Anticipated Destruction

Daniel 8

In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God warned the Hebrews coming out of Egypt and those entering the promised land of the consequences of breaking the covenant, of worshiping false gods, of turning their back on the God who had rescued them. The curses of the covenant were not meant purely to be punishment for breaking the law…like a loving Father, they were meant to discipline the people, to bring them back into fellowship with their God. The worst discipline would be expulsion from the land…being taken captive by their enemies and led into exile.

Daniel was writing to a group of folks who had experienced the “nuclear” option up close. Remember that King Jehoiakim of Judah was given into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar. It was an act of divine discipline. Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, experience that discipline although they are model Israelites. They conduct themselves with integrity and uncompromising faith even in life-threatening circumstances. Daniel’s message…don’t give up, don’t give in, God wins. Ironically, while under God’s divine discipline, the people sin still more. They give up on their faith and give in to the culture. So God gives them over (Romans 1)…they turned their backs on Him, so He allowed them to experience Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

This vision of Daniel’s should have served as a warning to that future generation, but they ignored it. Instead of choosing to fear and obey God above all else, they chose to conform to the culture, to avoid making waves, to blend in. Sound familiar? Sadly yes. It sounds eerily like too many churches today.

The church has historically taken four different approaches to interacting with the surrounding culture…the first is the fortress mentality. Let’s build a Christian subculture where we don’t have to be influenced at all by the world. We’ll have our own Christian radio stations, our own movies, our own guide to businesses…never have to intentionally interact with an unbeliever again. We may avoid being influenced by the world, but we also fail to influence it for the gospel. We’ve made ourselves irrelevant.

The second approach to culture is condemnation. I picture it as the bullhorn mentality, where culture is vehemently opposed and condemned. The world can go to hell. It’s about what we’re against rather than what we’re for. The truth may be spoken, but definitely without love.

The third approach to culture is conformity…giving in to the status quo. If you can’t beat’em, join’em. A scary trend among evangelicals is the shifting views on the biblical definition of marriage. Taking our cue from popular social trends, we make truth relative…no longer is the Genesis 2 definition of marriage, the definition that both Jesus (Matt. 19) and Paul (Eph 5) affirm, consider the church’s stance. Instead we allow the Supreme Court and popular opinion to define marriage very differently. No truth, but the appearance of love. Let me say clearly that we are all broken people, and the church is a place for broken people. Jesus came to save sinners…that’s all of us. God has created each of us in His image, and He loves us with an indescribable love…love that was demonstrated at the cross. We welcome all who come to our church, and we love them; but it doesn’t mean we will give up on the truth of God’s Word.

The fourth approach to culture is engagement. This has rarely been done well. Truly engaging culture…entering into the debate. It means being intentional (8-15). It’s what we’re called to do. It’s what Daniel did.

How did he do it? He was available to be used by God, and he was intentional…he boldly yet compassionately pointed his 8-15 to the God of heaven. We are called to engage our culture…not to run from it, condemn it, or conform to it. For most of us that happens one person at a time. So who are you engaging?

While Daniel’s vision is primarily about an evil king who contends against and persecutes God’s people because of their disobedience, God’s mercy is abundantly clear as He limits the days of the evil king’s persecution and will ultimately destroy him. God who reveals the future will rule the future…may that be a comfort for those of us facing a seemingly uncertain future based on a turbulent present.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Weekend Passage – June 20

Daniel 8

Vision of the Ram and Goat

In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously. I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal. Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified himself.

While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.

The Little Horn

Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. 11 It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. 12 And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” 14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”

Interpretation of the Vision

15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.” 17 So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.”

18 Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright. 19 He said, “Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end.

The Ram’s Identity

20 The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia.

The Goat

21 The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22 The broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power.

23 “In the latter period of their rule,
When the transgressors have run their course,
A king will arise,
Insolent and skilled in intrigue.
24 “His power will be mighty, but not by his own power,
And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree
And prosper and perform his will;
He will destroy mighty men and the holy people.
25 “And through his shrewdness
He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence;
And he will magnify himself in his heart,
And he will destroy many while they are at ease.
He will even oppose the Prince of princes,
But he will be broken without human agency.
26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings
Which has been told is true;
But keep the vision secret,
For it pertains to many days in the future.”

