Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the widespread belief in many pagan cultures that local tribal deities claim territoriality over their adherents' land, maintains that God had to disabuse Israel from believing such nonsense, using scattering and exile to partially accomplish His purpose. God is sovereign over the entire earth; His power is not venue-dependent. When Nebuchadnezzar had enough of Judah's rebellion, he transported the entire ruling class to Babylon, including Daniel and his companions. God used this event to scatter Judah and Benjamin through the prominent cultures of the earth. Jeremiah sent a letter in 597 BC, giving specific instructions to the captives as to how to conduct themselves in Gentile cultures, assuring them that they would be in this predicament for seventy years, after which God would rescue them. They were to improve their skills, buy houses, plant gardens, raise families, and be model citizens. Although they were not to assimilate inwardly, they were to blend in wherever God's Law was not violated. They were not to make a nuisance of themselves by proselyting, a principle still in effect today for God's called-out ones. In post-exilic times in Persia, God used concealed Jews (exampled by Mordecai and Esther) to ascend to levels of prominence on behalf of their people. Esther (her Persian name, a variety of Ishtar) and Mordecai (his Persian name, a variety of Marduk, a Babylonian deity) served as a kind of protective covering, enabling them to quietly carry on God's purpose. Paul applied the essence of Jeremiah's letter to Christians living in this present evil age, admonishing them to lead a quiet life, mind their own business, stay aloof from governmental affairs and set a godly example through diligence and good works.
John Ritenbaugh reflects on two recent news items in which individuals foolishly initiated altercations with police and lost their lives in the process. As a matter of common sense, it seems the height of idiocy to challenge constituted authority. Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 8:17 that we are not privy to God's operations under the sun, but we must nevertheless leave room for God's operations, realizing that He has the prerogative to impose both blessings and calamity, the latter as a response to man's disobedience. God wants us to witness difficulties and the natural consequences of sin. In these difficult times, we need to be mindful that God is carefully watching us. As we yield to God, and apply godly wisdom, analyzing, calculating, observing, etc., our knowledge increases and we add an extra dimension of character as we morph into God's offspring. One of the difficult lessons we must process is that God backs up constituted authority, regardless of the governmental structures that placed it into office. We must realize that whether we are dealing with federal representatives, city council members, the policeman on the beat, our employer, our teachers, or our parents, we owe them the same deference and respect we would give to God. The human family was given by God as the building blocks of all governmental structures. As the beginning of wisdom is fear of Almighty God, we humans learn to fear, giving deference and respect to our parents, and then transfer this deference to civil government and other governmental structures of society. We must continually remember that we are strangers, pilgrims, and sojourners in an alien land. Even if we consider ourselves ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom, our latitude to participate in the governmental structures in this world has been greatly restricted. Nevertheless, we are obligated to render respect, deference, and honor to constituted authority as though we rendered it to God.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating the warning of the apostle Paul that evil company corrupts good habits, warns us that the desire to sin is highly contagious and is a deadly, communicable disease. Because the world we inhabit swims in sin, we have the obligation to become a thinking people, voluntarily choosing God's purpose for ourselves rather than Satan's shameless appeal to self-centeredness, as demonstrated with Satan's enticement of mother Eve. Like mother Eve, we also contend against spiritual principalities for which we need the whole armor of guard and to be guided by God's Holy Spirit to defeat our deadly, carnal nature. The best defense a newborn, minimally contaminated by Satanic nature, has against the influence of sin are parents who ardently love God and His commandments. Solomon had to learn that wisdom, in its purest human form, does not give us complete understanding into the ultimate purposes of God, but wisdom, accompanied with unconditional faith in God, will actually brighten an individual's countenance, as was seen in the example of Daniel and his friends; godly wisdom has the power to change a person's appearance and brings about personal transformation. In a difficult situation, especially when dealing with tyrannical human governments, trusting God is the ultimate wisdom.
