daniel

2 Kings 6, Daniel 10

This devotional is about Daniel 10.

The section of Daniel’s book dealing with direct revelations continued in this chapter and Daniel saw a vision “concerning a great war" (v. 1). This vision shook him emotionally (vv. 2-3). Daniel was always a man of prayer as we read back in chapter 6. The fact that he “ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all” (v. 3) suggests that he fasted and devoted himself to extra prayer because of this revelation.

The “man” that he saw in verse 5 told Daniel that he “was highly esteemed” (v. 11) and that he was sent in response to Daniel’s prayers. In fact, this messenger said that he was heard from “the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God” (v. 12). The context suggests that Daniel was heard AND that God responded immediately by sending this messenger. Then why did Daniel have to wait three weeks for this answer? Because, according to verse 13, “the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.”

The messenger, “princes” and “king” in this passage have usually been interpreted as other angels--demons, really--who opposed this angel who was sent with revelation for Daniel. Although God immediately sent an answer to Daniel’s prayer, that answer was delayed by demonic power.

We don’t get very much insight in scripture about the angelic world and how it works. This is the only passage that I can think of where an answer to prayer was delayed because of demonic resistance. Some believers have taken this passage much further than the Bible ever does; nevertheless, it is scripture and shouldn’t be dismissed.

Based on this chapter, then, maybe one reason that the Bible urges us to pray continually, patiently, without giving up, is that God’s answers to our prayers are sometimes delayed spiritually by forces we can’t see and rarely think about. This is not the only reason that answers to prayers are delayed but it maybe one reason why. So the lesson is to persevere in our praying even when God doesn’t answer. There may be more going on with God’s answer than you realize.

Have you given up praying about something--or nearly given up--because the answer hasn’t come yet? Take courage from this passage and keep on praying. No matter what, God is not ignoring your prayers.

2 Kings 3, Daniel 7

Today, read [2 Kings 3 and Daniel 7] (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+3%2C+Daniel+7&version=NIV).

This devotional is about Daniel 7.

The book of Daniel has two parts to it. The first six chapters which we've been reading the past few days are historical. They describe what happened to Daniel as an administrator in the foreign governments of Babylon and then the Medo-Persian empire. Daniel is given supernatural interpretaiton of dreams and visions, but those dreams belong to others--namely Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. The fulfilment of those dreams happened during Daniel's lifetime.

Here in Daniel 7, the second part of Daniel began. In this part (chapters 7-12) Daniel himself had dreams and visions. Those revelations were about the future, things that would happen after his life was over. God explained some, but not all, of what Daniel saw in these chapters.

This first vision is about four beasts (v. 3) and the horns on the fourth beast (v. 7-8). While one of the horns was bragging (v. 8), God ("the Ancient of Days") appeared on his throne and Christ ("one like a son of man") was given the right of rule and worship over everyone on earth (vv. 13-14). A general interpretation was given to Daniel (vv. 15-16) but the specific kings were not identified in this vision. The point of the vision was not to reveal what national powers would come next. The point of the vision was to show Daniel that there were still human kingdoms that were coming but then God would establish his kingdom and it would be "an everlasting dominion that will not pass away and... will never be destroyed (vv. 13-14, 27).

Would it be interesting to know what will happen politically and nationally in our world? How much longer will the United States remain a world power? What will cause the U.S. to lose its power? Which nation(s) will become powerful instead of the U.S. and for how long? What human leaders will direct these nations? These are all interesting questions but they are not necessary for us to know to walk with Christ and live for him. What we need to know is that Jesus will win and, when he does, a perfect kingdom will be established and it will never be destroyed. God's kingdom will not implode under its own debt or because of lawless people nor will a coup d' etat or a foreign army dethrone our Lord Jesus. Instead, when he establishes his kingdom, it will stay established. The eternity we long for in Christ will be fulfilled.

Until that comes, we have plenty to do with our lives. In the midst of earning a living, having relationships, enjoying experiences and so on, our mission is to live for Christ's coming kingdom. We are to put our hope there, not on any human ruler or nation. We are to put our treasure there, not consume every penny for ourselves. We are to increase the population of that kingdom by reaching people with the gospel of Christ. God sets forth these visions of eternity in the scripture to remind us of his promises and to cause us to realign our thoughts and actions with his plan.

