‘Interpret it for me!’

‘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.’ (Daniel 4v9)

In the last post we considered how Nebuchadnezzar – the king of Babylon – observed early on that the spirit of a holy god was operating within Daniel. Whether this was from the young man’s tenacity in standing up to his captors in refusing to eat food sacrificed to idols or the answers he gave Nebuchadnezzar, we can’t be sure. But what  do know and see is the start of a burgeoning relationship between the men.
That said,  Daniel is under pressure to perform. We see this as Nebuchadnezzar states his belief that the spirit of the holy gods live within him and that no mystery is beyond his insight and explanation of Daniel. Interestingly, despite these insights, Nebuchadnezzar is surprisingly slow in regard to understanding that Daniel is monotheistic in his belief- that is worshipping the one true God over the ‘many gods’ that Nebuchadnezzar believes in. Yes, the king knows a holy interpreter even if he does not understand that God is one and not many. Still, he is not deterred andDaniel is there to do a job as he prepares him with the words: ‘Here is my dream, interpret it for me!’ (to be continued…)

 

 


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Fashioned by humans or God?

‘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.'(Daniel 4v8)

Who would have thought so much could be found in such a  short verse? Daniel and the Israelites have been captured and removed from their land to another country to begin the collective process of being assimilated into the Babylonian  culture. At the helm of this decision  is Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  But right from the start, Daniel is on the offensive as he refuses the meals of meat he’s offered, preferring to stick to a diet of vegetables rather than eat that which has been offered to idols.

 

Whether Daniel is deliberately late for Nebuchadnezzar we don’t know but the kings’s exasperation is evident in the word ‘finally.’ Possibly, Daniel (aka Belteshazzar) was on time but the King’s desire that he interpret the dream immediately may have got the better of him. However it is read, the most interesting insights that come at the end of v8 in which we learn that

  1. Daniel has been renamed ‘ Belteshazzar’ after Nebuchadnezzar’s  god (and)
  2. the spirit of the holy gods is in him (Daniel).

Now, I find it really interesting that although Daniel has been renamed ‘Belteshazzar,’ the king also observes that the spirit of a holy god(s) lives within him – it is an important distinction to note because if the king believed the opposite he would have said that ‘Daniel has been renamed Belteshazzar after Nebucahdezzar’s holy god that dwells within him – but he doesn’t say that. Why?  Because even the king has a growing awareness  that the capabilities of Daniel’s God goes far beyond the lifeless, mute idols that adorn the palace. A truth that as we shall see, has even greater implications for both of them.

 


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Human experience and imagining heaven?

‘Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.’ (Ezekiel 43v5) However you understand this scripture – whether figuratively in that Ezekiel was imaging or dreaming this experience – or literally as these were the  actually events  that happened to the prophet, know this: there is some sort of future telling or imagining  of God and the glory that  accompanies Him and radiates out to others.

 

Of course, whenever we attempt to think of what heaven is like…be that the temple or its inner courts, we are compromised by the imagination of others who have  drawn, painted or designed a set for a film as to how they saw it to be like. For myself, when attempting to imagine what heaven is like, I can’t help but default to the images I watched in a film ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ fifty years ago.  It starred a very young David Niven and I yet the images (filmed in black and white) seem to me to be be timeless. Given that we are told that however humans  imagine ‘heaven’ it will be both a disappointment and a sad reflection of what it truly is like. The enormity of God’s presence remaining – infilling the courts with people who bow and kneel and sing praise to Him in tongues. So for now, the lesser image will have to suffice, but one day…

 


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The Holy Spirit and speaking face to face with God?

