Friday, October 2, 2009

Weeping Loudly for Joy


The people are back in their land.
They set out to build their towns, their houses, their fields.
But the most emotion is generated by beginning to build the Temple, and starting sacrifices again to God Almighty.

This chapter ends with a lot of commotion!
"All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising God as the foundation of The Temple of God was laid. As many were noisily shouting with joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads who had seen the first Temple, when they saw the foundations of this Temple laid, wept loudly for joy. People couldn't distinguish the shouting from the weeping."

1 -2When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled into their towns, the people assembled together in Jerusalem. Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brother priests, along with Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, and his relatives, went to work and built the Altar of the God of Israel to offer Whole-Burnt-Offerings on it as written in The Revelation of Moses the man of God.
3 -5 Even though they were afraid of what their non-Israelite neighbors might do, they went ahead anyway and set up the Altar on its foundations and offered Whole-Burnt-Offerings on it morning and evening. They also celebrated the Festival of Booths as prescribed and the daily Whole-Burnt-Offerings set for each day. And they presented the regular Whole-Burnt-Offerings for Sabbaths, New Moons, and God's Holy Festivals, as well as Freewill-Offerings for God.
6 They began offering Whole-Burnt-Offerings to God from the very first day of the seventh month, even though The Temple of God's foundation had not yet been laid.
7 They gave money to hire masons and carpenters. They gave food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and Tyrians in exchange for the cedar lumber they had brought by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, a shipment authorized by Cyrus the king of Persia.
8 -9 In the second month of the second year after their arrival at The Temple of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jozadak, in company with their brother priests and Levites and everyone else who had come back to Jerusalem from captivity, got started. They appointed the Levites twenty years of age and older to direct the rebuilding of The Temple of God. Jeshua and his family joined Kadmiel, Binnui, and Hodaviah, along with the extended family of Henadad—all Levites—to direct the work crew on The Temple of God.
10 -11 When the workers laid the foundation of The Temple of God, the priests in their robes stood up with trumpets, and the Levites, sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise God in the tradition of David king of Israel. They sang antiphonally praise and thanksgiving to God: Yes! God is good! Oh yes—he'll never quit loving Israel!
11 -13 All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising God as the foundation of The Temple of God was laid. As many were noisily shouting with joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads who had seen the first Temple, when they saw the foundations of this Temple laid, wept loudly for joy. People couldn't distinguish the shouting from the weeping. The sound of their voices reverberated for miles around.

God Brings His People Back Home


I found Ezekiel to be hard to read.
All the deprecations and woe!

Daniel was this very talented, yet deeply spiritual man who lived his entire adult life away from his homeland. The book makes great reading, because the encounters with God are dramatic - and the results of God coming through even more so. Who has not heard of Daniel in the Lion's den? But Daniel dies in the land that captured him. Although he rose in the government ranks to be a long term, highly respected statesman, we last see him praying for the sins of his people. He is mourning that they are still in captivity, longing for the day when God would again bless them with peace and prosperity in their own land.

Along comes Cyrus. Here is what the prophet Isaiah says about Cyrus:
24God, your Redeemer,
who shaped your life in your mother's womb, says:"I am God. I made all that is...
He says to Jerusalem, "Be inhabited,"
and to the cities of Judah, "Be rebuilt,"
and to the ruins, "I raise you up."
He says to Ocean, "Dry up.
I'm drying up your rivers."
He says to Cyrus, "My shepherd—
everything I want, you'll do it."
He says to Jerusalem, "Be built,"
and to the Temple, "Be established."

Daniel prayed and fasted and repented, and there was activity in the heavens. He never saw with his eyes the result that he prayed for.

But God was doing dramatic things.

The opening words of the book written by Ezra, the priest...

