Outside the Comforts and Away from the Crowds

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, and more specifically, is found in the fourth chapter of the book. The fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel marks the account of a second dream which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had. This particular chapter is unique—not only in it’s make up, but also in how it starts. If you begin reading this passage of Scripture you will notice that if seems to first begin with a powerful declaration from Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto all those who lived and dwelt under the shadow of the Babylonian empire: “Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it got shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are His signs! And how mighty are His wonders! He kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:1-3). Now, on the surface and from a high level view of these three verses that which Nebuchadnezzar seemed to proclaim in this passage is quite astounding and remarkable. Nebuchadnezzar—this Gentile, heathen and pagan king of the Babylonian empire was acknowledging the signs and wonders of the Lord—and not only this, but also proclaimed how the kingdom of God is an everlasting kingdom, and how His dominion is from generation generation. WHEN KINGS ARE HUMBLED! WHEN RULERS ARE BROUGHT LOW! When I read the text that is found in this opening passage of Scripture, I can’t help but consider the words which the psalmist wrote which are recorded for us in the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Psalms: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; This day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:1-12).

When you read the second chapter of the book of the Psalms you will notice that it is a passage that deals exclusively and primarily with nations, rulers, kings, and the heathen of the world. The psalmist opens this particular chapter by asking why the heathen persisted and proceeded to rage, and why the people imagine a vain thing. The psalmist transitions from asking these very pointed questions to making an emphatic and bold declaration concerning the kings and rulers of the earth. IN the second verse of this chapter the psalmist declares that the kings of the earth have and had set themselves, and that the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed. In all reality, that which the psalmist was speaking of and declaring was a tremendous unrest that seemed to have gripped the earth during that time. The author of the second chapter of the book of the Psalms seems to have surveyed the political landscape of the earth, and saw a tremendous unrest that not only seized and gripped the people and the heathen, but also the kings and rulers. That which the psalmist was speaking of was a seeming insurrection that was taking place within and upon the earth, as kings and rulers were mounting their insurrection and rebellion against the Lord, and against His anointed. It’s worth noting that when speaking of this insurrection, the psalmist not only spoke of this insurrection against the Lord, but also against His anointed as well—namely, the Messiah. The main purpose of this insurrection was to come out from under the government, out from under the authority, out from under the dominion of the Lord, and His anointed. What we read in this passage is a powerful description of how men and heathen, kings and rulers alike seek to cast off the authority and dominion of the Lord—not only within and upon their lives, but also within and upon the earth. The psalmist surveyed the earth and notice how some kings were perhaps leading a quiet and silent insurrection against the dominion and authority of the Lord, while others were leading a more forceful insurrection against the authority and dominion of the Lord.

The fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel begins and opens up with a powerful declaration from Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon—a declaration that not only describe the signs and wonders of the Lord, but also acknowledged His kingdom and His dominion. Pause for a moment and consider this reality, and how this wasn’t a Hebrew and Jewish king that was speaking of the signs and wonders of the living God in heaven. What we read within these few verses was not a declaration that was made by a righteous king who was sitting upon the throne of David in Jerusalem, but by a pagan king sitting upon a different throne in the midst of Babylon. How absolutely incredible it is to think that it is possible that a king, or perhaps multiple kings within the earth can be so dramatically impacted by the sovereignty of the Lord that they can be brought to the place where they acknowledge the dominion, the authority, and the government of heaven. It’s worth noting that this wasn’t the first time Nebuchadnezzar had made a declaration concerning the God of heaven during his reign as king over all Babylon. You will recall in the second chapter of the same prophetic book—after Daniel not only revealed the dream which he dreamed upon his bed, but also provided the interpretation of the dream—Nebuchadnezzar was forced to acknowledge a reality concerning the God of heaven and earth. Beginning with the forty-sixth chapter of the second chapter we begin reading Nebuchadnezzar’s response to Daniel’s revelation and interpretation of the dream—“Then the king Nebuchadnezzar Del upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer and oblations and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, O fa truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and. Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (Daniel 2:46-47). As a result of not only revealing the dream which he dreamt upon his bed, but also interpreting the dream as well, Nebuchadnezzar was brought to the place where he could not ignore the wisdom of the God of heaven and earth which Daniel served. In the second chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel it was a direct result of the revelation of a dream and the interpretation of the dream that Nebuchadnezzar was brought to the police where He acknowledged the divine wisdom and knowledge of the God of heaven. Perhaps the single greatest outcome of what we read in the second chapter is the king’s acknowledgement of the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord—although he also acknowledged that the God of Daniel was a God of gods, and was a Lord of kings. Directly connected to the declaration that the God of Daniel was the revealer of secrets was a declaration that Daniel’s God was a God of gods, and was a Lord of kings. This is actually quite a powerful statement to make, for with this statement Nebuchadnezzar was acknowledging the sovereignty of the God of heaven above gods and kings.