‘I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord’.(Ezekiel 39v29) I love the fact that this verse is loaded with far more than the scripture suggests at first glance. Reading ‘on the line’ it seems to be saying that change is in the air and that God will pour out His Spirit into the people. Remarkable in itself but…

 

…journey back to Israel’s exodus in the desert when they came out of Egypt and the ark travelled with them. Each time they set up camp in a new location, the ark was placed in the centre of the community with various priestly family groups gathered around it in close proximity. Why? Because there was a fear that ‘ordinary’ Israelites might get lost and in the camp and inadvertently come too close to God and be consumed by holy fire. Another  possible reason why God mentions hiding his face from the community is that many people  believed that should they catch sight of God they would die. In short, God’s holiness would be seen as a holy and awesome thing. And yet, here is  God declaring that in the future He will engage with people in the same way humans do – face to face. This is the ‘between the lines message’ made possible by the fact that God’s Holy Spirit would be within people.

And lastly, ‘beyond the lines.’ In the future, people will no longer need to carry an ark around or go to a certain place to find God with someone interceding on their behalf – why? Because God will live in each person through His Holy Spirit. No longer with they fear accidentally happening across God and catching a glimpse of his holiness and dying (more likely from a heart attack at the shock of it). God lives in us and can be reached at any time we lack without fear of death visiting us for being unclean before him. This is what God is doing and has done!


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The benefit of Christ in us?

“I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Hot on the heels of the last post, Ezekiel is future telling what exactly will happen for everyone – God’s Spirit will enable the people to come close to God. Unlike the person before who when physically meeting with a king is required to keep their head bowed out of fear that their unworthiness of being in such a position will affect them –  the Holy Spirit within each of us  now facilitates a sense of peace and acceptance that we are in a relationship with God in which we will not be rejected because Christ lives in each  – and God will not reject those in whom He lives!


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When all strength disappears?

“When they ask why you are groaning, tell them, ‘I groan because of the terrifying news I have heard. When it comes true, the boldest heart will melt with fear; all strength will disappear. Every spirit will faint; strong knees will become as weak as water. And the Sovereign Lord says: It is coming! It’s on its way!’” Ezekiel 21:7 (NLT)

However you understand this scripture – whether as a terrifying event that will shake all people of the world to their very core of their being – or as an event unparalleled in ancient history, the truth is that it’s monumental. The people should be scared and rightly so.

Interestingly, the author of Ezekiel makes an interesting analogy of the spirit as possessing the ability to faint and  – by extension – presumably the ability to be restored and roused to its proper state once again. But what we also see here is that God is active in the process and while the spirit of man might comprehend, it cannot endure when faced with the enormity, magnitude and holiness of God. After  all, as Jeremiah observes (17v9), ‘ the heart is sinful and beyond cure – who can comprehend it?’


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Holy Spirit in History?

‘I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”(Ezekiel 37v14)’ (Ezekiel 37 v1)

What I love about this scripture is God’s promise to ‘put’ his Spirit into the people. Of course, it is only when we factor in that it was spoken during the period we now refer to as the Old Testament that we realise its significance. God’s eternal plan of infilling his creation has begun.

Here we have the first inklings of what the disciples will encounter at Pentecost. Six hundred years on after the death of Ezekiel and Jesus instructs the disciples to wait on God’s Counsellor who will come to them after his departure. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples begin a period of fasting and praying in readiness for the Counsellor to come – but truth be told, they had no idea what to expect!

The Holy Spirit enters into each of them and – filled with the life and presence of God – they fall into the streets telling everyone the good news of Jesus. The persecution that follows only makes them bold and resilient. Soon their numbers grow as a handful of disciples multiply into the 2.18 billion followers in the world today. Not by clever marketing or strategy but because God lives within each person and what they have is good news. This is how we know ‘the Lord has spoken and he has done it!’ (Ezek 37v14)

 


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The Necessity of God’s Holy Spirit?

God’s people had been having a bad day at the office – actually, years, weeks, months, days, hours, minutes…You get what I’m saying. The problem? Despite their best efforts, they were  unable to keep the laws and decrees that God had given them. What to do?

