07 Meeting the Four Princes

By John Thiel, Lessons from the Life of Nebuchadnezzar Conference, mp3

Isaiah 43:12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when [there was] no strange [god] among you: therefore ye [are] my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I [am] God. 

We want to behold God’s way of using the faithful of His flock to interact with the heathen for the purpose of converting them. The Jewish people failed as a nation to be His witnesses. “Therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

Judah failed in fulfilling the purpose of God. Because they failed, God permitted them to be taken into captivity so that those who were faithful among them would be brought into contact with the heathen.

The children of Israel were taken captive to Babylon because they separated from God; they did not maintain his principles unadulterated with the sentiments of the nations around them. The people who should have been a light amid the surrounding darkness, disregarded the word of the Lord. They lived for themselves, and neglected to do the special work God had appointed them. And because of their failure to fulfil his purpose, he permitted them to be humbled by an idolatrous nation. {YI, May 14, 1903 par. 12}

They had to go through this humbling experience because they would not fulfill God’s purpose in spite of all the counsels that He was giving them through Jeremiah. Because they would not, therefore it was a cruel captivity that they were humbled by. Then while they were thus humbled, this is what transpired:

When the Jews were dispersed from Jerusalem, there were among them young men and women who were firm as a rock to principle, men and women who had not pursued a course to make the Lord ashamed to call them His people. {4BC 1144.4}

While the Jews were now scattered in the Babylonian empire, among them were these principled men and women who would not fail like the Jewish nation had.

These were sad at heart for the backsliding which they could not prevent. These innocent ones must suffer with the guilty; but God would give them strength sufficient for their day. It was to them that the message of encouragement was sent. The hope of the nation lay in those young men and maidens who would preserve their integrity. And in their captivity these obedient ones had an influence over their idolatrous companions. Had all who were taken captive held firmly to correct principles, they would have imparted light in every place where they were scattered. But they remained impenitent, and still heavier punishment came upon them. Their calamities were sent for their purification. God would bring them to the place where they would be instructed (MS 151, 1899). {4BC 1144.4}

How would God work with these faithful ones and at the same time have an influence upon the idolaters that they were in companionship with? and how would those who would not be penitent be brought more and more to understand their sufferings which were meant to purify them? We are studying this, not just to learn what happened then, but for our own understanding about our own selves. Our focus at this conference is upon Nebuchadnezzar. Watch how God moves on Nebuchadnezzar to expose him to the faithful, and thus operate to convert his soul. Nebuchadnezzar meets the four princes.

Nebuchadnezzar’s natural heart of wisdom by which he was able to do such great things as conquering the nations around him, manifested itself in a way by which he revealed his magnanimity towards those who he was conquering. He was in the process of developing an empire in which the nations were permitted to rule in their own vicinity as vassals of King Nebuchadnezzar. In his strategy when this failed, he would at least have the value of those whom he took into captivity. Observe the great wisdom that Nebuchadnezzar exercised to get in his empire the benefit of all the cream of those whom he conquered:

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.

When he finally penetrated the city, this is what he did:

Daniel 1:3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring [certain] of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom [was] no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as [had] ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

Here is a wisdom from a heathen king that God could use. God could orchestrate Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion by Nebuchadnezzar taking the cream of the nobility of Jerusalem, and placing them into a university of his own to train them to be capable people in his own palace. These wise people, the cream of the Jews, are identified. Who were they?

Daniel 1:6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

These were the special ones that God identified among these princes.

Seeing in these youth the promise of remarkable ability, Nebuchadnezzar determined that they should be trained to fill important positions in his kingdom. {CSA 53.3}

What sort of a mind did he have? He was a very astute and wise person. He saw “in these youth the promise of remarkable ability.” He had such an insight that he recognised, These four young men, wow, they are special. This is Nebuchadnezzar.

That they might be fully qualified for their lifework, he arranged for them to learn the language of the Chaldeans and for three years to be granted the unusual educational advantages afforded princes of the realm. {CSA 53.3}

He took them to university. If you go to university today, what is your danger? You will be coloured by what they will teach you there. This was precisely the danger of these young men.

Daniel was subjected to the severest temptations that can assail the youth of today; {SL 20.1} 

He was taken to university – severe temptations. It was the same as it is today.

…yet he was true to the religious instruction received in early life. He was surrounded with influences calculated to subvert those who would vacillate between principle and inclination; yet the Word of God presents him as a faultless character. Daniel dared not trust to his own moral power. {SL 20.1} 

He dared not.