David Grabbe, examining the righteousness of Noah, Daniel, and Job, asks what this righteousness consisted of. God characterizes Job as blameless, far beyond Pharisaical law-keeping. Job assiduously avoided the wrong things, but consistently practiced the right things, like visiting the orphans and providing for the widows. Even Satan did not bring an accusation against Job. Job desired to meet God face-to-face, as if he considered himself on equal footing with the Creator. After 34 chapters of point and counterpoint, God obliges Job and begins putting things into perspective. God is the sovereign Creator; Job is not. Job, like the rest of us, was the way he was because of the work of the Creator, forming Job's righteousness out of nothing, carefully guiding events before Job's birth and providing an environment in which Job's character could be formed. Without God's intervention and adoption, we are all Satan's children. Job indeed was blameless, but he, like many of us, lost sight of the vast difference between God and humans, forgetting our pitiful vulnerability. God may have highlighted Leviathan because Job seemed to be following in Satan's footsteps. God has called the weak and the base; when we think too highly of ourselves, we open the door to all manner of evil.
Martin Collins, referring to the complex prophecies of Daniel 11 and 12, suggests that much of the interpretation of many parts of this prophetic passage, except for the fulfilled prophecy in Daniel 11:2-39, has not emerged clearly, and has been subject to speculative distortion. The exploits of Alexander the Great, his four generals, Antiochus Epiphanes, and Judas Maccabees are recorded in this narrative, providing types for future events. The detailed fulfillment of prophecy indicates that the Bible is God's Book and that He is able to keep His promises in perpetuity. The prophecies yet to be fulfilled do not contain enough geopolitical data to make clear distinctions possible at this time, but the context of the prophesied events provides instructions how the end-time saints should live their lives, in order to make their calling and election sure. God gives the saints wisdom because they fear and keep His commandments. Several types of the abomination of desolation have occurred in history, including the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes and the Roman legions. The latter fulfillment has not yet occurred, but the responsibility of God's called-out ones is purification in the backdrop of a hopelessly corrupt society, having abundant knowledge but virtually no understanding. Without the knowledge of God, civilization automatically spirals downward, given over to reprobate and debased minds. Thankfully, the over-riding theme of Daniel is the replacement of these debased systems of mankind with God's righteous government. The prophecies of Daniel should motivate God's saints to a life of purification and overcoming, glorifying God in the process, reflecting God as the moon reflects the sun, enabling the world to see a clear reflection of God.
Martin Collins reminds us that Daniel's efficacy in prayer resulted in his view of God's omnipotence and absolute sovereignty, the God of the Universe, a Being to be feared and respected. Daniel learned that faith is to be coupled with intelligence. The 70 weeks of prophecies is more accurately rendered 70 years of weeks, or 490 years. Jesus was to be cut off in the middle of the week (Wednesday) , allowing Him to finish the transgressions, make an end of punishment, and make reconciliation for iniquity. Jesus would then bring in everlasting righteousness (of ages), seal up or authenticate prophecy, and assume the role of the Most Holy, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. God has a timetable in world history, working through people who seek Him with humility and desiring understanding. God's called-out ones are protected from demonic influences through the intervention of powerful, ministering angelic spirits, outnumbering the fallen angels two to one. God alone is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent; Satan is absolutely no match for God's power.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: The Bible contains an interesting phenomenon, one found especially in the Old Testament, in which God coordinates events to place one of His servants in a position of high visibility and sometimes great power at the center of world events. ...
Martin Collins, reiterating that God's sovereignty is a major theme in the book of Daniel, reminds us that if we submit unconditionally to His sovereignty, we have a win-win situation- even when initially, it looks bleak and hopeless. After Nebuchadnezzar's death, the successive tenures of each of his descendants became increasingly attenuated and truncated, mortally weakening Babylon's here-to-fore impregnable position. Belshazzar's blasphemous banquet was the last straw, bringing about the cryptic 'handwriting on the wall' - a somber judgment from Almighty God against the haughty, presumptuous grandchild of Nebuchadnezzar. The words "Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin" signified that Belshazzar's kingdom had been weighed in the balances and was seriously wanting, forcing a calamitous division and destruction at the hands of Darius the Mede. Belshazzar had to learn the painful lesson that sin is not static, but its path leads precipitously downhill to perdition. Sin, the real opiate of the people, makes us oblivious to danger, giving us a debased and reprobate mind. God is not static; His deferred justice will not be deferred in perpetuity, but evil will be totally recompensed. As Daniel experienced, devotion to God and His laws will stir up jealousy in high places. Daniel maintained his devotion to God in spite of dangerous political circumstances, seemingly standing alone amidst a totally pagan culture. Yet, Daniel was the only one who had it together in the whole empire, totally convicted about what God would soon bring to pass. God wants a voluntary relationship, but leaves it up to us as to how to show our devotion. We could emulate Daniel, seeking contact with God multiple times in the day through prayer, praying in all kinds of situations (in the morning when we are beginning; evening to offer Thanksgiving for the mercies of the day, Before sleep to commend ourselves to Him, in times of embarrassment, and when tormented with strong temptations.) In life and death, God is in control.
