Friday, October 30, 2015

The Writing's on the Wall (Daniel 5)

As we continue in our study of the book of Daniel, we start to see a completely different story with a different cast of characters. Nebuchadnezzar has passed on and his son Belshazzar reigns on his throne.

Remember that we are still within the Aramaic section of the book of Daniel. God is still directing this section to the entire world, to declare His sovereignty to all the nations of the Lord. In this chapter, he responds once more to the arrogance of a king.

And it starts with King Belshazzar doing what kings do - feasting, drinking, and partying. Because running a country is probably difficult, I guess you just have to let off some steam somehow (kidding, I did not endorse this royal behavior).

As he is enjoying his little celebration, he asks for the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar stole from the house of God. Indeed, the book of Daniel makes it clear that these aren't just any vessels, but these are the vessels which were in Jerusalem. Get ready for the our God is bigger than your God moment. It's coming...

But first, let's make sure that we understand the significance of using the vessels designed for the worship of the Lord. The Lord makes it clear that there is a contrast between the sacred use of His vessels versus the use here. He contrasts their worship of gods, made of gold, and silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone, with Himself.

But even further, there is good reason to believe that Belshazzar's actions were a reflection upon his belief that he (and his gods) were greater than God so that he didn't have to worry about how he used or misused the sacred artifacts. Indeed, he could use them for mere sport.

But the Lord said, no. That's not going to work here. And so the weirdest thing that probably could ever happen occurred. Fingers wrote on a wall.

Alright, so we've all heard this account before, so we're hardly surprised by that. But let's take a second here. FINGERS ARE WRITING ON A WALL!!!!!!!!

I for one, have never seen a finger write on a wall, or a finger move when it is disconnected from a body. But here that is exactly what Belshazzar is seeing. I think he might be a bit justified to be just a little bit on edge about what is going on here.

And of course, the fingers writing on the wall is our first indication that God is greater than the gods that Belshazzar serves. The gods of the Babylonians had never tried to communicate in this way. Never, but God just does it as if it is nothing.

As we have seen so much before in this book, the king calls all of the religious people that serve his own gods - the Chaldeans, astrologers, soothsayers, and all. And as per the usual, they are unable to understand the works of God because God has chosen not to reveal it unto them.

And as per the usual, that's when Daniel gets called in. Here it is as the result of the Queen's suggestion, reminding Belshazzar that Daniel has managed to best these magicians, Chaldeans, soothsayers, and wise men in the past. Just in case you forgot this is not the first time that God has shown his power in this book.

Daniel works to give the interpretation of the writing. And it comes with a rather long section of understanding. Take a look at verses 17-28,
"Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."

So that is a lot of verses to throw at you all at once, so I took the liberty of highlighting where Daniel makes it clear that God is more powerful than the king's gods. I find it interesting that Daniel starts by examining the Lord's dealing with Nebuchadnezzar, just trying to make sure that at its core, we don't forget that God has already shown himself faithful.

 After justifying that God has authority to do as he pleases, he proceeds to explain what God is planning on doing. He explains that the writing means that Bleshazzar's kingdom will be taken from him, and that he will die.

And then just to solidify the point that God is more powerful than the nations, that happens that very night. Which means that the Lord has already orchestrated it before He revealed His plans to anyone.

I think the Lord might just have authority over all authorities of this world, which I personally find to be pretty great.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Priority Evaluation from the Book of Jonah

I talk a lot about priorities it seems. Usually I focus on how we spend our time, specifically at times when I am rushing to write this blog post because I haven't prioritized it. Today, I am kinda rushing, but we are not going to write about how we use our time in relationship to priorities.

In the book of Jonah, God goes through quite a lot to show an object lesson of someone who does not have proper priorities. And then he ends with a question in Jonah 4:12-13,
"Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?"

There isn't any rest of the book, Jonah never gives an answer. We see instead that we ourselves are supposed to provide an answer. So how would we as people evaluate our priorities to see if they line up with God? Well, perhaps, a good way of doing that is to see the things that Jonah did that highlight that his priorities were in the wrong place. There are three of them.

1. Disobedience.

When Jonah first hears that he is to go to Nineveh because saving Nineveh is the Lord's priority, he runs precisely the other way. He showed that his interests were more important than God's and that he cannot move on.

