Monday, December 28, 2009

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego, Daniel 3

Nearly everyone has heard a version or remake of a popular song back in the 1970s about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – three Hebrew friends of Daniel – who were thrown into a furnace for not falling down to worship a golden statue, as ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar. For some reason, Daniel wasn’t there. He may have been traveling on official business, being the prime minister.

It all started with jealousy. The king had appointed a body of administrators to oversee various regions of Babylonia. As with Daniel and the Magi, these three were the only Jews in this group. The rest were Babylonians who worshipped many gods.

Everyone gathered for the dedication of the statue. Upon the signal of music, everyone fell down and worshipped – all except our three friends. Certain Chaldeans immediately reported their misconduct to the King, who furiously ordered that the three be brought to him.

So the king gave them the option to try it again and this time get it right, but then he taunted them and maligned their God by saying sarcastically, “What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (v.15.)

You would think that after recently seeing how powerful the God of Israel was, when God gave the interpretation of the king’s dream to Daniel (in Chapter 2), he would have remembered that’s why he made Daniel prime minister and head of the Magi, after acknowledging that Daniel’s God was a God of gods and a Lord of kings. But pride can give us short memories when all we’re thinking about is exalting ourselves.

Without even blinking, the three answered the king, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (v.17-18.) They believed that God could deliver them, but did not assume that God would deliver them, and were willing to die if He didn’t. Either way, they trusted God’s decision.

Wow! What unwavering resolve! What courage! Would we be that strong? Well, their answer enraged the king so much that he ordered the fire seven times hotter. What was he thinking? His own henchmen were killed by the heat of the furnace as they threw the three, bound with ropes, into the furnace. But God had a surprise for everyone.

Suddenly there were four men walking in the fire, and the king described the fourth as one “like the Son of God.” (v.25.) How prophetic! In the Hebrew Scriptures (in this case written in Aramaic, addressing the gentiles) Jesus often appeared in various forms, which is called a “theophany.” So the king called to them to come out of the furnace, and the three did, with no singed hair, no smell of fire, no burned clothing – only their ropes had burned off.

The king was so awed by this that he said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” (v.28-29.) Nice chap.

Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the Hebrew God – again a second time – but didn’t quite step over the line to worship Him – he merely respected Him and ordered that nobody malign Him. We’re in for a treat in Chapter 4, because he … Well, I’m not going to give it away, but I’ll give you a hint – the king wrote Chapter 4 himself, and it is Scripture!

Our God is a redeemer who reads our hearts. No matter how cruel and proud Nebuchadnezzar was, an enemy of Israel and of God, he must have had a heart that only God knew was pliable. Next time we’ll take a look at the king’s amazing turnaround.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Daniel’s Connection with the Magi of Christmas

When I first discovered that the prophet Daniel became head of the Magi in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court (Dan. 2:48), I was blown away. I was in a seminary class around Christmastime, so the timing was remarkable. At a Christmas Eve service, the pastor asked the congregation if anyone knew the connection between the Magi of the Christmas story and an ancient prophet of Israel. I was the only one who knew.

Since the real story was so much more intriguing (and realistic) than our 3-Wise-Men tradition, I wanted to tell it in a coffee-table book. My son, a professional illustrator in NY, did all the artwork. We actually produced the whole book long distance, with lots of instant-messaging sessions while on our cell phones discussing details, then uploading finished pages onto our printer’s FTP website.

We named it Who Were the Magi? and produced it as a Biblically and historically accurate coffee-table book so people could learn the whole story and enjoy it at Christmas.

The story opens with the Magi and the cavalry in Parthia (Babylon) saying goodbye to their families and taking their places in the caravan. Yes, there were more than three Magi, and they traveled in a government-protected caravan. The Magi of the Christmas story were king-makers (not kings) – the highest government officials in the land. Just think, how long do you figure three guys dressed as kings, carrying the most expensive gifts, would last in the desert? Probably 5 minutes. They just didn’t travel that way in those days.

In the story, you will travel in the caravan with the Magi as they journey to find the promised Messiah, whose sign has appeared in the Eastern sky. How did they know to look for a sign at that time, and what it meant?

