Image above is from Pinterest. Nebuchadnezzar threatens his soothsayers.
Standing between the Living and the Dead
“[George] Wishart [from “Wise” + “Heart”] lived in a time when a plague decimated great numbers of people on the continent of Europe. As that plague drew near to one of Scotland’s cities [especially at Dundee], the people panicked and raced to call for the most godly and saintly man they knew. The man they chose was Wishart. Wishart answered the call and went outside the gates of the city. There he knelt on his knees and prayed to God to cease the plague’s onslaught. History reports that the plague spread no further!
“After this tremendous victory, Wishart went immediately to one of the cities that had already been hit by the plague. Those who had contracted the plague huddled outside the city gates, locked out of the city, while those untouched remained inside, cringing in fear. Wishart climbed on top of the city wall and began fearlessly preaching the gospel to those who were dying [on the outside] and those who were cringing within.” (from D. James Kennedy’s Devotional Blog).
George Wishart became a great example of an intercessor—one who placed himself before God in prayer for others.
Daniel was chosen by God to stand as an intercessor between the living and those about to die. Daniel 2:13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. Some translations read as if some were already slain, but it is best to see the search for Daniel etc. as a search first for ones who had been reliable in solving difficulties in the past.
Like Daniel from Babylon and George Wishart from Scotland,
We are called to be intercessors as we proclaim God’s message.
We do in fact stand between the living and the dead with a life-transforming message.
Vs. 24 Therefore Daniel went into Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
I. We could possibly gain an entrée into people’s thinking by asking non-confrontational questions. vs. 24 (& 2:13-16)
Daniel had to take the initiative or die himself by asking Arioch to delay the slaughter until he had had the time to seek an answer to the King’s dilemma. Earlier, Daniel 2:13-16 gives us some backstory to the decree—
13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He [asked of] Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. (ESV; emphasis mine.)
Note how respectful Daniel was of the King and his high executioner. He doesn’t dispute the decree, but he asks a question about the timing of its execution. Daniel was wise by asking that question. Here is a possible paraphrase of the dialogue between Arioch and Daniel—”Why be in a hurry to slaughter the men? Why not delay because they’ll be just as dead tomorrow as they would be today? Give me a chance to solve the King’s dilemma.”
I have found that I can initiate change best by asking questions of men and praying in secret to God about it. Hudson Taylor, (founder and head of China Inland Mission, now OMF) said: “It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.”
Vs. 25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”
II. We do not need occult practices to know what we ought to do in the future. vs. 25
Once Daniel has prayed and given thanks to God in private, he is free to go to the King of Babylon and answer his questions.
Note carefully, Daniel’s prayer in 2:20-23.
20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.” (ESV; emphasis mine.)
Daniel must give God the praise for this revelation of His will for the future. The others will have to wait. The wise men may have asked, “What is Daniel doing? Doesn’t he know that the sword hangs over our heads and his? Somebody tell him to get a move on.” Daniel knows where he got the answer to the King’s dilemma. Humility and prayer prepare us to speak to others.
First Ladies of the United States Sometimes Consulted Astrologers
“While it’s possible some Ladies [concealed] their [astrological] practices, five in particular—Jane Pierce, Mary Todd Lincoln, Edith Wilson, Florence Harding, and Nancy Reagan—held moderate-to-strong interests in the occult, according to Pat Krider, the executive director of the National First Ladies’ Library. …As to how these Ladies formed a fascination with the occult, Krider told Broadly: “People who are desperate for help, for answers, sometimes go to extreme measures.”
Mary Lincoln Todd Lincoln lived through the deaths of two sons (one before Abe’s term, one during, and one after), and her occult process of choice was also seances. Even the purportedly Honest husband himself attended a seance, according to historian Carl Anthony, that the Mrs. held in the White House Red Room. Apparently, she reached both her dead sons, Willie and Eddie, whose ghosts she claimed visited her in her White House bedroom.” Adapted from the July 12, 2017, article by Amanda Arnold, “The First Ladies Who Brought the Occult to the White House.”
Mary Todd Lincoln had a great many tragedies strike her. She was unstable after losing several children to various illnesses. We should not be too critical of such a tragic figure.
