Today we continue our look at the Book of Daniel. Yesterday we were introduced to the Four Hebrew Boys who refused to go along with the king's luxurious offerings. We know them as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The three later names are Babylonian names given to replace the given Hebrew names of the former three. Daniel is a Hebrew name. Daniel is the only one of the four that we know of by his Hebrew name. Why? I'm not sure, because he, too, was given a Babylonian name. The four young men are exalted in the king's court, and in chapter two Daniel really stands out.
"In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed such dreams that his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him." (Daniel 2:1) The king called in all who should have been able to interpret his dreams. He told them his dreams, but warned them that if they could not interpret them "you shall be torn limb by limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins." (Dan.2:5) Now, how would you like to work for this guy? Of course, on the flip side if they could tell him the meaning of the dream they would "receive gifts and rewards and great honor." (Dan. 2:6) Each one heard the dream but then the king said to them: "I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time..." (Dan. 2:8) Umm...yeah! This reminds me of watching a baseball game. The pitcher is doing quite well, therefore there is no need to have a relief pitcher warming up in the bull-pen. Then, it happens! The pitcher gets in trouble and the pitching coach makes his way to the mound. They have a pow-wow out on the mound. The commentators will then say: "Yep, it's a stall tactic to give the relief pitcher more time." The magicians, enchanters, and sorcerers have no idea what the dreams mean and they are stalling. They need more time.
Of course, Daniel saves the day. He is called in to interpret the king's dream. At the center of the dream was a statue with a head of gold. The chest and arms were silver, the midsection and thighs were bronze, the legs were iron, and the feet were iron and clay. A rock then pulverized the statue and the wind blew it away. The rock then grew into a mountain that dominated the earth. Daniel associated each of the four metals with an empire. Each empire was then destroyed with a new one taking its place. In these interpretations we see that Yahweh is in control of history and orders the destinies of empires. No empire has ever been safe. We need to realize that today. As big and powerful as we may be, and have been, history is in God's hands.
Daniel's ability to interpret the dreams earned him, along with his friends, a promotion from the king. Well, the friends got their promotion due to Daniel's influence. Daniel was promoted ruler over the entire province of Babylon. Daniel would remain in the king's court. The interesting thing is; Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Daniel's God as "God of gods, and Lord of kings..." and that it was God who enabled Daniel to solve the mystery of the dream. (Daniel 2:47)
Had Nebuchadnezzar converted to worshipping Daniel's God? Nope! What is interesting is that the Babylonian rulers seemed to have no problem with the Hebrews worshipping their God. Even in Paul's day the Romans were not opposed to Christians worshipping Christ. The opposition came when the worship of the Hebrew/Christian God interfered with the worship of the ruler, or adherence to governmental power.
One of the most well known stories in all the Bible is found in the Book of Daniel. Well, two of the most well known stories in all the Bible are found in this book. I would venture to say that almost everyone has heard of Daniel in the lion's den. And, most likely the majority of people have heard about the three Hebrew children being thrown into the fire.
"King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 'You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre....you are to fall down and worship the golden statue...Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire." (Daniel 3:1,4-5a,6)
Well..., oh my...this is more problematic than we might realize. Let me ask you, what would you do if you were told to bow, or else? There are probably more sermons in this than I can count. We could ask; what is it that we bow to? Who is it we bow to? Do we bow to anything or anyone? (By bowing I mean "worshipping.") If they were allowed to worship their God, yet at the same time worship Nebuchadnezzar would that have been ok? Do we worship more than one thing/person? If we have a choice between God and ...and...and...what choice do we make? Oh, yes, it sounds like a simple little Bible story that we have heard for all our lives, but...it is far from simple. This, for us, is not about a time that will/may come when we will be asked to fall down and worship the anti-Christ, or anyone else...this is about who/what we may already be bowing to now, alongside our worship of God. I wont go into detail as to what America's gods are. They can almost be anything that have rule over us. They are the things that order our lives. And guess what? They are not necessarily bad things. Long ago a parishioner looked me in the eye and said: "Pastor, people are just busy. They are busy doing good things. But, the good things are keeping them from their growing in the Lord."
One thing is for sure, the things that beg for us to bow to them are nothing new. Tomorrow, we will continue looking at this story. I invite you to join me. -Pastor Rick