Thursday, January 22, 2009

UNTIL YOU RECOGNIZE

Daniel gives the interpretation of another dream had by King Nebuchadnezzar which turns out to be a message of judgment against the ruler. This story reminds us that God is involved in the affairs of nations and rulers. The vision of a great tree that was great and towered over the earth was a vision of the greatness and influence of Babylon. Through the vision, God showed to the King that he would become mad for a period of time, eating from the field like the cattle, until he came to recognize and acknowledge that there is one God who rules from heaven. Daniel was shocked by the vision and its message and he asked for the King to repent and "recognize that it is Heaven that rules" (Dan. 4:26).

God judged the pagan ruler because of his arrogant pride. In fact, the promised madness settled on Nebuchadnezzar 12 months later at the exact moment that he was thinking, "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:28) The madness came upon him immediately and he was led out into the field like an animal so that he ate grass and lived in the field without covering. God even determined that length of time for this judgement, which was "seven periods of time", which could mean seven years.

The madness was so complete as to hinder the King from coming to his senses until the appointed period of time was completed. It says, "But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation" (Dan. 4:34). God is benevolent to permit people to come to their senses when they are confronted with the facts. The judgment of God is designed to provide the sinner ample reason to turn and acknowledge the reality of God.

Today, we have the same God who still cares if rulers acknowledge Him. We pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1,2) because they His ministers for justice (Rom. 13:3,4; 1 Pt. 2:13-14). It is reasonable to conclude that God will bless rulers that faithfully exercise the powers given to them and He will curse those that don't. The Bible is full of examples where God judged unrighteous rulers, whether they were Jew or Gentile. The judgment on the Amorites came about when their iniquity was complete (Gen. 15:16). King Saul was removed from power when he disobeyed God (1 Sam. 15:11). Ahab's entire house was destroyed because of his sin which he led all of Israel into (2 Kings 9:7). Nineveh and the Assyrians were to be destroyed because of their corruption (Jonah 3:4). There are too many examples to cite here that show how God cares if rulers are righteous. This requirement is not the same as requiring that rulers become Christian, but is that they meet the minimum requirements of preserving what is good and punishing what is evil. It is apparent from Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 that God gives His authority to rulers who are not Christian. All rulers, christian and otherwise, must recognize the Almighty God and dispense their office with justice. For those who don't, the example of Nebuchadnezzar serves to remind them that they will be judged until they come to their senses.
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Legalism is not the strict adherence to God's word

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