13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Your Thanksgiving meal did not go the way you wanted it to go. I’m sure you had a good meal with family and friends, but if you picture the perfect thanksgiving meal in your mind and compare it to the one you had a few days ago, it falls short. And it’s not because the turkey was too dry or someone forgot the rolls in the oven until the smoke alarm sounded. All of our Thanksgiving meals fell short because we each have different likes and dislikes. Some of us want a Thanksgiving meal with a turkey made only out of turkey legs, with gravy and mashed potatoes on the side with only pumpkin pie for dessert, while others prefer a turkey made of only white meat, with sides of green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and a choice of pumpkin, cherry, apple and pecan pies. Others prefer a tofu turkey and some cook ham for Thanksgiving. We all want different things for our ideal Thanksgiving meal, but if we each prepared only what we wanted year after year, then we would be depriving those we love of what they want to eat for their ideal Thanksgiving meal. When we make decisions that only take into consideration what we want, we often deprive others of what is good for them, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it. All people have been living that way since the world fell into sin. Sin causes us to set ourselves as kings and queens in place of God and to reject the good he wants us to do for him, ourselves and others. Sin’s destructive rule in this world seems like it will never end, but our Old Testament lesson from Daniel 7 reminds us that the Son of Man rules his kingdom forever.
The prophet Daniel was born around 620 B.C. and lived most of his life as an exiled Israelite in the Babylonian Empire. He was born about 100 years before King Xerxes of Persia, about 250 years before Alexander the Great of Greece, about 500 years before Julius Caesar of Rome and about 600 years before Jesus. One night while he was dreaming, God gave Daniel a vision revealing the future world powers. This vision is recorded in Daniel 7 and gave more detail to the dream God gave King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in Daniel 2, which God allowed Daniel to interpret for him. In both dreams, God revealed the next four kingdoms that would rise to power, but in the end they would all be swept away by a different kind of kingdom. The four kingdoms were the Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks and Romans. All these were temporary kingdoms, but the final kingdom was an eternal kingdom.
God made it very clear to Daniel that the final kingdom would be very different from the other four. The four kingdoms were all represented by four different animals coming out of the sea, often they are referred to as the four beasts. Each beast had district characteristics that related to the empire it symbolized. For example, the first kingdom of Babylon was pictured as a lion with the wings of an eagle indicating the strength and speed with which the empire grew. Archaeologists have also found winged lions at the palace entrance in Babylon. The final kingdom was not represented by a beast nor did it come up from the sea, instead Daniel wrote,
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.
The final kingdom came down from heaven out of the clouds and had the Son of Man, Jesus, as its ruler. It was the kingdom that would last, while the others were destroyed.
Daniel’s dream made it clear that the world powers would not recognize the coming of the Son of Man. The other kingdoms destroyed each other as each subsequent empire came to power. First, the Medo-Persian over took Babylon, then Greece took over and finally Rome came to power. And, Rome was the beast that stood against Jesus. Pontius Pilate served as fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judaea under the Roman Emperor Tiberius and gave the order to have Jesus crucified. In our Gospel lesson from John 18, Jesus revealed to Pilate he was the King of a kingdom not of this world and Jesus said,
“In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.”
It was clear from all the miracles, healings and teaching that Jesus was the Son of Man, the Savior and King of a much greater kingdom than anything in this world, but the world still rejected him. Daniel watched the same unbelief that did not recognize God as the true King of all things in King Nebuchadnezzar. God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a dream to call him to repentance, but after Daniel explained the dream and encouraged the King to repent, he didn’t listen. One year later, he stood gazing from his balcony at Babylon filled with pride saying that it was his power that had established Babylon. And before the words were done coming out of his mouth, God showed King Nebuchadnezzar that he was a mere beast belittling the true King of all. God humbled him by making him lose his mind and act like a beast, driving him from the palace to living out in the fields eating grass like an ox until his hair and nails grew long. After a time though, God kept his promise from the dream to restore King Nebuchadnezzar once he had repented. Then, the King praised God saying,
“His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.”
