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Apr 21, 2013

Watching Till Kingdom Come

Passage: Daniel 2:1-49

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Daniel: Overcoming Under Siege

Keywords: prayer, prophecy, gentile, kingdoms, history, nations, vision, dreams


Daniel 2 deals with some of the most amazing prophecy of the whole Bible. It also shows God's power to do things through his people that no other god can do. The current world events and history are working out what God has prophesied centuries ago. We are living in the last kingdom age of this prophecy.


Watching ‘Till Kingdom Come

Daniel 2

Series “Overcoming Under Siege”

April 21, 2013


Video clip from Signs where kids and dad are watching the aliens over Mexico City. 

That’s from the movie Signs which is, of course, about aliens.  But that little interchange about miracles and signs is pretty interesting, even for Hollywood. 

Today in our study series “Overcoming Under Siege”, we come to Daniel 2 and find a scenario unfolding in the life of Daniel that demands the miraculous.  As we saw last week, Daniel is probably the son of some Jewish official or aristocrat.  He’s in his teen years, smart, handsome, athletic and God-fearing.  He’s currently living in the center of ancient power in the extremely wealthy and pagan city of Babylon. 

But the rug has been totally pulled out from under this kid.  In the last two years he became effectively a POW.  He was separated from his entire family.  His personal achievement and family position made him a high-value target for the conquering forces of the Neo-Babylonian (or Chaldean) Empire. He was taken by force to Babylon, enrolled in a liberal and mystical arts university program for three years, possibly made a eunuch physically, had his name changed, and was pressured in every way imaginable to change his religion, his identity and his convictions. 


Here in chapter 2, he’s still a very young man and just about 2 or 3 years into this whole life-shattering experience of fitting into a new culture, a new way of life and totally unexpected future.  And Daniel is about to lose a whole night’s sleep just because someone else in town was having some very bad dreams possibly for several nights running.  Let’s read Daniel 2:1-3.

            Since King Nebuchadnezzar started his reign in 605 B.C., and Daniel seems to have a preference for numbering years only after the entire year has passed (like we do with birthdays), this chapter very probably takes place in 603B.C.  But it zeros in on one particular decision the king made after a series of dreams that were such upsetting and troubling dreams that Nebuchadnezzar was really having trouble sleeping. 

We’ve all had dreams like that, right?  Maybe you’ve had a dream where one of your family members is killed or severely injured?  You don’t just roll over and go back to sleep…especially if that or similar dreams keep happening night after night.  Fact is, if you go too many nights without sleep, you’ll drive yourself literally crazy.  Sleep deprivation has a way of causing our mind to short circuit.  And with what King  Nebuchadnezzar is about to do, it seems highly likely that he’s suffering from severe sleep deprivation. 

One of the unique things about these dreams the king was having is that the he doesn’t seem to be able to remember what the dream was really about.  He knows they are bad dreams. And he’s obviously very upset about the mood they’ve left him in.  So, he does what everyone in America does when something isn’t working out right—he calls on the government.  J 

Actually, I’m guessing that he figures it’s probably about time to make these spiritual advisors he’s been keeping on the government dole earn their keep.  So, according to vs. 2, he calls in the “magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans” and commands them to tell him his dream.   You can almost see the look of surprise on the faces of the entire group.  There they are, standing before the king in all their government-issued stuffed shirts and suits, waiting to hear the king ask them something they’ve been studying a lifetime to show off.  They see the distress on the kings face and they hear the agitation in his voice as he tells them, “I want to know what I’ve been dreaming!” 

Long pause???  A few panicked, maybe crazed looks passing between these government officials???  “Did he just say what I think he said?  Tell him what his dreams were?  I think I missed that lecture.  How about you older astrologers and magicians take this one?”  As ludicrous as this request is, no one is laughing.  I doubt if anyone was even smiling.

So maybe one of the older astrologers steps forward with head bowed, very humbly.  And he speaks, we are told in vs. 4, in Aramaic.    “

Then those who studied the heavens answered the king. They spoke in Aramaic. They said, “King Nebuchadnezzar, may you live forever! Tell us what you dreamed. Then we’ll explain what it means.”

Now first of all, this verse begins one of the most unique passages in all of Scripture.  It is THE longest passage in the Aramaic language that occurs in the Bible.  From here to 7:28, Daniel writes in Aramaic. It was the common language of the day in Babylon.  So why does God have his prophet, Daniel, switch from Hebrew to Aramaic?  It’s not the language of His people; it’s the language of pagan Gentile Babylonians.