2. Prejudice placed above compassion

He decides that he is not going to have any chance that the people of Nineveh might not actually get destroyed.  He goes so far as to in chapter 4 complain that the Lord is showing mercy to the people of Nineveh and explains that this is why he didn't come in the first place! He knew the grace of God (never mind that he knows it because he has received it) and he didn't want his enemies to receive that grace.

3. Convenience placed above the spiritual need of others.

And then of course, he was more thankful for the gourd than anything. He twice in chapter 4 explains that he is ready to die. One when the people of Nineveh live, and the second when the gourd (his personal heat shield) dies. I feel like you see the issue here, don't you?

So maybe at the heart of all three of these issues is a heart for the conditions of others, whether we like them or not, and seeing people as souls that the Lord wants to save.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Beast-King (Daniel 4)

In the Aramaic section of the book of Daniel, we have seen the sovereignty revealed by an event showing his magnificent power and then King Nebuchadnezzar making a proclamation about how the God of Israel is the Most High God, who is the only one worthy of praise.

Chapter 4 is a little bit different. In this instance, the order of the illustrating event and Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation are reversed. Indeed, very early on in verses 1-3, Nebuchadnezzar writes a decree to the entire nation, saying,
"Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation."

With that declaration in mind, we turn to the events of the story. Nebuchadnezzar goes on in his decree to discuss then reason why he feels that God is the most High in the first place. It starts just as it did in Chapter 2, with a dream.

This dream Nebuchadnezzar remembers, but he doesn't understand it. And neither do any of his wise men. Nebuchadnezzar is afraid because of the contents of the dream.

So since you're probably curious, the dream went something like this. There was a great tree which was beautiful and was providing food and shelter for many. And then an angel comes down and asks that it be hewed down, but the stump can remain. In the most relevant portion, the angel declares,
"Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him."

Nebuchadnezzar in his terror, remembers that there was this guy, in whom was the spirit of the holy god(s). (Whether you have gods or God will depend upon your translation. In the Aramaic, the plural form was often used for emphasis, making this statement a little bit arbitrary.)

Nebuchadnezzar calls in Daniel, and Daniel is said to be troubled for an hour, and was in one of my favorite KJV words, "astonied." And Nebuchadnezzar has apparently softened at some point because he tells Daniel not to worry about the dream or the interpretation.

At which point, Daniel explains the dream. In verses 24-27,
"This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity."

The dream stands as a warning against Nebuchadnezzar's pride. It is asking him to consistently acknowledge that it is God who creates his own kingdoms. This is what the Most High decrees. And obviously what the most High decrees, will inevitably come to pass.

In verses 28-33, it does,
"All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws."

And so we see that the Lord's prophecies come true because He's God and is sovereign at all times. And Nebuchadnezzar actually states this fact again, and praised the Lord God of Heaven, the chapter ends in verses 34-37,
"And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase."

Monday, October 19, 2015

We Really Don't Know

So... The Bengals are 6-0! And that doesn't have anything to do with politics, but I'm figuring out what I am writing about right now, so I just wanted to let you know that excitement. 

So... The world is complex and complicated as usual, and we all pretend to know what's going on, because that's what people DO! 

Because let's just be honest, how much do we truly understand about the insider positions of the politics, or about the inner positions of Syria, or how Germany will respond to the immigrants when they come through. 

So what I would love to see happen is that news providers are willing to admit that there are lots of things that we just don't understand about the world. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3)

So, Fall Break is a thing. And, as per my usual irresponsibility I forgot today was Friday because it feels like a Saturday. I apologize to all of you faithful few, and would like to take the time to look at some things here today in reading this.

So today, we are obviously going to look at background because you know, it went from background to exposition to background to exposition. So obviously, the next in the pattern is obviously background.

But as you can tell from the title, that pattern thankfully is broken. We get to continue to look at the Aramaic portion of the book of Daniel and what the Lord chose to reveal to all people at the time of the captivity to show that He let the Israelites get captured as a punishment and is not weaker than the gods of the Babylonians.

So Daniel 3 enters in. We all know the story, and we all know of the admirable faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago. And indeed, we should all emulate it. But what can we learn about God through this chapter?

The chapter starts out rather simply in the first 2 verses, 
"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up."

Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar's changed heart at the end of the last chapter has changed, and he has moved onward to challenge the worship of God. Setting up an idol and commanding essentially that all political officials come and worship this idol.

So what happens? Well, you all know the story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago refuse to bow down to the idol and there is a tattle-tale, so the king brings them in for questioning.

