Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Parliament and Big Ben, London, UK

God is still God even when everything’s falling apart
Daniel 1: The Master handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him.
My devotional journey moves now to the book of Daniel. I’m glad to arrive here. For several months I’ve spent time in some of the hard scrabble writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. I’m ready to enjoy some devotional reading of some of the greatest stories of the Bible. Daniel isn’t above giving us visions and prophecies. In fact, his book is divided almost equally between stories of God’s deliverance and prophecies of God’s sovereignty. For now, though, I’m looking forward to Daniel’s rise to prominence in Babylon, the story of the fiery furnace, and, of course, the lion’s den! The events of Daniel take place around 600 years before Christ. When King Jehoiakim of Judah rebels against his master Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon Jerusalem is attacked and brought to her knees. The Temple is ransacked and many of its citizens are taken captive. Among the captives are members of the royal line. Nebuchadnezzar’s policy is to pick of the best of the people of this defeated nation and indoctrinate them into the ways of his nation. Daniel is one of those chosen for this. Off he goes to Babylon, apparently, under the control of a king and government that has no interest in his Hebrew heritage. In this dark hour of uncertainty it may seem to Daniel and friends that God had lost interest in them, but it isn’t so. Things are just getting interesting!
Take Away: When it seems all is lost the Lord is just getting started!

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Hyde Park – the Serpentine – London, UK

Winning in little ways first
Daniel 1: Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food.
The hardest time for me to stay on a diet is when I’m on vacation. There are so many nice places to eat, we’re out of our routine, and there’s the strange notion that “what happens on vacation stays on vacation.” One “off diet” meal leads to another and I end up bringing home, not just pleasant memories and photos of all the places we saw, but a few extra pounds too. Of course, Daniel and his companions aren’t on vacation. They’ve been taken against their will to a distant land with little hope of returning home. Even if they could go back, things are very different than when they left. Still, they’re in very pleasant surroundings. They’re part of the household of the most powerful king on earth and they’re being groomed to serve in the royal court. Their rations aren’t bread and water but, instead, are the richest of foods and the finest of wines. The thing is that their religion has strict dietary rules. That pork chop might look quite tasty, but it’s forbidden to them by their God. If we struggle with our diets just because we’re a few hundred miles from home, think of their struggle. The Temple, Jerusalem, and their family ties are all in their past. Do the rules even apply anymore? If they do just go along with what is being asked of them where will it take them next? Does saying “yes” here mean they’ll be expected to say “yes” somewhere else, like, for instance, the worship of an idol? Daniel decides to draw the line right where he is. He’s a follower of God and God has given him some dietary rules. He’ll be respectful, but he’ll hold steady at this minor point. If he never starts down the path away from God he’ll never end up where that path leads. I don’t know if this passage will help me stay on my diet or not, but it certainly can help me remember that spiritual failure doesn’t start with my rejecting God in some big way. Rather, it starts with little things. If I win there, I’m much more likely to conquer the “biggie” when it shows up.
Take Away: If we never start down the path away from God we’ll never end up where that path leads.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – London – Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

