Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1998
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 4: Kingdom Ended: The Discipline of Exile
Lesson 89 – End of Kingdom, Discipline of Exile, Shift from Israel to the World
30 Apr 1998
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
I want to finish the doctrine of sanctification and then go to the new period of history that we’ll start tonight, the exile. We’ll have quite a bit of history to go through because we want to get into the book of Daniel just a bit. This is not an exegetical Bible class, it’s more topical, but I want to get into some passages and show some neat things that happened at this point in history. But before that I want to make sure where we’ve come from as far as the doctrine of sanctification. We’ve gone through the issue of the decline of the kingdoms and the fall. We’ve looked almost exclusively at life inside the kingdom, life that shows how God reigns in that kingdom, and therefore shows the character of God. Under kingdoms and decline we’ve concentrated on sanctification, chastening, repentance and the promise of the final cleansing. As the kingdoms decline you have an increase in tension between the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant and the actual practice. This tension starts to grow when all this grand and glorious kingdom is promised, yet it looks so raunchy. As the ideal and the actual start parting, you have the rising up of the prophetic sections of Scripture and the prophecies. It’s looking forward to a final cleansing and final solution.
As a way of demonstrating and reviewing that process of discipline upon the nation, if we look at a map it’s quite evident what happened. We start out looking at what the kingdom looked like in David’s day. At the maximum period of the conquest, David controlled that area. This is the image that men like Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, when they negotiate with the Muslims over the land and we get this debate over whether Israel is going to give up more land for peace. Every time they give up land they get pieces, but they don’t seem to get peace. This is eretz Yisrael; this is what the loyal Jew sees in his mind of the land of Israel. You have to understand this to understand what goes on in negotiations with Arafat and the Palestinians on this issue. That’s eretz Yisrael as it existed in the era of David, their king.
Here’s what happened as it started to decline. We went through the civil war, there was a parting of the kingdoms; ten tribes went to the north, two tribes to the south. The northern kingdom went on in history known as Israel; the southern kingdom went on known as Judah, from which we get the word “Jew.” This has led to all kinds of heresies. For the last thirty or forty years the United States we’ve had them called the ten lost tribes of Israel, etc. They’re talking about this orange area on the map. The ten tribes haven’t been lost in God’s mind; they have just disappeared as far as identification in history. After the northern kingdom fell in 721 BC, we come down to the last few years in Judah’s history and that’s what we have.
This is the decline and collapse of the kingdom in the Old Testament. We want to remember out of that, the doctrinal lessons we learned about it is how severe God chastens His own people. This is not due to economic forces. Mentally you have to get out of the stuff that you got in history class, philosophy class, political science class, and all the analysis that you hear about on TV, etc. We’re trained to think in terms of the horizontal and that everything is this nice, neat set of natural laws and phenomena. But history doesn’t work that way and the explanation for what we’ve just seen in these three maps is not economics. It is not military defeat and military victory. The secret goes back to the terms of the Sinaitic Covenant in Deuteronomy 18 and Leviticus 26. God said the issue is whether you’re going to obey Me or not. If you don’t want to obey Me, that’s fine, but then boom, boom, boom, certain things are going to happen, and there are going to be economic things happen, there are going to be military things happen, there are going to be political things happen. But they’re not happening because of economics, politics or military science. They’re happening because of My providential and personal rule.
We have to understand that’s how the prophets viewed history. The first history books were not written by the Greeks as you’re always taught in social studies class. The first history books were written by the Hebrew prophets and the motive for historiography in the Bible is the covenant, the idea that history is a personal working out of a contract between God and man and we’re interested in tracking the terms of the contract. That’s the motive for the first historiography; there was a purpose and there was a meaning to it.
In sanctification we’ve covered the five areas of sanctification, last week we dealt with the phases of sanctification. We went through the aim of sanctification showing that God wants us to be loyal to Him, before the fall or after the fall, it makes no difference, it is still this issue of sanctification. We dealt with the means of sanctification; both grace and law are always necessary. The sufficiency of Scripture, “all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God might be equipped, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” EVERY good work! That means it’s the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, we don’t need the Bible plus something. It’s nice to have extra historical stuff, I use it and I’m going to use it tonight. The point is that we interpret everything by means of the Scripture. We saw the necessity of grace, we are sinners, we don’t measure up to God’s righteous standards, never will measure up to God’s righteous standards therefore we need to borrow righteousness. The righteousness that’s credited to our account is that generated by Jesus Christ’s personal obedience when He walked the face of this earth. That’s the source of our righteousness, then the Holy Spirit works a righteousness reflecting that in our hearts.
