The Hebrew prophets described the times preceding the return of Messiah as a time of great shaking. Many foundations will be shaken, and many ‘givens’ in normal society will experience tremors. “And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more and I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:26-27). These shakings are happening in our day.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews is quoting from Haggai, who prophesied that these shakings will eventually result in great blessing and prosperity for God’s chosen people Israel. “For this is what YHVH of armies says, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says YHVH of armies” (Haggai 2:6-7).
As one of the most unusual political campaigns takes place in America, it is clear to all that major political shakings are underway. Character issues and the boundaries of accepted behavior are being stretched and pushed way beyond the norm.
The American thinker and poet George Santayana wrote (in The Life of Reason, 1905), “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” With that in mind, it would be instructive to consider the interesting parallels between what Daniel the prophet experienced in his day, and what we are experiencing today. There may be some helpful lessons for us as well.
Democracies and dictatorships
For most of world history, societies have lived under monarchies and dictatorships, and not under democracies. Even the Golden Age of Greek democracy accepted slavery as a normal aspect of democratic life. Only in the past few centuries have some countries experienced the popular election of rulers. Certain political systems like Communism allowed for elections provided there was a one-party system, while Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party came to power through democratic elections.
As the Western world experiences political tremors, it is worth remembering that the Bible was written down at a time when superpowers were led by tyrants, dictators and kings. The average Assyrian, Babylonian or Persian would not have been able to identify with ballot boxes or election booths. The prophet Daniel was called to minister in a Middle Eastern maelstrom where Nebuchadnezzar was absolute ruler of much of the known world, and it was into that dynamic that he prophesied.
Daniel and his dream gift
Daniel and his three Jewish friends were hand-picked from among the exiles of Judah to undergo a three year ‘State Department grooming’ for Babylon’s diplomatic corps. Their test-scores, abilities, good looks and social skills needed to be of the highest order before they were sent to Babylon’s political finishing schools (Daniel 1:3-7).
Daniel’s giftings also extended to the prophetic. Rising to meet the challenges of his job, he began to gain a stellar reputation as having an unusual accuracy in the prophetic interpretation of dreams. Nevertheless, he was realistically humble about the source of his gifting: “But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind” (Daniel 2:30).
Daniel knew about the limitations of human power, even when it came to superpower tyrants or rulers.
- Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs. He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things. He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and power. Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, for You have made known to us the king’s matter” (Daniel 2:17-23).
Signs, wonders and hitting the reset button
The God of the Jewish people confronted mighty King Nebuchadnezzar with amazing miracles. These wonders revealed the king’s short temper, his burning anger and his imperial hubris or hutzpah. Each time the king witnessed a mighty sign, he declared YHVH’s power and sovereign authority:
- The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery” (Daniel 2:47)
- “Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way” (Daniel 3:29)
- Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:1-3)
- “I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven … and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever. For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:34-35)
Yet after nearly every power encounter, Nebuchadnezzar reverted to his prideful and unbelieving ways. Even though a beloved Hebrew prophet ministered to him in excellence and accuracy, confronting him directly about his pride and arrogance, the King of Babylon found it hard to “change his way of thinking,” as Bob Dylan notes in the song of that name.
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Daniel 4:37).
- Daniel discovered that God can speak to and use a prideful and stubborn ruler – even if He has to humble him by making him crawl on all fours and eat grass for seven seasons (see Daniel 4:31-34)
The pay’s the same
Daniel the prophet carried out his prophetic duties honorably, and received divine commendation for that: “But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age” (Daniel 12:13).
The word of the Lord had come to Nebuchadnezzar and for the most part had been greeted by feigned obedience (see Psalm 66:3 – “How awesome are Your works! Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will give feigned obedience to You”). Yet regardless of how the proud ruler responded, a prophet had spoken to him the heart and mind of YHVH.
My mother the history teacher
I was blessed to have a mother who was a teacher and student of history. She helped me to think about and analyze historical developments, always adding her own take on some of history’s great struggles and events.
One of the things I remember her teaching me, was how Adolf Hitler was allowed by the Western world to rise to power. Though the Versailles Treaty (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Versailles) established Germany’s disarmament, Western fears of Communist revolution led to a loosing of Hitler’s muzzle, a quiet wink to the dictator and a free hand in building the Nazi juggernaut – as long as the Führer took out the enemy to the East, as long as he could be the Rottweiler who would deal harshly with those opposed to a Greater Germany.
Hitler came to power as a leader who would get tough with the enemies of German greatness. Any character weaknesses, any pride, would be tolerated, overlooked or ignored as long as he got the job done. My mother told me to learn from history, and not to ignore the hidden character and motives of leaders, even when they seem to be giving the people what they want. Bob Dylan’s sobering song “Man of Peace” speaks prophetically to these challenges:
- “Look out your window, baby, there’s a scene you’d like to catch. The band is playing ‘Dixie,’ a man got his hand outstretched. Could be the Führer. Could be the local priest. You know sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace. He got a sweet gift of gab, he got a harmonious tongue. He knows every song of love that ever has been sung. Good intentions can be evil. Both hands can be full of grease… Well, he catch you when you’re hoping for a glimpse of the sun. Catch you when your troubles feel like they weigh a ton. He could be standing next to you. The person that you’d notice least… He’s a great humanitarian, he’s a great philanthropist. He knows just where to touch you, honey, and how you like to be kissed. He’ll put both his arms around you. You can feel the tender touch of the beast. You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace”
(“Man of Peace”, words and music by Bob Dylan, © Special Rider Music 1983)
How should we then pray?
- Ask the God of Israel to bring the leader of His choice for this strategic election to this strategic country
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm. He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever” (Luke 1:51-55)
- Ask YHVH to grant spiritual repentance and revelation to whoever is chosen to lead the USA, even as He gave insight to Nebuchadnezzar
- Ask the God of Jacob to grant protection, wisdom and salvation to Israel’s remnant, and to raise up His mighty army of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:10-11)
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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