August 2, 2011

Wednesday after the Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 56, 1 Sam. 2:18-26, Lk. 12:13-21
Evening - Ps. 62, 63, Dan. 2:36-45, Acts 21:15-26

Commentary

Tonight we are told the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The great image of verse 31 represents kings and empires of the earth that will rise and fall, beginning with Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. He is a mighty king over many kings, but his empire will not last forever, as Babylon's power fades, another empire will rise and conquer it. This empire will not be a great or extensive as Babylon (39). It, too will fall into decay and be conquered by a third, which will also fall into decline and be conquered by a fourth. This empire will be strong as iron, breaking and subduing the earth with great power and cruelty (40). But it will not be invincible, for it has feet of clay. It has a vulnerable spot, a weakness (42). It, too, shall fall.

In the days of these kings and empires, "shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (44). What is this Kingdom? It is the Kingdom of the Messiah. He is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, meaning His Kingdom is not established by the might and works of man. He breaks the other empires to pieces and consumes them (45). They may appear mighty, and unassailable to themselves and to the world, but God can raise them up and break them down at will. They may think they will last forever, but another will rise and take their place, and they will become but memories. It is the Messiah's Kingdom that will last forever. He is the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and He shall reign forever.

We know that the first empire is Babylon and the fourth is Rome, for it is during the time of Rome that the Messiah came to earth to establish His Kingdom. There are some questions about the meaning of the other two. Some have thought the empires are Babylon, Media, Persia, Grecco-Roman. Other have thought they may be Babylon, Medio-Persia, Greece, Rome. Obviously both groupings name all the empires leading up to the birth of the Messiah, so it may not matter terribly which is "correct." It is a minor point anyway. The major point is that they will fade into oblivion and the Kingdom of the Messiah will be the only Kingdom that will last forever. Therefore, do not put your trust in human empires that wax and wane like the moon. Nor let yourself be troubled by them, as though they will last forever. Trust in the Lord and dwell in His Kingdom by faith.

This is the message being given to the captive Jews. They have followed false religions, and are now in the power of an idolatrous empire. But this empire is not almighty. It will soon begin to fade and another will take its place, and then another, and then another. But the promises of God given to Israel will endure as long as God, and will come to pass as surely as He is God Almighty. The Messiah will come, and He will come in the days of these empires. Trust in God.