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Day 211 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Daniel.
Daniel 4 – At the end of chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar praises the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego but does not honor their God as His own. As chapter 4 begins, Nebuchadnezzar honors God for what “the Most High God has done for me.” The rest of the chapter explains why.
Nebuchadnezzar again turns to Daniel, believing the Israelite prophet’s insight is superior to that of the wise men who serve the Babylonian gods. At this point, however, Nebuchadnezzar still speaks of the Babylonian deity as “my god”; this king has not yet acknowledged the King.
Daniel interprets the dream as a prediction of a great fall for the proud Nebuchadnezzar. Yet, in His grace, God provides opportunity for repentance and shows His heart of mercy by calling upon Nebuchadnezzar to show the same. God’s justice is not at odds with His delight to show mercy to those who will receive it. At the cross of Jesus, we see this divine justice and mercy beautifully meet.
Jesus picks up the image of a giant tree whose branches provide shade for the birds of the air to speak of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:30–32). This kingdom displays not the proud military might of Nebuchadnezzar but the characteristics of its King, Jesus Christ, who is caring, humble, and invincible!
A year passes from the time of Daniel’s interpretation, providing opportunity for Nebuchadnezzar’s repentance. Instead, as he looks down upon his kingdom, the king’s pride puffs him up and, at the zenith of his pride, God humbles him.
In his state of abject humiliation, Nebuchadnezzar lifts his eyes to heaven and is restored by God. As long as he looks down on others, God is distant; but when Nebuchadnezzar looks up in desperation, God provides His grace. The words remind us not only that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6), but also that there are none so evil or so destitute that the grace of God cannot reach them.
Daniel testified of his Lord for 40 years before Nebuchadnezzar finally claimed the true God as his own. Accordingly, we should not give up on God’s grace regardless of the degree or duration of spiritual failure in others—or in ourselves.
How does this encourage you to continue to pray for your lost friends, family, and all who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior?
Daniel 5 – In the previous chapter, Daniel used King Nebuchadnezzar’s confession to affirm that the repentant can know God’s grace however bleak their pasts. In this chapter, Daniel uses King Belshazzar’s sacrilege to warn that the rebellious will reap God’s wrath however secure their present. Where is the grace in such warning? If God did not love, he would not warn. Though this account was written about a pagan king, it is written to turn all people from sin to Him.
Belshazzar praised the gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, and wood—gods of his own making—and believed he was secure behind the man-made walls of his palace. He trusted the work of human hands to protect him from pain or harm. Modern people may trust money, reputation, power, sex, or escapism to protect them from this world’s pain and trials, but these products of human effort are just as undependable as Belshazzar’s idols.
Israel’s God provides what no other god can. Thus, Daniel refuses gifts, making sure that God alone is honored for the interpretation.
Four times in this chapter the text reminds us that Nebuchadnezzar was the “father” of Belshazzar’s rule. While the term signifies “predecessor” more than an actual father, its repeated appearance implies something more profound. Daniel repeatedly directs his audience’s attention to the spiritual victory in Nebuchadnezzar’s life in contrast to Belshazzar’s subsequent surrender to wickedness. The message is that sin can re-infect a people, but the primary audience of this message is not Babylon; it is the people of God. God is pointedly warning Israel (and us) that sin results in judgment and that every generation must seek him anew.
Daniel interprets the writing as God’s judgment against Belshazzar. If grace is amazing, then it must rescue us from something; and that something is defined in this passage by the words Mene, Tekel, and Peres. The unrepentant will be identified, weighed, and judged; but the repentant are saved by grace.
Belshazzar makes a vain declaration that Daniel will be a ruler over the kingdom that we learn will be lost that very night. Belshazzar also conspicuously fails to give one word of honor to God for the miraculous interpretation. Through these events the prophet says to every person, “Beware, because there is no idol so fulfilling, no fortress so secure, and no activity so hidden that it can protect sin from the judgment of God.” All must seek the grace of God. In Jesus, that grace is abundantly available.
What can you find yourself trusting in instead of Jesus? How do you turn back to trusting in Jesus alone?
Daniel 6 – A new king from another nation now sits on Babylon’s throne. He also recognizes Daniel’s talents and fulfills the fallen King Belshazzar’s vain promise to promote Daniel. Daniel’s distinguished service is also evidence that he heeded an earlier prophet’s instruction to seek the welfare of the city of his captors (Jeremiah 29:7). We are to bring the righteousness, grace, and rule of our God to all dimensions of our lives. Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
The new plot to destroy the aging Daniel (near his ninetieth year) indicates the world’s continuous opposition to the people of God. Daniel’s challenges remind us of our need of God’s grace at every stage of life. Today’s trials are preparation for tomorrow’s battles.
The text says that “all” the officials of the king turned against Daniel. For all his wisdom and integrity, Daniel is an old man facing the jealousy of peers, the arrogance of a king, isolation from his people, and a lions’ den. Such circumstances remind us to trust God on the basis of His character, not on the basis of our circumstances. God has been gracious to His people in the past, and has promised to be gracious in the future. These are sufficient reasons for Daniel (and us) to trust God. And yet, God provides us even more: the central act of divine grace that evokes our trust today is the sending of His own Son on our behalf.
When devotion seemed only to promote disaster, Daniel remained prayerfully dependent on the grace of God rather than on his own wisdom or work. Daniel encouraged similar prayer in the face of Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier threats (2:18). Daniel’s practice reminds us of the words of the apostle Paul: “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Spiritual devotion may be risky, but knowing that we are depending on the God who saved Daniel makes such risks truly wise.
Even the king could not change a law of the Medes and Persians that had entrapped Daniel. What could one man do against such overwhelming evil? We can be tempted to believe that, “Because it will make no difference what I do, it does not matter what I do.” Daniel teaches us that our trusting in God remains even when evil seems immovable. We remain faithful to God in the face of overwhelming opposition because we believe in the grace of an overpowering God.
God miraculously delivers His prophet and destroys his opponents. Daniel gives God the glory for the deliverance.
The king from yet another nation honors the God of Daniel. The “nations” are bowing before Israel’s God, as prophesied (Genesis 27:29). And, as prophesied, Israel will return to her homeland and the birthplace of the coming Messiah due to the influence of Daniel on Babylon’s rulers. Cyrus the Persian, the last ruler under whom Daniel served, will begin to return the people of Israel to their homeland. Thus, the account of the lions’ den ends with a poignant reminder that events have been set in motion for the coming of a Savior who will defeat forever the Enemy who prowls the earth “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
How do you remember to trust God on the basis of His character, not on the basis of your circumstances?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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