The Great Statue – Daniel 2

In answer to the earnest prayers of Daniel and his friends, the Lord provided the prophet with both the king’s dream and its meaning.  Further revelations and visions in Daniel’s life will fill in more detail about the specific interpretation of the dream, but Daniel shares what he has been given so far with King Nebuchadnezzar.

29 As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will take place. Daniel 2:29 (NASB)

31 “You, O king, were watching and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary radiance, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. 32 The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its chest and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. Daniel 2:31 (NASB)

The great statue in the king’s dream represents the succession of future Gentile empires that will reign upon the earth from Daniel’s time until the second coming of Jesus Christ.  At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be installed over all people on our planet, with Jesus exercising physical leadership over the nations. 

The kings of Judah in David’s line were intended to reign until the birth of Christ, but due to their rejection of God, He ended their line with the exile into Babylon.  From here, the Messianic line would be preserved in the form of governors and others of more modest roles who will make up the remainder of the genealogy of Jesus.

The majestic statue in the dream has a head of gold at the top, representing King Nebuchadnezzar himself.  He would be superior in power and authority to the other Gentile empires that follow, including Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and its descendants.  As Daniel explains:

37 You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength, and the honor; 38 and wherever the sons of mankind live, or the animals of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has handed them over to you and has made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold.  Daniel 2:37-38 (NASB)

The next two empires, Medo-Persia, the chest and arms of silver, and Greece, the belly and thighs of bronze, hold successively inferior positions. They each occur lower on the statue and are composed of less precious metals.

39 And after you another kingdom will arise inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth.  Daniel 2:39 (NASB)

Much more will be said of the kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece further into the book of Daniel.

The lowest part of the statue had:

33 its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.  Daniel 2:33 (NASB)

The legs of iron and feet of iron and clay in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represent the empire of Rome and its derivatives.  This great and powerful empire eventually collapsed and broke into pieces, many of which still survive today as nations as well as their former colonies.  The book of Revelation tells us that there will be an attempt to re-assemble these pieces into a world government led by Antichrist at some time in our future.

40 Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; just as iron smashes and crushes everything, so, like iron that crushes, it will smash and crush all these things. 41 And in that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have within it some of the toughness of iron, since you saw the iron mixed with common clay. 42 And just as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong, and part of it will be fragile. 43 In that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in their descendants; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not combine with pottery.  Daniel 2:40-43 (NASB)

Though the last of the great human empires has now made its appearance, the dream does not end here.  There is another great empire coming after this which is not of this world.  It is of our Creator and His Christ.

34 You continued watching until a stone was broken off without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed to pieces all at the same time, and they were like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the entire earth.  Daniel 2:34-35 (NASB)

All the great strivings of mankind that do not honor the Lord will ultimately turn to dust.  The kingdom of God led by Jesus Christ will replace each of them into eternity.

44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 45 Just as you saw that a stone was broken off from the mountain without hands, and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is certain and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and paid humble respect to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and incense. 47 The king responded to Daniel and said, “Your God truly is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of secrets, since you have been able to reveal this secret.”  Daniel 2:44-46 (NASB)

Reflection

God permitted the great empires of history to rise, but they will all fall – only the divine will remain.  Christ’s arms are open to us to cleanse us of all our shortcomings and sins. He will gladly receive us into His new kingdom forever if we seek Him.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9 (NASB)

Lord, we turn to You and humbly confess our sins and shortcomings.  Thank you for providing for our cleansing through Your suffering and death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  Help us to live a better life through the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Revealing the Latter Days – Daniel 2

God sent a troubling dream to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and will use the prophet Daniel to give him its irrefutable interpretation.  Through this, God will reveal His future plan for all people on earth – a succession of four great world empires which will rule over them right down to the present day.  This dream ends with a glimpse of what is to come in our future – one last amalgamation of world nations in rebellion against the Lord under the leadership of a demonic and charismatic leader known as Antichrist.  This leader and his vast government will be swept away by the return of Jesus Christ and His installation as King over the entire world.  Unlike the four preceding empires, this divine kingdom will never be replaced.

Does this future sound far-fetched?  It may, but that is the reason God laid out the entire plan for us well in advance using Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  As each item becomes fulfilled, we can have more confidence in the items that remain.

