Tuesday, June 30, 2015



When Jesus knew the time for his death was imminent, he told his disciples. In John 16, he told them “a little while and you will see me no longer”. Jesus knew he would die. He knew he would be buried. In a little while, they would not see him because his body would be in the tomb.

But Jesus promised they would see him again. He said “and again a little while and you will see me”. Jesus knew he would rise from the grave and present himself to the disciples.

Jesus knew more than the physical facts, though. He knew the emotional facts. He told them they would weep and lament. They would be sorrowful. But their sorrow would turn to joy. That joy would be permanent. Jesus said “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you”. (John 16:16-22)

In Acts 1:9-11, we see the promise of Jesus fulfilled. The disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven. They returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God. They rejoiced because Jesus was alive. He conquered death, rose to life and ascended to his throne in heaven.

Knowing these things were true, the disciples knew all that Jesus said was true. They knew he would keep his promise to return. He would keep his promise to send the Holy Spirit to them.

The disciples never lost their joy, just as Jesus said. This joy carried them into the world to preach the gospel. This joy sustained them in suffering and death.

We did not see Jesus after his resurrection. We did not see Jesus ascend to heaven. But we believe it. And this gives us joy also. In one sense, coming to faith in Christ is entering into joy. John wrote that he told the story of Jesus so that we might have fellowship with the disciples, whose fellowship was with the Father and wit his Son, that “our (John and his fellow believers) joy may be complete. (1 John 1:3-4) As believers are added to the fellowship, the joy of the church grows to completion.

Paul urged us to rejoice also. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord”. (Philippians 3:1) Rejoice is to have joy, to express joy.

Our joy is not based on external circumstances. Paul and John knew great persecution. Yet the rejoiced in the knowledge that Jesus is alive in heaven, on this throne, ruling until all enemies are placed under his feet, waiting to return and collect us to be with hims and see his glory.

Live in joy today. Rejoice! Joy will be your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) Joy is good for you. It is good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22) It is the proper response of one who believes in the resurrection and return of Jesus.

Sunday, June 21, 2015



Several decades pass between the end of chapter 3 and the event recorded in chapter 4. This is the last event in Daniel that concerns Nebuchadnezzar. It comes toward the end of his reign. He has been very successful. He conquered many nations. He kept them subservient. He built Babylon into a great, impressive city.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Praise

This little doxology actually is the end of the story contained in this chapter. After the recorded events, Nebuchadnezzar told of the signs and wonders God had done for him. He acknowledged God’s power and eternal reign. These were things he learned as a result of these signs and wonders. As a literary type, this is a sort of frame story. The doxology sets the stage for the story and prepares us to see the king’s submission to God.

You could also say it is an “inclusion”, as doxologies begin and end the narrative to show us it is a separate event from the event of chapter 3.

Nebuchadnezzar addressed this praise to “all peoples, nations, and languages”. (1) his is the same language he used, through a herald, to command people to worship the golden image. (3:4) He addressed everyone in the world as the king of the world. Semitic people saw the world mostly as those areas adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea (sometimes called the Great Sea in the Old Testament). It would be easy to become proud if you were king of the world.

Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd Dream

At the time of this dream, the king had it very good and very easy. He had conquered his enemies. He had built a beautiful city, including the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. He built an outer wall around the city big enough to drive a chariot on, according to Herodotus. He said he was at ease and prospering. It reminds me of the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.

Nebuchadnezzar had his second prophetic dream, or vision, while in bed. (4) The ease went away, replaced by alarm. In this dream, he saw a very tall tree. (10) It grew huge. It was visible all over the earth. (11) It was beautiful. Its fruit fed everyone. Animals sat in its shade. Birds lived in its branches. (12)

But an angel (holy one) came down from heaven, proclaiming that the tree will be chopped own and only a stump left. (14) The stump would be bound with metal bands. (15)

Here the angel changed from saying “it” to “him”. He said let him be wet with dew, let him live with the beasts and have the mind of a beast for seven periods of time. (16)

The angel announced the purpose of the cutting of the tree: so that people may know that God rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. (17) Nebuchadnezzar was not able to apply this to himself.

As with the first dream, the king’s magicians could not interpret the meaning of the dream. (7) Daniel was brought in last. (8) In another demonstration that Daniel’s wisdom was greater than the Babylonian magicians, Daniel interpreted the dream.

