persistence

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.

Exodus 5, Job 22, Psalm 53

Today’s readings are Exodus 5, Job 22, Psalm 53.

This devotional is about Exodus 5.

With God’s direct command, some impressive miracles at his disposal, and the promise of success, you would think that getting the Israelites out of Egypt would be snap-your-fingers simple for Moses, right? It should have been like riding a bicycle downhill with the wind at your back.

Not so much.

The first attempt Moses made to persuade Pharaoh was a spectacular failure. Not only did Pharaoh say no, he punished the Israelites for asking (vv. 6-18). This caused the Jewish men and women Moses was trying to lead to turn against him. In verse 21 they said, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

Moses himself was less than thrilled with God. In verses 22-23 we read, “Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.’” Moses started out very reluctant to do what God commanded him to do and, then when he did it, God made things worse for His people, not better! You can almost hear the frustration in his voice when he said, “he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all” (v. 23).

Unfortunately for us, this is God’s typical way. God does not promise that a life of faith will be easy; he does not make all opposition fall like dominoes after our first act of obedience. Often, in fact, things get worse and harder before we see any fruit or success for our labor. But, when we persevere in faith and continue in good works, God is faithful. The trials we face for our obedience make us stronger; they also cause us to see God’s greatness and power in even more magnificent ways. So don’t quit believing in God or give up obeying him when things don’t immediately fall into place. Keep serving, keep trusting, be faithful. As Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

So don’t give up before “the proper time” of harvest arrives.

Luke 18

Luke 18

The major theme of this chapter is humility. That theme comes out more clearly in some of the paragraphs of this chapter than in others. But consider this:

  • In verses 9-14 the tax collector was justified instead of the Pharisee because “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (v. 14c).
  • In verses 15-17 you have to become helpless like a child in order to enter the kingdom. Verse 17: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
  • In verses 18-30 the rich man refused the kingdom of heaven because Jesus told him to sell everything. Selling everything would have humbled him, making him dependent on God.
  • Verses 31-34 doesn’t seem to fit the theme of humility except that Jesus’ death required him to humble himself, so maybe that’s why Luke recorded this passage in this spot.
  • In verses 35-43 the beggar was not too proud to stop calling out to Jesus asking for his sight. His personal dignity and reputation among others were less important to him than receiving this healing from Jesus.

So how does the first story in verses 1-8 fit with this theme of humility? Well, maybe it doesn’t. These chapter divisions are not inspired and were added to the Bible much later than the passages were written.

But, although being in this chapter doesn’t necessarily make verses 1-8 about humility and even though humility is not expressly mentioned in this story, I still think the concept is there. The point of this story according to Luke was, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” The woman in this story badgered the unjust judge and eventually won her case because of her badgering (vv. 4-5). Then Jesus said that God will listen to those who “cry out to him day and night” (v. 7). What the story does not address is why we won’t “cry out to him day and night.” Why don’t we persist in prayer?

One answer is weak faith or a lack of faith. Another answer is just that we’re human and humans struggle with various kinds of weaknesses. But I think pride is a reason why we don’t pray persistently. Prayer is an acknowledgment that we cannot control something. It is a response to the knowledge among the faithful that we cannot make something happen on our own so, if it is to happen, God will have to do it. That takes humility! Our default assumption is that we can handle things. We can put up with stuff we don’t like, we can persuade someone to do what we want, we can reason with someone who we have a dispute with, we can change ourselves if we try hard enough for long enough. But prayer causes us to admit that these things may not be true and that only God might be able to make something happen. We might pray once or twice asking God for something but after that, we give up to look for “more productive” ways to attack the problem we’re praying about. And, of course, God is sovereign and will do his will, so he may refuse to answer our prayers with yes because they are outside of his will. All of these are blows to our pride.

So, what do you wish God would do for you? If it is within his moral will, will cause him to be glorified, and is truly righteous and just, don’t let your pride keep you from asking God--continually--for it.