1 -4In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—this fulfilled the Message of God preached by Jeremiah—God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement throughout his kingdom. He wrote it out as follows:
From Cyrus king of Persia, a Proclamation: God, the God of the heavens, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has also assigned me to build him a Temple of worship in Jerusalem, Judah. Who among you belongs to his people? God be with you! Go to Jerusalem which is in Judah and build The Temple of God, the God of Israel, Jerusalem's God. Those who stay behind, wherever they happen to live, will support them with silver, gold, tools, and pack animals, along with Freewill-Offerings for The Temple of God in Jerusalem.
5 -6 The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone, in fact, God prodded—set out to build The Temple of God in Jerusalem. Their neighbors rallied behind them enthusiastically with silver, gold, tools, pack animals, expensive gifts, and, over and above these, Freewill-Offerings.
7 -10 Also, King Cyrus turned over to them all the vessels and utensils from The Temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had hauled from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods. Cyrus king of Persia put Mithredath the treasurer in charge of the transfer; he provided a full inventory for Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah

So, is God in charge of all of the events that happen in the world?

The Sunday School answer is, "Yes, of course."

But looking around us, and at history, it does not seem so obvious.

Daniel lived his entire life in captivity.

But Ezra gets to be there when God brings His people home...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Earnest Prayer of a Holy Man


Daniel was a Vice President of the biggest empire on earth.
But he was also an earnest man of God.
Here we see him meditating on the Scriptures he had.
And praying and repenting for the sins of his people.

Daniel 9
God's Covenant Commitment
1 -4 "Darius, son of Ahasuerus, born a Mede, became king over the land of Babylon. In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, was meditating on the Scriptures that gave, according to the Word of God to the prophet Jeremiah, the number of years that Jerusalem had to lie in ruins, namely, seventy. I turned to the Master God, asking for an answer—praying earnestly, fasting from meals, wearing rough penitential burlap, and kneeling in the ashes. I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God:
4 -8 "'O Master, great and august God. You never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We've done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths. We've turned a deaf ear to your servants the prophets, who preached your Word to our kings and leaders, our parents, and all the people in the land. You have done everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us—people of Judah, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel at home and Israel in exile in all the places we've been banished to because of our betrayal of you. Oh yes, God, we've been exposed in our shame, all of us—our kings, leaders, parents—before the whole world. And deservedly so, because of our sin.
9 -12 "'Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of you, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we've forfeited our rights. We paid no attention to you when you told us how to live, the clear teaching that came through your servants the prophets. All of us in Israel ignored what you said. We defied your instructions and did what we pleased. And now we're paying for it: The solemn curse written out plainly in the revelation to God's servant Moses is now doing its work among us, the wages of our sin against you. You did to us and our rulers what you said you would do: You brought this catastrophic disaster on us, the worst disaster on record—and in Jerusalem!
13 -14 "'Just as written in God's revelation to Moses, the catastrophe was total. Nothing was held back. We kept at our sinning, never giving you a second thought, oblivious to your clear warning, and so you had no choice but to let the disaster loose on us in full force. You, our God, had a perfect right to do this since we persistently and defiantly ignored you.
15 -17 "'Master, you are our God, for you delivered your people from the land of Egypt in a show of power—people are still talking about it! We confess that we have sinned, that we have lived bad lives. Following the lines of what you have always done in setting things right, setting people right, please stop being so angry with Jerusalem, your very own city, your holy mountain. We know it's our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents' sins, and now we're an embarrassment to everyone around us. We're a blot on the neighborhood. So listen, God, to this determined prayer of your servant. Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary. Act out of who you are, not out of what we are.
18 "'Turn your ears our way, God, and listen. Open your eyes and take a long look at our ruined city, this city named after you. We know that we don't deserve a hearing from you. Our appeal is to your compassion. This prayer is our last and only hope: 19 "'Master, listen to us! Master, forgive us! Master, look at us and do something! Master, don't put us off! Your city and your people are named after you: You have a stake in us!'
Seventy Sevens

