Archive for October, 2010

October 29, 2010

Call Me “Husband” Not “Master”

by Bethany

This Weekend’s Readings: Hosea 2-6, Psalm 119:97-176 (see full text below)

Dishes

There is something innately frustrating to me about doing something that merely must be redone like making a bed or running five miles in one-mile circles. I used to feel this way about washing dishes – that is, until my dear friend Susanna became my roommate. At first, she tried to motivate me by telling me how much better clean dishes were. The problem was that I readily agreed with her and, yet, I remained unmotivated. Therefore, I had to find some other motivation. And I did. Love.

I love Susanna and, because she loves clean dishes, I love to clean them for her. Before I leave the house – even if I am running late, I try to leave clean dishes (especially her favorites) so that she comes home to them. Although I now love cleaning dishes, my fundamental motivation remains my love for my friend and my knowing that it makes her smile.

Love

God wants us to see Him the same way. He wants us to love Him tenderly as a husband, not dutifully as a master: “‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’” [1]. He gives us the Law to show us what makes Him happy. If we love Him, we want to know and do that which pleases Him.

This is why, when Israel chose to do that which displeased Him, He was heart-broken. He knew that their disobedience reflected their heart – a heart that did not love Him and, thus, did not care about what pleased Him. Their “consult[ing] a wooden idol” [2] and “offer[ing] sacrifices on the tops of the mountains” [3] were indications that they were “joined to idols” [4] with “a spirit of harlotry” [5].

Yet, as a husband covenants with his wife, God covenanted with Israel. In spite of Israel’s faithlessness, He promised to pursue her: “I will allure her … and speak kindly to her … I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and compassion” [6].

Prayer

Lord, Your Word is full of knowledge of what makes you smile. Yet, because I do not love you as I ought, I do not care about pleasing you. Please forgive me for my idolatrous spirit and do not forsake me. Bring me to you in justice, lovingkindness and compassion. Amen.

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[1] Hosea 2:16 TNIV  |  [2] 4”12 NASB  |  [3] 4:13 NASB  |  [4] 4:17 NASB  |  [5] 5:4 NASB  |  [6] Hosea 2:14, 19 NASB

October 28, 2010

What Is Love?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Hosea 1, Psalm 119:73-96 (see full text below)

Definition

Sophocles said that it “frees us of all the weight and pain of life.” Oliver Wendell Holmes said it is “the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” Thomas Mann said that it “is stronger than death.” God, however, says that love is marriage to a hooker. To symbolize His love for His people, He called the prophet Hosea to marry “a wife of harlotry” [1] in order to mirror the “flagrant harlotry” of His people against Him [2].

Israel and God

Hosea was unique among the Minor Prophets [3] – not only did he prophesy before the kingdom split [4], he also focused on the north, Israel [5]. His ministry followed “a golden age in the northern kingdom” [6]. Unfortunately, with peace and prosperity, they experienced moral decay. Since Assyria – the great empire to the north – was always threatening attack [7], tiny Israel was tempted to find refuge in Assyria and idols rather than God.

Their seeking after idols was more than mere disobedience. In loving His people, the Lord had given them His name and called them His own [8]. Thus, when they found refuge in false gods and broke their covenant, He was heart-broken – like a husband whose wife had gone after other men.

Hosea and Gomer

Thus, God called Hosea to be a symbolic picture so that His people could understand the gravity of their disobedience and the immeasurable hope of His restorative love. After Hosea took Gomer as his wife, she bore her first son, “Jezreel,” a name that symbolized the punishment God would bring His people [9]. Next, she had a daughter, “Lo-ruhamah,” a name that meant, “she has not received mercy” [10]. Then, their next son was named, “Lo-ammi,” which meant, “not my people,” a name that symbolized that Gomer’s adultery had gone so far that the father of her son was not her husband [11].

Hope and Healing

Yet, even at the outset of Hosea’s ministry, God offered hope of redemption for His people and their adulterous idol worship: “ … in the place where it is said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God’” [12].

