~ Click on this link 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, which is 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 generally believed that Daniel himself wrote this entire book. Though some say that Daniel couldn't have written this book because his prophecies in the this book are spot-on. Thus, some think someone else must have written the book in retrospect. Let's forge ahead with the belief that Daniel indeed wrote this book. I do believe that God can indeed prophesy events through prophets like Daniel before they actually happen... A good overview of the book of Daniel - and the authorship questions - is online here. Below is a painting of Daniel by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel -
~ Daniel ~
Date: Sixth century B.C.
Content: Daniel was carried off into captivity in Babylon as a young boy where, although he was a captive, he received an education and ultimately rose to a high position in Babylonian, and later, Persian government. Because of his trust in God he was subjected to barbarous persecution, at one point being thrown to the lions. Three of his compatriots were thrown into a furnace, but they too survived by the power of God. The book deals with many historical events of Daniel’s day, but it also contains prophecies concerning the future. Daniel saw the great world empires that were to come, but saw more than just that. He also saw the power of God and the Messiah, Jesus, who was to come and undo the evil of this world, ultimately to establish a kingdom of righteousness that would never fade away.
Theme: Daniel’s major theme is the sovereignty of God. God rules over the affairs of men, directing the course of history toward his own ends, working in and through the acts of men. The kingdoms of men rise and fall but God remains forever. God’s will remains forever as well, and it is God’s determination to bring salvation to men by the Messiah whom he will send. Ultimately evil will be overcome and good will triumph because God has willed it so. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” pp. 14-15) A wonderful commentary on the book of Daniel by Bob Deffinbaugh titled “Daring to Believe Daniel” is at this link - http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=466 Below is an engraving of Daniel by Gustaf Dore -
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 meant "Bel, protect his life!" Bel, or Marduk was the main Babylonian god. (you can see where Nebuchadnezzar was going 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 shows that the food the Babylonians were going to feed Daniel and the 3 others were sacrificed to idols. Which is not a good thing in the Law... And furthermore, the wine was poured out on pagan altars. Again, not good. So, Daniel is 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 or our relationship with God? 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 consider - "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 Way?
Psalms - Psalm 119 verse 71 has an interesting take on suffering - "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 had a great article on Suffering a while back, which you can read at this link. (Note that the article starts out with this provacative statement - "God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life.") Also, I did find some reflections on Suffering & Grief on ChristianityToday.com that are worth reading at this link.
Proverbs - Proverbs 28 verse 14 today teaches us: "Blessed are those who fear to do wrong, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble." I think this should simply should make us ask - Do I fear to do wrong? What does it mean to fear to do wrong? How does one live one's life if you fear to do wrong?
Comments from you - What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!