We dealt with the dimensions of sanctification that sanctification always has an immediate either/or-ness to it and it has a long term growth aspect to it. If you have a mathematical background and you want to picture this, a neat way of doing that is picture a function, an xy and if you visualize a function going up that’s growth, if you’re into calculus you take the differential of that, whether the slope is up or down, and that’s growth or carnality, unless you have a flat curve it’s always going up or down, so you’re either going up or you’re going down. That’s sort of an image of our Christian life. We also went over several verse references and add to those 1 Timothy 1:19-20 because those references are things that I picked out of the New Testament where God severely disciplined believers, not unbelievers, these are believers, and punished them unto death. It’s the same God. We’re trying to get rid of this idea that the God of the Old Testament is a meany and the God of the New Testament is some gooey guy. It’s the same God for Old Testament and New Testament alike. He was severe in His reign in the Old Testament: He is severe in His reign in the New Testament. God is immutable, He never changes. Those are excerpts from the New Testament pattern of suffering.
We didn’t finish the enemies of sanctification. Christians have known it as the world, the flesh and the devil. On the bottom of page I have a diagram and what I’m trying to do with that diagram is show the principle that you see in the book of Judges, Joshua, Samuel, Kings, you see it in the New Testament, i.e., you don’t fight the world, the flesh and the devil by fighting the world, the flesh and the devil. You don’t use a direct strategy. The way to deal with all these things, we finally wind up after God’s knocked us around a bit and we get the point, it’s loyalty to Him, it’s trusting Him, and He gets the victory over that.
|DIRECT STRATEGY||INDIRECT STRATEGY|
|World, flesh, devil||Loyalty to God
World, flesh, devil
A good example if you can see the imaginative picture in your head, think of Joshua going around Jericho. Was Jericho defeated? Yes. Was it an enemy? Yes. How was it defeated? It was defeated because they did what God told them to do. What happened at Ai? They were defeated. Was this due to some military mistake? No, it was due to the fact they were disobedient. The enemies of God are overcome only in so far as we’re loyal to The King. He gives us the victory.
We said in all five points we’ve learned something, we’ve learned these five areas prior to coming into this portion in history of the Bible, and now we’re going to add to those things. On page 54 we have added some insights on the enemy issue. In Joshua’s day the enemies were clearly the enemies and it was a case of Israel having victory over those enemies in conquest. Now what are we seeing? We’re seeing the reverse of that. If in Joshua and Judges the issue was conquest of the Canaanites, what is the issue at the end of 2 Kings? It is the defeat of the Jews. Now who is conquering who? It’s reversed. That gives us more insight. If we had just tried to think in terms of the Hebrews conquering the Canaanites we’d have one part down as far as this idea of how God uses enemies of sanctification to help us.
What we’re seeing now is that God uses the enemies of sanctification to help us grow. He uses them in disciplinary fashion but the object behind the disciplinary use isn’t to eradicate Israel. Israel’s promised to survive. When you see the Assyrians conquering them, you see the Babylonians, we’ll see the Egyptians, they had some big powerful groups going after little Israel at this point in time in history. What we have to understand is why they are permitted to do this? Why are they permitted to subjugate Israel? Why are they permitted to destroy the northern kingdom? Why are they permitted to destroy the southern kingdom? Why does the whole nation go down in defeat? Because God has a destiny for Israel and He’s going to have that destiny and if He has to use enemies to do it, He uses enemies to do it.
The thing we want to remember by way of application in our lives, turn to Hebrews 1, there’s a verse there that talks about how God uses enemies in our lives. This is a very complicated passage, I’m not even going to attempt to start a commentary on it tonight, it’s very complicated and the reason it is complicated is because of its very deep theological use of the Old Testament. This is a very difficult passage but it has to do with the interaction of angels, Jesus and the human race. It starts in Hebrews 1:6 “And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’ ” That is, Jesus is superior to all angels, and the contrast is made in verse 7, “And of the angels He says,” and he quotes the Old Testament. Verse 8, “But of the Son He says,” and it quotes the Old Testament. It’s Old Testament quote, Old Testament quote, Old Testament quote, Old Testament quote, all the way down through verse 10, 11, 12, and 13. The author of Hebrews knew his Old Testament very well. In verse 13 he comes down to the end of this set of quotes and notice what he says. “But to which of the angels has He ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet?” That’s a citation for the Messianic leader in the Old Testament. It’s used of Jesus here.
Now verse 14, which is the verse we want to look at tonight, “Are they” that’s plural, the plural pronoun “they,” what does it refer to? What’s the antecedent of that pronoun? It’s the angels in verse 13, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” This is the role angels play in our spiritual growth. Notice the word “all” in verse 14. Does that mean fallen angels are included in that all-encompassing word? Yes it does. Demonic powers as well as the elect angels, the good guys and the bad guys are sent to render service. I can prove it because you can go through the Old Testament where there were meetings of the angelic councils; 1 Kings 22 if you want an example. There’s an angelic council that’s convened from time to time in history and the Lord Jesus Christ presides. The good angels are in the council, the bad angels are in the council and the deliberation of the council was revealed to Micah the prophet, a little short set of minutes from this council, whatever it is, wherever it meets, whatever planet it’s on, and they decide the destiny of the universe. They work things out, and the Lord passes out assignments at these meetings that they have that we don’t know about.
