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Sunday: Is Not This Babylon the Great? — 17 Comments

  1. We have a sort of smug complacency when reading about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the tree. He was a proud self-centred heathen king who had ample opportunity to humble himself before God. He had heard Daniel firsthand explain his dream represented the succession of earthly kingdoms that were ultimately replaced by an everlasting kingdom. He had seen the miracle of the fiery furnace and had admitted that it demonstrated that the Hebrews had a powerful God. But he still persisted with the notion that he was the greatest King that had ever lived. Then he had the dream of the great tree that was cut down and all that was left was a stump. How good is that? We love it when we see tall arrogant poppies cut down.

    I wonder if it is just a coincidence that this episode precedes so closely, the prophecies of the 2300 days and the 70 weeks. We are proud of that the fact that we, or perhaps I should say, our pioneers cracked the code on these prophecies. We have been drawing diagrams and making charts and PowerPoint illustrations for over 170 years proudly trumpeting the fact that we got it right. What would happen if our tall tree was cut down and only the stump was left? Is it possible that our tall tree of prophetic interpretation has a hollow centre? Ouch, that hurts a bit doesn’t it!

    The judgement given to a proud heathen king may very well apply to a proud Christian church that accepts a doctrine thrashed out 170 years ago. I am not saying they were wrong, but if our belief is a vicarious one based on the study of others, rather than an experiential one, tested and extended by our own study, then perhaps our vision is blurred by pride and complacency and we too are headed for insanity.

    The lessons in the next few weeks give us the opportunity to not just recite the same old stuff about dates and events, but to understand why and how we believe one of our core doctrines, and what the consequences of those beliefs are as we relate to others. ...and perhaps experience a little bit of humility along the way...

    You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, John 5:39 NIV

    Do we find Jesus, or just confirm out doctrinal position?

    • Wow, what a awesome truth and a very sobering thought. “ Do we find Jesus or just confirm our doctrinal Position”.? I would venture to ask, do we present the love of Jesus as the basis for the prophetic interpretation or is it presented with a fear factor.?

    • Jeremiah 9:23, 24 reminds us that the only “boast” on planet Earth that truly matters is the boasting of our relationship with the Creator God of love, truth/righteousness and freedom...because we know and understand that He is “I AM”.

    • Today, in large parts of the western world, we live in an era of unprecedented prosperity and stability. We enjoy freedoms and opportunities that have been rare in the course of human history. So the question we must seriously ask ourselves is whether this is the time to articulate our Christian hope in terms of apocalyptic.
      Should we, who have the freedom and opportunity to shape our world by how we live, really resort to an apocalyptic mode of thinking that assumes pessimism about the possibility of influencing history? Or should we hear the prophetic message that challenges us to practice justice and righteousness and be the people of God in the world in order to be a light to the nations? Should we despair of God working in our present history and long for him to come and destroy all the bad people? (Or should we take seriously the prophetic message of Amos that warns us that our longing for the day of the Lord when we will be vindicated is only an expression of our own arrogance and self-centeredness?)

      By claiming apocalyptic eschatology as our view of the world in contexts that call for a prophetic perspective becomes an exercise in self-delusion, and an expression of our own self-importance and arrogance. If there is anything that most people, especially in the Western world need to hear today, it is the prophetic message.  It is not the “word of prophecy” hyped by popular books and TV preachers who try to divine events that will unfold in the future to fulfil our insatiable human curiosity.  It is the core message of the Old Testament prophets, reiterated even more strongly by Jesus: live as God’s people in the world! Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the sick and those in prison. Preach the Gospel to the poor. Bind up the broken hearted. Give cups of cold water in Jesus’ name. Proclaim the Good News of reconciliation to God. Love God with all your hearts, and others as dearly as your own life.

      Daniel and his friends lived in an “apocalyptic” period of Jewish history yet their focus was not on the end of the 70yrs and to bunker down, isolate themselves and keep their Jewishness to themselves as God’s chosen people - instead they were willing to live in the reality of the here and now. Purposing to be fully consecrated to God trusting in His providence with eyes wide open to the reality around them. So they became useful to God and used of God to influence nations and kings. Even after the Israelites cried out for deliverance from the Egyptians and God delivered them, they had to learn to listen to the prophetic message of how to live in the world as God’s people after the deliverance!

      It is easier to long for God to intervene to make us even more comfortable, than it is to hear the prophetic message that the problem lies in our own failure to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God! It somehow never occurs to us that while we wait for God to vindicate us, we might be failing to live as the people of God, and might in fact be the oppressors of others as we wait for God to deliver us from what we see as oppression against us. And in so doing, in confusing the contexts in which we live, we fail to be His people!
      I suspect that we like apocalyptic thinking so much simply because it is easier to accept than the prophetic message that calls us to justice and righteousness. And perhaps that is why we have tended to pervert the prophetic message to prediction of the future, often in an apocalyptic mode.
      Could God be waiting for a people who will be willing to be the light that will shine to the ends of the earth?

    • Hello Maurice,

      I see a corollary to the text you have quoted, which is spoken by the angel of Revelation 19. The apostle John has just seen God’s prophetic call of his people to come out from Babylon, followed shortly by its fall. Then a huge worship celebration in heaven opens before his eyes, and the angel instructs John to write:

      Blessed are those who have been called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
      These are the true sayings of God. [Revelation 19:9.]

      Overwhelmed by the “true sayings of God” in the vision, John falls at the feet of the angel messenger to worship him. At this, the angel gives this stark warning:

      See, do not do it! I am your fellow servant, and of your brothers who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. [Revelation 19:10, emphasis supplied.]

