Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Daniel 8 - Vision of a Ram and Goat

LINK: Daniel 8

BACKGROUND
The Chronological Order of the Book of Daniel 
Daniel 1–4: Captivity and interpretation of dreams and visions (Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar) 
Daniel 7: Vision of the four beasts (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 8: Vision of the ram and he-goat (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 5: Belshazzar’s feast—conquest of Babylon (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 9: Vision of the seventy weeks (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 6: Daniel in the lions’ den (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 10–12: Daniel’s prayer and visions (Persia, Cyrus)  
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (9). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
Map of Elam {{GFDL}} by en:User:Dbachmann,
 based on [http://www.zoroastriankids.com/map_elam.gif], [http://home.columbus.rr.com/malyan/Resources/mesoiranmap.gif].
This prophecy occurred in 551 B.C. when Daniel was about 70 years old. Susa was one of the capitals of the Babylonian empire which is in modern day Iran (Elam). It was the winter capital of the Persian Empire. It had a mighty fortress (citadel). The earliest known code of law, the Code of Hammurabi, was found at Susa. Susa was a very sophisticated city. The events in the book of Esther that occurred about 100 years later took place in Susa. 

Daniel's vision of a ram and goat (8:1-14) are interpreted by Gabriel (8:15-27). Here is a recap:


Ram with two horns (8:3-7; 20) - kings of Media and Persia with Persia having the longer horn, representing its growing dominance as a world power (8:20) by 559 B.C., centuries after Media. Persia had a mass empire and army of over 2 million soldiers.
Shaggy Goat with large horn (8:5-8; 21-22) - This was Greece and Alexander the Great (11:3). This prediction is astounding because Greece was not a world power at the time. He conquered quickly like a goat. He shattered both horns of the Medo-Persian Empire. At height of Alexander the Great's power, he died in 323 B.C. at the age of 32 (there is much speculation about the cause of his death from assassination to typhoid fever). His kingdom was split into four parts under four generals (8:8). 
The four generals and regions they governed were:
1) Ptolemy I - Egypt and Palestine 
2) Seleucus - Babylonia and Syria 
3) Lysimachus - Asia Minor 
4) Antipater - Macedon and Greece 
Little horn (8:9-12; 23-25) - Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid empire (Babylonia and Syria) came to power in 175 B.C. after murdering his brother. In 170 B.C., he invaded the "power to the south" (Egypt, 8:9), and subdued the "Beautiful Land" of Israel. He replaced the worship of God with worship of Greek gods. He was "broken without a human hand" means that no one murdered him, but he died of insanity in 163 B.C. Many commentators believe that Antiochus is a foreshadowing of the Antichrist. He will "oppose the Prince of princes" (8:25) who is the Lord Jesus Christ. He will achieve great power and will be controlled by another (8:24) who is Satan.  
2,300 evenings and mornings (8:14; 26) - This means evening and morning sacrifices from the time of the desecration of the altar in the temple by Anitiochus IV Ephiphanes on December 16, 167 B.C. to full restoration of temple worship under Judas Maccabeus in late 164 and into 163 B.C.165 B.C.
This story surrounds the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, and you will hear more about that when you read the background post for Daniel 11. Stay tuned! 

Gabriel stated that this would be the "time of wrath/period of indignation" (8:19). Many commentators believe this is also the "time of the Gentiles" from Nebuchadnezzar's reign to the second coming of Christ. This same angel also announced the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11) and Jesus (Luke 1:26). 

At the conclusion of this, Daniel was completely exhausted and so am I!

No REFLECTION or APPLICATION today!

PRAYER

Lord, it is amazing how You gave Daniel these visions that would come much later in history. I know that You are God of gods because of that!!!! Amen. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Daniel 7 - Daniel's Dream of Four Beasts

LINK: Daniel 7

BACKGROUND


The Chronological Order of the Book of Daniel 
Daniel 1–4: Captivity and interpretation of dreams and visions (Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar) 
Daniel 7: Vision of the four beasts (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 8: Vision of the ram and he-goat (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 5: Belshazzar’s feast—conquest of Babylon (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 9: Vision of the seventy weeks (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 6: Daniel in the lions’ den (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 10–12: Daniel’s prayer and visions (Persia, Cyrus)  
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (9). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
In this section, we go back in time to the first year of Belshazzar's reign in 553 B.C. This is about 14 years before the lions' den. It is estimated that Daniel was about 68 years old when he had this dream since he was taken captive in 602 B.C at the age of 16.

