Daniel, Head Magician—A Reprise


When the first Harry Potter book came out, it quickly became embroiled in controversy largely generated by Christians who were opposed to a book about magic written for children. I understand the thinking. It’s not my intention to rehash the issue, but I can’t help but make a comparison: Harry with Daniel.

Yes, I’m referring to the Daniel-in-the-lions’-den Daniel. First, both were teens. Well, Harry was only eleven when the books started, but he grew up before the eyes of his adoring public. Daniel was a teen at the beginning of his true story and became an old man by the end.

Second, both lived as aliens and strangers. Harry was a gifted, powerful wizard living with people who hated and feared him because of it. Daniel lived with people who had captured him and held him as a slave.

Third, and this is really the point of this post, they were both gifted in magic. Harry’s magic, of course, is pretend. He could learn how to mix potions, wave his wand just so, incant spells, fly his broom—things which are make-believe. Daniel learned, too—the language and literature of the Chaldeans. Did that include their astrology, necromancy, sorcery? Hard to say.

We know he interpreted dreams, starting with the one Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t describe. But he had already earned a spot as one of the “magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans” marked for death, because it appeared no one could do what the king demanded.

And Daniel’s reward when he did actually give the king the dream and its interpretation? He was promoted. Among other duties, he became chief of the magicians (see for example Dan. 4:9).

Think about that for a moment. He not only lived among those people who worshiped idols, but now he was head of those who used the dark arts to guide their king in his decisions. Talk about being in the culture!

But Daniel and his three friends early in their captivity made up their minds that they would not defile themselves. At issue in those days was what they were to eat. Seemingly, Daniel knew the Mosaic Law, and he intended to abide by it.

We know years later he was still maintaining a regular prayer life, one that was not secret. He lived, as he intended, in communion with God.

And yet his job was chief of the magicians.

I imagine these were people like the Egyptian sorcerers who matched miracles with Moses and Aaron for a short time. In other words, they had real power—just not God’s power.

And Daniel was their chief.

I find that incredible! Today many Christians run from reading about pretend magic, and Daniel was put in charge of real magicians, people who knew how to read the heavens.

Sure, some of what they did was undoubtedly a scam. I suspect that’s why Nebuchadnezzar came up with his impossible request: they were to first tell him what he dreamed, and only then interpret it. I imagine he was fed up with what he had detected to be party-line interpretations. He wanted to know what the dream actually meant, not whatever flattery those fakes might come up with.

But later if they were all fakes, all the time, and Daniel was their chief, why wouldn’t he simply clean house and get good, honest Jews in their place, men like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego whom he could trust? He could have turned the magicians’ arm of the government into a Christian uh, a department run by believers in the One True God.

Of course, Daniel might have been the only person God gifted with the power of divination among the Jewish exiles. But what did he think of the pagan diviners? That they were illegitimate? That they were tapping into the power of the evil one? That they were just one more evidence of the sinfulness of the nation in which he was forced to live? Did he respect them? Or did he squelch them as often as he could?

They owed him their lives because they were due to be executed, but that fact didn’t stop the from coming up with a scheme to get Daniel killed. Clearly, there was no love lost on their part.

Why all this speculation?

I think Christians today in the Western world tend to run scared when it comes to evil. I know I have. I’ve been places where offerings were made to idols, and I sensed evil in a way that freaked me out. But I think that plays into Satan’s hand. The truth is, he is not stronger than God—that would be He who resides in the heart of every Christian. Why are we running scared? it should be Satan running scared when he sees us advancing on our knees.

This post is an edited version of one that appeared here in May, 2012.

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Published in: on May 9, 2018 at 6:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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Daniel’s Prophecies—Evidence That The Bible Is True


Prophecy in general provides evidence that the Bible is true, and that God exists, for that matter. Perhaps this fact is more clearly evident in the book of Daniel.

For one thing, the book is anchored in known history. Evidence for the rule of specific Babylonian kings, kings of the Media-Persian empire, even Jewish kings, exists outside the Bible. No one can say Daniel is dealing with pretend individuals in a pretend place.

In addition, Daniel gave much of his prophecy to pagan kings—Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, Cyrus—who started out worshiping their own gods. Because Daniel’s prophecies came true, he gained their favor and was promoted as a key figure in the various governments.