GOD OF GODS, LORD OF KINGS! I can’t help but be absolutely and incredibly gripped by what we read in this passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we ourselves are confronted with the reality that the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob is both the God of gods, and the Lord of kings. With this single statement, Nebuchadnezzar was not only acknowledging the God of Daniel as a God over the false gods that were found in Babylon, but also that the God of Daniel was the Lord over all kings. Thus Nebuchadnezzar was emphatically declaring that the Lord’s authority and dominion was the greatest authority and dominion in the earth—even above the authority and dominion which Babylon exercised upon the earth. IT is no small thing for a king such as Nebuchadnezzar to speak of the God of heaven, and to acknowledge that He is not only a God of gos, but also a Lord of kings. Up until this moment the only thing that had happened was the revelation of a dream and the interpretation of the dream. It isn’t until we come to the next chapter that we find—not the revelation of a dream, nor the interpretation of the dream, but a direct confrontation between Nebuchadnezzar and three Hebrew boys by the names of Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael. It isn’t until we come to the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel that we find Nebuchadnezzar being directly challenged by these three Hebrew boys, for they were unwilling to bow down and worship the image which he had set up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. In the second chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel we find the king being confronted by the divine wisdom, the divine knowledge, and the divine understanding of the Lord, for the king had the dream he dreamt both revealed and interpreted. In the third chapter, however, we find the king of Babylon—not experiencing the divine knowledge, the divine wisdom, the divine understand of the God of heaven, but encountering the unwavering courage and devotion of these three Hebrew boys. In the third chapter of the book of Daniel we find the king being confronted by three Hebrews who refused to obey his edict and decree to bow down and worship the image which he set up, and which he demanded that all men and women bow down and worship. It wasn’t wisdom, knowledge and understand the king was confronted with in the third chapter, but it was courage, bravery and faithfulness directly in the face of certain death.

THE IMAGE AND THE FURNACE! IN the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel we not only find the image of gold which the king had set up, but we also find the furnace of fire that was directly connected and linked to that image. When the king of Babylon set up the image of gold in the plain of Dura, he didn’t merely set it up and demand that all men of every nation, every tribe, every language bow down and worship the image. The king also issued the decree that anyone who refused to bow down and worship the image of gold which he had set up in the province of Babylon would immediately be cast into the fiery furnace. Thus, refusal to bow down and worship the image which he set up in the province of Babylon was a direct to control who and what men worshipped in the earth. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Nebuchadnezzar was concerned with the worship of the gods [or God/god] from the nations and lands the people had been carried away captive from. There is no indication in this passage of Scripture that the king was seeking to bring men and women to the place where they were no longer free to worship the god()s) in which they worshipped in their own land—merely that when they heard the sound of music playing within the province, they were to cease what they were doing and fall down and worship this image. Please mark this well within your minds, for I can’t help but think that our adversary might not be as concerned with our worship of the God of heaven, so long as we give ourselves to the worship of images and gods within the earth. What we find in this passage of Scripture is a direct confrontation between the worship of the living God, and the worship of gods and images within the earth. It almost appears that Nebuchadnezzar was still giving those within the province the permission to worship the god(s) of the lands from which they came, but when they heard the sound of music within the province, they were to bow down and worship the image made of gold. I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t possible that such men and women within the province of Babylon could have been in the middle of worshipping the god(s) of their native land and nation, and yet that worship could very well have been interrupted by the sound of music within the province. Scripture doesn’t seem to indicate at what time(s) this sound of music would occur within the province, or even how frequently within and throughout the day the music would be heard. Regardless of when or how frequently the sound of music would be heard within the province, men and women would have to stop what they were doing and bow down and worship the image of gold which the king had set up.

What we find in the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel is the king once more being forced to acknowledge the sovereignty, the dominion and authority of the God of heaven. This would come as a direct result of three Hebrews who dared to refuse to bow down and worship the image of gold—and not only their refusal to worship the image made of gold, but also their willingness to be cast info the fiery furnace. Consider if you will the response of these three Hebrews when they were brought before the king and demanded that they worship this image made of gold—“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 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. 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” (Daniel 3:16-18). Now, it’s one thing to refuse to bow down and worship the image made of gold, but it’s something else entirely to brazenly declare in the presence of the king that you would neither bow down, nor worship the image which he had set up. These three Hebrews weren’t shy, nor were they worried, nor were they intimidated, nor were they fearful in the presence of the king of Babylon, but instead—brazenly and boldly—declared to his face that they would not serve the gods of Babylon, nor worship the golden image which he had set up. I can’t help but be reminded of Joshua’s challenge to the children of Israel prior to his departure from this earth and into the realm of eternity: “Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan…Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord…Ye cannot serve the Lord: for He is an holy God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good” (Joshua 24:2-3, 14-15, 19-20). Joshua called the children of Israel into a place where they would not only put away, but also refuse to serve the gods of their fathers on the other side of the flood, as well as in the land of Egypt. What we find in the account of the three Hebrews was a declaration that they would not serve the gods of Babylon, but they also would not worship the image which he had set up in the province of Babylon