When Daniel became head of the Magi, he had a captive audience of all the Babylonian Magi who worshipped many gods, but, as we found out in Chapter 2, their gods couldn’t keep up with the God of Israel. Daniel then had the opportunity to teach them all about His God. He also wrote many prophecies during that time (which we’ll discuss in later blog posts) that told of end-time events.

One particular vision, which we call the Seventy-Weeks prophecy, gave us the exact timeline for when the Messiah would enter Jerusalem, being hailed as king, down to the exact day. That is how the Magi knew when and where to look for the Messiah. They had preserved Daniel’s prophecies (known as the Book of Daniel) over six centuries.

The story continues as the Magi enter Jerusalem (Matt. 2: 1-18) and cause somewhat of a panic. Israel was caught in the middle of the conflict between Rome and Parthia, and the Magi were feared because people thought they might depose King Herod. No, they were just searching for the newborn king of the Jews. They got information from the Hebrew scribes about where to look for Messiah and left for Bethlehem. However, Herod didn’t like the idea of being upstaged by a baby, so he ordered the massacre of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem. By the time the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, it could have been a year or two after the birth of Jesus. They actually found Him in a house, over which a mysterious light shone.

The word “star” could have meant any light in the heavens, so it was probably not what we normally call a star. How many stars have you seen that shine on one particular house? This light was something else, and in the story, the Magi discuss where something like this was seen before in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The story tells of the Magi’s deep sorrow over deaths of the innocents and ends 30 years later when they hear the good news of a popular rabbi in Israel who was executed but then rose from the dead three days later. They were filled with joy, once they connected that rabbi with the child they visited three decades earlier. Finally, their journey made sense.

If you’d like to buy our book for yourself or as a Christmas present, you can find it on It is not in bookstores. I hope your reading is blessed!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nebuchadnezzar’s Terrifying Dream, Daniel Chapter 2

If you missed my last post on October 19, you might want to read it so this post makes sense. In it I gave you the background of what was going on with everyone connected with Nebuchadnezzar’s prophetic dream, including the Magi.

Let's take a look at the dream that terrified him: He saw a huge statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of part iron and part clay. Then a stone was cut out – not by humans – and thrown at the feet of the statue. The entire statue broke up and crushed as it fell, sort of like the Twin Towers on 9/11. It became like sawdust that blew away in the wind, leaving no trace. Then the stone became a mountain and covered the whole earth.

The king wanted his counselors, who were the Wise Men, or Magi, to tell him the meaning of the dream – only there was one problem – he couldn’t remember it. So he required them to tell him the dream itself. They insisted that no human could do such a thing, and their gods were inaccessible. So he sentenced all the Magi to death.

Remember, Daniel was one of the Magi, so his life was in danger, too. Since he was the only one who was not an astrologer, magician, or sorcerer, and instead relied on God, he was given time to ask God for the answer. That night God gave him the dream – and its interpretation. Nebuchadnezzar was stunned as Daniel told him precisely what the dream was and what it meant. As a result, the king made Daniel head over all the Magi and prime minister of Babylon. I never knew that before – did you?

The statue represented the four major empires of the world from then until now, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar as the golden head. Each succeeding empire would be inferior, just like the metals on the statue. Babylon would be replaced by Medo-Persia (silver chest and arms), then Greece (bronze belly and thighs), then Rome (iron legs). Rome was never conquered, and the seeds of it are starting to sprout up again as the global government of the New World Order is emerging (iron/clay toes).

We are now beginning to witness this New World Order being set up in Belgium, with our own president Obama playing a major role in it. It is supposed to be divided into 10 major areas of the world (10 toes), eventually headed up by the Antichrist. Talk about watching prophecy unfold before our very eyes! It would take a global crisis to set up a global government to solve the problem, and our current global economic crisis is a good “crisis to not waste.”

The Millennial Kingdom of Christ is just around the corner, so to speak, and it will leave no trace of the terrible reign of the Antichrist and the subsequent Great Tribulation. Look up and be encouraged – Jesus is coming soon! Are you looking forward to this or dreading it? Now is the time to find out which judgment you’ll be attending – either the Rewards Ceremony of Jesus, or the Great White Throne Judgment of the condemned. You don’t want to be at that one.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Victim to Victor

Chapter 2 of the Book of Daniel is a panorama of extremes. It opens with Daniel and all the Magi (the Wise Men) of Babylon being threatened with execution, and closes with Daniel being promoted to head over all the Magi and Prime Minister of Babylon.

