So we return to the story of Daniel and his jealous accusers, and we notice that if his enemies were going to be able to attack him at all, it was going to have to be in the area of his relationship to God. Daniel must have been over eighty years old at this time; these men had had many years to observe him. Yet there was nothing they could honestly accuse him of. So they resorted to a stratagem. They approached Darius with the flattering suggestion that a law be passed according to which no one would be allowed to pray to any god or man for the next thirty days, except to Darius himself.
These are weekly articles that Pastor Steve writes for the White Mountain Independent newspaper.
There is a verse in the sixth chapter of Daniel that I wish could be spoken of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, though I confess that it probably cannot be. Daniel had been promoted to a position of great prominence, and those around him were jealous. They wanted to find something for which to accuse him and pull him down. They could not. Finally they confessed, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
“We must not think that God is unaffected by sin or that He will ignore it forever simply because His judgments are postponed. The time eventually comes when that great accumulation of wrath is poured out against sinners. This happens to nations at the moments of their greatest arrogance. It happens to individuals. It happens when the judgments of God are least expected.”
There are a number of important lessons in Daniel beyond the lesson of the Bible’s reliability (see last week’s “Heads Up”). Today, please let us give them briefly and then apply them in a slightly wider way.
Belshazzar gave a party in Daniel 5 and he “invited all his friends.” What a party it was! The king assembled one thousand of his nobles, plus many wives and concubines. Wine flowed. The palace roared with laughter.
The unique name for God that we find six times in Daniel four is “the Most High.” What does this name signify? If you get out a concordance and look to see where else it occurs in the Old Testament, you find that the first time the name appears is in Genesis in connection with the story of Abraham’s return from the battle against the kings and his meeting with Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the priest of the Most High God, ruler of heaven and earth. It is not referring to God’s role as Redeemer or to his wisdom. It relates to God’s sovereignty.
William Blake's depiction of Nebuchadnezzar from the book of Daniel tells of a ruler who through hubris lost his mind and started eating grass like a cow. The "mad king [is} crawling like a hunted beast into a den among the rocks; his tangled golden beard sweeping the ground, his nails like vultures' talons, and his wild eyes full of sullen terror. The powerful frame is losing semblance of humanity, and is bestial in its rough growth of hair, reptile in the toad-like markings and spottings of the skin..." (William Gilchrist)
Nebuchadnezzar's mind went from him, and he was driven from the palace into the fields - thus he made his home with the beasts. His fingernails grew long like claws, and his hair became matted; he was unable to take care of himself.
I am sure you understand that in the ultimate sense there is no sin God will tolerate. All sin will be judged. Many sins are judged in this life; all sins will be judged in the life to come. So in using this title I am speaking in a different sense, and what I want to point out is that although God does temporarily tolerate some sins in this world, yet there is one sin that God does not seem to countenance.
North Koreans are indoctrinated from an early age to adore "The Eternal Leader" and his two sons, including the current dictator. Last fall, Christian Solidarity Worldwide described testimony from defectors: "Christians are reported to have suffered brutal violence. Forms of torture include beatings with fists or implements such as electric rods, wooden pokers, metal poles, water torture through forced submersion, and being used as test subjects for medical training and experimentation." Underground churches still exist, though the number of Christians is difficult to quantify. (Open Doors USA estimates 300,000 Christians out of the country's 25 million citizens.) Since most assemblies are forbidden, gatherings might include a small family or a married couple who don't include their children until they are old enough to keep a secret. Christians aren't the only North Koreans who suffer. Gulags are filled with other prisoners, including North Koreans sent back after fleeing into China. In other cases, a citizen might be merely suspected of disloyalty and imprisoned with his whole family.
A landmark 2014 report by the United Nations described a litany of atrocities: "beatings, starvation, exposure to cold, various torture techniques, rape, infanticide, and public executions."
When the ultimatum was put to these three men in Daniel chapter three, we do not read that they took time to think the issues through. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seem to have responded at once: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.
Nebuchadnezzar built a great golden statue. It was made of gold, and it was ninety feet high and nine feet wide. This was a gigantic statue that must have required enormous amounts of gold. Even if the statue was only covered with gold, it still would have taken a great amount. But this is what he did, and the fact that the statue was of gold is the thing of chief importance.