The four great beasts were like a:
1) Lion with wings - symbolizing power and strength. The lion and eagle were symbols of Babylon (Jeremiah 4:7, 13; Ezekiel 17:3) and statues of winged lions have been recovered in their ruins. The wrenching of the wings could refer to Nebuchadnezzar's insanity or the fall of his empire after his death.
2) Bear - symbolizing strength. The Medo-Persian army was strong and fierce. The reclining on one side could suggest that Persia soon overshadowed Media.
3) Leopard - symbolizing swiftness, cunning, and agility. Greece quickly conquered the Medo-Persians between 334 and 330 B.C. The four heads may symbolize how Alexander the Great's empire was divided into four parts after his death (at age 32).
4) Ten horned beast with parts of a lion, bear, and leopard (Revelation 13:2) that was more terrifying and powerful than all of the above - this is the Roman Empire that extended from the Atlantic Ocean east to the Caspian Sea and from North Africa in the south to the Rhine and Danube Rivers in the north. Egypt, Palestine, and Syria were all under the Romans. Some scholars believe the ten horns were ten Roman rulers who already existed. Other scholars believe the ten horns correspond to ten rulers who will exist in the last days before Christ's return (Revelation 17:12-14). We do not know who they are in present day terms (although there is much speculation).

The "little horn" is thought to be a future human ruler or the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4) who will come out of this confederation of ten nations. This is the "little horn" of 7:8, 11, 24-26. The little horn was intelligent, arrogant, and boastful. He will persecute the saints of the Most High. He will defeat Israel and will bring the nation under his authority (Revelation 12:13-17; 17:7), but he will also be judged by God (Revelation 19:19-20), and Israel will enter into covenanted blessing in the kingdom (Daniel 7:18). Many scholars believe this will be the church rather than Israel. The most important part to remember is that God will win in the end, regardless of your theological bent.

The Ancient of Days and Son of Man

Rather than focusing on the coming beast, I like to focus on Daniel 7:9-14. God is at the center of Daniel's vision as he should be the center of everything in our lives. The sovereign God, the Ancient of Days, sits on his judgment throne and holds power over all world events (See the similar descriptions of God in Isaiah 43:13; 57:15a, Rev. 1:14; Ezekiel 1:4-28). The fourth beast will be banished from power by the divine judgment of God (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 11:15; 19:15).

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Then, the Son of Man (Mark 8:31; John 1:51), Jesus Christ, approached the Ancient of Days:
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. 
(Daniel 7:14)
 (See also Psalms 2:6-9, Matthew 24:30, 25:31, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, and Revelation 11:15.) 

AMEN! Jesus is COMING!

REFLECTION 

In 2009, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and the WORLD was buzzing with whether he really deserves it or not.

I will not enter into the political fray on that point, but I will say that Jesus WILL win the ultimate peace prize in the end, and that is really all that matters! I'm thinking big picture today.

Prophecy always makes my head hurt, but I love the part about God being in control of all world events and powers.

I am going to worship the Ancient of Days as I walk with my friend today. I want to marvel at the Son of Man who will reign forever and ever.

(I feel like I should break out in singing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" right now. Maybe I will!)

APPLICATION

Go worship God for his power and control over all world events. Worship His son, Jesus!

PRAYER

Here is a link to Handel's Messiah from other posts. Let it lead you into worship!

Handel's Messiah

(We will go through all of Handel's Messiah at the end of the third year of the Bible Book Club during the month of December! It is a great review of all that we have learned!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Daniel 6 - Shutting the Lions' Mouths and the Bottom Line

LINK: Daniel 6


BACKGROUND
The Chronological Order of the Book of Daniel 
Daniel 1–4:
Captivity and interpretation of dreams and visions (Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar) 
Daniel 7:
Vision of the four beasts (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 8:
Vision of the ram and he-goat (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 5:     
Belshazzar’s feast—conquest of Babylon (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 9:
Vision of the seventy weeks (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 6:
Daniel in the lions’ den (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 10–12:
Daniel’s prayer and visions (Persia, Cyrus)   
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (9). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)Be resolute (9). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
There is much debate about King Darius because there is no historical evidence for his reign outside of the Bible. Here are three possible explanations:
1) Darius may be another word for Cyrus. Daniel 6:28 may be translated, "So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius even the reign of Cyrus the Persian." It was common for ancient rulers to use different names in various parts of their realms (D.J. Wiseman, "Some Historical Problems in the Book of Daniel," in Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel, pp. 12-14). 
2) Darius may be Ugbaru, the conqueror of Babylon. He was appointed by Cyrus at the age of 62 and died a few weeks after the conquest and eight days after Cyrus' arrival on November 6 (Wiilam H. Shea, "Darius the Mede: An Update," Andrews University Seminary Studies 20, Autumn 1982, pp.229-47).

3) Darius was Cambyses, Cyrus' son. He ruled Persia from 530-522 B.C. (Charles Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel, 1977, pp.142-55.).
 
