Who Is in Control?

By Paul Billington

babylon.jpg (13607 bytes)

An artistic reconstruction of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon

The Bible is a Book of hope. It holds out what the Apostle Peter called "exceeding great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4). What these promises amount to, is that we human beings could be "partakers of the divine nature" says the Apostle. If we allow our minds to dwell on that prospect—consider what is really involved in it—it may seem to be far removed from what we know, and from what makes up our day-to-day experiences in life. In fact it may even appear to us as being incredible—unbelievable!

This impression is quite understandable. There are very many things like that if we think about it—endless space, infinite time, the fact that everything around really consists of molecular structures bound together by energy. These things are facts of life, yet somehow they seem to be unreal. So Truth is not always obvious to our natural minds—hence, to doubt things that are true is—well, natural!

The Direct Appeal

Now He who knows our frame remembers that men and women are but dust, and He seeks to help them to overcome their natural blindness to the reality of things. Sometimes this is by a direct appeal such as was made to Israel in Isaiah 40:26-31: "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold..." He who created the galaxies and energized a million suns is quite able to give power to the faint, so that they may run and not be weary. He is quite able to strengthen—even immortalize—those who believe His promises and obey Him in faith. This direct approach in opening minds did not always bring results however.

Evidence of Prophecy and Miracle

There is another way in which the great Creator seeks to open the minds of men to underlying realities. Through His prophets and saints He has shown beforehand the rise and fall of nations—and thereby has revealed that His Almighty hand is at work, behind the scenes as it were, in shaping the destiny of nations. World events do not just happen—they are directed by an unseen Hand; and in all these events there is purpose. This is something that the servants of Jesus Christ seek to make known. It was something which the prophet Daniel tried to get across to that great and absolute monarch of Babylon—Nebuchadnezzar. He was a slow learner however!The vision of future world history (Daniel 2) should have taught Nebuchadnezzar that the real empire-builder—and king-maker—was not man, but God (see verse 20, 21). The lesson seems to have been lost on him though—and we find him demanding that people worship his image of gold (Daniel 3). One would think that the miracle of deliverance from the burning fiery furnace of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego—which "changed the king’s word"—would have finally taught him just who was really in control of events. But no; he still hadn’t got it! Like many people with a bit of authority he became swollen with pride. He put his name on builders bricks (some of which are in the British Museum) and still imagined himself as being the great cause of all things in the kingdom! Neither the vision of the future or the miraculous had made the necessary impression upon him. So he was given another vision (Daniel chapter 4), "...to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will..."

Obstinate Resistance

As with most kings, presidents, prime-ministers or governments, Nebuchadnezzar could not be brought to acknowledge the underlying reality—that there is an Almighty hand, unseen by men, which gives shape to events. When the king of Babylon received the vision of chapter 4, Daniel (who understood those realities only too well) pleaded with the king:... "break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility" (verse 27).

Nebuchadnezzar had twelve months opportunity in which to respond—and he still could not humble himself. Surveying the magnificence of Babylon from his palace, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride—and his blindness—moved him to boasting: "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" (Verse 30).

Even as he was still speaking, a voice informed him of the latest news: "The kingdom is departed from thee..." Finally, the message got through to him: "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish." (Psalm 49:20; Daniel 4:33).

A Testimony before Kings

Daniel’s mission had not been easy. It is no easier for Christ’s servants today—and indeed, modern rulers are no more open to receiving these things than was Nebuchadnezzar. They are as blind as ever to the underlying realities—and just as proud of "their" achievements.

Yet it is the responsibility of believers now, as it was Daniel’s then, to make known "unto the principalities and powers in high places...the manifold wisdom of God, according to the purpose of the ages..." (Ephesians 3:10, 11). As Daniel was brought before Nebuchadnezzar, and as the disciples of Jesus were "brought before governors and kings" for his sake, "for a testimony against them and the Gentiles" (Matt. 10:18)— so believers today have the task of making known the mind and purpose of God to modern rulers. This duty, rarely appreciated as it should be, will not be avoided by the faithful follower of Christ. They will deliver their testimony by any means that is available to them.

The Testimony of Jesus

To give "testimony" and to bear witness is of course the same thing. This is what a watchman must do. In Old Testament times God would testify of Israel’s disobedience through the prophets (see of example Nehemiah 9:30). We have seen also that there was a witness before Gentile rulers. In the New Testament the picture is much the same, and in Ephesians 6:12 we find the Apostle Paul wrestling "...against principalities, against powers, against THE RULERS of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Indeed, we know that Paul was even brought before Caesar himself—Acts 27:23, 24 etc.

Since the time of the Apostles this witness before rulers and against "spiritual wickedness" has continued— and in the book of Revelation we find reference to a community who are described as the remnant of the woman’s seed, which keep the commandments of God "and hold the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17). This "testimony" involves prophecy—Rev. 11:3; 19:10. So just as Daniel witnessed to the Truth before Nebuchadnezzar, so it is the duty of Christ’s servants today to place the Lord’s testimony before the rulers of the darkness of this world—and to wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places. As in the past, the task of the disciple is to draw attention to the underlying reality, that it is God and not proud men, who controls the events that make our headline news. It is God, through the work of His angels (now under christ’s direction), who arranges circumstances that dictate the direction in which world leaders find themselves propelled. This is the reality. The disciple of Christ knows the trend of important current events better than government ministers who oversee the administrative details— because they are revealed by God through the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles (Rev. 1:1; 1 Cor. 2:14-16).

Seeing the Realities

It is this awareness of the real nature of things which helps the disciple of Christ to perform his task of witness and to perceive the credibility of God’s great promises. As the apostle expressed it: "...we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).

Having been given an understanding of the Truth, the disciple knows him that is true (1 John 5:20), and so endures "as seeing him who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27). The hand of the true and living God is seen at work in history and in current events— and it is often recognized in the circumstances of the believers own life. Hence, he makes a distinction between what is transient and passing—the "temporal"—and those things which are "eternal" and real.

The eternal things that the Apostle has in mind here is seen from his next point (made in 2 Cor. 5:1-4); that our present mortal nature is to be "swallowed up of life". In other words, being "partakers of the divine nature" is a sure hope— and entirely believable for those who see things that are not seen by the natural man. What stands in the way of this vision for most people is a natural blindness to true realities— to the reality that God is in control. To overcome this blindness we must let the prophets open our minds that we may see—Rev. 3:17-18.

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