Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Sovereignty of God Over the Affairs of Men in all Ages

God's sovereignty over affairs of men

Reading: Daniel 1-6.

As you read through the Scripture and particularly the Book of Daniel you cannot but see how intimately God can be associated with the affairs of men. If I must use this word, but not irreverently for want of any other one to use, God is seen to frequently “interfere” in the affairs of men in all ages. God truly is Sovereign and rules over all. No matter what man may say or do, no matter how we try to resist God’s sovereignty; He is still sovereign and His power is not limited.

In this two part talk we shall this Sunday look at how God shows His sovereignty in the affairs of men of all ages, no matter their belief, age and social background. For our discussion we shall use the Book of Daniel Chapters 1-6. In our second discussion, next Sunday, God willing, we shall look at the man God uses. When God “interferes” in the affairs of men, He does not often do it by “jumping” into the scene. Most often, He uses men. In our study we shall look at some, or rather, one of the men He used and from his case see how God can even use us to show His sovereignty.

Incidentally, the main theme of the Book of Daniel is the Sovereignty of God over the affairs of men in all ages. God particularly showed this by making two Pagan Kings –Nebuchadnezzar (2:47) and Darius (6:26) to confess His sovereignty.

In the first six chapters of the Book of Daniel, we read a very thrilling account of events and divine interpositions. It gives us a record of six moral conflicts in which God allowed His children – Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who were renamed Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – all Hebrew captives in Babylon to participate.

One thing is sure, as we read these conflicts – God was in control of all participants in these conflicts. That same God is in control of whatever conflicts that may be in my life and your life today. He is never known to fail and will never fail.

Let us briefly review these conflicts and from them see how God establishes His sovereignty over all times, all men and over all kingdoms.

First Conflict: Between Pagan Self-Indulgence and Conscientious Abstinence in Promoting Health – Daniel Chapter 1

Self indulgence vs abstinence

The Bible says in Daniel 1:5: “And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank; so nourishing them three years that at the end thereof they might stand before the king” It is important for us to reflect briefly on the background – here are slave boys away from home and being given the opportunity to eat of the king’s meal and drink of the king’s wine in order to nourish them to be presentable before the king. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that  he might not defile himself.”(1:8) And in verse 12, Daniel and his fellow Jews said “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.” We see that at verse 15, Daniel and his fellow Jews were better and in verse 19, the king confirmed the observation and wisdom of the chief of the eunuchs. Abstinence has won.

In this chapter alone God showed His sovereignty three times and twice in the conflict. In verse 2 God over-ruled the king of Judah, Jehoiakim  and gave him and the entire Jerusalem over to the king of Babylon. He will not allow evil to go on even when it comes from the people He has called His own. In verse 9 God brought Daniel in favour and tender love of the prince of the eunuchs. In other words, it was God that made him grant the request of Daniel and his fellow Jews to be allowed to feed on herbs and water only. In verse 17, God granted the children wisdom and knowledge and they passed the interview for employment with king Nebuchadnezzar with full marks.

Does God control what we eat? Does He control what I eat? Does He control who your friends are or do you glory in your own wisdom? The knowledge of God is the beginning of wisdom!

Second Conflict: Between Pagan Magic and Heavenly Wisdom in the Interpretation of Dreams – Daniel Chapter 2

Nebuchadnezzar's dream

By God’s divine power, He has caused Nebuchadnezzar to see what the future would be in a dream and in His sovereign power has made him forget the content of the dream in the morning. As Nebuchadnezzar himself realized in verse 9, the magicians would have told him lies as the interpretation of his dreams had he told them the dreams. The hard test came when they were required first to give the dream and then proceed to interpret it. All the magicians failed and so will all who do not depend on God for wisdom continue to fail. In verses 19-20 we see the other part of the story – God revealed the secret to Daniel – another intervention of God’s supreme power. So God Himself revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel and Daniel in turn, revealed the same to king Nebuchadnezzar. God made the Pagan King to make one of the best proclamations of the power of God in the entire Scripture in verse 47. “The king answered unto Daniel, and said, of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets seeing that you could reveal this secret” 

Do the people say this of my God, do they say it of your God? They will, if you allow God to control and rule over your affairs and use you to rule over the affairs of other men. Here is a second victory – Heavenly Wisdom over Pagan Magic!

Third Conflict: Heathen Idolatry Arrayed Against Loyalty to God – Daniel Chapter 3

They wouldn't burn

It is not always that idolatry may come in the form of big images like the one Nebuchadnezzar made. Anything that comes between a total surrender and loyalty to God and you is idolatrous. Paul’s skin or personal safety could have been idolatrous if he had yielded to the pressure of other Christians who were led by the Spirit to tell him that his going to Jerusalem was going to be hazardous in Acts 21. All parties in the narrative in Acts 21 were led by the Spirit of God. The Spirit led the brethren in Tyre to prophesy that his trip to Jerusalem would be dangerous, the Spirit led Agabus to prophecy the same and the Spirit led the Christians to plead with Paul not to go. It was then a choice between obedience to God’s command to go to Jerusalem and to self to save his life. So is the case here.

