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Your Word Is A Lamp For My Feet, A Light On My Path

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DANIEL 4:1-37 | 2 PETER 1:1-21 | PSALM 119:97-112 | PROVERBS 28:17-18

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Daniel and his three friends have already established their dedication to their God by refusing to bow down to graven images despite being captives in the land of Babylon. 

And Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, is well aware of their steadfast dedication to this Hebrew God, and yet he tolerates their dogged faith and devotion to none other than their own God.  In fact, so supportive is he of these Jewish prisoners of war, that it is remarkable that he even issues a decree forbidding the condemnation of Jewish practices and persecution of the Jewish people.

I would surmise that during his reign, the Jewish people who had been brought back as captives after the pillage and plunder of Jerusalem and the final decimation of the Temple in 586 BC, were able to finally breath a sigh of relief, and to some extent most probably had begun to hope for a greater redemption and return to their homeland.

Following the miraculous escape of Daniel’s three friends from the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar begins to have even greater confidence in Daniel and one day, Daniel is summoned to the king’s courts to interpret the dream that has been troubling Nebuchadnezzar. 

Daniel ponders over the meaning of the dream, and one can only imagine the discomfort and perhaps even trepidation with which Daniel would have delivered these words to the king. Daniel says: 

24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”

Daniel’s interpretation of the dream does indeed come to pass, and the text states that within a period of one year, Nebuchadnezzar not only loses his kingdom, but his senses as well.  He becomes akin to a madman, and is no better than an animal. 

It is interesting, however, that the text records the following few verses in the first person narrative of Nebuchadnezzar himself, and this is what it says:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

   His dominion is an eternal dominion;
   his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
   are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
   with the powers of heaven
   and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
   or say to him: “What have you done?”

 36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Once the all-powerful ruler of the better part of the world, this was a king who came to repentance and eventually recognized the God of the Hebrews to be the one and only true God. 

How remarkable it is to learn of how the human heart can be changed when there is a conviction of the truth. 

This was a man so powerful that he believed he could build a tower to reach up to heaven itself, but when he lost everything, he remembered the words of Daniel and must have surely reflected on his life. 

Is this not a remarkable story of second chances, and of how the most base things of this world, including human beings, may be used by God to bring glory and honor to God’s name?

We turn now to our New Testament reading of the day, and enter the second epistle of Peter, also commonly referred to as Second Peter, or II Peter. 

Peter is writing to a mixed audience — both the scattered Jewish diaspora as well as non-Jewish people — who have newly embraced a firm belief in the person of Jesus Christ as the son of God, and by virtue of doing so, have gained the attribute of the earliest Christians in Asia Minor. 

Peter opens his letter in the most beautiful manner with these words: 

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

To these believers, Peter offers an exhortation to add certain virtues to their faith– to “confirm their calling and election to the faith.” 

He says:  …make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Peter then goes on to speak to the reliability of the eye-witness accounts that he and others like him — such as the Gospel-writers — have had of Jesus Christ in the flesh. 

These are not just interesting stories, Peter seems to say, these are events that were prophesied and that we had the privilege of witnessing first-hand. 

His exact words are:  16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

We turn now to our reading of the Psalms, and find David continuing his praises of the Almighty in the long acrostic psalm of 119.  May it be that like David, we also might be willing and able to say:

103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
   sweeter than honey to my mouth!

And may it be that like David, we are also quick to say:

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
   a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
   that I will follow your righteous laws.

Finally, a couple of verses from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, is contemplating the heinous crime of murder.  He says:

17 Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder
   will seek refuge in the grave;
   let no one hold them back.

18 The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
   but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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