Prayer

Lord, You love your people. Yet, I forget how my disobedience breaks your heart. Give me eyes to see my sin as you do. Forgive me and pull me close to you as your child. Amen.

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[1] Hosea 1:2 NASB  |  [2] Id. |  [3]  The prophets are divided into two categories – Major and Minor. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The distinction between Major and Minor prophets is not related to importance or significane, as one might think based on their reference categories – “Major” and “Minor.” Rather, the Major Prophets are longer and all prophesied concerning the same events. The Minor Prophets, generally speaking, are shorter. Hosea is unique among the Minor Prophets, however, because it is longer than most of the others and it is one of the earliest (along with Amos and Micah).  |  [4]  Hosea prophesied in the period 780 – 725 BC and the kingdom split in 722 BC.  |  [5]  Hosea lived in and focused on the northern kingdom of Israel. The prophet Amos did so, too. In fact, at the same time that Amos and Hosea were prophesying in the northern kingdom of Israel, Isaiah and Micah were prophesying in the southern kingdom of Judah.  |  [6]  “Introduction to Hosea.” ESV Bible, Crossway (2007)  |  [7]  To see how tiny Israel was compared to the encroaching Assyrian Empire, see Map |  [8]  See, e.g., Isaiah 43:1 (“But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’”)  |  [9] Hosea 1:4 NASB  |  [10] Hosea 1:6 NASB  |   [11]  Hosea 1:9 NASB  |  [12] Hosea 1:10 NASB

October 27, 2010

Why the Two Resurrections Matter Today

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 12, Psalm 119:49-72 (note: for the mobile email readers, see below for full text of passages and let us know if this is helpful)

Moses

When God’s people were entering the Promised Land, Moses gave his final counsel: “Be strong and courageous … for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” [1]. Yet, they would forsake Him. God said, “[They] will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods … and will forsake Me and break My covenant” [2].

Moses warned them [3]: “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you … For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess” [4].

Yet, Israel did not heed his warning. Almost immediately, they forgot God and worshipped idols [5]. Although He gave them opportunities to repent [6], they continued sinning until He finally called Babylon to invade the land and exile the people [7]

Daniel

Although an exile, Daniel served in the Babylonian Empire and the subsequent Persian Empire [8]. Comprised of two parts [9], his book has one message – God is sovereign over human affairs.

In his final vision, he saw the resurrection: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” [9].

Like Moses’ counsel, Daniel’s message was meant to encourage them to endure in obedience. Hundreds of years later, when Paul was on trial, he spoke of the two resurrections and their effect on his life: “I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God … that there shall certaintly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” [10].

Prayer

Lord, Thank you giving us promises and warnings for our encouragement. As exiles, we long to be resurrected to life as bright stars forever! Yet, we fail to pursue blameless consciences or righteous lives. Help us to sing with the Psalmist, “Your statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage” [11]. Amen.

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[1] Deuteronomy 31:6 NASB  |  [2] Deut. 31:16 NASB  |  [3] After Moses commissioned Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 31:23-30), he warned the people of rebelling against the Lord. He was so intent that they remember his warning that he set it to a magnificent song for them to sing in Deuteronomy 32:1-43, in which he wrote of the faithfulness that God had shown for generation after generation to them. Prophetically, the song ends, “Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people” (v. 43 NASB).  |  [4] Deuteronomy 32:46-47 NASB  |  [5]  See 843 Acres: Jeremiah 10 (7.14.2010), Jeremiah 8 (7.12.2010) |  [6]  See 843 Acres: Jeremiah 52 (8.23.2010), Jeremiah 30-31 (8.3.2010) |  [7]  See 843 Acres: Jeremiah 19 (7.23.2010) |  [8] Daniel was exiled in 605 BC. Not only did he serve in the king of Babylon’s court, he also was given a position of power in the Persian Empire, when it conquered Babylon in 539 BC. “Introduction to Daniel.” ESV Bible, Crossway (2007)  |  [9] Daniel 12:2-3 NASB  |  [10] Acts 24:14-16 NASB  |  [11] 119:54 NASB

October 26, 2010

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. Psalm 145:13

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25-48

As we saw yesterday, the heavenly man prepared Daniel to receive his final vision during the reign of Darius the Mede. Rather than images, however, God showed him linear history that, as we now know, was fulfilled [1].

