August 6

August 6

Daniel Prays for Jerusalem — 70 years, 70 weeks, & the Abomination of Desolation.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Daniel 9

Reading 2: Jeremiah 25:8-14

Reading 3: Matthew 24:3-27

Prophetic writing, such as we read today, can be a challenge to interpret correctly. This passage from Daniel has much to teach us, but much of its meaning is shrouded in mystery, to be understood later when the Lord returns. There is a fulfillment of these words that came in Daniel’s time, after the 70 years had passed for Jerusalem to be judged. But there is a deeper, greater fulfillment which will come when Jesus returns. Jesus alludes to this in His comments in Matthew 24.

The important principle for us all is to grasp the big picture and learn the foundational lesson, rather than seeking to unravel every detail and tie down every phrase to a specific event. Since prophecy often has multiple levels of symbolism and application, we can’t approach it like a spreadsheet or a timeline!

So Daniel’s prophetic experience shows us that God wants us to agree with His Word in prayer. It also teaches us that Jesus will be victorious over worldly ungodly powers, and that judgment will come to all who reject and oppose God’s rule. Finally we learn to endure and trust until suddenly Jesus completes what He has started.

Let’s rejoice in our hope today – whatever is happening in the world around us, Jesus wins and we live with Him forever!

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 5

August 5

Pause and reflect.

As we focus on prophetic dreams and symbolic visions, it is a good moment to pause and reflect. God is always open to honest questions from His children (such as Mary’s “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” which we will come to in a few weeks in our readings).

What questions do you have for God from your recent readings? He will answer as you take time to be still and ask Him face-to-face. The answer may not be what you were expecting (since you are not God), but they will open the door to deeper relationship with Him, and potentially to seeing His Kingdom come more fully in your life.

Have fun!

Mark.

August 4

August 4

Daniel & the Four Beasts — The Son of Man’s (i.e. Jesus’) coming & His kingdom.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Daniel 7

Reading 2: Mark 13:21-27

Reading 3: Mark 14:60-65

Daniel has already shown himself to be a godly man, and one who can interpret dreams with a prophetic spirit. Now the account of his life turns to show us something of Daniel’s own spiritual life – his prophetic dreams and their interpretation.

It is important with prophetic symbolism in scripture that we interpret through the lens of Jesus (because He is the image of the invisible God – to quote Paul – and because He came to reveal the Father to us). So it is helpful today to read how Jesus took Daniel’s vision and applied it to His own life, ministry, and Kingdom.

The Son of Man is a title for the Messiah, and Jesus is clearly very comfortable using it as His title. Daniel’s vision hundreds of years earlier foretells the coming of one who will be the savior of those who love God – who will one day wield all authority. This is our Savior Jesus – and He will come on the clouds of heaven from His place at the right hand of God the Father. That is what Daniel saw, and it is what we look forward to, whatever beast-like spiritual powers rule on earth for a time. We are on the winning side, and God will rule over all.

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 3

August 3

Daniel & Lion’s Den — Daniel prays three times a day & lives blamelessly.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Daniel 6

Reading 2: Psalm 55:16-19

Reading 3: 1 Peter 3:13-17

Do you remember how Daniel served God faithfully, despite the fickle power-focused rule of Nebuchadnezzar and his successor Belshazzar? Now we see that Daniel outlasts both rulers and is still serving God faithfully in the reign of Darius the Mede.

Faithful service to God is of great value, whether it is recognized or not, and in this case Daniel was recognized by Darius, who planned to put Daniel in charge of the whole Kingdom. Notice how serving God leads to favor because living God’s way is more fruitful.

But “office politics” come into play as Daniel’s colleagues find ways to manipulate the situation to their own benefit. Manipulation always plays on the lust for power and authority (which was satan’s sin originally). So Darius signs a law that boosts his own power – having everyone pray only to him for 30 days. There was no need for this law, except to trap Daniel. There are parallels of these circumstances today, and throughout history, but sadly the Church does not always learn from Daniel’s example.  What did Daniel do when he learned there was a new law that encroached on his religious liberty and threatened his life? He did what he always did – carried on his relationship with God by praying.

Of course the manipulative and jealous leaders reported him to the king, and Darius was forced to follow through and sentence Daniel to the penalty required under the silly law!

But we know that God shuts the lions’ mouths miraculously, and Daniel is saved. We know it was a miracle because the very same lions later devoured Daniel’s adversaries before they hit the floor of the lions’ den!

So where is our trust today? Do we face circumstances that are ungodly, maybe even designed to trap us and force us to deny our faith? Remember this: God is God. He is greater than every ruler and more powerful than any ungodly government system. Daniel knew this and proved it repeatedly. Maybe you and I will have the privilege of doing the same.

Let’s pray for our rulers (I suspect that’s what Daniel was doing both in his window at home before his arrest, and during his night with the lions). God is greater than them all, and wants them to know His love.

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 2

August 2

Daniel & Belshazzar’s Pride — The handwriting of God, pride, & humbling yourself.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Daniel 5

Reading 2: Psalm 62:9-12

Reading 3: 1 Peter 5:5-6

Notice how fickle worldly power is! In our previous chapter we read of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness and his ultimate restoration to power after acknowledging that God’s power is greater than his own. You would think that in a great kingdom like Babylon, which had been used by God to bring judgement to corrupt Israel, such a lesson would be recorded and remembered.

But no! Nebuchadnezzar’s successor Belshazzar lives with complete self-focus and decrees what he thinks is right, while ignoring (even demeaning) God. And the result is that he sees the handwriting on the wall. Yes, this account from the Bible is the source of that phrase which is in common use still today.