That’s how history runs in the Scripture, and in verse 14 it says that both the good angels and the bad angels are commissioned under this council to do their thing in history. It may be very cruel things, it may be the disciplinary things we’ve just seen in the New Testament, it may be what we’re seeing here with the exile of Israel. But all of it, in the final analysis, is to carry out God’s plan for His elect people. Notice it says they are “sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” That’s God’s sovereignty and the added insight we have for this period history is that in sanctification the flesh, the world, and the devils are all not just enemies to be overcome, but in the grand finesse of God’s chessman ship in history, they are actually used to prod us into growth. This kind of de-fangs them a little bit, it de-fangs the horror of cruelty because behind the cruelty, the cruelty is limited.
Good and evil—the evil is not equal and opposite to good in the Scripture. That’s a pagan idea. The Scriptural idea is that evil is contained within a sovereign good. It started at a point in time; it’s going to end in a point in time. It’s bound, it’s bracketed and it’s under control. That’s what makes it so difficult. If we really didn’t believe that, then we wouldn’t fuss at God when bad things happen. The very fact that we curse His name when bad things happen proves that deep down in our hearts, whether we admit it or not, deep down in our hearts we believe He’s responsible, He’s sovereign. When you think about it, you wouldn’t get mad at God for bad things if you didn’t automatically believe in His sovereignty. That’s why all men know God exists. There’s no atheist, that’s just a lot of hot air and bologna talk, because deep down men curse God when things go bad. They shouldn’t if He doesn’t exist, and they shouldn’t especially if they’re convinced that He doesn’t exist.
That’s the end of the sanctification and now we want to come to the next chapter which is the next great event of history in the Bible and that’s the exile. We’ve looked at Israel, we’ve looked at Israel, we’ve looked at Israel, over and over again. Now we’re going to change perspective and this marks quite a change in our viewpoint. We’re going to spend about a month going through the exile. A lot of important things happened here including the history that we’re now living inside of and how God rules in that history. The next to last event in the Old Testament that we’re going to study is sanctification and out of it we’ll see the doctrine of separation from the world. How do we live in the world but not of the world? Out of it will come the rise of apocalyptic literature, that’s literature like the book of Revelation and although Revelation wasn’t in the Old Testament, parts of Ezekiel and Isaiah are considered to be of the class apocalyptic literature. That’s that symbolic prophecy stuff. All of that comes out of the exile.
Now we want to go to Daniel and before we do, on page 55 of the notes the subtopic, the “Loss of the Kingdom of God.” Follow me in this text as we prepare for Daniel. “How can one be sure that the Kingdom of God ended as the exile began? If the Kingdom had begun with great supernatural events in the Exodus, surely there ought to be definite historical signs pointing to its end. Alva McClain argues that three such signs did occur prior to the fall of Jerusalem and that by these signs one can know that the start of the exile marked the loss of the preliminary form of the Kingdom of God in history.” In other words, the overt physical political theocracy was ended at this point in history. It had profound ramifications out in the Gentile world. We’re going to see a very interesting thing about all the world’s religions coming up that falls out of this.
Here are the three signs that Alva McClain pointed to. “(1) The transfer of political supremacy completely into the hands of pagan nations; (2) the end of the Davidic Dynast through Solomon; and (3) the departure of the Shekinah Glory from Israel’s Temple.” These three events are climactic crisis public events that announce that God now starts a new era in history; something radically different starts. To get the background on that we’re going to take it out of the book of Daniel, so turn to Daniel, we’ll look at chapters 1 and 2 tonight. If your Bible has charts in it of the reign and the time line you might want to look at those. I’ll show you some of the broad outlines but to locate in time what’s going on here, Israel, the northern kingdom went down in
721 BC. The southern kingdom goes out in 586 BC. So there’s a gap of 140 years between these two dates, and it’s inside that gap that we want to look, because that’s the stages of when the exile progressively takes place.
Later, 70 years to the year, in 516 BC will be the restoration. We’re entering this period of history known as the exile. As Bible students we should understand that there’s history going on outside of Israel, we’ve neglected it because we’ve been concentrating on history inside of Israel, now we’re going to rejoin the world, and we’re going to ask what’s going on on the outside. In this period of history, 721 BC, the dominant power in the Middle East was Assyria, coming from what is now Iraq. In this same period of time in the south the power was Egypt. So to Israel’s south you have Pharaoh and his armies. In the north you have the Assyrians. Israel is sandwiched between these two major powers. There comes an insurrection out of southern Assyria around Babylon, and these people are called the Babylonians, the Chaldeans or properly historians call them the Neo-Babylonians. Assyria is still ascendant and takes out the northern kingdom under God’s sovereignty in 721 BC. Assyria is given that authority by God Himself to act as the chastening rod of men. In 586 BC the Neo-Babylonians finished the conquest of the southern kingdom in taking it out. So the powers of Israel have been turned completely to the mercies of the Gentiles.