One night, King Nebuchadnezzar had a terrifying dream and brought the Wise Men before him to not only interpret it but also to tell him what his dream was. They were expected to use their supernatural powers to do so. However, they failed. God instead used this dream to show His power over all the Babylonian gods and to give us prophecy so we could understand what’s going on in the chaos of our world today.

This dream showed a colossal statue that represented an overview of world history from that day to the present. As we see world events unfolding today, we are watching this and other prophecies being fulfilled. Ours could very well be the last generation on earth as we know it, as we watch the New World Order being formed before our very eyes. The final victory, however, belongs to God, with the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom.

To give you an idea of who these Magi were and how they operated in the king’s court, let’s take a look at how Nebuchadnezzar “collected” them. The original Magi were a tribe of the most intelligent and educated men on the planet. In addition to them, Nebuchadnezzar took the cream of the crop from the nations he conquered and re-educated them into the Babylonian language, culture, and religion. Then they joined the council of the king’s advisors as members of the Wise Men, or Magi.

These advisors were usually astrologers, magicians, and sorcerers. Their religion was permeated with idols that represented the supernatural counterparts of the natural world. People lived in fear of the spirit realm, believing that the gods controlled all natural and human events.

The Wise Men excelled in science, astronomy, and mathematics – everything that gave them an understanding of the natural realm – so that they could use astrology, magic, sorcery, and dream interpretation to control the corresponding spirit world. However, that didn’t work for them this time.

In my next post, we’ll see what the dream was, how it describes today, and how God catapulted Daniel into being the most powerful man in Babylon next to King Nebuchadnezzar.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

No Identity Crisis Here

Daniel 1: 7

Did you know that Daniel and his three close friends – who stood together and supported each other against the indoctrination designed by King Nebuchadnezzar – were given Babylonian names?

In those days, people were given new names to change their identity and steer them into a new destiny. That was originally God’s idea, changing Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel, to lift them up. Old Neb’s purpose was to drag them down.

Daniel’s Hebrew name meant “God is my judge.” He answered to God. However, he was given the Babylonian name of Belteshazzar, meaning “Bel will protect.” Bel was one of the Babylonian gods. If Daniel heard it enough, maybe he’d identify himself with his new protector, Bel. It never happened. He stood steadfast with his God even to the point of death – more than once.

No, his identity was set, and nothing could change his mind.

How often have we been told, “You’ll never amount to anything,” or “you’re too this or that – why can’t you be like …?” I’m so thankful that we have a heavenly father who proved His love for us and gave us the highest value by sending us His Son Jesus. We only have to remember that when we face an identity crisis. Through Jesus, we were given the right to be called sons and daughters of the most high God, the king of the universe.
How’s that for an identity to hold onto? Have any of you had to hold onto this for dear life to get you through a really hard time? I have, and it saved my life.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Friendly Enemy

Friendly? How can an enemy be friendly?

– Deceptively friendly. – Deadly. Even more deadly than an openly hostile, threatening enemy.

Remember what happened in the Garden of Eden? The enemy serpent, Satan, came across as a friendly, concerned soul – even on Eve’s side. He appealed to her intelligence and potentially powerful knowledge to make her think God was holding out on her, keeping her from the prize info He wasn’t about to give her. (It really did go much farther than an apple.) And look what happened. We lost it all.

So it was with Daniel and his three friends. Remember, these were young teenagers. Food is a major force in a teenage boy’s life. In order to entice them to buy into Nebuchadnezzar’s re-education program, after being torn away from their homeland and families, they were given the same food the king ate. Really good stuff. The best wine. Who wouldn’t want that? After all, what’s wrong with a little comfort when you’ve been traumatized and are really hurting?

But for Daniel and his friends, this presented a problem. In my Aug 29 post, I mentioned that they remained strong in their belief and love for their God, and stood against their indoctrination into the Babylonian culture and religion. They knew that this wine and meat had been dedicated or sacrificed to idols. That put them in a position of defiling themselves. So Daniel asked that they be fed some pretty plain stuff – lentils, legumes, etc., and water.

