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
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.
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…
…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!
“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!
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?’
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)
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!
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.