History records the outcome of some of his prophecies, the Bible records others, but in each case they happened as Daniel said they would.

Take one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, for example. What he saw was prophetic, but he needed Daniel to interpret it. In short, the dream prophesied that the Babylonian empire would give way to the empire of the Medes and the Persians. That empire would give way to the Greek rule, and the Romans would take over from them, though that empire would fracture into four not-so-powerful regions. No surprise that these things took place, except that Daniel’s prophecy foretold them accurately.

On a personal note, Daniel interpreted another of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams:

‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries! The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged—–it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king’ (from Daniel 4)

A year later, just as Daniel prophesied, Nebuchadnezzar had a psychotic break that left him behaving like an animal. But he recovered, and he reported himself that God brought him from the brink of madness:

“At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (Ibid.)

Another personal prophecy Daniel delivered was to King Belshazzar. In this instance he interpreted a supernatural writing on the wall which declared the end of this particular king’s rule. The result?

That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two. (see Daniel 5)

More evidence of the truth of these prophecies, on top of their fulfillment, is the fact that the different kings listened to Daniel, believed him, promoted him, and rewarded him. If what he said was not verified, these kings would no more have kept Daniel around than American Presidents keep their cabinet members around.

In addition, Daniel incurred the wrath of other key people in King Darius’s administration, so much so that they manipulated the king into creating a law directed at Daniel. They wanted to accuse him of wrong doing, but they couldn’t find any corruption in anything he’d done. They resorted to the only thing they knew they could catch him doing: praying.

God, after all, was Daniel’s source of knowledge, as he repeatedly said. He couldn’t interpret dreams or prophecy. But God could reveal what He willed through Daniel.

The only argument against this evidence of fulfilled prophecy that I’m aware of is the alteration of the date of writing for the book.

Internal evidence clearly marks all these prophecies as occurring during the 70 years of Jewish exile, before any of the political events took place. But those who do not believe that prophecy can and does exist, immediately give a late date to the book of Daniel, reasoning that the events must have happened before some writer inscribed them.

It’s an old trick: dismiss evidence because of the supernatural elements, then claim no evidence for the supernatural exists.

The truth is, the prophecies of Daniel bear witness to the fact that God who is sovereign over the affairs of men, has revealed Himself, His work, His plan, His purpose within the pages of the Bible.

Published in: on April 18, 2018 at 6:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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But Even If He Doesn’t …


Joseph016I find myself drawn to heroes who faced impossible circumstances with unwavering trust. Some of them, whether people we know from Scripture or from extra-Biblical sources, died, some of them lived to recount for the world God’s miraculous provision.

The point is, going into their circumstances, none of these people knew what awaited them. The faith of both those who lived and those who died was equally strong.

Abraham was that kind of “strong faith” person—more than once. Initially God told him to go to a land He would show the then young Abram, so he went, not knowing where he was going.

Later, as an older man with the son he’d waited his whole life for, he went again, knowing where this time but faced with the task of giving up the son he loved so much.

We know this side of the event that God provided a ram to substitute for Abraham’s son and that He gave him the Promised Land to be the home of his people. But Abraham was on that side and didn’t see what we see. He made his choices based on his faith and trust in God.

That’s appealing to me.

Joseph spent thirteen years as a slave and kept his faith in God—not knowing he would end up the second in command to Pharaoh.

Daniel’s three friends had no way of knowing they’d walk out of a furnace heated so hot it killed the guards that put them inside, but they believed God was capable of rescuing them.

Daniel himself prayed even though he knew he’d end up with the lions, and didn’t know he’d survive the night.

On the other hand, Stephen died because he preached Jesus Christ as Messiah. Jim Elliott died taking the gospel to an indigenous people group in South America, Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsy died in the German concentration camp despite her faithful witness and unselfish life.

Yet these people who don’t appear victorious are just as compelling to me. They faced death and they didn’t waver, they didn’t back down or give into the temptation to call in question God’s character.

I think the thing is, I realize that each of those people—the ones who came through the trial happily, even miraculously, and the ones who died, shared the same faith. They knew that God was trustworthy. They didn’t measure His goodness or love or mercy or provision or faithfulness based on the stuff of this world, not even their life breath.