Prayer was to him a necessity. He made God his strength, and the fear of God was continually before him in all the transactions of his life. {SL 20.1}

Daniel possessed the grace of genuine meekness. He was true, firm, and noble. He sought to live in peace with all, while he was unbending as the lofty cedar wherever principle was involved. {SL 20.2} 

Here we are getting a very important instruction in the object lesson. What were he and his friends like? They possessed genuine grace of meekness. However, while they were totally meek and humble, they were true, firm and noble. “He sought to love in peace with all.” Can you live in peace with unbelievers? You can. Daniel represented that. “He sought to live in peace with all, while,” at the same time, “he was unbending as the lofty cedar.” This is not a natural trait for us to be at peace and meek, and at the same time firm and decided. Usually, with the natural heart that we have, we go along and we have no peace with those to whom we are firmly representing the right. It creates conflict. But no, with him he learned and he had that.

In everything that did not come in collision with his allegiance to God, he was respectful and obedient to those who had authority over him; but he had so high a sense of the claims of God that the requirements of earthly rulers were held subordinate. He would not be induced by any selfish consideration to swerve from his duty. {SL 20.2}

The character of Daniel is presented to the world as a striking example of what God’s grace can make of men fallen by nature and corrupted by sin. The record of his noble, self-denying life is an encouragement to our common humanity. From it we may gather strength to nobly resist temptation, and firmly, and in the grace of meekness, stand for the right under the severest trial. {SL 21.1}

This needs to be read many times over in order to pick up on these four princes of which Daniel was the shining leadership.

The approval of God was dearer to him than the favor of the most powerful earthly potentate–dearer than life itself. {PK 483.1}

Here was a loyalty to God and a respectful obedience to the authorities that were not loyal to God. Here is the foundation of our meditation on how missionary activity is to be functioning to convert souls. It was the caliber of these four young men that God would use to be His missionaries to save souls. Do you want to be a missionary? Study the caliber of these men. They were totally meek, not bombastic absolutely peace-loving, and yet standing meekly firm, making God everything to themselves, and being subordinate to Him while at the same time being subordinate, as far as possible, to the authorities who did not believe. Here is where we behold the true missionary spirit that God could use.

When Daniel was in Babylon, he was beset with temptations of which we have never dreamed, and he realized that he must keep his body under. He purposed in his heart that he would not drink of the king’s wine or eat of his dainties. He knew that in order to come off a victor, he must have clear mental perceptions, that he might discern between right and wrong. While he was working on his part, God worked also, and gave him “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” This is the way God worked for Daniel; and He does not propose to do any differently now. Man must cooperate with God in carrying out the plan of salvation (RH April 2, 1889). {4BC 1166.6}

Can you see that we are being given here an object lesson of vivid description to help us understand what it means to cooperate with God? We will see this amazing cooperation of God with His servants to reach the hearts of others.

Only by faithfulness in the little things can the soul be trained to act with fidelity under larger responsibilities. {COL 356.3} 

How many people have said to me, Why are so particular about these little things? Why are you caring about how you dress and eat down to the little detail? Why are you like that? Because “only by faithfulness in the little things can the soul be trained to act with fidelity under larger responsibilities.”

God brought Daniel and his fellows into connection with the great men of Babylon, that these heathen men might become acquainted with the principles of true religion. In the midst of a nation of idolaters, Daniel was to represent the character of God. How did he become fitted for a position of so great trust and honor? It was his faithfulness in the little things that gave complexion to his whole life. He honored God in the smallest duties, and the Lord co-operated with him. To Daniel and his companions God gave “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Daniel 1:17. {COL 356.3} 

As God called Daniel to witness for Him in Babylon, so He calls us to be His witnesses in the world today. In the smallest as well as the largest affairs of life He desires us to reveal to men the principles of His kingdom. {COL 357.1} 

Here we have the instruction of how we should be missionaries, and not to let anyone belittle us when we want to be faithful down to the smallest minutiae. Everything that God has declared and said, even if it is a small little detail, we are to do. Why? Because it will condition us to be absolutely straight in all fidelity. We have come to understand the meaning of fidelity (See Nebuchadnezzar’s Bible Chapter, study 1). The technicians of today, when they produce a good technological way of raising a good quality of music through their instruments, a good high-fidelity radio set, they go down to detail so that the particular wavelength coming through will not be distorted in any way so that you can hear the perfect reproduction of what is being placed through this particular instrument. We are also to be instruments in God’s cause, and our fidelity to God should be as great as is that of the people of the world in their enterprises; as Jesus said, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Our fidelity is dependent upon our fine-tuning submission to everything God has said, down to the smallest detail.

