Daniel 4 to 6 Daniel, the righteous, served under several kings. Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius were given opportunities to renounce the gods of silver and gold, yet they clung to that which would not last. Nebuchadnezzar’s words show that he believed in Yahweh – at first. Daniel pleaded with him to renounce his ways, but he put it off and was humbled by God for 7 yrs. God sent Belshazzar a dramatic visual lesson, yet he chose to ignore the warning. That very night, he was assassinated, and Babylon fell. King Darius listened to the voices of fools and regretted that a righteous man, Daniel, would be thrown to the lions.
Nebuchadnezzar and Darius learned how gracious God is when they repented and gave glory to God. But Belshazzar, like Esau, sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. All three learned the hard way; God meant what He said.
Three kings, three decisions. Their choice was to accept God’s grace. However, like Pharaoh they thought, I will do it tomorrow. Principle: “Proud men will be humiliated, arrogant men will be brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” [Isa 2:17]
Two life lessons:
(1) Does God have to bring drama into your life to get your attention?
(2) God always has His person in place to speak for Him. Where has God placed you that you might be a godly influence?
Daniel 1 to 3 In our study of Ezekiel, we were challenged to live righteously in an unrighteous world. Ezekiel persevered for over 25 yrs. Daniel will do the same for over 70 +/- yrs. Both were models of what it means to be faithful and steadfast in challenging circumstances. Whereas Ezekiel faced his alone, Daniel had three friends to walk with him. All four were nobles or part of the upper class in Jerusalem, yet in Babylon, Ezekiel lived in a refugee camp by the river. Daniel and his three friends lived in somewhat luxurious quarters in the King’s palace. All were used by God to show the other captives and the wicked King that there is only one God, Yahweh.
God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take the ripe and full-fleshed figs in the first wave and the treasures of the Temple. [see Jer 24] He would protect them by placing the captives in quarantine and the Temple treasures in his god’s treasury. There they would lay protected until the 70 yr. captivity drew to a conclusion.
God allowed all of them to face tests to prove to the Judahites, the King, and us, that God alone is supreme. Daniel and his three friends would face the test of purity vs. defilement and faithfulness vs. unfaithfulness. God blessed them and allowed them to live and work in ungodly environments where they became role models of righteousness.
Today we live and move in a world that is more and more ungodly. We will be presented with tests to prove to others that God is God.
In Israel, long ago, God raised a prophet to tell God’s saving message, but the people turned away. For 45 yrs. Jeremiah faithfully reminded the people of their sin and consequences with no repentance. And so, just as Jeremiah prophesied, the nation was destroyed both physically and spiritually. God’s discipline was harsh and long, and Jeremiah’s heart was broken.
As Jeremiah wept, we should also. We should weep for our countrymen who hear the gospel and reject it. We should weep for ourselves if we have failed to share the truth. But even as he cried, he knew this truth which never changes:
“The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end. They are fresh every morning; your faithfulness is abundant!” [Lam 3:22-23]
Jeremiah poured out his pain in his writing. Do we cry as well for those who have heard and reject and those who have yet to hear?
Jeremiah 2 and 3 Have you ever heard these words: I don’t want you and I don’t need you?” These are heart-wrenching words that creep into our souls. God asks; what have I done that you have chosen to dismiss Me out of your life? You were once devoted to Me and loved Me just like a bride loves her new husband. Yet, now you find more pleasure in foreign gods and want to pursue them.
God reminds His people that they no longer even ask where God is. If they had asked God would have told them, as He did for the Church at Ephesus, you have lost your first love. “Remember from what high state you have fallen and repent.” [Rev 2:5] God is calling today just as He did then. We say we are Christians, but our walk and talk do not match. Instead, we are like broken cisterns. The true Living Water is available, but we say I have my shovel and will dig my own. The sin of pride is ever before us. Audaciously and coyly, we say: isn’t it right that you are a forgiver of sins and gracious beyond all that we can understand? And yet, our words are words of a faithless child because we go our wayward ways. We were only pretending.
As then so today, God is pleading; return to me. Break your rebellious ways, and I will be a Father to you once again. Is your faith real or fake? Are you just pretending or are you for real?
Psalm 112 The world clamors for peace and harmony, yet they deny the radical conversion that Christ performs when one yields to Him and chooses to bear His yoke. They choose ridicule rather than the path of godliness—yet they cannot deny the evidence which stares them in the face. They cannot understand how it is possible to stand firm when faced with adversity. They are like Job’s comforters, which could not wrap their minds around Job’s intense faithfulness amid the worst tragedies to befall a man. How could he sit in ashes and mourn yet keep his faith in God?
What was his secret?
Like the psalmist, Job, and the saints who chose Christ, they knew the blessing of walking in harmony with God. Each decided to let God train them to walk beside Him in the furrows of the good, bad, and ugliness of life and then recorded their steps on parchment for us to read. It is titled “trust and obey – there is no other way.” They could then see beyond the temporal circumstances to the eternal reward for those who walk uprightly. They submitted their will, heart, and mind to Him. They chose not to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of their mind. They knew no matter the circumstances of life: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed.” Therefore, we like the psalmist can say: “I will not be shaken, and I will remember Him who is just and knows the beginning from the end.”
