[Feb 28]--The Fifth Kingdom

Daniel 2:24-45

            I grew up on the stories in Daniel, and if you grew up in the church you undoubtedly did as well. They lend themselves to children’s story time: They’re easy to remember, they’re exciting, and they have great lessons for believers of all ages.
            I think it’s a shame, however, to only think of Daniel in terms of the narrative portions. There’s a reason why it’s listed in the prophetic literature. Fully half of it is devoted entirely to prophecy, and even the narrative parts have some prophecy in them, as we see in today’s reading.
            In case you’re not familiar with the context, here it is. Daniel and his friends were kidnapped along with others from noble families and taken as captives into Babylon. Babylon, led by King Nebuchadnezzar, was the 900-lb gorilla of that time. It conquered whatever it wanted, and it seemed like nothing could ever resist it, much less replace it as the transnational empire of the region.
            That’s one of the main points of the book of Daniel, something we need to remember in crazy and chaotic times, when it seems like the bad guys are in charge and God’s people are on the ropes. God is in charge. He is in control. The kings of the earth are under his authority and sovereignty, and he raises them up, uses them for his purposes, and disposes of them when their purpose is served.  
            The king had a dream, and it troubled him. He sent for his dream specialists, but he put an unusual condition on them: To prove that they actually had supernatural insight, they'd have to recount his dream back to him without him first telling them. Of course, they all balked at this, and in a rage he ordered all his spiritual advisors to be killed. Daniel heard about this, prayed, and then announced that he could recount the dream and provide an interpretation straight from the Almighty.
            What an image! A statue with a head of gold, a torso of silver, a thigh and legs of bronze, and feet of clay (yes, that’s where we get the phrase from) appeared in the dream. Daniel told him that the head was the Babylonian Empire, then his empire would be succeeded by three more empires. We now know that these represented the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire and the Roman Empire respectively. As a rather humorous side-note, this is why a lot of Biblical “scholars” assert that Daniel could not possibly have written the book that bears his name, since he predicts with such intricate accuracy the succession of empires over the next few hundred years. It must've been written by a later author. Otherwise, we might have to admit that the Bible was written by a Divine source instead of just men!
        But then something (or Someone) comes and break the cycle once and for all. This Rock comes and strikes the statue at the point of the feet of clay, and we can read the result: “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.”
That Rock, of course, is the Messiah. He's the One who smashes (or smashed) the world systems and replaces them with his own. Now, was this when he came the first time, or is it referring to when he returns? I think it’s both. I think the process started when he came the first time, and it’ll be completed when he comes back.
I think there are two lessons we need to glean from this. First, the statue is the way the world works. It’s all glittery and majestic and imposing and impressive and intimidating. One kingdom comes after another after another after another. People think the new kingdom will be much better than the last one, and they end up disappointed (at best). But ah, when the Fifth Kingdom arrives, then we see a change! The Old Order is obliterated and the New Order has come!
The question is, “Am I part of the Fifth Kingdom, or am I a citizen of this world?” And if I do belong to the Fifth Kingdom, do I act like it?

Lord Jesus, I can’t wait until you return to complete the setup of your glorious Kingdom. Or can I? Is that something I really want, or is it something that would upset my little order of things? Whether now or later, my little personal kingdom has got to fall. Let’s do this the easy way, shall we?

No comments:

Post a Comment