the last year. So, from her 31 year old boyfriend that lives in a garage apartment at his grandparent’s house  and who is an unwed father of a son from a previous relationship, I get this scathing email about who I am as father and as a Christian.

 

Usually when people attack you, it is going to be where they think that they can hurt you the most. For me, this man knew the two areas that would probably hurt me the most, my faith and my fatherhood. There is no doubt that I am not nor have I ever been the perfect father. Through second marriages where I did not do enough through going overboard in the other direction after the second marriage was over, there is plenty that I would do differently if I had it to do all over again. But, guess what, you can’t. I feel that as the years have progressed and I have grown and matured that I am doing what I think is best for girls in the long run. I just to nudge, love, and bump them into being who they can be. I want them to be fully independent before I leave this existence. If perfection is expected by my children, they will never find it in me. I am not perfect nor claim to be. I am not perfect and never will be. So, yes, if you are expecting perfection, I am a hypocrite. Thank God that He forgives our sins through Jesus Christ’s perfection where men will not. As a father, there are so many things that I have probably done wrong over the years but I have also forgiven much. Being part of a family involves forgiveness and acceptance of the flaws the each one our family members have.

 

As a Christian, that was part of this attack as well. He basically called me a hypocrite and that I would be judged for it by a God that he says that he doesn’t even believe in. The funny thing here is that he fully believes that I think I am perfect because of “my foolish belief in the fairy tale”. The truth is that I am as my blog site’s subtitle states, “completely flawed, perfectly forgiven.” The fact is that I know that I am not perfect. I know that I am flawed. I know that I am not worthy of the grace of Jesus Christ, but yet He gave it to me anyway. I know that I am a work in progress. I know that the Holy Spirit had a lot, lot, lot of work to do in my when He came to dwell in my soul at my salvation. I am a sinner in need of undeserved grace and I am granted that by a loving God. I was claimed to be “a poser”. We are all posers. None of us Christ followers deserve grace. We are posers because we are flesh. We are posers of Christ’s perfection as long as we roam this earth in our flesh. We will never be perfect as the Holy Spirit works on us during our lifetime. We will only be perfect when we reach heaven and are perfected in the presence of God through Jesus Christ. So, yes, we are posers. We are sinners saved by grace. I know this. I know that on my own merit just the very first sin I committed has eliminated me, on my own merit, from going to heaven not to mention that the lifetime of sins that I have committed since that time. I know I am a poser on my own merits. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that I am covered for my imperfection.

 

It is ironic how God allows me to see the parallels of my life with the passages that I read each day. It was this idea of sometimes people attack you where they think it will hurt you the most is what I thought of today when I read this passage for a second time as we spend some time looking at this passage, Daniel 6:1-28. Let’s read it together today with focus on the other administrators and how they decided to attack Daniel:

 

6 [a]It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

 

6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.

 

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

 

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

 

13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

 

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

 

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

 

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

 

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

 

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

 

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

 

24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

 

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

 

“May you prosper greatly!

 

26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

 

“For he is the living God

    and he endures forever;

his kingdom will not be destroyed,

    his dominion will never end.

27

He rescues and he saves;

    he performs signs and wonders

    in the heavens and on the earth.

He has rescued Daniel

    from the power of the lions.”

 

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus[b] the Persian.

 

 

As one of the three top administrators in the Persian empire, Daniel’s reputation and efficiency and just doing the right things was above reproach. He was about to be name administrator over the whole empire not just one of three. That made the other administrators jealous and they desired to figure out a way to bring Daniel down. They looked at his life and it was not his work that they could attack. Daniel had worked for years and years with a great reputation as having served various emperors with honor and dignity. So, they decided to change the rules of the game and force Daniel into a corner. They knew what devout child of God he was. They then proceeded to attack him in the place that they thought would hurt him the most. His relationship with God was where they attacked him. Usually that’s how people are when they want to equalize the playing field is to attack you where they think it will hurt you the most. Daniel in this case demonstrated that He trusted God more than man and that He was not going to hide his relationship with God. He was not defying Cyrus personally but rather saying that nothing is going to change my relationship with God. The other administrators knew that was where they had to attack Daniel to keep him from becoming the administrator over the whole land. They attacked him where they thought it would hurt him the most. But, you know what, Daniel said yeah, go ahead, attack me there. This is who I am. I am a child of God.