Are you living for eternity or for this world, this existence, this kingdom? What would living for Christ's eternal kingdom today look like for you?

1 Kings 22, Daniel 4

Today, read 1 Kings 22 and Daniel 4.

This devotional is about Daniel 4.

People who have been highly successful face the temptation of taking too much credit for their success. The assumption for that person is that people pretty much get what they deserve so, since that person is successful he must deserve it. The opposite is often believed, too; namely, the unsuccessful deserve their failures so the successful and powerful should feel no pity toward the “losers” of life, nor should they feel bad if they oppress them. If they weren’t such losers, they’d figure out how to avoid being oppressed, the successful oppressor thinks.

What does the successful person think he has that gives him such a large advantage over others? Often, he believes in the superiority of his own intellect.

Here in Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar is warned about becoming proud of his success. His warning came at a time when he was "contented and prosperous” (v. 4b). The good feeling he had about his life faded quickly, however, after he had a disturbing dream that he did not understand (vv. 5-7). God gave Daniel the interpretation (vv. 8-26) and Daniel delivered the Lord’s message that the dream was a warning against Nebuchadnezzar’s sins (v. 27).

A full year later, the fulfillment came and Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind and, temporarily, his kingdom (vv. 28-33). This experienced humbled Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 34-35) just as God said (v. 32, 37). The ultimate lesson is that God hates pride and often chooses to humble the proud in order to demonstrate his sovereignty and lordship.

But notice what Daniel advised Nebuchadnezzar to do after he received the vision but before it was fulfilled. In verse 27 Daniel told him, “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Did you notice that phrase, “by being kind to the oppressed”? Remember I stated earlier that the successful, the proud, often think they deserve their success because they believe that people get what they.deserve. That feeling of entitlement causes the powerful to oppress the weak. Daniel’s advice, then, was to show true repentance by showing kindness to the oppressed. When one is truly humble, that person treats everyone with dignity. He doesn’t “kiss up and kick down” as the saying goes. Instead, he is kind to everyone, especially those who need kindness the most.

Do you believe that you deserve the life that you have? Is it impossible to believe that you could be homeless, family-less, unloved and living on the streets? I have been told that many people who live that way are mentally ill, just as Nebuchadnezzar was in verse 33. Yet how often do we see people begging and wonder if they really “deserve” our help?

1 Kings 20, Daniel 2

Today we’re reading 1 Kings 20 and Daniel 2.

This devotional is about Daniel 2.

What would you do if you were a powerful leader but suspected that your spiritual advisors were making stuff up? You might do what Nebuchadnezzar did here in Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar had a weird dream (v. 1) and he apparently believed that something was being communicated to him in it. Instead of describing it for his spiritual advisors, he tested them: could they tell him what he had dreamed and THEN interpret what it meant (vv. 2-9)? The key phrase in that passage is in verse 9: “You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” If they could tell him what he had dreamed that would be proof that they had genuine access to the spiritual realm. That would give him greater confidence in their interpretation of this dream and in their spiritual guidance in every other matter.

Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual advisors did not like the new terms of service he was imposing on them. They protested that what he wanted was impossible (vv. 10-11) which confirmed to the king that they were dealers of nonsense; Nebuchadnezzar therefore ordered them to be put to death (vv. 12-13). Daniel and his friends were apparently junior officers in the spirituality cabinet of Babylon at this point. They were subject to the same death penalty but had not been given the opportunity to advise Nebuchadnezzar about his dream (v. 14). Daniel asked for some time and urged his three friends to pray (vv. 15-18), and God answered their prayers, revealing the vision and its meaning to Daniel (vv. 19-45).