God has ways of getting our attention
Daniel 2: If it please your majesty, tell us the dream.
Nebuchadnezzar is having some repeating, vivid dreams and he’s sure they’re a message from some god. He has an entire division of wise men who are supposed to be experts in such things but he suspects that they’re all just carnival fortune tellers. He knows that if he tells them his dream that they’ll make up an interpretation so he decides to really put them to the test. Not only are they to interpret his dream, they’re to first tell him the dream, itself. If they can do that he’ll know something supernatural is going on. Nebuchadnezzar also has decided on an incentive plan for his wise men. If they can’t tell him his dream he’ll kill them and their families. If they do tell him, he’ll make them rich beyond their wildest dreams. I can’t help but feel sorry for the fortunetellers who are in over their heads. If the king told them his dream some would, no doubt, take it quite seriously and try to figure it out for him. I’m also a bit frustrated with Nebuchadnezzar. Here’s a man arrogant in his power. The lives of all these men and their loved ones (including Daniel and his friends) are, in his eyes, disposable. However, the Lord knows all of this and is using it for his own purposes. Nebuchadnezzar has already been impressed with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah as individuals. Now, he’s going to find out about the God they serve.
Take Away: The Lord has ways of getting our attention.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – London – Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Mystery solver
Daniel 2: There is a God in heaven who solves mysteries, and he has solved this one.
Daniel is the interpreter of dreams. When Nebuchadnezzar has a disturbing dream it’s Daniel who comes through, not only with the interpretation of the dream, but the dream itself. This good man is always careful to give credit where credit is due, and he tells this pagan king that it’s his God who’s solved this mystery. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men” can’t do it, but God can and has. Daniel describes the dream and then he explains the meaning. The vexing mystery is unraveled for Nebuchadnezzar and he likes what he hears. I haven’t had any deep, meaningful dreams of late. However, life does have more than its share of mysteries. Who hasn’t asked, at some point, “why?” If you’ve never received one of those middle-of-the-night phone calls I’m happy for you but don’t think that call will never come. Sooner or later we all face some mystery of life. I’m glad today to be reminded that “there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries.” In this statement Daniel reveals his Source. God is the great Mystery Solver.
Take Away: The Lord can unravel the mysteries of our lives.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – London – Riding the city bus

First steps of a long journey
Daniel 2: Your God is beyond question the God of all gods, the Master of all kings.
So, with Nebuchadnezzar now convinced that the Lord is God and Master of all, things are going to smooth out for the Hebrews, right? Wrong! Truth be told, Nebuchadnezzar hasn’t a clue. He takes Daniel’s dream interpretation and goes right out to build a statue of himself, based on that dream. He then demands that everyone, including those who worship the Master of all kings, bow down to him instead. I’m telling you he’s clueless! The dream episode impacts Nebuchadnezzar and in that his attitude concerning God Almighty changes. However, his application of this new knowledge is skewed and greatly lacking. In fact, he’s years away from anything close to a humble relationship with his Creator. I’ve seen it in people’s lives. A person prays the sinner’s prayer and receives Christ and then, within two weeks does something so ill advised that I can hardly believe it. At one time I would have concluded that they had “back slid.” However, I’ve come to realize that, while it’s true that some have “looked back” others are still in the process of becoming believers. They aren’t sure what it means to follow Jesus, so they do silly stuff and stumble along, putting their spiritual lives in great jeopardy. Nebuchadnezzar has made a big move in declaring Daniel’s God the God of all gods. However, he’s a long way from what that God of all gods wants to accomplish in his life. In fact, his journey has only begun.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for the crisis moments, but at the same time, recognize that they are but stepping stones in a longer journey.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – In the Cotswolds, UK – thatched roof

The Nebuchadnezzar school of leadership
Daniel 3: Anyone who does not kneel and worship shall be thrown…into a…furnace.
Any pollster will agree that an opinion freely given is more valuable than one that starts with, “If you don’t say this I’ll kill you.” One response of Nebuchadnezzar to his dream is to build a statue of himself and then command everyone to worship it. Can’t you imagine him watching this show and commenting, “See how they love me!” The truth of the matter is that there’s a lot more self-preservation than love going on in that event. This is leadership at its worst. A boss who says, “Do it or I’ll fire you” or a parent who says, “Do it or I’ll whip you” or a pastor who says, “Do it or God will get you” is a graduate of Nebuchadnezzar’s school of leadership. In this case, what the king wants is wrong in the first place, but even if what he wanted people to do was clearly the right thing he’s going about it in the wrong way. Real leaders lead by vision and example. People follow because they’ve made that vision their own and believe that the leader is the person who can help them get there. Jesus doesn’t say, “Follow me or you’re going to hell.” Instead, he says, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.”
Take Away: Real leaders lead by vision and example.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Upper and Lower Slaughter, UK