Martin Collins, asking us to ponder God's promise to support and save us in our trials, reminds us of the biblical examples of deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar evidently did not like the end of Daniel's interpretation of his dream, desiring that more, or perhaps all, of the image should have been gold. Nebuchadnezzar's jealousy or the jealousy of his cohorts evidently led to the conspiracy against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When the commands of a secular state conflicts with God's commands, we face the same dilemma as was faced by these three brave Jewish men. Even though rulers have been appointed by God, their disregard for God does not give us license to follow suit or rationalize ourselves into dangerous compromises. Like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel who realized that God is sovereign, thoroughly knew the Scriptures, and were willing to die for their convictions, we must exercise our spiritual convictions rather than our preferences. Do we require other people to stand before we take a stand? Are our beliefs non-negotiable? Must we be assured of victory before we stand? Do we live what we claim to believe? Do others see that we live these beliefs consistently? Do others see our faith in action? Are we prepared to say that going against these convictions constitutes sin? God stands with His believers in their trials. Nebuchadnezzar's refusal to acknowledge God's sovereignty led to insanity, madness, and psychotic behavior. The Most High rules and has the last word; all sins will be eventually judged. America's pride will be destroyed because its leaders have arrogated to themselves that which only applies to God. This behavior makes them beast-like. When man turns away from God, God gives them up to a base, perverted, degenerate, and reprobate mind with wicked, obsessive desires, far, far worse than any natural beast. If we humble ourselves, not arrogating God's glory, He has promised to exalt us.
Martin Collins, reminding us that Daniel had received wisdom, influence, and health from God, also points out that God placed Daniel in a position of greater influence after He exposed Him to greater danger. God is sovereign over our lives in every circumstance, enabling us to cope with anything the world and Satan can throw at us, giving us the promise of the power to endure. The book of Daniel, written partially in Hebrew and part in Aramaic indicates that God intended the message to both the Hebrews and the Chaldeans, substantiating the authenticity of this document. The circumstances surrounding Nebuchadnezzar's fearful dream set the stage for God's revelation of His power, plan, and prophetic intentions (through His servants) as well as the foolishness of astrology. Daniel, despite the fearful events, kept his focus upon God and didn't arrogate any powers to himself, but humbly acknowledged and thanked God for the wisdom and power. Because of Daniel's faith and his fervent prayer, God revealed the contents of the dream, providing a witness to Nebuchadnezzar and his idolatrous nation that God is absolutely sovereign over time and ultimately controls the outcome of all worldly events, predicting the fate of Babylon (the prototype of all world empires), the Medo-Persian empire, the Graeco-Macedonian empire, and the Roman empire, partly strong and partly fragile. Because of the precarious colloidal mixture of iron and clay at the end of the age, it will be extremely difficult for things to hold together. Thankfully, God's everlasting Kingdom having Jesus Christ as the capstone or cornerstone) will bring an end to these competitive, fractious, arrogant, and evil worldly systems, which have degenerated over epochs of time, using technology to swap greatness and magnificence for raw power and control. God always plans ahead for the protection of His people.