20 -21 "While I was pouring out my heart, baring my sins and the sins of my people Israel, praying my life out before my God, interceding for the holy mountain of my God—while I was absorbed in this praying, the humanlike Gabriel, the one I had seen in an earlier vision, approached me, flying in like a bird about the time of evening worship.
22 -23 "He stood before me and said, 'Daniel, I have come to make things plain to you. You had no sooner started your prayer when the answer was given. And now I'm here to deliver the answer to you. You are much loved! So listen carefully to the answer, the plain meaning of what is revealed:
24 "'Seventy sevens are set for your people and for your holy city to throttle rebellion, stop sin, wipe out crime, set things right forever, confirm what the prophet saw, and anoint The Holy of Holies.

Daniel prays. And God answers.

The Throne

Now it is Daniel who can't sleep.

This is a book of insomniacs...

1 In the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream. What he saw as he slept in his bed terrified him—a real nightmare. Then he wrote out his dream:
2 -3 "In my dream that night I saw the four winds of heaven whipping up a great storm on the sea. Four huge animals, each different from the others, ascended out of the sea.

He describes what the animals did and what they became. What caught my attention was this:

9 -10 "As I was watching all this,
"Thrones were set in place
and The Old One sat down. His robes were white as snow,
his hair was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire,
its wheels blazing. A river of fire
poured out of the throne. Thousands upon thousands served him,
tens of thousands attended him. The courtroom was called to order,
and the books were opened. "

God Almighty. The All Powerful. The Holy One...

My dream continued.
13 -14"I saw a human form, a son of man,
arriving in a whirl of clouds. He came to The Old One
and was presented to him. He was given power to rule—all the glory of royalty.
Everyone—race, color, and creed—had to serve him.
His rule would be forever, never ending.
His kingly rule would never be replaced.

Jesus Christ. The Messiah. The Lamb of God. Whose kingdom will never end.

26 -27 "'But when the court comes to order, the horn will be stripped of its power and totally destroyed. Then the royal rule and the authority and the glory of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the people of the High God. Their royal rule will last forever. All other rulers will serve and obey them.'

The cry of the saints throughout the ages has been,
Come Lord Jesus, come...

Political Subterfuge!


This is the perfect story.
There is the hero.
There are the villans.
The mighty ruler of the land is, ironically, a bit player.
And after a battle to the death, the protagonist comes through unscathed.
The antagonists are destroyed.
And God is praised throughout the land!
This is the perfect story.

1 -3 Darius reorganized his kingdom. He appointed one hundred twenty governors to administer all the parts of his realm. Over them were three vice-regents, one of whom was Daniel. The governors reported to the vice-regents, who made sure that everything was in order for the king.

New government. New organization. That has been going on for millenia.

But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the other vice-regents and governors that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom.

Wow! Our boy, Daniel is the hero. Classy. Smart. Spiritual. Integrous. And he is accelerated to the head of the pack.

But wait! This is politics. Do politics ever get dirty?

4 -5 The vice-regents and governors got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel's life that they could use against him, but they couldn't dig up anything. He was totally exemplary and trustworthy. They could find no evidence of negligence or misconduct. So they finally gave up and said, "We're never going to find anything against this Daniel unless we can cook up something religious."

They couldn't find dirt. But they could find religion. That should do...

6 -7 The vice-regents and governors conspired together and then went to the king and said, "King Darius, live forever! We've convened your vice-regents, governors, and all your leading officials, and have agreed that the king should issue the following decree:
For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions' den.
8 "Issue this decree, O king, and make it unconditional, as if written in stone like all the laws of the Medes and the Persians."
9 King Darius signed the decree.

Aha! The trap is set. Would he fall into it, or would he put off his religion. Just for a month...

10 When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.

Whoa! This is too easy. He is in flagrant violation of the laws of the land. He MUST be punished...