When we last saw Daniel, he and his friends were under the shadow of death because of the king’s rage – no one could tell him and interpret his mysterious and worrisome dream.  All of the king’s spiritual advisors, including the up-and-coming Daniel and his friends, were to be immediately put to death for their failure to successfully answer the king’s demand.

But God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel after he and his friends sought the Lord with earnest prayer.

24 Thereupon, Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to kill the wise men of Babylon; he went and said this to him: “Do not kill the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king’s presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.”

25 Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!” 26 The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the secret about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, sorcerers, soothsayer priests, nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. 28 However, there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. 29 As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will take place. 30 But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living person, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.  Daniel 2:24-29 (NASB)

Daniel then revealed the dream to the king:

31 “You, O king, were watching and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary radiance, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. 32 The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its chest and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 You continued watching until a stone was broken off without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed to pieces all at the same time, and they were like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the entire earth.  Daniel 2:31-35 (NASB)

God revealed the secret dream to Daniel, and the king knew it was true.  Therefore, the interpretation that Daniel would provide had to be true, as well.  Surely the king was all ears as Daniel prepared to interpret the dream.

Reflection

When God brings in His kingdom on His terms, peace and security will finally reign over the earth.  Hunger, suffering, and tears will be a thing of the past.  His great light and love will replace all darkness.

Lord, teach us to number our days so as to use them for Your glory.  Help us to get off of paths which are not prescribed for us by You, and to follow You on the ones where we belong.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Times and Seasons – Daniel 2

What started out as a great advantage for the prophet Daniel and his friends had suddenly turned into a great peril.

Far from their home in Judah, unlike most of their fellow exiles in Babylon, they were being raised in King Nebuchadnezzar’s luxurious palace.  They were treated with favoritism and being given every avenue of training to help shape and form their young minds into future leaders of quality.

The problem was that a dream from the Lord troubled the king greatly and took all sleep from him.  He now demanded that his cadre of spiritual advisors get in touch with their gods to immediately let him know the meaning of the dream.  And in order to prove the veracity of their consultations, he demanded that they not only tell him the meaning but the undisclosed dream itself.

10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is no person on earth who could declare the matter to the king, because no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any soothsayer priest, sorcerer, or Chaldean. 11 Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.”

12 Because of this, the king became angry and extremely furious, and he gave orders to kill all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued that the wise men be killed; and they looked for Daniel and his friends, to kill them.  Daniel 2:10-14 (NASB)

Though Daniel and his friends had not yet officially entered the king’s service nor had any idea what was going on, these young men suddenly found themselves under a sentence of death, one that was to be carried out immediately.

14 Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon; 15 he said to Arioch, the king’s officer, “For what reason is the decree from the king so harsh?” Then Arioch informed Daniel of the matter. 16 So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him a grace period, so that he might declare the interpretation to the king.  Daniel 2:14-16 (NASB)

Daniel apparently had a high enough standing among the trainees that he could personally approach the king to ask for more time to get the needed interpretation.  His favorable impression and credibility convinced the king to allow a little more time before the fatal punishment order was carried out. 

Having succeeded in getting a little more time, Daniel knew what to do next: turn to the Lord in prayer and supplication and enlist his equally endangered friends to do the same.  It is safe to assume that their prayer time was desperate, heartfelt, and sincere.  The Lord would hear their plea.

17 Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, 18 so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his friends would not be killed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  Daniel 2:17-18 (NASB)

The Lord answered Daniel and his friends in their time of great need.  He has promised all of us that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; 20 Daniel said,

“May the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
21 It is He who changes the times and the periods;
He removes kings and appoints kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men,
And knowledge to people of understanding.
22 It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
23 To You, God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”  Daniel 2:19-23 (NASB)

The Lord is powerful enough to change the times and seasons for kings of the great world empires, but He also cares enough for us to help guide us through our most difficult seasons.  As we seek to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God, He will do His part and never let us down.

The troubles we are facing today will be removed by His loving hand, in His timing.  New problems will always be coming along, but He will heal us from those and resolve them as they come.  One day we will look up to suddenly realize that those problems are no longer weighing us down.  He is good and will lift them away even as we do not realize He is doing it.

No matter what has come against us, Daniel’s trials remind us to always call upon the name of the Lord and to never lose hope.  God knows what lies in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.