 

The lesson that I take away today is that there will be people always attack you where they think it will hurt you the most. But the funny thing as a Christian. The things that they attack you with are things that the Holy Spirit has made clear to us already. We are all sinners in need of grace. We are not perfect and need grace. Sure, I am as flawed as they come. But one thing that you cannot accuse me of is not wanting my children (31 and 25 year old girls) to be self-sufficient and capable women when I have breathed my last breath. Sometimes, that will involve tough love. Sometimes, they are not going to like that aspect of it. But, oh my God, how God does that with us. He loves us immeasurably and in ways that we cannot even understand. Like children cannot understand their parent’s love truly until they have children of their own. God loves us as His children and sometimes as He guides us toward maturity there are things that are painful to go through. He doesn’t stop loving us but He is sharpening us.

 

So, attack away. I am imperfect. I am completely flawed. I am a sinner. I am getting better day by day through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. So attack away. I know what I am. My flaws are evident. So, attack away. I am forgiven. I am loved by a God who sees who I can be through Jesus Christ. Attack away. It matters not because I am a child of God.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 6:1-28 (Part 1)

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

What kind of employee are you? Do you do the bare minimum to get by? Do you see your job as a necessary evil in your life? Do you get half-effort because you think that you deserve better than what you are getting? What kind of volunteer are you at church? Do you volunteer because it’s a checklist thing to do? When you have a job to do for the church to give it the same level of commitment that you do for job that pays you money?

 

I think that when they write my tombstone, one thing that they will be able to say about me is that no matter what job I had in my life that I threw myself into it and gave it my all. Now, my daughters will tell you that my tombstone should read, “Well…I thought it was funny!” because that is my famous line that follows all of my sophomoric attempts at humor and there are a lot of those, attempts at humor, I mean. But one thing that you can say about me that I have full confidence in is that in my life’s career which has been mainly as an internal auditor and as a financial executive that I will do whatever it takes to get the job done. My wife will tell you that there are many weeks that I will put in 60 hours or more when I have deadlines to meet and lots of work to do in a short period of time. For me, this pattern was set early on as I started my career and spent much of it as an internal auditor. When you are an internal auditor for a large company, you are often sent around the country and around the world to perform financial and operational audits of your company’s business units in the various locations. In those jobs, you have an audit to do in a specified time frame. The work that has to be done often, if you just worked a normal 8 hour day, would take you about 3 ½ to 4 weeks to complete. So, you see, the quandary. You HAVE to work 12-16 hour days to get the job done. That set the standard for my work behavior early on. There were auditors not willing to do the time and their work showed it. They usually did not last. For me, it established a behavior in me to do whatever it took and ever how long it took to get the job done, no matter what job I had.

 

I would like to tell you that throughout my auditing/accounting career that it was because I was giving glory to God by being a hard worker and seeking perfection in everything that I do. However, I think that for much of my career it was all about seeking approval. As I have written here many times and several times here recently when I have had to write my spiritual biography one thing that has become abundantly clear. I have been an approval junkie throughout most of my life, both personally and professionally. There is this five year boy inside of me that loves being patted on the head. Many of the mistakes I have made in my life are as the result of seeking approval from others rather than from God. In my professional career, I always felt less than those whom were my equals on the organization chart and certainly less than those who are my superiors. In my finance career, I always have felt like there was some secret class that I missed that made things come naturally to others in finance or auditing. I have often felt the hillbilly redneck at the gala ball in my career. I have always felt as though I had to work twice as hard as those around me just to keep up with what I perceive as their natural talent. I always feel like that I am the guy who has to bust his butt to pass a class where everyone around me hardly has to study at all because it comes natural to them. As a result, I have always tried to make sure that there were no flaws in any work that I do. Because if there are flaws, I would be exposed for the “less than” that I think of myself. To gain approval and not let people see the idiot that I really am, I work doubly hard to make sure that they do not see behind the curtain. I want them to see the great and powerful Oz and not the short little man at the controls behind the curtain.

 

Many non-believers think about this salvation thing that as soon as you accept Christ into your life, you life gets magically better. This is not the case. When we accept Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit comes abide in your soul. And the work begins. It is the process theologians call sanctification that begins. By the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we are made more like Christ on a daily basis. It is a lifelong process. Some areas of our life, it is easy for the Holy Spirit to change us but there are others that it is a holy and mighty struggle for the rest of our lives. For me, it is the giving up of seeking approval of others. It is pride in reverse. The Holy Spirit works in me daily to teach me to seek the approval of the Father in heaven and not the approval of others.

