The Kingdom Foretold by Daniel

Nebuchanezzar’s Dream: A Look Into The Future

Back when Babylon, with Nebuchadnezzar at its head, was ruling over the known world, Daniel (of the Lion’s Den story) and his three friends were among the wise men of the land. And one night the king had a dream that woke him up and left him feeling strangely disturbed.

Bits and snatches of what he’d seen may have drifted through his mind, but basically he’d forgotten the dream. He was only aware that it was significant — and troubling. So he called his chief wise men and said. “I had this dream and it’s bothering me. I want you to tell me what it means.”

“Sure,” they answered, always willing to please the king. (Especially NOT willing to displease the king.) “Tell us the dream and we’ll tell you what it means.” (At least they could come up with something reasonable.)

“I wish I could, but I can’t remember any of it. So you’re the brilliant ones here. Plus, you’re supposed to have an inside track with the powers upstairs. Surely you can get in touch with Whoever, then tell me what I dreamed and the interpretation.”

Can’t you just hear them gasp? “Your Majesty! You’re asking the impossible. Could you give us some idea what the dream was about?”

Nebuchadnezzar scowled. “I can’t remember. So, let me put it this way. Explain the dream and its meaning and you shall receive rich rewards and great honor. If you don’t, I’ll have you all cut in pieces and your houses razed. Now get on with it and do what you need to do to recover it for me.”

Likely the poor sages were quaking, but they had no clue — and the king wasn’t apt to be fooled by a tale they could quickly cobble together. They appealed to his common sense: “Your Majesty, no king has ever asked such a hard thing of any wise man. We aren’t gods, only they can pull up a forgotten dream.”

Nebuchadnezzar appears to have had a rather short fuse. He took autocratic to the top notch here. “That’s it,” he roared. “You’re toast — the lot of you!”

As the King expected his order to be obeyed right now, no questions asked, Daniel and his friends were rounded up along with all the sages in Babylon, to face the firing squad. Of course they asked, “What’s with this sudden, drastic decree?”

When Arioch, who was doing the roundup, explained about the king’s dream that agitated him so much, Daniel said, “Give us a little time. Perhaps the God of Heaven, whom I serve, will show me the dream and the interpretation.”

“Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.” Daniel 2:25.

Now I’m going to paraphrase and abbreviate their conversation; you can read the account in Daniel 2: 28-46.

The king asked Daniel, “Are you really able to tell me my dream?”

And Daniel replied, “No man on earth can tell you, but there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets. In your dream He’s making known to you, King Nebuchadnezzar, what shall come to pass in the latter days.”

In your dream you saw a great statue, a glorious shining image with the likeness of a man. His head was of fine gold; his arms were of silver; the belly and thighs were of brass, and the legs were of iron and its feet were of iron and clay mixed.

Then you saw a huge stone that had been cut, but not by human hands, and the stone was hurled at the image and it smashed the image. The gold, silver, iron and clay were crushed all together into dust and the wind blew them away. But the stone that had broken the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

And here’s what it all means: The image represents various kingdoms of this earth. At present we have your kingdom, Your Majesty: the head and shoulders of gold. God has given you this vast and mighty kingdom. But there will arise another kingdom after yours, though it will be inferior. This is represented by the silver. Another kingdom will follow that one, but not as great; it’s the one represented by the brass.

The fourth kingdom to follow will be as strong as iron and its armies will advance over the earth, conquering all the other nations and crushing all resistance. But at the height of its power it will be divided and weakened, as you saw the feet and toes were part of iron and part of clay.

But in the days of this last kingdom, the God of heaven will set up a completely different kingdom, one not made with human hands, and it will expand and fill the whole earth. It will never be destroyed, but it will break in pieces and consume all the other kingdoms and shall stand forever. These are the things that will come to pass; this is the future you saw in your dream.”

And Nebuchadnezzar was thrilled, because this was exactly what he’d dreamed. And he made Daniel a great man and a ruler over the province of Babylon.