With men like that in Nebuchadnezzar’s realm, consider his strategy which God reversed on him via His faithful representatives. Nebuchadnezzar had a strategy. He was a wise, but worldly king.

Daniel 1:7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel [the name] of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

They changed their names. Is that significant? Does it matter what name you have? To Nebuchadnezzar it was significant. He said it himself:

Daniel 4:8 But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name [was] Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom [is] the spirit of the holy gods:

What was his name? The name of Nebuchadnezzar’s god.

The names of Daniel and his companions were changed to names representing Chaldean deities. Great significance was attached to the names given by Hebrew parents to their children. Often these stood for traits of character that the parent desired to see developed in the child. The prince in whose charge the captive youth were placed, “gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.” {PK 480.3}

The king did not compel the Hebrew youth to renounce their faith in favor of idolatry, {PK 481.1}

He was a smart man; he wasn’t going to put pressure on them to change their faith. What was he going to do?

…but he hoped to bring this about gradually. By giving them names significant of idolatry, by bringing them daily into close association with idolatrous customs, and under the influence of the seductive rites of heathen worship, he hoped to induce them to renounce the religion of their nation and to unite with the worship of the Babylonians. {PK 481.1}

Is the world today doing the same thing? Is there a design in the modern world to surreptitiously change the faith of God’s people? It’s exactly the reality, and they have succeeded dramatically in the majority of Christians, because the Christians are not very careful to take notice of little things. So the little thing, with and another little thing, and another little thing, begins to corrode their faith. Here was Daniel and his three friends under exactly that pressure. Can you see the parallel of the story of Nebuchadnezzar and us today? It is as vivid as can be. Daniel was surrounded with influences calculated to subvert. Yes, Nebuchadnezzar was a smart man, but God was smarter than that. In the dealing with Nebuchadnezzar through His faithful believers and their detailed fidelity God was able to use the smartness of this man to convert him. This is true missionary work. What other influence did Nebuchadnezzar place upon these young men to subvert them?

Daniel 1:5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat [the king’s food], and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

He wanted them to be subverted so that when they finally graduated they would be all down the line of what he expected of them.

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

“Why do you want to be particular about what you eat? Come on, this king was going to give you the wealth of his own table. How rude of you!” This is the way it goes today. All the goodies and the delicacies of the wealth of today’s society are being placed before us to colour us and subtly change our convictions. This is no different today.

Daniel and his three companions had a special work to do. Although greatly honored in this work, they did not become in any way exalted. They were scholars, being skilled in secular as well as religious knowledge; but they had studied science without being corrupted. They were well-balanced because they had yielded themselves to the control of the Holy Spirit. These youth gave to God all the glory of their secular, scientific, and religious endowments. Their learning did not come by chance; they obtained knowledge by the faithful use of their powers; and God gave them skill and understanding. {4BC 1167.7}

On the king’s table there was meat, flesh, there was wine. When they were pushed to partake of this as an expression of gratitude to the king for giving them this honour, what did Daniel ask the prince of eunuchs to do for them? He said, Give us pulse to eat. The Hebrew word for pulse is zeroa, which means “grown from a seed” – fruits, grains, and nuts. Does that sound familiar? Is that our diet? That was the diet they wanted so that they could be sharp and discern and have strength to be faithful and strong under the most severe trials and temptations. We have an answer in their example. That is why God wants us to be vegetarian. That is why He wants us to eat the food that He has instructed us to eat by the Spirit of Prophecy; for the purpose that we may be wide awake in this terrible age in which we live, because it is now more severe than at any other age before us. There was the parallel in the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar, instead of gaining his objective with these youth, received the opposite results. Instead of converting them they worked in harmony with God and they converted him. Profound story. The impact upon Nebuchadnezzar which gradually converted him is echoed here:

The fact that these men, worshipers of Jehovah, were captives in Babylon, and that the vessels of God’s house had been placed in the Temple of the Babylonish gods, was boastfully cited by the victors as evidence that their religion and customs were superior to the religion and customs of the Hebrews. {CSA 53.1}

They had conquered the Hebrews, now they were priding themselves, Look at our religion, it’s better than theirs. The scientific people of today think the same way. “You Christians, look at you. We are much smarter than you; your religion is not as effective. We are all so well-educated, look at you.” And those who are the well-educated of Christianity give over as well. It is the way it is today.