He’s still in the fire
Daniel 3: I see four men, walking around freely in the fire.
A “theophany” is the appearance of God in human forum, specifically in the Old Testament. Abraham and Jacob and Moses have such encounters and then there’s this incident: three men are tossed into the fire, but the king sees four. I understand that there are theological reasons to hesitate here, but I’m glad to hide behind the “devotional” aspect of my writing and leap wholeheartedly into this fire! The Hebrews are being executed because of their faithfulness to the Lord. Then, in the fire there’s a fourth man who, even the pagan king, can tell is “God-like.” On this day Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experience a “theophany.” They meet the Lord in that furnace and he protects them from the fire! The furnaces of life might scare me to death, but it’s in those places that I find one who’s not only unafraid, but is in complete authority. Since he’s God he can appear in whatever form he wants, and because he’s God there’s nothing that’s going to happen to me there that he does not allow and can’t see me through.
Take Away: There’s nothing that can happen to us that the Lord doesn’t allow and that he can’t see me through.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – London – Westminster Abbey

God trusting us to trust him
Daniel 3: The God we serve can rescue us…but even if he doesn’t….
I love this story! The pagan king orders the three Hebrew men to worship his statue; it’s either worship or die in the furnace. Their response is one for the ages: “The God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace…but even if he doesn’t…we still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” Now, that’s trusting faith! I’ve never been where they are and I hope I never am. However, if such a day comes I pray that I’ll have the same backbone they did. At a much less intense level, I’m taken by their “even if he doesn’t” statement. They knew what God “could” do but they weren’t sure of what he “would” do. If they’re given a choice, they’ll vote for divine rescue, but, obviously they aren’t the ones choosing. If they have to, they’ll go with option two: obedience even to death. I, too, believe the Lord knows how to rescue his people. However, there are times when it seems God has something bigger going on and my predicament isn’t at the core of what’s happening. At times like that the Lord trusts me to trust him. So, “even if he doesn’t” do what I want, I declare my allegiance to him and then hold fast to it.
Take Away: The great test of faith isn’t believing for a miracle. Rather, it’s believing when the miracle never comes.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Windsor Castle, UK

Take your pick
Daniel 4: Make a clean break with your sins…quit your wicked life…then you will continue to have a good life.
Nebuchadnezzar’s been dreaming again. This time he dreams of a larger-than-life tree that commands the landscape and provides for all around it. In the dream God orders the tree to be cut down but the stump be saved. Nebuchadnezzar wants to know the meaning of the dream and Daniel comes through for him. The king’s “statue” dream was about his kingdom. His “tree” dream is about him personally. The Lord’s weary of Nebuchadnezzar’s ignoring him. When there are miraculous events that declare God Almighty to him Nebuchadnezzar gives God lip service, but goes on living his own way. This time, the Lord will touch his life directly to humble him enough that he’ll stop merely declaring the Lord to be God but will start acting as though he believes it. After explaining the dream to Nebuchadnezzar Daniel pleads with him to respond now and avoid the reality of what he’s dreamed. In other words, through the dream and Daniel’s interpretation of it Nebuchadnezzar is being given a choice. If he continues as he is the dream will become reality. If he repents right now and changes his ways he can continue “to have a good life.” I see this as an example of the openness of God. Nebuchadnezzar’s future isn’t already set, but based on how he responds to this warning, it’s already known. If he heeds this warning from God things will go one way. If he ignores it, things will go the other. In this I see the Lord as knowing, not just one set future, but all possible futures. In this application we see God not only warning Nebuchadnezzar, but offering him a much more desirable alternative. Still, the Lord won’t negate his free will…the ball is in Nebuchadnezzar’s court.
Take Away: The Lord has granted us free will, but he holds us accountable for our exercise of that free will.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – London – Windsor Castle

God working in the extreme
Daniel 4: The High God rules human kingdoms and puts whomever he wishes in charge.
Once Daniel gives the king the meaning of his dream of warning the ball’s in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. He can humbly respond to the Lord’s overtures to him or not. In the terms of tennis, he “whiffs it.” That is, he totally bungles the opportunity he’s given. At the beginning he was ignorant concerning the God Daniel worshiped and could be cut some slack when he didn’t get it. Now, he’s not only seen what this God can do but he’s also heard from him personally; not once, but twice. It’s time for him to respond. Instead, he chooses to tip his hat to the Lord and then continue as he always has. As Nebuchadnezzar congratulates himself for all “he” has done the Lord moves on his life in one last act of mercy: the Lord grants to him a mental breakdown! I know it doesn’t sound much like mercy. Rather, it seems more like judgment. However, if dreams and miracles can’t get this stubborn man’s attention the Lord has only two choices: destroy him or humble him. It’s in mercy that the Lord humbles Nebuchadnezzar. Here’s more evidence that God wants to redeem the lost. Human wisdom might dictate giving up and moving on to the next candidate. God says, “Let’s give it one more try; this time, maybe some strong medicine will do the trick.” I don’t think God routinely causes mental breakdowns, but I do think he goes to extreme measures in granting mercy to us. He is, indeed, the God of “Second Chances.”
Take Away: The Lord goes to extreme measures in granting mercy to us.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – London – Windsor Castle

