Great Men Are Not the Greatest

Great Men Are Not the Greatest
by Jim O’Brien

There’s a prophecy in the Book of Daniel that has fascinated students of the Bible for centuries. By virtue of living in the 21st Century you are witnessing a political climate that may be an eerie fulfillment of Daniel’s words. Stay with me.

The prophecy resulted from a dream that Daniel interpreted for the king, the focal point of which was a giant statue of a man. The man had a head of gold, shoulders of silver, belly and thighs of brass and, finally at the bottom of the statue were ten toes that were a mixture of iron and clay.

The symbolism expressed by the statue is of four successive world-dominating empires that bear an inverse relationship between power and quality. In other words, each empire would be greater in power than the one before while simultaneously diminishing in civilized behavior.

It is logical to predict that power would increase in coming centuries simply because of technological advancements. What may offend citizens who live in later ages is that they would be less civilized. We tend to think that those who lived in past eras were more primitive. We have advanced.

Maybe the biggest lie of our day is that we are superior to previous generations. We think we’re just better people. We think we have learned from the mistakes of history even though we don’t know history.

Daniel’s interpretation was of a head of gold that was a symbol for Nebuchadnezzar. Gold has more value than iron but less strength. He apparently was a man God had gifted with great wisdom to govern the first kingdom that covered the entire civilized world at the time Daniel was writing.

The succeeding kingdoms were prophesied to be progressively more powerful yet less human until the final fulfillment of the prophecy which will arise just prior to the return of Christ, an empire that possesses the greatest military power the world has ever known yet is the most barbaric and cruel ever known.

Could it be possible that there will be a system worse than the Nazis? A leader worse than Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin or Mao? I had a friend who lived in Germany when Hitler came to power. She was thirty years of age and lived through WWII in Germany believing Hitler was a good man. In more than one conversation she expressed in the most sincere terms that she simply did not know such atrocities were being committed. I had to accept her testimony as honest.

Recently Donna and I watched the movie Darkest Hour about the leadership of Winston Churchill during WWII. We were motivated to see it by the testimony of John Rosemond, the Christian Psychologist. He recognized that Churchill was a flawed man, yet he was used by God to lead the free world through the darkest hour. Rosemond wrote, “Lord, grant us the wisdom to realize that great men are sometimes not the greatest of men.”

It isn’t about whether the man is flawed, or that no other such men exist in this mortal house; it’s about whether God is using the man to accomplish His purpose.

Maybe America is in a crisis for demanding a leader who meets our expectations of kindness rather than the expectation of greatness.

What is imminently important is not what the man is doing, but what God is doing through him. As a great man by the name of Job once observed, “(God) makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and disperses them.” (Job 12:23) And He uses the most unlikely of men to serve His purpose.

By human standards Job was a righteous man who learned that even a righteous man, when compared to God, is still flawed.

Jim is Pastor of the Church of God Cincinnati. You can read more of his Pastor’s letters on the church’s website:

(this post was originally published on Jan 19, 2018)

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