Daniel’s interpretation

Daniel was dismayed by the vision, so that he hesitated before speaking. (19) He must have cared for the king and regretted what would happen.

The tree represented Nebuchadnezzar. (22) Ironically, Ezekiel 31 referred to Assyria as a great tree with a very similar result. He had grown great. But God decreed that he become like a beast for 7 periods time. (25) His fall is represented by the tree being cut down. The number 7 is used symbolically here to mean the fullness of time until Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration. At the end of this time, Nebuchadnezzar would know that God rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. (25) The stump represented the preservation of the kingdom until God deemed Nebuchadnezzar fit to resume his rule. (27) His kingdom would be restored when he knew that Heaven rules. (26) Heaven here is just another way to refer to God.

Daniel realized how terrible this judgment was. He advised the king to repent and practice righteousness in hopes that God would relent. (27) If the king humbled himself, God would not need to do it. It is that way with all of us, by the way. God opposes the proud. (James 4:6) If you do not humble yourself, God will do it. It can be a painful experience. You know this to be true even if you ignore it. We have all seen leaders, even Christian leaders, become proud and take terrible falls.

God extended grace to Nebuchadnezzar. He allowed him the opportunity to repent. The opportunity lasted for 12 months.

The Humiliation

Nebuchadnezzar did not take Daniel’s advice. He did not repent. Instead, he proclaimed that Babylon was build by his mighty power and reflected the glory of his own majesty. (28-30) As soon as he said this, a voice from heaven proclaimed the judgment just as the vision had stated. It is a good reminder that Christ himself will return and bring judgment when he is not expected. The Bible uses the analogy of a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 16:15)The king ate grass and lived like an animal. He had no majesty or glory. He did not even have human dignity. He was

The Restoration

At the end of his period of humiliation, Nebuchadnezzar appears to have learned his lesson. He lifted his eyes to heaven, acknowledging the source of his humiliation and former glory. He took his eyes off of himself and set them on God. He blessed God Most High. His reason returned to him. (34) He acknowledged God’s dominion and eternal kingdom. (34) He acknowledged the God does according to his will among the host of heaven and people of earth. No one can stay his hand or question his purpose.

After this, Nebuchadnezzar became great again, even greater than before. But he did no in recognition of the One who put him on his throne. He acknowledged that God’s ways are righteous and just, and that he will humble those who are proud. (37)

These are the last words we hear from Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible. They are his personal confession of faith in the God of Israel.

These last words of confession were also words of hope for Israel, for Israel had been humiliated also. Their humiliation continued for many years. Israel had once been a strong tree in the grace of God. But in pride and rebellion, they turned from God. He cut them down. But he left a stump in Israel, as he did with Nebuchadnezzar. Here is what the Lord said to Isaiah:

Until cities lie waste without inhabitant and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:11-13)

If Nebuchadnezzar could be forgiven and restored upon repentance, so could Israel. God had promised them that very thing in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Maybe you are in this place of pride today. If so, I urge the Lord’s message upon you. Repent and acknowledge God as the source of what you have and who you are. Humble yourself.

The Gospel itself is a humbling message. Mankind wants God to accept them as they are and say “you are good in your own works”. But the Gospel says no, you are a sinner who has fallen short of God’s standards. You cannot become acceptable on your own. Only if you acknowledge your sin and receive Christ’s forgiveness and lordship can you become acceptable to God.

Do not delay like Nebuchadnezzar. Repent and believe today.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


The Image of Gold
Daniel 3:1-2

Nebuchadnezzar seemingly took to heart the representation of his kingdom as the head of gold in the vision recounted in Daniel 2. He made an image of gold, likely a man on a pedestal. The whole image was gold, not just the head. It may have been made of wood and covered with gold. If so, it would be like the image described in Isaiah 40:19. The text does not tell us what the image represented. Given the connection to the vision of chapter 2, we assume it to be an image of Nebuchadnezzar. But some think it was an image of the chief god of Babylonia, Marduk.

Nebuchadnezzar was rebelling against God’s will for history that included then end of his kingdom Since the statue is all gold, he seems to use it to say there will not be another kingdom to supplant his, despite what God said.

