Today’s Bible Reading: Daniel 2:24-3:30; 1 Peter 4:7-5:14; Psalm 119:81-96; Proverbs 28:15-16
Its not hard to imagine that the ‘Breaking News’ in Babylon during the time of Daniel 2 was the king’s dream and his decree to execute all the so-called wise men who could not tell him his dream and interpret it. Everyone was probably talking about it. This gives God a great opportunity to reveal Himself to the people of Babylon through Daniel (Daniel 2:24).
Notice that Daniel does not take credit for the interpretation of the dream (Daniel 2:27). It was not something “figured out” by human reasoning. It was something that God had revealed (Daniel 2:28). Nothing can be known unless God chooses to make it known. All human understanding, including science, happens not because we are so smart or industrious but because God wants us to understand (Daniel 2:30).
Nebuchadnezzar’s dreamt about a huge statue of a man whose body was made of various materials (Daniel 2:31-33). Suddenly a rock, cut from a mountain but not by human hands, strikes the statue in the feet causing the entire thing to crumble into pieces (Daniel 2:34-35). This statue depicted Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, Babylon (the gold in the statue), and the 3 subsequent empires to appear on the earth.
The silver corresponded to the next empire, Persia, which was inferior to Babylon as it did not have a ruler with absolute power and authority. The next empire would be Greece as indicated by the bronze in the statue. Greece had even less central authority than Persia. The final empire would be Rome as indicated by the iron. Rome was a very strong empire that crushed its enemies, just like iron crushes whatever it strikes. But notice that the Roman empire would be divided – it would consist of various parts that would not mix – like iron and clay do not mix – making it vulnerable.
The rock, of course, is Jesus Himself who will smash the Roman Empire to bits, causing all that man has worked for over the centuries to crumble into nothing. What’s interesting to note is that Jesus did not crush Rome when He first appeared on earth. And the Roman Empire was never really conquered – it just sort of faded away. Therefore we can conclude that in the final days before Jesus returns the Roman Empire will be reestablished. We certainly see this happening with the creation of the European Union which covers much of the same geographic area as ancient Rome and continues to add to it.
Ancient Rome had a single ruler, Caesar, and someday the new Roman Empire will have a single ruler too – the antichrist. And just like ancient Rome was more of a military force, so too will the future Rome. We’ll soon read that the antichrist will preside over a military kingdom that will conquer the world – something Rome never achieved. Then Jesus will crush it and will establish His own kingdom that will last for all eternity (Daniel 2:44). The future will be pretty exciting!
Notice Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to this revelation: he recognizes God and promotes Daniel and his friends (Daniel 2:47-49). Although Daniel’s friends don’t seem to be present at this meeting, they had prayed with Daniel the night before. Here we see that prayer is very important to God and will not go unrewarded.
But sadly, Nebuchadnezzar’s loyalty to God fades because in the very next chapter we read about him setting up a gold statue to be worshipped. He commands everyone in Babylon to worship it too (Daniel 3:1-6). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to do so (Daniel 3:12) and are thrown into a furnace (Daniel 3:19-23). But notice their attitude before this happens: they are confident that God will take care of them no matter what the outcome (Daniel 3:16-17). They stood up to a ruler who wanted them to betray their God. Sounds like 2013 America, doesn’t it?
Our government is doing all it can to suppress the name of Jesus and to eliminate God from society. Believers need to stand up to this, no matter what kinds of threats we receive from those in authority. God will take care of us. Even if we have to pay the ultimate price our commitment will not go unrewarded by God or unnoticed by an unbelieving world. But to comply with such commands would be to eliminate any chance these authority figures have to come to know how much they – and all their followers – need God.
In a perfect segue, our reading in 1 Peter today discusses going through “fiery” trials. When we go through such situations we should rejoice (as James also told us) because it gives us an opportunity to partner with Christ (1 Peter 4:13). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced this first hand as they were joined in the furnace by Jesus Himself (Daniel 3:25).
When we live the kind of life that God commands of us we will be insulted (or worse). This is actually good news because it proves that we belong to God (1 Peter 4:14). Any harsh treatment from others for what we believe is proof that we are on the right track. God will allow such tests of our faith to purify us – like fire purifies gold. These are the worst things that Christians will ever experience in our entire eternal lives. The best is yet to come. But those who reject Christ are now experiencing the best of their entire eternal lives. The worst is yet to come (1 Peter 4:17).
It is never our place to exalt ourselves. We should keep ourselves humble and let God lift us up at the right time and place (1 Peter 5:6). Its always better to be given a place of honor unexpectedly than to demand it. Its more special and has more meaning when it happens that way.
The God of the Bible is very different from the gods of the many religions around the world. He cares. The concept of a god who cares for his people is completely foreign to Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, Buddhist, or any others. They’re scared of their god and have to work for his approval.
This is not true of the God of the Bible. God cares about every person He has ever created (1 Peter 5:7). If you think of all the religions that are on the face of the earth, this one simple concept separates Christianity from them all and is proof that no human being would ever have made this up.
In another perfect segue, Psalms also addresses going through difficulties. When we are suffering, or tired, or receiving poor treatment, there is one and only one cure: God’s word. It is here that we should put our hope (Psalm 119:81, 83, 86, 87, 92, 95). God is our comfort and our protector. Nothing that happens on this earth at the hands of weak and sinful people can compare to the plans that our powerful and strong God has for us.
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