I find it to be absolutely incredible that these three Hebrews were not only unwilling to serve the gods of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, but they were also unwilling to worship the image which he had set up in the province of Babylon. It is absolutely imperative that we pay close attention to their response, for their response not only spoke of gods, but also images which could and would be set up in the earth. What so amazes me about this passage of Scripture is that not only was Nebuchadnezzar directly confronted with the courage of these three Hebrews, but he was also confronted by a fourth man in the fire. I believe the king was surprised and taken back by two distinct realities that occurred on that day—both of which he was neither expecting nor anticipating. The first reality the king was confronted with and by was that there would actually be those within the province of Babylon who were unwilling to serve the gods of Babylon, and to bow down and worship the image which we had set up. I can’t help but wonder if there weren’t others within the province of Babylon who didn’t want to fall down and worship the image made of gold, yet they didn’t have the courage and boldness to defy the king’s order and refuse to bow down and worship the image. I can’t help but think that the actions of these three Hebrews was essentially permission to all those within the province—and quite possibly, all those within the empire—that they no longer had to worship the image made of gold. Sometimes it takes the courage and bravery of another, or of others to give us permission to either be courageous ourselves, or to refuse to worship and serve the gods and images that are being and have been set up within the earth. I am convinced that the actions of these three Hebrews set a lot of people free—men and women who didn’t want to bow down and worship the image made of gold, yet who didn’t have the courage to bow down and worship the image. This actually brings us to the second surprise for the king of Babylon, for if he wasn’t expecting or anticipating anyone defying his decree to bow down and worship the image, he certainly wasn’t expecting anyone to be delivered from the fires of the furnace. ON that fateful day of destiny for these three Hebrews, the king was not only surprised by courage, but he was also surprised by deliverance as well. SURPRISED BY COURAGE AND CAUGHT OFF GUARD BY DELIVERANCE! I am sure the king thought that once these three Hebrews were cast into the fiery furnace that would be the end of them, yet he and everyone else present on that day were caught off guard when they not only saw the three Hebrews walking around in the midst of the fire, but also walking with a fourth man in the fire with them. Upon their release from the fire there was not the smell of smoke, nor any marks from the fire upon their garments, thus confirming the deliverance of the Lord on their behalf.

I am absolutely amazed at the response of the king after he brought Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael forth from the fiery furnace—“Then NEbudhadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrah, Meshach, and Abed-Neto, who hath sent his angel and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Neto, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Daniel 3:28-29). Within the king’s response in this passage of Scripture we not only find the king acknowledging the deliverance of the Lord, but we also find the king acknowledging their willingness to yield their bodies, in order that they might not serve or worship any god, except their own God. The king would go on to further issue a decree that every people, nation, and language, which spoke anything amiss against the God of these three Hebrews would be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill. In the second chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel the king was humbled by the wisdom of God, while in this passage the king was humbled by the deliverance of the Lord. The Lord used Daniel to reveal the divine wisdom, the divine understanding, the divine knowledge of the Lord, and now the Lord used Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego to reveal the deliverance of the Lord. The king was confronted with the knowledge, the wisdom and understanding of the Lord through the revealing of mysteries, while the king was confronted with the deliverance of the Lord through three Hebrews being delivered from the fires of the furnace within the province. The king could not escape, nor could he ignore the activity and operation of the God of heaven within Babylon, for not only was the Lord revealing Himself as a revealer of mysteries, but He was also revealing Himself as a deliverer of and for His people. There was absolutely no mistaking or arguing the sovereignty of the Lord over gods and kings, and it’s quite interesting that in the second chapter we find Nebuchadnezzar declaring of the Lord that the God of Daniel was the God of gods and the Lord of kings, for within the next chapter we find this reality played out in the lives of three Hebrews who dared defy the decree of the king. What we encounter in the third chapter is not only a direct demonstration of the reality that the God of Daniel, and the God of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah was the God of gods, but also that the God of these Hebrews was the Lord of kings. Within the third chapter we not only find a heathen king confronted, but we also find the gods and images of Babylon confronted as well—confronted through courage and deliverance.

