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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Lord of History

Some days, you have to wonder if God really is in charge . . . and if so, then what is He thinking?

Consider the story on page 39 of the teacher’s quarterly – the one that tells of “God’s providential care over thousands of Allied prisoners during World War II, many of whom were Christians.”

The story goes on to tell of a American B-29, circling high above the clouds that completely obscured Kokura, Japan. Unable to see their primary target, the bomber’s crew flew on to another city and completed their mission.

Some time later an [American] officer received some startling information from military intelligence. Just one week before that bombing mission, the Japanese had transferred one of their largest concentrations of captured Americans to the city of Kokura. Upon reading this, the officer exclaimed, “Thank God for that protecting cloud! If that city hadn’t been hidden from the bomber, it would have been destroyed and thousands of American boys would have died.”

Well . . . yes, and I’m thankful they did survive.

Then again, the city that did get destroyed by that B-29 was Nagasaki – at that time, the home to most of Japan’s Christians.

So how about it: did God “hide” American Christians in Kokura, only to let Japanese Christians die in Nagasaki?

Did God love the 175,000 people who lived in Kokura more that He loved the 240,000 in Nagasaki?

Or did God have nothing to do with any of this; from start to finish, it was all just one big example of the fact that “stuff happens”?

That’s the question that comes up anytime you start looking at history – and that’s the question that’s going to come up as you teach this week’s lesson.

This is the week, after all, we look at Daniel 2 – the chapter that portrays in graphic form how God “sets ups kings and deposes them.” Daniel believe, in other words, that God is the sovereign lord of history; He is in charge of everything that happens . . .

All of which means that things are the way they are because God made them that way.

Now stop for a minute, and think what that means. I mean, it’s one thing to say that “God’s in charge” when everything is going your way; it’s easy to believe that God knows what He’s doing when you live in Kokura.

But Daniel wrote these words when he was facing death in Babylon – in fact, Daniel wrote these words when all of God’s people were dealing with the long, slow slide of their nation into irrelevance. And just up ahead would be the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the exile of God’s people.

No, Daniel did not write these words in Kokura; he wrote them in Nagasaki.

So when Daniel wrote that "God sets up kings and deposes them" -- that God is the sovereign lord of history, that He was in charge of everything that happened to Daniel and his people . . . then why did Daniel think this was good news?


Blogger Ron Corson said...

And now some thoughts, which may stimulate your Sabbath School Discussion:

1. In the memory text it says in the days of these kings. Who are these kings?

Dan 2:40 (All texts NASB) "Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. 41 "In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. 42 "As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. 43 "And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery. 44 "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 45 "Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy." 46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense.

2. We tend to think linearly which is fine with simple concepts but rarely works with complex issues. The 4 kingdoms are listed linearly however when the stone comes it destroys all, Thinking linearly there is only the toes because everything else has come and gone. The answer to the question 1. above will in most classes be the days of the kings of the toes. Yet the verse about the toes does not indicate that it is different kingdoms but a kingdom poorly held together because of the clay (pottery elements that are not strong like the other parts of the kingdom. The stone is representing the God of heavens kingdom and it crushes all other kingdoms. So it is not dealing with linear thinking here. The reference is to all the kingdoms (“it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold,”) in the statue.

This should tell us something when we consider the apocalyptic nature of sections, actually most of Daniel. That is, though things look bad for God’s people (which is why apocalyptic writing is used, when life is going easily people don’t write with hidden meanings) God is still in control and His kingdom will be the eternal kingdom. This is a very comforting view when you are being held under a foreign land and your entire religious system has been destroyed.

3. In Daniel 2 there is mention of the latter days as in: verse 28 "However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days”. Does the latter days of Daniel indicate the time of the end as we consider it, i.e. the short time before the second coming? Again thinking linearly the latter days of Babylon or Persia etc have little to do with the time of the end of all things on earth. Yet if Daniel is not limited to linear thinking the latter days can encompass the time from Babylon till the completion and reality of the establishment of the kingdom of God. However to do that we have to leave behind our linear thinking and see that the emphasis is not upon this or that country but upon God constant involvement with His people. That God has been establishing His kingdom for thousands of years even before the kingdom of God came with power with Jesus Christ.

4. Is the following statement true or is it a generality used to exalt God?
Dan 2:19 Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; 20 Daniel said, "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. 21 "It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.
What would be an example of God changes the times and epochs?
Was Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler established as rulers by God and taken down by God?
Is it more likely that there are exceptions and sometimes God establishes a ruler such as Cyrus? Or takes down a leader like Pharaoh.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Pastor Greg said...

Ummmm . . . I'm wondering if maybe a little brevity might be in order here?

9:06 PM  
Blogger Ron Corson said...

As I have noticed from my blog and other SDA blogs the problem of too many comments is really not a concern. Thus too long a comment really aren't of too much concern either.

My purpose was to offer some Adult Sabbath School content for consideration as that is the tile of this blog.

Unfortunately in the SDA church little thought is given to other perspectives. SDA's have for quite some time been told that they have the truth and as such they don't tend to look at other opinions whether historical or contemporary.

What has struck me so far from the Sabbath School class I attend and the classes I listen to over the internet is that even with a controversial subject such as the Investigative Judgment little investigation of our position is acutally persued. It seems that all that is necessary is to be lead along by the Lesson Study Guide and for the real hard core, to be lead along by the book chosen to accompany the Lesson Study Guide.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Pastor Greg said...

A good point, briefly made.

7:51 AM  

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