September 12 Daniel 4-6
Today we see Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream, the handwriting on the wall, the lion’s den, and the fulfillment of an interpretation. Daniel is just full of great stories!
Nebuchadnezzar has a second dream. Unlike the first, this dream is specifically about him. He sees a beautiful tree with abundant food and shelter for all. An angel says to lop of the branches, strip the tree and scatter the fruit. The trunk is to be held together with bands of iron and bronze. Naturally, Nebuchadnezzar was curious about the dream and called for Daniel. I wonder what he thought Daniel would say? But Daniel had a surprise for him. God was going to cut Nebuchadnezzar down (because of his prideful spirit) and for seven years, he would be like an animal. That must have caused much mirth in the courts. Can you just hear them saying, “What have YOU been drinking, Daniel? A man turning into a beast”? Daniel knew that God’s word would be fulfilled, and within a year, as he was extolling his virtues, the King was cut down and indeed acting like a beast.
The best part to me was seeing that at the end of his judgment, the King raised his eyes to God and exalted him! No trying to pass the buck or blame others. He learned his lesson, began to walk humbly, and received a restored kingdom. Our God is truly merciful – but He is also just, and we have to expect punishment for sin as well as blessing for obedience.
At 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. Dan 4:34-37 (ESV)
Sometime later, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson Belshazzar was throwing a huge party. Important people were there. Great food and drink. The entertainment was top of the line. People were drinking and eating from the cups and bowls taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. The Babylonian gods were worshiped. All was wonderful in the kingdom. And then… a hand appeared and wrote three words on a wall (and of course this is the genesis of the phrase “the handwriting was on the wall”.
Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin.
No one knew what that meant, but of course the disembodied hand scared everyone. The queen remembered Daniel’s ability to interpret dreams, and he was called in to solve the mystery.
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.” 30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old. Dan 5:25-28, 30-31 (ESV)
Years before, God had made a covenant with Abraham and told him that:
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Gen 12:2-3 (ESV)
It wasn’t smart to misuse the holy implements from the temple! God didn’t kill Belshazzar for drinking from a cup, of course. It was the sum total of his life that caused his dramatic demise.
You would think that people would know that Daniel was a force to be reckoned with. He had already survived an attempt to barbecue him and his friends. People saw him interpret at least two kingly dreams and one writing on the wall. Yet… they couldn’t stop trying to discredit him or his God.
Daniel was still a captive, but he was appointed one of three presidents who were to oversee 120 satraps for the provinces. The King planned to make him the head honcho. The other men didn’t like Daniel. It’s possible that they couldn’t embezzle because of his integrity. Perhaps they were jealous of his position. For whatever reason, they tried to find fault. But Daniel lived blamelessly. (I would LOVE to have someone tell me that I lived blamelessly!) The men figured that the only way to unseat Daniel was through his form of worship.
They went to the King (why was Daniel not there? Perhaps he was on a royal mission. But God had him out of the picture to prove a point). They asked the King to sign an edict saying that everyone had to worship ONLY the King for the next 30 days, with mandatory punishment for disobedience being thrown to the lions, specially kept for just this purpose. They made it sound as if Daniel was in agreement with the scheme. They got the King to believe that this was a great plan – they appealed to his pride. He signed an irrevocable law.
As he had before, Daniel ignored the unrighteous civil law. He didn’t protest. He didn’t picket, or try to appeal to the King. He just continued his practice of lifting his prayers to God. Daniel was interceding for his people, claiming God’s promises of eventual deliverance for the Israelites.
The conspirators waited and watched. As soon as they saw Daniel praying, they ran to the king with the news. Darius was trapped! He’d signed an irrevocable law, but he spent one restless day trying to figure a way out for his friend and helper.
Daniel was captured. He was brought to the pit. Before he entered the den, Darius had some final words – to Daniel’s God!
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. Dan 6:16-17 (ESV)
A restless night ensued. The King was inconsolable. He fasted. He refused all the normal nightly diversions available. He couldn’t wait to see the pit in the morning.
As soon as it was light, Darius went to the pit. Even before he got to the entrance of the pit, he was calling for Daniel.
As he 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.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. Dan 6:20-23 (ESV)
Darius was reunited with his trusted friend. He realized that the other leaders had done everything they could to get Daniel killed, and he knew that God alone was responsible for saving Daniel’s life. The traitors were judged and had to endure the lion’s den themselves. When they conspired to prohibit worship of the true and living God, they robbed Him of His deserved glory. Daniel was right to disobey the unrighteous order.
Daniel’s two close encounters with death for disobedience to unrighteous orders prohibiting worship of the true and Living God give us hope in our own times of trouble. Whether we face a literal or a figurative fiery furnace
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV)
…or a literal or figurative hungry lion,
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (ESV)
if we are Christians (which means that you have accepted God’s free gift of salvation and asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior), God promises to work out everything for His glory. No matter what faces us in this life, we live with the assurance that God cares!
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)
See you tomorrow!