The Fourth King and The Mighty King (vv. 2 – 4) (ca. 486 – 323 BC)

The “fourth” Persian king after Cyrus was Xerxes, whose great “riches” were depleted in war [2]. Then came “a mighty king” [3], Alexander the Great, whose empire was “parceled” at his death into four parts  - “though not to his own descendants” [4].

The King of the South and the King of the North (vv. 5 – 35) (ca. 304 – 30 BC)

Two of those parts were Egypt and Syria – Ptolemy I (“the king of the South”) ruled Egypt and Seleucus I (“the king of the North”) controlled Syria [5]. Although they initially attempted “a peaceful arrangement” by marriage between Ptolemy II’s daughter (Berenice) and Seleucus I’s grandson (Antiochus II) [6], it failed when Ptolemy III invaded Seleucus II [7].

Even though the prideful [8] Ptolemy IV defeated Syria, he was replaced by Ptolemy V, who was subsequently overcome by Antiochus III [9]. After a failed attempt to ally with Ptolemy V by offering his daughter (Cleopatra I Syra) in marriage [10], Antiochus III was defeated in Greece by the Romans [11].

After Seleucus IV’s brief reign [12], his brother Antiochus IV, who was “a despicable person,” deceitfully took the throne [13]. Although he once preempted an Egyptian invasion by Ptolemy VI (Palestine) [14], he was “disheartened” by a subsequent Roman ultimatum to leave after he invaded Egypt again. He became “enraged at the holy covenant” [15], “desecrate[d] the sanctuary fortress,” and “[did] away with the regular sacrifice” [16]. Although some Jews supported him [17], others remained faithful to God: “ … but the people who know their God [displayed] strength and [took] action” [18].

The End of History (vv. 36 – 45)

Some suggest that the rest of the vision is erroneous prophecy because Antiochus’ description seems to exceed what is known of him. Others, however, suggest that the vision is accurate but not yet fulfilled [19]. Although its precise interpretation may be unclear, one thing is certain – kingdoms on earth will rise and fall, but the kingdom of God is eternal and, therefore, His Word can be trusted.

Prayer

Lord, Although some trust in chariots and horses, we trust in you because your kingdom is everlasting. Let us display strength and take action because we know you. Bind us to you so that we may reign with you forever. Amen.

