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A View from the Altar / Babylon seen by faith
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Babylon seen by faith

Antony van Leeuwenhoek didn’t invent the first microscope.  But he figured out a method of grinding and polishing lenses to make them much more powerful.  He used one of his improved microscopes to examine the saliva of old men and reported seeing “an unbelievably great company of living animalcules, a-swimming more nimbly than any I had ever seen up to this time.”  No human had ever seen this before.  Others with university degrees — Leeuwenhoek had none — were oblivious to the wonders he could see with his simple, homemade gadget.  Because he could see things others couldn’t see, he knew things the world’s most brilliant minds had never dreamt of, which is pretty cool.

What Daniel could see by ordinary sight was what any fool could see.  Babylon was the center of world power.  She had whipped everybody there was to whip.  Babylon was the Washington, D.C. of its day, exerting influence far beyond its own borders.  As Daniel observed in his interpretation of one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Dan 4:20-22), all the birds of heaven shaded in the branches of the  great tree of Babylon.  Any person with a spark of ambition wanted to be there.  Those with a lot of ambition were filing their elbows sharp for the contest to get inside the radius of Nebuchadnezzar’s power.  Babylon was where it was at.  Babylon was in.  A Babylonian was somebody, and anybody who wasn’t part of it was nobody.

But Daniel saw things through the lens of faith.  To him, it was plain that Yahweh is the Most High God.  God had created Nebuchadnezzar for His own purposes and set him on his throne.  When God was done with Babylon, the empire would crumble.  Daniel could see that Jerusalem is the city of the truly great king, that His saints are the apple of His eye, and that the least soul in God’s eternal kingdom is higher than the highest of a perishing world.

Seeing this meant that this world’s prestige looked almost like a joke to him.  When King Belshazzar promised to promote Daniel if he could read the handwriting on the wall, Daniel already knew the king was the ultimate lame duck and his empire would not live out the night.  A gift of the king’s favor  (Dan 5:16) was like being paid a fortune in company stock the day before the crash.  A man with only his natural sight and worldly ambition would have spiked the ball and done the NFL leaping chest-bump with his homeboys.  Daniel told the king to give it to somebody else.  Being a man of faith, he was the only man in the room who knew it was worthless.

The glory of this world is like a beautiful mansion that’s in foreclosure.  Like Moses, Daniel esteemed the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Babylon, knowing that the treasures of Babylon were perishing.  It’s not that Daniel shrewdly sold his stock before the crash.  He never bought it in the first place.

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