Friday, 5 December 2014

(340) December 6: Daniel 5-6 & 1 John 4

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider how God’s sovereignty is displayed.

To ponder:
Structurally these chapters parallel chapters 3-4, making similar points. Belshazzar is Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson (although here called son, which was a common way to speak of such a descendent). He shows great contempt for God by drinking at a banquet from Jerusalem’s temple goblets, whilst praising the gods of gold, silver, bronze, wood and stone. This was an attempt to proudly affirm his greatness and that of his gods to the thousand nobles he was hosting (5v1-4). But he is utterly terrified when a human finger appears and writes something on his palace wall (5v5-6). The note it was near the lampstand is the sort of detail that proves this is an eyewitness account, but may also be noted to imply his light is about to be extinguished. As with his grandfather, he calls the wise men promising them the third highest position if they could decipher the words. None could, terrifying the king all the more (5v7-9). This terror together with that of Nebuchadnezzar at his dream (4v5) speaks of the terror that should be felt to be subject to God’s judgement.
At this point the queen enters and urges the king to fetch Daniel, telling of his service to Nebuchadnezzar, and describing him as Nebuchadnezzar did – one the spirit of the holy gods is in (5v10-12). Daniel is sent for and Belshazzar outlines what he had heard about him, affirming Daniel’s ability under God to us as readers. Daniel agrees to give the interpretation, but tells the king to keep his gifts and reward, no doubt because he wanted to credit only God for his ability. He then recounts how it was God who gave Nebuchadnezzar his sovereignty and splendour to do as he wished with all peoples, but then humbled him when arrogant and hardened in his pride, until he acknowledge God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to who he wishes. As previously, the title Daniel uses for the LORD is “the Most High God,” stressing his supremacy over all false gods or rulers. The point is that kings and kingdoms only have what they have by his will and purpose (5v13-21).
            In the light of this Daniel continues, charging Belshazzar with the words “but you” for not humbling himself despite knowing all this. It’s a lesson to learn from God’s acts of judgement and salvation towards others. Instead, Daniel states that the king set himself against God by drinking from the temple goblets, praising gods who cannot hear or understand, and not honouring the God who holds his life and ways in his hands. This must have had huge impact on the exiles when tempted to turn from God, who holds them in this way, towards the false gods of Babylon. It also resonates with how the West praises the gods of science and progress rather than the Lord for its achievements. Daniel goes on to interpret the words: Belshazzar has been weighed and found wanting by God, and so his life and reign will come to an end, and his kingdom be divided and given to the Medes and Persians. Belshazzar immediately makes Daniel third highest in the kingdom, before being killed that night as the kingdom falls to Medo-Persia – just as the prophets had predicted (5v22-31). ­
Ironically then, the God who gives power to those he pleases has given it to Daniel just in time for him to be the second most important after Darius, the new king in the kingdom. His is therefore made one of just three administrators governing the 120 satraps through whom the kingdom was ruled (6v1-2). We read that Daniel so excelled that Darius planned to make him his number one. This caused the others to try and find a charge against Daniel, but they could find no way in which he was corrupt or negligent - a challenge to all workers. So they plotted to use the law of God to catch him out, persuading the king to submit an unrepealable edict that any who prays to anything for thirty days except the king, must be thrown into a den of lions. In response Daniel sets the example of submitting to the rules of any culture only as far as they don’t require disobedience of God. So three times a day he continued to kneel, give thanks to God and pray for help towards Jerusalem - the symbolic place of God’s presence in the temple. His enemies intentionally went to see him do this and then reported it to Darius (6v3-13). The king was distressed because he knew his edict could not be repealed yet wanted to save Daniel. But when the men pressed him to act according to the law he ordered Daniel be thrown to the lions, saying “may your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you.” Darius is therefore very different from Nebuchadnezzar who angrily threw Daniel’s friends into the fire. And Darius’ words affirm that it is those who through faith serve God who he is ready to rescue, as he would the exiles (6v14-16).
The irreversibility of Daniel’s fate is stressed in the stone being placed over the den and being sealed with the king’s ring, but the concern of the king by his abstaining from food, entertainment and sleep, and his anguish in rushing to the den in the morning. His question over whether Daniel’s God had been able to rescue him highlights the point of the passage: Yes! What the might Darius was unable to do, God could. He sent his angel to shut the lion’s mouths – vindicating Daniel as innocent in his sight. Daniel also stresses he had not wronged the king. In joy, the king ordered him lifted from the den and we read Daniel was without any wounds “because he trusted God” (6v17-23). How much can we be sure of our salvation in being counted innocent or righteous in Christ. But we should note that the faith that results in this salvation should display itself in real godliness as it did for Daniel.
To prove God had effected the rescue rather than the lions simply being off their food, we read how Darius threw Daniel’s accusers in with their families, and they were immediately eaten. This signifies how on the last day God’s people will be vindicated, whilst their opponents will be judged. Darius then decreed amongst all his peoples that they must fear and reverence God because he is living and eternal, his kingdom will therefore never end, and he performs signs and wonders such as in rescuing and saving. We read that Daniel then prospered during his reign (6v24-28). The edict would not have forbidden people worshipping other gods, but must have hugely encouraged Jews throughout the empire who were waiting for God’s deliverance. And it should us too as we await our final deliverance through Christ.
Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God that he is able to save and establish an everlasting kingdom. Pray that you would trust him to do so, and honour him for all good.

Thinking further:
None today.

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