"Back Stories 04: The Exile Story" - Tim Suttle

"Back Stories 04: The Exile Story"

by Tim Suttle


Jeremiah 29:4-14 (NLT)

4 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

8 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, 9 because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

2016.07.10 – Back Stories 04: Exile: Jeremiah 29:4-14

We’re in a series called Back Stories… focusing on things we call narratives.- A Narrative: is the over-arching story about life that helps people make sense of our existence, the way we see ourselves, God, others, & world - Jesus was deeply imbedded in the narratives of Israel, in particular these 4 big stories of the OT: Creation, Exodus, Exile, Priestly.

PT: Jesus was raised on these stories as a boy. They shaped his imagination & were the foundation upon which he built his ministry & his vision of the gospel.

Today: EXILE. Last week…Moses had led the people out of Egypt, they passed thru the Red See, Pharaoh was defeated, & then reality set in. - They were in middle of the desert w/no means to sustain themselves.- They immediately started asking to go back to Egypt.- So for 40 years they wandered in the wilderness until finally they were allowed to enter the Promised Land. 

And so, Israel grew prosperous & reached the pinnacle under King David. - And then there was a long slow decline. - They became arrogant & worshipped other gods. - Wealth concentrated in the hands of the rich while the poor suffered under corrupt politicians & rulers. - The prophets warned them, they kept living selfishly & acting unjustly.- Until finally God had enough & removed his protection. - The Northern kingdom fell first, then the Southern…- And the best & brightest were carried off to Babylon into Exile.

It was like if you lived in Oklahoma in some small town & someone came & took your house & land & stole your oil wells & then moved you the NYC.- Made you push paper for them in an office cubicle.- All your power was stripped away.- Your rights are not recognized… you’re out of place… alone.- You are marginalized…  that’s the experience of Exile.- SO: All they wanted to do in Babylon, was go home to Jerusalem.- Which is exactly what this bunch of false prophets promised them.- “Those left in Jerusalem will be here any day to save us.”- And into that situation came Jeremiah with a word from the Lord… - And this is what he said:1These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon… 4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 

And then this huge verse that really frames the story of Exile for the pple of God
7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.

How interesting is that? It’s really not what you would expect. - These people have just seen their city sacked, their temple destroyed, the king’s family executed. - They lost their lands, homes, & fortunes, & they were carried off to Babylon to serve the house of Nebuchadnezzar. - And Jeremiah comes along & says: Nobody’s coming to rescue you … - So, you need to get on with your lives.- Build houses & plant gardens; have kids & marry them off.- Multiply & do not decrease.- “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, [seek the welfare of the Babylonians… seek the welfare of King NEB] and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” - WELL: This is really not what the people wanted to hear.- But Jeremiah tried to tell them that until they could hear it & stop looking for a solution & move on w/their lives… they would only suffer.

We’ve all experienced this… the feeling of being marginalized in our own lives. Life has pushed us to the floor & we are stuck where we don’t want to be. - In those times we can really see that LIFE sets the terms… not us.- We like to think we’re in control, but that is largely an illusion. - In most ways LIFE sets its own terms.- Jeremiah… he kind of grabs the Jewish people by the collar & says: - This is your life… these are the terms. PT: There IS no quick solution, so get on with it. Start living. Which nobody wants to hear. Even for us in our own lives We don’t want to hear this. We’re Americans after all. We don’t like problems…like solutions (best at solutions).

Take Polio… one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century.- It could strike w/out warning.- In 1953 there were nearly 60k cases of polio in the US.- Jonas Salk found a vaccine, & w/in a decade Polio was nearly gone.- This is the American way… we solve problems… we find solutions.

But, not everybody is like this. I just read an article this week about how Europeans laugh at American’s love affair w/air conditioning.- They don’t understand it… they use it far less.- Americans say, “what do you do when it gets hot?”- They say, “we just deal with it.”- I have to be honest, I think that’s dumb… Air conditioning is awesome.- If asked what time period would you live? Anytime after AC!!- It’s the perfect solution to the problem of summertime.

There’s a whole industry dedicated to providing solutions to everyday problems.- We call it “as seen on tv.”- The Ginsu knife set—because you never know when you’ll need to cut thru a tin can w/a knife & then quick-slice a tomato.- Thighmaster (Susanne Sommers)… solution to flabby thighs.- The clapper, the solution to (I guess) to the oppressive task of actually having to walk over to a lamp & manually turn it on… - Oxyclean – your solution to almost any kind of stain.- George Foreman grill… solution for how to grill w/out having to actually go outside. (btw, Foreman made $200 million from this thing).- Robostir, my new favorite; stirs your soup while u do something else.- The Snuggy: solution for your spouse being physically attracted to you (but it’s completely necessary w/the AC turned down so low).

