Saturday, May 28, 2016

Daniel Evangelizes

A few weeks ago we discussed the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's final dream before his conversion (Daniel 4).  This dream involved a tree that reached the heavens being cut down.  Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was going to be taken from him.  He was going to be cast out.  More importantly, he was going to live like an animal for seven years.  Most importantly, he would be restored to his kingdom.  This "extreme discipline" finally converts Nebuchadnezzar fully to the one true God of Daniel's.

Also, we found Christ in the dream: he is the bronze and iron band that caps the stump in order to preserve it for restoration.  God may discipline his children, but Christ inhibits us from decay and restores us to an adoration of himself to our great profit.

This week, I want to look at how Daniel relays Christ to Nebuchadnezzar in the dream's interpretation.  This is is mini, evangelical sermon:

“My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived—it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” (Daniel 4:19-27)

Daniel apologetically relays the horrendous news to the king, but then gives him hope when he says that Nebuchadnezzar will be restored when "you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will."  This is a difficult thing to know, for anyone.  It involves taking ourselves off of our personal thrones, no matter how swimmingly things are going in our lives, and turning our lives over to someone else.  This, of course is impossible, and God knows it is, because sin permeates our lives.  We have radical corruption flowing through our veins.  But this is the very reason God commands to leave and preserve the stump of the roots of the tree.  Because God knows, from the beginning, just as he has known all of his children from the beginning, who is going to be preserved, and he has kept the stumps of the roots of our trees.  He disciplines his children, and sometimes brings them to absolute rock bottom, but he keeps us tethered to life.  Daniel tells the king that his kingdom will be confirmed for him from the time that he knows that Heaven rules.  Jesus is not only the bronze and iron band over the stump but he is the ruler, Heaven itself.  In other words, Jesus keeps us safe, even when we are in the depths of the despair, and at the same time he is the one whom we are to acknowledge is our true ruler.  An earthly Lord would conquer his enemies to let them know he was the greatest.  Christ doesn't conquer us; he keeps us safe until we acknowledge him and then he brings us back and restores us.

Daniel finishes his sermon with a final exhortation: "Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity." Having revealed Christ to Nebuchadnezzar, twice, Daniel tells him three things that are impossible without Christ: stop sinning, practice righteousness, show mercy to those beneath you (which is everyone else), so that he may stay king longer.  We know from the next verses that a year later the dream comes true.  He was unable to stop sinning, he did not practice righteousness, and had showed no mercy.

Christ does all three of these things.  First, he never sinned.  Only a sinless savior can save a sinful world.  Second, he practiced righteousness continually, without fail.  When we seek God, as believers (unbelievers don't seek God), we are seeking his Kingdom and his righteousness.  This is essentially what Daniel is telling Nebuchadnezzar to do.  Finally, Christ showed mercy, in while we were yet sinners, he died for us on the cross.  These three things Christ did.  These three things are impossible for Nebuchadnezzar--and us--to do.  But, because Christ puts his bronze and iron band about our stumps, we are preserved in a new covenant with him, where his Holy Spirit grants us mercy, grants us righteousness, and finally grants us the ability to no longer practice sin.