Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 8

Chapter 8:  King Nebuchadnezzar—Chosen by God ~ Daniel 2:28-45

Q1 – Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar that it was God who had placed him in his position of power. What other great ruler (who was not an Israelite) did God place in power over His people? (see Romans 9:16-18 and Exodus 9:13-18)

A1 – These scriptures refer to Pharaoh, who held the Israelites as slaves in Egypt and refused to let them go. Recall that before Abram (later called Abraham) ever had any children, God promised him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). Then He promised to give his descendants the land “from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18 NIV). But before they would take possession of this Promised Land, God told Abram, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:13-14 NIV).

Pharaoh’s ruling over the Israelites and keeping them as slaves was all part of God’s plan, a plan God revealed to Abram before the Israelite people ever existed. Egypt was a great nation, and Pharaoh was a powerful pagan ruler. Yet, God used Pharaoh to reveal His power and to show that the Israelites were indeed His people by delivering them in a most dramatic manner out of Egyptian slavery. Imagine Pharaoh’s disbelief when Moses delivered God’s message to him, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16 NIV). Until that point in time, Pharaoh, like Nebuchadnezzar, quite likely never imagined that it was God who had placed him in such a powerful position or that he was actually fulfilling God’s plan for the Israelite people.

Q2 – What was God’s purpose in placing oppressive rulers over His people?

A2 – The Israelites did not remain faithful to God and keep His commands as He had directed. Although several of the kings had tried to bring the people back to God, many were unfaithful. Through the prophets, God warned the people repeatedly to turn from their evil practices, from serving other gods and worshipping what they had made with their hands. So, by allowing the Israelites to be carried off into Babylonian exile, God was both punishing them and attempting to turn the hearts of the people back to Him.

Q3 – Why would God allow the destruction of what had been created for His Name? What value were these earthly items to God, the creator of the universe?

A3 – By allowing the destruction of what He had created for His Name, God achieved a two-fold purpose. First of all, He was punishing the Israelite people for not remaining faithful to him. In Ezekiel 24, God foretells of the destruction of Jerusalem. Then he graphically illustrated His point by causing Ezekiel’s wife to die and instructed Ezekiel not to show sorrow at her death. Just as God took away Ezekiel’s bride, his greatest treasure, in like manner, He would also take away Jerusalem’s greatest treasures: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will defile my Temple, the source of your security and pride, the place your heart delights in. Your sons and daughters whom you left behind in Judah will be slaughtered by the sword.” (Ezekiel 24: 21, NLT)

However, in taking away what had been so revered by the Israelites, God also cleared the path for the coming of a new era in worship and for his eternal kingdom. As Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar concerning his dream of the huge statue, “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44, NLT)

God had planned for an eternal kingdom all along. Yet, think how hard the transition would have been from the Old Law to the New Law if God had not forcefully and completely done away with all that had symbolized the Old Law. Even the apostle Peter, who walked with Jesus and was one of His closest companions, had to have a vision from God to convince him to change his thinking concerning the Jewish laws. And God had to repeat it three times! (See Acts 10.)

Now consider the question, what value were these earthly items to God? Probably none. God had set aside the land of Israel so Jacob’s descendants would have a place where they could all remain together. This kept a clear lineage from which Jesus directly descended. God chose Jerusalem as the place for His temple and directed its building. This gave His people a centralized place of worship.

Although the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem had great value, and  the temple was magnificent by human standards, what value were they to God, the Creator of the universe? Did He have need of those things? Various scriptures state that that the heavens and earth are going to pass away at some point in time anyway. (See Matthew 24:35, Hebrews 1:10-12, II Peter 3:10, Revelation 21.) So even though Jerusalem and the temple provided a way for humans to connect with God, these things were for the benefit of the people, and not for God.