PT: We love solutions in our society, and there’s something noble about this to be sure. But what do when there is no solution to the problem?

Take something like mental illness. How quickly do we medicate for mental illness of psychological problems?- Not that I’m down on medication… I’ve seen it work wonders.- But what if it doesn’t work?- Or it works for the symptom, but we never deal w/the root causes?PT: In our love for quick fixes & simple solutions we run the risk of missing out on what this problem might be trying to teach us about our lives. We fail to see that the problem might actually be offering us a way to change & grow & heal.
This is hard to accept I know, cuz we live on a society that’s big on solutions. - But what do we do when there is no solution to the problem?- No cure for the disease? - When what is broken can’t be crazy-glued back together? - When the divorce becomes final. - Someone gets sick, fired, dies, loses job, or breaks fidelity with us? - Let’s be honest: LIFE sets some pretty rotten terms for us sometimes, & there is no easy solution… so what do we do then? - As Christians, that’s when we look to the story of EXILE.
I heard a great story this wk about a little town in Belgium called Geel (Hay-el). - Their story begins in Ireland in the 7th century, where a little girl named Dymphna was born to a Christian mother & a pagan father. - Dymphna wanted to serve the church & so she became a nun. - But, then her mother died suddenly, & her father became unhinged… - I mean truly mentally ill. - He convinced himself that since their daughter looked so much like the mother, he needed to marry his daughter & to get over his grief. - Dymphna fled to this little town called Geel (Hayel), where she used her fortune to build a hospital for the poor & sick & mentally ill. 

Her father hunted her down in Belgium & when she wouldn’t consent to marry him, he killed her & the priest she was serving under. - Over the years the Catholic Church venerated her example, and Dymphna became the patron saint of the mentally ill. - Since that time the Cathedral in Geel, where she was buried, became a place of pilgrimage for those who suffered from mental illness. - People would travel there and pray to be healed. - Somewhere along the way the townspeople began the practice of boarding these pilgrims in their homes. 

This practice grew to the point that a formal system was developed to deinstitutionalize mental patients & let them live in homes in the community. - When a mentally ill person came to the hospital in Geel (Hayel), Dr.’s would work on their diagnosis and medication…- Then they would match them up with a family in the community who would take them in & allow them to live with them… like a foster family.- So, for centuries, everyday people in Geel (Hayel) welcomed strangers w/mental illness into their homes to live… often for decades. - At one point almost ¼ of the residents of Geel were suffering from mental illness. - Today there are 500 of these patients living w/families in the town.- So you walk down the street or go to a café and it’s not unusual to see someone having a conversation with themselves or actively hallucinating, or hugging every single person that walks by.

PT: And they’ve all grown accustomed to the strange behavior, so much so that it’s not so strange anymore. they’ve stopped trying to fix the people. They’ve learned see the person not the problem.

There was one man who lived w/a family & every day he twisted the buttons off his shirt. So his host mom had to sew the buttons back on every evening. - This researcher who was there study their process suggested to the woman that she should use fishing wire to sew the buttons on. - That way he wouldn’t be able to twist them off, and she wouldn’t have to sew them back on every night. - The woman was almost offended at the question. - She said, why would I do that? - He needs to twist the buttons off his shirt every day… it helps him.

& what they’ve found is that this unusual approach actually works quite well. - The typical approach to mental illness is to try and find a solution. - Somebody exhibits strange behavior, and you find a way to get them to stop & to conform to some standard of normal behavior. - In Geel (Hayel), they took the opposite approach. - They just made space for the odd behavior. - They accommodated it. It stopped being odd & became kind of normal.

Host families were not told what the diagnosis was for their boarders. - They were just asked to include the boarders into their everyday life. - And when they exhibited odd behavior, they would just roll with it. - One family told of a man who awoke every night hallucinating that lions were coming out of the wall of his bedroom to attack him. - The host father would pretend to tame the lions & drive them off. - It worked every time. 
They began to learn to distinguish between the behaviors that were part of their illness, and when someone was just being a jerk. - So one man kept becoming very angry & belligerent. - The host father would grab him by the neck & take him outside & say you have to stay out here in the yard until you can be nice. - Eventually the anger faded.
PT: What they learned in Geel (Hayel) was that there are some problems you simply can’t fix (that’s Exile, btw). But if you’ll learn to work around them, and not let them bother you, then you can begin to forge a whole new kind of community in which the pieces all seem to fit together, even though some of the pieces are really strangely shaped & oddly related to one another… btw that’s a perfect description of what it means to be a church.- Instead of asking them to conform to an arbitrary model of “normal” behavior… they just worked around the kooky stuff…- So when Doug walks by carrying on a conversation with himself…- Everyone just goes, “Yeah, that’s Doug. He talks to himself.” - The researcher who studied this had one main question:- Does this feel like a burden to live this way… they all said “no.”- In fact the average stay in a home is 28 years… 1/3 say 45 years.

