Saturday, May 22, 2010

259: The Writing on the Wall

Daniel 4-6
"Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way." - Daniel 5:5-6

Chapter 4 starts with Nebuchadnezzar having another dream. Again his normal servants can't interpret the dream. This time he knows who to call, Daniel! However, this time Nebuchadnezzar has no qualms about telling Daniel the entire dream and allowing him to interpret from there. What happened to making your servants tell you your dream first? The bible again ignores a key scientific precept, repeat your experiments!

The dream ends up being about a giant tree that feeds all the animals of the earth. A messenger comes from God and tells the king to cut down the tree. Daniel interprets this dream as meaning that Nebuchadnezzar is the tree, and God is going to "cut him down". He says that this means Nebuchadnezzar will be cast out of Babylon and made to eat grass like a cow.

In a mere 12 months (God takes awhile to get around to fulfilling his prophecies) Nebuchadnezzar is, in fact, cast out of the land and made to eat grass. No reason is ever given why the people of Babylon cast out their king, or why he feels that he needs to eat grass when he's out there (especially since the web consensus is that grass is inedible).

At the end of "that time" (the bible doesn't mention how long), Nebuchadnezzar goes back to Babylon and is immediately restored as king. The king praises God and says that everything he does is right, and all his ways are just. I think he's just kissing ass so he doesn't have to go eat grass again. This story doesn't really make any sense. Why would the people of Babylon cast out their king, only to have him immediately restored when he returns?

The next chapter gets a little trippy ("little" is relative to four headed angels with eyeballs covering their body). The king's son (Belshazzar) holds a banquet where he uses the plundered goblets of Jerusalem to hold his wine. As Belshazzar and his prostitutes drink wine out of these godly goblets, they praise their idols of silver and gold. God obviously can't let this go unpunished, he sends a disembodied hand to go write on the wall of the king's palace. This hand has made appearances elsewhere:

Disembodied hand of God posing as "Thing" from the Addams family [upper right]

Fun fact: this is the origin of the phrase "writing on the wall".

This writing on the wall is illegible to everyone but, you guessed it, Daniel! When he does (eventually) read it, the writing on the wall says "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin" in Aramaic. Daniel's interpretation is this:
This is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
That very night, Nebuchadnezzar's son is killed. The bible doesn't say who he was killed by, so I will assume the most reasonable explanation; Daniel killed him to make him to fulfill his own prophecy.

The last chapter for the day has yet another story about Daniel. The story is about another king of Babylon (Darius). I guess this means we've fast forwarded past the death of Nebuchadnezzar(?). Darius, who likes Daniel, is talked into making a law by his advisers who hate Daniel. This law says that, for thirty days, nobody is allowed to pray to any God but the king of Babylon.

As the kings advisors planned, the faithful Daniel breaks this law. The king, who was apparently ignorant of the implications of this law, tries to save Daniel from being put to death by being eaten by lions. He fails, not even the king of Babylon is allowed to rescind a law set fourth by the king of Babylon (great system).

Daniel is thrown in with the lions and the door is locked. Nobody bothers to look and see what happens, so we will be forever ignorant of what actually happened in the lion cage that night (if this actually did happen). The next morning the door is opened and Daniel comes out, saying an angel sent by God saved him. The king then commands the people who "falsely accused" Daniel to be thrown in with the lions. Before they reach the door they are devoured by the lions (who let the lions out?). What does the bible mean "falsely accused"? Daniel really did break the law.

I said this yesterday and I'll say it again. All of Daniel's miracles seem like cheap magic tricks. He goes into the lion den, where nobody can see him, and he comes out alive. What happened? I'm not just going to assume something miraculous happened (or take Daniel's word for it) if I'm not allowed to see in the cage.

John Crotts knows how to live a proper Christian life.
Before we try to uncover the Bible's answer to the true nature of Christian living, let's sift through some alternate solutions. Notice how these views often use Bible verses to establish themselves. The most dangerous opinions are the ones with a little Bible mixed in, leaving out the balance of the Bible's teachings on a matter.
Commence everyone else being wrong and John Crotts being right:
1) Carefree Living. Some people, professing to be Christians, think that it really does not matter how you live since Jesus has forgiven you. While it is true that we are declared right with God by faith alone, the faith that justifies is never alone.
I agree, this is one of the biggest conundrums with Christianity. If you are automatically forgiven for whatever you do (as long as you believe in Jesus of course), then why be good? John doesn't give any good explanation for this. A question I ask a lot is if a serial killer murders hundreds of people, but eventually accepts Christ before he dies, will he go to heaven? The answer is nearly unanimously "yes". Why is this right? Why is this moral?
2) Crisis Experience. Other Christians search for a huge experience, which they hope will catapult them into personal holiness. This view comes in several colors and flavors.
Right, a crisis experience would never turn you to God. Unless you've read Daniel 4 and heard about Nebuchadnezzar's traumatic experience that brought him to God. I think the writer's point is that you shouldn't be waiting for a crisis experience to bring you do God, but I don't know of anyone that's doing that.
3) Let Go and Let God. Has anyone ever told you that your problem is that you are trying too hard in the Christian life? They say if you really knew your position in Christ, you could just rest in him, and let him live his life through you. They quote verses like Galatians 2:20, and sound very convincing.
I thought this was a basic precept of Christianity, you are supposed to let Jesus work through you. John (who obviously knows everything) thinks otherwise.
4) Self-Fulfillment. "Your real problem is that you do not love yourself enough," according to proponents of another view of successful Christian living. To solve their problems with God and others, they give greater attention to...themselves.
I've only heard this logic used with drug addicts. Only in religion would it be a bad thing to love yourself.
5) Spiritual Warfare. There is no doubt that spiritual warfare is going on all around us. Some Christians think, however, that successful Christian living revolves around casting out the specific demons that cause your specific sins. As the great theologian Flip Wilson said, "The devil made me do it."
The only spiritual warfare I see is people blowing things up, or otherwise killing people, over religion. However, we can find common ground in that nobody should be casting demons out of their body. Unfortunately, in his reasoning we can find no common ground:
From the story of Job, especially the first two chapters, we know that Satan can do nothing to believers that God does not specifically allow for God's greater purposes. We must redirect our attention away from the devil and onto the Lord and his Word.
Wait, what? If Satan always wants to do bad things, and God only allows him to do bad things when it's in his plan, then God is the real evil one. God is essentially orchestrating all the evil that happens on earth (by selectively allowing Satan to do what he wants). John ends with the "correct" way to live by the bible:
6) Dependent Discipline. This is the biblical view of successful Christian living. As Christians our bondage to sin has been broken (Romans 6:4-7), but the presence of sin has not been removed. The Bible calls our remaining sin "the flesh," and it wars against our spirit constantly (Galatians 5:17).
But the very first thing he said was we shouldn't act as if our bondage to sin has been broken. He also says that we shouldn't "let go and let God", which is really just a rewording of what he's now telling us to do. I think the point of this article was just to say that John knows what he's talking about and nobody else does, even though he agrees with everything they say.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know why you are so concerned with how convincing the supposed miracles are in Daniel. After all, did you think that there was some other explanation for why God made the sun stand still earlier? (Assuming you're not a Velikovsky believer.) Or why Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt? On what basis would you think that this story was any more accurate than any other?



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