27 Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Reclaiming the Kingdom Part 2

Daniel 7.19-28

Why does God give Daniel this revelation? Although he lives through the first beast (Babylon) and into the time of the second beast (Medo-Persia), he would not be around to see the fulfillment of the majority of the prophecy. How would an ancient Israelite have received it? Remember that Daniel is writing during a time when Israel is under the rule of foreign powers. Folks have started to return to Jerusalem. The walls and the temple will soon be rebuilt, but they will still be under the rule of the nations. They would not know the world that their fathers had known. They would not see Israel fulfilling her Abrahamic destiny of being the blesser of the nations. Instead they would only know life under foreign occupation and rule. And Daniel writes somehow to encourage them…to encourage them not to give up or to give in because God wins.

But how would this be an encouragement to folks who had no hope of life returning to “normal”? Daniel gives us two perspectives of reality in this chapter: one earthly and one heavenly. From the earthly perspective, there is apparent chaos as the sea (picture of the nations) is stirred up and one kingdom after another arises only to be conquered by the next successive kingdom. And each kingdom will be opposed to God, so if you are one of the saints, it will look like you are on the losing side, especially during the time of the fourth beast. In Genesis 3.15 God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed…”

From the heavenly perspective, God is in complete control. The Ancient of Days is seated on His fiery throne. His sovereignty is unquestioned. The beasts may roam the earth, but they are subject to God. Their dominion is a delegated dominion. And there’s coming a time when heaven and earth will once again be reunited, the kingdoms of this world will be judged and an eternal kingdom will be set up. In the end, the saints’ victory will be manifest. History is moving toward a climax in which good triumphs over evil. And the book ends with the hope of the resurrection (12.13).

The hope of the ancient Israelite was resurrection (12.2-3). It wasn’t a comfortable family-life. It wasn’t a good job. It wasn’t even a return to Jerusalem. It was the resurrection where they would receive their share in the eternal kingdom, where they would walk its streets and serve its King. Daniel’s encouragement was to live life today as citizens of the eternal kingdom. If they focused on their present circumstances, it sure wouldn’t have looked like they were on the winning side. But if they looked beyond their circumstances, Daniel gave them glimpses of God winning – seeing Him praised and His sovereignty acknowledged by the most powerful men in the world (Nebuchadnezzar and Darius); and the boys’ willingness to face death in the fiery furnace and the lions’ den rather then compromise their faith.

Today we find ourselves under the dominion of the fourth beast. We are living in a world that devours and tramples, that overpowers and wears down the saints. We are living in a world that is venomously hostile not only toward God, but also toward His followers. A world in which violence is king…just look at the top rated video games, the top grossing movies, the sporting events we pay extra to see. Not unlike Ancient Rome. In Genesis 6, it was because of the violence of man that had greatly increased on the earth that God finally said, “Enough is enough” and sent the flood. Each successive kingdom has been more violent than the one before, and so we should expect to experience the trampling down and the devouring. We should expect to be attacked and persecuted.

Daniel’s encouragement to us is not to place our hope in the things of this world, the present earthly kingdom in which we find ourselves. Our hope is not in a better job with better benefits, or reconciled relationships, or the right education for my kids. It’s not the American Dream. Our hope is in the resurrection…where we will walk the streets of the eternal kingdom, where we will serve our King. Daniel’s encouragement to us is the same as was his encouragement to the ancient Israelites: live your life as a citizen of the eternal kingdom. Influence others by our uncompromising faith in God. To often we want to claim dual citizenship…living in both the earthly and heavenly kingdoms, hoping to enjoy the benefits of both. But we can only live in one of them…only one can claim our allegiance. Jesus said something about that… “No man can serve two masters for he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” James writes, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…” Be prepared to suffer. Persevere until the end. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. God wins.

I love the scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where our heroes, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come to the aid of King Theoden to defend Helm’s Deep. They’ve received word that a large army of Urai-hai, a beastly army created by the wicked wizard Saruman, is on the march. With a small band of defenders, the only hope of winning, maybe better, surviving, is the mighty fortifications of the fortress itself. Then the elves show up, and it seems that our heroes might have a fighting chance. But then the enemy pours into the valley and covers it like blanket. The battle begins and our heroes seem to be holding their own until the wall is breached by an unnatural explosion. The bad guys pour in. The good guys are overwhelmed. The hope they had placed in the wall and the elves was misplaced.