11 -12 The conspirators came and found him praying, asking God for help. They went straight to the king and reminded him of the royal decree that he had signed. "Did you not," they said, "sign a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god or man except you for the next thirty days? And anyone caught doing it would be thrown into the lions' den?"
"Absolutely," said the king. "Written in stone, like all the laws of the Medes and Persians."
13 Then they said, "Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, ignores you, O king, and defies your decree. Three times a day he prays."

Gotcha! The favorite political game of all time.

14 At this, the king was very upset and tried his best to get Daniel out of the fix he'd put him in. He worked at it the whole day long.
15 But then the conspirators were back: "Remember, O king, it's the law of the Medes and Persians that the king's decree can never be changed."
16 The king caved in and ordered Daniel brought and thrown into the lions' den. But he said to Daniel, "Your God, to whom you are so loyal, is going to get you out of this."

Daniel is dead. Now the conspirators can go to the next step - who would replace Daniel, now that he is dead?

17 A stone slab was placed over the opening of the den. The king sealed the cover with his signet ring and the signet rings of all his nobles, fixing Daniel's fate.

The king was caught in the trap too. He was stuck. He had killed off his vice president, whom he had come to appreciate, and, maybe, even love...

18 The king then went back to his palace. He refused supper. He couldn't sleep. He spent the night fasting.
19 -20 At daybreak the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. As he approached the den, he called out anxiously, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve so loyally, saved you from the lions?"

A crisis of faith. Not Daniel's faith. The king's faith. He knew ABOUT God. But he didn't KNOW God. It is hard to walk with God when you don't know Him.

21 -22 "O king, live forever!" said Daniel. "My God sent his angel, who closed the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me. I've been found innocent before God and also before you, O king. I've done nothing to harm you."

God, God almighty, had come through.

23 When the king heard these words, he was happy. He ordered Daniel taken up out of the den. When he was hauled up, there wasn't a scratch on him. He had trusted his God.

What happened to the antagonists? The villians? The bad guys?

24 Then the king commanded that the conspirators who had informed on Daniel be thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. Before they hit the floor, the lions had them in their jaws, tearing them to pieces.

Wow! That was satisfying. The same lions. The same pit. Different result. They ripped the folks to pieces before they even hit the floor! Gruesome! Violent! R Rated...

Conclusion? Wonderful. God is in heaven. His servant is safe. And the king issues a decree...

25 -27 King Darius published this proclamation to every race, color, and creed on earth: Peace to you! Abundant peace!
I decree that Daniel's God shall be worshiped and feared
in all parts of my kingdom.
He is the living God,
world without end.
His kingdom never falls.
His rule continues eternally.
He is a savior and rescuer.
He performs astonishing miracles in heaven and on earth.
He saved Daniel from the power of the lions.

And Daniel lived happily ever after...

28 From then on, Daniel was treated well during the reign of Darius, and also in the following reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Oh I wish all stories ended this well...

Iran takes over Iraq!

Short-range missile (Zelzal) is test-launched during war games in Qom, 74 miles south of Tehran, on Sept. 27, 2009. (SHAIGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

On the day of writing this, Iran has fired another 10 test missiles, is well on its way to building a nuclear weapon, and is completely defiant to Obama and the United Nations.

A few years ago, there was an 8 year war between Iran and Iraq in which one million young men were killed. That was before the two Bush presidents defeated, then deposed the Iraqi emperor, Sudam Husseim.

Well, this story is many years before that.
o
30 -31 That same night the Babylonian king Belshazzar was murdered. Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when he succeeded him as king.
o
The Medes and Persians had the most advanced weaponry of the day, and were fierce and cruel fighters. The battle to depose the Babylonian kindom was done quickly and definatively.
Darius, the new emperor, steps in and makes changes quickly...

