October 27, 2015

Some lessons need to be repeated

Daniel 4:1–37, 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11, Job 41:1–9

Yesterday God spoke to me about human pride. Compared to Him, I know nothing. I’m hearing this again, and know that pride is still a part of my thinking.

In Job, God repeats yesterday’s questions, this time concerning a sea creature. He asks Job, “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord?” Of course Job cannot, nor can I. God ends His reminders with, “Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him” (the sea creature), implying that no one can stand before God in pride. (Job 41:1, 9)

In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar has another dream. He is troubled by this one for it is about a tree torn down. He calls his magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, but they could not make known its interpretation. Then he calls Daniel, saying, “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.” (Daniel 4:7–9)

This proud king is still thinking he does not need God, but Daniel tells him that as in his dream, “you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Daniel 4:24–25)

The dream came true. A year later, Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. He said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in his mouth, a voice from heaven said, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

Immediately Nebuchadnezzar was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws. (Daniel 4:28–33)

But he was humbled and finally realized that he needed God. In the end, he lifted his eyes to heaven, and said, “I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:34–37)

What does it take? For Job, it was deep perplexity and a better look at the power of God. For this pagan king, it was seven years of mental illness before he bowed to admit God was everything and he was nothing.

In the NT reading, Paul writes to a church that is afraid they missed the Second Coming and that the dead in Christ were lost. He says to them, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. . . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18)

Then he added, “You are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness . . . . Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4–5, 11)

In this case, their pride figured out the answer, making death the end of their hope. They needed to listen to the Word of the Lord and be reminded that He has even death under His control.

I’m going to a funeral today. This is a good word for me, and perhaps I can share it with those who grieve as if they have no hope.

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