PT: Instead of treating people like a problem & then trying to find a solution, they treated people like human beings & tried to find a way to involve them in the life of a community of faithfulness … committed to seeing the humanity and everyone even when there's no solution for that problem. And what they found was that it was healing for everyone involved. 

In most communities there is this line drawn between the mentally ill & normal healthy people… and these guys just decided to erase the line.- In the Exile story that’s the gospel move!- It turns out the solution to how to live w/mental illness was, in large part, to stop trying to find a solution to the mental illness…- …and to learn to live together in peace.- Build houses & plant gardens, get married, have kids,- Find good work to do… Be a blessing to those around you.-  “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” 

What Jeremiah teaches us isthat when we bump into a problem that we cannot change, then maybe the gospel is to change ourselves… - Don’t try to change the problem, or find a solution.- Try to change ourselves & our reaction to the brokenness in the world.- The problem comes when we don’t want to change ourselves.- The problem comes when we want solutions = don’t ask us to change, but require everyone else to change…We’ve had a rough week in our nation.- Black men being shot & killed by police.- Cops being killed by a black man w/sniper rifle.- What does the Exile story have to say to us about this stuff?- What if it asks us to seek the welfare of one another & trust that God can lead us to some sort of peaceful existence?- “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” - It’s interesting to note that in the Hebrew the word we translate “welfare” is actually the world shalom… Peace.- Peace not just lack of war, but right ordering… everything in its place…- This message from Jeremiah has much wisdom for all of us today.

Where do you feel marginalized? Misunderstood? Out of place? Powerless?Who is the problem in your life? Who do you like to blame for your problems? - Democrats? Republicans? Conservatives? Liberals?- Rich whites? Poor blacks? Illegal immigrants?- Who is the “other” that you wish would go away? Hillary? Trump?- … the people you don’t like & they don’t like you.- Name them in your mind: they are Your Babylon.- You are now sharing a world with them.- Now, plug their name into this verse…
“Seek the welfare of the illegal immigrants… the poor blacks… the rich whites… pray to the Lord on their behalf, for in their peace you will find your peace.”
“Seek the peace of the conservative REP, the liberal DEM… pray to the Lord on their behalf, for in their peace you will find your peace.”- Until our hearts are burdened w/compassion for even the people we feel certain are broken & wrong…- Until we can love them & forgive them in the moment.- We do not know the love of God for them… - … and we are not gospel people

When we bump up against those who are very different from us… those who want very different things & they make us feel like outsiders. - Our temptation is to treat them like problems that need to be solved. - We start to look for quick fixes & solutions we miss out on the opportunity to be a good steward of that struggle. - Frederick Buechner calls this the “stewardship of pain.” - That’s the task in the place of Exile.- I think this is what Jeremiah is recommending. - Not to conform to the dominant culture of Babylon. - Not to pine away for Jerusalem. - Not to look for quick solutions & silver bullets. - But to become a good steward of the situation they are in. - And this is SO hard to do.

One day you are living near Jerusalem, minding your own business, working your farm, & worshipping YHWH at the temple. The next day the temple’s gone & your farm, your fortune is gone & you’ve been carried off into exile. - What should you DO? The same thing you always do. - Build houses & plant gardens, get married, - Have children & marry them to each other.- Find good work to do; be a blessing to those around you.-  “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” 

In other words: Be the faithful people of God even if you are far from JER & it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. - Seek the peace of the city because the gospel itself seeks those things wherever it is. Redemption in the exile story is not changing the circumstances, but restoring relationship no matter the circumstances.
Stop treating each other like problems to be solved and seek the peace of the city together… Find compassion… find some kind of tenderness 4 each other. - Because, when you reach for the tenderness it takes to create space for the other, a power is unleashed through that act of tenderness that is more healing than any of the solutions we could come up with. 

