The Holy Vessels
Late last week Mary and I were watching PBS’s program, Moon Shot, and it brought back all the tension of the Cold War. I remember when the Soviet Union beat us into space putting Sputnik 1 into orbit on October 4, 1957. Then Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space on April 12, 1961. The U.S. appeared to be way behind when it came to space exploration and President Eisenhower ordered project Vanguard. He mobilized the engineering and industrial might of the U.S. to challenge godless, atheistic communism. Who knew whether democracy or communism would prevail?
In 605 BC Jerusalem faced a far more intense threat. Their enemy was right at the gates. The Temple built by Solomon was the place where the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob claimed to reveal his presence. His sacred vessels were used daily in the worship in the Temple, but when Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem after beating the Egyptians at Carchemish, look where the LORD’s holy vessels end up.
“In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and encircled the city putting it under siege. Now the Lord gave Jehoiakim, the King of Judah, into his hand, and some of the vessels used in the House of God. Nebuchadnezzar took them to the land of Shinar to the house of his god and the vessels he brought to the treasure house of his god.” Daniel 1:1-2
Now my students at Southern Bible would immediately ask, “There’s a big contradiction in these verses. Nebuchadnezzar was able to take God’s vessels from God’s Temple and take them all the way to Babylon and place them in the bank vault of the Babylonian’s god. It looks like the God of Israel has lost and Marduk, the god of Nebuchadnezzar, has won. How can Daniel make the audacious claim right at the beginning of his writing that the Lord was the one in control? He was the one who allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take Judah’s king and his Temple utensils.
This tension introduces the issue of who actually reigns over the affairs of men. We’ll have to remember where these Temple vessels are and where they end up in Daniel’s story.
LORD, help me to believe that even when idolatrous rulers and powers look like they are in complete control and you are impotent, you are not. Help me be patient and let you keep telling your Story.
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