Tuesday, June 14, 2011

THINGS PLAY-OUT FOR A REASON

Daniel had the proper resolution in Daniel 1:8. 
"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine,..." 
He had the proper response in Daniel 2:14.
"When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact." 
Thirdly, Daniel had and knew the proper reward for himself in Daniel 5:17. 
"Then Daniel answered the king, 'You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else.  Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means." 

But Daniel did not get a chance to even react to the charges brought against him in Daniel 6:16.  "So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions' den."  However, it is interesting to note that the king at that time, King Darius, must have liked Daniel because Scripture previous to that says, "When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him."(Daniel 6:14) 

When I first read this verse, I thought - Really?! The king cannot make a new law that would save his friend?  The king even seemingly knew Daniel's history with run-ins with the law and miraculous rescues because - "The king said to Daniel, 'May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!' " (Daniel 6:16)  With this previous knowledge and extended effort to keep Daniel from the sentence to come, by the king himself, this situation was NOT reversible.  Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, "a stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel's situation might not be changed." (Dan. 6:17)  During the night, the king could not sleep, could not eat, and did not have any entertainment that night because of this situation and how he felt about it. 

The culprits that began this whole disturbance were the administrators and satraps of Babylon.  Daniel was up for a promotion of the biggest kind - one that would place him over the entire kingdom (Daniel 6:3).  Guess who did not care for the king's pick?  So, their plan consisted of trying to trap both Daniel and the King.  The only way, they figured, to do that was to mix Daniel's belief with a new law made by the King that clashed with both Daniel's faith and Babylon's political/religious system - then catch him at violating the new law.  Their plan worked, but my message throughout this writing is - for a reason.

God sent an angel and shut the mouths of the lions during the night.  Daniel probably slept just fine with lions being tamed to that of house cats by one of God's heavenly agents.  The next morning the King was elated when he found out Daniel was still alive and had Daniel lifted out of the den.  The only time Daniel speaks is in response to the king's inquiry about his condition in the den before he is hoisted up, "Daniel answered, 'O king, live forever!  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.  They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.  Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."

Notice how Daniel answers the king's question but then adds his own displeasure or by-the-way statement at the end and I don't blame him - "Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."

Add guilt for Daniel's innocence to the already mounting emotions the king might be feeling toward the administrators and satraps and you have one part of God's plan about to see fruition - certain evil governmental officials eliminated.  In fact, they and their families would receive the same sentence that Daniel was given - death by lions.

Another reason this played out was so that a decree in every part of the kingdom of Babylon, for people to fear and reverence the God of Daniel, would be initiated and executed.  Thirdly, the experience was to personally prosper Daniel (Daniel 6:28).

Favor, is the key reason things played out the way they did in Daniel's life.  God's favor toward Daniel was in direct relation to Daniel's proper living and within this life properly reacting in the beginning of his circumstances.  Daniel received favor in the most elevated places of government.  He was the sole interpreter of the king's dreams and visions which saw it's own rewards.  And God saw to it that worship of Himself was allowed by His people while they were in pagan captivity - what an awesome God!

I say this for myself as well as for you the reader - the next time you are going through something you don't think you should be going through (maybe you don't even get a say in the matter, like Daniel), allow it to play out, being faithful to God and His way of living.  It never hurts to pray it out while you play it out either, but the main thrust here is not to force any issue.  Be observant as possible and be carefully selective with your words upfront in the situation.  Then the God of Favor will bless you according to His will for your life.

Monday, June 13, 2011

FAITH WITH THE RIGHT KIND OF ATTITUDE

Daniel's friends and brothers in the faith - Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were all insulted as captors by having their names changed.  Their original names reflected their Jewish background or belief in Yahweh.  The king now called them Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - after the gods the Babylonians worshiped.  Then in chapter three of Daniel we read about a very proud King, Nebuchadnezzar, that sets up an image of himself to be worshiped whenever the musicians make a certain call on their instruments.