Psalm 71 and 78 Getting older is not for sissies, but until we take our last breath, God has work for us to do. Senior citizens have much to offer the younger generation about the lessons gleaned from trials to blessings. But how do we ensure that the next generation knows these lessons? We must purposefully choose to take time to sit with them and share our life’s story. How many years are there between you and the next generation? Twenty or even fifty? One of my regrets is that my parents did not tell us about their lives even when asked.
Beloved, time is fleeting, and memories are being lost. We must begin to tell the next generation of our story—whether good or bad.
The psalmist is writing from his perspective of being “old and gray.” He has one request of the Lord. His prayer is that God allows him to remain until he tells the next generation about God’s strength and His power. What is your prayer? Do we choose to tell about His praiseworthy acts, strength, and the amazing things He has done? Do we choose to teach and speak of His splendor and tell about His marvelous deeds, power, and majesty?
What is your prayer this day? Don’t waste this opportunity! Prepare now to tell your story.
God blessed Job; “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.” James references Job “Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance…” [James 5]
Now, as we leave Job behind and move on into the psalms, written over thousand years, we once again read about the blessings God bestows upon those who are righteous, of whom Job is an example. King David, who most likely wrote this first psalm, summarizes what God calls blessed.
These people choose their companions wisely; they revere God by obeying and fearing Him. They feed on God’s Word day and night, delighting in His Law. They see themselves as the Lord’s heritage. In times of peace and war, God is their shield and sustainer, their salvation, and sanctifier.
They are proof of what Moses told the Israelites: teach your children and speak of God in your house, and as you walk along the path of life. Be sure to educate them in the night as well as in the day; if trained early on, he will remain steadfast and immoveable later in life. [Prov 22:6]
If God spoke about you, would He use the word “Blessed?”
Job 18 to 20 Are you feeling that God has abandoned you? Do you call and heaven is silent? Do others blame you for where you are spiritually or physically or emotionally? Then you will relate to Job.
When we are suffering, we need compassion; do we not? But, Job’s three comforters are anything but! He asks them, “how long will you torment me and crush me with your words.” We should take this as a lesson. Do we respond as these three men? Job’s heart is crushed. He is in pain. The last thing he wants to hear is that he is suffering because of some sin he is unaware of. Job says ten times you have reproached me. Where is your compassion?
While all of this is happening, heaven is silent. Have you ever thought heaven had shut its doors? Have you ever asked like Job; where are you, God? That has to be the hardest road to travel. When God is silent, we find it hard to be faithfully waiting and at peace, and it doesn’t help when others share harsh words. If there is one truth we can cling to at this juncture, it is what Job shared next:
“I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh, I shall see God Whom I shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.”
We all need that reminder. If you are facing a hard time like Job, underline that verse, memorize it, and cling to it. God may be silent, but He is still where He was yesterday and is today and will be tomorrow.
Do you assume something without concrete evidence? How would others label you? Zophar is what we call a “know-it-all.” He presumes without evidence and is an example for all of us.
Job 11 – 13 Have you ever met someone who is what we call a “know-it-all?” That would be a fitting description of Zophar. First, he denigrates Job. You said your teaching is flawless and pure in God’s sight, but if you are so wise, you must know that behind this circumstance, you stand convicted of sin. Remember, there are two sides to the wisdom coin; earthly and true. [James 3] Job reminds Zophar that God is key to understanding which wisdom is revealed. Is Zophar only looking at the earthly side of that coin? Zophar claims that God has only forgiven only some of Job’s sins, so he needs to relinquish his pride and seek God’s face for forgiveness.
Job tells Zophar: you are just like the so-called experts who extol their wisdom while alive, but when they die, so goes their wisdom. What God determines will come to pass regardless if we are wise or not. Instead we ought to pray: “keep me back from presumptive sins.” [Ps 19:13] Zophar would be prudent to heed those words.
Job says this has not happened because of my sin. Instead, God is orchestrating it for His purpose. “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28] Job will continue to trust God.
There are two life principles here: (1) don’t presume you understand God’s ways for some are revealed and some are hidden; [Deut 29:29] (2) remain faithful to God even in the hard times.
Do you know that there is no retirement in the Bible, right? When you are dating, did you talk about this subject? Probably not, but then again, some are forward thinkers and were thinking about that subject. Even God thought about retirement. In Numbers 8, he provided retirement for the Levites after the age of 50. They were to retire from performing the work of carrying the tent materials.
How does one prepare for that stage of life? The psalmist [Ps 71] looked back and noted “that he had leaned upon God since birth,” so he knew that God would sustain him in his old age when his strength failed. He and God were close friends. They walked and talked together each day, much like Enoch. Like the retired Levites, we are to share our wisdom with the younger generation. [Psalm 78] Are you developing the habit of teaching the younger generation about God? As a retired person, are you looking for ways to mentor the next generation—even if you don’t have grandchildren!
How’s your attitude? They say if you are a grumbler in your younger days, you will be a grumbler in your old age. Start now to develop an attitude of gratitude now so you will be a joy in your old age.