Reflection

Lord, we lift our troubles to You today.  Our times and seasons are in Your hand.  Thank you for all the many trials and tribulations You have safely brought us through, and we thank You that You will always continue to do so.  We praise You for your goodness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.   John Newton, 1772

Nebuchadnezzar’s Troubling Dream – Daniel 2

What sorts of things keep you awake as you lie in bed at night?  Hopefully nothing.  But for some, simply thinking about the list of things that need to be done the next day can interfere with a restful night’s sleep.

For others, lack of sleep on any given night can have a more serious cause.  It may be a damaged relationship, a loved one’s troubles, an unavoidable conflict, pain or a medical condition, hunger, fear, depression, worry, or even our own nagging conscience playing and replaying an imaginary tape of something regrettable we have said or done.

King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon had a fitful night like this.  Known historically as Nebuchadnezzar the Great, he was the most powerful person of his day.  Though he had absolute authority over every living creature within his empire, he could not go back to sleep because of a troubling dream, a dream sent to him directly by the Lord.  It would lead to the elevation of the prophet Daniel to the upper echelons of the king’s court and lay out the coming framework of Gentile world empires from the times of the kings of Israel until the coming return of earth’s final King, Jesus Christ.

The book of Daniel gives an account of the events surrounding the king’s dream.

1 Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. Then the king gave orders to call in the soothsayer priests, the conjurers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. The king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.”  Daniel 2:1-3 (NASB)

King Nebuchadnezzar had a vast court of spiritual advisors, the wisest and most powerful people in his empire.  These were top representatives from every known spiritual group, but without the inclusion of Daniel and his friends, this court did not yet have any believers in God Almighty.  The group would soon discover that without access to the one true God, they would be helpless in a most desperate situation, and totally dependent upon the mercy of a God they did not know to save them.

King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that the advisors draw upon all of their spiritual powers and forces to interpret his troubling dream.  But, to ensure that their interpretation was truly from the gods, he insisted that they tell him the dream first.  This would be an easy test of the validity of their interpretation of the dream.

The advisors suddenly found themselves in a very dangerous situation.  None of them had any idea what the dream was, and whatever forces they called upon did not either – this was a dream directly from the Lord.  They begged King Nebuchadnezzar to reveal the dream to them so they could accurately give its meaning.  But in his distrust of them, he would have none of it.

Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” The king replied to the Chaldeans, “The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be turned into a rubbish heap. But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” The king replied, “I know for certain that you are trying to buy time, because you have perceived that the command from me is firm, that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, so that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is no person on earth who could declare the matter to the king, because no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any soothsayer priest, sorcerer, or Chaldean. 11 Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.”  Daniel 2:4-11 (NASB)

Nebuchadnezzar had the authority to kill them all for being fraudulent, and he was fully intending to give the order to begin doing so if they failed to present him with the dream.

Meanwhile, Daniel and his friends had no idea what was going on either with the dream or with any of the deadly consequences that were about to ensue.  This little group was on the fringe of the larger group of spiritual advisors, and though they had not been called upon by the king, they would suffer along with all the others under the king’s judgment.

12 Because of this, the king became angry and extremely furious, and he gave orders to kill all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued that the wise men be killed; and they looked for Daniel and his friends, to kill them.  Daniel 2:12-13 (NASB)

There are times in life when we are absolutely powerless over evil and distressing events around us and the only hope we have is to earnestly pray and to put our desperate situation in the hands of a loving and powerful God.  That is exactly what Daniel and friends are about to do, and God will answer their prayers in a remarkable way.

Reflection

When was the last time you were in the middle of a life crisis?  How did God bring you through?  Are you in one now?

Lord, we lift up those who are going through difficult times, both in the things we know about and the things we do not.  Bring them Your peace and presence in the eye of the storm and guide them safely through to the other side.  May You receive all the praise, honor, and glory for their deliverance.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The King’s Favor – Daniel 1

Sometimes in life we get warm treatment and appreciation from those above us in authority, while other times, we cannot seem to gain their approval no matter how hard we try.

Mostly these are just the ups and downs of a normal life.  But there may be occasions when we face unique circumstances, difficult or otherwise, which were put there by God to achieve His divine purposes through us.

It is evident from the Bible that God likes to use people of faith as instruments to help reflect His power and glory to others.  Two examples are the prophet Daniel, who will serve under King Nebuchadnezzar, and Jacob’s son Joseph who served under Pharaoh of Egypt.  Both youths were carried off from their homes as captives and placed into situations not of their own choosing.  But God raised both to be in their king’s court and to provide a vital service to the Lord’s people.

