Courageous Faith

Courageous Faith: Persevering Through Exile

Persevering Through Exile

Passage: Daniel 9

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pastor Trent Broussard

 

Human trafficking, kidnapping, and forced slavery are items that frequently fill the news. We know the seriousness of human trafficking, and not only is it an issue for law enforcement, we even have missionaries and agencies that are devoted to rescuing people across the globe who have been trapped. But this isn’t just a problem in Laos or Thailand, or some other faraway place.

 

A recent FBI operation working with local law enforcement agencies across the country has rescued 82 exploited juveniles and arrested 239 people involved in the trafficking ring. One of the juveniles and 8 of the traffickers were right here in West Michigan.[1]

 

Slavery has been illegal in the United States since 1863. In fact, there is now no country where slavery is considered legal yet researchers estimate that there are 21 million people enslaved worldwide—78% work in forced labor situations and 22% are trapped into forced prostitution. Modern slaves are cheap and disposable.

 

In 1850 in the American south, the average cost of a slave was $40,000 in today’s dollars. Today the average cost of a slave is $90.[2]

 

The news often carries the story of a child who has disappeared or was kidnapped. This past January, an 18-year-old girl living in Walterboro, South Carolina was positively identified as a child who was kidnapped from a Jacksonville, Florida hospital just hours after she was born in 1998.[3] These are dark and ugly events that plague the world today.

 

What do these stories have to do with Daniel? When we read about Daniel’s faithfulness and God’s protection of and favor upon him, we also need to remember that Daniel was a slave. He was taken as a prisoner of war, along with many other young Hebrew boys, to serve in whatever task his Babylonian captors would desire.

 

It is easy to read stories like Daniel’s or even Joseph’s from the book of Genesis and forget that these men were cruelly enslaved and had no hope of escape. We need to read Daniel’s story with an understanding of the culture of slavery in which he lived.

 

We have seen Daniel remain faithful to his God through his dietary restrictions, continuing to pray and worship God even in the face of death, precisely reveal and accurately interpret dreams for his Babylonian captors, grow to be an old man, and rise to a position of leadership even in his captivity. He has been a counselor to kings even in the midst of a complete change of sovereignty from Babylonian to Medo-Persian.

 

When Belshazzar was killed and his government completely overthrown, Daniel stayed on as an advisor to Darius or, as some historians believe, Cyrus with Darius being a title rather than a specific name.[4] Daniel was an influential leader even though he was enslaved; Daniel remained faithful to the Lord and God’s favor was upon him.

 

Daniel Studied the Scriptures and Knew the Times

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. (Daniel 9:1-2)[5]

 

By this time, Daniel was close to 90 years old. He had been a slave for almost 70 years, and at his age you would think that he would have given up all hope of ever seeing Jerusalem and the Temple restored. But Daniel had been reading Jeremiah.

8 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.” Jeremiah 25:8-14

 

It is very possible that as a young man in Jerusalem, Daniel knew Jeremiah. At the very least, he certainly knew of Jeremiah. He had probably read that passage many times in his life but never imagined that he would survive 70 years as a slave to see the end of the appointed time for God’s judgment. He also must have read Jeremiah 29.

10 For thus says the LORD:  When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:10-13

 

Jeremiah 29:11 was not a “good vibe” verse for Daniel to write on a wall or put on a graduation card. It was a promise of the end of Babylonian exile. It was the promise that even though Judah had been made to endure severe punishment for their sin, God was still not done with them.

 

Ultimately, it was a promise that points us to Christ as we see the entire Old Testament narrative as being the story of God redeeming man from the fall with Christ. By preserving Judah, God was preserving the promised line of the Messiah, the seed of the woman that would eventually crush the head of Satan.

 

Daniel read the scriptures and he knew that 70 years now passed in captivity. What Daniel does next clearly indicates that he not only knew the scriptures, but he believed them.

 

When Daniel recognizes that God’s appointed time for Judah’s captivity had passed, he goes to prayer.

3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,

5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.

12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.Daniel 9:3-19

 

Daniel Prays Selflessly

Daniel is not praying for himself here. In fact, Daniel barely asks for anything from God. In the first 2/3 of this prayer, Daniel is defending God’s character. He defends God’s action and judgment against Judah. He confesses their corporate sin and does not offer any excuse or attempt to blame someone else. Daniel’s prayer looks like it could come right out of 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

 

Daniel does not defend himself or his people; he defends his God. He confesses the sin of his nation and validates Leviticus 26:14-45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-58 where the Lord specifically pronounces judgment for future disobedience. He makes no demands upon God, nor does he claim any rights against God.

 

When Daniel finally asks something of God, it is not for himself. Daniel asks God to turn his anger away from Jerusalem and to shine his face upon the Temple. Daniel has been longing to see his homeland restored. He has been longing for the people called out by God to be able once again to worship God in his tabernacle. He does not ask for freedom. He does not pray for harm to his enemies or to the enemies of God. He is concerned about the glory of God and worship in his prayer.

 

He closes his prayer offering God a good reason to answer this prayer: for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name (Dan 9:19). It is about God and God’s glory. It is about God and God’s reputation. It is about God and God’s promise, specifically in Jeremiah. Daniel calls upon God to be true to his own nature and character by fulfilling his promise and answering the prayer of Daniel.

 

God Answers Prayer

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. Daniel 9:20-24

 

The truth and application of this passage is very simple: God answers prayer.

 

God did not wait for Daniel to finish and then consider his supplication. God answered immediately. Scripture gives example after example of God answering prayer.

The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29). The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16b).

 

God hears prayer and he answers immediately. He may not send the answer we want or desire. We may not understand the plan of God. We may not see the full picture clearly. But we can know with certainty that God answers when his people pray.

 

Look at the answer to Daniel’s prayer. Gabriel, in verse 22, says he has come with insight and understanding. Daniel didn’t ask for insight and understanding, yet the Lord is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). We also learn that Daniel is greatly loved by the Lord.

 

You might be thinking that this man, Daniel, lived his entire adult life in slavery—how could God love him? If God loved him, why wouldn’t he deliver Daniel from slavery? God used Daniel for his glory, and that is not a selfish act. The most loving act God can do is to reveal himself and his glory to his creation.

 

God chose Daniel, and even though the circumstances of Daniel’s life were not as Daniel would have chosen, God still blessed him and protected him. Scripture does not tell us if Daniel ever prayed for his own freedom or release during those 70 years. But scripture does tell us that Daniel was faithful to his God regardless of the circumstance or the potential consequences for that obedience.

 

Spiritual Disciplines Were A Habit For Daniel

There is one little phrase that would be easy to miss from this passage, but I think it is important that we not overlook it.

 

Daniel wrote, While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice (Daniel 9:22). This was at the time of evening prayer, when the second sacrifice had been traditionally made. Daniel, when he was living in Jerusalem as a boy before the captivity, would have remembered. He may have remembered seeing the smoke rising from the Temple ground because a lamb had been slain.

 

The lamb was slain for sin and offered up to God. Sins were confessed. The one who brought the lamb would lay his hands upon the lamb, signifying identification, and confess his sin with his hands on the lamb. Then the lamb would be offered as a sacrifice. Daniel would have remembered that. For 70 years, there had been no Temple and no Temple sacrifice, but Daniel still prayed toward Jerusalem every day at that time. Daniel was still faithful to observe the evening sacrifice even though there had not been one in 70 years.[6]

 

This is faithful consistency in prayer.

 

The Prophecy

Time will not allow us to dig into the prophecy contained in verses 24 through 27. I would encourage you to study it in depth as God is revealing the coming Messiah. Sir Isaac Newton was known to have said, "We could stake the truth of Christianity on this prophecy alone, made five centuries before Christ." That is a powerful quote coming from one of the greatest scientists the world has ever known.