The location of the statue is also interesting. This plain is thought to be the same as the plain in Shiner described in Genesis 11:2, where the Tower of Babel was built. This tower was built in rebellion against God, to prevent scattering over the face of the earth as God decreed. It was also to make a name for themselves, for their glory. Nebuchadnezzar is doing the same, glorifying himself and his kingdom, and uniting the people. Unity was represented by universal worship of the statue. It was important enough that the king enforced it with the death penalty. And people came from all over, and they were people of many languages. (4) It was as if Nebuchadnezzar was trying to reverse the failure of the Tower of Babel.

The same thing is happening in America now, just without the statue. There may be a statue before it is all over, but right now it is a ideal. The ideal is that you may worship your god, but you must subordinate your beliefs to the liberal, humanistic ideal that celebrates every human rebellion against God. If you do not go along with this, you must be silenced by ridicule or government action.

The Dedication Ceremony
Daniel 3:3-7

The king summoned all of his officials of different levels from all over the territory he ruled. That is why Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were there. They were commanded to fall on their faces and worship the image. (6)

Failure to do so would mean death in a fiery furnace. (7) These were probably furnaces for firing bricks.

Everybody obeyed and worshipped the image. There was even a praise band there. (7) For one seemingly glorious moment, all of the world again united in Shiner in worship to an image set up against the God of Heaven.

Chaldeans Accused the Jews

Chaldeans accused Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego of not worshipping the image. They were the same astrologers who could not interpret the king’s dream. They may have been jealous because Daniel had showed them up with the dream interpretation. Or they may have resented their promotions.

They were accused of refusing to bow down to the image and of disrespecting Nebuchadnezzar himself. (12)

Nebuchadnezzar’s Reaction

As you would expect, the king flew into a rage and summoned the 3 young men. He instructed them to worship the image or be cast into the furnace. Then, he made a challenge. He said, if I throw you into the furnace, who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands? He said, in effect, I am god over your lives and no other god can deliver you from me. He said this knowing that these young men, and Daniel, worshipped Yahweh. It is similar to the taunt of the Assyrian king to Hezekiah. (1 Kings 18:33)

The Boys Stand Up To The King

The boys did not cow before the king. They refused to defend themselves from the accusation. Instead, they said that their God was able to deliver them from the furnace, but even if God did not choose to deliver them, they still would not serve other gods or worship the golden image.

Despite some current claims to the contrary, God does not always rescue the believer from danger. He has allowed some to serve him in suffering and death. These young men recognized that and were happy to serve God faithfully however he decided to use them.

The King’s Wrath

Any favor the boys had with the king was lost. He was furious. He even had the furnace heated up 7 times hotter to ensure they would not be rescued. It was so hot, the men who carried them to the furnace were killed by the heat. He had the bound also, which is a little odd, since the fire would burn the bindings. But he was trying to make sure they were not rescued by their God.

Yahweh Delivers

The king stood up to watch the men burn, but saw something shocking. The young men were waling around in the fire unhurt. Even more shocking, a fourth man was walking with them. This man appeared like “a son of the gods”. (25) That is, he appeared to be divine.

The text does not explain to us what this forth man actually looked like. Nor does it explain who he was. It could have been an angel. It could have been the pre-incarnate Christ. Either way it makes a point. Not only did God deliver, he sent his emissary to be in the fire with them. I prefer to think it was Christ, for he was called Emmanuel, or “God with us”.

No Harm Done

The king called to the boys to come out of the furnace. (26) He called them servants of the Mot High God. it was an acknowledgement that the Most High God is the one who could deliver his people out of the king’s hand. All of the officials also saw that the fire, and therefore, the king, had no power over God’s people. And, in fact, the boys came out without being burned at all and not even smelling of smoke!

In addition to saving the boys, God also fulfilled his word recorded in Isaiah 43:2: when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. In the New Testament we learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not powers or anything in all creation. (Romans 8:38-39)

Nebuchadnezzar against blessed God and praised the boys for refusing to dishonor God. He made a decree that no would could speak badly of them. (29) He promoted them to even higher positions of authority.

Jesus walked with the boys through the fire to save him. Later, he took on the fire of God’s wrath, not with us, but for us. The Father took the fiery judgment of our sins and placed it on Jesus, who willingly accepted it.

It is Jesus who succeeds where the Tower of Babel and the Golden Image failed. Jesus saved, and is saving, men and women from every tribe, nation and language and bound them together in the church. We all stand before the throne of Christ and gladly and willingly bow down before him in worship and praise.

