Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 7 – What Daniel meant to Christmas

When we think of Christmas, we don’t think of Daniel. We think of Micah and Isaiah, but not Daniel.

We should.

Daniel was the greatest figure in Jewish leadership until the birth of Christ; there were others, of course, like Ezra and Nehemiah and different prophets like Ezekiel. Daniel spoke clearly about a coming Kingdom and what that would mean not only to Jews, but to the world.

First of all, Daniel revealed the reality that God’s people did not need to be physically in charge for the Kingdom to be in complete control. Neither did the people of God need to be perfect. The Jews were under judgment from God and subjected to political oppression, and yet the whole of Daniel declares that it doesn’t matter. God is real. There is a Kingdom. And God doesn’t need one of his people to be on the throne for him to redeem and influence the world.

In other words, the fact that they were currently under an oppressive rule and in a foreign land did not make the Kingdom of God less real.

This was an important lesson for the Jews, and they did not fully learn it. When Jesus begins to preach the Kingdom, the Jews were adept at political maneuvering and the experts were experts at looking for a physical throne and a Messiah to take that earthly kingdom back to its height. Jesus had a different calling, a higher one, that didn’t include placing the world under one earthly throne but each individual nation under a heavenly one.

Their rejection of Jesus was not because he wasn’t big enough but because God’s plan was too big for them.

Second, Daniel clearly describes the time frame of when this Kingdom would come. Other prophets, like Isaiah, detail the Messiah himself and connect him to that final Kingdom. Through the dream of the statue given to Nebuchadnezzar and other prophetic numbers, the time of Christ wast the time for this new Kingdom.

And the fact that Jesus’ proclamation was “repent, for the Kingdom of God is here,” would have placed Daniel at the forefront in their minds. They knew history and the stories of the exile – were reminded of their failures daily by their low status in the most powerful Empire in the world at the time, the Romans. Daniel was not too far from their thinking.

While prophetic numbers can be manipulated and confusing from the Bible, combined with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Jesus wasn’t the only Messianic figure walking around during that time.

He was simply the only one that died and rose again.

Third, the Wise Men. “Wise Men from the East.” Daniel was educated to be a leader in the Babylonian Empire and served as such. With Nebuchadnezzar and his son, Belshazzar, we get continued references to the “wise men” of the Empire that could not interpret or understand these visions and dreams while Daniel could. Three of Daniel’s friends, also educated as he was, refused to bow to a big golden statue. These four were counted among the “wise men” of Babylon and then Persia.

This was no small thing. These were vast Empires with treasures of knowledge available to them. Babylon and especially Persia were well known for their high culture and education. Daniel was a leader and governor of both great Empires.

How would these men from the East have such detailed information on the Messiah and astrology? Perhaps because Daniel, as a governor in Persia, would have had such a huge influence? Seems more than plausible.

Wise Men traveled from the East – symbolizing these two Gentile Empires and Daniel and his friends – and bowed down to a baby.

Bowing was a big thing. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t bow to a statue under threat of death. When angels show up in the scripture and people bow to them, the angels say, “Whoa. Get up. I’m not the one you bow to.”

The fact that they bowed to baby Jesus was a huge statement. He was not a normal man. He was God.

Those are the main points, but there’s a lot there. Read through Daniel again and think about the Christmas story, about the declaration of the angels of the King being born and the world being blessed, about the Wise Men from the East and their unashamed worship of this little baby, about how Daniel had nothing to fear from any other kingdom on earth because of the Kingdom of God. It’s fascinating and encouraging.

Merry Christmas.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 6 – God’s Got Your Back

Eventually, Nebuchadnezzar dies and his son, Belshazzar becomes king of Babylon.

We pass things on to our children, whether we mean to or not. While we think of earthly possessions as things we pass down, we also pass down things like character and moral failings.

The religious term for this is family sin, which is debatable under the New Covenant, by the way – Christ breaks all chains. But it doesn’t take a spiritual mystic to see the reality of how sons seek to be like their fathers. As people, we take our cues from the models in our lives, for good or ill, and sons seek to emulate their fathers in a number of ways. This can be conscious or not.

Our family relationships are foundations that we must understand as we grow. We are responsible for our own choices, but the influence can be overwhelming. To be clear, there is healing in the power of Christ and the love of the Father in heaven to set us free from those earthly expectations and reconnect us to the heavenly design.

Belshazzar received Babylon, but he also seems to have mimicked his fathers penchant for pride and boasting.

The new king decides to have a feast. Nothing wrong with a party, but he invites a thousand of the lords of Babylon. A thousand lords … which we can assume included their own retinues, as well, wives and families and servants and such, not to mention his own wives and concubines. A feast for three to five thousand wealthy people? What a party.

Belshazzar gets a little drunk on wine. It’s a party, after all. And then he makes his mistake. He gets people to bring in the vessels of gold and silver from the Temple in Jerusalem. Why? So the wealthy rulers of Babylon can drink wine from them.