The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is important because it predicted world events that would happen after his reign and would culminate with the kingdom of Christ (vv. 36-45). But for this devotional, I want to focus on how Daniel responded when God answered his prayers. Daniel was given a gift that, according to Nebuchadnezzar’s astrologers, was impossible: “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks!” they said in verse 10. Daniel recognized that what they said was right. His ability to interpret dreams was a supernatural gift from God, not a natural skill he developed himself (v. 23). Daniel also recognized in this dream that God was at work in world events (v. 21). While we think that kings and leaders are chosen by natural events, political processes, and/or human manipulation, God’s providence stands behind it all. The rulers of this world think they are in control but their control is an illusion. God is using their ambitions to advance his will. While we should do what we can to influence world events toward righteousness, we need to recognize that the nations and political structures of this world belong to this world; they will be replaced by the kingdom Jesus came to establish (vv. 44-45). What seems so powerful, so permanent, so impenetrable to us now will be supernaturally—“not by human hands” (v. 34)—“broken to pieces and… swept away without leaving a trace” (v. 35).

Anytime we have an election, there are people who feel hopeful and people who feel hopeless. Regardless of your politics, you’ve been on the hill and in the valley of that roller coaster already in your life and you will likely experience that again. If our hope were in reforming this world and it’s rulers, we would have plenty to worry about, but our hope is in Christ. His kingdom may be right on the verge of appearing or it may be another thousand years away. Only God knows the timeline, but he has revealed to us the outcome. Look in faith to these promises and trust God to watch over us and use us in the meantime, just like he did with Daniel and his friends.

1 Kings 19, Daniel 1

Today, read 1 Kings 19 and Daniel 1.

This passage begins with a description of Judah’s Babylonian exile (vv. 1-2). God allowed (v. 2) Babylon to overtake Jerusalem in fulfillment of God’s prophecies and because of Judah’s unbelief and idolatry.

As we read these early chapters of Daniel in the next few days, we will see that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon was a proud man. But he wasn’t too proud to believe that he and his Babylonian brethren had all the wisdom available on earth. In verses 3-5 we read that Nebuchadnezzar looked for, found, and cultivated the most outstanding young people he could find in Judah. Verse 4 told us that these young men had to look good but also show “aptitude for every kind of learning, [be] well informed, [and] quick to understand.” Nebuchadnezzar invested in the education and development of these men (vv. 4f-5) and expected them to contribute significantly to his administration when they were done with their training.

Judah was filled with godless idolators; that’s why they were taken captive by the Babylonians. The sons of Judah’s idol-worshiping men and women likewise cared nothing about obedience to God and their exile had not caused them to repent. Consequently, they had no problem falling in line with the worship, culture, and expectations of the Babylonians. I’m sure they mourned the loss of their parents who were killed when the Babylonians invaded. They may have missed Jerusalem and their old friends, too, but many of them were probably excited by this great new opportunity that Nebuchadnezzar had for them. If it meant conforming to Babylonian ways, they were happy to comply.

That was true for everyone except for Daniel and his three friends (vv. 6-7). These men were (likely) raised in homes that were faithful to the Lord. They continued to believe in God and his word despite the defeat of Judah. That defeat simply confirmed their faith because the prophets had been predicting it for years and they knew that God’s people had not repented. Their challenge now was to live obediently to God’s word in a place that was much more hostile to God than even Jerusalem in unbelief had been. Daniel and the guys determined from the very beginning not to compromise their faith. They promised to perform well if they were allowed to live God’s way (vv. 13-14). That was an act of faith and God met their faith with blessing (vv. 15-17).

The world wants to squeeze everyone into its mold but God commands us not to conform but to be transformed by renewing our minds (Rom 12:2). Daniel and his cohorts left an amazing legacy and example for all of us who want to live for God by faith to follow.

Your school, your government, your neighborhood, your friends, your family, the media you consume are all trying to squeeze you into a mold. Most--maybe all--of those influences are squeezing you into a godless form. Jesus wants to transform you into his likeness. His word, His church, His Spirit, and His grace are all operating in your life for that to happen, but it takes some determination on your part, a willingness to be different. Is there some way right now where you’re being squeezed? What would the Lord want you to do to emulate the faith and obedience of Daniel?

2 Kings 8, 1 Timothy 5, Daniel 12, Psalm 119:49–72

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 8, 1 Timothy 5, Daniel 12, Psalm 119:49–72. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 12.

