February 13, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XVIII: Odds n' Ends In the Middle of Daniel

Chapter 4 & 5: Probably Should Be Read Together

Daniel Chapters 4 and 5 forms the core of the structural unit that comprises Chapters 2 thru 7. As such chapters 4 and 5 provide contrasting examples of royal hubris or extreme haughtiness, pride or arrogance. In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar eventually comes to recognize that 'the Most High God is the true sovereign and rules over human kingship. Because of this understanding and recognition Nebuchadnezzar is restored to his throne.

Conversely, Belshazzar having Nebuchadnezzar’s example to learn from being his descendant has learned nothing from the example which the narrative in chapter 5 assumes he knows, hence the linkage...so he loses his throne and then his life as both are God's. The author of chapter 5 is even specific of this comparison by mentioning Neb’s in verses 2 & 11 to make sure the reader sees the comparison/contrast. They both therefore share the idea that God’s judgment or wrath is directed at human pride that sets itself up against God. Nebs’ pride arose from his achievement(s), Bells’ arose from his lack of achievements.

These two combined and their intended contrast should structurally be seen as the climax of the unit containing chapters 2 thru 7. The moral of the story or overarching theme is that of royal hubris or extreme haughtiness especially when it is waved in the face of the Most High God...it leads to disaster. This then paves the way for the visions in chapters 8 thru 12 which to some extent speak to the rise and fall if kingdoms until the ultimate one comes...God's

Overall chapters 3, 4 and 5 are closely interrelated. The story leaves Nebuchadnezzar 'half-converted'. He recognizes the power of the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but still thinks that he can manipulate this power to some extent by prescribing which God people should worship. In chapter 4 we see the completion of his conversion as his pride is humbled and he ends up simply confessing the greatness of God. These two stories (Chapters 4 & 5) thereby form a pair that contrast one another since both describe the humbling of arrogant leaders/kings.

Nebuchadnezzar “gets it”, Belshazzar “doesn’t get it” therefore Belshazzar deserved the calamity that befalls him. As the Professor McLaughlin notes: ”Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

What Does Daniel Praying in an Open Window Tell Us Today? (Chapter 6)

The key is the term 'law' in this story. There is competing demands on Daniel (and believers like us) of the “Law of God” and the “law of the land”. In the case of Daniel it is the “law of the Medes/Persians”. There is also the idea of a divine sovereignty that overarches everything. Even though Darius is tricked into making a law which forces him to comply with throwing Daniel into the lion’s den. Undeviating, God’s sovereignty and control of things can make that law ineffective and essentially a “paper lion” or a “lion without teeth and claws”. In this story there is even the supposed immutability of the “law of the land/men” with the Medes and Persians that even the supposed all-powerful king cannot overturn it…but God can.

Furthermore, we see the idea relevant to today, that the State might/may claim for itself a quasi-divine type of distinction. Boy!...This this damning for us today in the United States and to some extent many “sovereign” nations in the world. Especially today in times of increasing crime rates, economic problems, growing social unrest or external threats that appear to be the divine judgement of a just God. In the supposed absence of a tangible or physical God, citizens of kingdoms or nations willingly afford quasi-divine status on their government (i.e: Nanny State). The State becomes God…and if this sounds strangely familiar it is because it is the premise to some extent for Communism, Fascism and to a milder degree Socialism. When this happens, it causes a need to divide loyalties to either State or God. This presents problem to those the wish to worship the One True God. As history has shown, the State will sooner or later make demands that challenge allegiance to God whether openly or subtly. We saw it all through the centuries and especially in the 20th…and we see it now. These subtleties mentioned often come in the form of a governed of mandated “political correctness” that inevitably make it a crime to obey one’s God or worship Him openly. Eventually certain expressions of belief, or moral stances, are no longer culturally acceptable. Two of the more recent issues forcing a divided loyalty in our culture right now are homosexual marriage and abortion due to laws being passed by the government against the concept and edicts clearly outlined in the Bible.

When presented with this choice Daniel and believers like us are called to obey God even if it is a violation of the “laws of the land” / ”law of the Medes and Persians”. As Daniel understood and we should also, obeying God saves us, obeying the laws of man and the precepts of this world condemns us because in the long-view…this world is fallen, corrupt and prone to a continual reprobate nature. We must delineate or separate ourselves from the world in these instances. We are to engage and interact with the world…we are not to become it.

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

If men and their laws try to usurp God, God and His decrees trump men. Period…end of discussion. "Man cannot serve two masters."

We must also remember that earthly powers do have some power over us, the people of God. We must remember that the faithful like Daniel are not saved from the lions den but rather in the lions den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not saved from the fiery furnace but rather in the fiery furnace.

Makes one think...doesn't it? Its a matter of timing.

God's not yours.

It is quite possible that God wants you to be a martyr. Probable? No. Possible? Yes.

The Christian Worldview -vs- The Pagan View (Chapter 7)

Daniel 7 and Psalm 2 parallel one another thereby showing unity in the book of Daniel in spite of language differences.

First it must be stated that Daniel 7 being a break in the ethos of the first part of Daniel 1-6 and then 7-12 is not because of contradictory worldviews. Instead, it represents two ends of the same spectrum of the experiences of the godly person living in a pagan ungodly society. As such Daniel 7 attempts to convey ideas through culturally based symbolic imagery because it communicates in ways beyond normal prose. In the proper context these symbols carry with them powerful communication and ideas or a “punch”. Outside of their proper context they make nearly no sense and are absolutely bewildering. This makes it imperative that we understand the culture they were written in and to.

If these imageries are based in the Babylonian Creation epic which they very well may have been they are quite possibly alluding to the imagery or “feel” or chaos, conflict and creation. It is a form of chaos that ends in renewal and order for another sustained period. From a Hebrew point of view and to another extent Christian the stability of the world is guaranteed by the fact that Yahweh created and is in control of the Creation.

Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns." The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. Psalm 96:10

The Creation epic is expounded upon on in Genesis 1 and 2 and is further elaborated on in Psalm 74:13-17

“You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. You split open springs and brooks; you dried up ever-flowing streams. Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter."

Believers are/were confident that God (the Creator) could deal with all forces in a Creation that He created and controls by His sovereign hand. Some of these forces were historical and by their nature…human in origin and this is where the parallel to Daniel 7 is best seen…in Psalm 2:1-2

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying ~ Psalm 2:1-2

Hebrews (and Christians) are sure that Yahweh can and will deal with these forces and Psalm 2 shows us that it will be done through the Messiah (His Anointed). God will not let His faithful languish forever (in exile or sin) nor will He fail to have the power to save and redeem His people (from the yoke of slavery and oppression to the Babylonians, the Medes, the Romans, sin…themselves. Those that remain faithful and repentant to the bitter end will not only see, but they will also share as co-heirs in Christ in the culmination of all of God’s sovereign purposes at the End of the Ages. AMEN!!! GOD NEVER ABANDONS HIS FAITHFUL!!!

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