Ask and you shall receive, but be careful for what you ask. Once again a king is in need of Daniel’s interpretive gifts because of a troubling vision that he had. The queen reminds the king about Daniel, and how Daniel had helped his father. This king was the son of the one who had gone crazy but then came around to worshiping the Lord. Remember the guy who ate grass? Daniel reminds him of this past and tells the current king that he is actually worse than his father and the dream that he had predicted his death.
The king celebrates Daniel’s interpretation and then dies the next day just as Daniel had predicted. Not sure why the whole celebration took place, because after all Daniel had told the king that he was doomed. But it does remind me about the need that we each have to remember our past and to be sure that we do not repeat it. There is a tendency for us to want to block out our past especially if it is painful and not one that we want to remember. But we have to remember the lessons that we learn when they are painful so that we do not repeat them and so that we do not continue in the sins of our fathers and our mothers. This king forgot that lesson. Hopefully we can remember it.
We go on a journey with King Nebuchadnezzar where he explains what happened to him during the whole dream sequence where Daniel came to his aid and really bailed out the wise men of Babylon. He has his own perspective on how it went, the dream is different. Instead of a man of bronze and gold and steel you have a tree which is cut down.
But Daniel’s interpretation of this dream is very different from what we had before. He calls the tree the king and that he will be cut down one day. He will be driven away from society and eat grass and basically become a beast in the field. I’m thinking if I were the king who was known to be a bit ruthless and my wise man gave me this interpretation, I would probably be looking for another wise man. But Daniel finishes by telling the king to repent and atone for his sins and to show mercy to the oppressed.
It doesn’t happen often where the ruler of a land is confronted with their sin, feels convicted, and atones of their sin for persecuting the oppressed. It doesn’t happen in this case either. The king finds himself without a kingdom, he dwelt with the animals of the field, he was eating grass, and his body was washed from the dew. But then in vs.34 we read that he snapped out of it.
When he snaps out of it he begins his new phase by praising the Most High. In vs.36 we read that his reason returned to him and he was restored to his kingdom and then in the inimitable Job fashion more greatness was added to him. As a result of this blessing and seeing the work of Daniel the king of Babylon turns to worship the King of Israel, that would be Almighty God.
This is a situation where I always thought that Daniel was with his friends when they were thrown into the fire. As I read this chapter I notice that Daniel was not one of the ones who was thrown into the fire. On Friday during chapel I did the story of Daniel and the lion’s den, not of the fire, and I’m pretty sure Daniel was part of the lion story, but we are not there yet.
So, back to this chapter. These men of Israel refused to worship the king as god. In fact, they told him that he might as well throw them into the furnace as was according to his decree if he wanted them to stop. They were not going to stop worshiping the God of Israel because of a decree of he king. So, he threw them in there and was so excited about it that he ended up killing some of his guards because the fire was so hot.
I love how he calls them the servants of the most high and then says “Blessed be the God” of the men that he threw in the furnace. This was a life changing experience which prompted a counter decree that prohibited any blasphemy against the God of Israel. This is quite a turn around from where we were before this. They were also promoted in the provinces of Babylon where they served. What a great day all around for these three men who were faithful to the God of Israel.
I take a lot of stock in dreams. Now, I don’t profess to be able to interpret them or to understand how God is working behind the scenes with them, but I do believe that God is able to manifest Himself in these dreams, and that often dreams contain information that we would be better off if we didn’t skip. Think of the many times in the Bible where dreams are a part of the narrative. You have Jacob who sees a ladder leading to heaven in a dream. You have dreams that change names, you have Peter and his pigs in a blanket dream and the list goes on.
In this chapter we have the king at the time who has a repeated dream that is absolutely creating a lot of anxiety. I used to have a dream about a monkey on a music box who would constantly chase me, it was a repeating dream, it was terrible. But the king wanted to know the interpretation of the dream and since he wasn’t getting a whole lot of sleep he comes up with an edict, a decree, that if the wise men of the land aren’t able to say what the dream is and then interpret it then they would all be killed. He put the wheels into motion and it gets to Daniel.
What we see repeated in this book of the Bible is that whenever Daniel is faced with an impossible situation, such as this one, then he goes to God to ask for an intervention that would be miraculous. He does this again, because how is someone supposed to guess what the king is dreaming? God provides the dream to Daniel, he interprets it and the king worships Daniel as a result. He gives Daniel all that he wants. Daniel thinks about his friends and puts them in charge over various provinces of Babylon and he stays in the kings court.
Daniel is an extraordinary book of the Bible. Its setting is a follower of the Lord, Daniel, and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were part of the group of Israelites who were taken in captivity and exile by the Babylonians. In their captivity the king chooses them to serve his court. As a book of the Bible Daniel is unique because just the first beginning chapters and the ending chapters were written in Hebrew, the rest was written in Aramaic. It is the newest book in the Old Testament, although it doesn’t fall at the end of the OT. The pervading theme of this book of the Bible is that God is in control in all times in history. We call this the providence of God. God is sovereign, God is in charge, in all times of history.