This chapter is the final chapter of the book of Daniel and the end of the interpretation of Daniel’s vision from chapter 10. The prophecy ends with great promise while also leaving Daniel and us a bit disappointed. First, the promise: verse 1 of Daniel 12 promised that after unprecedented human distress, “…your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” This refers to believers who survive the Great Tribulation and reign with Christ in his millennial kingdom (Rev 20:4-6). Verses 2-3 here in Daniel 12 describe the second resurrection and final judgment (Rev 20:11-13). After this those who have been redeemed by Christ will enter into his eternal kingdom (compare vv. 2-3 to Rev 20:14-21:8). Daniel 12:3 records the great promise: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”This is the promise of eternal life with our Lord.

The disappointing aspect of this passage is that we do not know when it will be fulfilled. In verse 4 the angel told Daniel to “roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.” Daniel wanted to know more specifics; his question in verse 8, “…what will the outcome of all this be?” is a request to know more details about this prophecy. The angel gave him some specifics about timing in verses 11-12 but Daniel would not live to see it happen according to verse 13: “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” Even for us, who have more information about these events from Christ and from John in the book of Revelation, there is quite a bit of interpretation involved in handling these passages.

Why, then, does God give us so many details about these end-time events without telling us all the details we would need to know to interpret them correctly? The answer is that he wants us to trust him. God wants us to understand that there will be rewards in the last day; those who are “wicked” (v. 10) will receive “shame and everlasting contempt” when the end comes. Those whose names are “found written in the book” (v. 1), who are “wise” (v. 3), who are “purified, made spotless and refined” will receive eternal life. We don’t need to know when or how the Lord will accomplish all these things. What we need to know is that he does promise to accomplish them and that we will be rewarded if we trust in him and wait for them to be fulfilled. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Kings 7, 1 Timothy 4, Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25–48

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 7, 1 Timothy 4, Daniel 11, Psalm 119:25–48. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 11.

Today’s reading in Daniel 11 continued the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10. The speaker in this chapter is an angel who was sent to interpret Daniel’s vision. Daniel 10-12 is a remarkable passage that predicted in detail the future events that followed the Medo-Persian empire as well as some events that are still future to us. Sorting all this out and explaining it is beyond what I’m trying to accomplish with these devotionals. But there is something devotional for us to take away from this passage today. In verses 30b-31 we read, “He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation….” This all refers to a king from the Seleucid (Greek) Empire named Antiochus. The Jewish people were divided with some who worshipped the gods of the Greeks and others who worshipped the Lord. Verse 30 described him showing “favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.” These are the Jewish people who worshiped the false Greek gods. In verse 31, we were told that, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice.” This refers to the time when Antiochus outlawed the worship of the Lord and ended the sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. He actually went further than just ending the sacrifices commanded in Moses’ law. Antiochus had an altar to Zeus constructed in the Jewish temple and sacrificed a pig (a ceremonially unclean animal, unfit for worship in the Lord’s temple) on that altar to Zeus. Verse 32 told us that he would flatter the Jewish people who had forsaken the Lord for the gods of the Greeks, and then verse 32 concluded with this, “…but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” This prophesied the rise of the Maccabees, a group led by Judas Maccabaeus, who were faithful to Moses’ law and successfully battled Antiochus into withdrawing from Judea. The Maccabees then cleansed the temple and restored it to the covenant worship of the Lord. Notice from verse 32 that they key to this resistance was that it was led by “the people who know their God.” This phrase means that they were students of God’s word and believed it. They believed God’s covenant with Israel was true and that God’s laws were to be kept. Their faith in God led to their unexpected victory. God’s word taught them who God was and that empowered them to claim God’s  promises by faith and valiantly—and successfully—fight when the odds were against them.

This passage, then, in addition to providing a prophecy that was historically fulfilled also gives us a template for successful resistance in a world dominated by unbelief and that wants to suppress and even extinguish our faith. The way we combat the hostility to God around us is to know him through his word, believe his promises and live accordingly. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Kings 5, 1 Timothy 2, Daniel 9, Psalms 117–118

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 5, 1 Timothy 2, Daniel 9, Psalms 117–118. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 9.

