Thursday, July 19, 2018

Pondering Daniel Chapters 4 & 5

This is the material our Tuesday morning group will use next week in its reflections on Daniel. Maybe there is something here for others.

Our passage is Daniel chapters 4 & 5.

What do you see as the central point of these two chapters? What passage(s) captures the central point?

How would you contrast Nebuchadnezzar with Belshazzar?

Thinking about Chapter 4, is there anything here we can relate to? Has our pride ever needed to be knocked down a few pegs? Have we ever acted like “dumb beasts” and forgotten who we really are in Christ? Have we taken credit for success and not given God the glory?

“Eating grass like cattle” can be a picture of feeding on that “which passes away” – grass is used in the Bible as an image of the temporal. Do we feed on the eternal things of God or the temporal things of this age which are passing away? Who, or what, is our source of life?

In Daniel 1:2 we saw that Nebuchadnezzar brought vessels from the House of God (the Temple) in Jerusalem back to Babylon and put them in the treasury of a pagan god; now in Daniel Chapter 5 (verses 2 – 4, and verse 23) prominence is given to what Belshazzar does with these vessels. Why do you think we see this emphasis?

In thinking about the vessels of the Temple, what lessons can we draw from this for our lives today, and for the life of the Church? Who is the Temple of God?

How might 2 Timothy 3:20 – 21 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1 – 8 help us think about this?

How can we help others think about this?

What do you see in Daniel’s response (5:17) to the king? What can we (and the Church) learn from this?

Chapter 5 is, of course, where we get the saying, “The handwriting on the wall.” However, notice that the handwriting was not easily understood, it was quite the opposite. When a man or woman, or a society, is drunk with arrogance it cannot discern its situation.

Do you see any handwriting on the wall today?

Thoughts: In Revelation 2:12 – 29 Christ indicates that He will judge the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira, in part, due to their tolerance and promotion of teaching encouraging sexual immorality. Romans Chapter One portrays the downward spiral of a society when “God gives it up”  -  and while that descent into the abyss contains a number of elements which are all evil (Romans 1:28 – 32), we cannot miss the dark picture of Romans 1:24 – 27 in which sexual sin is shown to be a result of rejecting the image of God. When we reject the image of God (Romans 1:22 – 23) we end up with a perverse view of the image of man. Note Romans 1:32, “…they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

God does not take lightly how the vessels of His Temple are abused and polluted. If Belshazzar’s sin was great when it was related to physical vessels of the Temple of Jerusalem, how much greater was the sin of the churches of Revelation Chapter Two? And…of course…what about today?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pondering Daniel Chapter Three

Every week I prepare a handout for two men's groups that meet in the Richmond area. This is our handout for next week, perhaps there is something here to consider.

Our passage is Daniel Chapter Three.

For background: Exodus 20:1 – 6; Psalm 106:6 – 20; Revelation 13:1 – 14:5; Romans 8:28 – 30; 12:1 – 2; 2 Corinthians 3:17 – 18.

The danger of reading passages like Daniel Chapter Three is that we tend to relate them either to the past or to the future – another danger is that even if we relate them to today we tend to think they apply to others and not to us or our churches. It is important that we ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to how God desires to reveal Jesus to us through the Bible – both Old and New Testaments, and to how the Father desires to transform us into the image of His Son.

Considering that the image of Chapter Three (obviously) follows the dream of the image in Chapter Two, has Nebuchadnezzar learned anything? In John 2:23 – 25 how do we see Jesus relating to the people? What does John, the Gospel writer, point out about the nature of mankind?

What can we learn from this? What should be our realistic expectations regarding that portion of humanity – and its leadership – that does not know Jesus Christ?

In Daniel 3:8 we see that the Babylonian “home boys” used Nebuchadnezzar’s image and decree as a way of eliminating Daniel’s friends (we don’t know where Daniel was at this time – he’ll have his turn in Chapter Six). Consider the irony that if it had not been for Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream in Chapter Two that the Chaldean counsellors would have been executed by the king. So now the very people who Daniel and his friends saved are out to have them toasted in the furnace. This again is the way of mankind and we ought not to be so foolish as to expect that the nature of unredeemed humanity is going to change, only Jesus Christ can produce lasting change in people.

What is the response of the Hebrew men when confronted by Nebuchadnezzar?

How long does it take them to give a reply?

What does their response tell us about the way they have lived up until this point (remember what we learned in chapters one and two)?

Who is in the fire with them?

Are we living today in such a way that on a daily basis we are worshiping the True and Living God and refusing to bow down to the images of this world?

What are some of the primary images the world demands that we bow down to? How can we help each other think about these things? How can we support one another in not caving into the world’s images?

How can we teach our children, grandchildren, and others about the images of the world?

Note that in verse 28 the king says that the Hebrews “…yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god expect their own God.” How does Romans 6:12 – 14 and Romans 12:1 – 2 help us think about this?

Are we yielding our bodies to Christ every day? (1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20). Are we living as if our bodies belong to Christ, that we are no longer our own?

There are two groups of people in Revelation 13:1 – 14:5 – one group is worshiping the beast and their minds (foreheads) and actions (hands) are receiving the nature of the beast; the other group is following the Lamb in the purity of worship and in faithfulness to Him (2 Corinthians 11:1 – 15) – and this group is bearing the image of the Father and the Son, they are first fruits to God and to the Lamb (James 1:18).

There is no neutrality in this life, we are either following the beast or the Lamb, we are either bowing down to the image(s) of the world or we are worshipping the Trinity.

We become what we worship. What we behold we become. Whose image are we bearing?

How are we worshipping today? How can we help others? How can others help us?

Are there areas of our lives that we have not surrendered to Jesus Christ? Are there idols in our temples?

In conclusion, note that God did not remove the Hebrews from the trial, there was no guarantee that they would survive the fire. The Way of the Cross is the Way of Suffering with Christ (Philippians 3:7 – 16; John 15:18 – 27). It is a high privilege and honor to suffer for Jesus Christ and our brethren, and we should be concerned about any teaching that seeks to spare us the Cross of Christ, that suggests that we ought to avoid the Cross. The promise of God is that He will always be with us – both in “good” times and in times of trial, persecution, and suffering – including martyrdom. The fourth Man in the furnace would have been there whether the three Hebrews lived or died – and had they died they would still have lived (John 11:25).

The following is something I wrote in my journal on April 2, 2015 after reading Daniel Chapter 3:

Called to suffer, called to die
Called to lift Your Name on high.
Through the fire we walk with Thee
Use the fire to set us free.

To be counted worthy to bear His Name,
To be counted worthy to share His shame.
To be counted worthy to suffer loss,
To be counted worthy to carry His Cross.