Daniel takes place in that bracket of time prior to 586 BC. Daniel comes from the southern kingdom. A number of issues arise here and I want to cover a few of them, just a little historical background. Let’s look at a map of what’s going on; let’s locate a few key things. We have Jerusalem, Israel; down here Egypt, so you have a major sphere of influence here. You have another sphere of influence up north, Nineveh, the Tigris River, that was the center of Assyria. Then down in this area, which is also modern Iraq, around Babylon and Sippar, Nippur, Larsa, Ur, this is where Abraham came from, history is returning. Where did God call Abraham out of? Ur. Where do the Israelites go? Where did the Hebrew nation wind up? Ur. See the symmetry of history, it recurs, has cycles to it. Out of here you have the Babylonians. At this point in history these guys are strong, the Assyrians are strong, and the Babylonians are coming on. So it’s a three-way contest of who’s going to control. It turns out, because of the terrain that the main roads through which armies move go right through Palestine. So as these super powers collide, they come back and forth along these roads of the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel plays a major role, two kings get killed and all kinds of things happen because they mess around with these super nations that are vying for power.
The major routes go all the way up here and then down, so you can’t just cut across here. Nobody cuts across here except camels. The people that go up here, the horses, the chariots, the merchants, the armies they don’t cut across. They still don’t cut across, they can’t even move a tank across here, it sinks in the sand. So you have to go on these routes; these are the invasion routes. Just to the north is a little city called Carchemish. That’s sort of like Gettysburg, that was a major site of a major battle in Old Testament history, two major battles. The dates are like this: in 625 BC a Chaldean leader started down there in Babylon, he’d had enough of the Assyrians. He decided that he and his people were pushed around long enough and they were going to get strong and whip the Assyrians, which was quite a feat because the Assyrians are very cruel and a very powerful people. Saddam Hussein carries on the tradition. We think of Saddam Hussein today as some sort of an idiot. Actually Saddam Hussein is just a living incarnation of the Assyrians, he acts just like them. If we could take a time machine back in history, every Assyrian king would be just like Saddam Hussein. He fits perfectly the mold.
In 625 BC, a Chaldean by the name of Nabopolassar organized some of these cities down near Babylon and he decided he was going to take them on. This is 625 BC, notice the date and correlate the dates with this bracket of time. In 609 BC Nabopolassar hits the Assyrians and the Assyrians who were traditional opponents of the Egyptians called on the Egyptians to support them. So the Egyptian armies start moving up the road out of the brook of Egypt, across just west of Jerusalem, run up there and join the Assyrians at Carchemish. Nabopolassar whips them at Carchemish in 609 BC. We’re counting down now, we’ve gone from 625 BC when he started attacking the Assyrians, he gets more and more power, by 612 BC Nineveh falls, prophesied in the book of Nahum, and by 609 BC now the Babylonians have become a major issue.
We have Josiah the king in the southern kingdom, 2 Kings 23, tries to go in there, he sees the Egyptians coming out, he doesn’t like they Egyptians, he feels sorry for the Assyrians of all things, and had kind of like a treaty going, he tries to stop the Pharaoh. Pharaoh kills him and this shocks the southern kingdom because Josiah was a godly man. He had bad political advice. What he did was he went against the prophets. The prophets had told him that sovereignty was being transferred into the hands of the Babylonians, not the Assyrians, and just knock it off and let Pharaoh take care of himself. I will take care of it God said, you don’t have to get involved in this, but oh no, I’ve got to help God. He helped God all right, he killed himself and wound up hurting the national leadership, shocking the nation and then later his son becomes the king. The Pharaoh says okay, I’ve had enough of this guy, so he takes his son and puts his son on the throne of Israel. You can read all about it in 2 Kings 23, a long process there.
The point is that now the kings that are on the throne of the southern kingdom are puppets, political puppets of the Egyptian Pharaoh. He personally is selecting the kings that rule that throne because he doesn’t want his roots up north to be messed up by a bunch of Jews running around, so he’s going to control that whole political area. What’s very difficult at this point in time because it was an insult to Hebrews to have to be under the power of Pharaoh. Where did they come from? What was the Exodus all about? There was a natural patriotic resentment toward Egypt. And it was very, very difficult for prophets like Jeremiah to step up and say sorry guys, I’m just as much of a patriot as you are, but underneath being a patriot I’m listening to the Word of God and the Word of God doesn’t say Egypt should be opposed. Just let Egypt alone. We don’t want to! Just let her alone!! So there was constant messing up for about fifty years and two or three generations of kings, they just couldn’t get the prophetic message straight.
