WHO’S IN CHARGE?
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
Those who took the Adult Class about a year ago on the book of Daniel taught by one of Trinity’s elders, Al Ereditario, might guess, correctly, who spoke the following words.
“…I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
My devotional reading right now is in Daniel. There are lessons to be learned from the above quotation, but first a little review and perspective. Mention Daniel, and the vivid stories of “The Fiery Furnace” and “The Lions’ Den” almost immediately come to mind. These accounts certainly impress us with Daniel’s and his friends’ strong faith in God in the face of persecution and inevitable death. As Jewish exiles in Babylon, they were continually faced with the pressure to conform to godless cultural and religious pressures. Yet, God blessed them with wisdom and leadership qualities to benefit this foreign nation. No doubt, a major lesson and important question we should take from the book is: “How do I live as a faithful follower of Christ in a society which is fundamentally opposed to such (biblical) beliefs and lifestyle?” (Paul Oakley)
Mention Daniel, and those fascinated with prophecy and future things will examine the visions and dreams in this book, and how their details relate to other prophetic portions of the Bible such as the book of Revelation. No doubt, because of Daniel’s faithfulness, God entrusted him with these significant revelations. While there are differing interpretations of the dreams, this is still an important study, as God has chosen to reveal to us glimpses of His sovereign plan for the ages. But, we might miss the main message of the book. Dale R. Davis reminds us: “Kings and kingdoms, presidents and dictators, democracies, tyrannies and monarchs come and go and enter the landfill of history.” Only God’s kingdom will never be destroyed!
Daniel served under four “rulers of the world”: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Each of them as ruthless as the other when their pride and power were challenged. However, God had His ways of getting their attention and humbling them. Nebuchadnezzar is a prime example. His advisors, Daniel’s enemies, appealed to the king’s fickleness that he decree that an “image of gold” be worshipped. Daniel’s three friends would not bow down and were thrown into a fiery furnace. They miraculously survived accompanied by a fourth “person”. Nebuchadnezzar is relieved and acknowledges God’s wonders, kingdom and dominion. But, it was a surface acknowledgment because God had another lesson for him.
A second prophetic dream, which Daniel interpreted, brought the king to his knees – literally! He was stripped of his kingdom and reduced to an animal in a field, growing hair and claws, and eating grass. At the end of an appointed time he spoke these words: “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me…” And, he prayed the prayer above from Chapter 4. Yes, they are from the lips of Nebuchadnezzar! He continued: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” Although nothing more is said about this king, we trust his confession of God as the King of Heaven stuck. As you read on, it is sadly evident this lesson did not take root in his son, Belshazzar, who succeeded him.
What can we learn from this? First, as Daniel did, we are called to serve the well-being of our community and nation without compromising God’s commands. As Christians, this pandemic affords us the opportunity to seek the “welfare of the city”, especially those who are suffering health-wise and economically. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the second great commandment. Second, regardless of whether we agree with our leaders, we are called to obey them (Romans 13: 1-7). Believers living under authoritarian rule fall under the same mandate, again, except when clear Scriptural truth is compromised. Finally, God in His providence (the root is “provide”) uses evil and good rulers for His purposes. If He chooses to humble them, as with Nebuchadnezzar, or predispose Cyrus to promote the rebuilding of Jerusalem, we agree with Daniel: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;…” (Daniel 2: 20-21) If He chooses to allow a global pandemic, might it be to get everyone’s attention? We are not in charge. God is in charge! And, from what we know of His mercy and grace, He does all things well! He is to be trusted, even in the most difficult circumstances.