(The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, 1:1347)
By the way, this Darius the Mede is not to be confused with Darius I mentioned in Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah or Darius II (Persian) mentioned in Nehemiah.

The other two administrators and 120 satraps appointed by Darius were probably jealous of Daniel's equal position with them and resented him because he was a Judean. Because Daniel did nothing to warrant criticism, they had to accuse him of something. They knew Daniel would not worship Darius. So, they had Darius make a rule that those who did not worship him would be thrown in the lions' den. Of course, Daniel worshiped God alone and Darius was bound to throw him into the lions' den even though it greatly distressed him (5:6, 9). God miraculously shut the lions' mouths, and Daniel was not harmed. Darius is overjoyed and throws Daniel's accusers and their families into the den.

There are two levels to this story. The first is that God has miraculous power to protect people ("top line" blessing), but the "bottom line" of this story is that "all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land" heard of the God of Daniel because of Darius' proclamation:
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.
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.
(Daniel 6:26-27)
God was glorified among the peoples of the earth! This is the "bottom line" of this great story!

REFLECTION

What is all this "top line - bottom line" stuff? Here is a short video that explains a bit of it:


This just gets me so excited! Please watch it!!!

Here is also more from . . . 

CHARACTERISTICS OF DANIEL
He realized that he had a work to do 
Like Joseph in Egypt, Daniel didn’t complain about his lot in life but tried with God’s help to make the best use of it. He knew that the sovereign Lord whom he trusted had a special plan for his life and he sought to fulfill it. He didn’t campaign for promotions; the Lord brought them to him. He did his work well, he was a faithful and dependable servant, and even his enemies couldn’t find anything to criticize (Dan. 6:1–5). If anybody deserved the divine approval of Jesus found in Matthew 25:21, it was Daniel. 
Daniel was both a government employee and a prophet of the Lord. God gave him his high position so he could use it to serve the Lord and the Lord’s people. The record doesn’t tell us, but there may have been many times when Daniel represented the Jewish captives before the king and helped to make life easier for them. He may have influenced the decision of Cyrus to allow the Jews to go back home. We need dedicated believers in places of authority, men and women who can be examples of godliness and instruments of righteousness. 

He had a disciplined prayer life

Jewish people were accustomed to pray at nine o’clock in the morning, noon, and three o’clock in the afternoon, the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day, and Daniel carried that discipline with him to Babylon. Those who set aside special times of prayer are more likely to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17), for the special times of prayer help to sanctify all times and keep us in touch with God. 
When Daniel and his friends needed to know Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and understand it, they gave themselves to prayer, and when the Lord gave them the answer, they prayed further and thanked Him (Dan. 2:14–23).  When Daniel’s life was in danger, he went to his home and prayed, and the Lord delivered him from the lions (6:10). Frequently Daniel asked the Lord or His messengers for wisdom to understand the visions the Lord gave to him. Daniel depended on prayer. 
In the church today, it seems that many people turn to prayer only when everything else has failed. Their translation of Psalm 46:1 is, “God is our last refuge when our own strength is gone and we don’t have anywhere else to turn.” What a tragedy! A.W. Tozer used to say, “Whatever God can do, faith can do, and whatever faith can do prayer can do, when it is offered in faith.”1 Daniel not only prayed alone but he also prayed with his friends, because he knew the value of two or three believers assembling together to cry out to God. “I’d rather be able to pray than to be a great preacher,” said evangelist D.L. Moody; “Jesus Christ never taught His disciples how to preach, but only how to pray.” 
1 A.W. Tozer, The Set of the Sail (Christian Publications), 33. 
Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (151). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.
APPLICATION

Dialogue with God about His glory spreading throughout the whole earth and what part you might play in that!

PRAYER

Lord, we praise You for Your power to shut the lions' mouth, and that Your glory will spread throughout the whole earth! Amen.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Daniel 5 -- The Writing on the Wall and Humility

LINK: Daniel 5

BACKGROUND
The Chronological Order of the Book of Daniel 
Daniel 1–4: Captivity and interpretation of dreams and visions (Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar) 
Daniel 7: Vision of the four beasts (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 8: Vision of the ram and he-goat (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 5: Belshazzar’s feast—conquest of Babylon (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 9: Vision of the seventy weeks (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 6: Daniel in the lions’ den (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 10–12: Daniel’s prayer and visions (Persia, Cyrus)  
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (9). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
Some Babylonian History

Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 43 years and died in 562 B.C. He was succeeded by Evil-Morodach who ruled from 562-560 B.C. He was murdered in August 560 B.C. by Neriglissar, Nebuchadnezzar's son-in-law. Neriglisssar ruled from 560-556 B.C. He is mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3, 13 as Nergal-Sharezer. He was succeeded by his son Labashi-Marduk who ruled only two months in 556 B.C. before he was assassinated and Nabonidus took the throne from 556-539 B.C.