Daniel’s prayer here in chapter 9 is model for how we should pray in concert with the will of God. First, what prompted Daniel’s prayer was God’s word. Verse 2 says, “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” It was his reading and understanding of Jeremiah’s prophecy that caused him to pray as he did. The lesson for us here is that the truths of scripture can lead us to pray. Daniel saw a promise in God’s word that had a time-deadline of 70 years so he prayed that the Lord would fulfill that promise. Likewise, when we see God’s promises in scripture that are as of yet unfulfilled, they can motivate us to ask God to make them happen. 

Next, Daniel began his prayer with praise. Even though his people were in exile in Babylon, he believed that God was “the great and awesome God” (v. 4), that he was “righteous” (v. 7a), and that he was “merciful and forgiving” 9v. 9). God loves to hear us wrap our requests in worship; when it is our faith in God’s attributes—specific attributes—that compel us to pray, God is glorified and worship in our prayers.

The kernel of Daniel’s prayer, of course, was repentance. He arranged his physical appearance to express repentance (v. 3) and he acknowledged the sins of his nations (vv. 5-7) as well as his personal sins (v. 20: “confessing my sin…”). This focus on repentance was because he was praying for restoration. God’s purpose in exiling Israel was to turn their hearts back to him, so repentance was the proper response to their situation. While the purpose of our prayers is not always repentance, it is always appropriate to confess our sins to the Lord in our prayers. This aligns our hearts morally with his will and causes us to remember that our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and his atonement for us. 

My final observation about this prayer is that the reason for his request was the glory of God. Verse 19 says, “For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” He wanted the restoration God promised because he wanted God to be glorified. When we ask God for things in our prayers, are we thinking about how the answer to our prayers will bring him glory or are we focused merely on improving our situation for the better. While God is loving and compassionate toward us, his love and compassion will ultimately be experienced in eternity; until then, he allows problems and pain and tragedy and other issues because this world has not yet been redeemed. He is more concerned about the growth of his church and the coming of his kingdom than he is about our comfort, so our prayers should be about the things he cares about far more than they are about the things we care about. Too often we have that order inverted. 

So, what are you praying about right now? Do the scriptures inform and stimulate your prayers? Are your prayers layered with worship and praise for who God is? Are you confessing your sins and claiming the sacrifice of Christ as the basis for your forgiveness and even your praying? Are you praying for the glory of God?

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Kings 2, 2 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 6, Psalms 112–113

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 2, 2 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 6, Psalms 112–113. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 6.

The Babylonians who conquered Judah have given way to the Medo-Persian empire, yet Daniel remains influential even in the new administration (vv. 1-2). In fact, Daniel was so good at his job that King Darius intended to elevate him over all everyone but Darius himself (v. 3b). When the other administrators heard about this, they were jealous of Daniel and sought to catch him in some kind of misconduct (v. 4a). Verse 4b says that “they were unable to do so.” Why? “…because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (v. 4d). Did you catch that? Not only was Daniel not corrupt, he was not “negligent” either. This means they could find no responsibility where he failed or refused to do his job. 

That’s quite a statement. We all have responsibilities we like and those we dislike. If you’re like me at all, doing the stuff you like to do is easy but it is also easy to neglect the stuff you dislike doing. A busy man like Daniel would have had an abundance of excuses, too, for why he couldn’t do what he disliked. He could blame his busy schedule, the people under him for being incompetent, or trying to prioritize his work. But the men who wanted Daniel indicted couldn’t find any area to accuse him. As followers of Jesus, this is something we should aspire to as well. Since we are working as to the Lord and not to men we should, of course, be honest and upstanding but we should also be so conscientious that even the things we dislike doing are done carefully and faithfully.

Not only is it remarkable that these men could not accuse Daniel of corruption or negligent, it is remarkable that they KNEW they could get him if they could make his faith illegal in some way. Daniel was faithful not only in his work but he was faithful in his walk with God. The men who were out to destroy Daniel knew that they could get him in trouble if they could make prayer against the law (vv. 5-13). If someone were looking to accuse us, would they go to our devotional life as the sure-fire way to trip us up?

