Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
DANIEL, GOD'S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART IV)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
23 JULY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 10:14-15
The Preparation: (1 Corinthians 10:14-15)
14. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
15. I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say.
Last week we left off in our look at the Book of Daniel as Daniel had finished giving the king the interpretation of his dream.
And in giving Nebuchadnezzar this interpretation, God is also giving us the hope of his Son's future coming again.
We saw that the angel Gabriel also gave a similar message of encouragement to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
God doesn't want us to lose hope.
He wants to always encourage us.
In His word is enough hope and faith to last us all our lives, and then for all eternity.
This means that we should be able to stand up against all the forces of evil in the world around us that cause so much pain and destruction to our fellow human being, the animals, and the environment in which we all live.
And the stronger we stand upon His word, and the more we live our lives in His will, the more blessings we seem to have.
The same was true for Daniel and his friends.
Let's pick up our study where we left off last week at Daniel 2:46 and see the blessings that they receive for their faithfulness:
46. Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense.
The king is caught up in waves of emotionalism.
He, the greatest and most powerful king in the world, seems to be bowing down and giving homage to one of his captives, as one would do to one of their idols.
Kings just don't do things like this, and his acting in this manner indicates that he had completely accepted what Daniel had told him.
But in all of this, he does not really seem to be worshiping Daniel, but Daniel's God.
There is an interesting parallel recorded by Josephus, an ancient historian, concerning Alexander the Great. Alexander prostrated himself and paid homage to the high priest of Israel in a similar manner as did Nebuchadnezzar; and when questioned about it, he said, "It is not before him that I prostrate myself, but the God of whom he has the honor to be high priest."
People act in this manner because they think that they need a mediator between themselves and God, and they think that this particular person has a direct connection.
God desires everyone who approaches Him with a pure heart to come directly to Him.
Now notice how Nebuchadnezzar answers Daniel:
47. The king answered Daniel and said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery."
But does Nebuchadnezzar really believe that God is the only true God, and that all other so-called gods are false?
Let's wait a few moments and find out.
Then Nebuchadnezzar further rewards and honors Daniel:
48. Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.
49. And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king's court.
Because of his faithfulness and because of his heart filled desire to serve God, Daniel, God's man in the field, was made a very high person in the kingdom; and with him, his faithful friends.
This is not unusual, for God still does this today with those who truly desire to serve Him.
But as we asked before, what do you think that Nebuchadnezzar really believed after all this excitement settled down?
Let's take a look at chapter 3:
1. Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
We are not told the exact date of this occurrence, but it was after what took place in our previous chapter.
Nebuchadnezzar's memory of what God had revealed to him through Daniel was short lived.
His pride took over.
He had to do something that was spectacular, that would bring even greater honor to himself.
This image, which was ninety feet tall, was twenty feet taller than the Colossus of Rhodes; and archaeologists have found the possible location of the base of this statue southwest of Babylon in Dura: a base of brick, forty-five feet square, and twenty feet high.
It was an image designed to impress all who would see it.
2. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
What we do in the lust of our pride only satisfies that lust when we involve others.
3. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
These people did not come of their own free will. They were ordered to come.
That which is true and honorable will attract all by itself those who also desire truth. Our God is like that. He is just open to receive us of our own free will.
But that which is false is recognized as being false by many who see it; thus, to make them participate requires force.
4. Then the herald loudly proclaimed: "To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language,
5. that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.
6. "But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire."
Well – so much for free will, true belief, and worship.
This is why our loving Lord does not just make us do the things He desires us to do; He wants us to truly want Him, and do what He desires us to do.
Our God is not prideful.
He does not need others to prove He is God; He knows He is God.
Nebuchadnezzar should also know who he is and be satisfied with it; but as we see, he is not.
And the people who are gathered do just as we would expect:
7. Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
But what about Daniel and his three friends – what did they do?
Next week we will take a look at their situation.
Before we go on, we need to realize that Nebuchadnezzar’s ungodly actions are very similar to those of all the dictators who tried to rule the world.
And in a way, so are corporate giants, such are the meat and dairy industries, who do everything in their power to cover up their atrocious treatment of animals with smiling animal pictures, and cute jingles, to encourage people to buy their products of suffering and death.
They also deceptively imply that eating their products in some way raises a person’s status, and makes them acceptable to the mainstream of society.
In a way, they are making their products into idols to be desired.
The apostle Paul had similar encounters and experiences when he entered Athens, a city which was filled with idols.
Let's take a look at this situation, as Paul was waiting for his companions, in Acts 17 beginning at verse 16:
16. Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols.
l7. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.
It's important that we note carefully Paul's behavior.
He was provoked in his spirit that this city was filled with idols, and that the mass of the people didn't know God or Jesus Christ.
It bothered Paul that they were all going to hell, unless they came to believe in Jesus Christ.
Note also that he didn't just barge right in and tell everyone that they were a bunch of heathen sinners, and that they were all going to hell.
Instead he reasoned with them.
He used wisdom, and not a loud accusing voice.
He approached them in the love of Jesus Christ.
Here’s the result:
18. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. And some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?" Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities," – because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.
Paul was preaching and teaching. He was not accusing. Thus even the leading scholars were talking with him.
19. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming?
20. "For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; we want to know therefore what these things mean."
Not only were the learned individuals talking with him, but because of his attitude, he was invited before the council that was in charge of all religious and educational matters in Athens, so that all might hear what he was saying.
Paul was doing what the Lord wanted him to do, and he was doing it in just the same manner that the Lord expressed to him; thus the door was opened for his ministry.
21. (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
22. And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.
Note here what Paul is saying.
They are heathen idol worshipers; but in that false belief, they are religious.
Just because someone is religious, does not mean that they have a relationship with God.
And Paul continues:
23. "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with the inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
Do you see the wisdom in Paul's approach? He is using their own false belief to lead them to the truth.
24. "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
25. neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things;
26. and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation,
27. that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us;
28. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.'
Paul is a learned man and well read, even in the books of the Greeks, just as Daniel and his friends learned all they could about the Chaldeans.
Thus he is able to use their own knowledge and wisdom to help lead them to the truth.
God wants us to learn all that we can, so that we can use it to glorify Him.
No matter how young or old we may be, we should always do our best in school and elsewhere to learn.
Note how Paul uses their own poets' words, "For we also are His offspring," to lead them to Jesus Christ.
29. "Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
30. "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent,
31. because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
Here is where the rubber meets the road, as the saying goes.
Paul has told them the gospel message.
And just like every one of us, they must make up their minds.
32. Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this."
33. So Paul went out of their midst.
34. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also was Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
When people do not want to hear the gospel message, we should not force ourselves on them.
Those who will believe will respond.
Just stand firm in the truth, and don't join in with those who have turned away from God.
Don’t become a party to corruption, injustice, or any of the violent things that people do to cause others to suffer, whether they are humans or animals.
Be the loving, compassionate, and peacemaking child of God we have been called to be,
Be a witness to others, but do not become a part of their ungodly ways.
Be like Paul and Daniel and his friends, and God will bless you.