Are you afraid sometimes? Or terrified? Or confused? Or agitated?
Or maybe are you afraid, terrified, confused and agitated?
Or have you never been is some of the previous conditions?
(Observe: lies aren't allowed!)
Observe that which happened to king Nebuchadnezzar:
Daniel 4:1-4 (Aramaic) 4:4-7 (New International Version)
"I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me"
AUDIO FILES (free download)
If you have compared the text of NIV with the original Aramaic one, you have probably noticed some differences. The "enchanters" are "ashfayá" (astrologers) and the "astrologers" are "kasdayé" (Chaldeans) About the difference in numeration you can read an explanation in the previous message; anyway, the application of this word is the same if the king is praising God because of the miracles in chapter 3 or those in chapter 4.
Why is king Nebuchadnezzar afraid, terrified, confused, agitated?
Why did he lose his peace and easiness, and became anxious and insecure?
Before we find an answer to the whys, it should be useful to know WHO inspired the dream to Nebuchadnezzar. If you, as I do, have an alarm device to activate when you leave your workplace, or if you have it at home or in your car, you know that it is activated so that if a thief comes in, the device sounds very loud and a message is sent to a security company. The alarm device do not hinder thefts, but denounces trespassing.
Our spirit, soul and body have their "alarm devices" too. If you touch by distraction a frying pan which is in the fire, anywhere but in the handle, you will feel an intense ache and burn yourself lightly. It is important that we know that that's a very useful ache, because if we would feel nothing, then we should leave our skin in contact with the burning surface and the damage should be worse. The ache is an alarm, so that you retire your hand from the heat before it gets destroyed.
Observe the words of the apostle Paul in the second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 7 and verses 9-10:
"...now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death"
In this chapter Paul is referring to a previous letter, probably 1st Corinthians, which made the brethren sorry in the church of Corinth. How can it be that Paul, who wrote "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" in Romans 12:15, now is happy because of the sorrow of the congregation?
The answer is in verse 10: there are two kinds of sorrow, the "bad sorrow" and the "good sorrow". If we take our frying pan's example again, there is a "good ache", which tells you that you are burning your hand, and a bad one, when the whole arm is gone. The "good sorrow" is defined by the apostle as the one which "brings repentance that leads to salvation". That letter to the Corinthians, which made them sorry, was calling them to leave sin and to order their Christian life. The words of Paul, even when making them sorry, worked the good purpose that God had in mind about them. "Bad sorrow" occurs when we give ear to Satan's accusations, the one who calls evil for good and vice versa. The evil one uses to make us feel guilty when we are thinking, saying or doing God's will. This sorrow surely brings death, because if we are inhibited of doing good, then evil is the only option left.
How can we know who is the one who made king Nebuchadnezzar afraid? If you read the whole chapter, then you'll see that the dream was a warning, and in verse 24 the prophet calls it "the decree the Most High has issued against the king". God let the king to be afraid, and gave him advice through the prophet, which the king didn't obey. The purpose of the dream, of the interpretation of Daniel and of the fulfillment of the prophecy on the king, was that he should recognize that "heaven rules" (verse 26)
However, it is not always through dreams that God calls us to repentance. This dream was a mystery because he didn't know the interpretation, and he was terrified because of it. There are other many kinds of "mystery" in the Scriptures, which are all different ways that God uses with the same purpose, to start the spiritual "alarm" which will show to us the way of death, and give us "repentance that leads to salvation".
The word "mystery" is associated nowadays with the unknown and the supernatural, and we can read about "mysterious" stories with supernatural creatures or inexplicable events. They abound in the "thriller" genre, which seek to make us afraid or to impress us. But it is not the use of biblical "mysteries" (not always) and it is not the only meaning of "mystery".
In Daniel 4, and in the second chapter, the Aramaic word for "mystery" is "raz". The LXX renders to the Greek as "mustérion", the same word of NT. The meaning of this biblical mystery is not necessarily conected with something supernatural or inexplicable, but with the inknown and secret. A "mystery" is something that the chosen ones know and the ungodly don't, or something that will happen and which God has revealed to a few ones. Some Hebrew words in the OT are "taalumá" - in Job 11:6, Psalms 44:21 - "satám" - in Ezekiel 28:3 - and "sod" - in Job 15:8, Proverbs 11:13 and Amos 3:7.
