Remember the great image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream back in chapter two and how Daniel interpreted it to mean Babylon was on the thin ice of history. At the end of chapter five it finally fell through and was no more. Everything God said through His prophet came true. Kingdoms rise and fall. We are in our third reign as we come to chapter six. Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar are gone, and Darius the Mede is on the throne. The only constant in all of this is God and His people. Through it all Daniel is still serving the King of kings. Governments come and go. The constant is God and His witness to His Gospel through His Church. A new role in a new regime: “The king planned to set Daniel over the whole kingdom.” Vss. 1-3.
We are talking about election and elections. Last week we saw Scripture teaches God is a sovereign God having sovereign power and authority over absolutely everything in His universe, including to whom out of all of fallen humanity He will show His mercy and salvation. I used Ephesians 1 as a basis for my sermon, “Chosen by God from Before all Time” meaning from before the foundations of the earth. Here is how the Canons of Dort sum up this doctrine of God’s sovereign choosing of the elect: “Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of His will, He chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. … He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and foundation of their salvation” (Dort I, Article 7). This morning I want to carry the conversation to its logical and Biblical conclusion based again on Ephesians 1, under the title, “Chosen by God For All Time.” Let’s begin with a definition so we understand what we are talking about and so we are all on the same page.
Some of you may have noticed that there is an election coming up, an election that is trying and troubling the souls of many. It has a lot of Christians wondering where God is in all of this. I have decided to address this in a three part series of sermons on election and elections. I want to ground our confidence in our sovereign God and to do that I want to begin by reminding you of your personal confidence in God’s choosing of you before addressing our national confidence in God choosing our leaders. As we consider the doctrine of God’s choosing or God’s election, let’s be clear about one thing. We are not talking about an idea that was invented in the sixteenth century. We are not preaching Calvinism, we are preaching the Bible. Almost all Christians believe and affirm God is sovereign. After all it’s crucial to God being God. He personally spoke everything into existence. He has absolute, eternal sovereign power and authority over everything. You ask just about any Christian, “Is God sovereign?” and he will tell you, yes. But as soon as you ask, “Is God sovereign over who is saved and who is not, or who receives grace and who does not?” all of a sudden there are explanations, “well you see in this particular matter God actually leaves it up to us and well, there is the matter of free will, you know, and well if we weren’t free to decide then that would be unfair, and salvation would not be based on love” and well you get my point. God is sovereign over everything except our salvation. Let’s ask five questions about election and answer them from Ephesians 1.
Think just for a moment where we are. Where does our text take place? Babylon. Where is Babylon today? Iraq. Where is God in our text? In Babylon. Who is God dealing with? With pagan kings, ruthless killers, international terrorist. This is ISIS. Why is God there? What is God doing in Iraq with ruthless kings and murderers and tyrants and dictators? God shows Himself Lord over all the affairs of all nations and peoples and kings. God is using them all in His redemptive purposes. That was true then, it is true today. Violent killers like ISIS are not outside of God’s control or God’s purposes.
The book of Daniel is a picture of the ongoing conflict between the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God. This spiritual conflict is all around us, Satan and his minions are always a threat. This chapter is meant to contrast the chapters before. The two proud kings could not be more different. Nebuchadnezzar was famous for his military feats and victories, for his architectural accomplishments and making Babylon great. Belshazzar was known for his wild parties. In the previous chapters God was exceedingly patient with Nebuchadnezzar, long suffering. God displayed much grace in his dealings with him. But with Belshazzar, God dealt with him quickly. He is suddenly cut off. What Nebuchadnezzar did with the final word from God and what Belshazzar did with the final word from God were completely different. For some the Word is the fragrance of life and for others the same Word is the fragrance of death (II Corinthians 2:14-16). We don’t know how much time passed between chapters four and five, at least twenty years if not more. There are many long periods of silence in Scripture but we should never assume God is not present and working. When God seems silent or absent, He is actually as present and active as ever. When we think we are on the sidelines, God is very much in the game. In the words of a great English poet, “They also serve who but stand and wait.” God is sovereign over every period of our personal lives, even and especially in those quiet seasons of preparation or training. The seventy years of Jewish exile is coming to an end. This story like all the others in Daniel is meant to build up the faith of the readers, Jewish exiles, and build up their fear of God.
Remember the temptation of Jesus and how after forty days of no food Satan tempted Him. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:3-4). And then Satan took Jesus up to a high mountain top and in one grand supernatural gesture showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all their glory in a moment in time. Then Satan said, “I will give you all this authority and their glory. … 7 If you … will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:6-7). “You can skip the cross, all the pain and suffering, you don’t have to drink that cup, you can go straight for the authority and glory. Just bow down and worship me once and it’s all yours. Surely God will forgive you. Surely He can get over it.” And Jesus answered him, “Be gone, Satan. For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8). This wasn’t about switching from organ music to guitar music or to putting videos and power point up on a big screen or having drums or dancers in worship. It was about the most fundamental question of all, who will you worship. And how do we know the one we are to worship? By the Word of God. And how can we know that? By hearing through preachers.