Nabonidus' mother was the high priestess of the moon god at Haran. Because of this, he made a great effort to restore and expand the Babylonian religion and abandoned temples. He restored the temple of the moon god, Sin, attacked Edom, and conquered parts of Arabia where he lived for some time.

His eldest son, Belshazzar, was co-regent with him even though Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as Belshazzar's father throughout Daniel 5. Since he was co-regent, this is why he offered third place to the person who could explain the writing on the wall (5:7).

Belshazzar was holding a great banquet with goblets from the temple in Jerusalem (showing contempt toward God) while Babylon was being besieged by the Persian army led by Ugbaru, governor of Gutium (showing contempt toward men). Belshazzar means "Bel (another name for the god, Marduk) has protected the king," and he certainly believed it as he had no concern for the danger that was at his doorstep. His city had large walls and provisions to last for 20 years! Archaeologists excavated a hall in Babylon with plastered walls that measured 55 by 165 feet. Maybe this was the very hall where Belshazzar held his banquet!

Lulled to sleep by a false sense of security, Belshazzar was awakened to reality by the writing on the wall. His bravado turned to fear as he frantically sought someone to interpret the message and promised riches and authority for the man who could interpret the message.

A queen (probably the king's grandmother who would have known about Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel) recalled a man who "had the spirit of the holy gods . . . insight . . . intelligence . . . wisdom (5:11), knowledge . . . understanding and . . . ability to interpret dreams"(5:12): Daniel!

Daniel was summoned and summarized God's dealing with Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself beneath the mighty hand of God, and God blessed him with power and authority. Belshazzar was not like his ancestor, and he even openly defied God by drinking from the goblets in the temple (5:2-3) and praising man-made gods (5:4). Some commentators believe that there is a play on words between Daniel's proclamation that Belshazzar's life was in God's hand and the hand that wrote the message on the wall.

The message on the wall meant "numbered, weighted, and divided." Even if the wise men could read the actual words, only Daniel knew the context of their message. Because of Belshazzar's moral and spiritual degradation, God would hand the mighty Babylonian Empire over to the Medes and Persians.

The "writing on the wall" was fulfilled when the Persian army, led by Ugbaru, divided, with one half at the entrance of the Euphrates River into the city and the other at the exit of the river out of the city. The army diverted the water north of the city by digging a canal from the river to a nearby lake cutting off the water supply to the city. They were able to go under the sluice gate when the water receded and take the city without a fight. This fulfilled Daniel's prophecy and the prophecy in Isaiah 47:1-5. This took place on October 12, 539 B.C. 

The rule of the Medes and Persians was the fulfillment of the second phase spoken of in Daniel 2!

REFLECTION

The gist of this story is that the "Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone He wishes." If we "set [ourselves] up against the LORD of heaven" and refuse to humble ourselves beneath His mighty hand (5:22. See also Luke 18:14, James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6), God cannot possibly bless us.

Nebuchadnezzar chose to humble himself. Belshazzar did not. Tomorrow we will see the response of King Darius. Stay tuned.


CHARACTERISTICS OF DANIEL
He believed in a sovereign God 
“The Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Dan. 4:25, 32, nkjv; 5:21) is one of the basic truths taught in the Book of Daniel. Dictators and petty politicians may have thought they were in control, but Daniel knew better. As a devoted Jew, Daniel knew that there was but one true God, the Lord Jehovah, and that He ruled all things with wisdom and power. The Babylonians changed Daniel’s address, his name, and his education, and they tried to change his standards, but they couldn’t change his theology! God was sovereign when He permitted Babylon to conquer Judah, and He was sovereign in sending Daniel and his friends to Babylon. In every aspect of Daniel’s life and service, he depended totally on the God of heaven who is sovereign over all things. 
Some people associate sovereignty with slavery, when actually our surrender to God’s sovereign will is the first step toward freedom. “And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts” (Ps. 119:45, nkjv). We can yield ourselves to Him with great confidence because He is our Father, and He loves us too much to harm us and He is too wise to make a mistake. 
Nor should divine sovereignty be confused with fatalism, “What will be will be.” Fatalism is belief in an impersonal force that’s working out its blind but inevitable purposes in this world, whether it’s the economic forces of materialism and Communism or the “survival of the fittest” in Darwinian evolution. One is tempted to ask, “What established this force? What keeps it going? If it’s inevitable, why can we resist it or choose not to accept it?” The Christian believer’s faith is in a personal God, a loving God who plans for us the very best (Jer. 29:11). “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1)..