 

It is true that I still work hard. My wife can tell you that is true. I still give my job everything that I have and more. I bust my butt each and every day, week, and month. However, I am not as fearful now as I once was as being found to be “less than”. I have more peace than I used to. Sure, I still hate it when I make a mistake at work. Sure, I don’t want to make mistakes. Sure, there are still times that at work I feel like the hillbilly redneck that shows up at the gala ball in his overalls while everyone else is in tuxedos. However, there is an overall peace now that used to not be there. I know that I have value in my Father in heaven more so than at any point in my life. I am able to admit when I do not know something now. I am able to willingly own up to my mistakes when I make them now. I still seek perfection now in my job, don’t get me wrong. I have not laid down and died and become an anything is acceptable kind of guy at work. I still work hard. I still put in a lot of hours. But I do it for a different reason now. Through the Holy Spirit’s action in my soul, I want my work to be a reflection of who I am – a Christ follower. I want to be seen as a reliable. I want to be seen as trustworthy. I want to be seen as that go-to guy when the chips are down. I want to be seen as a man of integrity. I want to be seen as those things because I am a Christ follower. I want when people see me work and see the results of my work to see and say, “Mark is a Christ follower and these Christ followers are just such good people to have on your team.” I want them to see Christ. I want to give my job my all now not to prevent people from seeing the scared little kid that I am on the inside but rather to allow them to see what a Christ follower brings to the table at his job.

 

It is that concept of giving glory to God through how you do your job, no matter what that job is, no matter where that job is at is what I connected to in the first half of this somewhat long passage in Daniel 6:1-28. Let’s read it together:

 

6 [a]It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

 

6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.

 

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

 

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

 

13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

 

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

 

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

 

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

 

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

 

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

 

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

 

24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

 

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

 

“May you prosper greatly!

 

26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

 

“For he is the living God

    and he endures forever;

his kingdom will not be destroyed,

    his dominion will never end.

27

He rescues and he saves;

    he performs signs and wonders

    in the heavens and on the earth.

He has rescued Daniel

    from the power of the lions.”

 

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus[b] the Persian.

 

 

At this time, Daniel was most likely in his late 70’s/early 80’s and was one of Darius the Mede’s top 3 administrators. Daniel was working with those who did not believe in God, but through his faith in God, he was more efficient and more excellent at administering the affairs of government and was simply more capable than the other administrators. This attracted the attention of the pagan king and earned Daniel great respect. One of the best ways we have to influence non-believers is to be a good employee. If we work diligently, with passion for excellence, with a respect for what we do and who we do it for, and we work responsibility efficiently and wisely, we will speak loudly for Jesus Christ. How well do you represent Jesus Christ at your workplace? Do you give half effort or do you give it everything you have regardless of whether you think you deserve a promotion or a better job? Do people perceive you as a person of integrity or a person of situational ethics? If we are “little Christs” (the literal translation of the Greek word that in English becomes the word, Christian), what kind of Christ are presenting at your workplace. As Christians we cannot segment our life into boxes. We represent Christ all the time, even at work.

 

What kind of an employee are you? What kind of volunteer are you? What kind of husband are you? What kind of wife are you? What kind of child are you? What kind of dad are you? What kind of mother are you?

 

Do you seek to reflect Christ in everything you do?

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 5:13-31 (Part 2)

Daniel Explains the Writing

If any of you are old enough to remember early days of Monday Night Football, the three guys that called the games back then were Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell, and Don Meredith. They were the commentators for the games together from the show’s beginning in 1970 until 1984. There have been many hosts of Monday Night Football since then but none as group were as lively and as controversial at times as these three. One of the things that was a trademark of the games that they would call was something that Don Meredith would do. When there was a play that confirmed the outcome of a game such as interception that ended a team’s comeback bid, or a touchdown that put one team too far ahead of the other on the scoreboard, or, say, a crucial first down by a team trying to kill the clock at the end of the game. These are things that happen in football that seal a victory for one of the teams right at the end of game but before the game is officially over. Don Meredith used to break out in song. He would sing the chorus of a song by Willie Nelson, the country singer. He would sing:

 

Turn out the lights

The party’s over

They say that

All good things must end

Call it tonight

The party’s over

 

He would sing this when it was abundantly clear that one team was doomed to lose the ball game. It became Don Meredith’s trademark moment of every Monday Night Football game that they broadcast. That was what comes to mind here when we read this passage today. As we move from Chapter 4 to 5, there is some passage of time. At this point, in Chapter 5, we move a quarter century into the future. Babylon is no longer the mighty nation it was under Nebuchadnezzar. None of his successors to the throne had his political or military skills and the empire began to lose it grip as one of the great empires of the world. In fact, at the time of this scene which can be dated to October 539 BC (from Heroditus’ Greek history). It was not some random thing that Belshazzar died that night.