Did you know that the Babylonian Empire was one of the first truly Gentile world empire?  Most historians will agree that the first western world empire was the Akkadian Empire which only lasted about 100 years from 2300 BC–2200 BC.  It was centered in the city of Akkad in modern day Iraq. 

But the next major kingdom was the Persian or Medo-Persian empire, called The Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BC). This empire was finally forged by Cyrus the Great (mentioned in Danile 1, 6 & 10 as well as the books of Ezra and Isaiah), and it spanned three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. 

So why the language shift here?  May I propose that because this dream we are about to see has everything to do with future Gentile kingdoms, including the then-present Babylonian kingdom, that God wanted his word to be clearly understood by Jews as well as Gentiles.  This chapter is going to pull back the curtain on the kingdoms of the world for centuries to come and reveal just how sovereign and specific the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is when it comes to world events.  So God instructs Daniel to write it in the language of the leading Gentile kingdom of the day.  Does God not care for all nations?


So back to the story.  This astrologer says, “Sir, you tell us the dream and we can guarantee…absolutely guarantee…an interpretation, no problem.”  But he’s forgetting that the king is sleep-deprived and grumpy.  Maybe in the sleepless nights he’s been looking at a way to balance the Babylonian national budget.  And all of a sudden the light goes on and he sees a way to wipe out an entire department of the federal government, the Department of Religion and Astrological Arts.  J  You can almost see his face turn red and the veins begin to pop out on his neck and forehead.  Let’s read Daniel 2:5-11.

The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”

10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

How many different ways were the brightest minds of the most advanced and powerful country in the world WRONG? 

  • “This is a first!  No king has ever asked this of his wise men”  No, I doubt that was true.  As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9).  I doubt no one had ever asked this of their soothsayers.
  • It wasn’t “too difficult” for someone to comply with, as we shall see.
  • There was someone who could reveal it to the king. In fact, he was right in his own royal court.
  • It wasn’t the “gods” who would reveal it; it was the only true God, Yahweh, the God of the Jews. 
  • And they were wrong about “the gods” not living among humans.  Lots of gods live here on this earth, be they people who imagine themselves god or false gods or gods of this age or demonic gods.  But more importantly, the true, living, God Almighty did and does live among humans both by His Spirit and in the person of Jesus Christ who, at that point, was to come. 

This is a good reminder that the best educated people in the world can ALL be dead wrong about the most important, fundamental and life-changing spiritual truths.  As you know, I’m a strong proponent of having Christian children in public schools so they both have opportunity to witness to their peers as well as learn how to relate to a world of non-Christians.  But sending our children to secular schools and universities will not equip them for THE most important parts of life.  There are HUGE, gaping holes in secular education today when it comes to the very practical issues they must learn about if they are to become good spouses and good citizens…holes of finance management, home and world-wide economics, logic, philosophy, religion, handyman skills, life-management, personal discipline, etc., etc.  But the BIGGEST hole is spiritual education—teaching our children how to read and understand the Bible, how to experience God in prayer, in service, in worship, in fellowship, in all the spiritual disciplines and practices of the Christian faith, how to walk in the Spirit and be filled with the Spirit.  That which is MOST important for their future happiness and success they will, unfortunately, NEVER get in the public educational setting of the 21st century. 

            Young and old, we must understand this.  Youth, if you don’t really believe and grasp this, you will never invest the time or make it a priority to learn these things before you leave home and start life on your own.  And adults, we are doing our children and the next generation a horrible disservice if we do not make investing spiritually and relationally in their lives one of our top priorities for the rest of our lives.   


Well, about this time in our story, the king must have realized that he had wasted way too much money on this government department for far too long.  Vs. 12—

12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

This was a good time NOT to be in the palace.  In fact, the farther away you were from the king that day, the better it was for you.  This was not some inconsequential “sequester cuts.”  This would mean death for a whole lot of people before the day was over.  I wonder just how many of these men and their families actually lost their heads that day before Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, came knocking in vs. 14, on Daniel’s door?

Unless you’ve lived in one of the 20th or 21st century’s communist or totalitarian dictatorial states, you have no idea how a knock on your door can change…or end…your life.  You have no idea the type of fear you will have to face down every single day.  Millions of people in China or the former Soviet Union or Nazi Germany or North Korea or the Middle East have been killed shortly after a simple knock on the door by a government official.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. 15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.