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[1] The great Lutheran commentator, H.C. Leuphold, after he had written pages and pages of commentary on this chapter, said, “How could someone ever preach from this chapter?” Taking this challenge, I have attempted to comment on this chapter (rather than on Psalm 119) – in less than 400 words! Although I apologize to those of you who may be frustrated by the brevity of its treatment, I hope that many of you will appreciate my feable attempt at trying to demystify the shrouded meaning of this chapter.  |  [2]  Daniel 11:2  |  [3]  Daniel 11:3 NASB  |  [4]  Daniel 11:4 NASB |  [5]  Daniel 11:5 NASB  |  [6]  Daniel 11:6 NASB  |  [7] Daniel 11:7-10 NASB. His sons (Seleucus III and Antiochus III) counterattacked. |  [8] Daniel 11:12 NASB  |  [9] Daniel 11:13-16. See also FN 10.  |  [10]  Daniel 11:17 NASB  |  [11] Daniel 11:19 NASB  |  [12]  Daniel 11:20 NASB  |  [13]  Daniel 11:21, 23 NASB  |  [14]  Daniel 11:24-25 NASB  |  [15]  Daniel 11:30 NASB  |  [16] Daniel 11:31 NASB  |  [17]  Daniel 11:30, 32  |  [18]  Daniel 11:32 NASB – It was in this context that the famous resistance of the Maccabees took place.  |  [19] “While the revelation which follows appears to modern readers to be a foretelling of future events, it is so detailed that most scholars assume that the original readers would have instantly recognized it as a literary device used by a second-century author. According to this view, the close detail in the account of events in vv. 21-35 indicates that the author had personal knowledge of them. Vv. 40-45, on the other hand, describe events which were still future to the author, and his prophect turned out to be mistaken. Scholars who hold this view, therefore, date the final writing of Daniel in 165 or 164 BC … Possibly the most difficult section in the book follows in vs. 36-45. The description seems to exceed all that is known of even the blasphemous Antiochus (hence the conclusion of many commentators that this section is indeed predictive prophecy on the part of the author, which, because erroneous, enables us to date the final edition of the entire book). 13:1-3, however, suggests that the end of all history may now be in view. In this case, v. 35 may be pointing forward to the experience of God’s people, not merely during but beyond the time of Antiochus …” NIV Bible Commentary, InterVarsity Press (1994).

October 25, 2010

“Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 10, Psalm 119:1-24

Tame

Do you live your life naturally or supernaturally? Have you domesticated and tamed God? Do you skip over verses about His majesty to focus on ones that you can apply? Is prayer your afterthought, not weapon?

Tremble

After Daniel saw his final vision, he was terrified. In setting himself to understand it, he mourned and fasted for three weeks. Then, he was met by a heavenly man whose mere presence made Daniel’s men tremble and run – although they never saw him. Once Daniel was alone, the man touched him and Daniel – who had fearlessly entered the lion’s den – shook terribly and fell.

Mercy

The man comforted Daniel. He told him that God saw his three-week search: “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words” [1]. He told Daniel that, although there was spiritual warfare that delayed his coming [2], he would show him a vision of the future, when God would have certain victory [3].

Unsafe

C.S. Lewis once wrote allegorically of the paradox of the love and fear elicited by the presence of God, who is pictured as Aslan the Lion:

“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy. “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I can tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emporer-Beyond-the-Sea … Aslan is a lion – The Lion, The great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe?” Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you” [4].

Prayer

Lord, I confess that I have domesticated you by treating the supernatural lightly and being unmoved by your Word. At the end of this age, when the sky opens and Jesus appears, I want to have lived an extraordinary life for you. Work in my heart to tremble and fall before you in prayer. Amen.

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[1]  Daniel 10:12 NASB  |  [2] The man told Daniel that he was delayed in coming to him because “the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding [him] for twenty-one days” (Daniel 10:13 NASB], until Michael came to help him. He later told Daniel, “I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come” (Daniel 10:20 NASB). Historically, although Babylon had once been in control of the area, Persia was now in control. In a few years, however, Greece and its ruler Alexander the Great would take over and then Rome. Thus, the vision given to Daniel is about the rising and falling of kingdoms – Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Despite the changing earthly princes, however, the heavenly man told Daniel that God’s people had their own prince in heaven who fought at the spiritual level: “I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince” (Daniel 10:21 NASB). Thus, there are always two levels at work – the historical level that we see it (e.g., the rising and falling of kingdoms and Daniel’s praying, mourning and fasting) and the heavenly level that we do not see (e.g., the heavenly man and Michael’s struggle with the prince of Persia and the sending of the man to Daniel). |  [3] Daniel 10 is the preparation for the description of the vision, which is in Chapters 11-12.  |  [4] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

 

October 22, 2010

What Is So Special About Being a Son of Man?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 7, Psalm 114-115

Biographies

In the printed program of a conference that I recently attended, I noticed how the speakers spoke of themselves in their biographies. They spoke of their accomplishments, education, and influence, and they used their titles, e.g., “Professor.” These biographies were helpful when choosing panels to attend.