1 -3 Darius reorganized his kingdom. He appointed one hundred twenty governors to administer all the parts of his realm. Over them were three vice-regents, one of whom was Daniel. The governors reported to the vice-regents, who made sure that everything was in order for the king.
o
So Daniel, the refugee, the kid without a home, has served in the government for several decades now. He is a senior statesman. Apolitical, but politically astute.
o
He is God's man, carrying out his duties with integrity and honor. Always longing for his homeland, he is never allowed to go back.
o
With this latest political upheaval, he is moved up another notch. Now the 4th most powerful man in the kingdom, his troubles are over. He is established. Has had a brilliant career. He is older now. Probably has married and raised a family, although nothing is ever mentioned.
o
Smooth sailing ahead?
o
Well, not exactly...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Daniel moves up. Neb's kid? Down and out...

Neb moves off stage.

His kid, Belshazzar, is now ruler of the roost. We first get a glimpse of him putting on a lavish banquet for a thousand of his most senior government workers.

1 -4 King Belshazzar held a great feast for his one thousand nobles. The wine flowed freely.

All good, right? Most powerful kingdom on earth. Most powerful and richest man on earth. Why not celebrate?

Bels made a mistake that he may not have even known he made. He had the holy golden chalices brought in to flaunt his wealth and impress his guests. These had been taken by force from God's temple in Jerusalem. But EVERYTHING had been taken by force. All the wealth was acquired through plunder and domination! So what was wrong with flaunting the golden chalices?

Well, God had declared them holy. Separated. For use in worshipping Himself and no other. Now they were used for drunks to give praise to no-god gods of wood and stone. It didn't sit well with God Almighty.

Belshazzar, heady with the wine, ordered that the gold and silver chalices his father Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from God's Temple of Jerusalem be brought in so that he and his nobles, his wives and concubines, could drink from them. When the gold and silver chalices were brought in, the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines, drank wine from them. They drank the wine and drunkenly praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.

God stepped in to Belshazzar's world, just as He had stepped in to his father Nebucudnezzar's world.

5 -7 At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the lamp-illumined, whitewashed wall of the palace. When the king saw the disembodied hand writing away, he went white as a ghost, scared out of his wits. His legs went limp and his knees knocked. He yelled out for the enchanters, the fortunetellers, and the diviners to come. He told these Babylonian magi, "Anyone who can read this writing on the wall and tell me what it means will be famous and rich—purple robe, the great gold chain—and be third-in-command in the kingdom."
8 -9 One after the other they tried, but could make no sense of it. They could neither read what was written nor interpret it to the king. So now the king was really frightened. All the blood drained from his face. The nobles were in a panic.

The queen remembered Daniel, who was still faithfully serving in the government. Notice Daniel was not there. Not on the "in" list? Turned down the invite? Who knows, but he was not there...

10 -12 The queen heard of the hysteria among the king and his nobles and came to the banquet hall. She said, "Long live the king! Don't be upset. Don't sit around looking like ghosts. There is a man in your kingdom who is full of the divine Holy Spirit. During your father's time he was well known for his intellectual brilliance and spiritual wisdom. He was so good that your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him the head of all the magicians, enchanters, fortunetellers, and diviners. There was no one quite like him. He could do anything—interpret dreams, solve mysteries, explain puzzles. His name is Daniel, but he was renamed Belteshazzar by the king. Have Daniel called in. He'll tell you what is going on here."

They go get Daniel.

13 -16 So Daniel was called in. The king asked him, "Are you the Daniel who was one of the Jewish exiles my father brought here from Judah? I've heard about you—that you're full of the Holy Spirit, that you've got a brilliant mind, that you are incredibly wise. The wise men and enchanters were brought in here to read this writing on the wall and interpret it for me. They couldn't figure it out—not a word, not a syllable. But I've heard that you interpret dreams and solve mysteries. So—if you can read the writing and interpret it for me, you'll be rich and famous—a purple robe, the great gold chain around your neck—and third-in-command in the kingdom."
17 Daniel answered the king, "You can keep your gifts, or give them to someone else. But I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

Daniel pauses in the middle of the revelry gone cold and delivers a mini sermon...