Habakkuk said it best, I think:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The point is, God is worthy of our exultation whether we have the stuff of this world or not. He is the God of our salvation. He has transferred us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. What else do we need as proof of His love and care?

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in May 2013.

Published in: on September 14, 2016 at 6:52 pm  Comments Off on But Even If He Doesn’t …  
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What Does God Have To Do With Fear?


Daniel003I read the end of the book of Daniel today, and one thing that struck me was the fear Daniel experienced in the presence of the angel who came to answer his prayer. By this time Daniel was an older man who had been faithfully serving God from his teen years. He knew suffering and persecution and he also knew God’s blessing as he walked in obedience to Him.

So here’s this seasoned believer who has stood before kings, been thrown into a lion’s den, interpreted dreams, and ruled the magicians of Chaldea, but he’s so afraid he can hardly stand.

Here’s a glimpse of what Daniel experienced:

I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. (Daniel 10:5-8)

He started out deathly afraid, and his fear grew. He fell into what we’d call a coma, but a hand touched him and he came to. Still, he was on his hands and knees and was trembling. So the being spoke to him, and he was able to stand, still trembling, though. The heavenly being told Daniel not to be afraid, but Daniel “turned his face to the ground and became speechless.”

Then a heavenly being who looked like a man touched him and he was able to talk. What he said makes it clear he wasn’t over his fear:

“O my lord, as a result of the vision [of the man dressed in linen—the person he was talking to] anguish has come upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can such a servant of my lord talk with such as my lord? As for me, there remains just now no strength in me, nor has any breath been left in me.” (Daniel 10:16b-17)

Remember, this isn’t God he was talking to—“just” a messenger of God.

Scripture teaches God is to be feared. Psalm 130:4 states that a purpose of God’s forgiveness is to create fear. Of course, there is fear and then there is fear. So what are we talking about when we say forgiveness generates fear of the Lord?

Quite apparently this fear is not the dread of coming retribution. Forgiveness eliminates that kind of fear completely. Rather, I think it is an awesome awareness of what God is capable of—perhaps the fear Daniel experienced.

By illustration, think of a little kid watching his dad swat ball after ball in the batting cage. Afterward he looks up in wonder and says, “Wow, Daddy, I didn’t know you could do that.”

God’s forgiveness does the same thing—it generates awe and makes us think, If He can forgive my sin, what can’t He do.

The interesting, and perhaps confusing, thing is that the God we bow before in amazement is the same God who ought to generate great fear, according to Jesus, because He has the power to judge and to condemn:

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 12:28)

So which is it? Fear or fear?

Perhaps another illustration would be helpful. All kinds of things here on earth should generate healthy respect—guns, dynamite, fire, knives, lightning, speeding cars, pounding waves, steep cliffs, electricity, and so on.

lightbulb-1-922847-mTake electricity, for instance. It makes life as we know it in the western world possible, so if we think of it at all, our attitude is most likely gratitude. Rarely do we think to be afraid of electricity. Yet if a small child picked up a screw driver and headed for an electrical outlet, most adults would rush to intervene. And if a toddler is a regular in a home, it’s not unusual to find all the vacant outlets protected with plastic caps.

Adults don’t need to be afraid of electricity, but we have a healthy fear of it. We aren’t going to abuse it or misuse it or let small children play with it because we know the results could be deadly. At the same time, we flip switches and change light bulbs and plug and unplug electrical cords with care but not with fear. We don’t lie awake at night trembling at the thought of a potential electrical shock.

In the same way, when we are in right relationship with God, we don’t tremble in the fear that He will turn His wrath on us. Nevertheless, we recognize His wrath, and that it is a fearful thing. In fact, our fear—our awareness of His power, our awe at what He is capable of—should make us quick to run to the aid of someone who is “carelessly handling” God, who is putting himself in jeopardy because he does not himself yet fear the Lord.

Paul says it well:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. (2 Cor. 5:10-11a, ESV, emphasis mine)

Of course false teaching about hell and God’s wrath and God’s righteous judgment might dissuade genuine Christians from seeking to persuade others of the fear of the Lord. Will we become so numb to the seriousness of falling into the hands of an angry God that we forget to run to the aid of those who are about to thrust their fingers into a live light socket?