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. Daniel 9:24-17

 

Application

1. Study the Bible

Are you reading the Bible? Do you have a plan for regular reading of God’s word? If not, start today. I started many “read through the Bible” plans and failed to finish numerous times before I finally made it through. I remember getting bogged down in books like Jeremiah, the very book that brought hope to Daniel. It is God’s word and you and I need to be in it.

 

2. Pray and Pray Selflessly

Daniel prayed and spent most of his time in prayer recounting who God is and what he has done. First let me ask, do you pray? If so, how much? Whatever your answer, I would tell you it is not enough. I have never met anyone who could honestly say that they spent too much time in prayer.

 

The God who spoke all things into being and sustains everything that is, desires a relationship with you. He has revealed himself to you through his word. He has given his son to pay the penalty for your sin. You have time to talk to him.

 

And when you do pray, do you spend all your time asking God to do things for you as if he were your personal genie? Imagine what kind of relationship I would have with my wife if all or even most of my communication to her was asking her to do something for me. That would not work out well.

 

Spend time praying the scriptures back to the Lord. Spend time recalling all the blessings of the Lord in your life. Pray for God’s glory and for his renown. Pray for his will to be done.

 

Dare to be a Daniel.

 

 

[1]MLive, “8 Pimps Busted in West Michigan In Nationwide Sex-trafficking Crackdown, FBI Says,” October 20, 2016.

 

[2]Free The Slaves, “Slavery Is Everywhere,” http://www.freetheslaves.net/about-slavery/slavery-today/, accessed June 21, 2017.

 

[3]USA Today, “Newborn Kidnapped From Hospital In 1998 Found Alive,” January 14, 2017. 

 

[4]MacArthur, John, The MacArthur Study Bible, Nashville: Word, 1997, 1242.

 

[5]Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[6]MacArthur, John, “Israel’s Future: Part 1,” September 21, 1980.

Courageous Faith: An Excellent Spirit

An Excellent Spirit sermon notes download

An Excellent Spirit

Passage: Daniel 6

Father’s Day - Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand our need to learn. (Feel) Feel a desire to grow. (Do) Study the Word and God’s people.

 

Introduction: When I see many of the pictures that portray Daniel in the lions’ den, I have to chuckle.  Look at this famous one held in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Painted in 1615 by Peter Paul Rubens, it is a beautiful example of classical idealism. But if you are like me and this is how you have imagined the lions’ den event, you’ll be surprised to know that this picture has almost no basis in reality. Look at how old the man is in the picture—maybe 25? As you are turning in your Bibles to Daniel 6, we need to recalibrate our mental pictures. Daniel is about 90 years old by Daniel 6. He is a very old man, but one with a powerful and lasting influence. That is what I want to discuss on this Father’s Day.

 

Guys, there is no way any one of us fathers will be perfect. But we can all have a powerful lasting influence on those around us. That is what Daniel had. What is interesting about Daniel is he never had any children. In fact, he was almost certainly a eunuch.[1] He was never married—no family, kids or grandkids—but I guarantee you there is not one child in our church that has not heard of Daniel. That is what I call influence.

 

There are three distinguishing characteristics of men who have a lasting influence. Let’s go to Daniel 6 and find out what they are. As we begin reading, let me set the stage. Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon the Great are no more. In chapter 6, the Medes and the Persians have taken over and a new government is being formed. Darius the Mede is now king[2].

 

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

 

Darius immediately spotted Daniel. We are told specifically it was because he had an excellent spirit.

 

1. Men with a lasting influence have excellent spirits (Dan 6:1-3)

a. Daniel’s excellent spirit flowed from his closeness with God. Back in Daniel 4:8, when Nebuchadnezzar was describing Daniel, he said that within Daniel was the “spirit of the holy god.” Daniel’s excellent spirit began with his intimate, personal walk with God. Before we can influence anyone else, we must allow ourselves to first be influenced by God.

b. Daniel’s excellent spirit had both a spiritual and physical aspect. We are told that Daniel was distinguished because of his excellent spirit, so it must have been visible. Daniel’s inner life (his spirit) was visible in his outer life (the way he acted). Men, if our inner lives are chaos, our outer lives will be too.

c. Daniel’s excellent spirit revealed right thinking. In Daniel 5:11 the queen of Babylon described Daniel. Listen to what she said: There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers. Men with excellent spirits are wise, intelligent, and full of light, the idea being right thinking that leads to right actions, minds filled with light not darkness.  What we feed our minds will pour out of our spirits.

d. Daniel’s excellent spirit was reflected by good habits. We will find out in a moment that it was Daniel’s habit to pray three times a day. That is a great habit; it can’t be his only one. People who develop good habits grow exceptional spirits.

 

Because of this excellent spirit, the king was going to make Daniel the number one official in the kingdom. This displeased many of the governmental leaders around him. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

 

They made themselves special investigators and were looking for corruption, but they could find none. So they devised a plan. 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.

 

This was actually a clever and shrewd plan, because they knew Daniel was a man of prayer.

 

2. Men with lasting influence pray. (Dan 6:10-11)

Look at verse 10.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.

 

The key phrase here is “as he had done previously.” Daniel was not acting out of spite for the new king. He was doing what he did every day; he prayed. This was a key aspect of his inner life that flowed outward. Men, we don’t have to show off our praying; we need not open our windows and face Jerusalem. But if we are to have a lasting impact, it will take God working through us. We must be on our knees! “God, help me lead my family. Grant me strength. Would you save my children? Help them to find joy in obeying their mother. Bless my work.” These quick little prayers call on the living God to engage in our everyday life. He has infinite unlimited power and loves us, why would we not call on him?

 

The jealous government leaders of course catch Daniel praying. They tattle to Darius and pressure him to follow the very law they helped him create. But Darius is visibly upset by what has transpired and most certainly realizes that he has been manipulated. Look at verse 14.Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.

 

But the government bureaucrats know the law even better than the king. In verse 15 they declare to him,“Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” So the king did what he knew he had to do. 16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.

 

3. Men with lasting influence persevere. (Dan 6:20-21)

It is one thing to be a man of prayer. But it is something entirely different to be a man of prayer with your life on the line. One of the reasons we respect Daniel is because he was unwilling to compromise his faith—when he was young with the king’s food and when he was old with his prayer life. His consistency and perseverance in the face of certain death is why we admire Daniel. Men, our consistency and perseverance in doing right (from our youth to gray hair) is key to having a lasting influence on those we love. We have got to be there.

 

Bob Bell just went to be with the Lord. He was in his 80’s and had lived a full life. His funeral was beautiful. Much of the joy was because Bob had been a faithful, committed follower of Jesus here at Calvary for 40 years. Pastors, deacons, styles of worship have all come and gone. But Bob and Jean persevered. There is not a person who knew Bob that did not respect him. His lasting influence on me? He showed me the power of being committed to a group of people for the long haul. 

 

Daniel was thrown in the lions’ den. The door was closed and he spent the night with lions bred and starved so that they would tear prisoners to pieces. The next morning Darius was anxious to find out Daniel’s fate.

20 As he (Darius) came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”

 

While I thought Darius would have been overjoyed, I obviously do not think like a king, because he immediately went into full-out justice mode. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions…That phrase “maliciously accused” is an Aramaic idiom. Literally translated it reads “the men who had eaten his pieces.” It is a wordplay on what happens in a lions’ den.[3] These men who had been trying to devour (“eat his pieces”) Daniel with their plan were now literally going to be eaten by lions.

 

The irony shows up at the end of verse 24…they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. The Persians were famous for their swift and severe justice. That is what makes Daniel’s perseverance so powerful. He stood firm, knowing that the hammer of Persian justice comes down severely on those who disobey.