Subtleties

Jesus, on the other hand, never openly or clearly said, “I’m the Messiah. I am the King. Come and acknowledge me.” Instead, He spoke in parables and said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them … In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding … ” [1]. Moreover, His favorite self-designation was “the Son of Man,” a title that occurs over eighty times in the gospels. Yet, what does it mean? What does it say about Him?

Titles

At first glance, “Son of Man” is a strange title because the unique thing about Him was that he was the unique and eternal Son of God, not a mere Son of Man – a mere human is nothing exceptional or rare. Yet, like His parables, those who had ears to hear understood that “Son of Man” was the subtle language of kingship, glory and sovereignty [2]. They knew that Jesus was referring to the prophet Daniel’s vision:

… behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days … And to Him was given a dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away … [3].

Jesus was restrained and humble in how He revealed Himself – obvious in certain settings and subtle in others. For example, He openly confessed His deity when He was on trial for His life, when He was asked, “Are you the Christ …?” and replied, “I am … And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” [4].

Prayer

Lord, You have revealed yourself to your people throughout time. Yet, I confess that I am at risk of not hearing or seeing you for who you are. Give me your Spirit to open my eyes and ears to know you as Lord, for I cannot see you on my own. Amen.

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[1] Matthew 13:11, 13 NIV  |  [2]  See John 3:13, 5:27, 6:62  |  [3]  Daniel 7:13-14 NASB  |  [4]  Matthew 14:61-62 NIV

 

October 21, 2010

A License to Risk

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 6, Psalm 112-113

Sovereignty

My manipulative subconscience frequently tells me that my sins are inconsequential because God is sovereign. It will say, e.g., “I should have prayed about that situation before I jumped into it,” and then respond to itself, “Don’t worry. God is sovereign, even when you do not seek Him first.” Although it is true that God is sovereign, His sovereignty is not intended to give us an excuse to sin or to take sin lightly. Rather, it is intended to give us an excuse to take risks for the sake of the Name – even when our “risks” are nothing more than faithful acts of obedience.

Conspiracy

As the new king of the massive Median-Persian Empire [1], Darius recognized that Daniel “possessed an extraordinary spirit” and decided to give him charge over the kingdom [2]. Jealous officials, however, feigned interest in Darius’ interests in order to destroy Daniel. Knowing that Daniel worshiped God, they convinced Darius to issue an injunction prohibiting anyone from praying to any god or man besides the king for thirty days – punishable by being cast into the lions’ den [3].

Risk

When Daniel heard about the injunction, he could have used God’s sovereignty as an excuse to obey the statute and disobey the Lord. He could have said to himself, “Surely the Lord did not call me into this position merely to lose it so quickly? What is thirty days anyway? Isn’t the exile about to end and I’ll have plenty of time to pray then?” Yet, he did not. Rather, he took a risk by continuing to honor God – praying three times a day, kneeling towards Jerusalem [4] and giving thanks to God [5].

Praise

When the officials caught him, they turned him over to Darius, who was forced to throw Daniel in the lions’ den. Daniel was calm as he faced his punishment, while Darius was distraught [6] – he fasted, refused entertainment and could not sleep [7]. Yet, Daniel survived and even Darius recognized that his survival was due to God’s sovereignty: “ … He is the living God and enduring forever … His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed … His dominion will be forever … ” [8]

Prayer

Lord, You are sovereign. Yet, we often use your sovereignty as license to sin rather than trust. Prepare us to take risks of obedience, as we trust you, believe in you, and put our faith in you. Amen.