He sought only to glorify God 
“There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets,” Daniel told the powerful monarch, giving all the glory to the Lord (Dan. 2:28, nkjv), and later Nebuchadnezzar himself was glorifying God (v. 47; 4:34–35). When the king rewarded Daniel for his service, Daniel asked him to include his three friends, for they were an important part of the praying that brought the answer. When Belshazzar tried to smother Daniel with compliments and influence him with gifts, the prophet brushed it all aside and courageously interpreted the bad news to the king (5:13–17). 
Throughout his long life, Daniel was a great man in the kingdom, but he used his gifts, abilities, and opportunities to honor God and minister to others. It has well been said that true humility isn’t thinking meanly of yourself, it’s just not thinking of yourself at all! Jesus came as a servant (Phil. 2), and His example is the one we should follow. I see many leadership conferences for Christians advertised these days; perhaps we need to organize some “servanthood” conferences; for a true leader is always a humble servant. This was true of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and Nehemiah, as well as our Lord and His apostles. Can we improve on what they teach us? 
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (154). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
APPLICATION

Are you making wise choices that go down the path of humility or are you going down the path of pride?

Jesus shows us the true, good, and restful way by inviting us to become yoked with Him. We can't help but learn humility because He is gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29).

Humility is the realization that He is God, and you are not. This picture reflects that concept:

PRAYER

Lord, You are the ruler over the realm of all mankind, and we humbly come before You and acknowledge that You are God and we are not. Teach us the path of true humility, We ask this in the name of the humble and gentle Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daniel 4 - Nebuchadnezzar's Pride

LINK: Daniel 4

BACKGROUND

This map shows the extent of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom. He had so much in the world's eyes. No wonder he was so proud.

There is a big gap of time between the events of Daniel 3 and Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 4. The events in in Ezekiel happen during this gap of time.

Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43 years (605-562 B.C.). He was insane for seven year toward the end of his reign. Commentators believe the incident in Daniel 4 occurred during his 35th year of rule in 570 B.C.; perhaps 20-30 years after the three men were thrown in the fiery furnace. Daniel's age at the time of the incident in Daniel 4 ranges anywhere from 50-76 years old.

Daniel 4:1-18 and 34-37 are unusual because Daniel includes King Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar refers to Daniel (Belteshazzar) as the chief of the magicians because he was the wisest of them all, and he needed Daniel to interpret his dream about a tree that was big, beautiful, fruitful, and provided shelter for all animals and birds but was also chopped down.

Daniel's interpretation was simple: Nebuchadnezzar was the tree, and he needed to be "cut down to size" because he had exalted himself above God. The punishment would be mental illness. Some commentators believe this was an illness called "zoanthropy" where a person thinks of himself as an animal and acts like one. Daniel exhorted Nebuchadnezzar to break away from his sins by doing what is right and being kind to the oppressed, but he did not listen to Daniel's advice, and the dream was fulfilled in twelve months.

Thankfully, the king was restored through repentance of his pride and acknowledgement of God's sovereignty, dominion, and irresistible will! This passage is also an indication of God's great love for ALL the peoples of the world, not just the Jews.

REFLECTION

I shared this in the first year of the Bible Book Club, when we studied the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, but I must share it again even though it is quite embarrassing:

In 1981, I was offered a position as a nutritionist at a nursing facility in Zaire. I would be the nutrition educator for nurses who would go out and do community health projects. In addition, I was to be the dorm mom/discipler, living "with them" on a daily basis and helping them grow in Christ and teach nutrition to people in remote villages.

I thought, "WOW! This is what I have always dreamed of! It is an opportunity for life-to-life discipling and also for using my college education!" I was so pumped.

I had to pray about it though. I asked God for a "promise." He gave it to me in the vision of the GREAT TREE:
Behold there was a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great (Hey, I'm tall. I thought this had to be my promise!).
The tree grew large and became strong 
And its height reached to the sky, (scary how much this sounds like the Tower of Babel)
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 
Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, 
And in it was food for all. (Hey, that is me. I'm a nutritionist, get it?)
The beasts of the field found shade under it, 
And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches (I would have all those nurses in my branches)
And all living creatures fed themselves from it (Nutrition and discipling. Physical and spiritual nourishment) (4:10b-12)
I thought I had found my promise. No joke! I was so arrogant and ignorant of the context of that Scripture that I just took it as my promise without reading the rest of the chapter! (George just leaned over to me right now to say, "Great individual verses, Carol; but bad theology!")

I had my promise, and I was ready to go, but my discipler gently suggested that I take a year before I go to get more training in discipling. So, I took her advice and decided I would go for "just a year" to the University of Oregon Navigator ministry and live in the training center with the new staff woman there. It was a great opportunity. So, I went.

And boy, did God ever have some training for me!

Suffice it to say that the year was one of the hardest and most humbling of my entire life, culminating in a nervous breakdown. God had to rip at the core of my arrogance and pride. It may have been the most humbling experience, but it was also the best thing that has ever happened to me. God loved me enough to humble me. I am so grateful.