Martin Collins warns that if we look upon the Book of Daniel as a puzzle of confusing prophecies, we miss the more important point that the book provides practical strategies to remain Godly in a godless venue. In Daniel's time, there were intense pressures to conform to the world's idolatrous systems, with the world having the upper hand. In spite of appearances, God is in control of history. If we trust God, we will eventually triumph over the present evil. Following the successful invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, it appeared that God's cause was lost, but this catastrophe had been planned by Almighty God, who is sovereign over time all the time. The Lord God of Israel is always in charge of the events of history, no matter what state His people might be in. Nebuchadnezzar was a prime example of radical secular humanism, exalting his pride, boasting of his accomplishments, rejecting the influence of God, and suffering a humiliating bout of insanity for his pride. God is sovereign and He is able to bring the secular city down. Like Abraham, as well as Daniel and his friends, we must, by exercising faith, forsake the temptations and pulls of the world, concentrating on the future promises or spiritual rewards God has prepared for us. While we endure temptations and fiery trials, we learn that God is proving our faith and trust in Him. We must be wary of how the mainstream religions and pop culture has redefined religious terms, perverting the original intent. We must acquire faithfulness and holiness (involving separation from the world's culture) because (1.)Scripture demands it, (2.) it is the ultimate purpose for which Christ came into the world, (3.) it is the only evidence we have a saving faith in Christ, (4.) it is the only proof we sincerely love the Father and Son , (5.) it is the only evidence we are the children of God, (6.) it is the most effective way to do good to others, and (7.) our present and future peace and joy depend upon it. If we set our minds upon it wholeheartedly, we can live a Godly and
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting that one perennial theme of the major and minor prophets is the deplorable faithlessness of Israel, depicted as a fickle, spoiled, pampered, well-dressed streetwalker, suggests that the day of Israel's calamity is right upon the horizon. To the remnants of this decadent civilization of modern Israel, God's begotten children, God provides the book of Proverbs as an antidote. Wisdom is inextricably linked with fear and reverence for God. Without wisdom, genius and brilliance is useless at best and dangerous at worst. Wisdom warns us not to let the world squeeze us into its mold. Unfortunately, as a nation, we have rejected wisdom in favor of foolishness, bringing about major devastating calamities: famines, pestilence, earthquakes, cosmic disturbances (graphically depicted in Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah 4, and Ezekiel 2-3,6-7) upon our apostate faithless people after the prior devastation of Gentile nations who didn't have a relationship with God.
Prophecy has many purposes, but it is never intended to open the future to mere idle curiosity. Its much higher purpose is to furnish guidance to the heirs of salvation. John Ritenbaugh explains how the tumultuous sixth-century BC prepares us for the time of the end.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing upon Matthew 17:13 and clearing up some misconceptions about the resurrected Elijah coming before the arrival of Christ (a mission fulfilled totally by John the Baptist in Christ's time), cautions us to apply duality of prophecy carefully and cautiously rather than indiscriminately. With this admonition in mind, the sermon focuses upon a major world event even secular historians have termed a dramatic axial period, occurring within the sixth century B.C. -a time faithfully described by the prophets beginning with Jeremiah- a time sometimes referred to as the time of the Gentiles- reckoned to be the origin of the present Babylonic system or world order. Paradoxically, this system has been embraced and perpetuated by the modern house of Jacob. A new axial period, beginning with the testimony of the two witnesses, will again turn this world upside down, replacing the present decadent Babylonian system with God's government.
Mentioned in Matthew 2, the wise men or magi have been mysterious figures since their appearance two thousand years ago. Their visit to Bethlehem was more significant than most realize.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon several abuses of one of God's gifts to mankind — eating and drinking. While drunkenness and gluttony indicate self-centeredness, lack of discipline, often leading to poverty and ill health, moderation in all things is the way to glorify God in our bodies. God's called out ones must exercise moderation in their approach to eating of food, imbibing of alcohol, and excesses of anything in which there might be a possibility of borderline conduct. God has provided the blessing of (1) family union, (2) food and drink, (3) clothing, and (4) work with the condition that we exercise responsible stewardship over these gifts practicing moderation in all things.
John Ritenbaugh, using Paul's metaphor of the human body as the temple of God's Spirit (II Corinthians 6:16) insists that stewardship of our bodies or keeping ourselves healthy is (like the Levitical maintenance of the literal tabernacle) an aspect of holiness, promoting the strengthening of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The principle of dressing and keeping (Genesis 2:15) given to our original parents applies to our physical bodies as well. Good health is not an inherited right; it accrues as we apply God's standards and health laws to our behavior. Even though we may have inherited some genetic weaknesses from the sins of our ancestors, we have a God- given responsibility to maintain what we have been given in top condition, if necessary, glorifying God in our affliction.