Grass diet
Daniel 4: He knows how to turn a proud person into a humble man or woman.
In his mercy the Lord deals with Nebuchadnezzar in a direct and attention getting way. Here’s a man driven by arrogance and drunk with power. The Lord strips all that away from him and sends him out into the wilderness for seven years. That sounds like a long time, but its short compared to the 40 years it takes the Israelites to learn a similar lesson. We don’t know what’s happening inside of Nebuchadnezzar during those long years of insanity, but somehow God is dealing with him and the end result is filled with redemption. In fact, one of the strongest examples of this is the fact that Nebuchadnezzar is allowed to write his own testimony, found here. His words are filled with humble praise and thanksgiving to God. This is a case of strong discipline yielding desirable results. Nebuchadnezzar is made into a new man by the grace of God. Know what? That’s just the kind of stuff God does. The focus here shouldn’t be on seven years of mental illness. The central issue here is that God takes messed up lives and makes them new. The “grass diet” was just the method. The made-new life is the result. Nebuchadnezzar isn’t complaining about the diet, but he certainly thanks the Lord for what he did for him.
Take Away: The Lord takes messed up lives and makes them new.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – London – Windsor Castle – St. George’s Chapel

Handwriting on the wall
Daniel 5: Mene, Teqel, Peres.
Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, only makes a brief appearance on the grand stage of Biblical history and in that appearance he’s a drunken loser. In spite of the fact that his father’s story is well known Belshazzar chooses stupid arrogance and practically dares the God his father came to honor to do anything to stop him. So, God Almighty takes up his dare. Even as Belshazzar uses the items taken from the Temple as tableware for a drunken party the hand of God miraculously appears to write the three words of condemnation. As Daniel explains to him, “God has numbered your life and it just doesn’t add up! He’s weighed the value of your life and it doesn’t make weight. He’s decided to divide your kingdom and give it to others.” This unworthy man’s life is about to end in an unworthy way. It’s pitiful isn’t it! Nebuchadnezzar did all the heavy lifting for his son. Not only did he hand over to him the most powerful kingdom on earth, but Nebuchadnezzar went through the years of out-of-his-mind torment to get his head screwed on straight about the God of the Hebrews. All Belshazzar has to do was pick up where his father left off. Instead he delivers stupidity. The Lord expects him to gain from his father’s experience. When he doesn’t do it, it’s “Mene, Teqel, Peres” and a brief appearance on the world stage before going down in flames.
Take Away: While parents have the responsibility of passing on their faith to their children, children have the responsibility of taking up that faith and making it their own.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

At least they know what Daniel stands for
Daniel 6: We’re never going to find anything against this Daniel unless we can cook up something religious.
At the end of chapter five we find a simple statement that Darius the Mede is made king. Apparently, there’s a lot of history loaded into that statement. The handwriting on the wall informed the now dead Belshazzar that his kingdom was going to be handed over to the “Medes and Persians,” a confederacy that rose to challenge the power of Babylonia. Apparently, there’s a lot of historical push and shove concerning all that happened in that takeover. Daniel spares us all that, barely mentioning his own rise to authority in the reorganized kingdom, now under the rule of Darius. This king recognizes leadership capability when he sees it and makes Daniel, first, one of his three vice-regents, and then moves to make Daniel the man in charge. Of course, there are those who oppose this elevation of Daniel and they scramble to find some way to discredit him. When they can’t come up with anything bad about him they focus in on his religion. They conclude that his devotion to his God is his weakest point and decide to attack there. I know it isn’t intended, but what a compliment to Daniel! After living among the Babylonians for many years he’s still known for his devotion to the Lord. It all started many years earlier when he decided to keep the dietary laws of his religion. Now, we see him untouched by the pagan culture. Things are about to get dicey for Daniel, but for now, he can say “thanks” to his enemies for the compliment.
Take Away: Live in such a way even our enemies recognize our devotion and commitment to the Lord.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – L’église de la Madeleine Catholic church – Paris

