“…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 →
“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.
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?
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?
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?
“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.
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.
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?
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?
“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.
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.
We’ve locked God up in church and locked our brains out. That way, we can do whatever we like during the week and only surrender our freedom on Saturday. That is why it gets harder to thank God when life gets better – why thank somebody who stayed locked up in church and morning worship while I slaved away all week?
God made a big mistake! He forgot to fix the universe so that it would keep rotating around us, thus, we get what we want sometimes but most of the time, the universe grows bored with us and runs off to spin around other things, leaving us with crushed hopes and failed plans. What sort of God does that to us? We have a right to get whatever we want. Of course, the universe ought to spin around us, our signatures are etched in the planets and our selfies are posted on the very stars after all! Fortunately, God has a weakness Continue reading →
I am often enthralled and disgusted at the sight of self-declared weak faith waved about as a weapon to fight change. It is akin to the simultaneous wonder and horror of watching a python engulf a favourite pet. With nothing short of pure astonishment, I have witnessed church leaders brandish it like a katana, Continue reading →
Where are you? God comes strolling in Eden, longing for companionship with those made in His likeness but they hide and so He asks this question. This is not a geographical question but a relational question. Forbidden fruit has driven a wedge between God and man, not by driving God from man but by inculcating mankind with a self destructive desire for God’s absence. By asking, “Where are you?” God is also saying, “I am right here.” Humanity has fled the relationship but divinity still seeks companionship. It follows therefore, that Christ’s enshrouding of divinity in humanity was not an experiment meant to alter divinity’s perception of humanity but vice versa. That is why God is not reconciled to man but man is reconciled to God. Continue reading →
“You’ll be back,” says the haunting thought. It mocks as you swear you’ll never dial that number again, even though you leave it in your phonebook or when you clear your browser’s history but leave that hidden folder (for next time?). Maybe it rolls its eyes at you when you quit smoking for the sixth time that month or when you pour that drink into the sink but keep it for deposit. Continue reading →