I doubt those teenagers were much different from today’s youth. Wouldn’t they love to be fed great food – and lots of it? Or maybe, if they had some doubts about it, wouldn’t they follow along because it felt good?

Imagine the character it took for them to deny themselves the pleasures of great food for the sake of remaining faithful to their God.

Would we – do we – do that today?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Religion Can Be Bad for You

Bad for you? How so? In Daniel 1:2, Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar carried sacred items from God’s temple in Jerusalem to his own temple – not to honor God, but to prove that his gods were superior to God, and to reduce God to being just one of many.

It was a symbol of putting God in submission to his gods – a complete victory and overthrow of God. Imagine God allowing that! But He had prophesied all this in Isaiah 39:6-7 and Jeremiah 27:21-22, who also prophesied the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem and everything Nebuchadnezzar took from it.

Whew! God wasn’t as powerless as He allowed Himself to appear after all. So why can religion be bad for you?

The Babylonians worshipped many gods – enough to cover all the areas of their lives. Not quite New Age as we know it today, but sort of. Today we cover our bases with a little bit of each religion that fits our particular need – including Christianity. (I don’t like that word – it sounds too religious, as opposed to a relationship with Jesus.)

Lots of New Agers call themselves Christians because they think Jesus was wonderful, and they go to church. They might like to add TM (Transcendental Meditation), and perhaps a Buddhist Feng Shui shrine to their home. Add a little bit of evolution, and voilĂ  – gotcha covered.

But there’s one small problem with this: the first commandment, in which God said we shall have no other gods before Him. No “Ohm,” the Hindu god called upon in TM. No Buddha. No godless evolution. God really did design everything. That alone makes Him superior to all other gods.

So are we lining up various sacred items of many gods in our own temples – including God Himself? We can be very spiritual, as the New Agers prefer to call it, or very religious, but all this can be very bad for us, because we are missing the mark. The bullseye is Jesus alone, who was God becoming a man to redeem us, who said, “Nobody comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). If we add other gods to Him, we’re violating His first commandment and reducing Jesus to just one more item to cover our bases.

So what’s your choice? Got a comment?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Daniel, Chapter 1

The Book of Daniel opens with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieging Jerusalem, taking captive the most outstanding princes from the Judean court, and bringing them to Babylon to “re-educate” them. Did you know that Daniel was a prince – in the royal lineage? He was probably a teenager when captured.

This was his custom, to collect the cream of the crop from the nations he conquered, to be educated in the Babylonian language, culture, and religion. Then they would join the council of the king’s advisors, known as the Wise Men, or Magi. These advisors were usually astrologers, magicians, and sorcerers.

Daniel and his three friends remained strong in their belief and love for their God, against the indoctrination into the Babylonian culture and religion. Babylon, which was later described as an extravagantly worldly city in other parts of the Bible, was also the center of idolatry. It came to represent the mentality of wealthy materialism that entices people to worship money, aka Mammon, which draws people away from God.

Sound like our society? We seem to be inundated with the Babylonian mentality. Are we willing to extract ourselves from it and remain faithful to our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel)? Whoever or whatever we spend most of our thought life on becomes our God. I think we might be in trouble, huh?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Intro to my new blog on the Prophet Daniel

Hi guys, let me introduce myself and my new blog.

I would like to start a discussion of the Book of Daniel and its related subjects, such as how he stood against the prevailing PC of his day, rose from being a captive to being one of the most influencial rulers under 3 kings and 2 empires, how he influenced wealthy nobles from Babylon 6 centuries later to travel over desert to find a prophesied child, and how his prophecies seem to be getting fulfilled in front of our eyes every day as we read the headlines.

After doing research for a book I wrote on this subject, and leading a Bible study group on Beth Moore's course titled Daniel, I thought maybe there are more of you out there who have the same interest.

Because of my study in Daniel, I feel encouraged by what's going on in this chaotic world today, because it's already prophesied, and we know the end of the story. (A fabulous ending!)

If you would like to participate in any discussion, please jump in! – I hope to add new posts once a week, unless something prevents me from doing so.