A. A SUMMARY OF ISRAEL’S RISE AND DECLINE.
Our recent teachings dealt with the nation of Israel. God had given them a wonderful country of their own and instructed them how to serve Him. They, however, continually deviated from His ways. Their major sin was to worship the gods of the heathen nations surrounding their country. They made images of those gods, using wood and gold. They also built alters for them, knelt down and worshipped these. Some even burned their own children on those alters as an offering.
This angered the one and only living God, the Creator of heaven and earth. What they did not realize was that actually, there are no other gods. These so-called gods which they served, were demons pretending to be gods.
Sometimes, under a God-fearing king, Israel repented, burned the idols and served the Living God. But this lasted only for a short while and then they would return to idol worship. This went on and on, until, as we indicated, God gave them over into the hand of a heathen king who took hundreds of thousands of them away and spread them all over his vast domain.
B. GOD’S PLAN TO EXERCISE HIS POWER AMONGST THE HEATHEN.
Of course, amongst the exiles, there were also many God-fearing people. The innocent were suffering together with the guilty ones. But God allowed it to be so for He needed some of his own children there in the foreign country. He was going to use them to tell the heathen about Him, demonstrate his power and thus glorify His Name. A young man called Daniel was such a servant of God. Let us now read about him from the Book of Daniel, chapter 1:1-21:
3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, handsome and skilful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to serve in the king’s palace, and to teach them the letters and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the rich food which the king ate, and of the wine which he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.
6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
C. DANIEL TAKES A STAND FOR GOD IN THE PALACE OF THE KING.
8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s rich food, or with the wine which he drank; therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs; 10 and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear lest my lord the king, who appointed your food and your drink, should see that you were in poorer condition than the youths who are of your own age. So you would endanger my head with the king.”
11 Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; 12 “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s rich food be observed by you, and according to what you see deal with your servants.” 14 So he hearkened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.
D. DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS EXCELL IN EVERY RESPECT.
15 At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s rich food. 16 So the steward took away their rich food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all letters and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. 21 And Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.”
Is it not remarkable that God always has people that love and serve Him everywhere? Joseph whose life we studied in a previous Bible study, also was such a God-fearing man. He was still quite young and the only child of God in a vast heathen kingdom, yet he faithfully served the Lord. Here, once more, we read about such godly young people. Daniel and his three friends were in a heathen country, far away from the country where they grew up, yet serving God.
Why did they refuse to eat the food that was set before them? It was because it had been offered to the heathen gods before it was served to them. By eating that meat they would create the impression that they also believed in those gods. By not eating it, they demonstrated that they loved the true God, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They would rather die than forsake Him.
And so they asked the King’s overseer to allow them to eat only vegetables and drink only water for 10 days. This was to be a test for them and their faith and a risk for the king’s servant. But God did a miracle and after 10 days their physical appearance was much better than that of the young people that had been eating from the King’s table. But that was not all, they excelled in learning, wisdom and insight into complicated matters. Yes, they scored 10 times higher than all the other young men. It made the heathen to wonder and ask one-another, “But Who is this mighty unseen God that can improve a person’s health visibly in only ten days and give ordinary people such great wisdom?”.
When we are totally on God’s side, He is totally on our side and will never let us down. God was going to use them in a mighty way to reveal himself to the people of this heathen nation.
E. KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR HAS A DREAM
Some time later God gave a dream to king Nebuchadnezzar. He was certain that it was a god telling him something, but he could not figure out what it meant. This greatly upset him. Right away he called a meeting of all of his counselors and wise men to interpret the meaning to him.
He however knew that these men could deceive him by just giving their own thoughts and not the real message from this unknown god. Then he devised a clever plan to test their interpretation. He ruled that the man who would interpret the dream, would first have to tell him what the dream was. In so doing he would prove himself to be trustworthy. They would therefore not be able to fool him.