Then what happened in Jeremiah 22, there’s a story there about more of the politics, we’re down to the year 605 BC, we’re again at Carchemish. By this time Nabopolassar has given his armies under the control to his son. His son rises up in history and he is known as Nebuchadnezzar. So the armies once again collide at Carchemish, second battle of Carchemish. This time Nebuchadnezzar puts the Egyptians out of business. He destroys the Egyptian army. Now who’s in control? That map is a depiction of what happened post second battle of Carchemish. Now the controlling super power over this whole area is Babylon or as it is known in history, the Neo-Babylonian Empire. We have the Babylon chronicles; secular history says that Nebuchadnezzar conquered that whole area. There’s lots of historical evidence that this actually happened.
During this time he realizes that the Pharaoh has been messing with the Hebrew kings, so he decides he’s going to put his puppet king on. The guys that he wanted to control were Jehoiakim and Jehoiakin. Those are the guys now under the throne of the Babylonians. It was at this point that Nebuchadnezzar had a brilliant policy. He was very much like the Greeks. When Alexander the Great took over the Greeks he had a neat way of conquering people, different from the Romans, different from the Persians. The philosophy of the Greeks was that you go in and subdue their culture, not necessarily use military subjugation, but how you control people is reindoctrinate them. You reeducate them in your way, sort of like the communists tried to do.
Daniel 1 takes place right in this time frame. What has happened is that Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t quite trust the Hebrews; he doesn’t like what’s messing around, all kinds of these court intrigues going on, and he wants to protect his southwestern flank against any more problems coming up from Egypt. It’s not something personal against the Jews; he has a bigger enemy in mind than the Jews. So in order to maintain peace he takes hostages, and he brings the hostages to his land. That’s where we pick up the text in verse 1 and 2.
Daniel 1:1-2, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.  And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah,” notice who’s doing the giving here, who’s the subject of the verb? The Lord! Is it because Nebuchadnezzar’s armies are bigger than the armies of the southern kingdom? They are but that’s not why. It says “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God,” now watch the text. Remember the text of the Bible is written by the Holy Spirit through human prophets who were analysts. They don’t waste words; paper and parchment were expensive in those days. They didn’t write a thousand pages, they were very concise and abbreviated in their style, so when you see something mentioned in the text you want to pay attention to it. Look what’s going on in verse 2, observe. Of all the things that go on when Nebuchadnezzar comes down and blasts into Jerusalem, what is the thing that seemed to most disturb the author of Daniel? It says he took “some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure of his god.”
So what is going on here? We’re having pagan religion once again in total ascendancy. There’s going to be a struggle that starts with verse 2, shall the monotheism of Israel be absorbed into this big sponge of pagan religion. This sets the tone for what is about to take place. Verse 3, “Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles.  Youths in whom was no defect, who were good looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” Who are these youths in verse 4? They’re young boys in their teens who had a reasonably good education up to this point in Israel. They didn’t have television so everybody was literate. The result was that these men studied the Torah, they studied the Scriptures carefully, they knew other subjects and they integrated them.
What is the curriculum of Nebuchadnezzar? Notice what’s going on here. You’ve got to get this because otherwise this whole dream thing… everybody wants to get into the dreams of Daniel, and they never notice what’s going on in chapter 1. In chapter 1 it’s saying in verse 2 the symbols of monotheistic Israel are being absorbed, or tying to be, into a pagan temple. The next thing is verse 4, the young leadership, the male potential leadership, these guys aren’t just people off the street, these are young teenagers who are being groomed as the future rulers of Israel, precisely the teenagers they wanted. We want the teenagers that are going to lead. And what does he do with them? He takes them into a special training program for what we would call today “retraining.” The Chinese communists have reeducation campaigns to try to get those evangelical Chinese all believing in Mao Tse-Tung’s deity or something.
Here they ordered them to teach the literature and language of the Chaldeans. We want these young me to be fluent in our language and we want them to know our literature, not the Jewish literature. Verse 5, “And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service.” There’s a three year curriculum of re-training that’s going to go on; he wants to turn Jewish boys into good pagan boys. That’s the name of the game here, then they can be trusted, then they can be controlled, then they can be of service to Nebuchadnezzar.
Verse 8, “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” Right here we have one of the chief doctrines that we’re going to see over and over again in this period of history. Out of this period of history there will emerge guidelines from Scripture on how to live in a pagan society. This is the background of what’s going on. Daniel could have picked all kinds of issues to make a stand on.
But notice that prior to verse 8 something else had happened in this little three year curriculum that Nebuchadnezzar had arranged. You don’t catch it unless you do a word study on the names of these boys. Look at the text in verse 6 and 7. Verse 6 lists the name of four young teenagers.