 

Men, let me recap. Daniel, 2500 years after his death, still influences us today because of his excellent spirit, his tenacious habitual prayers, and his dogged persistence in following hard after God. There are no perfect men. No one expects you to be the perfect man, dad, grandfather, or husband. But you can be a tremendous positive influence.

 

Grow your inner life—because it flows out.

Pray and call on the living God to move in your life.

Persevere—your faithfulness over the long haul is the key to a long term impact.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L .Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] There are certain indications in Scripture that suggest Daniel was made a eunuch. 1) He was never married. 2) He was a slave in a time and place where castration of slaves was common. 3) In 2 Kings 20:18 some of Hezekiah’s descendants, we are told, would one day be taken from Israel to serve in the palace of the king of Babylon as eunuchs: “And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Daniel 1:3 describes Daniel and his friends as under the authority of the “chief eunuch,” a man named Ashpenaz (see www.gotquestions.org).

[2] There are many websites and articles that discuss the fact that we have no archeological evidence for the existence of a man named “Darius the Mede.” That is not a problem for the Bible scholar if you understand the language. The Aramaic word “Darius” means “Lord.” So whoever the king in this story was, he was “Lord of the Medes.” Darius almost certainly is not a proper name but a title. Skeptics like to highlight this apparent conflict with the Bible and archeology, but no conflict exists.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 187–188.

Courageous Faith: Arrogant Blindness

Arrogant Blindness sermon notes

Arrogant Blindness

Passage: Daniel 5

Sunday, June 11, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand our need to learn. (Feel) Desire to grow. (Do) Study the Word and God’s people.

Introduction: Arrogance, blasphemy and idolatry—those were the three dominant sins of Nebuchadnezzar. In his idolatry, he worshipped a stone image called Marduk. He blasphemed the God of the Bible by plundering the temple and taking all its treasures and putting them in Marduk’s temple. We saw his arrogance last week in Daniel 4 when he walked through his kingdom saying, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” But despite his sinfulness, he listened when God broke into his life, and he repented, humbling himself, worshiping and extoling the God of heaven. God blessed him with a long life and a great kingdom.

The first four chapters of the book of Daniel are a beautiful picture of God’s grace! YHWH God graciously revealed himself to an arrogant, idolatrous, unbelieving Nebuchadnezzar. The king listened and God’s grace broke through Nebuchadnezzar’s hard heart and he humbled himself, turned his heart toward the true king of the universe, and worshipped him. What a beautiful picture of transformation. But not everyone listens like Nebuchadnezzar. This morning, we are going to walk through Daniel 5, and if there is one word to describe this chapter it would be: beware. God will not shield people who willfully choose to sin from the consequences of their actions.

 

Background: Let me bring you up to speed with where we are. Just like chapter four, chapter five jumps several decades. Nebuchadnezzar was no longer the king of Babylon. Belshazzar was ruling as the son and coregent of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon. A number of archeological artifacts have been found that mention him by name—enough, in fact, that we know the events of this chapter took place in October 539 BC.[1] Darius the Mede, king of the Medes and Persians, had laid siege to Babylon. The city was surrounded and had been for two years. But the city was impenetrable. Chapter five begins with the king of Babylon mocking his enemy’s two-year siege by holding a party.

1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them… 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.[2]

Why would they do this? This was a battle strategy. We need to remember how ancient people thought. If two people with two different gods fought, the winner was always the one with the greater god. So, to rally his gods to victory over Persia, Belshazzar worshipped them with the spoils from past victories. The Nabonitus Cylinder tells us that by this time, all the idols from all the cities surrounding Babylon had been brought to the capital to protect them.[3] The king was mocking YHWH to gain favor with not just Marduk, but all the idols from the surrounding area. While this was going on, 5Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

 

God has a limit to how far he will allow people to go in their sin. The scary aspect of that truth is that we never know where that limit is. God is longsuffering and merciful, and may allow people to continue in sin for a long time. But God’s word is strikingly clear: a person will reap the harvest of whatever they sow. Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

 

There is time for grace and mercy if our God is loving, but there must also be times for judgment if our God is good, righteous, holy, and just. The king and his Babylonian dinner guests crossed a line that night in the banquet hall of Babylon. Judgment day had come, and the writing on the wall announced its arrival. Just like the dreams of chapters 2 & 4, none of the wise men or astrologers could understand the meaning of the words until the queen came in.

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

 

This is important to catch here. Daniel and the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion to the God of the Bible was well-known information in the court of Belshazzar. The queen’s gracious words reveal that the events of Daniel 1-4 had not been forgotten. But when Daniel is brought before the king, he is belittled. Belshazzar is probably still drunk and he is most certainly showing off for his crowd of idol worshippers.13 …The king… said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah.” “That Daniel?” Daniel had loyally and with great renown served the kings of Babylon for 70 years. “That Daniel?” Belshazzar is mocking him.

 14 “I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

 

Daniel responds by telling the king he can keep his gifts. Then he does something really interesting. He proceeds to tell Belshazzar the story of his father’s conversion—how God had revealed himself to Nebuchadnezzar and how he brought him low and softened his hard heart, and especially how he was restored and blessed when he worshipped the Most High God. Verse 22 is where it gets serious. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this… Belshazzar knew the whole story. Three times God had intervened in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, leaving him convinced that the God of the Bible was the Most High God. Belshazzar knew all of it! But he refused to follow Nebuchadnezzar’s example and humble himself.

23… you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

 

I like the way the NLT translates that last sentence. But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny![4]

 

So, what did God write on the wall? 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. Daniel interprets the meaning of the words in the following verse. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

There is a lot of word play that happens in this sentence. I won’t bore you with all of it, but the words literally mean: numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.[5] I will point out one significant piece. The word for divided, parsin, had the same spelling as the word “Persian,” as in the Persian empire that would defeat the Babylonians. So, the kingdom was being divided or split away from the king and given to the Persians. Our story ends abruptly in verse 30…That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

 

Great story, but what are the lessons? Remember when I said the theme of this chapter was “beware”? We should walk away with two incredibly important lessons from Daniel 5.

 

1. Pay attention to how God is working in the people around you. Belshazzar’s kingdom and life ended tragically because he did not learn the lessons that God taught Nebuchadnezzar. He knew them. He heard all about the “holy God” and how he had revealed himself and humbled Nebuchadnezzar. Though he “knew all of it,” he did not change.

Let me speak for a moment to everyone 40 and under. God has given you family, friends, and a church with many people who have walked the path of wisdom ahead of you. Watch and learn from them. Learn from their mistakes and make better choices. Learn from their successes and follow their example. If I am honest, much of how I structure my life is either a reaction against or a copying of things I have seen. I work hard every week preparing a message, typing it out, even giving you my notes, and it is a reaction to having sat through many sermons where I knew the pastor had not prepared. But, I also pray over my message. I get up very early every Sunday and pray for you, the church, and I do it because of men of God who have shown me the power of prayer. Hebrews 13:7 Remember… those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

God has given us a gift in the church. We are a body of believers meant to grow together. Discipleship is encouraging and shaping each other, and teaching one another the lessons we have learned. Being discipled is far less complicated than you might think—it is paying attention to how God is working in the people around you.

 

2. Draw wisdom from the lives of people recorded in Scripture. Belshazzar is not the only person meant to learn from the stories in Daniel. The reason this book exists is so that you and I can learn the same lessons. Jesus told an interesting story in Luke 16. Two men died—a rich man who went to hell and a poor man, Lazarus, who went to heaven. In the story, Jesus says as the rich man was suffering in hell, he pleaded with heaven to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers to repent lest they end up in hell as well. The rich man is told “No.” Listen to why. Luke 16:29–31 “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man begs, “If someone would go to them from the dead, then they would repent.” The answer is still “No,” and we are told why. “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

Don’t go looking for some special sign or knowledge from God; he is not sending it. He has given us everything we need to know for life and godliness in his word. Study it. Join an Equipping U class, do a deep dive and let the Word of God do what it does best: transform your life. Belshazzar let his pride blind him from seeing the critical areas of his life he needed to change. Learn from Belshazzar.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Da 5:1.