God granted Daniel and his three friends great favor in both intellectual learning and spiritual discernment.  Like Joseph before him, Daniel would become the most trusted advisor to the king as well as a prophet and messenger from God.    

17 And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every kind of literature and expertise; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.  Daniel 1:17 (NASB)

When it came time for the four youths to be presented before King Nebuchadnezzar, the hand of God was evident.

18 Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. 20 As for every matter of expertise and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the soothsayer priests and conjurers who were in all his realm. 21 And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.  Daniel 1:18-21 (NASB)

Daniel and his friends had made the decision to put God first in their lives, and they were used by Him to provide a great service.  Their journey would not be an easy one, though, even living in the king’s palace.  There always seemed to be some enemy or challenge to come against them, just as we often find today.

Few of us are in a position of privilege such as residing in luxury or can make the claim of being “without blemish” as these four youths were reputed to be.  Face it, most of us are quite blemished!  But that is why Jesus Christ came to earth the first time, to die as a sacrifice for our blemishes and failings, and to be raised from the dead so that we may enjoy newness of life. 

As Daniel’s prophesies will point to in meditations to come, Jesus will return to earth one day to establish and reign over a global eternal kingdom. This will replace the succession of four great world empires as discussed in Daniel’s writings, and their derivatives that are still found in our world today.

Like the four youths in Nebuchadnezzar’s court, may the Lord grant us the strength to stay faithful to Him no matter what trials we are facing today.  May His hand of favor extend to us and deliver us from our troubles by His strength, purity, and power.

Reflection

Lord, we are not without blemish in our lives.  Forgive us for our sins and shortcomings and help us to follow You, walking as godly women and men.  Use us to shine Your divine light in a lost and hurting world.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Relying Upon God – Daniel 1

I think it is safe to say that most of us have a battle with something we are failing to win in our own strength.  It is difficult to faithfully wait out God to come to our aid, so we often decide to help Him out with our own ideas and schemes.  As a good friend once asked me when I tried this, “How did that work out for you?”  Pretty poorly, to be honest.

One speaker I heard had some good advice on the topic:

“If you are willing to choose God’s way, God will make a way.”  B Gallatin

The young, future-prophet Daniel was in this type of predicament.  He and his friends were carried off against their will from Jerusalem to Babylon as part of a mass deportation by King Nebuchadnezzar.  But unlike the vast majority of exiles, Daniel’s group was hand-picked to live in the king’s palace to be trained and educated for leadership in their new home.  They were definitely getting a first-class treatment in a situation that was otherwise anything but.

Realizing their exclusive opportunity, the obvious choice was to not make any waves or raise any objections that might end their special treatment. 

But Daniel and his friends had a deep faith in God and first and foremost wanted to walk in a right relationship with Him.  For a young Jewish person in Daniel’s time, this meant keeping a kosher diet in accordance with the law of Moses.  The luxurious food from Nebuchadnezzar’s table that was to be put before them came into direct conflict with the will of the Lord for them. 

Rather than compromise to get along, Daniel followed his conscience and did the risky thing: speak up.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.  Daniel 1:8 (NASB)

Life offers no shortage of temptations to compromise with God’s will.  Sometimes there are gray areas where we are not sure exactly what God’s will is for us.  Other times, we know exactly what it is, but are tempted to just put it out of our minds and move forward anyway.  For Daniel, it was clear what he needed to do, and he bravely declined the temptation to ignore God’s wishes.  Because of his faithfulness, God granted Daniel favor with his commander and overseer.  But the overseer then had some concerns of his own.

Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials. 

10 The commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has allotted your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking gaunt in comparison to the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.”  Daniel 1:9-10 (NASB)

Now the overseer of the commander was also at risk.  If Daniel ever had an excuse to back out of what he knew to be right, this was his chance.  But he would not.

11 But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please put your servants to the test for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

14 So he listened to them in this matter, and put them to the test for ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their appearance seemed better, and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. 16 So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.  Daniel 1:11-16 (NASB)

God rewarded the faithfulness of Daniel and his friends by providing for them (and their overseer) in an unexpected way.  If we are willing to do things God’s way, He will never let us down.  Things may not happen as quickly as we would like to ease our concerns, but if we will be faithful, He will be too.  As someone has said:

God is never too late, but rarely early.   Anonymous

The New Testament makes clear that Christians are free to enjoy all foods, but many Jesus- (Jeshua-) worshippers of Jewish descent continue to follow kosher dietary laws to honor their original calling.  