The Hebrew children were slaves in Babylon and here the king has given an order with the attendant punishment of disobedience of death in the fiery furnace. The choice is between saving their life and death by obeying the will of God: A choice between obedience to man and obedience to God. The Lord God will give you the chance to choose. He will only interfere after you have made your choice.

In the Garden of Eden, He gave man the choice to choose; In Joshua 24:15, He gave the Israelites the chance to choose. So in all affairs of man, God gives us the choice; it is after the Hebrew children have chosen that God came in to show His sovereignty in delivering them from the power of the evil one. It is worthy of pity to see king Nebuchadnezzar in verse 15 saying: “who is that that shall deliver you out of my hands” Compare it with the same king when after he has seen God’s sovereignty is forced to eat his words in verses 3:28-29: “Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.” 

Should Christianity in our Nation get to a stage when we will have to choose between renouncing our faith and death, shall we be able to stand like the Hebrew slaves stood in verses 16-18? God help us! Let us read together the words of these slaves to King Nebuchadnezzar: Daniel 3:16-18: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Read More:- The Sovereignty of God: “My Counsel Shall Stand, and I Will Accomplish All My Purpose”

Fourth Conflict: A Pagan King’s Pride Arrayed Against Divine Sovereignty – Daniel Chapter 4

Eating grass like a beast

Chapter four of the book of Daniel is peculiar – it is a testimony of a pagan king of the eternal dominion of God. God in His sovereign power gave him a dream which was of himself and none of his “wise men” and magicians could interpret it. Daniel relying on the wisdom of God did and the dream came true. God’s word is true altogether and none would ever return to Him void. It must accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. The Bible also says that God resists the proud and so when King Nebuchadnezzar became proud God humbled him. In verse 30, Let us look at the pride of the king: “The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty?”

All power comes from God and no ruler or kingdom exists except the Lord has allowed it to stand. So, God showed to him, Nebuchadnezzar that He God, rules over all. Nebuchadnezzar was turned into the bush to live with animals and feed on grass for seven years until he realized that all power belongs to God. God still showed His power when Nebuchadnezzar had learnt his lesson by restoring his kingdom to him. Look at Nebuchadnezzar’s own words in final assessment of God: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” Daniel 4:37 NKJV

Fifth Conflict: Impious Sacrilege Arrayed Against Reverence for Sacred Objects – Daniel Chapter 5

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin
One unfortunate thing about human beings is that we hardly learn from others’ experience. We often want to learn from our own experience and learning by experience is about the most difficult and often the most unpalatable method of learning. Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar did not learn about God and His powers from the experiences of his father. In Daniel chapter 5, we read the pathetic story of this young man. Pathetic; because he allowed affluence to have a negative influence on his reverence to God and His sacred objects. That God allowed his father king Nebuchadnezzar to rampage and carry away the sacred objects in the temple at Jerusalem does not mean that God has relinquished His claim to them. They are still dedicated to Him. Belshazzar defiled them, and like Jesus did in Matthew 21:12-13, when He went to Jerusalem and met people defiling the Temple, God will not stand by to see this young king defile the sacred things. God immediately showed His sovereignty by the “writing on the wall”. Again no magician, no wise man of the world can interpret it. The secret things of God belong only to those who are His and to Him who He is pleased to reveal them. Daniel again can under God’s sovereign power interpret it. God will never stand by to see mere men defile Him or His sacred things. He surely will intervene. He rules over all.

Sixth Conflict:  Between Malicious Plotting and the Providence of God Over His Saints. – Daniel Chapter 6.

This sixth Chapter of the Book of Daniel makes an interesting reading. It happened about BC 538 – some 2, 500 years ago and as you read it, it looks as if you are reading today’s issue of the Punch or The Daily Times. But this is true of the life of all that will live righteously. Paul in writing to Timothy in Second Timothy 3:12 declared: “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Jesus himself told us, “in the world you shall have tribulation ...,” but   thank God He did not end it there. God in Isaiah 54:17 made a wonderful promise to them that belong to Him “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD. The Lord further said in Isaiah 43:1-3: “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. 

So the heathens in Babylon planned against Daniel.  God let them make their plans. . God made Daniel know of the plan, and gave him the choice between succumbing to their plot or sticking to God and trusting in Him for deliverance. After Daniel had made his choice to stand by God, God then showed His sovereign power over the lions, over King Darius and over all who plotted against Daniel. Let us end this discussion by reading the last five verses of this chapter. God’s sovereignty over all!

Dan 6:24-28: “And the king gave the command, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions — them, their children, and their wives; and the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den.  Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.  I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, and steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end.  He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.  So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. “
That is indeed a summary of the whole story. All who will let God rule their lives will prosper as Daniel did. So, divine providence wins.

In all these, we have seen how God exercises His sovereign power over all people in all ages. The same God is ours today and His power is not limited. We are the people limiting Him. Let us give Him the chance by letting Him reign in our lives. God help us and bless us all.

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