Let's take a look to this last verse, Amos 3:7, "Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets". The shepherd of Tekoa is telling us that in prophecy God reveals to us that which is a secret to the rest, the things that He will do in the future. The word that Amos uses is "sod", which means some kind of assembly or meeting where the matters under discussion are known only to the members and secret to the rest. Our personal prayers are "sod" also, because we are in a "meeting" with God and nobody knows what are we talking with Him or His answer, but the one who prays and God.
In this way, every prophetic revelation is a "mystery". The apostle John calls "mystery" the arrival of the kingdom of God, Jesus Christ government in the Millennium after the terrible judgements in the Great Tribulation. In Revelation 10:7 it is called "the mystery of God" that "He announced to his servants the prophets". And in this way, the whole Word of God is a "mystery", that God has revealed to his servants the prophets (those who wrote it) The apostle Paul calls also "mysteries" some revelations he got, as Israel's restoration after a partial rejection (Romans 11:25) the event of the resurrection of the believers (1 Corinthians 15:51) or the appearance of the Antichrist and his dictatorship in the last times, the "secret power of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, "mustérion tes anomías"
Another use of "mystery" in a biblical sense is related to the interpretation of visions and images. The statue in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar was a "mystery" until Daniel the prophet gave him the interpretation (it was an image representing historical events) In the same way calls John in Revelation 1 the stars and lampstands (pastors and congregations) and the great prostitute in Revelation 17 (a political-religious system) The meaning of every image is "mysterious" until we get a revelation from God. The use of parables and allegories deals also with "the secrets of the kingdom of heaven", as Our Lord says in Matthew 13:11, that He reveals only to the believers. To the ungodly, parables and allegories are "mysteries". In both images and stories, there is a secret meaning which is the mystery, and which is revealed to those who believers through their faith.
A last example of "mystery" (last by now, there are certainly more) is the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is called "mystery". The apostle Paul calls the crucified Christ "God's wisdom that had been hidden" in 1 Corinthians 2:7, because the Messiah and His ministry were not directly revealed in the OT, but "misteriously" (Romans 16:25) This "mysterious" feature is the reason that preaching about Christ is called "to be entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed" in 1 Corinthians 4:1, and "to preach" is "to make known the mystery of the gospel" in Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 4:3, 1 Timothy 3:9 ("deep truths of the faith" = "mustérion tes písteos") Those features of the Gospel which are aparently different of the OT ones are "mysteries", because we need a revelation to receive them.
During the era of the imperial church - in the late Roman empire - and also of the medieval church, and even in some sectors of the Reformed church, the Jews have suffered persecution by so called "Christians" that reproached them not to accept their Messiah. Those who persecuted Jews didn't understand that "mysterious" feature of the Gospel, which means that without God's revelation, there's no place in the OT where we read, "the Messiah will be called Jesus of Nazareth, he will live in times of the Roman empire and will be crucified". As a matter of fact, it could have been harder to the Jews to receive Jesus than to other people who don't know about God or the Scriptures, because they had a revelation (which for many could be "the" revelation) for the OT. Observe some "mysteries" which they stumbled with:
- the mystery of the Holy Trinity: there is in the OT an emphasis in God's unity (God is One) and it is prophesied that He should send a Messiah to restore Israel, and to establish an eternal kingdom. But it was not clear that this Messiah had to be God himself (observe Colossians 2:2, 3 where Christ and God are equal, because Our Lord is omniscient, a feature that's only God's) The manifestation of this divine Messiah, the incarnation of God, is called "the mystery from which true godliness springs" in 1st Timothy 3:16. Ephesians 1:9-10 reveal that this Messiah who would reign eternally is Jesus, and his kingdom would be "the mystery of God's will". Without the revelation of this mystery should be hard to conceive how can someone be God and human at the same time, and how God, who is One, consists of Three Persons.