Theoden, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are in the last fortified chamber with the Urai-hai crashing the door. Theoden, tempted to give up, remarks, “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” I love Aragorn’s answer, “Ride out with me. Ride out with me and meet them.” Theoden, “For death and glory…” Then Gimli says, “The sun is rising…” “Foul deeds awake. Now for wrath. Now for ruin. Now for the red dawn.” The band rides out through the sea of Urai-hai just in time to see Gandolph and the riders of Rohan coming up over the ridge. They overwhelm the bad guys below and the day is saved.

Living life in the fourth kingdom many times feels like we are on the losing side, especially as Jesus followers. It feels like the enemy is crashing the door down looking to devour us. We are often tempted to give up or give in. But remember the earthly kingdoms are temporary. They are given dominion for a short period of time. The Son of man is coming to set up an eternal kingdom that will never fail or fade. The enemy has already been defeated, though we don’t see it fully yet. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Jesus wins.

If you are not a part of His eternal kingdom today, please don’t wait. Each kingdom fell in a moment of time. This one will too. And when that moment comes, it will be too late. You can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom by trusting in its King. By believing that Jesus came and lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death and was raised again to life conquering both sin and death, the Bible says that you can become a citizen of the eternal kingdom. A son or daughter of the King. That you too would not have to give up or give in because Jesus wins!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Weekend Passage – June 13

Daniel 8

Vision of the Ram and Goat

In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously. I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal. Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified himself.

While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.

The Little Horn

Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. 11 It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. 12 And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” 14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”

Interpretation of the Vision

15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.” 17 So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.”

18 Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright. 19 He said, “Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end.

The Ram’s Identity

20 The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia.

The Goat

21 The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22 The broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power.

23 “In the latter period of their rule,
When the transgressors have run their course,
A king will arise,
Insolent and skilled in intrigue.
24 “His power will be mighty, but not by his own power,
And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree
And prosper and perform his will;
He will destroy mighty men and the holy people.
25 “And through his shrewdness
He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence;
And he will magnify himself in his heart,
And he will destroy many while they are at ease.
He will even oppose the Prince of princes,
But he will be broken without human agency.
26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings
Which has been told is true;
But keep the vision secret,
For it pertains to many days in the future.”

27 Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Reclaiming the Kingdom, Part 1

Daniel 7.1-18

Why does God give Daniel this revelation? How would an ancient Israelite have received it? Remember that Daniel is writing during a time when Israel is under the rule of foreign powers. Folks have started to return to Jerusalem. The walls and the temple will soon be rebuilt, but they will still be under the rule of the nations. They would not know the world that their fathers had known. They would not see Israel fulfilling her Abrahamic destiny of being the blesser of the nations. Instead they would only know life under foreign occupation and rule. And Daniel writes somehow to encourage them…to encourage them not to give up or to give in because God wins.

Knowing that life would not return to “normal”, how would this be an encouragement? This is where it’s good to remember that Daniel 7 occurs chronologically before Daniel 5 & 6. Daniel has this vision of the four beasts several years before both the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5) and the lion’s den (Daniel 6). So when Belshazzar calls Daniel in to interpret the handwriting on the wall, what was Daniel’s response? Fear…uncertainty…concern? No. Daniel boldly rebukes King Belshazzar for his blasphemy and unwillingness to humble himself to the God of heaven. God is not to be mocked. Don’t give up even when the “ king” mocks God, whether that king is an employer, teacher or government. Judgment comes for the wicked. Our job is to be available to be used by Him, and then to boldly yet compassionately point them to Jesus. Some will respond like Nebuchadnezzar and some won’t like Belshazzar. That’s up to God. We’re called to be faithful. Don’t give up.

When Darius consents to the edict that forbids his subjects to pray or make supplication to any man or god for 30 days, Daniel does what Daniel had always done…he continues to pray to God 3 times with his windows open towards Jerusalem. Daniel feared God more than the king and was willing to face the consequences of his choice. Don’t give in when following Jesus becomes hard, when persecution comes your way, because it will. Like Daniel we’re called to be uncompromising in our faith. Our God can, our God will, but even if He doesn’t… God may choose to rescue us through situation, not always from it, but even if He doesn’t we trust that He is working things out for our ultimate good and His glory. Don’t give in.