And the symbol of this unity is not a golden image, but an old rugged, wooden cross.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Rock, A Seed & A Bit of Yeast

In Daniel 2, God taught us a general doctrine of the kingdom. The teaching was couched in terms of a prophesy, but it was still a teaching of doctrine.

The kingdom of Jesus Christ was represented by a rock. This rock would grow into a mountain and cover the whole earth. The teaching is that Christ’s kingdom would start small, then grow to cover the whole earth.

Jesus taught this same doctrine of the kingdom. He used 2 analogies, a mustard seed and yeast. These were common elements in first century Israel. Jesus used them so that people would understand. In Matthew 13:31, Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed. It is a small seed, but grows into the largest of garden plants, so big that birds may nest in it. Mustard plants in Israel grew to 6 feet tall. The point Jesus made is the kingdom starts very small, with a few disciples, but becomes very large in time.

The 2nd analogy was yeast or leaven. Bread was a staple of diet for the people of Jesus’ time, especially poor people. They added yeast to wheat or barley dough to make it rise and expand, just as we do today. I once made my wife’s recipe for bread to help out. I put a small packet of yeast in a bowl of warm water to “bloom”, then added it to the mixture for the dough. After covering it and letting it set, it rose to several times its original size. So, Jesus said, will his kingdom grow from a small start to a large finish. As the yeast permeated the dough, the gospel of the kingdom will permeate the entire world.

What does this mean for us? Here are a few things.

1. We have hope! Even though things often look bleak, we are assured the kingdom will grow over all the earth. Jesus said “I will build my church”. (Matthew 16:18) Jesus began building the kingdom when he ministered on earth, he continues to build it from heaven through his people, and will finalize it when he returns. The picture of the world at the end of the book of Revelation is a world inhabited by those who serve Jesus while he reigns from his throne. It is a world-wide kingdom! There may be setbacks. When we see the Islamic State execute Christians, our prospects seem bleak. Then the United States government constricts our freedom of speech, we know Jesus is still working. When pastors in house churches in other countries “disappear”, we know Jesus is still building his kingdom. Setbacks may occur, but Jesus will prevail and the church\kingdom will prevail. Jesus specifically said the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) He has authority over all the earth. (Matthew 28:18)

2. We have a mission! How will Jesus build his kingdom? By spreading the gospel through his disciples. That is why he told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. As we reach out with the gospel, the Holy Spirit reveals its truth to people of every language and nationality. The New Testament book of Acts shows us this in the early church. We have seen it through the history of the church as the gospel spread through Europe, Asia and North Africa. We have seen the kingdom grow in China, in Nigeria and many other places. But we must go and spread the gospel. Jesus will work with the smallest of efforts to achieve great results. Jesus will build his church. He commissions us to work with him.

Sunday, June 07, 2015


The Dream

In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a great statue, or image. It was frightening to look at. (31) It had four parts. The head was made of fine gold. The chest and arms were made of silver. The middle of the torso and thighs were made of bronze. (33) It’s legs were iron. Its feet were part iron and part clay. Notice that the materials that made the statute became less valuable or noble from top to bottom.

But the statue was not all the king saw. He also saw a stone that was not made by human hands. (34) It struck the statue on the feet and broke them into pieces. (34) Then all the other parts were broken into pieces and blew away. No trace of them was left. But the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (35)

The Interpretation

Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. Daniel said God gave him the kingdom, power, might and glory. (37) God made Nebuchadnezzar king and gave him his position of great power. He gave him dominion of people, beasts and birds to rule over them. (38) Notice how similar this is to God’s grant of authority and power to Adam, who had dominion over the animals. (Genesis 1:26)

After Nebuchadnezzar, another but inferior kingdom would arise. (39) This is the silver part. Then a third kingdom of bronze which would rule over all the earth. (39) Then a fourth kingdom that was as strong as iron and would crush all other kingdoms. (40) After that, kingdom that would be partly strong (iron) and partly brittle (clay). (42) Just as iron and clay do not mix, or bind together, the two different peoples would not bind together.

So the image or statue was a man whose different parts represented Babylon and the kingdoms of men that would follow it.

