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

Dictatorship of the Weak

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

My Jesus Is The Problem

It is just crazy how we can “know where we are in prophecy” but still cheat on each other. We can hardly begrudge those who stand in the maternity ward, raising their bewildered eyebrows at the sight of pregnant teens whose parents sang out loud amens when elders preached against condoms but were dumbfounded when the same elders fathered children with their babies. What of the young man so helpful at church but drinks till he blacks out later on? Of what relevance is their faith in their lives? Continue reading

Shepherds do not Carry Shackles

In a time when clerical scandals find their way into screaming headlines, we are ever more leery of any calls to submit to church leadership. Thus, clergy and laity find themselves at an impasse for no leader can lead when none follow and followers, rubbing their chain-chaffed wrists, are rightly reluctant to subject themselves to tyranny. Perhaps no leader told you of visions telling him to claim your teenage daughter as his wife but you may have been blinded by your Continue reading

Footprints On Water

Many men similar to Peter, have walked the earth, men whose brains find difficulty in keeping up with their minds and whose lives are a chiaroscuro of contradictions. Lest we be too hard on him, we should always bear in mind that none have ever joined Jesus in leaving footprints on water. I cannot help but wonder what Simon Johnson (that would have been on his birth certificate) would have said if he heard that he would someday stroll on the same billows that he spent so much time reaping fish from. His quick mouth would have voiced his incredulity no doubt. 

Stroll on the water he did nonetheless and so much more. Once, an angel broke him out of maximum prison without firing a single shot but long before that, Peter had the privilege of being one of three witnesses to some of Jesus’ most spectacular activities such as the resurrection of Jarius’ daughter, the Transfiguration and Jesus’ blood-sweating agony in Gathsemane although he did sleep through some parts of that it. 

Action is never far from Peter’s name in the aptly named Book of Acts. When he wasn’t breaking out of jail, Cephas healed the sick both actively and by his shadow. Ever so often, he found himself speaking with boldness before the Sanhedrin and taking a detour to resurrect the thrifty Dorcas. However, it is hard to hide from the ping ponging that Peter did – swinging to great heights in one moment before falling to great depths in the next. Declaring Jesus as Messiah in one breath, he misunderstood Jesus’ mission in the next exhalation. Once more he slipped from celebrating the salvation of Cornelius to the murky waters of hypocrisy when in trepidation, Peter suddenly stopped eating with the Gentiles when a high powered delegation from headquarters came to investigate. Surely, Jesus could have chosen better.

Choose Peter, Jesus did. Embroiled in sorting fish, Simon found himself called to join a radical rabbi’s happy band. This rabbi promised him not the excitement of skipping on water nor the pain of hearing the most dreadful cock crowing ever but He simply promised that Peter would fish men. Discarded by the prestigious rabbinical schools and consigned to a thankless life at the mercy of the lake’s generosity, Peter found himself in the presence of a Teacher who gazed upon an unsophisticated fisherman but saw only what he could be.

Despite his faults, Peter was always ready to try something new. God can bring about anything in, and through, those who are willing to learn. Peter was a learner. Intrepid in his quest to learn from Jesus, he got out of his safety zone and stood in the water. The message of that story is clear: Jesus is longing to lead us to do “impossible” but that requires us to defy our fear of failure and embrace the possibility of failure while striving for higher goals than our frivolous prayers and unimpressive plans.

Quite sadly, we the church are guilty of painting any mistake as sin. Thus we coalesce around the tried and tested, never venturing too far from the shore lest we make a terrible mistake. Thankfully, God has a grasp of reality that allows for our mistakes. It comes as no shock to Him that we make errors and so He doesn’t call us to keep from making mistakes, rather, he calls us to get up from our falls and learn the lessons we would not have learned otherwise.

Thus, when Peter, crushed by the memory of his denial and returned to fishing, Jesus returned to recall that beautiful morning when a fisherman became a disciple. Peter was called to stand up. He calls us too, albeit without fish roasting on the coals, to step out of our mediocre comfort zones to stroll on the stormy billows of life, leaving our footprints on the water. 

“Feed my lambs,” were Jesus’ words to Peter. Though faltering along the way, Peter lived up to the charge and left two letters for us to read and find nourishment within them. One week done, twelve more to go!

photo credit: sachman75 Sony a7r and Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 at Bungan Beach via photopin (license)

True Prayer Blows Off Fig Leaves

We all attempt to cover our nakedness with Adam and Eve’s leafy aprons (Genesis 3). Deep within is the realisation that something is horribly wrong, something is amiss. Our lives are filled with frenzied attempts to silence this realisation. Continue reading

Somebody Unshackle The Church Please!

You know you’re talking to a Zimbabwean if one of the first things they want to know about you is what church you attend. In my city, Bulawayo, churches have sprung up in the ruins of abandoned factories, drowning out the screaming silence of derelict machinery with mirthful praise and upraised hands with bangle-laden wrists Continue reading