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[1] At sixty-two years old, Darius reigned over the Median-Persian Empire, which was the largest kingdom ever known at this point in world history, stretching to the Atlantic Ocean and past modern-day Libya, east towards India and north towards Turkey. Its massive expanse required efficient organization and, thus, Darius appointed bureaucratic officials (e.g., Daniel) to keep the kingdom intact.  |  [2]  Daniel 6:3 NASB  |  [3]  Daniel 6:7 NASB  |  [4]  He faced Jerusalem because it was a reminder of God’s promises to Israel, a reminder of the prophecies of Jeremiah and a reminder of the presence of God.  |  [5]  See Daniel 6:10  |  [6]  Daniel 6:16  |  [7] Daniel 6:19  |  [8] Daniel 6:26-27

October 20, 2010

The Writing on the Wall

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 5, Psalm 110-111

Idiomatic Origins

My friend Kathleen and I love to uncover the origin of idioms. This summer, we researched why it would be unfair for someone to “have their cake and eat it, too” [1] and why it would be a big deal to “now lie in” a made bed [2]. Currently, we’re working on why “peas and carrots” go together and why someone would leave “a needle in a haystack” [3]. Today, we are able to discover why “the writing on the wall” foretells of doom or misfortune.

Prideful Forgetfulness

During the Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, God had already shown His sovereignty by enabling Daniel to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, sparing the witnesses from the furnace, and causing Nebuchadnezzar to confess God’s sovereignty. Yet, here, Nebuchadnezzar is dead and his son Belshazzar is enthroned.

Belshazzar seems to have learned nothing about God from his father. He has forgotten about Daniel and his dream interpretations. He has disregarded his royal responsibilities as he throws a feast of debauchery while the city is under siege. Moreover, he has publicly and deliberately blasphemied God as he uses the holy vessels from the temple for drunkenness.

Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided

Immediately, the fingers of a disembodied human hand write on the palace’s wall. Belshazzar’s “face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together” [4]. Yet, no one can interpret the writing on the wall.

Again, God gives insight to Daniel. First, he reminds Belshazzar of his father’s detestable pride that caused him to be driven away from humanity until he recognized God’s sovereignty. Second, Daniel charges him with knowingly following in his father’s footsteps.

Finally, he interprets the written words [5], which read, “Numbered, Numbered, Weighed, Divided” – “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it … you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient … your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” [6]. That same night, the king was slain and Darius the Mede received the kingdom.

Prayer

Lord, May we never presume on your grace and patience. Just because you are gracious in showing mercy to our parents or to us does not mean that we can fool around with you or our sin. Let us read the writing on the wall, as you make us humble, softhearted and teachable – not presumptuous, arrogant or forgetful. Amen.

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[1]  The reason that the phrase, “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” bothered us was because we wondered, “Who doesn’t have a cake and want to eat it?” Thankfully, my dad – along with many other online experts, knew the answer. Apparently, in the English language, “have” used to mean the same thing as “eat.” Thus, the phrase means that you can’t eat a cake that you’ve already eaten.  |  [2]  The reason that the phrase, “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it,” bothered us was because we wondered, “Who doesn’t lie in a made bed?” Although we don’t mind lying in made beds, we realized that most people prefer lying in unmade beds rather than messing up their made beds. Thus, the phrase means that, since you’re the one who got yourself into the situation (i.e., made the bed), you now have to live it in (i.e., lie in it).  |  [3]  If you have any leads, please let us know. Personally, I’m wondering why “peas and carrots”? Who thinks those go well together anyway – the English? As for the needle in the haystack, I’m wondering who ventures among haystacks with needles – knitters in the Fall?  |  [4]  Daniel 4:6 NASB  |  [5]  Technically, the words are the Aramaic names of measures of currency.  |  [6]  Daniel 5:25-28 NASB

 

October 19, 2010

Is this not Babylon the Great?

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 4, Psalm 108

NYC

New York has never been known for its humility. Most of us have succeeded academically and professionally in competitive contexts, closed deals that have impacted international markets, and experienced enough “once in a lifetime” events that we could care less about visiting the Empire State Building. We brag about Wall Street and Broadway, we sing “New York, New York” at the top of our lungs, and we relish hearing, “You look so New York!” – even if we’re wearing a trash bag for a dress.