18 -21 "Listen, O king! The High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar a great kingdom and a glorious reputation. Because God made him so famous, people from everywhere, whatever their race, color, and creed, were totally intimidated by him. He killed or spared people on whim. He promoted or humiliated people capriciously. He developed a big head and a hard spirit. Then God knocked him off his high horse and stripped him of his fame. He was thrown out of human company, lost his mind, and lived like a wild animal. He ate grass like an ox and was soaked by heaven's dew until he learned his lesson: that the High God rules human kingdoms and puts anyone he wants in charge.
22 -23 "You are his son and have known all this, yet you're as arrogant as he ever was. Look at you, setting yourself up in competition against the Master of heaven! You had the sacred chalices from his Temple brought into your drunken party so that you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines, could drink from them. You used the sacred chalices to toast your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone—blind, deaf, and imbecile gods. But you treat with contempt the living God who holds your entire life from birth to death in his hand.

Then he interprets the writing. Was it in Hebrew? Or did God give him supernatural ability?

24 -26 "God sent the hand that wrote on the wall, and this is what is written: mene, teqel, and peres. This is what the words mean:
"Mene: God has numbered the days of your rule and they don't add up.
27 "Teqel: You have been weighed on the scales and you don't weigh much.
28 "Peres: Your kingdom has been divided up and handed over to the Medes and Persians."

The young drunk sobered up on the spot! He honored Daniel...

29 Belshazzar did what he had promised. He robed Daniel in purple, draped the great gold chain around his neck, and promoted him to third-in-charge in the kingdom.

But it was all short lived. That very night the kindom was overrun and Bels, Neb's kid, is down and out...

30 -31 That same night the Babylonian king Belshazzar was murdered. Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when he succeeded him as king.

Stumped

This is a very curious story. You couldn't make this up.

It starts with a dream.

4 -7 "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home taking it easy in my palace, without a care in the world. But as I was stretched out on my bed I had a dream that scared me—a nightmare that shook me. I sent for all the wise men of Babylon so that they could interpret the dream for me. When they were all assembled—magicians, enchanters, fortunetellers, witches—I told them the dream. None could tell me what it meant.

Daniel interprets the dream.

"My master," said Belteshazzar, "I wish this dream were about your enemies and its interpretation for your foes.
20 -22 "The tree you saw that grew so large and sturdy with its top touching the sky, visible from the four corners of the world; the tree with the luxuriant foliage and abundant fruit, enough for everyone; the tree under which animals took cover and in which birds built nests—you, O king, are that tree.
"You have grown great and strong. Your royal majesty reaches sky-high, and your sovereign rule stretches to the four corners of the world.
23 -25 "But the part about the holy angel descending from heaven and proclaiming, 'Chop down the tree, destroy it, but leave stump and roots in the ground belted with a strap of iron and bronze in the grassy meadow; let him be soaked with heaven's dew and take his meals with the grazing animals for seven seasons'—this, O king, also refers to you. It means that the High God has sentenced my master the king: You will be driven away from human company and live with the wild animals. You will graze on grass like an ox. You will be soaked in heaven's dew. This will go on for seven seasons, and you will learn that the High God rules over human kingdoms and that he arranges all kingdom affairs.
26 "The part about the tree stump and roots being left means that your kingdom will still be there for you after you learn that it is heaven that runs things.
27 "So, king, take my advice: Make a clean break with your sins and start living for others. Quit your wicked life and look after the needs of the down-and-out. Then you will continue to have a good life."

The king is impressed, but not transformed.

28 -30 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Just twelve months later, he was walking on the balcony of the royal palace in Babylon and boasted, "Look at this, Babylon the great! And I built it all by myself, a royal palace adequate to display my honor and glory!"

31 -32 The words were no sooner out of his mouth than a voice out of heaven spoke, "This is the verdict on you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your kingdom is taken from you. You will be driven out of human company and live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like an ox. The sentence is for seven seasons, enough time to learn that the High God rules human kingdoms and puts whomever he wishes in charge."
33 It happened at once. Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of human company, ate grass like an ox, and was soaked in heaven's dew. His hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a hawk.