[2] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Opis

[4] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Da 5:23.

[5] Gleason L. Archer Jr., “Daniel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 73.

Courageous Faith: Redemptive Distress

Redemptive Distress sermon notes

Redemptive Distress

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand God’s grace. (Feel) Feel love for God in difficulty. (Do) Stand firm in faith.

 

Introduction: 32 years is a lifetime. Lebron James is 32 years old. Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world, died when he was 32. This morning we are in Daniel 4. It is critical for us to realize that the action that takes place today in chapter 4 happened 32 years after Daniel first met Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is now around 50 years old and has served the king for the majority of his life. If you have been with us for the last several weeks, you have heard me say that, for reasons we may never know, God was uniquely gracious in revealing himself to Nebuchadnezzar.

 

In Daniel 1: Daniel and his friends decided to honor God by not eating the king’s food. Because of their decision, God blessed them with great wisdom and King Nebuchadnezzar found the Israelites ten times wiser than all his other wise men. God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that there is a difference in those who worship God.

 

In Daniel 2: While he was thinking about the future, the Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream that only Daniel could interpret. Daniel made it abundantly clear that the dream and the interpretation came from the “God of heaven.” In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar learned that only God’s kingdom will last forever—all others are temporary. As the chapter ended, Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed Daniel’s God as the “highest” of all the “gods.”

 

In Daniel 3: Nebuchadnezzar saw the faith of those who followed the Most High, the God of heaven. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had an objective and exclusive faith that led them to reject idol worship. Thinking no god could deliver these men from his wrath, Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace. He watched as the God of heaven did what no other god could—rescue his people. Nebuchadnezzar watched the Lord step into a blazing furnace to be with those who followed him. Nebuchadnezzar blessed the Lord and made it a crime to speak against the God of heaven.

 

Nebuchadnezzar seems to have a growing understanding of the Lord, but was he a believer? He was close, but this morning we will find that he had one more very important lesson to learn. Chapter 4 is unique because it is either written or dictated as a proclamation by Nebuchadnezzar himself. Proclamations like this were common and were usually written on a “stele.”  

Daniel 4[1]

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

Nebuchadnezzar learned well what God had revealed to him at this point. You can almost hear the stories of chapters 1-3 behind this introduction.

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying…

 

I want you to catch something. At this point in his narrative, Nebuchadnezzar talks of “his” god being the god that Daniel was named after. “His” god was Marduk. But Daniel had the spirit of the “holy gods.” It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar uses the Aramaic word “holy.” Daniel’s God is different from the other gods by being unique in his moral purity.[2]

 

The Dream:

9“O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. 13 I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.

 “Watcher” is the Aramaic word for angel. Biblically it is used only in Daniel, but there were entire books written about the good and evil watchers.[3]

 14 He (the watcher) proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. (The Babylonians believed that “dew from heaven” is what brought sickness and disease, so Nebuchadnezzar would have viewed this as an ominous warning.)[4] Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’”

 

While Nebuchadnezzar does not understand what the dream means, the watcher is very clear as to its purpose. The dream represents events that will happen so that the “living” may know that Most High rules the kingdom of men, gives it to whom he will, and sets over it the lowliest of men.

The Interpretation: Daniel is dismayed. He immediately understands that the dream is about Nebuchadnezzar and that it is not good.

25 “…you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar is going to go through a significant period of hardship, hardship that will teach him a powerful lesson about who is in charge and who isn’t.

 

Redemptive Distress: There are times in my life when I feel like I am in charge. I make decisions, my plans work out, and I feel good and powerful. If I am honest, there have been times in my life, especially when I was young, that I felt almost invincible. But I don’t feel like that today because of “redemptive distress.” What is it? Redemptive distress is the hard or painful circumstances in our lives that God uses to get our attention and draw us to him. Don’t waste your difficult times. Depression, anger, bitterness, lashing out—these are inappropriate and unbiblical ways to face hardship, but they often show up first. Instead, use your difficulty to soul-search: is there something I need repent of or change? Use your difficulty to pray. Use your difficulty to intensify your faith. Use your difficulty to strengthen your bond with those suffering around you. Use your difficulty to deepen your relationship with God. This was the advice Daniel gave the king.

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

 

We don’t know whether the king listened or not. But we do know that twelve months later, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream became a reality. Nebuchadnezzar 29… was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

 

You can just hear the arrogance dripping from his words. In his pride, Nebuchadnezzar took for himself the glory that rightly belonged to the Lord, inviting upon himself God’s judgment.

31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

 

The king who thought himself a god became subhuman. The key to redemptive distress is the redemption part. Nebuchadnezzar was graciously broken so he would look to the God who made him. Difficulty will draw us to the Lord if we think biblically. For example:

 

1. God designs our distress specifically for us. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh,” David had Goliath, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. God did not give Nebuchadnezzar cancer; his distress was uniquely tailored to his pride that had to be broken. If you are going through difficulty, it is yours. It may not be to break you; it may be to mold you or to strengthen your faith. Whatever God is doing, he is doing for you not to you! God’s goal was to lovingly turn Nebuchadnezzar away from self-love and to him!

 2. Our distress opens our eyes to God’s closeness. God knew Nebuchadnezzar intimately. He knew exactly what it would take to get his attention—not because he is mean and capricious, but because he is loving and close! Remember Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

3. Our goal in distress must be intimacy with God, not relief. Watch what happens to Nebuchadnezzar’s heart.

34At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

What a powerful testimony! Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven.” It is hard for you and me to understand the significance of this statement. This is as clear a statement of faith as was ever given in scripture. To put it in New Testament language, Nebuchadnezzar “got saved.” Redemptive distress through the power of the Holy Spirit is what drew him to the Lord.

 

Jeremiah’s letter: Let me end with this thought. Before any of the stories of Daniel took place, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to all the people of Israel taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, every one of them ripped from home and family, every one of them in distress. In the letter, God specifically says that he was the one who caused their pain,[5] but then he says these famous words in Jeremiah 29:11–13 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Aramaic (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[3] See the first three books of Enoch (there are 8) which discuss the fall and activities of the watchers.

[4] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Da 4:15.

[5] Jer 29:4

Courageous Faith: Faithful in the Face of Death

Faithful in the Face of Death sermon notes

Faithful in the Face of Death

Passage: Daniel 3

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the exclusivity of God. (Feel) Feel the power to remain faithful. (Do) Stand firm in faith.

 

Introduction: In May of 1940, 365,000 Allied soldiers were trapped on the coast of Dunkirk, France. German Panzer divisions were on their way, and they had the capacity to wipe out the Allied force. When it seemed certain that the forces at Dunkirk were about to be massacred, a British naval officer cabled just three words back to London: But if not. These words were instantly recognized by the cable officer as a reference to the book of Daniel. The message in those three little words was: the situation is desperate. The Allied forces were trapped. It would take a miracle to save them, but if not they would remain faithful and not give in. One simple three-word phrase communicated all that. The British leapt into action and assembled 850 boats—some large ships, some small fishing boats. The plan was to rescue 45,000 of the men before the Germans crushed the entire force. For some unknown reason, Hitler ordered his divisions to hold. The German generals were furious, but as they backed off, what’s known as the Miracle of Dunkirk took place. What was to be a one-day rescue of 45,000 turned into a nine-day rescue of more than 365,000 soldiers. “But if not.” My prayer this morning is that when we leave here, we will clearly understand that phrase.