A portion of this post appeared here in April 2011 under this same title.

Published in: on April 9, 2015 at 6:56 pm  Comments (4)  
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But Even If He Doesn’t …


Joseph016I find myself drawn to heroes who faced impossible circumstances with unwavering trust. Some of them, whether people we know from Scripture or from extra-Biblical sources, died, some of them lived to recount for the world to hear God’s miraculous provision. The point is, going into their circumstances, none of these people knew what awaited them. The faith of both was equally strong.

Abraham was that kind of person–more than once. Initially God told him to go to a land He would show the then young Abram, so he went, not knowing where he was going. Later, as an older man with the son he’d waited his whole life for, he went again, knowing where this time but faced with the task of giving up the son he loved so much. We know this side that God provided a ram to substitute for Abraham’s son and that He gave him the Promised Land to be the home of his people. But Abraham was on that side and didn’t see what we see. He made his choices based on his faith and trust in God.

That’s appealing to me.

Joseph spent thirteen years as a slave and kept his faith in God–not knowing he would end up the second in command to Pharaoh. Daniel’s three friends had no way of knowing they’d walk out of a furnace heated so hot it killed the guards that put them inside, but they believed God was capable of rescuing them. Daniel prayed even though he knew he’d end up with the lions, and didn’t know he’d survive the night.

On the other hand, Stephen died because he preached Jesus Christ as Messiah. Jim Elliott died taking the gospel to an indigenous people group in South America, Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsy died in the German concentration camp despite her faithful witness and unselfish life. Yet these people who don’t appear victorious are just as compelling to me. They faced death and they didn’t waver, they didn’t back down or give into the temptation to call in question God’s character.

I think the thing is, I realize that each of those people–the ones who came through the trial happily, even miraculously, and the ones who died shared the same faith. They knew that God was trustworthy. They didn’t measure His goodness or love or mercy or provision or faithfulness based on the stuff of this world, not even their life breath.

Habakkuk said it best, I think:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The point is, God is worthy of our exultation whether we have the stuff of this world or not. He is the God of our salvation. He has transferred us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. What else do we need as proof of His love and care?

Published in: on May 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm  Comments Off on But Even If He Doesn’t …  
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Government Intrusion


assault_rifleFor reasons that are far too numerous and complex to delve into in a blog post, the US government is becoming increasingly intrusive. So has the California state government and the County of Los Angeles, so we can probably just sum it all up as Government intrusion.

In a country that used to pride itself on its freedoms, we now have more and more regulations designed to save us from ourselves. Every time there is a crisis, pretty much anywhere in the world, our government officials start talking about how they can protect us from that same eventuality.

Consequently, after another school shooting, there has been, as predicted, a great deal of discussion about how to regulate guns. In all this, I’m more troubled that the number of gang deaths, often from guns, doesn’t rile the country up in the same way as the Sandy Hook deaths. In 2010 alone, there were over 2000 gang-related homicides (see the National Gang Center). I suppose to qualify as a game changer, however, a shocking number of deaths would need to occur at one time.

That’s why the tragedy in the Brazilian night club triggered another round of discussions about safety measures and regulations in similar venues here in the US.

surveillance droneOf course, nothing unleashed more regulations than the attack in New York on 9/11. From surveillance cameras to body searches at the airport to electronic eavesdropping and tracking to drone surveillance, measures designed to keep Americans safe have clearly reduced privacy. It is this Government intrusion that seems especially to bother a good many people.

In response, there’s been a growth in the number of libertarians who want to see a reduction of regulations–or more precisely, as little Government as possible. For example, in 2012, the Libertarian Party candidates for President and Vice President received more than twice as many votes as their 2008 counterparts.

I know a number of other conservatives who are doing considerable hand-wringing because of the recent increased Government intrusion. Many reason that this Big Brother watchfulness will one day be turned on Christians to impinge upon our freedom of religion.

And that might actually be true. But here’s the thing. If a person isn’t breaking a law, then he has no reason to fear the Government watching him. Unless the Government outlaws worshiping God. But if that happens, is the answer to continue to do so privately, secretly, out of view of those who want to regulate it out of existence?

