Messiah Lutheran Church :: Hallelujah! Praise the LORD

Hallelujah! Praise the LORD

Dear Christian friends,

            The book of Daniel is a great book.  Some of the stories are truly unforgettable.  There are the three men in the fiery furnace - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  God saved them from the fire that Nebuchadnezzar sentenced them to because they would not deny their faith in the LORD God.

            How about Daniel? He was a young Jewish boy who was basically kidnapped and sent toBabylon.  The Babylonians were employing a strategy to basically brainwash talented young men to betray their roots.  They were supposed to be more Babylonian than Jewish.  Daniel would not adopt the Babylonian deities.  He was thrown into the lions’ den, but he did not falter, nor did God in saving him.

            But Daniel is more than a book of heroic faith; it is a book about the future.  God gave Daniel a look into future events. Daniel chapter seven is a great example. As the chapter begins Daniel saw some frightful things.  He says, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.”  Each beast represented rising and falling nations whose power would affect the nation of Israel.  There was Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.  But then comes another vision which serves as the basis for the sermon.  “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”  This is the kingdom of the King of King and the Lord of Lords.  He is “The King Above all Kings.”  He is 1) A king unlike any other; 2) His kingdom is unlike any other.

            Jesus is a king unlike all others. “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”  The “Ancient of Days”
is the Father.  The “one like the Son of Man” is Jesus himself.  While the frightful beasts that he saw represented nations, Daniel must have been relieved to see someone who was human. This was the Savior and Messiah.  The fact that he was human indicates he is not frightful, but rather humane, kind and benevolent. The son of man, the king of kings did not come to intimidate but to love.

            These words tell us about who he is.  There is no one like him. He was the son of man but also came from heaven and his rule is over everything.  He is God and man in one.  The apostle described Jesus like this: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”  He took on human likeness. He was flesh and blood.  Born inBethlehem; lived inNazareth, died atCalvary.  He ate and drank; he got tired and slept.  Even though he was the King of Kings and the Lord of lords, for a time he chose to humble himself to become obedient unto death for us all.  He did so to reconcile us and forgive. 

            But he was also more than just a man.  In Daniel’s vision the beasts representing all the nations came from the sea.  The ‘Son of Man’ came from heaven.  He was nothing less than God too.  Paul finishes what he spoke about before regarding the servant, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”   

            There have been many powerful leaders in history.  Many acted like they were road graders just plowing over those who were subject to them. They intimidated and destroyed.  History is filled with vile tyrants who cared less about their subjects.  While Jesus, who has more power than any of them to crush and annihilate has his arms open and invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

            But how do you regard him?  Have you given him enough devotion?  Have you given him enough time?  Have you given him too little room in your life?  Have you come to the same conclusion that I have about mine?  Lord, be merciful to me a sinner?  And know this, the Lord still invites us to come to him where we can find forgiveness and compassion.  That’s our king!  He is so unlike so many others.

            Not only is he a king unlike all others, his kingdom is unlike all others too.  His kingdom is not measured in terms of time and space.  Babylonand Persia, Greeceand Rome, all others including the good ol’ USAexisted and then it won’t.  Each was (and is) a piece of land somewhere.  Each has a run for a time and then falls.  As you study history, given enough time each nation has time to rise and fall.  In the vision of Daniel we are told quite differently about Jesus’ kingdom.  “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”  His kingdom will survive all.  It’s eternal! 

            As far as space is concerned, Jesus once said, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because he kingdom of God is within you.”  The kingdom is inside wherever faith is present. You can’t draw borders around that. In fact, Christ’s kingdom goes into heaven itself.  Those who have the faith and those who died in the faith are of the same kingdom. Some have received their eternal destiny; we are just waiting.

            ThekingdomofChristis not based on someone’s ego but on sacrifice.  It appears that the longer a kingdom of this world is around, the more susceptible they become.  Judging from history the longer they are around, the people become more and more immoral, greedy and full of all kinds of vice.  Nebuchadnezzar and the Egyptian pharaohs wanted to be praised as gods.  So did the Caesars ofRome.  Communists didn’t want anyone to even talk about God.  In fact many were even jailed because they talked about God.  They consider religion weakness.  Egos – each one of them! 

Christ’s kingdom is different.  Jesus once said, “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus entered the world in a gentle and humble way. He was born in a cattle stall. He grew up in a despised city. He was raised in a poor home.  He was followed by the ordinary and less than ordinary.  He didn’t come to institute laws and demand obedience.  He earned the respect and obedience by his love.  His purpose was not to punish crime but to be punished for crime, for ours against our God.  His kingdom was all about sacrifice – his own.

            While he is humble, his rule is over all.  In our day, and it has always been this way, if a ruler became a mad man like Nero or Hitler or Saddam Hussein, there is little that his enemies can do except fight him.  But at great cost and resources both money and soldiers and citizens.  Yet Jesus, our king, controls even the madmen.  He says that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He promises that nothing happens whether big or small, good or evil, that he doesn’t control and use for his purposes. He knew all things about the kingdoms ofBabylon,Persia,Greece andRome and every kingdom since then.  He makes them somehow serve the good of his church – his kingdom.  That’s the king like no other. 

            Even entry into his kingdom is unlike all others.  We don’t gain entry by virtue of birth, but of spiritual rebirth.  Citizenship is not confirmed by a birth certificate but by water and the Spirit.  It is through his Spirit that we remain in his kingdom.

            Even the legacy of Christ’s kingdom is different from all other kingdoms.  A legacy is what is passed down to the next generation.  What we remember a ruler, king or despot is found in a history book.  Some of the things we remember are not necessarily flattering.  For instance, President Nixon did a lot in terms of world relations for our country.  He got our country out of the war inViet Nam.  He also was the president that ended the closed society thatChinawas as we began diplomacy with them.  But what do we remember Richard Nixon for?  Resigning because of the Watergate cover up!  President Carter was the same way.  He got some peace talks going in theMiddle East, something that is breaking down these days or perhaps even for years.  Yet I remember him for two things – the Iranian hostage situation that went on for 444 days and super high interest rates that went over 20%. 

            But understand this: even if a ruler is good or a president is good, one day all of that really won’t matter a hill of beans.  History books will be burned up, because only Christ’s kingdom will matter in the end.  His legacy is forever.  No king or ruler can ever say that.

            One of my favorite quotes outside the Bible was one made by Napoleon Bonaparte.  He was banished to the islandof St. Helena, a prison island.  He had a great awakening there.  As an arrogant ruler he tried to conquer the world.  He was stopped.  While on that island he realized how small his kingdom was compared to that of Jesus Christ.  He said, “There is no possible comparison between Jesus and other leaders in the world.  Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I founded empires.  But on what did we found them?  Upon force.  But Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love, and at this hour millions would die for him.” I hope and pray we won’t die for him because that would mean there is a violent persecution going on.  I do hope and pray that we would die in him – in faith because he is the King like no other who has a kingdom like no other.   

 

Amen    

           

 

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