John Ritenbaugh takes issue with those who feel that the perennial calendar controversy was never understood, investigated or resolved by Herbert Armstrong. After a lengthy study in the 1940s, he concluded: (1) there are not enough rules in the Bible to establish a calendar. (2) God had given no authority to anyone outside the Bible to establish a calendar. (3) The oracles of God had been committed to the Jews (Romans 3:1-2), and nobody else. The issue is not mathematical or astronomical, but instead a matter of trust in God's faithfulness, authority, sovereignty, oversight, or ability to govern. If we did not have revelation (including the provision of a calendar) from God, presumptuously trying to establish a calendar independently has led to, and will continue to lead to chaos and confusion.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that to the called, nothing happens in a vacuum and "time and chance" no longer applies. Like a proactive, responsible parent, God restricts free moral agency to keep His children from getting hurt. Through His foresight and foreknowledge, God provides the perfect timing for what He wants to bring about. We have to exercise faith, realizing the timing will be right for us, enabling us to accept His provisions and decisions for us without fear or anxiety. We need to realize from the example of our forefather Jacob, that manipulation, deceit, and contentious struggle will not prevail against Almighty God. When properly translated Israel means "God prevails."
John Ritenbaugh, citing Romans 1:20, reiterates that the invisible things of God are clearly seen through the things that are made. The numerous scriptural references to angelic beings (experiences of Abraham, Lot, and Daniel and the references to Michael, Gabriel, and Satan (the Prince of Persia) indicate that the spiritual entities have tangible substance. The main proof text of the "no parts, no shape or form" teaching (John 4:24), far from teaching that God has no body, indicates that spiritual substance is just as real as natural substance, except that it is a much higher type of matter, governed by higher laws including refined feelings, emotions, and thoughts. We have abundant testimony from the both the special revelation (God's Word) and the general revelation (the Creation) that God and angels are not universal nothingness floating around in nowhere.
John Ritenbaugh discusses the depth of our beliefs, showing the difference between our preferences and our convictions. He looks at both legal and spiritual ramifications of this subject.
John Ritenbaugh counsels us not to have an apathetic relationship toward God (Revelation 3:15), but instead to ardently, earnestly, diligently, and fervently seek God in order to imitate His behavior in our lives. The fervency of a passionate courtship and marriage relationship provides the grounds for comparison of the kind of relationship God wants with us. Jesus, David, and Jacob exemplified the passionate fervor and heat (both to purify good and to destroy evil) God demands of us. If we search for God with all our hearts, looking for something which is a vital necessity for us (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:12-13; Hebrews 11:6) God will reward us, giving us what we are seeking: a warm, ardent relationship, transforming us into what He is.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that the smallest unit of government is the individual; God is dealing with each of us on this most basic of all levels of government. It is under the New Covenant that individuals are immersed or installed into His church by the Spirit of God, given only to those who willingly consent to obey Him. In this special handpicked condition, God expects us to learn to govern ourselves. Because the church is a royal priesthood of believers with Christ as the High Priest, there is no religious hierarchy between God and us (Hebrews 10:21-22). In order for us to be transformed from the glory of man to the glory of God, we must have the same kind of access to the Father as Christ did, taking on the awesome responsibility of behaving like the sons of God.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 did not have a blind naïve faith, but one built incrementally by careful examination of the evidence- adding things up or calculating- from cumulative life experiences. From this acquired faith, these otherwise ordinary people received the inspiration to go against seemingly impossible odds, accomplishing super human goals and objectives. This roll call of the faithful serves as a cheering section for the rest of us who are still enduring our trials, still enduring God's chastening, prone to discouragement and occasionally feeling like giving up. Like the heroes of faith- and most notably our Elder Brother Jesus, we need to look beyond the present, looking at the long term effects of the trials and tests we go though, seeing their value in providing something in us that we would otherwise lack (the peaceable fruit of righteousness) to successfully make it into God's Kingdom. God lovingly chastens and disciplines those He loves.
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