Daniel had probably not been present at the initial gathering of department heads because he was still in his training period of 3 years.  But apparently since the king was going to wipe out this whole government Department of Education and Magic Arts, it meant the end of those who were also in training to join their ranks.  Talk about a shift in educational policy!  J

Somehow (obviously by the grace of God), Daniel gets the king to grant a stay of execution for all these government employees.  King Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t see his request as stalling.  How much time he asked for, we don’t know.  But from the look of Daniel’s actions the rest of that day and night, I’m thinking it was probably a matter of hours if not just one day.  We pick it up in vs. 17-- 17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

I’m thinking this little prayer meeting of 4 guys was probably not the only prayer meeting taking place at the palace that night.  I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that quite a few of the other “wise men of Babylon” also started calling on their gods.  I’ll bet there was no small amount of crying out, of sacrificing, maybe even of cutting themselves (like the prophets of Baal with Elijah), that went on that night in some pagan prayer circles around the palace. 

            But regardless, one thing we do know:  Daniel didn’t panic.  He didn’t get all bummed out and depressed.  He didn’t get angry and rant.  He didn’t go update his will…or call for one last party…or write that one, last letter home for his family.  He went home to his faith-friends and told them what they all needed to do.  He called them to pray as if their lives depended on it…because they did! 


APP:  Why does it take life-threatening crisis to move us to fervent praying?  Human nature, I guess.  But God knows…and he uses crisis to move us into seeking him.  Whether it is physical illness or eminent death through persecution, prayer IS the right response to fear-provoking life experiences. 

            As 18th century English author, Samuel Johnson,

 has said, When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."  We should change that for Christians to, “When a Christian knows he is facing imminent trouble or difficulty, it should focus his heart to passionate praying.” 

APP:  do we really believe and pray “as if our life depended on it”?  I’m sure that if I had one night to get some supernatural direction from God or face the firing squad in the morning, I wouldn’t have any problem doing what Daniel and his 3 friends did that night:  have an all-night prayer meeting. 

            The old English word for that kind of meeting is “watching.”  It comes from Jesus rebuke of his disciples who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane that night of his betrayal.  “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Mt. 26:40)  The persecuted church is always a praying church.  But I long for the day we can simply say, “The passionate church is a praying church.”  “The Bible-believing church is a praying church.”  “The church wanting God’s revival is a praying church.” 

PERS: I think we could all could say we don’t pray as much as we should.  But that’s no excuse for not praying more than we currently do.  God promises SO much to his people that can only come, at least in part, through prayer.  Yes, we grow weary and are tempted to give up.  I’ve been praying for revival in Spokane for 20 years, virtually every day, sometimes whole days, parts of whole weeks, certainly at every weekly church and pastor’s prayer meetings.  I have my doubts at times whether I will ever live to see it.  But I love God’s people and my own children…and hate my own spiritual apathy enough… to not stop, to keep knocking at heaven’s door for something I can’t possibly bring about or make happen.  Only God can.  The simple fact is, churches and cities that experience God most deeply, pray steadily, significantly, perseveringly and passionately.   

APP:  Call to pray—Th. A.M., Sun. @ church, small groups….

Vs. 19 lets us know that “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.”  The difference between a vision and a dream is that a vision is a supernatural picture or revelation of something while you are awake while a dream is the same while you are sleeping.  Daniel wasn’t sleeping.  His friends probably weren’t either.  But God chose to give that vision to Daniel…and he was in a place in heart and mind to receive it.  And he gets not only the vision of the king’s dream but apparently the understanding of its significance as well. 


Then vss. 20-23 record one of the most wonderful songs/psalms of praise of God anywhere.  It flows out of what he saw in the vision and what he understood it meant for the world.  Notice how much it talks about God and what it says about Him.

Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
[He oversees history.]
    he deposes kings and raises up others.

[He determines national and international leaders.]
He gives wisdom to the wise
[God’s people who seek God’s will, plan and purposes.]
    and knowledge to the discerning.

[ditto…and what does this say about king Neb?]
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”


STORY:  In the spring of 1738, Charles Wesley lay in bed, struggling to breathe.  He was going through a bout of pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of the lung cavity.  Every time he took a breath, the inflamed pleural linings rubbed against each other, causing extreme pain.  He was suffering, he was depressed, and he was plagued by severe doubts about his faith. 