 

When I was a child, I picked up an understanding of faith that caused me to seriously question God when I was a senior in high school. What I had picked up was this thought: if I trust God with a sufficient quality and quantity of faith, everything will work out well for me. The kicker is, I think I accidentally learned this in Sunday School. Let me tell you the story of Daniel chapter 3 the way I had always heard it.

 

My understanding: King Nebuchadnezzar created a large image (90’x9’) and he required everyone in the kingdom to bow down to it when music began to play. When the music played, several evil jealous satraps (whatever they were…governors or something) told Nebuchadnezzar that three Jewish guys refused to bow. (Now where Daniel went in this story, I was never told.) So, the king called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in front of him and demanded that they bow down to the idol or they would be thrown into the “fiery furnace.” But because of the young men’s incredible faith (giant faith…it was even mentioned in Hebrews 11), they refused to bow and instead were thrown into a furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. Then to the surprise of the king, the three Jewish guys not only survived the fire (the soldiers that threw them in didn’t), but the Son of God walked around in the fire with them. They came out of the furnace unscathed and they did not even smell of smoke.

 

That’s the story. I was hearing this story for the first time in junior high, but to me the message was very clear: put your faith in God and he will save you. Right? Now, I was a pretty sophisticated junior higher, so I put together that you probably had to have a lot of faith, and it had to be the “super high quality” type of faith. But that was perfectly fine because, as a junior higher, I had both in spades. But when I hit 16, 17, 18…I discovered the hard reality that many people with tremendous faith suffer terribly. Here is where I landed as a 17-year-old: while faith worked in the Bible, it did not always work in real life.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the story and see if I missed anything about faith. First of all, this section is a continuation of the story from chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was introduced to the “God of heaven” by Daniel. Daniel’s incredible God-given ability to reveal and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream astounded him, and Nebuchadnezzar’s response was to praise God. We did not find a “believing” Nebuchadnezzar, but he had certainly added the God of Heaven to his “list” of gods (See Dan 2:47). Last week I mentioned that God had a surprisingly unique relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. He was not the “hated pagan king” (the bad guy of the story as he is so often portrayed). In fact, the action and drama surrounding Daniel and the three children of Israel seems to revolve around God graciously revealing himself to the king. Turn to Daniel 3:2–7[1].

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps (local governor), the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Notice how the governmental offices are mentioned.) 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (They are all listed again. The idea is that EVERYONE is worshipping!) And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

 

This passage paints a picture of the whole world bowing down to the image—all peoples, all nations, all languages. All the magistrates, governors, treasurers, justices, everyone everywhere obeyed, except three men. The story moves from the Plain of Dura where the image was, to the throne room of Nebuchadnezzar where certain Babylonians informed the king of the three men who refused to worship.

12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

 

These accusers insinuated that government officials who refused to worship the idol were dangerous, disobedient, and unqualified to serve. They were unwilling to follow the “party leadership,” therefore they must be removed. These men had a dangerous faith that was objective and exclusive. What do I mean by that? The faith that the three children of Israel had was not just “believing,” their faith had an “Object” and that was YHWH God. They were not into the “power of positive thinking.” They trusted in and obeyed the powerful, sovereign God of the universe as revealed in the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses—the number one command being, You shall have no other gods before me (Ex. 20:3).

 

For our guests: Can I just encourage you? You do not have to bow to idols to be good leaders and civil servants. Idols today may not look like 90 ft images, but the idols of money, power, and party politics often stand just as tall.

 

Nebuchadnezzar was furious. He called in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 15 “Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

 

That last phrase is why I think this story is really more about God revealing himself to Nebuchadnezzar than it is about the faith of these three Jewish men. “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” What a perfect set up! It is like God is playing a sovereign game of tee-ball with Nebuchadnezzar and the ball is teed up for a home run!

 

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

 

There is so much here to talk about, but let me draw out three key components of these three men’s faith.

 

1. Their faith was exclusive. These men knew the God of the Bible and, unlike the Babylonians who were willing to worship new gods as they were set up, these three men knew that the God of heaven had clearly established how he was to be worshipped: exclusively. Exodus 20:3–6 says,

You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

2. Their faith assumed God’s wisdom and sovereignty. Notice that these men’s faith did not assume God was going to make “everything better.” They worded their statement carefully. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” They did not say he would, just that he was able. Their faith was that God in his wisdom and sovereignty would do what was right as they did what was right. Many believers have been in similar situations and died for their faith. Based on how this is worded, I think it is clear these men were ready to die. They were not “positive thinkers;” they had a deep faith based on God’s very nature as he had revealed himself throughout biblical history, through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Elijah. The bravery behind these men’s actions flowed from their knowledge that God was in control and that he always does what is right.

 

3. Their faith anticipated God’s provision to be sufficient, loving, and good. Verse 18 is amazing. “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Those who want to stay alive don’t talk to kings this way. But they had not put their lives in the hands of the king; they had placed their lives in the hands of their God, because he is sufficient and his hands are loving and good. I want to remind us what Nebuchadnezzar should be picking up on. He knows that there is a God in Heaven. God graciously revealed himself. Now God is graciously revealing to Nebuchadnezzar that he is the ONLY God in heaven.  But no king likes defiance.

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face (the word is “image,” the same word used for the idol) was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind [them], and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace…  22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

 

God does not save the men from the furnace; they are thrown in. Verse 24 is where it gets miraculous.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

 

The fourth person was Immanuel, God with us (Is. 7:14). Our God is the God who blesses faith with his presence. God met with Abraham, Isaac, and Moses by faith. Today we are told that salvation and God’s presence in our lives comes by “grace through faith” in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Nebuchadnezzar was amazed at the presence of God.

 

 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!”  Notice the phrase he uses to describe God. In the last chapter, he was the “God of heaven,” now he is “the Most High God.”

 

Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. The miracle is amazing, but not as amazing to me as what Nebuchadnezzar says next.

28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

 

There is no other God who is able to rescue at all. Trust and follow him—exclusively—assuming that his ways are best and anticipating that, as you live for him, God’s provision for you will be sufficient, loving, and good.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

Courageous Faith: The Rock

The Rock sermon notes

The Rock

Passage: Daniel 2:29-47

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Know that Jesus Christ is the “Rock”. (Feel) Feel a desire to join or recommit to God’s eternal kingdom. (Do) Pray for faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Introduction: Last time we left Daniel, he was in Babylon—the dominant world power in the year 602 BC. Nebuchadnezzar had conquered almost all the Middle East and had returned to his capital city to build and rule his vast empire. But he had a dream that bothered him terribly, so much so that he called on all the wise men, astrologers, magicians, and sorcerers of Babylon to tell him the dream and its interpretation. This was an impossible task for sure, but Babylonian astrologers were famous for telling kings what they wanted to hear. Nebuchadnezzar had to be sure that the interpretation was accurate. The God of heaven revealed the dream to Daniel, and this morning we are going to look at his dream. Caution: Many people have speculated on what this dream meant. We are not going to do that this morning. We are going to take a slightly different approach and try to grasp what Nebuchadnezzar would have heard. Let’s turn to Daniel 2:26.[1]

The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

 

Before Daniel interprets anything, he exposes the God who reveals mysteries. “There is a God in heaven,” he says. This statement sums up the entire book of Daniel. There are many great stories in this book, but you can summarize all of them with the phrase. Last week I was working with Karl on his sermon, and I told him that he should be able to sum it up in one sentence. The book of Daniel’s “sermon in a sentence” is: There is a God in heaven.