The beasts have dominion for a season, but each one ends in a moment of time. Don’t invest in kingdoms that are fleeting. Invest in the eternal kingdom that will not fail or fade. The kingdom that the Son of Man will receive from the Ancient of Days. You can do that by trusting in Jesus today. I would love to talk to you about that.

Don’t give up. Don’t give in. God wins.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Weekend Passage – June 6

Daniel 7

Vision of the Four Beasts

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it. Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.

The Ancient of Days Reigns

“I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat;
His vesture was like white snow
And the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne was ablaze with flames,
Its wheels were a burning fire.
10 “A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him;
Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
The court sat,
And the books were opened.

11 Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13 “I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
14 “And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 16 I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 18 But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’

19 “Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, 20 and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates. 21 I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.

23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24 As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’

28 “At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

The Den of Redemption

Daniel 6

There are lots of parallels between this story, commonly referred to as Daniel and the lions’ den, and the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego’s experience with the fiery furnace. Both stories point to God’s active involvement in the lives of His people. Both point to His power to rescue in miraculous ways. Both point to His sovereignty over the nations. Sometimes we think that maybe that was true then, but what about now? Let me challenge you to spend some time today reflecting ways that you’ve seen evidence of God’s active involvement in your life. I think you will be blown away by His fingerprints all over your situation, in both good and bad times. He never leaves us or forsakes us. Our God can, our God will, but even if He doesn’t…

There’s no doubt that God can rescue, but the big question is…why does He choose to rescue Daniel? By this time Daniel is in his 80’s. He’s an old man, who’s lived a long life. He’s already a citizen of God’s eternal kingdom, he’s a son of the King, his future is secure. Why not a martyr’s death? Like Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah aka Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, I believe God rescues Daniel, not just for Daniel’s sake (he dies eventually), but 1) to remind God’s people that He is with them even during times when earthy kingdoms are ruling over them, and 2) to introduce Darius to Daniel’s God.

You see, counting Darius, we only know of two folks that Daniel has been able to introduce to the living God. Two folks that have passed from death to life…Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. Yet that’s a pretty impressive two. Jesus picked 12 ordinary guys…a lot like us…and poured into their lives for 3 years, at the end of which time, one betrayed Him, one denied Him and the rest abandoned Him in His darkest hour. Yet 11 of these 12 guys changed the world after seeing the resurrected Jesus. Daniel’s two were the most powerful men in the world, who both sent out decrees to the nations praising the one true God. Because Daniel was available, God used him to boldly yet compassionately reach these two guys. Like Daniel, you may only have influence on one or two lives, but how will God multiply that influence in later generations?

But you may be thinking, like me, I’m not Daniel. I’m not one of the disciples. A friend of mine and I were talking about this passage. He said, “Daniel was the right guy for the job and God used him to accomplish His purposes. We just finished Acts. Paul’s uniqueness was a theme that kept popping up – rabbinical training, Roman citizenship, even his legacy of persecuting the church – all those things allowed him to accomplish the work that God has set before him. God’s faithfulness to His people through the uniqueness and faithfulness of His servants. We’re not Paul, we’re not Daniel, but we can know for certain that we ARE the right guy/gal for a job in service to His kingdom.” God has uniquely gifted and equipped the folks that He’s placed around you, you’re 8-15. Like Daniel, Paul, the disciples and countless saints that have gone before, He wants to use you to impact His kingdom for eternity. Are you available so that as God gives opportunities, you may boldly yet compassionately point others to Him?

The question’s been asked, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” In other words, what impact is your faith having on your life? Do folks “catch” you obeying the law of your God? Realize there will be adversaries…Genesis 3.15 warns us that there will always be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Just like Daniel they will look to catch you…will they catch you compromising or courageously following your God? (1 Peter 4) Daniel at 80+ years old is determined to finish strong. He wasn’t done until he was done…better to burn out than fade away. (What about you?) Daniel’s hope is not fixed on fleeting things like earthly kingdoms…his hope is in the Rock cut without hands, the One who will set up an eternal kingdom that will not fade. That gave him the courage to face certain death knowing that God would be with him, rescuing him by faith in danger not from danger. Sounds a lot like Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

 

Weekend Passage – May 23

Daniel 6

Daniel Serves Darius

It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”

Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.

10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. 12 Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, “Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?” The king replied, “The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and spoke before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.”

14 Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”

Daniel in the Lions’ Den

16 Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.” 17 A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel. 18 Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.