We all face the same danger of rejecting God as King as King Nebuchadnezzar. Each of the four beasts rejected God as King living as if their kingdom would last forever, but as each beast was overtaken by the next, it was obvious that their kingdoms were only temporary. Each of us isn’t in control of a massive empire, but we all face temptations that cause us to turn from believers to beasts. It happens when we know more about the kingdoms of this world than the kingdom of heaven. Some of us might be able to name all the players, positions, colleges and standings of our favorite football, basketball or soccer teams, but could we name the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, list all the books of the Bible in order or even know how many books of the Bible there are? Some of us might be able to recite line after line from our favorite celebrity, comedian, sitcom or movie, but could we share the stories and famous words of faith of God’s people recorded in the Bible? We can all explain how our federal government works, give the rules of the road, talk about George Washington, do long division or walk someone through scrambling an egg, but would we know what to say to someone who doesn’t know Christ the King? When we live only as members of earthly kingdoms with earthly rulers, we live as beasts rejecting Jesus as our king and in danger of being separated from eternal life in his eternal kingdom.
Jesus came to destroy the powers that keep us separated from him. We all face the threat of losing our faith in Jesus as our King and being swept up in the kingdoms of this world. Our sinful nature wants to belong in this world and reject Jesus, but this world is only temporary and cannot give us what we truly need. We need an eternal King and an eternal kingdom that will give us life beyond this world and freedom from our sins. We need someone out of this world to come and save us. We need Jesus, who Daniel saw in his vision as
He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel saw God the Father, the Ancient of Days, give Jesus the authority to be King over all things. Jesus is the King who will outlast, out promise and out deliver on all good things we need, far beyond anything any earthly kingdom could ever hope to give us.
Jesus’ authority gives his people the strength to stand for him when threatened to bow to anything on earth. Daniel friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced death in order to stand up for their faith and not bow to the authority of King Nebuchadnezzar. The King had a statue gold built and a decree issued for all to bow to it, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow. King Nebuchadnezzar then threatened to throw them into a fiery furnace and they said,
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The King was furious and ordered the furnace to be seven times hotter than usual, then had them thrown inside. The soldiers who threw them into the furnace died from the heat, but the three of them were kept safe, alive and came out of the furnace without even a hint of smoke on their clothes. They were kept alive by a fourth figure who King Nebuchadnezzar described as someone who looked
like a son of the gods.
As King of all God keeps his people safe from the world. God has saved us from the world through his Son, Jesus. When the world was ignorant to who Jesus was despite his many teachings, sermons and explanations from Scripture about who he was. When the world was apathetic toward Jesus despite his miraculous healings and signs. When the world stood up to him in arrogance and put him to death, hoping that he would be a temporary teacher easily snuffed out in death. Jesus defied the unbelieving world.
Instead, Jesus studied the Scriptures diligently, even though he could have used his power as God to quote any verse from any book, so that he would always be ready to share who he was and what he had come to do. He was able to teach the leaders of the church in the temple even as a teenager. Even as the Son of God, he humbled himself to be born the Son of Man, to be subject to his own law, to be beaten, rejected by man and his Father on the cross, to suffer and died for our sins. He was crucified to free us from the empty sacrifices of beasts and gave one perfect sacrifice to free us forever to be part of his eternal kingdom. King Jesus fought his people’s battles for them to make us his kingdom forever. We are his kingdom. He doesn’t want land, money or an empire, but people whom he dearly loves. And his resurrection proved his power and victory over sin, death and the devil, as we heard in our second lesson from Revelation 1
5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
King Jesus waits as our King in heaven to fulfill one final promise. Jesus said,
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Your Thanksgiving meal did not go the way you wanted it to go. We all want different things for our ideal Thanksgiving meal, but if we each prepared only what we wanted, then we would be depriving those we love of what they want to eat for their ideal Thanksgiving meal. Instead, when we host Thanksgiving, we all make sure to make the dishes everyone wants, so that everyone can enjoy giving thanks with what they like to eat. Jesus our King knows exactly what we need in order to be truly thankful. We all need different helpings from our King at different times, sometimes we need more law than gospel, other times we need comfort more than discipline. If our salvation depended on what we want, then we would end up like the rest of the world chasing after temporary treasures and pleasures like beasts in a field. Thank God that he has given us faith in our true King who lived as one of us for a little while to make us his forever. Give thanks that you belong to Jesus’ kingdom and that the Son of Man rules his kingdom forever. Amen.