LESSONS FROM DANIEL (April 29, 2019)

I have spent several 1 hour sessions recently going through the book of Daniel. It is an extremely interesting book, recording the exciting adventures experienced by Daniel and his three fellow Israelite captives in the land of Babylon. Jerusalem had fallen and the elite had been taken en masse out of Israel. Daniel and his friends were among these, probably among the first to be taken to Babylon. My time in Daniel was well spent and I suggest that all my readers (both of you) follow my example and spend some hours In the Book.  

 A study of Daniel is particularly appropriate for our time. The problems Daniel and his friends faced are not dissimilar from those we face. They were torn from a culture where God was honored (if not obeyed) and found themselves in a culture without a God – at least one whose god had no effect, or perhaps a bad effect, on how men lived. In our case we have not been moved from one culture into another but our culture has changed around us. The culture we grew up in honored God, if they did not obey him. And the resultant ethic had a significant effect on past culture. 

The culture we now find ourselves in has little relationship to the culture that characterized our beginnings and early decades of our country. God is not only not honored but considered an obstacle to our wellbeing. Those who do continue to honor Him must be ridiculed and, if possible, punished. Businesses who refuse to cater “gay” (what a mis-description of reality) events are put out of business. And don’t expect things to change anytime soon. 

This is the culture we find ourselves in, not unlike that faced by Daniel and his friends. And since they prospered in this environment there must certainly be something we can learn from them. Perhaps the first thing is that they took their relationship to God seriously. The actions they took and the decisions they made grew out of their relationship to God and their desire to glorify Him. He was at the absolute center of their lives. Everything else was peripheral. I think too many of us get this backwards. Our life, with its needs and desires, is at the center, and all the rest, including our “Christian” things, (like prayer,witnessing) remain at the periphery.  

We, like these godly young men, need to take our lives in Christ far more seriously. Let’s get Christ at the center so all the stuff at the periphery will turn out right. Then every action we consider taking and every decision we consider making will contribute to our bringing glory to God. And shouldn’t that be our primary goal in life? This committed life demands discipline. May God help us to exercise that discipline. 

I’m beginning to experience the results of aging and am in the process of considering how to respond. My mind is not as agile as it once was. I find myself spending a good deal of time searching a shrinking vocabulary for the right word to express my thought. Am I still able to minister through “THE STORY”.  

If you read this blog, would you just send a “read” to my email address? desau@cox.net. 

DANIEL & FRIENDS (April 23, 2019)

There are many “short” stories that contribute to the “long” STORY that began in Eden and will culminate in the New Jerusalem. They fit into the history of Israel as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit into the larger picture.  

The conditions of these children of Israel have changed drastically. The northern kingdom had fallen much earlier (722 BC) and now in about 586 BC the southern kingdom had been totally defeated by Babylon. Many of the Israelites, especially of the upper classes, had been taken captive and settled in Babylon. Among them were Daniel and his three friends. In the Scripture from I Samuel thru II Chronicles we have read a great deal of the sins of Israel as they constantly rebelled against God. But somewhere in Israel there must have been pious families or faithful priests who had some influence. For Daniel and his friends were committed to God and to His commandments. They had obviously been exposed to the law of Moses and it had taken root in their lives. 

Upon arrival in Babylon they were immediately confronted with temptations. They were likely still in their teens when they arrived at what must have been the University of Babylon. They were offered rich foods (certainly not kosher) and wines which were probably intoxicating. All the  restraints  of family and “church” that could have affected their behavior were gone. But they remained faithful. They were well disciplined. I wonder how many of our young people (and the rest of us as well) in today’s churches would have exercised that kind of discipline.  

Perhaps the most important, or at least one of the most important component of our lives as Christians is discipline, usually translated as self-control. It is the final quality listed in Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22,23. By adding It at the end I don’t think Paul indicated that it was less important. Perhaps it wrapped things up because all of the preceding qualities had a relationship to self-control. Peter’s list of things that should be added to our faith are similar to Paul’s and also include self-control. 

The word, “self-control” may be a mite misleading. It is not our controlling the “self” but rather the self being controlled. And the power to control ourselves is not within us but must come from without, although we are also involved in the process. 

Perhaps I can illustrate that with an experience I had a few years ago (actually 70). I spent the summer of 1948 operating a grain combine from Oklahoma to Montana. At the front of the combine was a sickle bar that cut the grain and had constantly to be raised and lowered. The sickle bar probably weighed a half ton or more, and I, obviously, couldn’t lift it. But there was a toggle switch that operated an electric motor that did the heavy lifting. I think my using the switch is  a little like the desire to control the self. But the actual power to control comes from God’s Spirit. Only by his power are we able to display the fruit of the Spirit. Daniel and his friends obviously had the desire to honor Jaweh in their lives but, as they would later confess, it was God who provided the power.  

And, as is often the case, their exercise of discipline proved to have helped them. 

A second temptation faced them, perhaps soon after the first one. An image of the king was constructed and it was to be worshipped by every resident of the kingdom. The three friends of Daniel could easily have feigned obedience to the king by going through the motions. But they were committed to honoring their God and refused to compromise by not demonstrating their commitment to Jaweh. 

If there ever was a time when Christians should demonstrate their commitment to Christ it is today! There is so much compromise of principles by the “Christian” community that committed believers would be hard to miss. Ridicule of genuine believers is on the rise and believers are beginning to pay a cost for demonstrated commitment.  Whether we are prepared to meet the challenge is up for grabs.