Well, for the people it was a case that either God had underestimated their ability and set the bar too high or they were doing something wrong because resist as they might, they just kept yielding to temptation – which in this instance was disobedience and failure to God’s law/instruction.

Now, strangely, the solution God brings to the table is a surprise one because it seems the  peoples’ failure relates to a lack of God’s presence within them. In other words, their human strength was never going to be enough to refrain from temptation. What they needed was God living within them and this through an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.

Whichever way for read this passage – that is, as a foretelling of events at Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit falls upon and mobilises the believers  OR a temporary infilling ofGod’s  Spirit into the  people of Ezekiel’s time so they can do God’s work, the point is human strength and ingenuity is not always enough to evade temptation.

Oscar Wilde is famously quoted for saying ‘ I can resist everything but temptation.’ For  christians, the same is true, except for one caveat:

‘We can resist everything but temptation (which we are all susceptible to) however, when we wholly rely upon God’s Holy Spirit and his gracious provision to strengthen our otherwise weak resolve, we can experience victory over temptation, albeit one challenge at a time. Hence, why Christian believe that Christ lives within each of us, guiding us towards decision making that will lead us even further into actions to achieve Christ’s glory.  And on that positive note, be blessed!

 


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Irrevocable change – the work of God’s Holy Spirit

‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’   (Ezekiel 36v26)
Continuing our series on the work of the Holy Spirit in History – that is, the period preceding Jesus – we come to this interesting passage that foretells what is to come for all when the Holy Spirit will enter into the disciples and change their world and lives irrevocably.

Of course, this outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all people comes at great expense as it requires Jesus to return to heaven in order that the Spirit might replace Him on earth. Now, while it is amazing that the Holy Spirit who is part of the Godhead Trinity who was present at the start of Creation hovering over the waters  – it is even more remarkable that God uses his life-force to equip the disciples to think, act and be present like Jesus in their thinking, answers and actions.

Hence, Jesus’ promise to remove the peoples’  cynical and jaded hearts and replace them with ones that are more malleable, echo the real promise that each believer will soon receive – namely: Christ in you.., the hope of glory! (Col 1v27) In short, God’s transformation that will transform lives, equip and revolutionise his followers to reach a nation and lead others, also has the provision for a direct ‘one to one’ relationship with God via the Holy Spirit..
The promise that God will place within each wayward believer, a new spirit and a heart  of flesh has been proven by many believers over the centuries as they have found God to be true. Hallelujah!

Continue reading Irrevocable change – the work of God’s Holy Spirit


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Why the heart is deceitful and beyond cure?

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!’ (Ezekiel 13v3)

This verse is easily understood when placed within the context of the first seven verses of Ezekiel 13 (see paragrapgh in italics at bottom of this post).
In short, the prophets had become too comfortable and it was their ability to be  salt and light in the world.  Indeed, rather than revealing God’s Will to the people, it appears they had elevated their own self-interest to the point where they became comfortable telling one another what they wanted to hear – then crediting it as God’s word given to them.
In truth, all of us at times will be guilty of this in our misinterpretation of what God has said to us. Sometimes it is because we think that what we want for ourselves is also what God wants. Other times,  we have got lost along the way to the point where  we no longer hear God as we once did and can no longer distinguish His voice from are own. And lastly, there are times when we are just wilfull and beligerent and are easily taken to disobedience.
Thankfully, God is aware of our condition. In the Book of Jeremiah 17v9 we are told that ‘The heart is deceitful and beyond cure (and) who can understand it?’
The root of all our problems is our heart and where it is that we allign it. Fortunately, God understands all too well the temptations we face and is merciful as we recognise our shortcomings and disobdience and repent. What’s the secret to walking with God? Keeping short accounts when we stray by confessing them to God immediately  – then trusting him to forgive us our sins just as we (must) forgive others. Be blessed.
‘The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, “The Lorddeclares,” and expect him to fulfill their words. Have you not seen false visionsand uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken?’ (Ezekiel 13v1-7)

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