The Big Picture

August 12, 2020

Daniel 2:26–28

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” 27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.

When the professional class got to Babylon, the first thing they did was settle down outside the city. We know they settled down near Nippur on the Kebar canal, some distance from the city. Prophets rose up in that exilic community, and here’s what they began to say. If you want to know what they said, you go to Jeremiah 28. The leading prophet was Hananiah.

They said, “Don’t move into the city. We’re believers. That is the wicked pagan city. It’s the source of the Babylonian culture. Have nothing to do with it. Don’t move in there. Don’t live in there. Stay out and pray against the city. We prophets foresee God will judge this city, and we will come back out on top. We’ll have the cultural power. God is going to judge this city, and he’s going to put us back in charge. So pray against this city, and have nothing to do with this city.”

Jeremiah, the true prophet of God, back in Judah still, heard about this and wrote them a letter, the revealed will of God for the exiles.

Jeremiah 29:4:

“This is what the LORD [says to the exiles in Babylon]: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage … Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper … Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you.’ ”

This must have been absolutely astounding to the people who listened. This seems counterintuitive to what you’d think God would ever say. He says three things that must have just been astonishing to them.

The first thing is he said, “Get a bigger picture for what I’m doing. This is a city to which I carried you.” He is saying, “It’s part of my plan that you lost the cultural power. It’s part of my plan that now you, as believers, have to live in a pagan, wicked city.

Now fast forward 3000 years and look at us today. As Christian believers we have lost cultural power. It did not happen overnight; it has been a slow and steady process, but it has happened. The tendency we have is to retreat, withdraw into tight circles of fellowship among other believers and leave the world outside. Protect, insulate, isolate… this is often the strategy of churches within a hostile culture.

But what if God is trying to get us to see the big picture? What if the culture America has been building fails? What if people of the world have been placing there hopes and dreams in a way of life that cannot sustain them? What then? Who will they turn to?

God’s message to Israel was:

It’s part of my plan to renew you and to change you and to grow you.

It’s part of my plan to change them and to grow them and to renew them.

It’s part of my plan to get my Word out into the world.

 



Captured Hearts

August 11, 2020

Daniel 2:26–28

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” 27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.

In 577 BC we know Babylon defeated Israel and carried off most of its people into Babylon. He did not cart away everybody. He took 10,000 people back to Babylon with him. Only 10,000 out of the whole nation.

Who were those 10,000? They were the 10,000 professionals. He took the professional class of Israel. He took 10,000 of the leaders of the military, the government, the arts, education, scholars, and the wise. He took 10,000 professionals and their families back to Babylon to live there. Why? It was incredibly smart of him.

Instead of having to destroy the whole country, how do you make a vassal nation subject to the Babylonian will? How do you make it fit into the Babylonian empire? It’s very simple. You take the professionals, the leaders of the culture, you bring them to Babylon, and you “Babylonize” them culturally. I know that sounds like dry cleaning.

What he was trying to do was destroy the biblical worldview of the whole professional class of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar was going to try to dislodge them. He was going to have them live in Babylon, and they were going to take upon themselves the Babylonian culture. They were going to become intellectually, socially, culturally, spiritually, and religiously Babylonian. That was the way to completely, in a sense, subjugate Israel.

This subjection of the professional class is still taking place today. But it is not the Babylonian elite taking young Jewish professional hostages, it is the university system and the cultural elitist of our modern era doing the work of Babylon today. Every year Christian families worldwide graduate another group of high school seniors and send them off to the colleges and universities to be indoctrinated in pagan belief systems with the intent to redirect their Christian worldview.

All too often our young people fail to hold on to their Christian upbringing and get far too involved with the sinful behaviors of the world in which we live. Some abandon their faith and follow after the world, never to return to Christian values or belief.

Every generation of young people fall prey to these difficult circumstances and every generation has had to deal with them. The old saying was, “How you gonna keep em down on the farm once they get a taste of the city life?”

How does Daniel hold on to his belief system and faith in God throughout the years of higher education and then during years of success in the workforce of Babylon? When seems like everyone in his life is pushing him to conform to the culture of his day how does he retain his Biblical integrity?

Here’s what we know. He does not collapse into another world view and he does not keep himself separate from the pagan world system. He thrives… in the middle of Babylon he is a faithful and thriving believer.



The Dream of the Kingdom

August 10, 2020

Daniel 2:24–28

24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.” 25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” 27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.

The Israelites were taken by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, into exile. The prophet Habakkuk had been told of the invaders and as we have seen in the past weeks, he prepared a response for how to deal with the changes that were going to take place. We are never told, but perhaps several of the young men of Israel had been instructed in the words of Habakkuk? Was God preparing a new generation of leaders for a time of tribulation and testing? It appears so. Is God preparing a new generation of leaders for the changes coming to our nation and to our culture? It would be difficult to think God is unprepared for anything that is happening in the world today.

When you get to the book of Daniel, the book of Daniel is exilic literature. That means it’s one of the books (Daniel, Esther, Ezekiel, parts of Jeremiah, parts of some other Prophets) that talks about the time of exile. The Israelites were taken by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, into exile.

They were taken away from Israel, where the government, the arts, all the culture believed in the God of the Bible. They were taken into a city, Babylon, and a culture that was (as we’re going to see) hostile to the biblical God.

Now the question comes up, “How do I live the life of a believer in the biblical God in an unbelieving world? How do I live as a believer in a society where all of the cultural institutions are hostile to my faith and to the God I believe in?” That’s the question. Daniel, Esther, and some others are very relevant today.

For a couple hundred years America basically had a culture where the government, the arts, academia, and most higher education were very supportive of the Christian belief. It was either officially or informally supportive. That’s not true anymore.

So we’re all like Daniel. We’re all, as believers, living a life and asking ourselves, “How in the world can we live a life of integrity in a pluralistic, polytheistic, unbelieving world?” When we ask that of Daniel, we’re going to get a lot out of it for the next four weeks. We’re going to look at Daniel and how he did it. You may be surprised how God determined the Israelite captives were to live in Babylon. Yes, there are major differences in the government of Babylon and our United States government, but the culture of the day was surprisingly similar.

Despite the culture, the faith of Daniel grew and his fellowship with God became closer and sweeter. He does not spend much time railing against the culture or against the government, but rather, chooses to be a person of integrity and influence.

 




Daily Devotions 2020