I think of Daniel, confronted with the same situation. The sudden outlawing of worship of any but Babylon’s king did not dissuade Daniel from continuing to worship the One True God, and to do so without hiding. He didn’t flaunt his decision by praying on the palace steps, but neither did he go into his closet where the watching eyes of hostile government officials couldn’t see.

When I was a kid, we sang a song in Sunday school or Vacation Bible School that contained the line, “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone.” I tend to think there well could be a time when Christians in the US will need to make a stand similar to Daniel’s. We won’t be alone in the same way, but we well may be without the protection of the Government preserving our religious liberties.

Perhaps our concern now shouldn’t be so much in fighting Government intrusion as it should be in preparing to face the consequences when that Government intrusion is turned upon us. How prepared are we to keep praying if someone in Government says to stop?

Peter gives us the perspective we need:

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:13-15)

Daniel, Head Magician


When the first Harry Potter book came out, it quickly became embroiled in controversy largely generated by Christians who were opposed to a book about magic written for children. I understand the thinking. It’s not my intention to rehash the issue, but I can’t help but make a comparison: Harry with Daniel.

Yes, I’m referring to the Daniel-in-the-lions’-den Daniel. First, both were teens. Well, Harry was only eleven when the books started, but he grew up before the eyes of his adoring public. Daniel was a teen at the beginning of his true story and became an old man by the end.

Second, both lived as aliens and strangers. Harry was a gifted, powerful wizard living with people who hated and feared him because of it. Daniel lived with people who had captured him and held him as a slave.

Third, and this is really the point of this post, they were both gifted in magic. Harry’s magic, of course, is pretend. He could learn how to mix potions, wave his wand just so, incant spells, fly his broom — things which are make-believe. Daniel learned, too — the language and literature of the Chaldeans. Did that include their astrology, necromancy, sorcery? Hard to say.

We know he interpreted dreams, starting with the one Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t describe. But he had already earned a spot as one of the “magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans” marked for death because it appeared no one could do what the king demanded.

And Daniel’s reward when he did actually give the king the dream and its interpretation? He was promoted. Among other duties, he became chief of the magicians (see for example Dan. 4:9).

Think about that for a moment. He not only lived among those people who worshiped idols, but now he was head of those who used the dark arts to guide their king in his decisions. Talk about being in the culture!

But Daniel and his three friends early in their captivity made up their minds that they would not defile themselves. At issue in those days was what they were to eat. Seemingly, Daniel knew the Law, and he intended to abide by it.

We know years later he was still maintaining a regular prayer life, one that was not secret. He lived, as he intended, in communion with God.

And yet his job was chief of the magicians.

I imagine these were people like the Egyptian sorcerers who matched miracles with Moses and Aaron for a short time. In other words, they had real power — just not God’s power.

And Daniel was their chief.

I find that incredible! Today many Christians run from reading about pretend magic, and Daniel was put in charge of real magicians, people who knew how to read the heavens.

Sure, some of what they did was undoubtedly a scam. I suspect that’s why Nebuchadnezzar came up with his impossible request: they were to first tell him what he dreamed, and only then interpret it. I imagine he was fed up with what he had detected to be party-line interpretations. He wanted to know what the dream actually meant, not whatever flattery those fakes might come up with.

But later if they were all fakes, all the time, and Daniel was their chief, why wouldn’t he simply clean house and get good, honest Jews in their place, men like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego whom he could trust? He could have turned the magicians’ arm of the government into a Christian uh, a department run by believers in the One True God.

Of course, he might have been the only person God gifted with the power of divination among the Jewish exiles. But what did Daniel think of the pagan diviners? That they were illegitimate? That they were tapping into the power of the evil one? That they were just one more evidence of the sinfulness of the nation in which he was forced to live? Did he respect them? Or did he squelch them as often as he could?

They owed him their lives because they were due to be executed, and yet they came up with a scheme to get him killed, so there was no love lost on their part.

Why all this speculation?

I think Christians today in the Western world tend to run scared when it comes to evil. I know I have. I’ve been places where offerings were made to idols, and I sensed evil in a way that freaked me out. But I think that plays into Satan’s hand. The truth is, he is not stronger than God — that would be He who resides in the heart of every Christian. Why are we running scared? it should be Satan running scared when he sees us advancing on our knees.

Published in: on May 1, 2012 at 6:06 pm  Comments (12)  
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