Monday, September 08, 2014

Daniel: Part 1: vol 04 September 8, 2014

A study on the book of Daniel.
We will divide the study into two major parts:

Part I: A History of the Times...And the Setup for Coming Attractions:

Part II: Events Prophesied...Prophecies Fulfilled. 

... These two parts will be broken down and delved into in detail.
A King Dreams... A King Is Confused

Daniel 2:1-13

1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. 2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. 3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. 4 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. 6 But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. 7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. 8 The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. 9 But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof. 10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. 12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.
Perhaps at some time in your life you've had a dream that was so unnerving and perplexing that it kept you from sleeping through the rest of the night.

You tried to figure out what it might mean and may have even asked others to help you with an interpretation that made sense. If this has happened to you and me, we know it’s happened to people throughout history.
In the year 603 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream so bizarre that he marshaled his wisest men to his chambers to give him a reasonable interpretation. 
Not only did the crafty king want an interpretation of the dream he could understand, but he went one step further:
He demanded a recital of the dream itself. Unreasonable? Of course. 
But Nebuchadnezzar was the king, and just as the gorilla sleeps anywhere it likes in the jungle, so the king could make up his own rules-which he did with an impish look in his eye, I'm sure.
Nervous Coughs and Furtive Looks

Did the king really forget the content of his dream? I doubt it. I think this was Nebuchadnezzar’s way to test the wisdom and alleged supernatural powers of his magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers. 

Heavy has been the head that has worn the crown throughout history, and Nebuchadnezzar’s crown must have weighed a ton. Kings come and go; their enemies are forever nipping at their heels. What if Nebuchadnezzar’s dream were to portend evil for his realm? Superstitious as he was, he demanded an interpretation.

But there was a risk that one of the palace sorcerers might give the king information he didn't want to hear.

So what does a wizard do?
    Beat around the bush?
    Try to buy some time?

After all, the wrong information would produce disastrous results for the wizards-like being cut to pieces and having their houses made into a dunghill. But if they could state the dream and give Nebuchadnezzar an interpretation he could live with, then all manner of blessings would fall on the necromancers. So the stage was set.

I can almost hear the nervous coughs and see the furtive looks as one magician after the other would say something like, "0 King, that’s a marvelous idea, our telling you your dream- not that it will be easy. Say, would you mind running that dream by your servants just one more time, and then I'm sure we'll be able to come up with just the right interpretation."

Paranoia Abounds

The king didn't bite. He knew he had his magicians and wise men trapped, and he accused them of stalling. Finally, probably with perspiration pouring from their brows, the wizards and astrologers came flat out with the truth, saying that such an assignment was impossible-certainly too great a job for the wisest person in the realm, and one that could only be accomplished in cooperation with the gods-whose "dwelling is not with flesh". 

An interesting comment from savants who were supposed to be able to predict the future and come up with detailed-and accurate-answers to life’s most perplexing problems. Yet, when push came to shove, they figured hearkening to the gods might not be such a bad idea after all.

But the king didn't buy their delay and became furious.

In a fit of rage he demanded that all the wise men of Babylon be rounded up and destroyed-something we've seen again and again throughout secular and religious history. When frustration mounts in the palace, scapegoats are found, and these innocents are often summarily done away with. 
e.g paranoia: It happened when a paranoid King Herod, intent on finding an alleged usurper to his throne, put out a decree to kill all Jewish baby boys in the land.
e.g paranoia: We saw it with Hitler who, in his cruel attempt to create his Third Reich, killed six million Jews, burned all books that threatened his reign, and more than decimated all non-Aryans under his control. 
e.g paranoia: We saw it again just a few years ago, in the mid-to late 1960s, when an equally paranoid Chairman Mao threw all of China into convulsions with his demented "Cultural Revolution"-a nationwide witch hunt that was only an official excuse to kill and maim millions of dissidents, destroy any semblance of ancient tradition that flew in the face of his hybrid communism, and put China on a crash course with history. 
Will tyrants ever learn?

Now, the net was thrown wide throughout the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar to bring all the men of wisdom to their knees and ultimately to their collective death. Although it appears that Daniel and his friends were not in this shouting session with the king, they were, in fact, to be included in the king’s order. The great irony of the king’s manifesto as it related to Daniel was that once again God was setting the stage for a display of His sovereignty over the affairs of men. Meanwhile, the hunt was on.

Manuscript of the Book of Daniel, c. 200 CE
Daniel 14-26
14 Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: 15  He answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. 16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19  Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. 23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter. 24  Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation. 25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation. 26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?

Daniel’s Strategy

We've now begun to see the sterling character of Daniel.

Though still young, he was wise beyond his years; though relatively inexperienced in the affairs of life, he demonstrated how God can use a servant who gives his absolute loyalty to the Father. Now, it was again Daniel’s turn to settle uncontrollable waters. Here’s where we as believers need to take careful note of Daniel’s spiritual strategy.
First, he asked for time-always a good idea when we are trying to come up with a solution to one of life’s challenges.
Second, he was bold enough to say that he would fulfill the king’s demand-that is, he promised to do what the other wise men could not. Daniel knew that with God on his side he was not stepping out on a partially sawed-off limb. He knew his heavenly Father would give him the insight required at the time he would need it.
Third-and how often we fail to do this-Daniel went back to his quarters and held an impromptu prayer meeting/counseling session with his companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Proverbs 15:22 reminds us,
"Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established."
Daniel knew the importance of feedback from his companions-an awareness that runs throughout the entire book.

Daniel’s "Model Prayer"

Now I want you to pay special attention to Daniel’s prayer- just one of the many prayers of this great man of God we will discover in the pages of this amazing prophecy. Remember, Daniel already believed that God would give him the answer he'd need when he would soon stand before the king. He'd already conferred with his friends and received their counsel. But Daniel knew that unless he prayed earnestly to his God for divine insight and wisdom, he would never be prepared for his daunting assignment with a paranoid king.

For years, I've felt this prayer of Daniel should be a model for our own time with God-a prayer that moves me anew as I read it again, perhaps for the thousandth time. 
  • Daniel blesses God for His wisdom. 
  • He acknowledges that earthly kings are just that-as common as dirt-and that God alone sets up rulers and brings them crashing down from their man-made thrones. 
  • He recognizes that only His God-not Marduk, or any other Babylonian idol-gives wisdom to the wise and has the necessary resources to bring light to that which is shrouded in darkness.
Then, in a final burst of praise, 
  • Daniel thanks God for the wisdom and might He’s given to His servant. 
  • Daniel thanks God - giving no credit to himself - for the answers he now has to King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. 
Can't you just hear Daniel’s prayer build with confidence as he moves toward his final crescendo-his glorious amen to his God?

Ready to Meet the King

Daniel has done his homework. 
  • He’s been patient. 
  • He’s prayed. 
Now he’s ready with an exuberance and confidence that can only come to a believer in the one true God. 

Only after this serious, pre-audience preparation does Daniel finally say to Arioch, 
"All right, now’s the time. I’m ready to enter the presence of the king . . . and by the way, make sure that the king spares the lives of the wise men of Babylon. There’s now no reason for them to die.
Daniel, a young man with limited life experience, is now used by God to shape the destiny of an entire kingdom.

The apostle Paul, hundreds of years later, would say to another young man, Timothy, 
"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). 
In God’s eyes, age has little significance when it comes to being a wise servant. 

Just as He did then, all God demands from His people is obedience. 

This spirit would be the hallmark of the man Daniel to the end of his days.


We will go into the details of the king's dream in our next volume.