In the course of that time, I started really learning what the Old Testament said (remember I was more a "New Testament" gal) and read the remainder of Daniel 4 about that "Great Tree."

An angelic watcher descended from heaven and shouted:
Chop down that tree and cut off its branches, 
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; 
Let the beasts flee from under it 
And the birds from it branches. (4:14)
Why did God do that to King Nebuchadnezzar?

He did it . . .
In order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, 
And bestows it on whom He wishes 
And sets over it the lowliest of men. (4:17b)

I was prideful. I was doing things for my own glory, and God was gracious enough to "chop my tree" down to size to show me Himself, just as He showed King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon after his kingdom was removed and then restored. I can agree with Nebuchadnezzar when he said, 
I praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride. (4:37)
So, this really was my "promise" even though it was incorrectly interpreted and applied originally!

Two different stories out of Babylon with the same root issue: PRIDE. 

Amazing.

Praise God for His ability to continue to chop away at my tree (or tower) one branch (or brick) at a time. May He do that in all of us for His glory!

APPLICATION

Ask God to show you where there is pride in your life that is keeping you from giving Him all the glory. I also recommend the book Praying God's Word by Beth Moore. She has a chapter on "Overcoming Pride" that is excellent to pray through!

PRAYER

Lord, we worship You as the God of all the earth. We bow down in humble adoration and praise and acknowledge that You are LORD of heaven and earth. We praise You that You are able to "humble those who walk in pride," and I ask that, by way of application, You speak to all of us here who are reading through Your Word, that You root out the pride in our lives so that only Your name will be glorified in our lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.


Characteristics of Daniel
He had insight into human history 
Scholars have attempted to put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that we call “history,” but their best attempts have failed. Like the telephone book, the book of history has a huge cast of characters but no plot. Apart from knowledge of Scripture, we can’t interpret history accurately. 
At the center of history is the nation of Israel. Why? Because Israel is God’s chosen vehicle to bring salvation to the world, for “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). At the center of the Israel’s history is God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3) as well as God’s covenant with the Jews at Sinai (Ex. 20–24) and in the plains of Moab (Deut. 27–30). If Israel obeyed, God would bless them and make them a blessing to the Gentiles; if Israel disobeyed, God would discipline and use the Gentile nations to do it. 
But the visions also taught Daniel that the nations of the world were beastly in character, like lions, bears, leopards, rams, and goats. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride changed him into an animal (Dan. 4), and it is pride that turns leaders into worse than animals as they devour one another. In one sense, our world is improving, and we’re grateful for every advancement in medicine, communications, transportation, security, and comfort. But in another sense, the nations of the world are becoming “cheaper and cheaper,” as God revealed in the vision of the great image (Dan. 2). It goes from gold to silver, from silver to bronze, from bronze to iron, and from iron to clay! There’s not only a decrease in value, but there’s also a decrease in strength. By the time you get to the feet and toes of the image, there’s nothing but clay to hold it together! 
Daniel had no illusions about the future. He knew what the human heart was like and he knew what God had planned to do. No wonder his heart was resolute and nothing moved him or changed him! He could say as Paul did in the storm, “Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (Acts 27:25, nkjv). 

(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (155). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Daniel 3 - The Fiery Furnace

LINK: Daniel 3

BACKGROUND


In Babylonian religious culture, statues were worshiped. The image in Daniel 3 stood 90 feet high and 90 feet wide. The pressure to bow down to it must have been enormous; but like the food and wine in Daniel 1, Daniel and his three friends discerned that this would violate God's Law and refused to worship the image (Exodus 20:3). So, they suffered the furnace of fire.


The fire killed Nebuchadnezzar's soldiers but not the four men in the fire.  The fourth man could have been an angel or the pre-incarnate appearance of Christ (Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 91:9-12). 


Through this, they were protected from death and God was glorified among the Gentiles! Nebuchadnezzar did not turn to their God, but he did acknowledge that God is powerful and commanded his people not to speak against the God of all gods! 


REFLECTION


I lived in the midst of a pretty pagan environment during college. I got pressured and condemned quite a bit for following God in the midst of it too. But women have called me and thanked me over the years. Many have turned to Him. 


God richly rewards our obedience and glorifies Himself in the process!


APPLICATION 

"Dare to be a Daniel" and dare to be alone!


PRAYER


Lord, glorify Yourself in how we relate to a lost world today. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Daniel 1 & 2 - Dare to be a Daniel!

LINK: Daniel 1 & 2

Please read the Introduction to the Prophetical Books if you have not already done so. 

Review the Overview and Timeline to see where Daniel fits in chronologically.