It has been generally understood by Christians through the ages that these kingdoms represent first Babylon, then the kingdom of the Medes & Persians, then Greece and finally the Roman Empire, during which time Jesus came and his kingdom, that “stone not cut by human hands” which became a holy mountain. There are a number of references in the Old Testament to this “holy mountain” and how it will expand over all the earth — as Christianity has done — and it will be a spiritual kingdom.

“Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” Isaiah 56: 7

“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11: 9

Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Reading & Musing on a Sunday Morning

I was reading a passage of scripture this morning and decided to write my thoughts down, in case anyone is interested.

II Corinthians 12: 2-10

In this account, the Apostle Paul is telling the church members at Corinth about an experience he has had, and the effect this vision has had in his life. He doesn’t name himself, yet Bible scholars agree that he’s telling his own story here.

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago…such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Some scholars have read the story of when Paul was stoned and left for dead, wondering if he really did have an out-of-body experience. The Apostle himself isn’t certain, and leaves it open as to whether he was really dead or if this was a vision he had. However, during this experience he saw such beauty and glory, and heard such words as could never be described to an audience here on earth.

5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

So why doesn’t he tell the world about his experience? Why does he refer to it so discreetly, not mentioning that this happened to him? Why does he rather rejoice that he has these infirmities that drag him down? First, he doesn’t want people lifting him up:

6 For though I would desire to glory…now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

Most scholars agree that this “thorn in the flesh” was an infirmity that slowed him down, and probably a disfiguring one. We get the impression from different passages that Paul wasn’t such an attractive man.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God has chosen to leave him weak so that the Spirit of the Lord can speak through him. People aren’t meant to look to Paul for the answers in life. The Lord Jesus doesn’t want people following Paul because he’s physically attractive or such a persuasive orator. So the Lord leaves him with this weakness, one which seems, from other scriptures as well, to be obvious to Paul’s audience.

Paul accepts this situation with grace:
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

It’s so human to want to be strong, to be talented, articulate, to have our listeners nod when we present our ideas. The thought of stepping up to speak, either to an individual or to a crowd, and having absolutely no speech planned out is frightening. The thought of stammering and groping for words is abhorrent to most of us. Likewise we’re inclined to shy away from a task if we’ve had no prior experience in that line. None of us want to sound, or look, dumb.

When we lived in Ontario our neighbour was a minister in another denomination. One day his wife explained to me how ministers were hired. A congregation in need will hear of a pastor who wants to move from the place he’s at, so a small delegation from the pastor-less church goes to hear him —or her, in this group— speak. If the pastor presents a good sermon, if they like the looks of him and feel he’d be a good fit for their own congregation, they offer to hire him. (Again, or her.) How tempting would it be to put a lot of effort into making a good physical impression.

Paul has adopted a different mind-set. In one place he says, “The ways of God are higher than ours.” Aware of his own weakness as a human being, he “takes a step back from himself” and rather goes forward in the Lord. The idea of winning followers of using eloquence to gain a good salary, these are laid aside. He doesn’t take pains to please the audience or “keep out of trouble.” He rather lets the words of Jesus flow through him and speak to the hearts of his audience.

This is more pleasing to God and the Gospel more effective, than if Paul could attract listeners and entertain them with his own oratory ability, or persuade them by his skillful reasoning. He leaves us this example, so none of us can feel we’ve nothing to offer. When we feel we have no talent, skills, physical attraction, or never “the right words,” we can comfort ourselves God’s words to Paul: “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

 

He Signed His Name

By Michael D. Blythe

He signed His name in granite
as the mountains tall were formed;
He signed His name in sunlight
and the cold earth slowly warmed.

He signed His name in water
as He filled the seven seas;
He signed His name in fertile soil
where He placed the mighty trees.

He signed His name in clay made flesh
as He created man;
He signed His name on the earth He made
according to His plan.

He signed His name in wrath
as He destroyed the world by flood,
but to save us from our wicked ways,
He signed His name in blood.