I find comfort for what I do not know in Deuteronomy 29:29—The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
One commentary on Deuteronomy states the background to this verse.
“We do not know the future, but we know who ordains it, and the moral law that governs it. We are given God’s revelation, and we can understand what we are given to understand. Moreover, as Payne observed of v. 29, ‘Its chief point is that we can see quite enough!’ It follows, therefore, that the eyes of the Israelites, and ours, “were directed not towards tomorrow’s surprises, but towards today’s responsibilities” (Rushdoony Commentary on Deuteronomy).
Deuteronomy 29:29 is no minor warning. In seeking to know the past or the future, we must not seek it from occult means. As Jesus related in His story about Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hades—Luke 16–
27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
We need God’s Word and the study of it in fellowship with God to decide what to do in present. The future belongs to God! In relating stories of Daniel’s life, the book of Daniel emphasizes not the supernatural as most important. A personal relationship with God is at the top of Daniel’s agenda.
III. When we share the superior wisdom and it solves a problem, false wisdom is exposed. vs. 26
Vs. 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked….
“Snake oil is a term used to describe deceptive marketing, health care fraud, or a scam. Similarly, “snake oil salesman” is a common expression used to describe someone who sells, promotes, or is a general proponent of some valueless or fraudulent cure, remedy, or solution. The term comes from the “snake oil” that used to be sold as a cure-all elixir for many kinds of physiological problems.” (Wikipedia; image above is in the public domain).
Understand that the Babylonians are not converting to the faith of Israel by what the King says. (After all, they are ones who later have the three Hebrew youths thrown into the fiery furnace.) They will look on him with a resentful eye. Maybe Daniel’s recalling and interpreting of the King’s dream laid the soothsayers open as the charlatans they actually were.
III. Our God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful, and He alone has the help we need! vss. 28-29
vs. 28…but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.
Note he exposes the seers and soothsayers as charlatans. (The King knew it too, but he played along.) When he said, “But there is a God in heaven[!,]” Daniel contrasts where his information came from.
As believers, we help solve problems in our society. We should not expect recognition and praise from those who follow elitist methods of problem solving—excluding God.
Courts Cannot Acknowledge God’s Ways
Robert Harlan, who was found guilty in 1995 of raping and murdering a cocktail waitress near Denver. After Mr. Harlan’s conviction, the judge in the case—as Colorado law requires—sent the jury off to deliberate about the death penalty with an instruction to think beyond the narrow confines of the law. Each juror, the judge told the panel, must make an “individual moral assessment,” in deciding whether Mr. Harlan should live. They voted unanimously for the death penalty. It was appealed to the a higher Colorado Court.
In a sharply divided ruling (3-to-2), Colorado’s highest court on Monday upheld a lower court’s decision throwing out the sentence of a man who was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict. The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a “higher authority.”
Professor Howard J. Vogel, who teaches ethics at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and has a master’s degree in theology as well as a law degree, said, “I don’t think it’s a religious text that’s the problem here, but rather whether something is being used that trumps the law of the state.” Adapted from Narkive Newsgroup.
Our wise men cannot acknowledge a higher law than the one they have written down. If they do acknowledge God as the great Lawgiver, then they must submit to Him, too. This they will not do. Neither are our political leaders going to give us or God credit for wisdom that solves a problem.
IV. We must always acknowledge publicly God as the source of our knowledge. vs. 30
30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
Daniel and his three companions have no idea about the consequences of exposing the Chaldean Soothsayers. Three go to the fire and Daniel to the lion’s den. They obeyed God and left the consequences to Him. He saved them from harm, but He may not deliver us from harm in this life.
George Wishart that began this post, but his death came about due to people he saved from the plague betraying his location to the archbishop. I have seen the spot in St. Andrews, Scotland, where he was burned at the stake. We should not let the consequences of our actions guide our behavior. Someone may be standing nearby that will finish what we began to do. Standing by Wishart throughout his earthly ministry was John Knox.
Soon, the next post on the dream.
Thank you Rick. This is so encouraging. Michael P.
Thank you, Michael.