Reflection

What ongoing battle in your life has a hold over your thoughts and emotions?  Most of us have something negative going on that is beyond our ability to control.

Let us take this moment to turn them over to God and ask Him to help us honor and wait upon Him rather than to do something reactionary and foolish that will only end up making things worse.

Lord, we are powerless over certain negative things in our lives that are coming against us.  We ask You to step in and help resolve these situations.  Grant us Your peace and serenity by the power of the Holy Spirit as we wait for Your action.  Help us to resist the temptation to take things into our own hands.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Prophet In the Palace – Daniel 1

The prophet Daniel would be a great bright spot in the history of the people of Israel.  God used him to bring hope to the exiles who had been carried off from Jerusalem into Babylon after their defeat by King Nebuchadnezzar. 

Daniel was a person of great faith who would serve in positions of authority under top leaders from both the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires.  He would experience severe testing of his faith and also be given divine visions with tremendous impact for all believers who follow.  These visions provided insight into the coming world powers, the succession of their rising and falling, and end times events associated with the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Through Daniel, God would lay out the framework for the coming kingdoms, both human and divine.

The book of Daniel begins with a setting of the stage for his emergence as a great prophet. 

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.  Daniel 1:1-2 (NASB)

God used Nebuchadnezzar to bring an end to the line of the kings of Judah.  From here forward, the line of the Messiah would include governors rather than kings followed by even more humble positions up until the birth of Jesus.

The prophet Ezekiel would dwell among the exiles by the River Chebar in Babylon, but the Lord would call Daniel to live and be His mouthpiece in the luxury of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace.  The events leading to his call begin this way:

Then the king told Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom there was no impairment, who were good-looking, suitable for instruction in every kind of expertise, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability to serve in the king’s court; and he ordered Ashpenaz to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king also allotted for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and ordered that they be educated for three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed-nego.  Daniel 1:3-7 (NASB)

God extended great favor to Daniel, placing him in the king’s palace for God’s own purposes.  The Lord had a tremendously important role for Daniel to play and selected him from among all his peers to be the one to represent Him.  There are strong parallels between the position Daniel played in service to King Nebuchadnezzar and the trial-filled, life-saving role Joseph played under Pharaoh of Egypt, as described in Genesis 41.  (This is a different Joseph than Jesus’ stepfather, who came onto the scene much later).

Through studying the scriptures available to him, Daniel would discover from the writings of the prophet Jeremiah that the people of Judah would be in exile in Babylon for seventy years.  This time period allowed their farmland to honor the sabbath rest required by the law of Moses yet ignored by most of the people.

34 ‘Then the land will restore its Sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and restore its Sabbaths. 35 All the days of its desolation it will have the rest which it did not have on your Sabbaths, while you were living on it.  Leviticus 26:34-35 (NASB)

When the seventy years of sabbath rest for the land were completed, Daniel saw that the people would begin to return to the land.  He would intercede in prayer on their behalf and God would hear Daniel’s request.  Daniel’s prayer honored and drew upon the law of Moses as presented in the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so loathe them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. 45 But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, so that I might be their God. I am the Lord.’” Leviticus 26:44-45 (NASB)

God loves all of His people deeply but must at the same time honor His own holy law.  Because of His great love, He always makes provision for those of us who are unable to follow His perfect law ourselves.  Jesus Christ lived a perfect, humble life then gave Himself on the cross for us to fulfill the law of Moses. By sacrificing His own holy life on our behalf, He did for us what we clearly could not have done for ourselves. We now have the ability to have our own imperfections covered by His pure holiness if we so choose.

The book of Daniel will show several examples of God stepping in to protect His faithful servants during times of trial.  May we all learn much about God’s will, protection, and great eternal love for us as we go through the book.

Reflection

Where have I seen God step in for my protection or to make up for my own shortcomings in life?

Father, we are so grateful for all of the generous blessings of life that You extend to us.  Forgive us for all of the times we have fallen short and help us to honor You and Your holiness with our thoughts and actions today.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

A Closing Vision – Ezekiel 43

This meditation closes out our look at the book of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was God’s prophet to the community of believers who had been expelled from Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar and carried off with their wealth into his nation of Babylon. 