  • There is a God in heaven that gave Babylon the victory over Israel (1:2)
  • There is a God in heaven that brought Daniel to Babylon (1:4)
  • There is a God in heaven who showed favor to Daniel (1:9)
  • There is a God in heaven that gave Daniel the gift of wisdom (1:17)
  • There is a God in heaven that reveals mysteries (2:28)

Later we will find that:

  • There is a God in heaven who will walk with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. (3:8 ff)
  • There is a God in heaven who will protect Daniel in the lions’ den. (6)

 

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the book of Daniel is to whom God is revealing himself. We are going to find over the next few chapters that the God of heaven has a unique relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. It is tempting to read the Old Testament (stories like Sodom & Gomorrah or David & Goliath) and think that God loved Israel and hated all the other nations, when in fact it was God’s desire for Israel to be a light and reveal him to the nations. Listen to what God said to his people in Isaiah 49:6. “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  God does not hate the nations. In fact, as we walk through this passage, I want you to look for how gracious God is to this pagan king. He goes to extraordinary lengths to reveal himself and his future plans. Look again at verse 28.  …but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.

 

The phrase “what will be in the latter days” is used here by Daniel, but it also shows up in Hosea, Ezekiel, Micah, and Isaiah.[2] Almost every time this phrase is used in Scripture, it describes the actions of, or the times surrounding, Messiah. Daniel did not accidentally use this phrase. This dream and its interpretation are about Jesus the Messiah and the kingdom he will set up.

29To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

 

God reveals the dream to Daniel for one reason: so that the interpretation would be known and clear to the king. This is part of that special relationship I discussed earlier. God is reaching out through time and space to reveal his Messiah to a pagan, idol-worshipping king, for no other reason than that he is gracious.

 

The Dream (video)

Daniel 2:31–35

31“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. (or awesome)

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

 

Ok, so that’s the dream. Now, what does it mean? What is the “Revealer of Mysteries” trying to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar? 37You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

 

God has given Nebuchadnezzar an image that represents kings and kingdoms. The golden and most glorious part of the image represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom. This is certainly historically accurate. Nebuchadnezzar created a city which was not only wondrous to behold, but it was also the center of the world for the arts and intellectual pursuits. Women enjoyed equal rights with men under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule; there was indoor plumbing; schools and temples were plentiful; and literacy, mathematics, and craftsmanship flourished along with a tolerance of, and interest in, other gods of other faiths.[3] Fifty-six miles of walls surrounded the city, all of it enameled in blue proclaiming Nebuchadnezzar as the “lion of Babylon.” If I’m Nebuchadnezzar, I’m thinking, “So far, so good.”

 

39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you…(represented by the silver part of the image)…and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. We have three kingdoms, each one inferior to the preceding one. But we also have new information here. We are told each of the kingdoms being represented is a kingdom that rules “over all the earth.”

40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.

 

It is interesting that Daniel shares almost no information about the “silver” kingdom, but there is a lot of detail about this fourth kingdom. It is iron and it will “break and crush.” But it will not be a unified kingdom; it will be strong but divided and brittle. That is the image. Now let’s get to the action.

44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. God is revealing to Nebuchadnezzar something amazing here. He is going to “set up” a kingdom that will never be destroyed and will never be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.

 

The stone that smashed the image into little pieces is the future kingdom that God will establish through Jesus Christ. Notice the stone is specifically described as being cut by no human hand. This kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. It is interesting that Jesus referred to himself as a stone in Matthew 21—specifically a stone that had been “rejected” but would become “the chief cornerstone” (v.42). In the context of the Kingdom of God (v. 43), Jesus added (v.44) “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

 

There are two intended audiences for this story and the dream.

Audience #1: Nebuchadnezzar

This dream was an introduction and a call for Nebuchadnezzar to put his faith in the God of heaven. God introduced himself through Daniel and his ability to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream. Then he clearly showed him that while his kingdom is marvelous, it will be handed over to another who will hand it over to another who will hand it over to another until the Lord’s Messiah appears and sets up an eternal kingdom that will last forever. That is the message to Nebuchadnezzar: turn to God through his Messiah.

Nebuchadnezzar’s response to this dream is surprisingly appropriate. 47The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” He rightly describes God. But, like so many, just because he understood who God was does not mean he put his faith in him. In fact, as a polytheist, Nebuchadnezzar probably just added Jesus to his list of gods to pray to; he was not committed to the God of Heaven.

 

Audience #2: You and Me

This vision is an incredibly accurate picture of the next 600 years of world history. The Babylonian Empire ruled from 625 to 539 BC, as predicted by God through Daniel (both in this vision and Daniel 7). The next great kingdom was the Medo-Persian Empire. We know from history that this empire began in 538 BC and lasted until 330 BC. The Medo-Persians were overthrown by the Greek Empire, led by Alexander the Great. The Greeks conquered the Persian Empire in a matter of three years (333-330 BC). A short time later, Alexander died, and his empire was split among his four generals. (This is predicted in Daniel 8:8 & 11:4.) The fourth kingdom was the Roman Empire (31 BC to AD 476). The armies of Rome crushed any opposition they encountered and defeated the four generals one after another. The Roman Empire—the kingdom of iron—was the greatest war-making machine the world had ever known. As predicted by Daniel, it was incredibly strong, cunning, and cruel.

 

During the time of Rome, the “rock” would come. Small at first, it would grow into a “large mountain” and all the kingdoms before it would be dust. If you have eyes to see, see this. Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God everywhere he went:

  • In Mark 1:15, Jesus begins his ministry by stating, “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
  • In Luke 10:9, standing close to his disciples, Jesus declared that “the Kingdom of God is close to you.”
  • In John 18:36, Jesus declared that his Kingdom is “not of this world.”
  • In Luke 17:21, he told his followers that the Kingdom of God was in the midst of them!
  • Revelation 19:16 tells us that Jesus is high and lifted up and on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus Christ, God’s son, is the Rock. He is building an eternal kingdom that will never end. He will not pass it to another; it will stand forever. He wrote this book for you to see it clearly. 600 years before Christ, he gave a pagan king a dream so that 2000 years after Christ, you might believe in him. You can be part of God’s kingdom, but Jesus himself said in John 3:3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Being born again is trusting and believing that Jesus is the Messiah—that he is the “rock”—and that his death, burial, and resurrection have paid for your sins. It is his Kingdom, and he is the Lord of lords and King of kings. Come to him. Trust him.

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] Is 2:2, Mic 2:1-4, Hos 3:5, Ezek 38:16

[3] Mark, Joshua Nebuchadnezzar II Ancient History Encyclopedia July 20, 2010.

Courageous Faith: The Dreamer

The Dreamer sermon notes

The Dreamer

Passage: Daniel 2:1-28

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) That God desires to answer our prayers. (Feel) A desire to pray. (Do) Pray.

Introduction: I love the book of Daniel! An incredible man with an incredible story who is courageous, faithful, wise, bold, intelligent, and honest. But the book of Daniel isn’t really about Daniel; it is about Daniel’s God. Last week we studied chapter one and saw that it was God who took Daniel to Babylon, it was God who gave Daniel favor, and it was God who gave amazing gifts to him and his three friends so that they were ten times better than all the other servants of Nebuchadnezzar. This book, like none other, gives us a glimpse of God’s sovereign hand at work in our lives.

 

We left Daniel last week in the middle of a three-year training course meant to teach him the ways of Babylon. Turn to Daniel 2[1]. The year is 602 BC. The location is Babylon, the capital of what has become the most powerful nation of the world. Nebuchadnezzar has moved from conquering the Middle East to building walls, temples, and monuments to his greatness—one of which is the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.

1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams.