His counsellors were perplexed. They replied that there was no man in the whole world that would be able to tell the king what he had dreamt. This made him furious and he threatened to kill both them and their families if they could not come up with the answer. When Daniel heard of this matter he asked for permission to see the king and asked him for extension of time so that he could pray to God to reveal the answer to him.
F. DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS PRAY AND THE MYSTERY IS SOLVED.
We read Dan 2:17-23:
“17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy of the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.
Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel said: “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever. to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and mysterious things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To thee, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for thou hast given me wisdom and strength, and hast now made known to me what we asked of thee, for thou hast made known to us the king’s matter.”
How great is our God. He knows everything, even what every man on earth is thinking and dreaming. That is why there is nothing impossible for Him, He can do whatever He pleases. As Daniel prayed, suddenly he just knew exactly what the king had dreamt. In his mind he saw what the king had seen, but more than that, he also understood what it meant. And so he returned to the king who was very stern and said to him (verses 26-36):
“The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”
G. DANIEL REVEALS TO THE KING HIS DREAM.
27 Daniel answered the king, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.
Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be hereafter, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living has this mystery been revealed to me, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
31 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it smote the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces; 35 then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation.”
Amazing! Daniel was able to describe to the king exactly what he had dreamed. By doing this he was proving to him that he was telling the truth and was not just making up this story. The king must have been shaken, realizing that this truly was supernatural; realizing that Daniel must be serving a real God that he did not know, a God that speaks to those that know Him.
H. DANIEL EXPLAINS THE MEANING OF THE DREAM.
Having told the king the content of his dream, he then continued to explain what it meant. (We cannot go into all the detail of it in the course of this teaching but will just briefly explain it.) He told the king that the image represented the kingdoms of the earth as they would come one after the other through all the ages until the end of this world. The head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom into whose hand God had given all the nations of the earth. But his kingdom would eventually come to an end and then another kingdom would come into power. Then another and another until the kingdoms arise that are presented by the legs and feet of the image; the weak kingdoms that are a mixture of iron and clay. In those days a great Rock will hit the image and smash it to small pieces.
The rock however will continue increasing in size and become a kingdom mightier than any former kingdom. It will also be an everlasting kingdom and will never be replaced by any other. This explanation of his dream and the interpretation of it, had a dramatic effect on king Nebuchadnezzar. Let us read chapter 2:46-49:
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and did homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”
I. DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS ARE EXALTED.
48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel remained at the king’s court.”
Suddenly we find this mighty king, this king of all the earth, this proud king on his face on the ground. Suddenly he saw that there was a greater king than himself: the King of heaven and earth; the king that rules from eternity; the King whose kingdom will never pass away. The sovereign King who will, at the end of time, smash all other kingdoms to pieces and set up his own everlasting kingdom ruling over all the nations of the earth.
J. GOD’S MESSAGE TO US.
Dear reader, one day all the kingdoms of this world will come to an end. Then the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the great Rock that Daniel had seen, will set up His own perfect Kingdom. That will be a kingdom of righteousness, a kingdom where sin will never enter. Every member of that Kingdom will be holy as God is holy. Everyone will love God with all of their hearts and will love one another as they love themselves.
In that day all the peoples of the earth that had not served God will also see Him when they are brought before His throne to be judged. Then they will cry out for mercy when they see how foolish they had been in not believing in Him and serving Him. Then they may want to repent but it will be too late for tears, too late for obtaining forgiveness, too late to receive God’s mercy.
Oh, dear reader do you really believe that Jesus is the Son of God that died on the cross for your sins? Have you surrendered your life to Him? Will He, one day when you appear before His throne, point at you and say “I know this man; he walked with me during his lifetime on earth; I forgave him his sins; he is my son; he is welcome in my eternal kingdom?” The mighty king Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself and fell on his face. Won’t you do the same and cry out to God to save your soul?
So far this teaching. Do read our next Bible study continuing with the Book and prophet Daniel.
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