And we immediately have the set-up of the scene of God's greatness to be seen. In verse 15, we read,
"Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"

Who indeed? Certainly there isn't a god who is actually stronger than Nebuchadnezzar and his gods and the fiery furnace. Oh yeah, there is a God in heaven. He actually isn't he? Well, I guess we'll find out.

As an even further set-up, Shadrach Meshach, and Abednago express the truth statement and theme of the chapter. Verses 17-18 explains,
"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

Oh, yeah, Hebrew God can do things. And of course, Nebuchadnezzar is like, eh no, and he commands the furnace to be set to 7 times the heat it is normally supposed to be set. Just so that there is no chance that they could possibly survive.

To further show that there is no chance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago surviving without the assistance of some supernatural force, the men commanded to throw them into the furnace explode into flame and perish. They are so much goners.

Except...they aren't. They manage to live, without a hint of burning damage within them. And Nebuchadnezzar tends to notice that. You know, it seems that there are people alive. And for some reason four of them. He says simply,
"Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

So the fourth looks a little majestic. And of course, there is speculation about whether this is an example of the pre-incarnate Christ  appearing to people. There is no proof of this, but it is certainly possible, but probably more relevant is this: there was clearly a supernatural being and force that delivered the faithful Israelites from the fiery furnace that was certain to kill them. And it doth seem based on the prelude into this big test that that supernatural force is a personal being that the Israelites worship as God.

And Nebuchadnezzar, a source that the Babylonians themselves would accept, acknowledges this to be true. In the climax of the event (just as in chapter 2), Nebuchadnezzar declares,
"Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort." 

There is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Indeed. Feel like I heard this at some other point in the book of Daniel that God was the only one who could do things. Hmm....

Monday, October 12, 2015

Time And Priorities

 If it's important to you, you will probably make time to do it. This is something that seems rather relevant in my life as at a time when I thought I was overwhelmed, and could add nothing more to my schedule, I actually did add something more to my schedule, and have still managed to stay on top of things (except this blog of course). 

So if I can add in a huge and amazing time spender because I really really want it, and still manage to keep up my grades, it is probably possible at any given time for us to add in time to spend time with God in both Bible study and prayer, as well as ministry and service to God. 

What then does it mean if we choose not to do so because we're too busy? Really, it only means that we value one thing we could spend our time on, over spending time with God. Or if we choose not to spend time helping the poor, we are saying that whatever we currently spend our time on is more important than the poor. 

When we fail to post blog posts in time, or to spend the accurate amount of time deciding what to write about and putting thoughts into the words, it means that I value my schoolwork and other social activities above my blog post. #sorrynotsorry

So, there is more time in the day than you give credit for, which means the way we use our time is probably an indicator of our priorities more than anything else. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Interpretation of Dreams (Daniel 2)

Announcement: Because it would fit better into my life and has just basically been a thing anyway, I will be changing the time of these blog posts from morning to noon. So you can expect this blog to update in the future at noon on Mondays and Fridays. Thank you!

With our wonderful background knowledge, we are ready to get into a nice run-down of the different sections of the book. (I promise we won't have another background post next week.) Remember that the focus of this book (and the Aramaic chapters in particular) is to show God's sovereignty at a time when it looks like the Babylonian gods are stronger than He is.

But how does our familiar story about Nebuchadnezzar's dream of a statue made of all sorts of material actually show God's sovereignty? It does in more ways than you might think. Let's dig in. 

(I have been much cheaper with my writing style, since I started this exposition on Daniel; I'm sorry, but it takes a lot of time to write exposition, so something had to go.)

We're going to start after Nebuchadnezzar has his dream, and the language of the book shifts to Aramaic. It is here that we see Nebuchadnezzar's magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans (hereafter just Chaldeans because that's what the book does) come and ask for the dream, so they can interpret it.

This group of people is important. This group of people is essentially a collection of religious people who would reign the power of the Babylonian gods to answer a given question. Nebuchadnezzar hopes that they will be able to interpret his dream.

But apparently, he has forgotten his dream entirely. This shouldn't be a problem clearly as the gods of Babylon will be sure to reveal to the Chaldeans what he dreamed too. And if they shan't, then the Chaldeans will be exposed as frauds and be cut into pieces and their houses will be made into... yeah. That's totally Nebuchadnezzar. Totally.