 

Babylon was famous for its wise men. Since 1800BC (so for over 1000 years) Babylonians had studied the stars for signs from the gods as to what would happen in the future. They were so good at watching the stars that by this time they had calculated the length of the year at 365 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes, 41 seconds.[2] For 1200 years they had watched astrological events in the sky and compared them to what was happening on earth and then recorded the connection, so when the same type of astrological event occurred in the future they could predict what would happen on earth. Here is the thing, though. Babylonian astrologers were famous for telling kings what they wanted to hear. Nebuchadnezzar summoned them.

So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” 4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…

 

Push pause for a second. We can’t see this in our English Bibles, but up until now, the original language of the book was Hebrew. From this point to the end of chapter seven (2:4 -7:28), the book is written in Imperial Aramaic, the language of the Babylonian elite. So, this next conversation is a direct quote. The magicians say to the king…

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

 7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

 

Did you catch that last sentence? This is a striking admission! Only the gods knew the dream, so whoever revealed the dream must be in touch with the gods. Nebuchadnezzar probably thought that since these astrologers claimed to be able to communicate with the spirit world, they should be able to discover the dream and its interpretation.[3] This statement is a perfect set-up for YHWH God to reveal himself to Babylon.

12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard (the word ‘guard’ literally means “to slay or execute”—Arioch was the chief executioner), who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch… “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel.

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

 

Prayer & Praise: There is something incredibly important in the passage that we must catch. When Daniel—a guy who was ten times wiser than anyone in the entire kingdom of Babylon—was in trouble, the very first thing he did was to pray. Did you see that in verse 18? He didn’t pull together a strategy session; he did not try and talk his way out of it; he did not run away or even worry. He gathered three friends to pray. He told his friends to specifically ask for “mercy.” Actually, it should read “mercies” as it is an “intensive plural,” meaning the word is pluralized to really emphasize it. It is an Aramaic word pronounced “ra-cha-min” and often translated mercy or compassion. But the word always carries two important ideas:

 

1. First, it describes the strong bond God has with his children (Ps 103:13). God looks upon his own as a father looks on his children; he has compassion and pity on them (cf. Mic 7:17). This word is the reason given throughout the OT for why  God acts (see Is.49:15): because he had compassion. Our God is a compassionate and merciful God. When we pray for mercy, we are asking God to act in accordance with his character. I think this is important to understand. When you pray and ask God to be merciful to you, all you are saying is, “God, would you be you in my life?”

 

Jesus told a parable in Luke 18 about two men who prayed. One was a self-righteous Pharisee who prayed and told God about all his good deeds and thanked God that he was not like other people. The second man was a tax-collector (there was no one more evil than that). When he prayed, he stood far off, and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13) Only one of those men had their prayers heard that day.

 

2. Second, it emphasizes God’s sovereign choice to be gracious. God tells Moses that he is gracious and merciful to whomever he chooses (Ex 33:19)[4] and specifically to those who ask. (Ps. 86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, bounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.) At any given moment, God can choose to step mercifully into our difficulties and struggles and bring relief, comfort, and joy. It is within the character of God to be merciful and within his sovereign power to move and act to change our situation. Don’t be afraid to pray and ask God to deliver you. It is in both his character and strength to do so! He has the power to deliver!

 

We recently finished a study in James. Remember what he said about prayer in James 4:2? You do not have, because you do not ask. Then just a few verses later James asks, Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise (James 5:13). Daniel followed the first part of that verse. He was suffering and he was about to be killed, so he prayed for God’s mercy. He also obeyed the second part. When he was happy, he praised God. Look at verse 19.

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

 

These five verses are different than almost any other verses in the Bible. They give us a glimpse into Daniel’s relationship with God. It is so personal and rich.

  • Daniel is super wise, yet he praises God for his wisdom and power. (v.20)
  • Daniel has been taken captive by a foreign king, yet he praises God for setting up and removing kings. (v.21)
  • Daniel knows a deep and hidden dream of the king, yet he praises God for knowing all the deep and hidden things. (v. 22)
  • Daniel ends his praise with a very personal thank you. God, I asked you to reveal this dream to me, and you did it! I give thanks and praise! (v. 23)

 

Let’s pick up the story again at verse 24.

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

 25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar…

 

Daniel’s new name plays into this next conversation. Daniel’s name means “God is my judge.” The “god” in Daniel’s name is “EL” as in El Shaddai and Elohim. He is our God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Daniel was taken, he was given the name Belteshazzar, which meant “Bel, protect his life!” Bel was Aramaic for “lord” and referred to Marduk, the god of Babylon. This will make Daniel’s next conversation more confrontational than you might first think. A man named “Bel protect his life” is coming to save all the wise men’s lives. 

 “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.”

 

No wise man of Bel could ever reveal mysteries, but there is a God in heaven. That sentence is one of the bravest you have ever read. Captives didn’t walk into the king’s chambers and insult the king’s god. Daniel makes it very clear that it is YHWH God who is in control, not Bel, and certainly not his magicians. This God YHWH loves even a pagan king enough to reveal himself to him. Next week we will explore the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, and you will be amazed.

 

God saved Daniel and his friends. In a miraculous act of mercy, God swooped, in revealed the king’s dream to Daniel, and saved all of the magicians. It is just like him. He is a compassionate and loving God. His mercies are new every morning. He is using Daniel to forge a relationship with a pagan king. How merciful is that?

 

God has also sent his son to forge a relationship with you. Have you been praying? You have felt far away from God, but have you asked him to come closer? What did the tax-collector say? God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Are you in trouble? Pray. Lonely? Pray. Afraid? Hurt? Addicted? Pray.

 

 

Community Group Questions

  1. Read Daniel 2:1-28 as a group. What parts of this jumped out at you?
  2. Do you think it was fair for Nebuchadnezzar to demand his magicians tell him his dream? Why? Why not?
  3. Daniel prayed for “mercies.” What specifically do you think Daniel was hoping for? (Look at v. 23)
  4. This part of the book is written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, not Hebrew or Greek. Why do you think that is?
  5. Why do you think Daniel, who was very wise, prayed first before he thought up a solution to his problem? Do you pray first about issues or immediately try to solve them?

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] All scripture quotations are from the ESV.

[2] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 79.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 83.

[4] Leonard J. Coppes, “2146 רָחַם,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 842.

Courageous Faith: Resolve

RESOLVE

Daniel 1

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Pastor Ben Marshall

 

Key Goals: (Know) Things don’t always go according to plan, but we can be faithful. (Feel) Desire to be found faithful. (Do) Pursue God where you are.

Introduction: Sometimes you find yourself in a place you didn’t plan to be. My wife, Connie, and I found ourselves in that place last year. We were on vacation, driving back from the U.P.  It had been a wonderful relaxing day. We went to a waterfall, hiked around, and just hung out. Now it was time to head back to the hotel (because we aren’t campers). As we headed back, the gas light came on. When the gas light comes on, it isn’t usually an absolute emergency. Most of the time, you’re driving in places where gas stations show up pretty often. But not so much in the U.P. The gas light came on, and there were no gas stations. We kept passing exits on the highway, thinking, “Okay, the next exit has to have a gas station sign…the NEXT one has to have a gas station.” Nope. Eventually we just decided to just take an exit, because certainly in one of these little towns there had to be a gas station! We drove. And we drove. And we drove. Miles and miles. No gas station. Gas light still on. Eventually we drove around this tiny town and stopped at a business that seemed to be open. We talked to a lady there and asked her where the nearest gas station was. Her response? “Get back on the highway…” What?! We couldn’t make it that far! We were trying not to panic, but there really was no way we were going to make it to the next town down the highway.