Yet through the very humiliations that Israel’s departure from Him had invited, God gave Babylon evidence of His supremacy, of the holiness of His requirements, and of the sure results of obedience. And this testimony He gave, as alone it could be given, through those who were loyal to Him. {CSA 53.1}

Are you picking up on the challenge played out in front of us and which we are to learn from? The impact on Nebuchadnezzar was recorded in Daniel chapter 1:

Daniel 1:16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. 17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom [and] understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians [and] astrologers that [were] in all his realm.

I love the way God catches out the strategies of the heathen. But He depended upon His faithful servants to do that.

For three years the Hebrew youth studied to acquire “the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” During this time they held fast their allegiance to God and depended constantly upon His power. With their habits of self-denial they united earnestness of purpose, diligence, and steadfastness. It was not pride or ambition that had brought them into the king’s court, into companionship with those who neither knew nor feared God; they were captives in a strange land, placed there by Infinite Wisdom. {CSA 55.1}

These boys did not go to university because of pride. They did not want to become smart. They were there because of captivity. Let us not be hoodwinked to think that if I want to become a smart man I should go to university. It was not because of their pride and ambition that they were there; they were there because they were put there. It was not their choice. Many people choose to place themselves under the tuition of the world instead of under the tuition of God because they want to become smart like the world. That was not these four young men’s motive at all. They were there as captives in a strange land, but placed there by Infinite Wisdom.

Separated from home influences and sacred associations, they sought to acquit themselves creditably, for the honor of their down-trodden people, and for the glory of Him whose servants they were. {CSA 55.1}

When the time came for the youth in training to be tested, the Hebrews were examined, with other candidates, for the service of the kingdom. But “among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” Their keen comprehension, their wide knowledge, their choice and exact language, testified to the unimpaired strength and vigor of their mental powers. “In all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm;”“therefore stood they before the king.” {CSA 55.3}

At the court of Babylon were gathered representatives from all lands, men of the highest talent, men the most richly endowed with natural gifts, and possessed of the broadest culture that the world could bestow; yet among them all, the Hebrew youth were without a peer. In physical strength and beauty, in mental vigor and literary attainment, they stood unrivaled. The erect form, the firm, elastic step, the fair countenance, the undimmed senses, the untainted breath—all were so many certificates of good habits, insignia of the nobility with which nature honors those who are obedient to her laws. {CSA 55.4}

This is not my own philosophy. I have decided to follow everything that is revealed in presenting God’s word. That is all. This is what modern Christianity somehow doesn’t like. “Have your own mind. Have your own opinion.” I refuse. I have read to you a marvellous representation. We have here received a knowledge of God most valuable to us. He takes heathen unbelievers and brings them into contact with His chosen servants by means of punishing their apostate associates.

By the faithfulness of God’s servants, the very instruments of wrath have the opportunity of salvation. God used the heathen king and his army as instruments of wrath. But as these instruments of wrath go and do this cruel work but can recognise the good traits there, and as they pull them out and endeavour to train them in their way of thinking, God uses these instruments of wrath that they might be brought into a possibility of salvation. What an amazing God. I worship Him when I see this.

The remnant today are to be used by their purity of principle in circumstances most negative. God’s final remnant are represented by Daniel and his three friends. We today are living in the atrocious circumstances that are typified in the story of Babylon. That is why it is called, “Babylon is fallenCome out of her, My people.” It is a direct parallel. Attacked by our enemies and the enemies of God we will be taken into court (cf. God’s Outreach to Heathen Kings and Nations, study 2). We will have to stand before kings. There in the court, by their pure characters, God’s people will be used to win the souls who have not yet closed the door of their probation. That is our challenge. As I contemplate this, it affects me, and I hope it affects you to want to live to the glory of God and to prepare ourselves just as these three young men prepared themselves before they knew that they were going to end up there. By simply doing what God says, simply being faithful in little things, they were prepared to be able to stand as the witnesses of God, as true missionaries to convert the heathen.

May God help us to take this divine service to heart.

Amen.

Posted on February 9, 2015, in Nebuchadnezzar Life Lessons and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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