When we look at chapter 1 we see the protagonists introduced, each with their own original names in Hebrew and then the names that were given to them by the Chaldean ruler. From there they were given preferential treatment because the King wanted to fatten them up for his service. But the meat and the wine that was being served would in no way fulfill the Levitical laws of being kosher so Daniel makes a strange request. Feed the four of us vegetables (which was kosher) and then compare us to the other young men who are getting the king’s meat and you will find that we are healthier and more fit than those. Sure enough, they did it and Daniel and his friends were found to be the ones the most in shape. This is kind of the first instance of vegetarianism seen as something positive.
As a result of this Daniel and his friends become the closest allies to the king and they advise him on all matters. This fact becomes important a bit later on. The Scripture says that the king found them: “ten times better” than all of his other help. Now that is a good witness.
Look at the second part of vs.2 where we hear the Lord say: “This is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word.” This is a great verse to be able to understand how the Lord requires us to be. He calls us to be humble, he calls us to recognize that we have fallen short of the glory of God, he calls us to read and to know the Word of the Lord, and to tremble in front of it because we are convicted.
You can skip ahead to vs.22 if you want. There you will find the promise of a new heaven and a new earth. It will happen on that day that all nations will come before the Lord to worship him. This is a wonderful picture of judgment day. We often think of judgment day as that which is described in vs.15: “The Lord will come in fire…” I prefer to see judgment day as one where we see the Lord and he reaches out to us and embraces us and says well done good and faithful servant, well done. I like that image much more than the fire and the destruction. But…, and this is important, this chapter has both of these pictures. It could be one or the other, or it could be both, depending on who you are.
Wow, just wow. I went from one place to another as I was reading this chapter. When I read vs.1-2 the only thing I could think was: America. “I said ‘Here I am, here I am’ to a nation that did not call on my name.” You know me well enough by now to know that this is not a call or a supplication to place God back in the schools or back in the country. This is a cry out to those who would say that we need to keep God in America and yet they overlook the poor and the powerless and those who do not have a home and those whom Isaiah would have identified as the people that we need to serve the most. When we say that we are Christian and our Christianity is limited to being fired up about keeping prayer in school or or not taking it out of the pledge of allegiance I would classify that as “a people who provoke me to my face continually.”
The power of this passage is then magnified starting at vs.17 and following which should bring to our mind Revelation 21 where we read about a new heaven and a new earth, where we read about there being no more weeping or crying. The prophet goes even further and says that there will be no infant death, there will be no ending of life until well after we are in our 100s. These promises from Isaiah make me happy because they are so well rounded.
We see the promise of God being by our side but also a promise of a reality where the wolf and the lamb will feed together and not on each other. In order for that to happen, if you look at vs.25, the lion needs to change its eating habits and the serpent the same. But the result of these changes in our outlook on life will produce a life where there is no destruction and no one is hurt. I think it is worth becoming a vegetarian for that, at least if I were a lion or a snake.
You can’t read this chapter without thinking about Lent, especially when we look at vs.6 and following. This verse is used to underscore that we are all unclean, read sinners, and that our deeds are like a filthy cloth. What happens when you try to clean something up with a filthy cloth? It just spreads and becomes worse. What happens when we live our lives trying to do good deeds in order to become justified before the Lord? Believe it or not but our deeds do nothing to improve our relationship with the Lord. They are like filthy rags that when we do something in order to gain points before God, then we actually do them in a way that just makes things worse.
As you follow along you then get to vs.8 and 9 which are other Lenten verses. We are reminded that we are the clay and He is the potter. We are all the work of the hand of God. We then move to 9 where we are beseeching the Lord to not consider our iniquity because, in case you forgot, we are your people. We are all your people. What a great thing to remember as we begin to make our journey to Lent in this ordinary time, we are the people of God.
I have to stop for a while at vs.1, the end of it where it reads: “It is I, announcing vindication, mighty to save.”
If you keep reading in the chapter you know that the salvation that is described is not a spiritual one. It is a salvation at the right arm of almighty God as He lifted it with his sword to physically defeat His adversaries. You read a lot about garments trampled in blood. If you read vs.6 you don’t get an image of a loving God. It is actually quite gruesome.
But Isaiah rebounds from vs.6 with a very powerful vs.7 where he recounts the blessings of the Lord. It is almost as if all the warring and madness from the previous verses didn’t exist. Vs. 7 is really one of the most powerful that we have read in the entire book of Isaiah.
If you then go from vs.10 on you see another reversal where the disobedience of the people of God is recounted. There are so many twists and turns in this chapter that it is hard to keep it straight.
Here is another description of the glories of the days to come. This entire chapter is framed in the future as a foil for what is currently happening now in Israel with its captivity and its inability to claim its own land, well, as its own. This is what the prophet Isaiah was experiencing. If you look at vs.11 you will see the climax of this prophecy. Salvation is coming and this salvation is found in the Lord being able to call His people: “Holy people, The Redeemed of the Lord.” This is juxtaposed with what they want to be called which is: “Sought out, a city not forsaken.”
So much of the identity of the people of Israel is tied in to the land and the region where they are living. This is in part due to the fact that there is the belief that God resides on Mount Zion, or Jerusalem. It may sound nonsensical that a belief system is built up around geography, but that is the case. This could explain why there is so much tension and anger and war that takes place in that region of the world.