But shocker! The gods of Babylonian do not reveal to the Chaldeans the dream! It's almost as if the Babylonian gods don't exist or something. Sarcasm aside, the beginning parts of this chapter clearly show that the Chaldeans do not have the power that they claim to have, and it does place suspicion on the power of their gods.

Indeed, the words of the Chaldeans in verse 10-11 are rather telling,
"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. 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."

Oh, only the gods can reveal it. That seems problematic, since they don't dwell among us. How are we supposed to respond to this?

Well, Nebuchadnezzar is rash, so he decrees that all the wise men get killed. And so they obviously go after Daniel and his fellows because they fall into this category. You may think it bad storytelling that I introduce that Daniel and his fellows are wise men here, but take it up with the Bible. It seems that God was trying to stress that the story is not actually about Daniel, but rather His own power.

Daniel asks the king for time to know the dream and the interpretation thereof. The king grants it for some reason, probably the hand of God. And so Daniel went back and told his companions, and they prayed to the God of Heaven. Indeed, these verses are ones that specifically highlight the process by which God and not man revealed the truth of the dream. In verses 17-23, we read,
"Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 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. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 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: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. 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."

The secret was revealed to Daniel, and he recognizes that it was God who revealed this to him and spends the time to praise Him, revealing to the world, that God is able to resolve issues of dreams that according to the Chaldeans, no man can reveal.

It is interesting to note that the Chaldeans would have been religious people that the selected audience of this text would have respected and listened to, meaning that this whole interpretation of the dream thing has great significance to them because the Chaldeans essentially said it was impossible.

And so Daniel reveals the dream and its interpretation to the king. But when he does so, he tends to want to highlight the fact that you know, the Chaldeans couldn't do it, but God can. The emphasis in these verses (as in the rest of the chapter) is on the superiority of God over the Chaldeans. Look in verses 27-30,
"Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart."

So the dream itself is also kinda important in showing God's sovereignty over the nations. We will examine this in more detail with the future visions of the book of Daniel, starting in chapter 7.

But for now, let's examine that Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue, where the head was of gold, breast and arms of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, his legs of iron, and his feet of iron and clay.

And they all fell to pieces because a stone "made without hands." That expression indicates a divine intervention, where God comes in and destroys this statue.

Daniel interprets this dream as portraying the nations of the world that would come after Babylon, which was the strongest of them and the golden head. In hindsight, we can see how this proved true as the Babylonian empire was conquered by the Medo-Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks, who were conquered by the Romans, and so on. This is a very relevant showing of God's sovereignty over the nations and His ability to fulfill His prophecies.

But it actually wouldn't have meant all that much to the Babylonians or the Jews at the time, as they couldn't look back to hindsight to see that this was true. Instead, they would look to authorities that they trusted to make sense of the strange turn of events, which is probably why this account ends with Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation in verse 47,
"Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret." 

Indeed He is.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Umpqua Community College

It was a small town in Oregon that where a mass shooting occurred. It wasn't a place that was expected to be dangerous. Everyone felt very safe. And then the disaster came. And as the disaster came, now no one anyone feels safe. Even though they are just as safe now as they were before, public perception of danger has increased substantially. 

Our hearts and our prayers go out to the families of these victims, and for all those who are wounded. Undergoing this much trauma is not going to be easy. The road to normalcy is long, and tracked with the knowledge that things will not return to as normal as one would hope. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Introduction to the Arimaic Section (Daniel 2-7)

I do thus verily apologize for the complete lack of post on Monday. I have an excuse, but I assume that you won't want to hear it, so if that assumption is true, you can skip to the next paragraph. So, I had a debate tournament this weekend, and got behind in schoolwork for the first time in my college career. So I didn't post on my blog. Probably justifiable. But I have caught up by now and can reenter my responsibilities.

So today, we enter into Daniel 2, Let's begin with reading the first three verses,
"And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. 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. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream."

Then in verse 4, we read the Scripture state that, "Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack."

Syriack is the King James way of saying Aramaic. And at this point until the end of chapter 7, the book of Daniel is written in Aramaic. At first, it is easy to write this off as simply useless trivia, but wait one moment. We believe that the Bible is written more purposefully than this.

If you are writing, you don't usually change the language in which you are writing. Even if you happen to know multiple languages, you are not likely to suddenly change from one language into another. Indeed, you are not likely to change even from one piece of jargon to another at any given time within the same writing.

