(click on the date above for today's readings)
Daniel 1:1-2:23 ~ 1 Peter 3:8-4:6
Psalm 119:65-80 ~ Proverbs 28:14
Old Testament - Today we start the book of Daniel, an incredible book! The book of Daniel takes place in approximately 605 B.C. during the first captivity of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Daniel is exiled to Babylon to Jerusalem in 605 B.C. - whereas Ezekiel, the prophet of the previous book, was exiled in 597 B.C. It is believed that Daniel wrote this book - though some skeptics believe that Daniel couldn't have written this book because his prophecies late in this book are spot-on. Thus, they think someone must have written the book in retrospect. Here's the age-old controversy of the Bible - is it True or not. If it has some true prophecies, then they must have been written after they came to fruition. :) We'll forge ahead here believing that indeed Daniel wrote this book. A good overview of the book of Daniel - and the authorship controversy - is online here.
Daniel chapter 1 verse 7 is worth diving into to show how Nebuchadnezzar was trying to change the religious alliances of these 4 young men from Jerusalem - "The chief official renamed them with these Babylonian names: Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego." Daniel's name in Hebrew means "God is my Judge" - his new name Belteshazzar means "Bel, protect his life!" Bel, or Marduk was the main Babylonian god. (see where Nebuchadnezzar was giong with this...) Hananaih's name in Hebrew is "the Lord shows grace" and Shadrach means "under the command of Aku" - the moon god.... Mishael's name in Hebrew is "who is like God?" and his new name Meshach is "who is like Aku?" And finally Azariah's name in Hebrew is "the Lord helps" and his new name Abednego is "servant of Nego/Nebo" - the god of learning and writing. Do you think that someone's name can be reflective of who they are? Are names important?
Verse 8 is worth exploring - "But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king." Why do you think this was? Was Daniel just being picky? Snooty? Well, that was kind of my first thought. Further study showed me that the food the Babylonians were going to feed Daniel and the 3 fellas were sacrificed to idols. Which ain't a good thing in the Law... And furthermore, the wine was poured out on pagan altars. Again, not good. So, Daniel seems to be making a very wise move here. Will we do things like this in our own lives? Things that appear to be "harmless" on the surface, will we refuse, if we know they will actually be damaging to us? Even if our peers are pressuring us? Will we not defile ourselves?
Daniel chapter 2 verse 20 has a great start to a prayer from Daniel to God - ""Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he alone has all wisdom and power." Check out the remainder of the verses in this chapter - this prayer. This praise. Do we pray to God in this manner? Do we open up our prayers with praise for God? Do we acknowledge that only God has all wisdom and power? Can we learn something from Daniel's prayer?
New Testament - 1 Peter 3 verse 13 is definitely something for each of us to ponder - "Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?" I think this is very true. If you are "eager" to do good, who will want to harm you? Well, true, maybe someone who becomes jealous or who is just plain having a bad day... but generally speaking, I think we can avoid a lot of troubles in our life if we stay focused - no, eager - to do good. All the time. Are you eager to do good?
Suffering. Not something we like to think about - much less experience... 1 Peter 4 verses 1 & 2 are well worth letting sink in a bit - "So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you are willing to suffer for Christ, you have decided to stop sinning. And you won't spend the rest of your life chasing after evil desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God." Do you believe these verses to be true? Are you ready to suffer for Christ? Have you decided to stop sinning? Are you anxious to do the will of God and abandon chasing evil desires? Do you believe this is the better Way?
Psalms - Psalm 119 verse 71carries this theme of suffering forward again.. "The suffering you sent was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your principles." Do you believe suffering can be good for you? Can it teach you to pay attention to God?
Christianity Today magazine actually has a great article on Suffering which I just read this evening. It's not online yet, but should be soon. In the meantime, I did find these reflections on Suffering & Grief on ChristianityToday.com that are worth reading.
Proverbs 28 verse 14 simply should make us ask - Do I have a tender conscience?
What verses or insights jumped out for you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!