From king to animal! God is demonstrating His power yet once again! This goes on for seven years!

34 -35 "At the end of the seven years, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked to heaven. I was given my mind back and I blessed the High God, thanking and glorifying God, who lives forever:

Clash of Cultures


Daniel and his friends' fortune didn't last forever.

At some point later the king decided it was time for a celebration with a little hero worship thrown it.

1 -3 King Nebuchadnezzar built a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet thick. He set it up on the Dura plain in the province of Babylon. He then ordered all the important leaders in the province, everybody who was anybody, to the dedication ceremony of the statue. They all came for the dedication, all the important people, and took their places before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
4 -6 A herald then proclaimed in a loud voice: "Attention, everyone! Every race, color, and creed, listen! When you hear the band strike up—all the trumpets and trombones, the tubas and baritones, the drums and cymbals—fall to your knees and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Anyone who does not kneel and worship shall be thrown immediately into a roaring furnace."

Daniel's friends were stuck! There was no warning. They had not done anything wrong. They didn't really have time to plan or prepare for what to do. There they were, part of the great throng.

7 The band started to play, a huge band equipped with all the musical instruments of Babylon, and everyone—every race, color, and creed—fell to their knees and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

But the three God followers did not bow down. How easy it would have been. They could ask forgiveness later. God is a loving and forgiving God. But no - they stood. Resolute among the huge throng.

8 -12 Just then, some Babylonian fortunetellers stepped up and accused the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "Long live the king! You gave strict orders, O king, that when the big band started playing, everyone had to fall to their knees and worship the gold statue, and whoever did not go to their knees and worship it had to be pitched into a roaring furnace. Well, there are some Jews here—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have placed in high positions in the province of Babylon. These men are ignoring you, O king. They don't respect your gods and they won't worship the gold statue you set up."

The king takes the bait. This is no trivial matter. His honor is at stake. His "godhood" is at stake. He is the most powerful man in the then known world. How dare they? It's an outrage!
To his credit, he decides to check out the story himself, and give them another chance.

13 -15 Furious, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in. When the men were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar asked, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't respect my gods and refuse to worship the gold statue that I have set up? I'm giving you a second chance—but from now on, when the big band strikes up you must go to your knees and worship the statue I have made. If you don't worship it, you will be pitched into a roaring furnace, no questions asked. Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?"

To his horror, not only is the message he was given true - but even worse! They defied him to his very face!!

16 -18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, "Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."

Oh Well! They asked for it!

19 -23 Nebuchadnezzar, his face purple with anger, cut off Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace fired up seven times hotter than usual. He ordered some strong men from the army to tie them up, hands and feet, and throw them into the roaring furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, bound hand and foot, fully dressed from head to toe, were pitched into the roaring fire. Because the king was in such a hurry and the furnace was so hot, flames from the furnace killed the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it, while the fire raged around Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
24 Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, "Didn't we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?"
"That's right, O king," they said.
25 "But look!" he said. "I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!"
26 Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire.

OK. This was newsworthy. The entire world press was there, satellite dishes in tow...

27 All the important people, the government leaders and king's counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn't so much as touched the three men—not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them!
28 Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him! They ignored the king's orders and laid their bodies on the line rather than serve or worship any god but their own.

So, in a power encounter, God wins. But His servants had to be willing to die before they knew what God would do. Hmmm. Old Neb knows when he has met superior power...

29 "Therefore I issue this decree: Anyone anywhere, of any race, color, or creed, who says anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and their houses torn down. There has never been a god who can pull off a rescue like this."
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Have you been thrust into a power encounter? A clash of values? A clash of cultures?

Are you willing to stand up for God, risking reputation, job, prestige, even your life? The opportunity often comes suddenly. Without warning.