Posted on July 30, 2006 by Eternity Matters
This reading is Daniel 3.
Near the end of chapter two, King Nebuchadnezzar said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” We don’t know how much time elapsed between chapters two and three, but Nebuchadnezzar obviously had a change of heart somewhere in between. He apparently liked the statue concept and decided that his should be gold from head to toe.
Shardrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow down before the statue and this enrages the king (We’re not sure where Daniel was . . . presumably out of town, as it is hard to imagine him bowing to the statue). They make a stunning witness to the king in verses 16-18:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
What faith! They could have come up with many excuses to worship the statue, but they held firm. Are we bold enough not to worship the world’s idols, especially when it costs us money, prestige or safety? Think of how our society worships gold in the metaphorical sense – money, possessions and status. I don’t think we can stand up to such pressures with our human wills, but we can pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us for these challenges.
Who was the fourth person in the furnace? It could have been an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ or perhaps and an angel.
The next reading is Daniel 4.
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Posted on July 28, 2006 by Eternity Matters
This reading is Daniel 2.
Nebuchadnezzar was onto something when he challenged the psychics to not only interpret his dream but to first tell him what his dream was! This should be a standard challenge to all of the world’s psychics.
Daniel exhibited very strong faith in the face of the death threats from this obviously temperamental king. Daniel spoke to the commander of the king’s guard “with wisdom and with tact” and trusted that God would provide. Then he was quick to give credit to God for the visions he received. This is a beautiful passage:
Daniel 2:19-23 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: 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.”
Each part of the statue in the dream had special meaning. Trivia fact: The message about the statue is where the saying “feet of clay” originated.
- The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar.
- The silver part represented the Medo-Persian empire that conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.
- The bronze parts were Greece and Macedonia under Alexander the Great, who conquered the Medo-Persians around 334-330 B.C.
- The iron part is the Roman Empire, which conquered the Greeks in 63 B.C.
- The iron and clay represent the break up of the Roman Empire.
Gotta love my Life Application Study Bible footnotes! They are invaluable for information like this. More prophecies on these empires will occur later in Daniel. It is stunning how the Bible writes history hundreds of years in advance.
The next reading is Daniel 3.
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Posted on July 26, 2006 by Eternity Matters
This reading is Daniel 1.
The book begins in roughly 605 B.C. when the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took over Jerusalem. God had warned Israel through his prophets that He would give them into the hands of their enemies if they did not repent, but they didn’t obey. When the Babylonians took over a country it was a common practice to take the best and brightest people back to Babylon. Daniel was roughly 16 at the time, and he was one of those chosen.
Daniel 1:6-7 Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
Daniel’s character immediately shines through when in v. 8 he “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine . . .” He and his friends took a huge risk by doing this, but God provided for them and the King found them to be “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom.” God blessed their resolve throughout their time in Babylon. This reminds me of the story of Joseph in Genesis, where God helps take him from being a prisoner to eventually running the country of Egypt.
Daniel 1:17-18 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel and his friends weren’t belligerent with the officials. They acclimated to the culture where it didn’t violate God’s laws.
Thought for the day: The Bible teaches that Christians are aliens and strangers in this world. Do we stand out like Daniel and his friends, or do we completely blend into the foreign culture of this world?
The next reading is Daniel 2.
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Posted on July 24, 2006 by Eternity Matters
This reading is Daniel.
Just scan the headings in the Book of Daniel and read any bits that stick out to you.
Daniel was written by . . . Daniel. There are twelve chapters. The first six cover Daniel’s life and the last six cover visions he was given and the prophecies (predictions) they contained. The last half is apocalyptic literature, which means an unveiling or a revelation. Some other books with apocalyptic literature include Revelation, Zechariah, and parts of Ezekiel.
Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians when King Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem’s wisest men and most beautiful women back to Babylon. He was probably 16 or so at the time. Even though he was in a strange land with constant challenges to his faith, he remained steadfast in his loyalty to God.
