Be as a tower firmly set; Shakes not its top for any blast that blows. –Dante Alighieri
I’ve got this weird quirk. I love history. I know most people hate history and find it boring but maybe it’s because our tendency is to just memorize dates and names and places which reduces the romance and richness of history into a set of boring trivia.
When I was in high school, I had a history teacher who made the usually boring facts into a series of intriguing events that make an impact on the world as it stands today. I devoured stories from the encyclopedia, biography books, yearbooks, etc. I loved the intrigues and the intricacies of history–how a single person’s life can make an impact to thousands and millions of others. The ones I especially loved were ancient empire-building stories in China, India, Europe, and the Middle East, and stories about European monarchs and American statesmen. From 1967 to 1993, my grandfather subscribed to Collier’s Yearbook and by the time I was in sixth grade, I would excitedly wait for the latest edition to arrive at my grandparents’ house. My favorite part is the People of the Year article where they enumerate ten people from any field (politics, media, entertainment, etc.) who the yearbook staff felt made an impact on history (whether good or bad) because of what they’ve done that year (Corazon Aquino was featured two or three times, I think). Looking back I can certainly understand why they chose those people. I think a good 99% of them still impact the world to this day.
I appreciated history all the more when I became a Christian. I realized how history is really HIS story. Everything that has ever happened proves God’s existence and omnipotence. Empires and emperors have come and gone, but His Kingdom continues to advance.
At first, I believed in God because I grew up in a religious family. However, I realized when I had a really smart philosophy professor in college, an atheist who challenged my entrenched tradition, that this belief was flimsy, and could be shaken at any time. Hence, I started to scour books, especially the Bible, for proof that the God I believed in really exists. God really knew me and how my mind works, and He led me to an obscure story in the Bible to cement my faith in Him.
In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar of the Neo-Babylonian empire had a terrifying and perplexing dream which no one could explain (Nebuchadnezzar was the first emperor of Babylon). Nebuchadnezzar decided to take his frustrations on the wise men of Babylon due to their inability to interpret the dream and wanted to put them all to death. In order to save his and his friends’ lives, Daniel interpreted the dream:
Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.
As I read that, I suddenly realized that God is very real. Daniel interpreted a dream that told of events spanning many centuries, a long time before they even occurred, with surprising chronological accuracy. Centuries after Nebuchadenezzar died, the Babylonian empire (the head of gold) would be overtaken by Cyrus the Great of the Persian empire (the silver chest and arms). Many decades later, Alexander the Great, founder of the Macedonian (Greek) empire (the belly and thighs of bronze) would crush the Persian army. The Greek empire would then lose to the Roman emperors (the iron legs) centuries later. The Roman empire was vast, encompassing many cultures. And because of its diversity, there would be division among its people (the feet of iron and clay). It was during the Roman empire, with Herod the Great tasked as overseer of Judea, that Jesus (the Rock) would be born in a little town called Bethlehem. His life, death, and resurrection would spark a movement that we know as Christianity today. And the followers of Christ have grown in number to span the entire world two thousand years later, a huge mountain filling the whole earth, while the ancient empires have long been buried under the sand.
I was literally sitting there open-mouthed because, as I was reading that passage I could remember distinctly my world history lessons and I knew with certainty that God is real. And that He is amazing. And that He is infinitely more powerful over any emperor or king.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect –1Peter 3:15