Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Freezing drizzle

by John D Ramsey

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Early this morning, freezing drizzle began to fall just as I was leaving the house. Though I park inside in a garage, and the windshield was clear when I started out, the defroster could not keep ahead of the accumulating ice. I took back roads to Tuesday morning Bible study knowing that the highway would be crowded with other visibility-impaired drivers. As I drove, the windshield wipers scraped across the scale of ice hissing at me saying, “It will happen. It will happen. It will happen. It will happen.”

I thought my windshield wipers’ prophecy was vague as a fortune cookie slogan. Surely, something will happen, and when it does, I will know what “it” is. The voice changed, “Tonight; tonight; tonight; tonight,” the wipers insisted.

I smiled. The early morning darkness, the freezing drizzle, the treacherous roads, the reduced visibility, and the hissing windshield wipers would make a good opening for shallow thriller movie. I stopped paying attention to the wipers to navigate passed emergency vehicles parked in the roadway. The wipers’ message reverted. “It will happen. It will happen. It will happen.”

A car pulled in front of me suddenly, but I averted a crash despite the slick pavement. I suppose the driver’s vision was impaired by ice, too. How could he have not seen my headlights approaching? As I turned toward the church where I meet with friends for Bible study, my tires briefly lost traction. I recovered from the skid, drove up the hill, and gave my wipers no further thought.

Upon reading these top few paragraphs, Claire’s vivid eleven-year old imagination had her heart racing, her shoulders cringing, and her mouth uttering nervous little giggles. She still wonders how the story will end. Am I wondering what will happen tonight? No.

I do not put stock in the possibility that intelligent communication could emanate from rubber grating against ice. Superstition is vague and ominous and preys upon human fear. Imagination replaces rational thought until we believe anything. Superstition causes us to make assumptions apart from knowledge. Superstition makes us vulnerable to manipulation.

Biblical prophecy, in contrast, may be veiled, but it is not vague. Old Testament prophets, did not always understand their own writings, but when their oracles were conditional, their requirements were not ambiguous. When their oracles were determinate, their predictions were not vague. Biblical prophecy was not what the listener wanted to hear; rather, it was what God wanted to say.

Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar abused the gold and silver vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem. He held a feast for nobility drinking wine from the vessels that had been consecrated to God. He did not do this in ignorance. As he drank wine, he worshipped false gods of gold, silver, iron, wood, and stone. Belshazzar’s presumptuous behavior defied his own fathers confession,

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Daniel 4:37 (NIV)

When Nebuchadnezzar had walked in pride, God had spoken to him in a dream. Daniel interpreted the dream although the message was not favorable to Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity for seven years until he looked to God and repented of his pride. Yet Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony, recorded in Daniel 4, could not persuade Belshazzar, his son.

When Belshazzar deliberately offended God, a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the wall in Belshazzar’s view. Belshazzar’s bravado melted into fear. He became more fearful when none of his enchanters, astrologers, diviners, and magi could interpret the writing.

Belshazzar had defied God and ignored his father’s wisdom, but Belshazzar’s wife remembered Daniel. Daniel came to Belshazzar and recounted to him how Nebuchadnezzar had learned repentance and humility before God. Daniel told him,

“But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

“This is the inscription that was written:

“MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN

“This is what these words mean:

“Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

“Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

“Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Then at Belshazzar's command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.

Daniel 5:22-30 (NIV)

Daniel’s message to Belshazzar was not an ambiguous threat. Daniel did not manipulate the king’s imagination. Belshazzar and his nobles needed no imagination to see the hand writing on the wall or the message chiseled in the plaster, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.” Daniel offered Belshazzar no avenue of repentance. Belshazzar’s life and his reign had ended.

The handwriting on the wall was of no benefit to Belshazzar. Rather Belshazzar, reminds us of the demotivator, “It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”

What warning are we to glean from Belshazzar’s demise? Certainly we should know that God holds men accountable for their response to Him. Belshazzar knew the greatness of God, but he chose to dishonor Him. God defies the proud, but has mercy upon the humble. Even Nebuchadnezzar obtained God’s grace when he humbled himself. The Apostle Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34 when he writes,

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

1 Peter 5:5-6 (NIV)

Where does humility before God begin? It begins in acknowledging that God is who He says He is. Scripture’s first statement about God is non-negotiable. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (NIV) The Gospel of John begins with the identical phrase saying,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

John 1:1-3 (NIV)

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

John 1:10-12 (NIV)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (NIV)

Later, John the Apostle wrote in a letter to believers he called his “dear children,” saying,

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)

Humility before God acknowledges Jesus Christ as our Creator. Because he is Creator God, we are obligated to serve Him. Yet our arrogant hearts have rebelled. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NIV)

Humility before God acknowledges that Jesus Christ has carried the penalty of our sin upon his body upon the cross. He carried our sins into the judgment of death so that we can obtain eternal life through his resurrection from the dead (read 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Humility before God acknowledges that we cannot merit the grace, which God offers us through Jesus Christ (read Ephesians 2:8).

Humility before God ultimately believes God. Believing God is not superstition because when God speaks, He speaks clearly. Those who have heard Him know what I mean.

In John 1, the Apostle John gives the account of John the Baptist testifying of Jesus, the Christ. John the Baptist’s final testimony regarding Jesus tells us,

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.

John 3:35-36 (NIV)

God’s message to each of us is clear. We can humbly believe Him and receive His life for eternity, or we can reject Him and remain objects of His wrath.

The choice is yours to make. It will happen. It will happen. It will happen. It will happen.

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