BACKGROUND

Book of Daniel


This is where Daniel fits into the history:

----------------605-586 - BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY OF JUDAH (SOUTHERN KINGDOM) 

                     605-536: DANIEL 1-12


                                                     593-559: EZEKIEL 1-48

Daniel was born of noble birth during the middle of Josiah's reign (2 Kings 22:23) and would have grown up during that king's many reforms. Josiah was killed in 609 B.C. and the southern kingdom of Judah turned back to its wicked ways. Four years later, in 605 B.C, Babylon made Judah a vassal state. Daniel was a young Jew when he was taken captive and made the 500 mile trek to Babylon under very harsh conditions. 

Daniel served as a prophet to the exiles from 605-536 B.C. Cyrus overthrew the Babylonian empire in 539 B.C., and Daniel lived to see the return of the first exiles to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. He was a contemporary of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk. He quoted Jeremiah in Daniel 9:2. Ezekiel states that Daniel is a "righteous" and "wise" man (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3). His dreams and interpretations of the dreams of others give witness to both Jews and Gentiles that power is from God alone. 

The book is partly historical but primarily prophetical. He gave a message of hope for the exiles who felt hopeless. The main message is that God is sovereign over the affairs of men!

The book is not chronological. I have included this chart from Be Resolute by Warren Wiersbe and added the kingdom and king in parentheses:
The Chronological Order of the Book of Daniel 
Daniel 1–4: Captivity and interpretation of dreams and visions (Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar) 
Daniel 7: Vision of the four beasts (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 8: Vision of the ram and he-goat (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 5: Belshazzar’s feast—conquest of Babylon (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 9: Vision of the seventy weeks (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 6: Daniel in the lions’ den (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 10–12: Daniel’s prayer and visions (Persia, Cyrus)  
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (9). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
Daniel 1:1-2:3 and 8:1-12:13 are in the Hebrew language focusing on the Jews. 

Daniel 2:4-7:28 are in the Aramaic language focusing on the Gentile nations.

Daniel 1 - Man of Integrity

The land of Shinar is the old name for Babylonia (Genesis 11:2; 14:1; Isaiah 11:11; Zechariah 5:11). Nebuchadnezzar's god was probably Bel, also called Marduk.  Daniel's name was changed to "Belteshazzar" which means "Bel's Place". 

The food and wine would have been considered unclean by devout Jews because it was prepared by Gentiles, and it was probably food forbidden in the Law. Also, it was probably sacrificed and offered to the gods of the Babylonians prior to being served (Exodus 34:15). God gave Daniel and his three friends strength and good health.

The strength, health, wisdom, and understanding of the four Jews were a testimony of the power of the One true God to the Babylonians. 

Daniel 2 - The King's Dream 

The king had a recurring dream and none of his wise men could help him. Wise men included magicians (men who practiced the occult), conjurers (could be those who used incantations), sorcerers (those who cast spells) Chaldeans/astrologers (religious priests of Babylon who depended on revelation through the stars perhaps like the Magi in Matthew 2), and diviners (those who tried to predict the fate of people). 

The wise men were all to be put to death for not being able to interpret the king's disturbing dream, and this included Daniel and his friends! When Daniel heard of it, he boldly approached the king to delay the execution while he interpreted the dream. God had given him the interpretation in a night vision, and Daniel praised God. Then, he gave glory to God before the Gentiles when he said, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries" (2:28). YAY Daniel!

The large statue represented the four empires that would dominate the world and rule over the land of Palestine:


Head of gold: Babylonian dominating from 606 - 539 B.C. 
Chest and arms of silver: Medo Persian  dominating from 539-331 B.C. (5:28, 31;6:8)
Belly and thighs of bronze: Grecian dominating from 331-146 B.C. (8:20-21) 
Legs and feet of iron and clay: Roman dominating from 146 B.C.-A.D. 476 (defeated Grecian in 63 B.C.)
Some commentators interpret this as the "times of the Gentiles" that Jesus referred to in Luke 21:25-28. 

The Roman empire of iron deteriorated to a state of clay mixed with iron which cannot be mixed. True to Daniel's prophecy, the Roman Empire was a divided kingdom that could never unite all the peoples it conquered. 

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Only God will be able to unite all the peoples of the earth under the King who will rule over it, and that is JESUS!!!! He will and, in many respects, already does "rock" (2:34-35, 45) an eternal, divine Kingdom that cannot be destroyed.  The rock/stone is frequently an image of God in Scripture and especially the Messiah (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; Matthew 21:44; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:4-8).  

Amen, come Lord Jesus!

All of this caused the pagan king to promote Daniel and proclaim that Daniel's God was the God of gods and Lord of kings!

REFLECTION

We are in for quite a ride in the book of Daniel. This was the most difficult book for me when I went through the Bible Book Club the first time. I did not want to offend anyone based on their view of end times. I even had one reader send me a book about Daniel based on his theological view. 