You know the rest of the story as it is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. Daniel was supernaturally protected from the lions (vv. 14-23) and eventually his accusers were brought to justice (v. 24). The result of all this was a decree from Darius commanding the people to fear Daniel’s God (vv. 25-28). He trusted in the Lord completely, consistently, devotedly and the Lord delivered him even in a hostile culture to his faith. May God give us the same desire to be faithful and careful in our work and to be devoted to reading his word and praying daily, filling our minds with his truth and living obediently to it.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

2 Kings 1, 2 Thessalonians 1, Daniel 5, Psalms 110–111

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 1, 2 Thessalonians 1, Daniel 5, Psalms 110–111. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 5.

I think I’ve written before (and it certainly isn’t my idea originally) that there are two ways to become wise. One is to make mistakes and learn from them; the other is to learn from the mistakes of others. In this context “mistakes” refer to any kind of misdeeds. I’m referring to misdeeds that come from ignorance, distraction, thoughtlessness, immaturity, stupidity or foolishness and those that come from sin—either sins of deception or of intention. A wise person, in other words, learns to avoid bad decisions either s/he made personally or other people made.

Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, learned wisdom the hardest way possible and when it was much too late. Here in Daniel 5 he threw a great party and sought to demonstrate the dominance of his false gods over the Lord and his people by drinking from their sacred temple vessels (vv. 1-4). While he was in the act of desecrating these things that belonged to the Lord, God caused a human hand to appear and write some words on the wall which terrified Belshazzar (v. 6, 9) and mystified his spiritual advisors (vv. 7-8). His wife knew about Daniel and his service to Nebuchadnezzar and recommended calling him for an answer to this riddle (vv. 10-12) which Belshazzar did (vv. 13-16). 

Daniel came to give the interpretation and refused the honors Belshazzar promised (vv. 17-21). The words that were inscribed on the wall were words of judgment, telling Belshazzar that his kingdom was coming to an end that very night (vv. 24-31). As he delivered this message of judgment, Daniel indicted Belshazzar’s foolishness. Daniel reminded the king of how God had humbled his father Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 18-21) until Nebuchadnezzar gave God the glory he deserved as Lord (v. 21b). We read Daniel’s zinger in verse 22: “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this.” Belshazzar had a front row seat to the foolishness of pride, but he refused to be wise and humble himself in worship before the true Lord, Israel’s God. That, plus his idolatry, brought God’s judgment into his life.

The question for us is: Will we be wise enough to learn from the painful consequences we see in the lives of other people or will we choose to do our own will, even committing the same sins we see the Lord judge in others? Where have you seen the sins of others damage their life, health, career, ministry, marriage, or relationship with children? Are you flirting (or worse) with those same sins or did you learn to run from them because of the wisdom you gained from seeing the consequences of sin in others? Be wise; learn to avoid the sins that hurt others around you. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 21, 1 Thessalonians 4, Daniel 3, Psalm 107

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 21, 1 Thessalonians 4, Daniel 3, Psalm 107. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 3.

Jobs can be tough sometimes—the work is difficult, exhausting, and/or dirty or the boss and/or co-workers are hard to work with. Sometimes the people you work for or with are so difficult that you feel you have a “hostile workplace.” Daniel and his friends can certainly relate! First, they were in this “workplace” not by choice but because they had been taken captive by the Babylonians and shipped off to Babylon. Although they got to serve in the king’s palace, he tried to dictate what they ate and drank (Dan 1), tried to have them all killed when they couldn’t perform an impossible task (Dan 2), and now here in Daniel 3, they are told to worship the king’s statue or else.

This story only talks about Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Where was Daniel? We have no idea; it is impossible that he would be in the group who worshipped the idol so we assume was not there. Commentators believe that the image Nebuchadnezzar erected was similar to the one he saw in his dream from chapter 2, except it was covered with gold rather than just having a gold head. This seems like a reasonable interpretation of events. God speaks to Nebuchadnezzar, compares his kingdom to a gold head, then told him about what nations would be like in the future. Although Nebuchadnezzar honored the Lord and Daniel at the end of chapter 2 (see vv. 46-47), he couldn’t stop thinking about that statue and what a cool thing it would be to build one and make people worship it. When you are an absolute monarch with a massive empire behind you, you can do those kinds of things. So, that’s what he did and his actions presented yet another challenge to these Jewish men who wanted to remain faithful to the Lord in a hostile environment.