Lastly God would set up a permanent kingdom. It would never be destroyed. or taken over by others. (44) It would stand forever. It is represented in the dream by the stone that destroyed the statue. (45) It was not part of the statue, so not part of the kingdoms of men, and was not made by human hands.

Daniel concluded by again giving credit to God for revealing the meaning the dream to the king. (45)

This dream is a prophecy. How do we interpret it?

First, it is important to notice that, when Daniel interpreted the dream to the king, he did not interpret everything. He did not identify the kingdoms or the kings except for the Nebuchadnezzar himself. The interpretation and application of the dream did not require complete understanding all the details. God, through Daniel, only gave a general interpretation. God deemed that to be sufficient.
Second, try to understand the dream and its interpretation the way Daniel and the king understood it. The point of the revelation was to convey knowledge to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel’s words to the king are critical to the interpretation of the dream. Daniel’s response to the dream, in verses 20-23, indicates his understanding of the dream. The king’s response to the revelation of the dream and its meaning, in verse 47, tells us what the dream meant to him.
God does not reveal everything to us. A good verse to remember is Deuteronomy 29:29: The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. Yet, we often forgo the meaning revealed to us and spend our time speculating on things not revealed.
Notice that God does not reveal who the three kingdoms of men would be. Yet, many have spent much time trying to figure this out. In doing so, you risk missing the point. What God revealed was a simple message to a powerful king: the kingdoms of men will all pass away, but the kingdom of God will last forever. God’s glory is greater than man’s glory.
The kingdoms of men also decline in quality and strength as they go. But the desire to conquer the world is common to them all. I recently visited Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The acres of white crosses overwhelmed me by showing how many thousands of mean and women died to keep a handful of men from taking over the world with their evil designs.
The other thing I think we can see in the vision is that Jesus is the stone made without hands. He is divine. His kingdom will overwhelm all earthly kingdoms and will last forever.
Humanism teaches that man can improve himself to the point of living in Utopia. Many political philosophies are built on this belief. Many believe government can solve all problems. But the governments of men will end. God will replace it with something truly radical, a government of God, built on the submission of men and women to the reign of Jesus Christ.
Those who reject the reign of Jesus will suffer the fate of the statue. They will be crushed by the rock that is Christ. Jesus said “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Luke 20:17-18) This was Jesus claiming to be the stone of Daniel 2.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Response

Nebuchadnezzar respected Daniel and God. He rewarded Daniel greatly, as he had promised the wise men. He also acknowledged that God is “God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries”. He might not have had complete understanding of God, but it was a good start.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

A Normal Life

I heard someone say "I just want to live a normal life" . 

This morning a friend told me he met a man sitting on a bench outside the hospital. He was mentally impaired and living in a group home several miles away. He had come for a doctor's appointment. He missed his ride home. My friend called the home. They said they could not come get the man. We were both dismayed that the caretaker did not care about this man. (My friend drove him home.)

Next a woman told me of her struggles with her son. After pouring her life into raising him, in his middle 20s he became mentally ill. Now he will never reach the potential she raised him for. He no longer acts like the son she raised. She cried with a broken heart. 

Then there were calls to help a friend whose life has fallen apart. Once self sufficient, he lost his job and then his home. He wonders why he cannot have the things so many people have. 

What is a normal life? It is a struggle. It is not perfect. Some have it better than others, but struggle is common to most of us. People I care about are sick, have marriage problems, feel unloved, need money, are lonely, worry about their children, and wonder about their future.

This is the "new normal" in a sense, the normal created by the Fall and sin's entrance into humanity. But it is not normal in the sense of God's design. That design was expressed in the Garden that God made for man. Perfect relationships existed. A perfect environment was enjoyed. 

But man rejected it.

The promise of God is to make it right. Starting with Christ's entry into the world to reclaim it for God's kingdom, it culminates in another garden of perfection shown at the conclusion to the Revelation. Won't that be a great day? I can only imagine the wonder, excitement and relief we will feel. 

John, the apostle, saw it too. He saw how great it was. So, with him we cry "come Lord Jesus!" 

Daniel and Joseph: Similar Men, Similar Missions

Comparison of Joseph and Daniel: 

1. Both were exiled to foreign lands.

2. Both were young men.

3. Both were faithful to God.

4. Both were used by God to speak to powerful kings.

5. Both were given the ability to interpret dreams.

6. Both became powerful officers in foreign courts.

7. Both were used by God to protect his people.