 

We were in a place we didn’t plan to be. We didn’t really have many solutions. Our plan A of waiting for the next exit turned to plan B for the NEXT exit turned to plan C for taking an exit and going for a town turned to plan D getting back on the highway. All the while the gas light was on! This sweet lady in the small town must have seen that we were city folk. She kindly came out with a gas can and poured some drops of gas in our tank. She was a God-send; I really don’t think we would have made it without her. The end of the story is we DID make it to the gas station before we ran out of gas. But life doesn’t always have a resolution, does it? Sometimes we find ourselves in a place we didn’t plan to be, faced with circumstances we didn’t prepare for. That’s where we find Daniel and his friends in Daniel chapter one.

 

1. God brings Daniel to Babylon (1:1-7)

Jeremiah 25:8-14 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words,9behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. 13I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.

 

Let’s read verses 1-7.

This was not an accident. This was not about the lack of military prowess or power in Israel. God didn’t make a mistake. He purposefully brought Daniel to Babylon. Daniel, a nobleman—a good-looking, competent, skillful, wise, understanding, knowledgeable young man—probably had a different plan for his life. He certainly could have been planning on having an easy life, being a good nobleman, and maybe a wise and caring leader. He probably would have planned to stay in his home country and live out the script of his life. Daniel certainly didn’t plan to go to Babylon, but God did. King Nebuchadnezzar comes into Judah, takes over, and removes Daniel from his home and everything he’s ever known. Daniel wakes up in Babylon, likely confused, wondering why…why was he here? What did he do wrong? What hope was there now?

 

As Daniel and his friends are in Babylon, the Babylonians are doing what they normally do with slaves: they are teaching them, training them, really brainwashing them so they reject all that was Israel and become fully Babylonian in thought, speech, custom, wisdom, knowledge, and worship. But, as we will see next, that is something Daniel is not willing to compromise.

 

2. God gives Daniel favor (1:8-16)

Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food. Now, we have to ask the question: “Why would eating the king’s food defile Daniel and his friends?” This is not about food. This is not about a diet. This is about worship and faithful obedience. Israel found themselves slaves to Babylon because of their infidelity and failure to obey the law. Daniel and his three friends determined in their hearts they were going to make it a point to obey the Law and be faithful to their God. The problem with the food was that it had been offered to the idols of the Babylonians. “To partake thereof would be to recognize the idols as deities.”[1] It would have to worship and celebrate the deity and power of the Babylonian gods. Daniel and his friends could not do that, so they resolved not to defile themselves, regardless of the consequence.

 

Daniel and his friends didn’t compromise. They lived out the all-important understanding that compromising now would most likely lead to further compromises down the road.[2] That’s how it works with sin. If you get away with it the first time, it makes it easier the second time. Then, somewhere down the road, it has become a habit. You no longer feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit because you have gone against it so often. And now your life is set up for compromise instead of conviction. Start now. Start saying no now. If you’ve already been saying yes, stop it. Restart as a new creation in Christ, able to say no, not because of your ability or your strength, but because of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

 

Daniel’s plan of resolving not to defile himself sets the tone for the rest of the story. Daniel experiences God’s blessings as he remains faithful and obedient even when things don’t make sense.[3] Daniel has this grand plan to not eat of the food from the king’s table (and very graciously and wisely handles that conversation, by the way). Now what? They don’t eat the food, and the chief eunuch tests them. At the end of ten days, they actually appear better off than everyone else who was eating from the king’s table. Why? Because God gives them favor.

 

3. God blessed Daniel and his friends with all they needed to succeed where they were (1:17-20)

In the next phase of the story, we see God again at work. Not only did He bring them to Babylon, He showed them favor for their faithfulness to not defile themselves. Now God gives them wisdom and learning and skills, and to Daniel specifically, the understanding of visions and dreams. Notice that they were still in the same situation. God didn’t give them freedom from the Babylonians. He didn’t remove them from the situation. Instead, God gave them exactly what they needed to succeed right where they were. He gave them what King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to see, and then some. The king found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in his kingdom.

 

God has given you and me gifts and skills and abilities. We need to use them and use them well for His glory. Wherever we work in the marketplace, we should strive to excel and work for the glory and purpose of God.

 

Daniel found himself in Babylon, a place he didn’t plan to be, but he quickly found God had not abandoned him. What happens when we find ourselves in Babylon? There are three points I think we can take from this passage.

 

First, when you find yourself in Babylon, realize there is purpose. Sometimes we wake up and realize we are not where we planned to be. Daniel didn’t plan for Babylon, but he woke up and found himself there. God didn’t abandon him. God didn’t betray him. Daniel, as far as we know, had done nothing wrong. He wasn’t living in sin. This wasn’t his punishment. This was God’s plan.

 

Maybe you woke up this morning somewhere you didn’t plan to be. Maybe you woke up this morning and thought, “This is not how I planned my marriage would go...” or “My kids did not turn out the way I prayed and planned for them…” or “I didn’t plan to end up in this career, be making this little, and struggling to take care of my family…” or “I didn’t plan to be single for this long…” Maybe you’re living your Plan B (or C, or D, or Z) and you can’t even remember what Plan A was. Whatever area of “Babylon” you may wake up in, realize God is at work. It may not be the result of you doing something wrong, but rather God working out His purpose. The hope in Babylon is that God took Daniel there. God was walking beside him the whole time. If you’re in Babylon, realize that God has you. God’s got this. He has a reason and a purpose. Trust Him. He’s never surprised.

 

Second, when you find yourself in Babylon, be found faithful. What did Daniel do when he found himself in Babylon? He resolved not to defile himself. He was found faithful when the test got real. As you find yourself in Babylon, resolve to be faithful. Resolve that the world around you won’t be your influence, but Christ will be. Resolve not to be defiled by sketchy (but legal) business practices, or by looking and lingering with your eyes or thoughts (committing adultery in your heart), or by working your own plan because in impatience you don’t want to wait for God’s plan to work out. Instead, be found faithful. It’s hard. I get it. Life is hard. Babylon is hard. It’s not where I want to be. It’s not where I plan to be. But, wherever you find yourself, in Babylon or not, be found faithful.

 

Why? People notice how you handle yourself in trials. They see what you do and where your attitude is. The way we live out our faith communicates to others whether or not this faith in Jesus Christ is worth pursuing. The way we say yes to Jesus and no to the world reveals how much we value our relationship with God and how much we want it to remain undefiled.

 

Third, when you find yourself in Babylon, don’t look for a way out. God didn’t take Daniel and his friends out, but gave them gifts to excel where they were. Daniel will never go back home. He will never get out of Babylon. God gave him the gifts and tools he needed to excel in the place God had brought him to. When you find yourself in Babylon, reconcile with the fact that Babylon may not end. As you are found faithful, seek out how God wants to form and mold you more into His image, likeness, and example. Don’t look for a way out. Be faithful where you are. Use what God has given. Pray for wisdom and grace. Pray that God’s strength would be revealed in your weakness.

 

Imagine a world where, no matter what happens, you are found faithful.

  • You lose your job, but you are faithful to tithe, faithful to worship and praise and glorify God, faithful to attend church and be surrounded by godly community.
  • Your kids wander from their faith, but you are faithful to pray, to pursue them, and to keep an open door of unconditional love toward them.
  • Your marriage is on the rocks, but you faithfully resolve to pray and do whatever it takes to win back your husband or wife.
  • Your health takes a turn for the worse, or has been bad for an extended period of time, but you are faithful to praise God, to give thanks, to worship well, and to bring Him glory with your speech and attitude.

 

The world will notice. Daniel and his friends had an entire kingdom be witness to their countercultural faithfulness. When we are found faithful, the world notices. Let’s be the kind of people who resolve not to be defiled by the cultural “gods” we face, but instead make a decision to remain faithful.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Ben Marshall. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

[1] https://bible.org/seriespage/1-early-life-daniel-babylon#P207_85233.

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Daniel+1.