Each one of these names means something and the Holy Spirit is putting this in the text to show us how Nebuchadnezzar was trying to politically manipulate and in the final analysis spiritually subdue. We have Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. That’s their Jewish names. All four of those names have meaning in the Hebrew language. Now the indoctrination begins. Verse 7, “Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them,” when you change a person’s name you ultimately try to change their identity. So here they’re starting to break down their believer’s identity. In verse 7, “and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar.” He renames Hananiah Shadrach. He renames Mishael Meshach, and he renames Azariah Abed-nego. What’s going on here?
The Holy Spirit could have picked out a hundred guys; there were hundreds of young teenagers here. He picks out these four to show us something. Here’s Daniel. “Dan” in the Hebrew language is judge. “El” is Elohim, his name means God has judged. The name Belteshazzar, the “Bel” is related to the Old Testament pagan god Baal; this is a combination word which basically has the meaning of “shall protect him.” So whereas in Hebrew it was El, Elohim who judges, like the judges in the book of Judges, they weren’t judged with black coats, they were judges that were leaders, they were political leaders, they were people who protected the people. They were more like police and military people than courtroom judges. When it says God has judged, it means God, my Elohim has protected me. Deliberately, the Babylonians are shrewd operators; they take this boy’s name, twist it around, replace “El” with “Baal,” and then take another word that basically means the same thing as “Dan.” “Bel has judged.” So you see what they’re trying do, they’re trying to absorb, just like a big slurping amoeba they’re trying to absorb these believers into their system.
Let’s see what else he does. Hananiah, the end of this name is actually Yahweh, and this is the word to be gracious, so the second teenager’s name meant “Yahweh is gracious.” He’s turned into Shadrach, and it’s not well understood. Daniel is written with a Hebrew and Aramaic mix, and because there are not good vocabulary books, not good dictionaries it’s hard when you read a word because you don’t have enough literature to test the word meaning out. People really don’t know what this is, but they think that what this actually is is a distortion of Marduk. You say how do you get that out of there? There’s the “k” and the “ch,” the “r” and the “d” are reversed, and “sh” apparently looks in the text something like their “m.” We’re not sure of this one, but it has something to do with a Babylonian god, Marduk.
Mishael, there’s “El” again, so this third boy has Elohim as part of his name, “Mi” means who, and “ish” is “is.” What’s this name means is “who is what God is,” in other words, who is God, what is He like, it’s more like question. Look what he’s done over here. Meshach has to do, again it’s phonetics, actually this means “who is acho,” the moon god. These guys knew what they were doing, they knew the Hebrew meaning of these boy’s names, so they’re going to deliberately change them. They’re going to enroll them in a reeducation process for three years and try to completely change their identity as believers, turn these kids into pagans.
We have Azariah, and “Azar,” that’s the word “Azar,” and here’s Yahweh again, “iah,” “Yahweh is my Azar,” “Yahweh is my helper.” That’s the word used for woman. [blank spot] … faith in the hearts of believers. So right from the start of this book of Daniel, right from the start of the exile period we have a period of history that we’re going into that’s very helpful for us today, because these people are lone believers immersed in a series of Gentile cultures, over which they have no control. And the culture is out to destroy them as individuals, to crush their faith, to change their identity, to put them into a public education system grounded on pagan principles.
We have this complete program going on. In the middle of this we have verse 8. It’s interesting that Daniel drew a line in the sand as a young teenager, and it shows the wisdom of this boy, and how he conducted himself. First of all, notice in verse 8 that he is respectful of the authorities. He probably was prepared as Meshach and Abed-nego were put in prison; he probably was prepared to go all the way. He would be polite, he would be courteous but he would not compromise his faith, period! Put me in with the lions, put me in the furnace, kill me, but my loyalty is supra cultural. My loyalty is above the culture; my loyalty is above peer pressure. Peer pressure doesn’t impress me, Daniel is saying. Here the believer is with a sea of this stuff around, he could have protested his name, he could have protested the curriculum, but he chose instead to protest the food.
You can’t fight 150 battles at once. There’s a military principle of war called the principle of concentration of power. You have to pick your fight and devote the resources necessary to win it. You can’t be fighting three or four battles. Hitler found that out. He was going to go into Russia and the German generals told them you’re crazy, the only way we’re ever going to conquer with Russia is with one pronged attack. Hitler had to show how great he was and he had three prongs so he dissipated the German army over a thousand mile front and wound up getting clobbered. He violated the principle of concentration of force. Daniel realizes as a young teenager that he can’t fight three battles. So he’s going to concentrate on one. Why does he pick this one? We’re not really sure, but it may have something to do with the fact that the food here, it’s not just a case of nutrition, the food here apparently, because of the verse 2 thing, it probably has something to do with religious worship. In his estimation at this point in his life he had to make a stand and he chose to make the stand on this issue of diet.