God will not be mocked forever, and everyone will ultimately face the One they denigrated. Then the proud find out that they, too, have little to offer in comparison to God (as Psalm 62 tells us).

This attitude is just as common today as it was in Daniel’s day. The powerful (in many nations) disregard God, but God is not threatened. The lesson for us is a hard one to learn. Daniel was fully focused on serving God, but he did not attack the ungodly powers until they sent for him and asked him to enlighten them. No Facebook rants or protest marches here – just focused honor and obedience to the One who is far greater than human authority. Belshazzar was the ruler of the world’s superpower and he was dealt with by God, not Daniel. In the meantime, Daniel goes on to live the same way under new rulers, as we shall see next time.

Have a great day!

Mark.

August 1

August 1

Daniel & Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream & Humbling — God establishes authorities.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Daniel 4

Reading 2: Daniel 5:18-21

Reading 3: Romans 13:1-4

After yesterday’s miracles and Nebuchadnezzar’s recognition of God’s power, today we read about his dream warning him of powerful personal consequences if he continues in his pride and arrogance. Clearly this king was full of himself, even if he recognized God’s hand in specific events!

Despite Daniel’s warning, Nebuchadnezzar does not change his ways and the insanity prophesied befalls him. His example becomes a lesson for his successor Belshazzar. The fault is to disregard God’s supremacy as creator of the world, and to act as if God has no authority, when in fact all authority comes from God.

This is a lesson for us too: we do well to honor all authority (godly or ungodly) because God has instituted that authority for His Kingdom purposes. No human authority is ever completely righteous, so we must learn to submit to imperfect rulers lest we fail to submit to God.

Have a great day!

Mark.

July 31

July 31

Daniel’s Three Friends & the Fiery Furnace — The fiery furnace & fiery trials in our lives.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Daniel 3

Reading 2: Isaiah 48:10-11

Reading 3: 1 Peter 4:12-14

Did you know that sometimes promotion leads to hardship? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were placed over the province of Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, but when the power-crazed king set up a statue and commanded everyone to bow down to it, the Jewish men could not comply. Their allegiance is to God, not to idols. This led to extreme hardship for them as the other officials (who were presumably jealous of their position) betrayed them to the king, and the king flew into a rage.

But when hardship comes, God is already in control. We would have been focused on praying that we would not be thrown into the fire; these three were instead focused on telling the king the truth – that they would obey God even if it meant their death.

When God shows Himself powerful in the heat of hardship, it can also lead to promotion. The king was so amazed that they survived the furnace without even smelling of smoke that he promoted them to even higher positions!

And Peter tells us that the sufferings we face unite us with Jesus – that is the best news a suffering person can hear!

Have a great day!

Mark.

July 29

July 29

Daniel & his Friends Obey God — Daniel deals with temptation.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Daniel 1

Reading 2: Proverbs 23:1-8

Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 10:13

After all the disappointments of the final years of the Kingdom of Judah, with God’s judgment and evil kings abounding, we now come to a most encouraging part of God’s Story.

In the midst of captivity, and punishment for sin, God blesses four young men from Judah who are selected for their strength and aptitude by Nebuchadnezzar’s leaders. And in the midst of the training regime they are able to continue to live in the way God commanded (not eating food offered to idols as was common in the Babylonian palace).

God gave them favor with those overseeing them, and they were able to prove that God’s blessing is more powerful than a rich diet or pagan spiritual talents. They are positioned for some mighty demonstrations of God’s presence, power, and purpose, during the long captivity of Judah in Babylon. Stand by for more adventures in the days ahead!

Have a great day!

Mark.

July 28

July 28

We pause a day earlier than usual, to mark the end of the kingdom of Judah. Now there is no nation ruled by a king loyal to God. All seems lost.

BUT God is at work!

All this is part of God’s plan!

As you pause and reflect today, how does this parallel your own experience? Do not despair! God will restore!

Someone near you may need to hear that today – will you share this with them?

Have a great day!

Mark.

July 27

July 27

Gedaliah (Southern Governor 7 months) — Jeremiah preaches “Don’t go to Egypt” but is taken.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 2 Kings 25:22-26

Reading 2: Jeremiah 42

Reading 3: Jeremiah 43

Now Judah is also under judgment, and a mere remnant remains in Jerusalem after king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took the best men away as captives. They are governed by a puppet ruler – Gedaliah – set in place by the Babylonians to keep order.

However, there are still some proud men in Judah who think they know best, and they murder Gedaliah, and then decide to flee to Egypt to be safe from the revenge of Nebuchadnezzar. But they ask Jeremiah to ask God what they should do. They at least pretend to desire God’s answers, until they do not line up with what they want to hear. But Jeremiah truly listens to God, and God tells Jeremiah the truth – that these men are deceitfully asking for God’s word, having already decided what they are going to do.

Poor Jeremiah and Baruch are caught up in the disobedience because they too are carried off to Egypt when the proud leaders escape there. But Jeremiah accurately prophesies that Nebuchadnezzar will bring an end to the once great nation of Egypt and all the rebels who fled there will die there.

For us, this sad tale is a warning; let’s be careful not to come to God on our own terms, and beware of doing what we have determined in our hearts to do if God’s Word does not confirm it. It is so easy for us to slip into sin by obeying our own desires rather than God’s will. But God is faithful and will speak truth to us, as He did to Jeremiah.

Have a great day!

Mark.