Daniel contains some stories you may have heard many times (Daniel in the Lion’s den and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace). Chapter five contains the origin of the saying “the handwriting is on the wall.” It also contains many things you have never heard of if reading it for the first time.
The most amazing thing about Daniel is the accuracy of the prophecies. Even most liberal scholars agree that Daniel accurately describes the reigns and activities of several empires covering several hundred years – they just think Daniel was written after the fact and is pretending to be prophecy. I think the evidence is on the side of the early writing and that all the critics issues have been well addressed. You can read more about the dating of Daniel here (Warning: it is a little dry).
Jesus obviously viewed Daniel as the real author, as shown in Matthew 24:15-16 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel . . .” That is a pretty good trump card regarding the dating debate, assuming you are talking to a Christian. It is encouraging that God shows us through his Word that He knows everything that will happen. Psychics can’t predict what will happen next week, yet God predicted the specific course of many countries covering hundreds of years with 100% accuracy. This is one of the proofs showing the reliability of the Bible. No other Holy Book contains confirmed prophecies like this. There are also some very specific prophecies about Jesus.
Hope you enjoy the study!
The next reading is Daniel 1.
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Posted on July 22, 2006 by Eternity Matters
This reading is Psalm 3. The words in bold are introductory comments from my Bible. This references a story from 2 Samuel 15 and forward.
A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom. O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. Selah
The word “Selah” is interesting. My footnotes say it is a word of uncertain meaning occuring frequently in the Psalms, and is perhaps a musical term. I like to think of it as an exclamation, as in, “Yeah! Selah!”
Many people have heard of David’s battle with Goliath and his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. But the Bible records many other dramatic incidents about David, including being on the run from King Saul (his predecessor) for many years. Later, David’s son Absalom tries to take over the throne in Israel and David is forced to flee.
David was confident that God would answer him in this emergency. It is amazing that he could sleep under these circumstances, but David’s confidence was in God. A great way to end the day is to pray and think about how God is in control of the universe so we can sleep in peace.
This is an example of a Psalm where the writers bear their deepest feelings about what they want God to do.
The next reading is Daniel 1. I’ll take a day to introduce Daniel then proceed chapter by chapter.
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Posted on July 20, 2006 by Eternity Matters
This reading is Psalm 2.
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King in Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
There are different categories of Psalms. This is considered a Messianic Psalm, meaning that it points to Jesus, the Messiah. It isn’t the “nice, friendly, safe” Jesus that is often proclaimed in churches, but the real Jesus who is King of the universe and who rules with power and might while at the same time being full of love and grace. The phrase, “Kiss the Son” means to surrender and submit to him.
Doesn’t the part about the “kings of the earth” sum up the state of our world rather nicely? Countless people mock God at every turn. We make ourselves gods by inventing rationalizations for breaking God’s laws. But He is in control at every moment. This reminds me of Romans 9:20-21 – “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”
I thought this was an interesting phrase: “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.” I usually don’t associate fear / rejoicing / trembling in that way. But fear is the foundation of our relationship with God; this is a common Old Testament theme. One question we all must answer is whether we fear God more than we fear man.
The next reading is Psalm 3.
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Posted on July 18, 2006 by Eternity Matters
This reading is Psalm 1. It is so short that I’ll also post it here in full:
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
There is great wisdom here. Think of all the evils and problems we cause ourselves when we give into peer pressure and the alleged wisdom of the world (“the counsel of the wicked”).
Note how in v. 1 that the expressions go from “walk” to “stand” to “sit.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary said it showed the transition from the casual influence of ungodly people to collusion with them, then finally to scorning the righteous along with them.
The righteous are those who delight in his Word and meditate on it.
The notion of prospering doesn’t mean it happens immediately, just as everything that grows has its season. It reminds me of Galatians 6:7-8:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
The next reading is Psalm 2.
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