            One day, a group of believers came to his home in Bristol in southwest England.  They prayed over him and cared for him.  Wesley was deeply moved by their Christian love for him.  He began to read his Bible, and found himself drawn again and again to the passages that dwelt on praise for God.  He began to feel stronger, both physically and spiritually.  He later looked back on his illness and recovery as the time his faith was renewed and restored. 

            The following year, Wesley was inspired to write an 19-stanza poem.  It was set to music and published as a hymn in 1740.  The original title was “For the Anniversary day of One’s Conversion.”  Eventually, the 7th stanza was moved to the beginning of the hymn, and the first line of that stanza became the title it is now known by nearly 3 centuries later:  O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.  What a beautiful gift of praise to leave the church for centuries.  We’re going to sing 4 of the 19 stanzas a little later.  J


APP:  This got me to thinking that I personally need to really get serious about keeping a running record of every time God answers prayer.  In fact, I want us to start keeping a “A Record Book of Answered Prayers” as a church, too.  I got one for us this weekend.  It’s going to be sitting right over there in the window/at The Grid for as long as we are here in this space.  Then we’ll find another spot for it at the next “answer to prayer” God gives us.  We should have been doing this all along, but better late than never.  Some weeks I’ll have things I need to write there as God answers.  Others I’ll have weeks I just need to be reminded that God is answering your prayers by going over and reading what you’ve entered.  Either way, I know when God answers prayer, it’s meant to turn our hearts to praise His greatness in a world that often isn’t so great.


The remainder of this chapter actually gives us the king’s dream and tells us why it was so troubling.  But what was truly troubling for King Nebuchadnezzar was meant to have quite a different effect upon us, God’s people. Here’s why.


Read Daniel 2:29-35

Pretty miraculous vision, no?  Can you imagine the relief that must have flooded this very powerful man’s life at finally getting resolution to nights of disturbing dreams?  God was speaking to a pagan king about the history of mankind.  He was using one of his chosen people, Daniel, to relay both the vision and the meaning of it to pagan people. 

God’s own people were under the discipline of the exile because of their failure to listen to his previous revelation to them.  So now God starts to speak through the history of Gentile nations as well.  And the prophecy he shows Daniel in this passage is about to become the history of the known world.  God is about to reveal what He is going to do in the times of the Gentiles. 

Read Daniel 2:36-38

Babylon was, literally, the golden kingdom.  When Herodotus, the ancient historian, visited Babylon one hundred years or so after Nebuchadnezzar, he wrote that in all of his life he had never seen more gold nor imagined there could be so much.  It was pure glitter from the palace to the Ishtar gate.  Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was the golden reign of Babylon. 

            But it would not last.  Dan. 2:39-43

            The second kingdom of silver turns out to be the Medo-Persian Empire historically.  There are two arms to this section of the image, indicating the divided nature of the second empire (Medes and the Persians).  They would overtake Babylon and strong-arm it into submission.

            The third kingdom that would rule the earth was Greece.  Alexander the Great, the greatest general in ancient times, conquered and ruled the known world of his time from starting in 336B.C.  He died at Babylon, his vitality exhausted at age 33.  During his lifetime, the soldiers under his command were dressed in bronze and brass helmets, breastplates, shields and swords.

            The fourth kingdom had legs of iron and feet a combination of iron and clay.  This kingdom is the Romans.  Just 50 years before Jesus was born, the Roman Empire came into existence.  It was Roman rule that put Jesus on the cross.  It was the imperialistic Romans who ruled ruthlessly throughout the world in the early days of the church.  The Roman legions were known for their ability to crush all resistance with an iron heel. 

            But the feet of this statue was clay mixed with iron.  Many have seen in this imagery at ten-kingdom confederacy that will rule in the last days of the end times.  We are living in the aftermath of the Roman Empire.  There has been no other world empire since the Romans.  So there is a good possibility that our global community will one day reunite in some sort of weekly amalgamated union of nation-states that have its roots in Roman law and traditions. 

            “So what,” you say.  Well think about this.  When Nebuchadnezzar dreamed this dream, Persia, the 2nd kingdom, was a Babylonian vassal state.  The Greeks were a group of warring tribes.  Roma was a village on the Tiber River.  And there is no possible way any human being could have seen how these kingdoms would shape unfolding Gentile history.  This was truly an amazing prophecy. 