So why does this particular book switch into Aramaic when that is generally considered bad literary form? It is not enough to write this off as unimportant because the author of the book clearly made this decision for a reason. We need to understand what that reason is.

So let's remember from two weeks ago, the background of the time. Those throughout the world are convinced because of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem that the Babylonians god at their weakest are strongest than God is at His strongest.

We then remember that this book is all about proving that the God of Israel really is stronger than all other gods, and indeed that there are no other gods. In Hebrew, this book communicates to the Israelites, but basically that only communicates to the Israelites.

Historical background (once more from Dr. Miller's Old Testament class): at this time, the primary language of almost all the world is Aramaic. So communicating in Aramaic is to communicate to the rest of the world. Chapters 2-7 are a section of the book of Daniel, which are written so as to communicate to the whole world.

So what does the Lord want to say to the entire wor? Well, let's look a moment at the structure of this Aramaic section.

Chapter 2: Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, interpreted by Daniel and Daniel alone sharing God's power over the nations.
Chapter 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago travel into a fiery furnace, but God shows his power in delivering them.
Chapters 4-5:  God shows His power over individual rulers by tearing Nebuchadnezzar down to the level of a beast, and then putting the writing on the wall to end Belshazzar's reigns
Chapter 6: God shows His power in delivering His servant Daniel.
Chapter 7: God shows his power over that nations by Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue.

You might notice a few similarities here. Indeed, this structure is very chiastic.

And in a chiasm, the most important part if put in the middle of the structure. So the Lord seems to be stressing that He is more powerful than the most powerful of rulers in the world. All else doesn't stand; the Lord is God and He is sovereign over all.

The Aramaic section is a powerful section of the book and honestly the reason why I decided to do this expositional analysis on the book of Daniel. I look forward to looking at you next week.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Eating Vegetables to Get Fat (Daniel 1)

Last week, I announced that I was going to start a series with the book of Daniel. This is the least-thought through decision I have had in a while, but it seems pretty exciting to me right now, so let's go for this.

After detailing clearly that the book of Daniel seems to be about the question of God's sovereignty at a time when His sovereignty can be specifically challenged and questioned because it appears that the gods of Babylonian have bested Him. The book looks at how that God has given Israel into the hand of Israel. No need to fret about Babylonian control - God knows what He's doing.

So how does this work from the very beginning of the book? The very first chapter details one of the more popular events of this time period in the Bible. The fact that a few teenagers refused to eat drink and wine from the king, and instead opted for vegetables. What in the world does this have to do with the power of God exactly?

Well, let's take the text from the beginning. So in verses 3-4, the king is bringing up a whole bunch of skillful Israelites to serve as advisers for the king. This is a common practice at the time, where conquering nations will just take advantage of the young crop of skills that they just conquered.

Verse 5 though mentions a very specific regimen of food that has been specifically designed to prepare them to come before the king. This is the very regimen that "Daniel and his fellows" would not agree to eat because they had purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves with the portion of the king's meat (verse 8).

The reason why this would be defiling is unclear. It seems unlikely that it was because it went against Levitical laws as there was never a prohibition against wine. Sacrificing to idols is possible because in some instances wine was actually sacrificed to idols. It could have been as simple as allegiance to the king. Really, our answers are all kinda speculative, which means that our answer is not actually important. If this detail mattered the Lord would have made it clear what He wanted us to see.

But when Daniel and his fellows reject the food, there is a very specific response. The eunuch seems a bit afraid. Daniel 1:10 explains,
"And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king."

Hey, apparently, Daniel's suggestions about eating pulse and water is not a very favorable position. It is supposed to leave them to be thin and sickly after this time. That seems to be an indication that maybe this isn't a health plan, guys! It's not a recommendation for our diets!

But what is more important about this, is that when Daniel and his fellows are actually healthier, or more specifically, "fairer and fatter in all flesh" after ten days, then there must be something supernatural about this particular occasion. Maybe the Lord just blessed His servants for their obedience to Him. Hmmmm... Strange.

And then we get a brief overview of the success that Daniel and his fellows have in Babylon. Because God is not done blessing His people. And you know, He has the power to do that.

Maybe we shouldn't be concerned that we're under Babylonian control. Or put in your own life, God is in control, regardless of whatever situation you are in. You have no need to fret, God will continue to bless you, though not always in circumstance. Just trust the Lord.

Apparently I forgot to schedule this to get posted. Which stinks.