Seward United Methodist Church
Sunday, December 08, 2019
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God's Still On the Throne

Daniel 7:1-18 and Ephesians 1:11-23

Sharon and I were out for a walk recently, and the subject of her car came up. Her car isn’t in bad shape, per se. But it is getting a little bit, shall we say, quirky. One of us said, “It’d be nice to have the money to replace it,” which led to, “It’d be nice to have the money to do a lot of things,” which led to the question, “Do you have any rich relatives who might leave us a nice inheritance?” “No, do you?” “Also, no.”

It might be nice to think what you could do if someone left you a nice inheritance, but it’s just not true. Or is it? “Because of Christ, we have received an inheritance from God.” Well, we have a heavenly Father. And he is far richer than anyone could imagine. So, don’t all of us who are in Christ have a nice inheritance from a rich relative?

When the Hebrew people talked about their inheritance, they meant the Promised Land, the land of Canaan. But by the time Jesus came, most of them understood the Promised Land to be a foretaste of the true inheritance, which is the world to come, the new creation. Christians understood their inheritance in that way from the beginning. We are looking forward to the new creation, the new heavens and new earth, when God’s reign over creation will be fully realized.

We don’t have it yet, but we have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, a deposit, a down payment. The Spirit is God’s guarantee to us that the rest of the promised inheritance will come in its proper time.

Spiritually speaking, we are living in the wilderness. Israel spent forty years in the wilderness between coming out of slavery in Egypt and the time when they entered into their inheritance. We are in the wilderness. The decisive act of salvation has already happened, but we have not yet received all the benefits of that salvation. We’re not there yet, but we know what’s coming.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church is that they will understand the future in store and realize what a rich and glorious inheritance God has given his people. I think we would view life differently if we really kept God’s promises in mind. The little inconveniences of life would not bother us so much if we kept in mind what’s ahead of us. Road construction, computer glitches, election campaigns: What are such things in the light of eternity?

Daniel’s prophecy, which we read earlier, reminds us that not even the great turns of history are a reason to fear or lose heart. Daniel received that prophecy while he was still in

Babylon, before the time of the captivity had even ended. His vision is of four great empires that will rise and fall. Bible scholars basically all agree that the first three empires were Babylon, Persia, and Greece. Some Bible scholars argue the fourth empire, pictured as a terrifying and dreadful beast, is the next world empire, Rome. Others argue this fourth beast represents an apocalyptic empire of the end times, perhaps even the empire of the Antichrist. I don’t know who’s right, but the ending of the vision is the same either way; one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven. And he is given power and authority over all nations. And he reigns forever. And the holy ones of the Most High are given the kingdom. If that isn’t a prophecy about Jesus and his eternal kingdom, then I can’t imagine what it is.

Even the worst things of this world are temporary. Illness, tragedy, suffering are all temporary. Disasters, evil empires, grave injustices are all temporary.

Paul goes on: “I pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of his power for us, the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.” In Jewish thought, the highest expression of God’s power is that he could raise the dead. And the most important resurrection has already happened.

“And now he is seated far above any ruler, authority, power, or leader.” In the ancient world, many people believed that our lives were ruled by Fate, and our Fate was determined by the stars. Others believed that there were a myriad of spiritual powers and authorities at work, and if the spiritual powers had it in for you, then you were toast. But Paul’s message was simple: Christ is above them all. We need not fear any power, human or otherwise, for Christ is above them all. Think of the words of Paul in Romans 8: What can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ? Famine, persecution, danger, death? No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ, who loved us.

The world around us is going to feel chaotic. That’s part of Daniel’s vision. In his vision, these beasts representing different empires rise up out of the sea. Both the sea and the creatures in it, sea monsters, were representations of the power of chaos and disorder in the ancient Near East world. Our world still feels chaotic: Hurricanes, mass shootings, political strife, wars, and a million more things. But when the world feels chaotic, remember that God is still on the throne. And the story isn’t over yet. And when it does end, the ending is good.

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