Notice what he did. This is another classic wisdom technique. He’s not going, in verse 9, “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials,  and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age?’ Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.” And he meant it. Every once in a while you read news stories about Saddam Hussein kills off his sons, shoots his family, kills his aunt. Oh, he’s a cruel man. No, he’s a typical Assyrian pagan Babylonian. That’s how they always acted. They acted this way in 700 BC and they act this way in 1990. Hey, some things never change. They had the same attitude then. So this guy’s afraid, he says look, I don’t want to screw up, you mess around kid, but you make me look good, I’m the superintendent of the school and he expects you to graduate in three years from now, I want to have some “A” students here. If I don’t get “A” students I get taken out here and my head chopped off. So there’s a little motive behind the teaching in that day.
Verse 11, “But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel….” Verse 12, a brilliant proposal, think of this, this is a young boy now, maybe 15, 16, or 17 years old, he’s in a foreign power, he’s a prisoner of war, and he has the discernment not only to survive in the middle of this horror, but he has the ability to think through and negotiate smartly. It’s just a real neat thing and that’s why God in verse 9, “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion,” he was a very strong character person.
“But Daniel said to the overseer,” in verse 12 he proposes a test, notice a very important tactic. When you can’t sell biblical authority to a pagan, what is the next best thing you can do? Sell the results of biblical life to the unbeliever on a pragmatic basis. That’s what he’s doing, he’s taking the fruit of a biblical faith walk and saying never mind why I’m doing it, my motive, my faith, just look at the results and then you judge the results. We call this the pragmatic approach, not pragmatistic, he’s not buying into the philosophy or pragmatism, he’s simply pragmatically appealing to the non-Christian to observe things.
He says, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.” So he goes on a vegetarian diet. It shows you it’s not a Jewish culture issue here because Jewish culture law allowed meat. So the fact he’s vegetarian means the issue wasn’t Kosher or non-Kosher food here. It apparently was something to do with paganism. It might have been like Corinthians, the Corinthian church had a problem, all the meat was dedicated in the temple, and they had a meat-eating problem in the church at Corinth. Paul had to spend the whole chapter on it. Meat was a sacrifice, they’d sacrifice the animals and you’ve got to have money so why waste good animal meat when you can serve it in a restaurant. So when the animals were slaughtered for these pagan ceremonies, they sold off the meat. So it might be that the meat was identified with pagan worship and that’s why he’s doing this.
Verse 14, “So he listened to them in this matter and he tested them for ten days.  At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food.  So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.  And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom,” and now we have verse 17, a special gift was given to this boy Daniel. He had the ability to understand visions and dreams, which gets us into a little dissertation about dreams in the Scripture.
What about dreams? We don’t want to go into all kinds of things about it but let me show you some observations. Dreams were used as revelatory tools in the Bible, but, and here’s a big but, you’ve got to be careful, the Bible is the final Word of God. Somebody can have a dream and say well, God told me in a dream…. Well, if God told you in a dream and it doesn’t line up with what God told everybody else, then God didn’t tell you in a dream. Dreams are subordinate to Scripture. But there’s something else more profound. There are only sixteen dreams recorded in the Old Testament. Guess how many of the sixteen occur prior to the giving of the Law when there was a Canon of Scripture available? Eleven of the sixteen dreams occurred before there was a Bible available to them. What does that tell you about the decrease in dream frequency? It wasn’t necessary. Once you have the Canon of Scripture, the issue is read it, study it, meditate on it, relying upon the Holy Spirit, the author of the text to interpret it. We don’t need dreams.
Another observation about dreams in the Scripture: if you go through and catalogue the dreams, almost all the Jewish dreams that are recorded in Scripture are related to something having to do with the Abrahamic Covenant. Almost all the dreams of the Jews have something to do with the Abrahamic Covenant. Why, what’s going on here? What I’m trying to say is that the dreams that were truly revelatory were not over something like I stubbed my toe yesterday and fell flat on my face. They’re not personal stuff. The dreams that are recorded in the Scripture that genuinely come from God have to do with the history of the nation, they have to do with guidance at a very high level, not just trivial.
A second observation about dream content: the dreams that were recorded in Genesis 41 of Pharaoh, a dream that now is going to be recorded in Daniel 2 of Nebuchadnezzar, are dreams of Gentile rulers that have as their content the direction history is taking. It’s very interesting. When Gentiles have dreams in the Bible, they are dreaming about something where God is speaking indirectly to them about their personal destiny as political leaders, and He codes the dream, so the dream can’t be interpreted by the Gentile. That’s the other feature. These guys dream clear dreams, they see the pictures, but God doesn’t give enough information in the dream so they can make out what God’s saying. They just have the inclination that God’s trying to talk to me. And in both the case of Pharaoh and in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, who is it that interprets the dream? It’s a Jewish guy that somehow is locked in. In Joseph’s case he’s in prison and in Daniel’s case he’s a hostage.
