Friday, August 26, 2016

"A truth to remember: the Sovereign God rules over the nations!"

Day #240

Scripture Reading:  Daniel 1 - 6 …

Daniel and his friends were taken into captivity to Babylon as part of a plan to provide the best servants for the king.  God's providential care over them began even with their provisions, as God showed that those who are faithful to Him are marked out for a special purpose:  to testify to who He is!!  The first opportunity came to Daniel as the king desperately looked for someone among his wise men to interpret his dream.  The astrologers and other wise men declared, "There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks!" (2:10).  Of course, they were right.  But when Daniel heard that he and his friends, along with the wise men of Babylon, were going to be put to death because no one could interpret the king's dream, he and his friends began to pray for God to reveal the dream and its interpretation to them … and God did.

When he came before the king Daniel displayed his humility and his reverence for God when he took no credit for his interpretation but said, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.  HE has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come … As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation …" (2:28, 30).  We must have that same humility as God reveals His wisdom to us through His Word, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ today.  

God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel that there would be an end to his kingdom and that there would be another kingdom that would rise up, then a third and then a fourth.  During the reign of the kings of the fourth kingdom, he says, "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.  It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will endure forever" (2:44).  All of this points to the coming of Jesus and the establishment of GOD's kingdom through His death, resurrection and ascension.

The four kingdoms were Babylon, the Medes and Persians, Greece and Rome.  And it was during the time of the Roman Empire, the fourth kingdom, that Jesus came and preached the kingdom of God, saying, "My kingdom is not of this world!" 

Nebuchadnezzar had every opportunity to avoid God’s judgment.  When Daniel's three friends were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, they testified (as we are called to do), "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (3:17-18).  And when they came out of the furnace untouched by the flames, they testified again and Nebuchadnezzar even praised their God for saving them and declared that "his" people should serve and worship only THEIR God.

Yet, because Nebuchadnezzar did not continue to praise God, he would be humbled "so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men" (4:17).  Daniel advised the king to "renounce your sins by doing what is right ... " (4:27), but twelve months later Nebuchadnezzar was on the roof of his palace and bragged, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built … by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”  (4:29).  Later, he would testify:  "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just.  And those who walk in pride HE is able to humble” (4:37).

Chapters 5 and 6 record the end of the Babylonian empire as the king’s son, Belshazzar, offended God by defiling the gold and silver goblets that had been removed from the temple.  God wrote a message for him on the wall and once again Daniel was called in to interpret the message from God.  Daniel explained that as God had humbled his father, he was about to do the same to him.  "You … have not humbled yourself though you knew all this.  Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven" (5:22-23).  The rulers of the nations today who spurn God today should take note.  That very night Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, just as God had predicted earlier in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Only GOD knows the future, so only God can predict it with 100% accuracy.

Now it was time for the next step in God's plan, as the time came near for Him to begin to restore a remnant of the Jews to the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants until the Messiah would come.  Because of Daniel's wisdom from God (remember Joseph?), he excelled in all he did.  When others realized that the king was going to promote Daniel above them they convinced the king to issue a decree that anyone who prayed to anyone, god or man, (except the king) for the next thirty days should be thrown into the lion's den.  

The king did what was suggested and of course Daniel did not comply.  He continued praying as he had before and the men reported him to the king.  Trapped now by his own laws, the king was forced to follow through with Daniel's punishment, even though by this time he didn't want to do so.  As his three friends had done before him, so Daniel now testified.  

God sent the "angel of the Lord" to protect Daniel by shutting the mouths of the lions and the king ordered that those who had accused Daniel be thrown into the lion's den along with their families.  Their fate was different!  All of this points to a truth that you and I need to remember:  the Sovereign God rules over the affairs of the nations ... then and now.  You and I can trust in the Lord and not be afraid.  His kingdom WILL come and His will shall be done ... on earth, as it is in heaven!

"Almighty God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, in Your sovereign power You have established the nations of the earth and set the rulers in place for Your own purposes, whether for judgment or for blessing.  All who trust in You need not fear, for You rule over the affairs of the nations.  Help me and all who know You to testify to the world that our God reigns as we stand firm against the threats of those who do not know You.  To You alone I give my praise, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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