So, I want to emphasize that our focus will not necessarily be on end times but the present time. We want to focus on the God of Daniel and how Daniel lived his life and stayed true to his faith in the midst of a pagan culture. 

Living out our faith today is something we can all agree on.

Today, I have been listening to this modern day song:
You stay the same through the ages 
Your love never changes 
There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning 
And when the oceans rage 
I don't have to be afraid 
Because I know that You love me 
Your love never fails 
("Your Love Never Fails" by Jesus Culture)  
Also, I have been reading the lyrics to an old song:

Dare to be a Daniel!
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known!
 (Philip P. Bliss, musician with D.L. Moody) 
I pray that our study of Daniel will give you the faith to weather any storm and the strength to stand strong in today's world!  
A Resolute Man God Greatly Loved 
It’s important to study the prophecies that Daniel wrote, but it’s also important to understand the life that Daniel lived. Knowing God’s future plan and obeying God’s present will should go together. “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3, nkjv). “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11, nkjv) 
Both Daniel and Joseph were called of God to serve Him in difficult places at the center of authority in pagan empires. Both were cruelly taken from their homes and handed over to foreign masters. Both went through periods of testing, both were lied about and falsely accused, but both maintained godly character and conduct and became respected leaders in the nation. Most of all, both were able to minister to God’s people and help preserve and encourage the nation of Israel when the days were difficult. What Daniel wrote gave the Jews courage in the centuries following their release from captivity, and it will encourage them in the end times when they again experience severe persecution from their enemies. 
It’s interesting to note that the Book of Daniel and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians have much in common. Ephesians teaches us about the spiritual battle in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:10–18), and Daniel participated in such a battle (Dan. 10:10–21). Paul prays two prayers in Ephesians, the first for enlightenment (Eph. 1:15–23) and the second for enablement (3:14–21). Daniel and his friends also prayed that way, that they might understand God’s plan and receive the power they needed to serve Him and remain true to the end.Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians emphasizes the spiritual posture of believers: we are seated with Christ (2:5–6), we walk with Him (4:1, 17; 5:1–2, 8, 15), we take our stand in Christ (6:11, 13–14), and we bow our knees to Christ (3:14). Daniel was a man who bowed his knees to the Lord, walked with Him, and was able to take his stand against Satan. He was given a place of authority in Babylon, but that was nothing compared to the authority God gave Him from the throne of heaven. Daniel was a pilgrim and stranger in Babylon because his home was in Israel, and we are pilgrims and strangers on this earth because our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20–21). Like Daniel and Joseph, we live in an alien culture with people whose thinking, values, actions, and goals are totally different from and opposed to that of God’s people. And yet, just as Daniel and Joseph kept themselves pure and helped to transform people and circumstances, so we can become transformers in our world today. 
The key to Daniel’s successful life and ministry is given in Daniel 1:8—“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.” He was a resolute man. He wasn’t intimidated by powerful people or frightened by difficult circumstances. Like Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, he said, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”But what was the source of this man’s courageous and resolute heart? For the answer to that important question, let’s review the life of Daniel.
He was tactful and considerate
Some people have the idea that the only way to change things in the political world is to blow up buildings, block traffic, or attack people they consider evil. Daniel exerted considerable influence during the reigns of four kings, and yet he never resorted to force, accusations, or threats. “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all” (2 Tim. 2:24, nkjv). 
When Daniel and his friends wanted to eat clean food, not food dedicated to idols, they didn’t stage a hunger strike or argue with those in charge. Daniel knew that any problems they created would reflect on the prince who was assigned to them and get him into trouble, so he took a different approach. He tactfully asked if they could be tested for ten days, knowing that the Lord would make the test successful. He won the respect and confidence of the prince in charge, and the word got out in the palace that the four Jewish boys in the training classes weren’t troublemakers. 
Certainly Daniel didn’t agree with the theology or lifestyle of the people in charge, but even if he couldn’t respect the officers, he respected their offices. (See Paul’s teaching on this subject in Rom. 13.) He spoke respectfully to them and about them and cultivated “sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:8, nkjv). Too often believers adopt a “holier than thou” attitude and fail to show proper respect for officials they disagree with, and this always hurts the cause of Christ. 
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (149). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)

APPLICATION

Can you hold on to your faith in hard times? 

Do you dare to stand strong in the midst of pressure to conform to this world?

Daniel used discernment in accepting some things in Babylonian culture (learning their language and literature) and rejecting those things that violated God's Law (food and wine).  Can you discern in this way?  What things in your culture are acceptable? What things must you reject? 

Talk to God about that.

PRAYER 

Let Daniel's praise be yours today: 
Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, (Daniel 2:20-23)