Ezekiel lived in an exile community by the river Chebar.  At the same time, approximately 100 miles away, Daniel was prophet to the king’s palace. He would be the Lord’s mouthpiece to Nebuchadnezzar and all the leaders who succeeded him as long as the exiles were in the land.  Both prophets had much to say about their current time as well as far into their (and even our) future.

God used Ezekiel to send a message of hope to the exiles from Judah who had been sent to Babylon as a consequence of them totally rejecting the One who had blessed them.  Instead of worshiping the Lord who had given them such a good land filled with vineyards and olive trees and blessed by the dew of heaven, they turned to worship other gods from the nations around them.  There was nothing even remotely holy about their new forms of “worship” service.

But God had not forgotten or abandoned His beloved nation.  Far from it.  He gave a series of visions to Ezekiel to share His love for them, ending with a grand one about His final return to earth to live among His people forever.  This last vision describes the arrival of the Messianic age, the culmination of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. 

Ezekiel’s final vision was directed by an angel from God. The two looked down from a mountain upon the temple area in Jerusalem and watched a number of events unfold.  Some of the vision’s images and descriptions appear again centuries later in the apostle John’s own visions recorded in the New Testament book of Revelation. 

With his companion angel showing the way, Ezekiel writes:

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east; and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone from His glory. And it was like the appearance of the vision which I saw, like the vision which I saw when He came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision which I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the Lord entered the house by way of the gate facing east. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner courtyard; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.

Then I heard Him speaking to me from the house, while a man was standing beside me. And He said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever.  Ezekiel 43:1-7a (NASB)

God promised that His Spirit, which had earlier been removed from the temple, would one day return there.  This process was initiated with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, ten days after the risen Christ ascended into heaven. 

Jesus the Messiah has promised to return again to walk on the earth, this time to rule and reign over the world from His throne in Jerusalem.  God’s Spirit continues to fill hearts around the globe, with believers everywhere making up the true temple of God as living stones.  This filling began at Pentecost in Jerusalem and is growing out from there to this day.  Ezekiel has also promised a new outpouring of God’s Spirit on the nation of Israel in the end times.

God called Abraham, the father of our faith, and promised that through him, the Lord would extend generous blessings to everyone.  Beginning with Abraham and continuing down the line of Judah to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, this promise has been and is being fulfilled among us.   One day all prophecy in the Bible, including Ezekiel’s, will clearly be accomplished before our eyes. 

May you be richly and generously blessed by the Lord today.

Reflection

God promised to bless all nations when He called out Abram (Abraham) to be the father of a special people.  What started with this kernel of a promise continues to spread each day through the gift of faith and the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon believers everywhere.  As God promised Abraham:


And I will make you into a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  Genesis 12:2-3 (NASB)

Today is a great day to reach out to the Lord in faith.  He is right there, loves you deeply, and longs to be a blessing to you.

Father God, thank You for Jesus who went to the cross for my sin and was raised from the dead for my eternal life.  I ask for Your purification and cleansing today.  Free me from the harmful thoughts and habits that sometimes grip my mind and soul.  Bless me so that I may sit at Your feet and learn from You.  In Jesus’ name we ask this, Amen.

I Will Pour Out My Spirit – Ezekiel 39

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV)

Without the Spirit of God impacting our hearts, we cannot know or believe the things of God.

God is reaching out to all people at all times, but most of the time we are resistant to His invitation of faith.  We want to do things our own way and live our life exactly as we choose.  After all, haven’t we made it this far in life just fine without the benefit of God in our lives?  That is what many of us have believed.  But in fact, a loving God has been with us the whole time.

In the present day, the people of Israel have been regathered from all over the world into a restored nation.  Many citizens there believe it all happened only through the efforts of people, and that God doesn’t even exist, let alone played a role in their nation’s creation. 

The prophets Ezekiel and Joel tell us that one day, this shared belief will be challenged.  A massive invasion of Israel will take place under the leadership of one named Gog, the driving force behind an alliance of attacking nations.  Every technological defense known to man will be employed and will fail, leading to a desperate plea for help from Almighty God.

God has promised in His word that He will hear and answer their plea in that hour.  This will come in a way that will not only strike down the invaders but will shake the heavens and the earth to their very limits.  No person on earth will be unaffected during this great, end-times battle.  It will mark the historical end of the kingdoms and empires of people and the beginning of the eternal rule of the kingdom of God.

