A New King

August 31, 2020

Daniel 5:1-5

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them.

So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way.

This story fascinated me as a kid. Fingers, writing on a wall, secret code, frightened king whose knees knocked together… and the hero Daniel, who tells it like it is and is not afraid of the evil king.

But the Sunday School stories, and the flannel graph lesson did not tell the whole story, thankfully. The whole story is much too intense for children. The story behind the story paints a very dark picture.

Historians tell us the end of the Babylonian empire happened on that night. The Medo-Persian Empire came down from the north and began a systematic takeover of the cities of within the empire of Babylon. And they were on their way to the great city of Babylon. But Babylon was one of the greatest fortified cities of the known world.

Archeologists tell us the city walls were so thick they were able to hold chariot races on the top of the wall. A river flowed right through the city and iron gates protruded deep into the water to keep boats out. With water and food all contained within the city they could withstand any siege by any army.

So even though they were losing cities to another empire, within the city they felt safe. Death would not come to them; they were the masters of their own destiny.

As we have said before, these events all took place, they are the recorded history of Babylon but they are also symbolic of the way in which culture responds to the fears and anxieties we all face as humans. Babylon culture is not much different that the culture of the western world today.

Daniel tells us the faced their fear by focusing on three things: Sensuality, accomplishment and religion.

Sensuality came first: The King brought his Nobles, his concubines, his wives and his wine… all to the same party. This was unheard of even in the ancient world. Belshazzar was thumbing his nose at propriety. He was attempting to show everyone that he was fearless and that he was in control of social norms and conformity. He was causing all in attendance to participate and adopt his evil debauchery as normal.

Does that sound like something that has happened in our culture today? We are constantly bombarded with messages about what is acceptable in our society, through music, through movies and video, from our sports figures and even our politicians. All that exists in popular culture is directing us to accept their view of what is right or wrong. And basically, the only thing that they determine to be wrong are people don’t accept what they say is right.

The bar has moved greatly in the past 10 years, we are forced to accept things in the United States that were considered evil just a short time ago.

Nebuchadnezzar is gone, and we are dealing with a new king.

The Way He Saves

August 29, 2020 

Daniel 3:28-29

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.

29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

Notice the other thing I thought was interesting. If he was going to save them, why did he do it this way? Nebuchadnezzar is amazed at the way he saves. Why didn’t he strike everybody blind before they even went in? Why did he let them go in? Because that’s the way it works.

Jesus Christ suffered, not that we might not suffer, but when we suffer, we’d become like him. If you know he was thrown into the furnace for you, then you’ll feel him walking in the furnace with you, and you’ll know just as through suffering came grace and glory in his life, through suffering will come grace and glory in yours.

You’ll become wiser. You’ll become deeper. You won’t become more bitter. You’ll become richer, and you’ll walk because you’ll feel him walking with you. Jesus Christ is walking in the furnace with us. We need to know God saves like this.

You’re going to go into the furnaces with something. You’re going to go with some kind of belief system. Let’s just say somebody who suffers happens to be an atheist. They say, “I don’t believe in God.” How are they going to deal with suffering? I don’t just mean psychologically, I mean intellectually. If there is no God, then why be outraged at suffering and evil and injustice and oppression? That’s just life.

If you go in with some other god, not the God of Jesus Christ, you go in with a god which hasn’t suffered how will you know that god loves you? You can’t know. That god does not walk through the furnaces with you. If you say, “Well, I don’t really believe in God. I believe in my family or I believe in my loved ones or I believe in my career,” they can’t go through furnaces with you either.

At the very end you see Nebuchadnezzar struggling. Do you know what he does? He’s making progress. At the end of chapter 2, Daniel said, “Look, it’s God who’s giving me the answer to the dream. It’s God who’s telling you all this, O king. It’s God. It’s not me.”

What does he do? Nebuchadnezzar burns incense to Daniel. He didn’t get it. This week he’s starting to see, “It’s the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” but it’s not “my God” yet. He’s making progress.

The real miracle happened before Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were ever thrown into the fire. They were spiritually fireproofed before they were physically fireproofed. They had been given the faith and the humility to trust God calmly, courageously.

Are you closer to Nebuchadnezzar or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

Believe it or not, there’s a process. You’re not born Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There’s tremendous progress that can be made. This is the faith that can take you into furnaces. This is the faith that can help you face anything.

Love Suffers

August 28, 2020 

Daniel 3:24-25

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 

Nicholas Wolterstorff was a professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Michigan, and then a professor of philosophy at Yale University. In the mid-80s, he had a son die. His 25-year-old son Eric died in a mountain climbing accident. Here’s a guy who’s a philosopher, and he knows all the issues about suffering. 

“How can you believe in a loving God if he allows all these things to happen?” That was the question he had to grapple with. What he writes down in his journal, which is in a book called Lament for a Son … It’s still in print. It’s a great book. This is what he writes down. 

He says, “God is Love. That is why he suffers. To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer. God so suffered for the world that he gave up his only Son to suffering. The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see his love. So suffering is down at the center of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For Love is the meaning. And Love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history.” 

What is he saying? When any couple decides to have a child, it will ultimately lead you to the realization that when you love this child, this fragile child, a human being who is in the world, you will never be happy unless that child was happy. If we all live out to the normal life span, in the 60 or 70 years that you watch a child grow up, how often can you be happy? In other words, if she ever has any problems, if she ever messes up, if she’s ever in despair, how can I ever be happy again? 

In other words, the way you know you love someone in this world is you suffer. If you’re not suffering, you’re not loving. There is no way to love without suffering. 

Suddenly, Nicholas Wolterstorff, this great philosopher, realized as he looked out at the world and all the suffering in it, as he tries to answer, “how could there be a God who loves?” He sees the cross. 

Here is the deal. If you don’t believe that God came down into the world and suffered, if you don’t believe Jesus Christ was thrown into the ultimate furnace for you, then there is absolutely no proof that God is a loving God.

You’ll never be able to handle the problems out there. You’ll never be able to handle the furnaces. 

Jesus proved his love in his suffering and he still walks with us through all the furnaces that life can throw our way.

Daily Devotions 2020