And the best news is that the story doesn’t end there… back to Jer. 29:10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.- When I’m feeling really helpless or marginalized.- I often find myself reading this passage.- The Lord is saying, I’m going to use Babylon to teach you some things for awhile… but I’ll come for you… I have plans for you…

PT: do you feel alone? Like something must be wrong with you? You can’t catch a break? Feel like you are losing it? Are you marginalized? Persecuted? Oppressed? Depressed? Misunderstood? Do you feel powerless to change a situation that’s just killing you?

The Good News Jesus preached did not depend on relieving the exiled status.  - Jesus never promised to help them fit into the dominant culture.- He never promised to help them create their own dominant culture.- His good news never promised they would leave the margins/exile.- Because, Jesus knew something incredibly important:- Being Jewish meant being an Outsider.- So following Jesus would always mean being Marginalized.- His Followers have always live in the Margins.  

His “good news” – the Good News of the Exile story – was that – here – in the midst of Exile – “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.”- It turns out, God Reigns in Babylon just as much as he in Jerusalem.- Your Situation doesn’t have to change for you to find peace.- YES: We are strangers in a strange land.- This world is not our home.- We will never fit into the dominant culture.- We are living in God’s kingdom even now… and that means we will always be on the margins…

The truth is… Everyone is struggling in one way or another. - And when we give each other this signal that we have to change…- That you have to fix yourself to be accepted…- That you have to become like me to find acceptance…- We do great damage to one another & we cease to be gospel people.- Until we learn how to love one another without demanding that we meet some preconceived idea of normal or right… we’ll never experience the peace of the city.- Some of us are broken and we can't help it…- Some of us are struggling w/things that we will always struggle with.- We may get better with time, but we’re always gonna have this struggle

PT: The question is will there be a radical community of Christ followers who know that they are strangers in a strange land filled with strange people who do all kinds of strange things… and will they seek the peace of the city anyway. Will they have the ability to love their enemies?

Gospel in the Exile story is about how God took a people who were living in alienation & marginalization & moved them: - Not back home, but to the center of God’s NEW reality. - The Exile story is about this movement from the fractured margins of belonging, to a life centered in the very life of God (KOG).- This happens in the midst of a people who live with radical love and acceptance toward all the strange & struggling others around them.- Will we dare to live this way?

Safe and Sound 05: Daniel and the Lion's Den - Tim Suttle

"Safe and Sound 05: Daniel and the Lion's Den" 

by Tim Suttle



Ten years from now, your soul will be dramatically different than it is today. What your soul is like will depend on the normal everyday habits, rhythms and practices of your life. Today, we'll learn about the power of fixed hour prayer from Daniel.

Daniel in the Lions’ Den | Daniel 6

6 [a]Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province. 2 The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests. 3 Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.

4 Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. 5 So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.”

6 So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! 7 We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. 8 And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” 9 So King Darius signed the law.

10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. 11 Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help. 12 So they went straight to the king and reminded him about his law. “Did you not sign a law that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions?”

“Yes,” the king replied, “that decision stands; it is an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.”

13 Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.”

14 Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament.

15 In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.”

16 So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.”

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night.

19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”

21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.”

23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.

24 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.

25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:

“Peace and prosperity to you!

26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.

For he is the living God,
    and he will endure forever.
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
    and his rule will never end.
27 He rescues and saves his people;
    he performs miraculous signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian

Safe and Sound 04: Nebuchadnezzar's Crazy Dream


"Safe and Sound 04: Nebuchadnezzar's Crazy Dream"

by Tim Suttle


We all have our own kingdom, our own rooftop, and it's easy to trust in our own wealth and power for our security. This story calls this insanity.

Daniel 4

King Nebuchadnezzar,

To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:

May you prosper greatly!

2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

3 How great are his signs,
    how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;
    his dominion endures from generation to generation.

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous.5 I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. 6 So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. 7 When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers[b] and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. 8 Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar,after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)

9 I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.

13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger,[c] coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.

“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times[d] pass by for him.

17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’

18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds—22 Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.

23 “Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’

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.”

31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. 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.”

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

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.

Safe and Sound 03: Authority and Power - Cole McGee


"Safe and Sound 03: Authority and Power" 

By Cole McGee


We serve a God who gave up his power to show up in human history. We serve a God who gave up everything to be with us. What if this is not just what God did, but also how we are to lead, to coach, to parent, to teach? Using the movie Dead Poet's Society as a guide, we will look into what it is like to give up our power and gain authority. 

The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace | Daniel 3

3 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide,[a] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language,this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

8 At this time some astrologers[b] came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seventimes hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God,come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.