Blogging Towards Sunday, May 19, 2013
Daniel 4:1-20, 22, 24-25, 27-37
Throughout our reading of the book of Daniel we wrestle with the question of the sovereignty of God. When all seems lost does that mean that God is against us? Does God side with the victors in history? Or is that sort of thinking merely a way to justify actions of the winners? That the critic of Marxism about religion, specifically Christianity in the European context. Do we believe in God because it’s logical?; we inherited faith from our family systems?; because it’s part of our culture?; because of a life-changing experience?; because of an ardent hope ?
- Trees are a common metaphor for human life and power in throughout the First Testament. At times the tree represents, Israel, or those whom recognize that they depend upon God for growth, that they owe their existence to YHWH. (for example, Isaiah 10:33-11:1; Ezekiel 17:22-24; 19:10-14). At other times tall trees represent the arrogance of the evil or oppressors who believe that they are all powerful, self-sufficient or have no need for God. (e.g, Psalm 37:34-35; Isaiah 2:12-19; 14:4-20; Ezekiel 31:1-9; Zachariah 11:2). Looking at this established metaphor in the larger Bible text indicates that in this context the tall tree covering all the world, invokes, represents the arrogance of Nebuchadnezzar who believes his kingship is greater than all, even than the sovereignty of God. What’s curious is that the tree can provide shelter for the animals and people that hide below it from rain and heat. But without the protection it can provide all are completely dependent upon the sun for warmth and the elements. In the vision the king sees himself as a powerful tree, sheltering others, until he is later symbolized as an animal tethered and trapped in the open, at the mercy of the elements.
- The Holy Watcher or sentinel in v.13: What is that? It is the only that this word (which exists as the same word in both Aramaic and Hebrew – the languages in which Daniel is written) appears in the Bible. It seems to point to God’s watchfulness of all that is happening in the world, in particular the overwhelming evil we may encounter (compare with Psalm 7:7; 22:23; 59:4; Isaiah 51:9; and Psalm 121:4 to develop this notion of God’s sovereignty).
- Chapter 4 again tells of a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. The key theological issue in the text is the sovereignty of God over and against human kingship; the opposition of eternal versus temporary power; the paradox between what is seen and what may be.
- Throughout the book of Daniel the writer emphasizes the sovereignty of God. How is the God of Daniel different than the gods of the Chaldean diviners and the King?
- In his book, the Sovereignty of God, Calvinist evangelist Arthur Walkington Pink wrote: “What do we mean by [the sovereignty of God]? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the god-hood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psa. 115:3). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Psa. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.” Is that the God that you have experienced?
- This week is Pentecost, the celebration of the birth of the Church through the radically transformative and inclusively empowering Holy Spirit upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2). Pentecost is an event that affirms the nature of the Spirit of God: empowering, transforming, sending, world-reversing, pointing to what is true, to what is eternal, to what gives life. How does that vibrant aspect of God’s sovereignty present itself in this 4th chapter of Daniel? How is it similar to proclamations of God’s vision for the world in Micah 4, Isaiah 25:1-9, Luke 1:46-55 & 1:67-80; Matthew 28:16-20.
Questions for wondering and exploring:
- What strikes you in this text? What gives you hope or encouragement? Why?
- How do you struggle with accepting, and depending upon God’s sovereignty, versus being self-reliant, believing and acting as though our actions determine things, or our inactivity dooms us? How do you view God? As a helper?; as a distant watcher who set the world in motion then stepped back to watch?; as an active participant in history?; as a loving presence, who guides but doesn’t change things?
- Nebuchadnezzar is transformed by his vision, and then by his stubbornness, which ends in his mental illness and self-conception as an animal. Finally he recognizes that he isn’t God and that God is God. He then becomes a proclaimer of faith, (look at both vv. 1-3 and vv.34-37 in which he talks of his trust in God’s power). How have you most heard of, or welcomed proclamations of God’s love and power? How do you proclaim that truth in your life? How do you live from that hope? How is the church to be such a place of proclamation? How are we at CAPC as an active community of proclamation? How do we ? How don’t we?