19 Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. 20 When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.” 23 Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

25 Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! 26 I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel;

For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
27 “He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

28 So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

Beyond Repair?

Daniel 5

Last week the great king Nebuchadnezzar learned a valuable lesson in humility. There’s only one God, and only one King of the universe. Nebuchadnezzar’s right to rule was a gift from the true King. We saw that anyone can be transformed by God.

Belshazzar also saw himself as a great king, but he was not a wise king. While Nebuchadnezzar was guilty of sacking the Jerusalem temple, he at least he showed reverence for the sacred nature of its vessels…not so with Belshazzar, not only does he drink out of them thus profaning them, he also uses them to worship his gods…gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. Reminds me of Romans 1. “Although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, and birds and four footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over…” Ironically, Belshazzar didn’t know the difference between the living God and dead idols until it was too late. Nebuchadnezzar humbly worships God and respected Daniel. Belshazzar was arrogant, dishonoring God and doesn’t know Daniel. Belshazzar fails to follow Nebuchadnezzar’s example. Even Daniel’s tone with him leads us to believe he was not the man Nebuchadnezzar was.

Belshazzar has undoubtedly heard the stories of Nebuchadnezzar’s life-changing encounters with God…the dream of the great statue that God through Daniel both revealed and interpreted; Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego’s miraculous rescue through the fiery furnace; and even Nebuchadnezzar’s 7-year stint as a wild animal…but we are all, like Belshazzar, skeptical, selfish people before God changes our hearts. No doubt Belshazzar had opportunities to respond over the years, following the example of Nebuchadnezzar by becoming a God-follower, but instead he chose to do his own thing. In chapter 5 we see God’s response to an unrepentant heart. The Lord acts swiftly with Belshazzar. The supernatural special effects of the hand have a decided impact on Belshazzar…it’s more than just a spooky, floating hand writing on the wall. Belshazzar knew this was for him…the implications might impact the kingdom, but this was personal. His sin was found out. He was undone. For each of us, there is that moment when our sin is found out and we are undone…we know we can’t escape. How will you respond? We are given opportunities in life to respond to God, but sometimes it’s too late. Our time to respond has passed and our life on this earth is over leading to an eternal death.

These two similar, but contrasting stories…of Nebuchadnezzar and of Belshazzar…should cause us to pause. While Nebuchadnezzar reminds us that anyone can be transformed by God, Belshazzar, on the other hand, reminds us that not everyone will be because of their choice to harden their own hearts. Even when the handwriting was revealed to Belshazzar…even then he might have repented and turned to the living God and have been rescued…his response is not repentance, but to give trinkets to Daniel. He trusts in the power of his earthy kingdom to protect him…a faith that was sadly misplaced.

We all like Belshazzar have been weighed in the balance scales and found wanting. But the good news is that though each of us has been weighed and found wanting, there is One who was weighed and found sufficient. That’s Jesus. Remember He is the Hero we’ve been looking for since the garden when our first parents rebelled. The Head-crushing Seed of the woman who was promised, the Rock cut without hands, who alone could reconcile us to Father God. And in the Gospels, we see Jesus arrive on the scene. He lives a perfect life and dies a sacrificial death and is raised on the third day, conquering both sin and death. When we trust in Him, the Father sees His sufficiency instead of our inadequacy. Jesus died and rose again so that we might also die with Him to sin and be raised again to eternal life, so that we might be transformed into the image of Jesus, learning to live and love like Him. There are only 2 choices in this life…eternal life or eternal death. We don’t know when it will be too late to respond, when we will be “weighed and found wanting” so if you haven’t trusted in Jesus and you are feeling and seeing God’s pursuit of you, why wait? Belshazzar is an example to us that tomorrow is never promised.

The handwriting is on the wall…

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Weekend Passage – May 16

Daniel 5

Belshazzar’s Feast

Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together. The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, “Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew even paler, and his nobles were perplexed.

10 The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans and diviners. 12 This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned and he will declare the interpretation.”

Daniel Interprets Handwriting on the Wall

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 14 Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you. 15 Just now the wise men and the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message. 16 But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him. 18 O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. 19 Because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated and whomever he wished he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him. 21 He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes. 22 Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, 23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified. 24 Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out.

25 “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN.’ 26 This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENĒ’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. 27 ‘TEKĒL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. 28 ‘PERĒS’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”

29 Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. 31 So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)