Ezekiel writes of this day:

“On that day I will give Gog a burial place there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea, and it will block the way of those who would pass by. So they will bury Gog there with all his horde, and they will call it the Valley of Hamon-gog (Literally the multitude of Gog).

21 “And I will place My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. 22 And the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God, from that day onward.

27 When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall show Myself holy through them in the sight of the many nations. 28 Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then I gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. 29 I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” declares the Lord God.  Ezekiel 39:11,21-22,27-29 (NASB)

Eyes will be opened all over the world when God pours out His Spirit into the hearts of women and men.  Faith will take root and a true recognition of God’s presence and identity will be known to all.

The prophet Joel also writes about this coming event:

28 “It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will have dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
29 And even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

30 I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire, and columns of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
32 And it will come about that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
Will be saved; Joel 2:28-32a (NASB)

Faith will cover the earth when God pours out His Spirit upon diverse people of all nations.  A first taste of this occurred with the birth of the Christian Church at Pentecost, where people of faith were gathered in Jerusalem from all the known God-worshiping nations of that time.  The apostle Peter even quoted a portion of this scripture in his first sermon to the new believers there.  But the final fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy will not come until the onset of the day of Lord and will be born of the great struggle that Israel must go through to fulfill prophetic scripture.

Reflection

Can you think of a time when a great personal trial resulted in a deeper faith and closer relationship with God?  Did He bring you safely through?

Lord, thank You that you promise to never let go of us.  Build up our faith through the gifting of the Holy Spirit and the granting of blessings and protection each day of our lives.  May You be glorified forever.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The Day of the Lord – Joel 2

Though the prophet Joel lived hundreds of years before Ezekiel, both prophets wrote of the same future event – a massive invasion of the regathered and restored nation of Israel.  This catastrophic aggression by a leader named Gog from Magog will involve a vast alliance of countries.  It will occur towards the latter days of human history during a time period known by the prophets as the “day of the Lord”.  This event will trigger the next era of history, the ushering in of the kingdom of God and His time.

With no one else to turn to during the attack, the people of Israel will desperately seek the Lord for deliverance from these overpowering foes.  And God has promised in His word that He will hear their prayer and save them in this hour, inflicting a harsh judgment upon the invaders.

Joel is the first of many prophets to refer to this day, which starts with this invasion as a precursor to the return of Jesus Christ and ends with the installation of Christ’s kingdom rule over all the earth.  Though the war’s focus will initially be in the eastern Mediterranean region, this event will ultimately have a tremendous impact on all the nations of the earth.

The prophet Joel writes:

Blow a trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
For the day of the Lord is coming;
Indeed, it is near,
A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness.
As dawn is spread over the mountains,
So there is a great and mighty people;
There has never been anything like it,
Nor will there be again after it
To the years of many generations.
A fire consumes before them,
And behind them a flame devours.
The land is like the Garden of Eden before them,
But a desolate wilderness behind them,
And nothing at all escapes them.
Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;
And like war horses, so they run.
With a noise as of chariots
They leap about on the tops of the mountains,
Like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble,
Like a mighty people drawn up for battle.  Joel 2:1-5 (NASB)

Ezekiel also wrote about this latter-day invasion led by Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38.

14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord God: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? 15 You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. 16 You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.  Ezekiel 38:14-16 (NASB)

Though we could never know the day nor the hour of Christ’s return, we are encouraged to be aware of the signs and the seasons.  A massive invasion of Israel by a large alliance of nations in the latter days would certainly qualify as such a season.

As Jesus told His disciples in the closing days of His ministry on earth:

28 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Luke 21:28 (NASB)

In Christ we have hope, even in those times when our world is shaking apart.  Nothing is too great for Him to touch, heal, and restore.  May you know Him and His peace today.

Reflection

Each of us face times when our worlds are shaken to the core.  Attacks come in many forms, and we often face more than one serious problem at a time.  In our own strength, we may be tempted to give up fighting and to surrender to the temptation to despair.  Yet Christ has promised to never leave us nor abandon us.  In our darkest hour, we can turn to Him for comfort, healing, and grace.  His will for us is good and surrounded with love.

Lord, You know the problems that I am facing today.  I humbly seek Your help and deliverance.  Bring healing, wholeness, and peace.  Forgive me for my sins as I forgive those who have sinned against me.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.