 

 

According to David Dykes, in his sermon, “Turn out the Lights, The Party’s Over”, he says that when Chapter 5 begins,

 

“the mighty army of the Medes and Persians have conquered all the of the territory of Babylon except for the city of Babylon itself. This huge army of Cyrus the Great is camped outside the great city. At the time of these events, the city of Babylon is under siege by the Persian army. It is fully surrounded. All the gates are locked and barred, though the massive wall surrounding the city provides state-of-the-art security. It is impossible for an army to break through.

 

With a twenty-year food supply laid up and the Euphrates River running right through the city, Belshazzar is confident he can simply wait out the siege. So secure is he that the walls are virtually unguarded. All that is needed is to rally the morale of the people, so he put on a huge banquet, probably with the intent of putting a good spin on this recent turn of events.  Even in the face of an army laying siege to their city, Belshazzar was confident. After all, Herodotus tells us they had a twenty-year supply of food stored up, and there was plenty of seed and arable land within the city walls. What about water? The city had been built around a part of the Euphrates River. It flowed under the city wall in the north, then out under the south wall, so they had plenty of food and water. They thought they were invincible. Who’s afraid of the big, bad Persian army? Not us! Let’s party. For whatever reason, they were celebrating. But it was a shallow celebration because the smoke from a thousand Persian campfires still filtered into the palace.

 

That’s the thing that is frightening to me is that there is an amazing parallel between the Babylonian Empire at this moment and the moment our country finds itself in today. It was that thought that came to mind ironically a few days later when I read through the passage, Daniel 5:13-31, a second time today. Let’s read it together again:

 

13 So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15 The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

 

17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

 

18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.

 

22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son,[a] have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

 

25 “This is the inscription that was written:

 

mene, mene, tekel, parsin

 

26 “Here is what these words mean:

 

Mene[b]: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

 

27 Tekel[c]: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

 

28 Peres[d]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.

 

30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians,[e] was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.[f]

 

There is a second song that seems to fit our situation that was penned by Don Henley back in the early 80’s that seems even more appropriate nowadays than ever. It was a timely song in the 80’s but is even more timely now. It was entitled “All She Wants to Do is Dance.” It is song about all the things that are going wrong in the world and all the girl wants to do is dance. It was an indictment of American society in that with all the war, poverty, oppression, and many other ills in the world that need to be solved that all Americans really care about is their own entertainment. Some of the lyrics are like this:

 

Crazy people walkin’ round with blood in their eyes

And all she wants to do is dance, dance

Wild-eyed pistol wavers who ain’t afraid to die

And all she wants to do is-

All she wants to do is dance and make romance

She can’t feel the heat comin’ off the street

She wants to party

She wants to get down

All she wants to do is-

All she wants to do is dance

 

We have become a nation seeking its own pleasure. We have become a nation that no longer cares that there is danger afoot. We are destroying ourselves from within. We would rather party than think about how to solve the world’s problems. There are nations or independent rebel groups that want to do us in and conquer us and take away our freedoms but do we see it. We would rather party. We would rather get down. All we want to do is dance. There are Christians being raped, killed, and murdered around the world but all we want to do is dance. We thumb our collective noses up at God. We have removed God from our society and make sinful behaviors glorified. We glorify them as lifestyle choices to which we feel we are entitled. We are no longer a nation that sacrifices our personal wills to that of the good of the nation. We just want what we want and we want it now. We are throwing a party in Belshazzar 10,000 seat banquet hall while the city is under siege. We wonder why the barbarians are at the gate and why our nation is not the proud world power that it once was. We have flaunted our pride at God and decided that we know best. We have decided that pursuit of personal pleasure is greater than our need to worship God and obey His Word. All we want to do is dance, dance.

 

There will be a day when we are truly under siege and we will wonder why it happened. We have become weak and self-indulgent like every great empire before us. We have lost our way. We have pushed God out of the public square and out of our homes. We will be a nation that was once favored by God and will be a nation judged one day. We will call it the aggression of men but it will be the judgment of God. We will call it unfair. We will call it anything but the judgment of God. He has throughout time used even those nations that do not believe in Him to execute His judgment against His people when they have strayed away from Him and turned their backs on Him. We will even negotiate with our conquerors so that we can continue to seek our self-indulgence. We are a nation that has turned its back on God and our judgment will come at the hand of God. We may call it what we will but it will be the judgment of God.

 

And all she wants to do is dance, dance. Turn out the lights, the party’s over. God will judge us for whether we have honored Him or not. As we see here it happened to the Babylonian kings and nobles. It has happened again and again. Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

 

Amen and Amen.