Whether or not the king knew he would get a certain reaction out of Daniel's friends is mere speculation.  However, the decree was made, "the astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews" for not following the decree and the three Jewish captors were escorted in to the king's presence by a summon from the king himself.

"Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?  .......if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good.  But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace.  Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"

And now behold, faith with attitude (in the presence of arrogance).

"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from you hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:14-18)

Wow!  Who is the teachable moment for in this instance?  Daniel's three friends all knew where they stood.  It is the king that had the question(s) about the Judahite's faith and how far they would be willing to go for it.  In addition, this was just one of many opportunities God used Daniel and/or his friends to try to reach the king.  God still uses this faith with attitude to teach us many millenia later - who to stand for - God/Jesus, because He first loved us. When to stand for Him - all the time, even in the presence of a mighty king, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15).  How to stand for Him - fearlessly to the death.  Where to stand for Him - everywhere, everyone and everyplace needs to be saturated with the Gospel (Good News) about Jesus and His provision.

Ah!  To have this kind of boldness.  To have this kind of faith with the right kind of attitude.  Let it be said of me, my Lord, amen. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

DANIEL'S RESPONSE

Daniel 2:14 - 49

Daniel was not around for the ordeal that took place between his highly advanced-in-knowledge staff and the king of Babylon.

Talk about being on the short end of the stick!  Daniel did not even hear that he, his Jewish brothers, and his Babylonian counterparts were sentenced to death until almost the last minute.

Daniel's approach in Scripture is what initially halted a whole cabinet of officials and potential knowledge from certain death.  Verse 14 says,  "Daniel spoke to him [Arioch, commander of the king's guard] with wisdom and tact."

Daniel then "asked the king's officer" (v.15) about Arioch's charge, sought the king's presence and "asked for time" (v.16) so that he may fulfill the desire of the king to both speak the dream and it's interpretation.  Then he got a prayer team organized (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) and asked, actually Daniel instructed his brothers - "plead for mercy from the God of Heaven concerning this mystery" (v.18).  God came through.  He answered their cry.  The dream, once inside the king's head, was now revealed to Daniel's mind and the interpretation as well.

So Daniel seeks an audience with the king and reveals what God has revealed to him.  The result?  You can't fail when God gives you the answer(s).  In addition, to being correct, observe what happened afterward -

"Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him.  The king said to Daniel, 'Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.
Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him.  He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.  Moreover, at Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court." (vv. 46-49)

And to think all this started with Daniel's response to a dire situation that he was removed from, relating extremely well with those in authority, not challenging, but asking the right question to the right people in the right positions - "Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact."

How I hope and pray for the same kind of "wisdom and tact" in and out of times of great stress.  What charisma this man had!

DANIEL'S RESOLVE

Daniel 1:6-20

The phrase "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine" (v.8) implies to me he was not happy with his name change and those of his fellow Jewish brothers (v.7). 

God rewarded Daniel's resolve not to defile himself by causing the official to show "favor and sympathy to Daniel" (v.9), by supporting Daniel in a ten-day test of a particular diet, and by giving "knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning" (v.17), plus the understanding of "visions and dreams of all kinds" (v.17) to Daniel.

Daniel found what he could control and dedicated that to God.  In the midst of Daniel's captivity in Babylon and after a recent slap-in-the-face name change, God honored Daniel's resolve and Daniel's concern for the official's life.  The official was afraid that the diet would make the Jewish men appear undernourished, therefore his life would be required of him by the king.  But Daniel set up the ten-day test with him and God supernaturally honored this concern.  Great knowledge and understanding were granted Daniel and his team.  So rewarded was Daniel that the Scripture says,

"In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom." (v.20)

Imagine how God may choose to reward us if we will gut-out of our lives that which is defiling, ugly, sinful, and non-eternally productive to and for God.  He has got an awesome plan for our lives and when we learn to get out of the way or at least remove defilements so He can move through us, life is much more meaningful!