Ideas Have Consequences

So do doctrines.

Daniel 4:1–3

Nebuchadnezzar the king,

To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth:

Peace be multiplied to you.

I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me.

How great are His signs,
And how mighty His wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And His dominion is from generation to generation.

This is progress. Now Nebuchadnezzar calls God “the Most High God.” Not bad, until we carefully consider the first Commandment.

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”
— Exodus 20:2–3

The Hebrew translated as “before Me” in this passage does not mean before Me “in line” or “in priority.” The Hebrew words are literally “upon my face.” We have a similar idiom in English. In essence, God is saying, “I don’t want any other gods in my face.” This means anywhere where He can see them, which is, of course, everywhere.

In contrast, Nebuchadnezzar views everything through a polytheistic lens. Recent events in his life have merely added another god to the list.

Something needs to happen to erase all those other gods.

Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims.” — John Stonestreet

Bad doctrines, whether ancient polytheism or something more modern, cause real damage. This is true in government, business, religion, anywhere where false beliefs lead to bad decisions or a distorted view of reality. Nebuchadnezzar’s false beliefs led to bad decisions. Now they’re keeping him from correctly interpreting what happened.

Much of Nebuchadnezzar’s stress is rooted in the gap between what his mind believes and what his eyes see. If only he’d trust his own eyes and let their truth convert him.

Therein lies a lesson about being open-minded — “Pay attention to your observations. They are facts.”

Ironically, the stress from Nebuchadnezzar’s suffering could solve all his problems by turning the current events into a teachable moment, but he’s so locked into his polytheistic worldview that he can’t learn.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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