The Magic of the Story

Is there any literature more contentious than the Bible? Be it ardent believer or eye-rolling skeptic, and everyone in between, almost nobody remains neutral about it. Men have fought wars and whipped slaves with its verses on their lips. Some came to our African shores with Bibles in hand and left with gold and ivory in their pockets. Continue reading

Please Judge Me!

“…judgment was rendered in favor of the holy ones of the Most High.”

Daniel 7:22 NET

What if the judgement were really great news? Instead of lying awake at night, wondering if you would ever be good enough, you would finally get to read Daniel 7 with joy. Know this, the judgement will come and it will be in favour of Continue reading

Compliance

Check this out:

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent out a summons to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other authorities of the province to attend the dedication of the statue that he had erected. So the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial authorities assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. They were standing in front of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.”
Daniel 3:2,3 (NET)

Do you see it? No?

Check this out:

“Then the herald made a loud proclamation: ‘To you, O peoples, nations, and language groups, the following command is given: When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has erected. Whoever does not bow down and pay homage will immediately be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire!’ Therefore when they all heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations, and language groups began bowing down and paying homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected.”
Daniel 3:4-7 (NET)

Now do you see it? In the first text, the people who attend are listed in the same order as they were in the command. Likewise, in the second text, the instruments played are listed in the same order as they were in the command. It gets rather repetitive, especially if you read it out loud (as it would have been in ancient times). This conveys total compliance: what the King demands is exactly what he gets. Disobedience is unthinkable.

I wonder….

  1. What does the King hope to achieve by this and would it work? What I mean is, he is obviously discontent with being just the head of gold (see Daniel 2) but would bending everyone to his authority work for long? How much control do any of us have anyway?
  2. What do we gain by enforcing compliance? What do we lose? Are there any other ways of ensuring compliance besides wielding power and, if there are, why is compliance often ensured by force, why do we like it so much?
  3. Is God any different from Nebuchadnezzar? As in, does He force compliance like Nebuchadnezzar? In Genesis 1, on each day, whatever God decrees is what happens (“…and it was so.”) but on the last day, God didn’t give any commands (“He hallowed it” isn’t a command). In fact, on day six, he gave a command to humanity but there is no, “…and it was so”. Fair enough but Nadab and Abihu were burnt to a crisp for their noncompliance. How does God ensure compliance? How do we know sin won’t arise again in eternity?

Have a great week!

Jason Mlalazi, 20 January 2020

photo by Harold Meier on Unsplash

Gathering

Check this out:

“So the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial authorities assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. They were standing in front of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.”
Daniel 3:3 NET

Ok, now check this out:

“Once the satraps, prefects, governors, and ministers of the king had gathered around, they saw that those men were physically unharmed by the fire. The hair of their heads was not singed, nor were their trousers damaged. Not even the smell of fire was to be found on them!”
Daniel 3:27 NET

These powerful guys gathered twice in one day but for different reasons.

I wonder….

  1. Nebuchadnezzar had to call the officials to gather, hurl threats at them and play music but the _son of the gods_ didn’t say a word to the officials. It is a striking contrast. Which gathering had greater reverence? Can you enforce reverence? As a teenager attending a church in town, I faced a deacon who’d ordered me into church and told him that the pavement I was standing on was public property and out of his jurisdiction. He irritably said he didn’t want to argue with me. “You wouldn’t win anyway,” I replied.
  2. This king just loves making decrees! Was the decree in Daniel 3:29 necessary? Did a God who could save His boys inside a furnace need Nebuchadnezzar’s protection? That’s like getting a mongrel to defend a lion. Then again, Nebuchadnezzar had directly challenged God (see verse 15). Maybe he was trying to smooth things over with Him. How much can we do to compensate God anyway?
  3. Daniel 1:1 says God delivered Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. In Daniel 3:15, the king challenges God to deliver these guys out of his hand. God’s answer is just spectacular! What’s the difference between God’s approach and Nebuchadnezzar’s?

Jason Mlalazi, 21 January 2020

Photo by H Meier from unsplash.com

Worthy?

That’s my Father! Sure, my eyes had run through Revelation 4 before and gazed with wonder at the awesome One on the Throne before. This time was different. My Bible was closed and I sat in the swirling clouds of despondency, low confidence and feelings of worthlessness that have surrounded me for as long as I can remember. Suddenly, the thought burst through the gloom: T Continue reading

Emetic

It is so easy to strut around as if I have all God’s light to myself. It is too easy to stop my ears to the gasps of others who glimpsed a side of God different to the one I see. Religion, so often, speaks to my desire for certainty. I am frail, timid, naked even and so I knit garments of fundamental belief, drink elixirs of hastily mixed verses and puff my chest out with self-congratulatory pride. Continue reading

What You Need

I have lived with an au pair, cook, nurse, teacher, confidante, chauffeur, counsellor and disciplinarian. All these were my mother. She has been what I needed her to be at that exact moment. She has been all that and a whole lot more. She is my father’s wife, my brother’s mother, her patient’s nurse and midwife. There are lots of other relationships she has with other people, interacting with them in ways she and I never could. Continue reading

You Are The Light. Shine Bright

“You are the light of the world.” Us? It’s a scandal. Here we are, struggling along just like everybody else. Get close enough to any of us to peer past our perfect perfumed smiles and you will see that none of us has it together. If Jesus wants to brighten up this dark world, He should install better lighting.

But… Continue reading

Fearless Trembling

We’ve become a little too nonchalant about Jesus. In our songs and conversations, we have reduced Him to a permissive accomplice, a smiling confidante in constant agreement with our every whim.

He is an eviscerated Christ, mutilated by our pride. It is our pride that’s behind it all. Why else would we define boundless love as unchallenging approval if we weren’t obsessed with puffing ourselves up? If, as our mantra says, Jesus fully understands and loves us, He then should challenge us to be and do better. That would involve a lot of tough conversations.

Of course, in Jesus, the Divine has been encapsulated into accessible humanity. Jesus comes to us at our level but we should always remember that He is stooping. His total humility cannot obscure His terrific condescension. He is like us but a whole lot more.

Revelation is meant to be taken seriously. That’s why John’s vision of Jesus was so striking as to make him fall flat on his face. As I heard Sigve Tonstad say, “Revelation is meaningful because understanding is possible.” Quivering fear stands in the way of understanding and so Jesus must bid John, “Don’t be afraid.”

Somebody ought to forward that memo to dour-faced evangelists bent on striking hearts with fear. Revelation is meant to inspire obedience springing from understanding. They need to learn humility too because their prophetic charts and proof texts can lead them to trust in their limited knowledge of the future instead of the Jesus who holds it.

We need to keep the balance between the “God out there” and the “God in my heart”. Both perspectives are true but both have pitfalls: fear and presumption. The line between fear and reverence is a frightfully thin one but we can and need to tremble before Jesus without fearing Him. This is only possible if we behold Him as He is revealed.
 

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash