Devotional Message: Let's Go Mountain Hiking


When my brother and myself were growing up in Singapore, we used to visit an Indonesian restaurant.  To us then, the restaurant looked really posh.  But looking back, I think it was just an average suburban eatery that served Indonesian curries.  The restaurant had a glass wall in front.  And from the outside you could see the dishes they were preparing.  

Standing outside the restaurant, you could smell the fragrant  piping hot jasmine rice as the waiters were taking out of the rice cookers.  You could smell the freshly cooked fish fillets immersed in thick coconut milk balanced with lots of Asian greens.  You could see the melt-in-your-mouth chunks of beef simmering in richly textured exotic sauce with lots of peanuts and coconut flakes thrown in to add to the crunch. 

As little kids we had this theory:  the more you can take in the smell of all this yummy food, the quicker you can get ease your hunger pangs.  Often, we would stand outside the restaurant, lost in deep fantasy.  We would fantasied about what it would feel like to have a morsel of those juicy fish fillets in your mouth.  Often, we would discussed what we would order if we did get a chance to eat inside the restaurant. 

We knew the menu.  We knew the odour of most of the dishes.  We knew the faces of the diner's regular customers.  We could talk about the menu.  But do you know what? My brother and myself had never been inside the restaurant - not even once.  We have never tasted not even a grain of their jasmine rice.   Though the food was right in front of us,  there was a thick glass wall that stood between us and the food.  And to us, the glass wall was mighty thick.

There are many of us who know how to do the Christian talk.  We know the cliches.  We know how to raise our hands in worship.  We could converse about the Christian doctrines.  But deep in our hearts, we have never tasted Christ.  We have never feasted with him.  Though the Gospel is presented before us, but we feel like there's a mighty thick glass wall between Christ and ourselves.  

So, how do we know our faith is real?  This is the burden of our text from Daniel 2: 24-45.  Let's situate the text in its context first.  Daniel tells of the time when King Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had a dream at night.

This dream is basically God's assessment of king Nebuchadnezzar's reign.  According to God, king Nebuchadnezzar's position as the head of this world power known as Babylon, was not be accident.  Rather, he was placed in such a position because of God's grace.  Look with me at verse 37: "(This is Daniel speaking) Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold."  

God has made king Nebuchadnezzar "the king of kings."  Just as Adam was given dominion over the beasts of the field and birds of the air in Genesis 1:26, here king Nebuchadnezzar was given this privilege.  In other words, king Nebuchadnezzar was like a second Adam, he was given the awesome task to rule the earth on God's behalf.  

So, what does God think of king Nebuchadnezzar's rule?  Daniel here stands before the king to tell him.  Look with me at 2:31: "Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue-an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth."

This statue represents the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar's reign.  The golden head represents the kingdom of Babylon.  The second represented by the silver portions of the statue represents Medo-Persian empire.  The third kingdom represented by bronze is the Hellenistic kingdom and the last kingdom is that of Rome.  We will come to talk about each of these kingdoms in due course. 

Was God happen with these kings and their kingdoms?  No, God wants to destroy this statue.  Why? 

1. King Nebuchadnezzar & the Kingdoms Knew Nothing About the Glory of God

The statue was very impressive.  We are told that the statue was covered with gold, silver, bronze and iron.  It must be quite a sight to behold.  But notice that though the statue was glistering with brightness; it was glistering with the brightness of human riches of gold, silver, bronze and iron.  Those were precious metals in the past as well as today.  But king Nebuchadnezzar, called to be another Adam, was supposed to shine not with the glistering glory of worldly riches, he was supposed to shine the glory of God.   

This is why God wants to destroy this statue with "a rock (that) was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet."  What is this rock that was cut out, but not by human hands mean?  In the Old Testament, rocks uncut by human hands refer to the rocks used to build the altar of God.  These means that this rock is somehow related to God and the worship of God.  Then in the statue's place, God sets up his own kingdom, which is a mountain that is so big that it fills the entire earth. 

Why mountain?  Throughout the Bible, God often meets people on top of a mountain.  Eden, according to Ezekiel 28:13, was located on a mountain. When Israel came out of Egypt, Moses went up the Mountain in Exodus 19 to get the ten commandments from God.  Likewise, in the Gospel of Matthew, we are told that Jesus went up seven mountains throughout the book.  Jesus, for instance, was on top of a mountain when he was tempted in Matthew 4:8). Jesus was on top of a mountain when he taught the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1.  Jesus was on top of a mountain when he feed the multitudes in Matthew 15:29.  And the list goes on.... 

What is most interesting is this: after Moses went up the mountain, what happened to him?  Moses' face, according to Exodus 34:29-35, started to glow.  The same thing happened to Jesus.  After Jesus was on the mount of transformation what happen to Jesus?  Matthew 17:2 tells us that Jesus' face was "shining as the sun, and his garments became white as the light."

But here king Nebuchadnezzar and the three kingdoms after him only shone with the glory of world glamour.  They didn't shine with the glory of God.  How do you know your faith is real?  Do you shine with the glory of God?  Is your life slowly becoming more and more like that of Jesus?  Are you glowing more and more love, compassion and generosity like Jesus?

If you are truly a child of God, the Holy Spirit will work in your life.  And you will produce fruit in keeping with the regenerative work the Spirit does in our heart.  In reformed theology, this is called the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. 

Professor Robert Louis Wilken has noted that when the early church first started, by the end of the first century A.D., there were only less than 10,000 Christians. A 100 years later, there were 200,000 Christians. By 250, there were over a million Christians.  By the year, there were 6 million Christians, there were 6 million Christians.  The early church did not have a 12-step missions strategy; they didn't have the backing of multi-million cooperations; they didn't have social media, yet they grew exponentially! Why?   

All they did was they preach the Gospel through word and through deed.  Besides preaching the word of God, they took care of orphan girls often left to die at the city gates.  They took care of the orphans and the starving children.  They simply shone with the glory of Jesus.  No secret agenda or elaborate strategies. They just glowed with the glory of God.  And when God's glory shines; it's irresistible. 

2. The statue has immovable feet

Notice verse 34: "a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. "  The stone struck not  the head or the shoulder or the breast of the statue, but it struck the statue at the feet.  Why?  If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you will understand.  In the Old Testament, particularly in Michal 4 and Isaiah 2, you will remember that these prophets predict that when the Messiah comes, he will establish the mountain of the Lord.  This is why in Matthew's Gospel, we are told that Jesus was top of mountains seven times. 

But the prophets Micah and Isaiah also say something very fascinating: when the Messiah sets up his mountain, many from all nations will run to the mountain. Micah 4:2 says, "Many nations will come and say,"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths."  It will not just be Jews running to God's mountain, but people of all nations.  Isaiah 18 even prophesies that Cushites will run to the mountain with gifts.  Who ate the Cushites?  They are black Africans - yes, even uncircumcised Gentiles - will run up God's mountain to learn from God.  In the New Testament we see this prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 5 where Jesus sat among a large crowd as he begins teaching them the beatitudes and the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. 

Our feet are made to go up to the mountain of the Lord, says the prophet Micah.  But the statue not only had immovable feet made "partly of iron and partly of baked clay," but the whole statue was not made for motion.  The head was made of gold, for goodness sake, how could it even move?  King Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdoms after him had not deserve to hike up the mountain of God.  They have not interest to learn from him.

How do we know our faith is real?  The Spirit that lives in us will drive us up the mountain where we have this eagerness to learn from God.  Do you desire to learn from God?  Do you run up to God and sit at his feet ready to learn from him?  

During the days of the "desert fathers" (a 4th century Christian movement that tried to renew the church), a young man came to his spiritual mentor and father-figure named Sisoes. The young man blurted out, "I was hurt by my brother in Christ, and now I'm angry and I want to avenge myself."

The older man tried to comfort him, but he also gave him a gentle warning: "Don't do that, my child. Rather, leave vengeance to God."

But the young Christian refused to listen to Sisoes. Instead, he became even angrier and loudly said, "I will not quit until I get even."

When Sisoes saw that reason alone wouldn't change the young man's heart, he quietly said, "Let us pray, brother."

After a pause, Sisoes offered the following prayer: "O God, apparently we no longer need you to take care of us since we can now avenge ourselves. From now on we can manage our own lives without your help."

When the young man heard this prayer, he immediately repented. Falling at Sisoes feet, he cried out, "Have mercy on me. I am not going to fight my brother anymore.



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