As the fourth chapter of the book of Daniel opens, it opens with another declaration of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon—this time, however, it was not a declaration based on the revelation of a divine mystery, or even of the deliverance of the Lord from the fires of a blazing furnace. The declaration and proclamation of the king in this passage of Scripture is a direct response to his own encounter with the true and living God. Up until that point his opinion of the Lord had been shaped by the revelation of mysteries and the deliverance from fire, yet what we find in this passage is not revelation, nor deliverance. What we find in this passage is the king being directly confronted by the Lord of hosts Himself, as the Lord would be directly involved within his life. The king would once more have a dream—a dream that would confuse him and cause him to be troubled within his spirit. The interpretation of the dream would come through Daniel, yet I am convinced that it is not the interpretation of the dream that must be highlighted in this passage of Scripture, but rather the actual fulfillment of the dream. Whereas in the case of the first dream he dreamt we find the fulfillment and manifestation of the dream to be in the days to come, the fulfillment of this dream within the life of the king. What’s more, is that the dream which the king dreamt was in fact a warning from heaven, which was to be heeded and obeyed. There is a part of me that wonders if Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten the dream altogether, or if he remembered the dream but didn’t heed the warning of Daniel. Beginning with the twenty-eighth chapter of the fourth chapter we read these words concerning the fulfillment of the dream which the king dreamt—“All this came upon king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. 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? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there feel a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. 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. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the Dow of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws” (Daniel 4 :28-33).

What I absolutely love about the fourth chapter of the book of Daniel is that the dream which Nebuchadnezzar dreamed directly pertained and applied to him. Not only this, but the fulfillment of the dream would be manifested during his own lifetime, for that was the whole reason the dream was released. It’s one thing we make such a declaration as what we find in the second chapter because we are confronted with the divine wisdom, the divine knowledge, the divine understanding of the Lord. It’s one thing to make such a declaration of the sovereignty and strength of the Lord because we have witnessed His deliverance in the lives of others. It’s something else altogether entirely to make such a declaration because we have been directly confronted by the Lord of hosts. What we find in the fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel is the Lord becoming directly involved within the life of the king, and challenging the pride and arrogance within his heart. THE REVELATION OF MYSTERIES! THE DELIVERANCE OF THE SAINTS! THE CONFRONTATION OF PRIDE! In all reality—it was the pride and arrogance within the heart of the king that was directly confronted within this passage of Scripture, and it wasn’t until the king had been directly humbled by the Lord of hosts that he would again acknowledge the sovereignty and dominion of the Lord. The fourth chapter of this prophetic book now marks the third time the king would issue such a declaration concerning the God of heaven, and on one occasion, it was the declaration that would replace the decree. WHEN THE DECLARATION REPLACES THE DECREE! WHEN THE DECLARATION DRIVES OUT THE DECREE! The Lord of hosts would not only challenge the decree of the king through and with the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, but the Lord would also directly confront the pride and arrogance within the king’s heart by driving him from men. THE WORK THAT TAKES PLACE APART FROM MEN! I am convinced there is a prophetic picture and word that is found within this passage of Scripture—namely, that there are times when the work the Lord needs and desires to do within our hearts and lives cannot take place in the company of men. There are times within our hearts and lives when the work the Lord needs to do within our lives will thrust us from the company and presence of men—perhaps even from our own comforts, securities, and the like. We tend to get caught in the trap of thinking and believing that the work the Lord desires to do within our hearts and lives can and must take place within the comfort of our surroundings, and even in the company of others. THE COMFORT OF SURROUNDINGS AND THE COMPANY OF OTHERS!

The work the Lord needed to do within the heart, the mind and life of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon could not take place in the company of man, nor in the comfort of the palace, but needed to take place apart from men—in the field, and in the wilderness. It was not only the decree of the Lord, but also the actions and words of Nebuchadnezzar that brought forth that which we read in this passage. The work which needed to be done in the life of the king could not be done in the company of others, nor could it be done in the comfort of the palace—two distinct realities we continually seek. We tend to always want the work the Lord desires to do within our hearts and lives to take place in the realm of comfort and company, yet that isn’t always the case. There are times when the Lord needs to thrust us forth from the company of men, and from the comfort(s) we once enjoyed in order that He might do His greatest work within our lives. Such was the case of Moses when he fled to Midian; David when he fled from Saul; Saul when he journeyed in Arabia; and even John the Baptist and Jesus when they were in the wilderness. I believe with all my heart the Spirit of the sovereign Lord is not only removing men and women from the comfort(s) they have routinely and regularly enjoyed, but also from the company of others—perhaps those they trust, and those they don’t trust. I would leave you with this passage of Scripture found in the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark concerning a blind man who was brought unto Jesus in Bethsaida to reveal and confirm the work that can only be done away from the crowd and outside the comforts: “Andnd he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And He took the blind man by the hand, and let him out of the town; and when he had spit on hisa eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly” (Mark 8:22-25).

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