Let’s back off and look at the picture here. When God gives a dream to this mighty monarch, with all of his power, the key to the dream is down in the pocket of one of his prisoners. And it’s always a Jewish prisoner. What does that say about how God addresses history? Who is to be the worldwide blessing? The third provision of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Jew. Here again when we come to Daniel 2 we come to a dream of a Gentile ruler, God is speaking to that Gentile ruler, God is revealing something genuine to the Gentile ruler, but the key to the dream He doesn’t give him. He has to hunt around, he’s furious because he can’t get this dream unlocked. So he looks for the key, and the key is going to be this young Jewish boy.
Now we come to the dream itself, and since we’re running out of time I want to take you to page 56 in the notes. I urge you to read the dream and we’ll talk a little bit about it next week, but the dream has to do with the transfer of political supremacy. So if you’ll follow with me in the note under point 1. “Shortly after his final victory at Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar ascended the throne of Babylon. For the next two years he purged pockets of resistance in Western Asia. (2 Kings 24:1-7). Eventually by 603 BC, his second official year as king, Nebuchadnezzar had become the undisputed lord and master of the ancient world.”
“Precisely at that historical moment King Nebuchadnezzar had his famous dream,” it could be timed. Once he cleaned up the pockets of resistance and he had undiminished, unchallenged sovereignty, it was that moment that God gave him the dream of chapter 2. Then God used Daniel to interpret a “panorama of history from that day (603) BC until the final re-establishment of the Kingdom of God in all it’s completeness,” which is yet to come. “The dream’s central theme was the transfer of political supremacy from Israel to four successive Gentile (pagan) kingdoms.”
Here’s the quote, watch the language: “Thou, O King, are King of kings,” that term applies to Jesus in the book of Revelation, it’s exactly the same, “unto whom the God of Heaven hath given the kingdom, the power, and the strength, and the glory; and wheresoever,” now look at this unqualified clause, “and wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens hath he given into thy hand, and hath made thee to rule over them all….” Hence therefore you’ll see me use the word picture, “this is the rise of imperialism,” when one nation can literally control the world. And Nebuchadnezzar, although politically and geographically didn’t, he just controlled that area, you have to agree that the language in the middle of that verse is universal language. That is a commission that He has given, that he has freedom under God to conquer the world: the rise of imperial paganism.
What I want you to see in conclusion is that that couldn’t have happened prior to this year, 603 BC. Why? The next paragraph. “Centuries earlier such power could never have been given to a Gentile nation because of God’s promises to Israel: “if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of Jehovah thy God…., that Jehovah thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth…. Thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath….” Deuteronomy 28:1, 13, (Cf., Psalm 89:27).” You can’t have Daniel 2 and Deuteronomy 28:1 true at the same time. So while Israel was obedient, and while the political kingdom of God was visible in the Old Testament, there couldn’t be imperial paganism. It would not be permitted; God had not transferred the sovereignty. He kept it potentially available to Israel. Israel potentially could have conquered the world. Israel could have potentially dominated in the times of David and Solomon had she just been obedient long enough.
Conclusion to this section: “McClain observes concerning the previous centuries leading up to the exile: ‘During that long period the power and authority of the Theocracy was never in question. No nation, regardless of its size or strength, could stand successfully against Israel as long as that people followed the will of its divine King…. Israel went down in defeat only when she turned aside from the divinely written charter of her kingdom.’”
So now we have the first of the three signs, the transfer of sovereignty that could not have happened prior to this time in history. Something new is taking place. I remind you that the modern state of Israel does not exist except by Gentile permission. Read the documents in 1948, how could Israel get the land she’s in? U.N. mandate. Who is the U.N? Gentiles. The modern state of Israel exists by Gentile permission.
Question asked: Clough replies: …before you were a Christian or is it because later on in the Christian life you begin to kind of phase out. It would be like Solomon, he probably lost a lot of rewards because he kind of caved toward the end of his life. That’s why Paul says “I labor that I might not be a castaway,” and people read that word “castaway” and they think he’s talking about loss of salvation. He’s not talking about loss of salvation; none of these passages are talking about loss of salvation. You can see the word “saved,” it’s right in the text, so and so I delivered here in order that they be saved. It’s as almost as though God has to put us through the ringer to preserve us. So it’s not a loss of salvation. Another place, besides Paul’s worry about him being a castaway, is the one where Jesus talks to the churches in the book of Revelation, and He says if you don’t repent I’m going to come there and I’m going to clean you up. It’s like the IG coming in and he’s going to have a little inspection. So it’s not to put fear in because we have nothing to fear, it’s rather he’s just saying there are consequences to disobedience and they don’t go away just because you’re saved. We’ll see more of that as time goes on because we’re going to get into the restoration.