October 1, 2013

Daniel 4

We have been working our way through the book of Daniel. We have been looking through the lens of how we, as people of God, can influence the world around us and draw them closer to God. Just like the Israelites, we are called to be a missionary people. As Jesus told the disciples, Matthew 28:18-19, ““All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our commission, like the disciples and the Israelites, is to reach the world around us with the love and forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego give us great insight into how to reach our culture and make difference for the Kingdom of God. We see three young men who maintained their integrity, lived lives of holiness, refused to literally bow their beliefs to appease those around them, but were humble, respectful, and concerned about those around them...and in the process helped the ruler of the greatest empire of its time find God.It was their attitude and approach that led King Nebuchadnezzar to greater and greater recognition that Yahweh God was the Lord of All.

Let’s review for just a moment:
Chapter 1 starts out with Nebuchadnezzar destroying Yahweh’s capital city and ransacking His temple. He had no respect for this God because, in his eyes, Yahweh could not protect His own people or His own temple. But by the end of chapter 1, Nebuchadnezzar found these young men superior to everyone else, and they did that because they were obedient to their God. Not in a pushy or public way...just obedient. Daniel 1:19-20 says, “The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” It starts with us doing our jobs, doing them well, and people liking us.

In Chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that troubles him, but wants to know his advisors and spiritual leaders are not just blowing smoke. So he wants them to both tell him the dream and interpret it. They can’t do it. So they remind Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:10-11, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

So Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego pray, and God uses Daniel’s spiritual gifts to do something great! Daniel stands before Nebuchadnezzar and declares, Daniel 2:27-28, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” By using the gifts and abilities and position God had given him, Daniel was able to help the King take one step closer to Yahweh.

Daniel 2:46-47 says, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

Daniel 3 tells how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced certain death because they refused to bow before the idols placed before them. Because of their integrity and their trust that God would work everything out for His glory...even if He didn’t rescue them from the fire...Nebuchadnezzar took another step closer to Yahweh God.

In Daniel 3:28-29 Nebuchadnezzar says, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

We see that Nebuchadnezzar has moved from a complete lack of knowledge to liking some of God’s servants...to acknowledge God’s reality...to praising Him...and now, in Chapter 4 his spiritual journey continues.

Nebuchadnezzar himself is writing this chapter of Daniel...the only non-Jewish male to write a anything included in the Bible...and he shares his testimony.

Read Daniel 4

Looking at these 4 chapters from Daniel it becomes very clear that

God’s uses us to reach others.
So often we want the church to reach the lost. We want others to speak up. We want others to take the initiative in spiritual discussions...but God wants us to do it. He places us in the position He does so we can make a difference for the Kingdom...so others can be drawn closer to Him because of their relationship with us.

Each step of the way God used Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to reach and influence those around them. Here, again, in Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar has a God-given dream that no one can interpret for him, and God uses Daniel. He has placed Daniel in this situation for a reason. Daniel would not have chosen this life. He would much rather have been safe and secure in Jerusalem, with his own people, and worshipping in the Yahweh’s temple...but he couldn’t be because God had placed him here in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Because of that Nebuchadnezzar was taking one step after another closer to worshipping God.

Maybe you chose that neighborhood because of the nice house and good schools, but God places you there because He wants you to be an influence for the Kingdom of God. There are neighbors who need a relationship with Him, and He places us in our neighborhoods so He can speak into their lives through us.

Maybe you would choose a different family if you could, but God wants to use you to reach those closest to you and draw them closer to Him. For those of us who are parents, that starts with our spouse and our children. In Daniel 5 we will see that Nebuchadnezzar, though he drew closer to God himself, did not help his son Belshazzar draw closer to God. But we have parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews who need to know God, and we have been placed where we are to help influence the Kingdom of God in their lives.

You accepted that job because they offered it to you and you needed the money. Or you made the change because it was in the best interest of your career trajectory. But God places you there so you can work hard, with integrity, and be a positive influence for the Kingdom of God. You have coworkers who need the power of God’s Kingdom in their lives...they are searching for God, and you are the one God has placed in their path.

One of the biggest hurdles that we have to overcome in our faith journey is that God want to use us...that we are His only plan for reaching this world. God promises to act and work...we have to be willing to step up and do our part. There are millions of people who are headed straight to hell, and it is given to us to be the messenger of God’s love and salvation to them.