Now, it may not seem like a big deal to us today, but God had instructed the Israelites to keep those things clean and holy, for his use alone. Part of the reason Israel was given over to a foreign nation was that they didn’t keep up proper worship and showed off the riches of the Temple to Babylon in the first place (by King Hezekiah).

Therefore, this was a huge insult, and it was intended to be one. Showing Babylon’s superiority over those pesky Jews.

God was not amused.

We should realize that the Jews were not perfect. Far from it. They had done horrible and detestable things. God had sent prophet after prophet that they had either ignored or persecuted or even killed. All to get them to turn and repent, and they had not.

But they were still his people. And as we see in Esther and Ezra and Nehemiah, he takes care of his people even while they were under oppression and punishment.

If you don’t know the rest of the story, God interrupts the feast and writes a message on the wall that scares the crap out of everyone, especially since they don’t know what the message means. Belshazzar offers untold riches to any of his “wise men” that could interpret the message, but they couldn’t. The Queen remembers this guy, Daniel, who was like a god with his wisdom, and so Daniel – after refusing money and wealth – shows up and gives the interpretation of the message:

“Your father had to be taught to humble himself before God. But you didn’t learn the lesson. And you should have learned.

“Your days are numbered, as are the days of Babylon.” In other words, you really messed up.

The king died that night. Darius and the Syrian Empire took over from there.

Christians aren’t perfect. We are far from it. But we are his children, even moreso than Israel was, born of God in the Spirit. We are his Bride. And no matter how imperfect we are and under conviction from God in what we should be doing, God still takes care of us and protects us.

Two things to take from this. First, it is dangerous for individuals or authorities or governments to mock, insult, or oppress Christians. I’m not defending every action by anyone who claims to be a Christian, but as the Apostle Paul says, we have to remember they are not our servants but God’s. And God is able to deal with his people one way or another. If a government wants to survive, it must give freedom to those with convictions from God, whether they agree with them or not.

I’m not suggesting some sort of “Christian” government or a theocracy. That already exists in the Kingdom of God. And I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t be held accountable to the law. However, a government invites danger and judgment when it instead marginalizes or oppresses the convictions of those born of God, even when it makes it “law.”

Not to mention, the people of God tend to grow closer to Him and stronger when forced to resist unjust law and oppression of the Gospel of God. No nation has been able to kill the Bible or Christianity in two thousand years. Seems prideful to think one can now.

Second, Christians do not have to defend themselves. God is big enough to defend us. Period. Daniel didn’t have to organize a radical protest in the streets with signs or burn down shops and cars to make the point this was a horrible thing to God. He didn’t have to make snarky memes and put them on FB.

God took care of it. The Kingdom is strong enough.

Daniel, however, did speak truth and address the king of Babylon and the judgment that God declared.

Of course we should get involved in the public sphere to use our influence for better communities as much as is possible. But that’s not our primary mission.

Our mission is to declare the Gospel. To the world, that is offensive enough. And the power of God is behind that mission. He may not fight for us to keep more or less of our taxes or get the president we want, but he will always show up for those willing to give their life for the Gospel. Always.

And if God is for us, no one can be against us.

Peace.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 5 – Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd Dream

Poor Nebuchadnezzar. He really had a hard time learning that he wasn’t the one in control.

Now, we shouldn’t give him too hard a time. Everything in his life told him he was awesome. He conquered the civilized world in his day, the world he knew, including the very stubborn Jewish holdouts. He was incredibly wealthy and powerful. No one had existed like this king in history.

Of course, he could not exist without the failing of Israel and the work of God. God used Nebuchadnezzar to prove a point, and God had no problem reminding the Babylonian king of this fact.

Nebuchadnezzar had another dream. In this dream, there was an enormous tree that fed all the beasts of the field. An angel comes down and cuts down the tree but is told (by God) to leave the stump. The King is troubled by this dream, and he turns to Daniel again to get the interpretation.

Daniel tells him, “The tree is you, O King, and you rule to the end of the earth. But you will be sent out to live like a beast with the other beasts, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”

And then Daniel does a curious thing. In a warning, he says, “Break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

In other words, you can avoid this by being humble and righteous and helping others. Sound advice for us all.

It takes a whole year before Nebuchadnezzar slips up. He looks around his Empire and his royal palace and says, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”

Immediately, Heaven judges the King and he becomes like an animal. After a few days of this, God restored the man’s reason, and his response was to worship God and declare that it is God that is in control. His words express the supremacy of God’s Kingdom.

“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have you done?'”

Once again, the mighty Empire of Babylon and its king is forcefully reminded that there is a greater, better, more dominant King and Kingdom than any on earth. There is no comparison. That Kingdom controls all others.

I believe we are beginning to see a pattern in Daniel, aren’t we?

During this Christmas season, I’m reminded of the great carol Joy to the World which makes the following statement: He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.

The prideful will be resisted and brought low. The humble recognize the greater Kingdom and power above all things, all other nations, all other powers. The humble will enter that Kingdom and be exalted. That is the Gospel, and that is the message of Daniel.

Even when they throw us to the lions.

Peace.