Babylon

Living in Babylon was not altogether different. Geopolitically, Nebuchadnezzar increased Babylonian influence in Syria and Judah, destroying Jerusalem and its Temple. He also constructed canals, aqueducts, temples and reservoirs throughout the city, using bricks inscribed with his name [1]. He even built one of the world’s ancient wonders, the Hanging Gardens [2].

Like New Yorkers, Nebuchadnezzar was tempted by pride in his great accomplishments. Thus, God gave him a dream and, according to Daniel, it meant that his great majesty was coming to an end, when he would be “driven away from mankind” to dwell “with the beasts of the field” until he recognized “that the Most High is ruler” [3].

Pride

A year later, Nebuchadnezzar took a walk on the roof of his palace, bragging, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” [4]. As he spoke, however, his dream was fulfilled: “he was driven away from mankind” and began living as an animal [5].

Humility

At the end of that time, Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes and praised the Lord. Then, his reason, majesty and splendor were restored for the glory of the kingdom. He was reestablished in his sovereignty and proclaimed, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways are just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” [6].

Prayer

Lord, Although you are mighty, you came humbly. Even though we should praise your generosity and walk about with hands that point to your sovereignty, we often celebrate ourselves and our creation. Yet, everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. Forgive us our prideful hearts and cause us to see that the Most High is the ruler. Amen.

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[1]  British Museum, Brick of Nebuchadnezzar II. On an interesting note, the area of Babylon has had no shortage of prideful leaders in its history. Since modern-day Iraq sits where Babylon once stood, in 1983, Saddam Hussein started rebuilding the city on top of the old ruins, investing in both restoration and new construction. He inscribed his name on many of the bricks in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. One frequent inscription reads: “This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq.”  |  [2]  Wikipedia, Hanging Gardens of Babylon |  [3]  Daniel 4:25 NASB  |  [4]  Daniel 4:30 NASB  |  [5]  Daniel 4:33 NASB . Modern psychologists would most likely characterize his transformation as a result of lycanthropy.  |  [6]  Daniel 4:37 NASB

October 18, 2010

But Even if He Does Not …

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Daniel 3, Psalm 107

Favor

After Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, he ordered his commander to choose young men to serve in his court [1]. Among them were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego [2], to whom God gave knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom” [3].

God also gave Daniel the insight and interpretation of an important dream to the king [4], which led the king to proclaim, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries” [5]. He made Daniel a ruler and gave administrative appointments to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego [6].

Violation

Shortly thereafter, however, Nebuchadnezzar either did not learn or remember his lesson. Thus, he crafted an idol and commanded that all people “fall down and worship the golden image” or  be “cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire” [7].

When Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused, they told him, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” [8].

Rescue

In fury, the king “gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more” than usual [9] and threw the men in the fire. He then declared, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire? … Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” [10]

As he called out to the “servants of the Most High God” [11], Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent his angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve of worship any god except their own God“ [12].

Prayer

Lord, As you sent your angel to rescue these men, you sent your Son to rescue us. Yet, although I have more reason to stand courageously because Christ has come, I often live for comfort and ease. Forgive me and increase my faith in your rescue and provision so that I may lovingly take risks to advance your kingdom. Amen.

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[1]  Daniel 1:4 NASB  |  [2]  Daniel 1:6-7 NASB (noting that Daniel’s name was changed to Belteshazzar and the others names were changed from Nahahiah, Mishael and Azariah).  |  [3]  Daniel 1:17 NASB  |  [4]  Daniel 2:27-28 NASB  |  [5]  Daniel 2:47 NASB  |  [6] Daniel 2:49 NASB  |  [7]  Daniel 3:4-5 NASB  |  [8]  Daniel 3:16-18 NASB  |  [9] Daniel 3:19 NASB  |  [10]  Daniel 3:24-25 NASB  |  [11]  Daniel 3:26 NASB  |  [12]  Daniel 3:28 NASB

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