- the mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles in God's salvation plan: the main vision - which was also the proper one until Jesus Christ's coming to earth - was that salvation and eternal life had to be obtained thorugh the God of Israel, the one who instituted animal sacrifices in order to get forgiveness for their sins, and who had given His commandments so that His people should live by them. In order to get salvation, the Gentiles had to abandon their pagan deities and become Jews (as a matter of fact, many of them did that, and they were called "proselytes") When we read Ephesians 3:3-6, the whole idea is transformed: the only valid sacrifice is now Christ's sacrifice in the cross, which substitutes the animal sacrifices, and salvation is to receive Jesus (even for Jews) because that "mystery" which wasn't revealed in the OT is revealed now.
- the mystery of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believers: Colossians 1:26-27 defines it as "Christ in you". It is a hard concept for a believer in the OT, where the Spirit came upon anointed prophets or priests, and the rest of the people listened to them, believed their interpretations and followed their teachings. That concept, that the Spirit of God should dwell in the believers, transforming them from fallen beings back to God's likeness, is not a clear one for OT's believers; it is only partially prophesied as a new covenant in the future. Observe Ezekiel 36:24-28 :
"For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God"
This passage is talking to Jews who had abandoned their God and accepted other ones. Observe that there's a prophecy here that the Spirit of God should be in all believers, leading them to do God's will. In the OT they usually "lived conforming to God's will" obeying God's law and presenting animal sacrifices to make atonement for the sins. But now we see in this prophecy that they will be "cleansed from their impurities" with "clean water" - it is a symbol of the Word of God calling to repentance, and of the Holy Spirit leading us to do God's will - and not with animal sacrifices.
The parallel passage is in Jeremiah 31:31-34:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord"
"This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord".
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Observe that it is a passage with an even broader meaning - to all Jews - and a significant clause: this "new covenant" will be different to that one from Sinai. The prophet is talking to the whole house of Israel, because they infracted the earlier covenant. The work of the Spirit of God should be "to write in their hearts" and to "put in their minds" the law of the Lord. They would not only obey their religious leaders, but God would deal personally with them (they would "know Him" without someone "teaching their neighbour")
By that time when Colossians said that "Christ should be in us", this activity of the Holy Spirit was an unknown one, a "mystery", as it is for many people today. Romans 3:23 says, "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". This terrible accusation means that the glory of God isn't manifested on us because of our sins, and it is addressing both Jews and Gentiles (all mankind) We were not only thinking, talking or acting as fallen creatures which went astray from their Father and Creator, by the times of Romans 3:23. Many of us are in the same condition in this XXI century. It is not only those persons in the Roman empire who needed the Holy Spirit's dwelling in their hearts in order to be transformed; it is all pesons in every place and every time.
King Nebuchadnezzar called all the wise men in his kingdom because he was terrified. They couldn't help him, then he finally called Daniel, God's prophet, who gave him the interpretation and a counsel to avoid the punishment. Nebuchadnezzar didn't have the Spirit of God dwelling on him, so he didn't receive that interpretation as a divine revelation and, in spite of having a warning and a counsel from God, he fell in sin and the judgement came upon him.
If you are worried by fears, confusion, agitation or any situation which preoccupies you or is inexplicable, by any "mystery" which binds you and hinders you from the communion with God and that joyful life which He gives us, then it is possible that God is knocking at your door, and that He has started the spiritual alarm which tells you that you need a transformation in your life. The Holy Spirit is the giver of joy and peace. The Holy Spirit is the One who delivers us from all fears and anxieties that plague those who live without God, without faith and without hope. The Holy Spirit comes to work the salvation of your soul. And there's only one entrance to this blessing: receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior! He promised to give the Holy Spirit to all the ones who receive Him. Read John 7:37-38 :
"On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice",
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”
These "rivers of living water" should be a "mystery" if John the apostle, who wrote this gospel, shouldn't give us the revelation in the next verse:
"By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified"
Jesus Christ wants to dwell in every one of us through His Spirit, He wants to lead us to do God's will and deliver us from doubts, fears, worries, anxiety, insecurity, need of controlling others, incredulity, lovelessness , ungodliness and everything which destroys God's image in us. Jesus Christ wants to restore us so that we can show the Father, our Creator, like He did. Not because He needs it; He is and will be God even if millions of people don't receive Him and go to the lake of fire on the eternity. It is our soul which needs Him, to live with God on the eternity.
Do you want to be save? Receive Jesus! He will give you the Spirit of life!
May the Lord bless you. In the love of Christ, your brother,
PS. Jesus comes quickly!