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Daniel

Variations on God

Daniel  4

It is amazing, isn’t it? We are so well instructed as Christians, and yet we live our lives as if God was something other than God. You think not? See if you recognize “God” in these descriptions:

The “Boop”

(I’m indebted to George Bernard Shaw for the title). The boop is a ferocious god. He lives in my closet. I don’t often let him out. Indeed, the only time I let him out is when I’m in trouble. Then I go to the closet, open the door quickly and yell, “sic ‘em, boop!” The boop rushes out and tears up my troubles for me. Then I yell, “heel, boop!” And the boop roars back into my closet -- until next time. Isn’t it wonderful that I have the boop?

The Force

Of course there is a god -- a vague, gaseous goodness to the universe. In some unknown (and usually invisible) method he rewards good people (like me). He seems a little helpless in face of bad people, but since we really can’t know what he’s about, who knows why? It is a good idea to appease him now and then -- it can’t hurt to have influence in high places.

The Cosmic Bean Counter

It’s very simple, really. Every person is either “good” or “bad.” “Good” people are those who go around doing good deeds. God counts those good deeds, and when you die, if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you get to heaven. The important thing is to be very conscious about doing good deeds, and making sure they add up.

The Blessing Machine

Obviously, God is sort of a grandfatherly type who likes to bless people. But, if you want to get blessed, you have to do good things. (Money in the offering plate is a good thing). So, every time you need a blessing, give the Blessing Machine a turn of the crank.

Do these sound just a little silly -- or just too familiar? Today we will look at Nebuchadnezzar, and how his vision of God -- it seems a cross between the force and the boop -- combines with his pride to bring him to a much clearer vision.

{4:1} King Nebuchadnezzar, To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly! {2} It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. {3} How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. {4} I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. {5} I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. {6} So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. {7} When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me.

{8} Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.) {9} I said, "Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. {10} These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. {11} The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. {12} Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed. {13} "In the visions I saw while lying in my bed, I looked, and there before me was a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. {14} He called in a loud voice: 'Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. {15} But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. "'Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. {16} Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him. {17} "'The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, 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.' {18} "This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you." {19} Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, "Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you." Belteshazzar answered, "My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! {20} The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, {21} with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air-- {22} you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth. {23} "You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, 'Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.' {24} "This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: {25} You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. {26} The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. {27} Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue." {28} All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. {29} Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, {30} he said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" {31} The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, "This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. {32} You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes." {33} Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. {34} At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. {35} All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" {36} At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. {37} 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. -- Daniel 4 (NIV)

Hubris

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad, said the Greeks. In this chapter, God teaches the law to a king. It is not surprising that the greater the monarch, the tougher the lesson. Look what Nebuchadnezzar knew already:

·         From the episode of the fiery furnace, he knew that God has power to save from the power of the king.

·         From Daniel, he knew that God understood even his own thought -- remember who knew the dream?

·         Also from Daniel, he knew that God held the future.

Now, God provides him a warning. Strangely enough, it takes about a year for the warning to become reality. One wonders whether or not Nebuchadnezzar is one of those people who, finding that trouble has not yet arrived, decides that it’s past. This can lead to some unpleasant situations.

Pride - note the phrase “I did all this myself” - is the disease of mind in Nebuchadnezzar. We must remember that the world considers pride a virtue and humility a fault, not the other way around. Indeed, the Christian concept of greatness (see Matthew 20:25-28) is foreign to most. God is a last resort, not a first.

Blessed are the poor in spirit -- for they are the ones who really can see God. They’re the only ones who genuinely know what He looks like (awesome). We have no bargain with God - only a covenant (take it or leave it).

DANIEL - a faithful friend

{6} Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

-- Proverbs 27:6 (NIV)

Note what Daniel does; it’s an excellent example for those of us with friends - particularly Christian friends - who are walking in Satan’s path:

·         He exhibits genuine concern for the man. Daniel is not concerned for his own position, but rather tells the truth so that the king will NOT suffer.

·         He tries to get him to renounce his wickedness. The word “renounce” (in the original, break off) implies some specific sin.

Also note what Daniel does not do:

·         He does not sugar coat the truth.

·         He does not “tell a little white lie.”

There is a reason the doctor tells you what you have. It’s for your own good.

GOD dealing with us

There is a recurrent theme in the Bible, that God’s ways are not like ours. But in this instance we can see some of the ways that God deals with those who have something to renounce.

·         First, He warns us. How?

·         By friends

·         In Scripture

·         By example

·         Next, by disaster itself. The tough get the “eye opener.”

So how, then, should we deal with others? Can you imagine putting yourself in God’s place? Instead of praying, “Lord, he’s having such a tough time, please let up on him” consider “Lord, give it to him with both barrels - so he will repent the more quickly. And then help me to lift him up.”

[Side note: this is intercession. Intercession

·         comes through the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9)

·         is performed only by those with clean hands

·         upon the basis of the atonement]

Restoration

Stories should have a happy ending. This one does, for Nebuchadnezzar submits to God, and his view of God changes. It may not yet be perfect, but look what it includes:

·         He is worthy of praise (from a man who accepts the concept of intrinsic worth)

·         He is eternal, never changing.

·         Everything He does is right

·         His ways are just

·         He does “as he pleases.” (Omnipotence)

And note one hope of the penitent (v36) - he was not only restored, he became greater than before. No matter how deep the valley, God can carry you to the mountain top on the other side.

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