We can’t change their hearts. We can’t force them to accept. God’s Holy Spirit will do the internal work, but we are to be the voice, the offer, the loving embrace and kind act that helps them move one step closer to God.

We reach them with our gifts
You know Billy Graham has an amazing gift of evangelism...I’m no Billy Graham.

Mother Theresa had an amazing gift of compassion and empathy...I’m no Mother Theresa.

And yet, just because I can’t be Billy Graham or Mother Theresa doesn’t mean I am excused from the act of evangelism or the act of compassion...it simply means that I must do what I can do. I am not called to be either of those two, and neither are you. We are called to use the gifts we have been given to do what we can do.

Daniel had the gift of interpreting dreams. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as far as we know, did not...and yet God used all of them to help change the spiritual life of King Nebuchadnezzar. Each one of us have talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts that God has given us so we can expand and influence for His Kingdom.

1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, 1 Peter 4 and Ephesians 4 all give us a glimpse into some of the spiritual gifts God gives us to expand and influence for His Kingdom. We all have one or more gifts. And we all have a responsibility to use them to further the Kingdom of God.

Richard, who visited with us last week, claims he doesn’t can’t do evangelism. But every one of his neighbors know they can come grab a soda out of the refrigerator in his garage and sit and talk for hours with him on the front porch...and eventually Richard brings up his faith.

You see our gifts are meant to be used to help others take their steps closer to God. That is why God gives them to us and expects us to use them and why he places us where he does.

We reach them with love
I want you to take a look at some pictures...this is how many are being “evangelized” in our world. And unfortunately for the you and I these are the people that become the representation of what it means to be a Christian and what it means to share our faith.

Their message is so different from what the Bible says Daniel did. They are sharing the truth about the judgment and wrath of God...which will take place...but they seem to enjoy it. They seem happy that those sinners will get what is coming to them, and this reveals their deepest problem...they don’t really love those they are trying to reach.

Have you ever had to give bad news or share some blunt truth with someone you love?

It hurts. It’s hard. You have to confront someone you love very much with the truth about how their actions are affecting them and other around them...that’s not easy.

Daniel listens to the King’s dream and knows this is a prediction of judgment on Nebuchadnezzar. Listen to what is says, Daniel 4:19, “Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!”

Daniel had to confront the supreme ruler of the greatest empire of his time with a judgment from God. It was the truth. Nebuchadnezzar was being judged for his sins. But Daniel loved and cared for the Nebuchadnezzar. He didn’t look forward to the fulfillment of this prophecy...

And he had every right to look forward to it. Daniel saw his hometown destroyed. The temple of his God ransacked, pillaged, and desecrated. Family and friends slaughtered. He had been dragged off to a foreign land and made to serve the very king who did all of those evil things...and here he stands longing for this prophecy to apply to someone else...

I have to wrestle with that a bit. Don’t you? It has been in my thoughts for several days now, thinking about Daniel’s response to this King, his concern for this man despite all that he had done...and then comparing it to my response to others.

Daniel demonstrated compassion, kindness, and love to the man who had done so much wrong to him, his family, and his people...it should be so much easier for us to have this same approach to people in our culture whom we don’t even know...who have haven’t done anything wrong to us.

But then when you think of the family, friends, and neighbors whom we do have a relational connection with...those we do love...and yet we remain silent about our faith. We never invite them to step closer to God. We seem fine to let them find their own way. We sit by hoping that someone else will step us and say something...

And I don’t think it is because we don’t care...it is because we don’t want to be associated with the people in those pictures. But sometimes it is because it is difficult and uncomfortable to bridge that gap and bring up spiritual things.

I believe God places us where He does so we can influence others and lead them step-by-step closer to Him. That is our primary purpose in life, and we live in a city that desperately needs us to recognize our missionary calling in our families, neighborhoods and jobs. The need us to use the gifting God has given us, and do it with so much love that people can’t resist...and if they do...they at least recognize that they are loved beyond anything else.

Nebuchadnezzar ends the chapter by saying, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

Just think of those around us who need this in their lives! Let’s pray and work like never before to see those in our community move step-by-step closer to God.

The lost sheep...my call to ministry...why I entered church planting.

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