            But the amazing present and future of this prophecy is what Daniel describes in vvs. 44-45. (Read.)

            So who or what is the stone that strikes the image at the feet and crushes it to powder?  Over 14 times in the Bible Jesus is referred to as the stone. 

  • In Exod. 17:5-6 he is the rock Moses smote and from which water for the whole nation gushed forth.
  • In I Cor. 10:3-4, Paul picks up that picture and tells us that they Israelites “drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” 
  • Paul quotes Isaiah 8 in Romans 9:33 when he says Christ is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense that makes people fall who don’t trust in him.
  • Jesus is clearly the cornerstone and foundation stone for all who trust in him according to Isaiah 28:16 and I Pt. 2:6,7. 

So what are the characteristics of this Kingdom of Christ yet to come? 

  • It isn’t fashioned by human hands or might or will.  Only God could fashion the sinless body of Christ without natural human means and create a world-wide kingdom through his death, burial and resurrection. 
  • It is a kingdom that will come suddenly.  All of the other kingdoms of the dream were built on one another and were gradual in the making.  Christ’s kingdom will come with a sudden and decisive blow. 
  • It is a kingdom that will be powerful and will pulverize all opposition.  Malachi gave a chilling description of the time when Christ would return to set up His kingdom.  “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace.  All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Mal 4:1). 

Here is where amillennialists and premillennialists diverge.  Amillennialists believe that this pulverizing of human kingdoms and absolute rule of Christ’s kingdom is something that has been unfolding and developing over the last 2,000 years.  They contend that it is the kingdom of Christ ruling and reigning in the hearts of people and the church of Jesus Christ, not an absolute and political rule for a millennium that Daniel is foreseeing.  

Premillennialists believe that the millennium spoken of in Revelation 20 is a literal period of roughly 1,000 years when Christ’s reign over the earth will be visible, physical, political, powerful and worldwide.  We see that kingdom coming suddenly at Christ’s return, strongly in sovereign power with every human under his divine and immediate authority, and utterly successful in replacing all man-made kingdoms. 


But regardless your view on millennialism, we should all share in a common and complete response of worship of God at the sovereign direction of human history.  Just as King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and declared, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries….” 

The most powerful king of the time needed to see that.

Daniel in captivity needed to see that.

WE need to see that. 


Here is the harsh reality:  EVERY kingdom of this world will one day fail, fall and fade into sub-kingdoms or countries.  The vision Daniel saw covered 4 different world kingdoms that spanned about 700 years of human history.  But every one of them was eventually replaced, destroyed and made history. 

            Why do we think our nation or any other should be any different.  I get as mad and frustrated as the next person about the obvious decline and demise of our great nation these days.  But the fact is, we have outlived and out lasted the length of every kingdom in this prophecy but one—Jesus’. And either we believe God’s word about the rise and fall of nations and leaders or we don’t.  Whether we are living as a POW in pagan lands or as average citizens in a declining culture, our praise should be the same as Daniel’s in this chapter (2:20ff):

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.


As great as this democratic Republic has been, it is not the rule of Christ in this world.  It must pass away some day.  Yes, we should be involved as salt and light wherever God places us.  But God is not interested in returning his church to a level of financial prosperity and civil comfort that lulled the church to sleep over the past 50 years. 

We would do well to heed the words of Professor Alexander Tylor, a professor of history when our original 13 colonies were still a part of England.  He wrote about the Athenian republic over a thousand years ago.  He said,

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure.  From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.  The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years.  These nations have progressed through the following sequence:  from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependency back to bondage.”

So where are we?  Clearly somewhere in the stage of selfishness, complacency, apathy and dependence.  The next step is bondage, one most of us in this room may live to see. 


Can we slow it’s decay?  I don’t know.  But regardless of what nation we are in and what passport we have, we belong to the last kingdom that will crush all others.  We serve the only Master and Commander whose rule will never end.  No matter what happens to any nation, He is in charge.  He is arranging history right now.  He is setting up kings and presidents and prime ministers and deposing them. 

And He is giving wisdom to his own wise children, revealing deep and hidden things that will enable us to live and conquer and eventually reign with Him.  It is that kingdom we must live for.  It is that kingdom we must die for.  We must do all within our power to build on that rock, that foundation, which will never fail.  This one will end.  That one will only grow to be more powerful, more triumphant, and more God-glorifying with every passing day.