      Those who have the testimony of Jesus do not worship the words of the testimony or its works or its messengers. They worship the One who is the source of that testimony. As Jesus testified, “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to Myself.” (John 12:32.) That is the spirit of prophecy.

      I appreciate the spirit of your commentaries.


  2. Nebuchadnezzar was taking all the credit to himself, "I built Babylon, it was my power, wisdom, strength, and planning that created this great empire."

    The lesson he was being taught was that without God he could have done nothing. Every talent, and even life and position were all gifts from God. It was when he was willing to give the credit to the God of heaven and humble himself before God, that his sanity was restored.

    Same with Lucifer -- he took all the credit to himself, but he too owed his intelligence, beauty, life and position solely and completely to God. He refused to acknowledge that fact and proudly sought to exalt himself above God.

    When it comes to pride in our doctrines --
    The question again is -- who gets the credit? Do we believe God helped the pioneers "crack the code"? And if so, how do we regard their discoveries? Or do we give the credit to our superior intelligence as the final word on truth?
    Pride rests on taking the credit to ourselves, leaning upon our own supposed power, and talents, and exalting self. True humility gives God the credit and constantly seeks God's will, and also recognizes God's leading in others. Humility realizes there is always more to learn, for while God has given foundational truth, there is much more as He leads us deeper and higher into truth.

    There is nothing wrong in being proud of our God! We are to praise and exalt His name, and proclaim His goodness and all that He has done and is doing for us.

    • The issue is that for many of us we have not really thought through the issues. We have simply accepted that the pioneers got it right. The lesson we should learn from our pioneers is that they studied it for themselves and did not just accept the status quo. I am not saying that studying it afresh will bring any new light to us, but it will be a new experience for some of us. We need to understand why we believe, not just what we believe.

  3. Another example of pride is Pharaoh in Eze 29:3,8-9,13-16 the LORD announced a prophecy against him because he said "the Nile is mine, I made it" so Egypt would be totally destroyed and its people scattered, but after 40 years the LORD would return them to their land after they had learned their lesson not to be proud - They will know that I am the LORD!

  4. What things have you accomplished in your life? Can you take pride in them without being proud? If so, how so?

    I take pride in the fact that God placed wonderful human beings whom He died for in my home and trusted me to care for them and raise them in the path of righteousness.
    I also take pride in the fact that God sent me to medical school to study to become a medical doctor. Out of all the people in the world, God trusted me by investing time and energy so that I may work on this earth as a medical missionary in these last days.
    God has expressed His love for me in so many ways that it makes me feel so proud to be recognized as someone of value in His eyes.
    Thank you Jesus

    • Hi Eric, why use the words "I take pride" in describing what the LORD has done for you? Why not say I appreciate what He has done or I am grateful for the blessings. For me the word pride has too many negative connotation to be used to praise the LORD.
      Why not say He makes me feel thankful to be used by Him?

        • Good point Naomi, I am sure Erick was not thinking like me - but:
          The lesson question was "Can you take pride in something without being proud?" My answer would still be no! Use other words to praise the LORD for His goodness. For as soon as I say 'I take pride' there is too much self already in that phrase which negates what comes after it. For me if nothing else it sounds like I am saying "in my judgment the LORD did a good thing"
          My suggestions would be saying Praise the LORD for blessing me even though I didn't deserve it.
          Have you noticed that I have been exhibiting pride without using the word? Because I was implying my opinions were better than Erick's!!
          It is a slippery slope, promoting self above others and worst of all not giving the LORD His due.

  5. The lesson states "God gives Nebuchadnezzar dominion and power; nevertheless, he persistently fails to recognize that everything he possesses comes from God."

    This is so very woeful. It is a situation that is not confined to the OT or persons in the Bible. We are equally guilty. We write great things and say great words but our hearts are contolled with and by pride to the point where our Spiritual vision is blurred and senses numbed. We are obsessed with self and self attainments that we forget the source of our life and existence. Pride is a dangerous evil. May God help us to get rid of it.

  6. Pride is not a bad thing.
    Heat is used to destroy. Heat will be used by God to cleanse this earth of sin.
    Fever is an elevation in the body's temperature but without heat we would die. Heat must be regulated to do it's purpose.
    Pride is the same as heat.
    Suicide can be an end product of lack of pride or low self esteem.
    I feel that our love for God, which is generated by God is the regulator of pride.
    God does not want us to eliminate pride. He uses pride like an exclamation point expressing His love for us, letting us know how valuable we are to Him. The devil and all who serve him or controlled by him, are constantly destroying humans self worth. The evidence is scene in this short list of things:
    Gangs, Prostitution, Homosexuality, etc.
    In conclusion, we should be proud to be loved by God and called by name to do a favor for Him because He trust us.
    Lucifer is the first and best example of what happens with pride when we lose our love for God. Only God can keep us safe. Only loving Him can keep us from falling into the depths of sin. Fear and or hatred of sin does not keep us from falling. Only holding on to the love of God works.

    • Eric I think there is a difference between pride, self worth and self esteem. Sometimes two people will have different understandings about pride because they both define the word differently. It is important to know how the Bible defines pride when it speaks against it.

    • One of the things that you learn about the English language is that the context of a word is important. Determining the context is one of the big challenges of natural language processing and I can remember the complex parse trees we used to develop when trying to determine the meaning of a sentence using computer strategies.

      Consequently "pride" can be used in a constructive useful way, or it can be used in a selfish arrogant negative way. Same word, entirely different meaning. So, if we are reading something that uses the word "pride" we need to take the time to understand the context; and it goes without saying, if we use the word in our writing we need to ensure that the context is clear so that it cannot be misread.


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