Since we’re coming up to the Easter season I’ll post this verse as today’s contribution to National Novel Month. Sadly, Mr Google can’t tell me anything about the writer.

Yet A Little While

This shall be my contribution to National Poetry Month today:

Yet A Little While
by Mary J MacColl

Beyond the clouds smiles the clear blue sky,
and the sun will shine when the storm blows by.

In the frost-bound earth through the winter lay
the flowers that in beauty bloom today,

and soon from the buds on the bare brown trees
will banners of green be unfurled to the breeze.

Cloud, flower, and leaf, ye are teachers three
of the many my Father hath given to me.

The lesson ye teach I can understand;
to me ’tis as rain to the thirsty land.

I know that the sunlight will gild my sky,
in the sweet, mysterious “by-and-by”

and from chilly realms of dark despair
will spring Hope’s blossoms fresh and fair.

Then my heart will thrill like a wind-kissed leaf,
though it fainteth now ‘neath a weight of grief.

Oh, Thou who dost clothe the lilies aye,
in light or in shade may I feel Thee nigh.

May my faith burn bright and my love be strong,
though the tempest rage and the night be long.

Help me to work while ’tis yet today—
ere the twilight falleth cold and gray;

help me with careful hand to sow
good seed from whose germs no tares may grow.

May the Lord of the harvest upon me smile,
when He cometh to reap in “a little while.”

From the book, BIDE A WEE by Mary J MacColl,
published in 1880 by Peter Paul & Brother of Buffalo, NY.

I found this book in a sale somewhere, still in fairly good shape, with gold-trimmed cover edges and letters! And on the first page there are impressive endorsements of Miss MacColl’s poetry from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry W Longfellow, Joaquin Miller, and John G Whittier.

Give Us This Day

calendar + quote

I wanted to share this neat quote with you this morning but couldn’t think of a proper title for my post — until I spotted one of the “Our Daily Bread” devotional booklets I keep around for quick inspiration.

The title, “Our Daily Bread”, is taken from The Lord’s Prayer. Responding to his disciples request, “Teach us to pray,” Jesus gave them a sample prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13) Included in this is the phrase, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses (or debts)…”

I know the whole phrase is asking God to meet our needs of the day, but this morning the words really impressed me: “Give us this day…” A great title for my post!

I wouldn’t want to miss this day — or any day. Time goes by fast enough. Also, I hope to make good use of today. It’s my hope and prayer that I can accomplish some goals, and also enjoy today’s hours. Yesterday I finished the final edit (I hope!) on the manuscript I’ve been working on and put it together as a pdf, ready  to send to proof-readers. Today I plan to deal with some of my own work that’s been piling up while I gave most of my attention to this project.

“This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Oodles of poets have written about living in today, dealing with today’s problems, enjoying this time. They remind us that we shouldn’t rush through these hours, but stop to smell the roses blooming today, and store up some of today’s goodness and/or good memories for our future days.

Here are two verses from Annie Johnson Flint’s poem, One Day At A Time

Not yesterday’s load we are called on to bear,
Nor the morrow’s uncertain and shadowy care;
Why should we look forward or back with dismay?
Our needs, as our mercies, are but for the day.

One day at a time, and the day is His day;
He hath numbered its hours, though they haste or delay.
His grace is sufficient; we walk not alone;
As the day, so the strength that He giveth His own.

The Door of Yesterday

Bald eagle

LOOKING FORWARD

I’ve shut the door on Yesterday,
Its sorrows and mistakes;
I’ve locked within its gloomy walls
Past failures and heartaches.
And now I throw the key away
To seek another room,
And furnish it with hope and smiles,
And every springtime bloom.

No thought shall enter this abode
That has a hint of pain,
And every malice and distrust
Shall never therein reign.
I’ll shut the door on Yesterday,
And throw the key away—-
Tomorrow holds no doubt for me,
Since I have found Today.

—Author Unknown to me