Nebuchadnezzar must have anticipated resistance to the worship he mandated because he had that furnace built. When he learned that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not comply, he was upset (v. 13) but willing to give them another chance (vv. 14-15) but not before issuing the key challenge of the chapter: “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (v. 15c). Without flinching or taking their second chance, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stated their intentions to trust God and let him do what he wanted. We are well aware of the outcome and how God glorified himself by delivering Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (vv. 19-30) but don’t miss their words in verses 17-18: “God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods….” They knew that God was under no obligation to deliver them and that it might just be his will for them to suffer and die for their faith. Unfortunately, we have brothers and sisters around the world who face this same threat and do not experience a miraculous deliverance. Let’s resolve, then, not to be shy about our commitment to Christ even if it hurts our career or even costs us something in the future from our government. Let’s also remember to pray for other Christians around the world who are suffering and dying for their faith in Jesus. I didn’t set out to make this an advertisement, but I can’t ignore the opportunity: join us on Sunday evening, November 6 at 6 p.m. in the chapel for the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 20, 1 Thessalonians 3, Daniel 2, Psalm 106

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 20, 1 Thessalonians 3, Daniel 2, Psalm 106. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Daniel 2.

What would you do if you were a powerful leader but suspected that your spiritual advisors were making stuff up? You might do what Nebuchadnezzar did here in Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar had a weird dream (v. 1) and he apparently believed that something was being communicated to him in it. Instead of describing it for his spiritual advisors, he tested them: could they tell him what he had dreamed and THEN interpret what it meant (vv. 2-9)? The key phrase in that passage is in verse 9: “You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” If they could tell him what he had dreamed that would be proof that they had genuine access to the spiritual realm. That would give him greater confidence in their interpretation of this dream and in their spiritual guidance in every other matter.

Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual advisors did not like the new terms of service he was imposing on them. They protested that what he wanted was impossible (vv. 10-11) which confirmed to the king that they were dealers of nonsense; Nebuchadnezzar therefore ordered them to be put to death (vv. 12-13). Daniel and his friends were apparently junior officers in the spirituality cabinet of Babylon at this point. They were subject to the same death penalty but had not been given the opportunity to advise Nebuchadnezzar about his dream (v. 14). Daniel asked for some time and urged his three friends to pray (vv. 15-18), and God answered their prayers, revealing the vision and its meaning to Daniel (vv. 19-45). 

The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is important because it predicted world events that would happen after his reign and would culminate with the kingdom of Christ (vv. 36-45). But for this devotional, I want to focus on how Daniel responded when God answered his prayers. Daniel was given a gift that, according to Nebuchadnezzar’s astrologers, was impossible: “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks!” they said in verse 10. Daniel recognized that what they said was right. His ability to interpret dreams was a supernatural gift from God, not a natural skill he developed himself (v. 23). Daniel also recognized in this dream that God was at work in world events (v. 21). While we think that kings and leaders are chosen by natural events, political processes, and/or human manipulation, God’s providence stands behind it all. The rulers of this world think they are in control but their control is an illusion. God is using their ambitions to advance his will. While we should do what we can to influence world events toward righteousness, we need to recognize that the nations and political structures of this world belong to this world; they will be replaced by the kingdom Jesus came to establish (vv. 44-45). What seems so powerful, so permanent, so impenetrable to us now will be supernaturally—“not by human hands” (v. 34)—“broken to pieces and… swept away without leaving a trace” (v. 35). 

I feel the hopelessness that so many others do in this election cycle. Our freedoms are being encroached on by the government regardless of which political party is in office and we may soon learn what it means to suffer for Christ. If our hope were in reforming this world and it’s rulers, we would have plenty to worry about, but our hope is in Christ. His kingdom may be right on the verge of appearing or it may be another thousand years away. Only God knows the timeline, but he has revealed to us the outcome. Look in faith to these promises and trust God to watch over us and use us in the meantime, just like he did with Daniel and his friends.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.