Yesterday, I wrote about how it is really debatable if Nebuchadnezzar actually became a follower of the one true God. However, there is one potential strike against that theory in Daniel 5. Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, knew very little about God. He saw a hand writing on the wall, and he called Daniel because he knew he could interpret dreams, but he didn’t recognize the power of God.
Dan 5:22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;
Dan 5:23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
As Nebuchadnezzar’s son, he knew about his insanity, and he would have known about his proclamation in the previous chapter. He could have at the very least understood, as his father did, that the God of the Bible was someone very special. You would have hoped that if his father truly become a believer that he would have passed to his son.
That does bring up a very interesting point about parenting though. Parents are certainly responsible to teach their children in the way that they should go. The world might say that that is indoctrination and cast this training in a negative light, but all that they can propose is a system where we indoctrinate with an alternative method. There is no value-neutral upbringing; it is a large responsibility for parents to determine what values they want their children to cultivate.
That being said, children do not always follow. In this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar’s son knew everything that happened, but he still turned his back on God. Therefore, we have kind of a dilemma. On one hand, parents need to communicate Biblical values to their children. That is true. It is simultaneously true that the children are individuals who might choose to ignore the things of God. That is not the parents’ fault. Individuals make individual decisions. Nevertheless, parents still have the responsibility to do what they can to train.
Again, we really don’t know if Nebuchadnezzar really became a follower of God, but it seems to be at least true that his son did not carry on his at least recognition of the power of God. As parents or future parents, we ought to do all that we can to raise children in the right way. This doesn’t mean absolute sheltering, but it does mean training and engaging.
Nebuchadnezzar was an interesting guy. His relationship with God was kind of like a roller coaster. We began with him invading the people of God and taking them prisoner. Then, he heard from Daniel, and he thought that Daniel’s God was great because He gave Daniel the power to interpret dreams. You would think that that would do it, but relatively soon after, he put three men into a furnace for not bowing to his statue and therefore violating the law of that same God that he admired in Daniel. However, it seems that everything came full circle for Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. This chapter is a proclamation that Nebuchadnezzar made quite a bit later in his life, and he had had one more experience with God that really made him a true believer.
Dan 4:29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
Dan 4:30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?
Dan 4:31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
Dan 4:32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
For seven years, Nebuchadnezzar literally lost his mind. After that length of time, he came back to normal, and no one he had no doubt that God was everything He said He was.
Dan 4:37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
This is a major life change. He went from a guy who was burning people who worship God to at least someone who is able to acknowledge the amazing power of the God of the Bible. Did he ultimately renounce all of his Babylonian gods? We don’t know, but at the very least he seemed to have a pretty dramatic change in perspective.
God has the power to do that. Whether or not Nebuchadnezzar ultimately turned away from idolatry is kind of beside the point. What is important is that God changes lives. Think about the apostle Paul. When he met Jesus Christ, he went from being a killer to a missionary. No one is ever beyond hope.
Well, today in Daniel 3 we come to a story that is probably one of the most well-known in the entire Bible as well as the episode of Veggie Tales that I remember most vividly. Our three gentlemen, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow to a giant golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar. I want to focus on them today, but I first have a question that maybe someone can answer for me. What happened to Daniel? He was clearly a man of principle, and even though he is not mentioned in this chapter, I wonder how he reacted to the golden statue. That’s not the main point of today, but I just wanted to throw that out there.
Right before the three men were thrown into the fire, Nebuchadnezzar decided to give them one last chance, but here is how they responded:
Dan 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
Dan 3:17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
Dan 3:18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
I love this statement because it really does show us the way that we ought to view God. Yes, God is a God of miracles. He can do them, and He is more powerful than any person on earth. There is no doubt that He was capable of rescuing this trio from the overpowered furnace.
However, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego understood that God was not obligated to save them. Even if God was not going to save them, there were not going to worshiping an idol. This is interesting because there are many people who kind of follow God because of the perceived benefits. I will follow God because I will get to the heaven. I will follow God because I will be blessed. However, these guys understood that we don’t follow God for simply these reasons. It is much deeper than that. We follow God because it is the right thing to do, so no matter what that brings on earth, it is objectively right to follow God.
I think that a lot of us do well on the first part of this definition. We acknowledge that God is powerful. I know that that is pretty easy for me to remember and to apply to my life. The second part is much harder. We need to be willing to follow God anywhere even if it doesn’t seem like there are benefits up front. It might take us into some very difficult places. However, what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? That’s pretty much the question here. It is an attitude I want to develop, and it is one that seems to stand out strongly in the lives of these three men.
Daniel 2 is a remarkable chapter. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that bothered him, and he commanded to have the dream interpreted. He was surrounded by wise men and astrologers, so he knew that if anyone could help them, they would. However, all of them came up short, so Nebuchadnezzar sentenced all the wise men to death including our man Daniel. However, after asking Nebuchadnezzar for an extension with a promise that he would be able to interpret the dream, God came to Daniel and showed him the dream perfectly.
I spent my time on the summary because it is interesting how Daniel was in a perfect position to take credit for this. Nobody would really know, but he was very quick to point out right from the beginning that this was really God working through him.
Dan 2:27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;
Dan 2:28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
Yesterday we saw that Daniel was a man of principle. He was not the type of guy who would compromise the commands of God just because he had to go along with popular culture. Today we find out that he was also brave enough to speak his faith in a potentially hostile environment. Nebuchadnezzar was obviously not Jewish, so this might not have been a popular place to share his faith. However, he was honest about it. He was straightforward and said that it was God who gave him the vision. Again, I think that we can learn a lot from Daniel.
The Israelites finally got themselves in some pretty big trouble. In 2 Kings 24, Babylon marches in and conquers Judah. Nebuchadnezzar brought his armies and captured the entire city to bring back to Babylon except for the poorest people.
Of course this was kind of the final straw. Jerusalem had been attacked by numerous people throughout the course of this chapter, and there is really no doubt as to the reason that God was allowing this series of trials to happen even though this particular verse does come at the beginning of the chapter.
2Ki 24:3 Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did;
We are still hearing about Manasseh. You remember how wicked he was, right? Even this many generations down the line, the repercussions of his evil actions were being felt.
I think that this is a very cautionary tale for all of us. It is not that God holds a grudge, but people are ultimately responsible for their actions. If you wander too far away from God, He very well might use some type of trial to get you back to where you need to be.
The best example of this is probably Jonah. He was trying to run away from God, but the terrible weather and the giant fish had other plans. It wasn’t that God was holding a grudge about Jonah running away from the Nineveh, but He was going to allow problems to come into Jonah’s life to bring him back to where he really needed to be which was indeed in Nineveh.
Judah was in a rough spot. There were some great kings, but the evil ones seemed to come about a little more often. They needed to be brought back to God, and sometimes a hard time is the best way to do that.