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Editor’s Note: Recently, one of Meridian’s beloved authors, Ted Gibbons, passed away after a long battle with cancer. To honor his memory and his insights, we will republish his articles periodically.
I am grateful for the determination with which the Lord hangs on to His children. The scriptures have taught me many times that God will not forsake me. I am pleased to know that He finds me worth fighting for.
He will not Fail us nor Forsake us
The processes by which the Father reaches out to, and hangs onto His children, vary widely. But over all of the digressions of His children there seems to be a protective shield of peace and promise offering a way back and offering the safety that can be found in His kingdom and in His arms, if we are willing.
The light that paralyzed Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9 was, in its truest sense, the kind voice of the Lord inviting him to participate in the work of redemption, for himself and the rest of the world. The angel that visited Cornelius in Acts 10 and showed him the pathway to Peter and the ordinances was in fact the gentle invitation of the Lord to this Gentile soldier to find true joy. The sickness of Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding of the woman with the twelve-year issue of blood in Mark 5 were an encouragement to embrace more fully the principles of light and love that would bring them mortal and eternal joy.
His efforts to claim and reclaim us are different from those used by Lucifer. Lucifer seduces us through our least desirable emotions. Most of the Lord’s encouragements are quiet, sweet enticements to repent and return to Him. Floods and fires occur but they are unusual interventions, selected from God’s Armory when other efforts have failed to get the attention of His children. I remain convinced that he uses the most moderate methods that are available to him to get our attention and to invite our repentance.
Israel in the Wilderness
As the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, the Lord reached out to them in a multitude of ways, trying to erase the iniquities and indifference of Egypt and bring them into the Light of His love. The Seventy-eighth Psalm tells us that the Lord:
“Divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap” (vs. 13).
“In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire” (vs. 14).
“He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths” (vs. 15)
The result? “And they sinned yet more against him” (Psalms 78:17).
But He did not give up on them. In a continuing, gentle, hopeful summons, He “rained down manna upon them to eat, and [gave] them of the corn of heaven” (vs. 24).
“He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea: And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations. So they did eat, and were well filled” (Psalms 78:27-29).
Even after these efforts, “they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works” (Psalms 78:32).
Finally, and apparently without other options, He got out the heavy artillery:
“When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God. And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer” (Psalms 78:34 – 35).
Verse 34 makes clear what happened in Israel after these most cataclysmic events: “they sought him: and they returned . . .” and they did it “early.”
The Father Loves His Children
I have twelve children, and I am not willing to give up on any of them. Whatever I am able to do to bless them and help them, I will do, if doing it is good for them.
Is it possible that the Father, in the perfection of His love, could do less than that? If we ask for bread or fish or eggs, will he give us stones or serpents or scorpions? (see Luke 11). Absolutely not! In the purity and perfection of His love He will do for us whatever He can do for us that will be good for us.
My thoughts on this truth have grown from a reading and rereading of a few chapters in Daniel. These are chapters that, in the complexities of several great truths and revelations, show us the continuing effort of the Lord to humble and reclaim the King of Babylon.
The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar
Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a great image composed of various kinds of metals. He called for his magicians and astrologers and sorcerers and demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed (he could not remember) and the interpretation of the dream (Daniel 2:2-12). Of course they could not, even under the threat of death. But Daniel intervened: “Bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation,” (Daniel 2:24) which he did.
Notice the king’s response.
“Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:46 – 49).
But Nebuchadnezzar was not converted yet. His focus on Daniel throughout the rewards and ceremonies following the interpretation of the dream, and the events of the following chapters, show us that he still had not come to a correct understanding of the nature and power of God.
The Fiery Furnace
In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar constructed a great image, probably sixty cubits tall and overlaid with gold. He then gathered all the rulers of all the provinces to the Plain of Dura where the image was erected, for the dedication ceremony. Among those invited were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, rulers over the affairs of Babylon (see Daniel 2:49).
The rules for dedication were simple: “To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the . . . musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:4-6).
With the furnace belching and smoking in the background it is not difficult to understand the response of nearly all of the dignitaries in attendance.
“Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down andworshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up (Daniel 3:7).
But three of them did not bow. Daniel’s friends, rulers in Babylon, remained standing and surrendered to the will of God.
When the Babylonian King learned of their disobedience (this is the man who had seen the power of Daniel’s God and work in his first dream) he called for the three “in his rage and fury” (Daniel 3:13), and commanded them to comply with his rules regarding his new god and informed them again of the furnace waiting for them if they did not obey him. “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15) he demanded.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were firm, steadfast, and immovable. If our God chooses to save us, he can deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, “be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:18).
They were therefore thrown into the furnace, spent some time there with a fourth person of whom the King said, “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).
When they came from the flames without the smell of smoke, and with their hair and clothing untouched, the king spoke:
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Daniel 3:28-30).
We might again at this point make erroneous assumptions about the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar. This miracle following the earlier one ought to have reached deeply enough into his heart to change it forever. But notice in verses 28-30 that the king feels an obligation to protect the Hebrew God with his own power. He still does not know the truth about God Almighty. But he is about to learn.
In chapter 4 of Daniel, we read a proclamation of King Nebuchadnezzar unto “unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth” (Daniel 4:1).
In his proclamation, the king recounts another dream which troubled him (see Daniel 4:5). He wanted an interpretation. He knew already of Daniel’s power and ability to do this, but again he sent for his “magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and . . . told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof” (Daniel 4:7).
The Dream and the King’s Conversion
At last Daniel came and the king appealed to him. He told him the dream, saying, “O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof” (Daniel 4:8 – 9).
The dream was a prophetic description of the next seven years of Nebuchadnezzar’s life. The King was like a great tree that had offered shade and rest and food to the world, but he was about to be cut down. Nebuchadnezzar would live like an ox in the wilderness.
In the dream, the king was told that “this matter . . . is to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17, emphasis added). Nebuchadnezzar needed to learn that he was king by the grace of God and not as a result of his own greatness.
How long would this judgment last? Daniel explained that the King’s “dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:25, emphasis added).
Everything happened as it had been prophesied. As the king walked in his palace and rejoiced in his own power and honor and majesty, he heard a voice from heaven saying, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee” (Daniel 4:31), and he was driven from among men.
At the end of the seven years, the king reported in his proclamation, “I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven [at last!], and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing [even Nebuchadnezzar]: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? . . . . Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase“ (Daniel 4:34-37).
This is the testimony of a man who has found his way home.
He will Come for us and Carry us
It pleases me that the Lord would spend so much time with Nebuchadnezzar in an effort to bring him to a knowledge of the true God. And I believe he will do as much for all of us if he can.
If the day comes, however, that we are fully ripe in iniquity (see Revelation 14:18; 2 Nephi 28:16; Alma 37:28, etc.), and there is no part of us that can be penetrated and renovated by the Spirit of God, then the Lord will leave us to the desires of our own hearts as he did Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, who knew of all his father had learned about the Most High, but ignored it (see Daniel 5:22), and who was warned by the hand writing on the wall (Daniel 5:25-28) and destroyed that same day in the attack of the Medes and Persians (see Daniel 5:30).
Seven years is not too long to spend in preparation for everlasting blessings of eternity. In Doctrine and Covenants 60:7, the Lord tells us, “I am able to make you holy.” But He will never impose that holiness upon us. He will try to fan the tiniest spark of hope into an eternal flame of light. He will always draw near to us if we will draw near to Him.
In every extremity and in every complexity He will be with us to help us and lift us if we will allow it. His promise is:
“Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb: And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:3-4).