We move on this week to Daniel 4 where Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, told us his own story of his encounter with the "Most High God," to use his own terminology. So far, we have seen that Nebuchadnezzar was the king who conquered Judea and brought Daniel and his friends to Babylon. While he was at it, he conquered much of the known world at that time as well, and he acted like a man who was used to getting his own way on his terms. We have read about his dream, Daniel's interpretation, the golden statue, and the king having Daniel's friends thrown into the fiery furnace (and surviving). Nebuchadnezzar played a central role in all these stories.
In chapter four, we read the following account from the king:
King Nebuchadnezzar, to the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him) (Daniel 4:1-8).
Let's examine that passage more closely.
As I have pointed out, Babylon was a place where there was what's called a mixed bag of spirituality. There were lots of gods, philosophies, religious and spiritual practices, and idolatry. The name Babylon is used five times in the book of Revelation, and always to denote spiritual uncleanness and wickedness: "With a mighty voice he shouted: “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal" (Revelation 18:2). Yet God transferred Daniel and his friends to this wicked city and idolatrous ruler to bear testimony to God's supremacy.
We will delve more deeply into Daniel 4 in future weeks, but this week, I want you to see what it took for Daniel to be successful in Babylon. Daniel had to be content with influence, for he was not going to "convert" the king to Judaism. Instead, Daniel introduced the king to Daniel's god, which unbeknownst to the king was also his God. God partnered with Daniel and worked to bring the king to a place of humility and revelation. Even when that happened, the king's God talk was a mixture of his knowledge of the true God coupled with his devotion to his personal Babylonian god.
THE MIXED BAG
I mentioned that Babylon was a mixed bag when it came to spirituality. God has His witnesses there, but they functioned in the midst of wise men involved in all manner of forbidden spiritual practices Jehovah had forbidden. Yet that did not keep God from revealing Himself. Notice that the king referred to Jehovah as "the Most High God" in verse two but then referred to his personal god, Bel, in verse eight when he referenced Daniel's Babylonian name, Belteshazzar. It appears that the king accepted Daniel's god as the chief God while clinging to the worship of what he considered a lesser god.
Daniel's role in Babylon was to influence those around him, and the same is true for those of us called to serve in modern Babylon. When I worked with inmates, we urged them not to feel like a failure if their witnessing fell short of conversion and baptism, for God's purpose may be something beyond individual salvations. God also wants to help His people influence those around them to make godly decisions and live more holy lives. We saw corrupt guards begin to change their behaviors and inmates influence (fro the good) prison policies and practices.
While we have the same objective as God's "who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4), we must at times be content with doing what Daniel did: standing for the truth even though most will either ignore or oppose it. In Daniel's story, the one who was least likely to be influenced was, and he became the first Gentile author in God's inspired word when he wrote what is now Daniel chapter four.
Are you in a place of influence even though you are in a spiritual environment that is a mixed bag of philosophies and practices? Are you content with influence while allowing God to use that influence to touch lives at a deeper level? Are you willing to sow seed and allow God to oversee the seed in the hearts of others, bringing it to harvest long after you are gone from that harvest field? You need to have the right goal if you want to be successful in Babylon and that goal should be influence as an ambassador for the truth of God in Christ. If you do your part, then God will do His, and no king, not even the great Nebuchadnezzar, can withstand the grace of God when He decides to pour it out on any underserving soul. Have a blessed week!