Keep up the good work
Daniel 6: He continued to pray just as he had always done.
The king has been duped by Daniel’s political enemies into banning prayer. They’re sure Daniel will “break the law” and pray anyway…and they’re right. I like the phrase “he continued to pray just as he had always done.” One can’t “continue” to pray unless he’s in the habit of praying in the first place. Daniel has lived in a pagan culture for a long time but he’s found an anchor in prayer. Three times each day he retreats to a place of prayer, keeping his connection with his God intact. Through the years he’s risen to a powerful position in multiple administrations. He’s been an explainer of dreams and a solver of mysteries. Now we see the key to it all. Daniel prays. I don’t think I can overestimate the importance of my “continuing to pray.”
Take Away: Nothing takes the place of prayer in the lives of the people of the Lord.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – Louvre

Tempting God
Daniel 6: Your God…is going to get you out of this.
Darius’ ego trip has put one of his most loyal supporters in jeopardy. The command making himself the only object of prayer was a dumb one in the first place. Who does he think he is anyway? I see that when the trap is sprung that Darius works all day long trying to find a way to reverse it. I don’t get that one. Law of the Medes and Persians or not, he is the King after all. Finally, Darius gives up and prepares to toss Daniel into the den of lions. Darius gives Daniel a pep talk and in he goes. In this passage Darius is cut a lot of slack so I need to be careful in how I think about it. Still, I have to admit that Darius gets under my skin a bit. He makes a dumb law. Then, even though he is king and all, can’t figure a way out of it. He then tells Daniel, “Your God…is going to get you out of this.” If Darius has all this faith in God why did he issue his silly decree in the first place?” But, of course, he’s right. God is King of kings and he is King over the king of the beasts. The lions are under his authority and God controls them through the night. As I say, I don’t want to be too hard on Darius, but it’s not smart to place oneself or others in jeopardy through our own foolishness and then say, “God will take care of things.” I’m glad that the Lord is gracious to me in my silliness, but I don’t want to tempt the Lord either.
Take Away: It’s not smart to place oneself or others in jeopardy through our own foolishness and then say, “The Lord will take care of things.”

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – Seine

Earning respect
Daniel 6: God…closed the mouths of the lions.
Daniel’s political enemies might have conspired to have him thrown into the den of lions but they couldn’t control the lions, themselves. God sends an angel to do that and his man survives unscathed his night with the big cats. The king is relieved. After all, it was his gullible foolishness that caused all of this in the first place. He’s ready to acknowledge the power and authority of Daniel’s God. Darius then turns his attention to the conspirators and their families. He has them all thrown into the lion’s den. God’s angel has already departed and they come to a horrible end. As I read this I’m reminded that Daniel represents God in a wicked and heartless regime. Nebuchadnezzar, it seems, had a genuine change of heart. Darius, on the other hand, has been impressed and humbled by Daniel’s God and from now on he will treat Daniel’s God with respect. In other words, Darius’ experience was not nearly as personal as was Nebuchadnezzar’s. Daniel prospers under Darius and then under Cyrus. Apparently, neither of these two become worshipers of the Lord but they respect Daniel and his God. We Christians have something to learn here. If possible, we want people to become believers; to join us in worship of the only one worthy of worship. However, we may not always see that happen. In some cases the best we will see is that others will decide we and our faith have earned their respect. Hopefully, that will be a first step to something more for them, but that decision is out of our hands.
Take Away: Live in such a way as to influence people for the Lord – if nothing else, to earn their respect and to cause them to respect the one we worship.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – Notre-Dame Cathedral

The bottom line on the bottom line
Daniel 7: The Old One sat down.
The Book of Daniel is clearly divided into two parts. The first half recounts for us stories of God’s empowerment of and protection over the Hebrews who were taken into Babylon. The second half contains Daniel’s reports of his visions and dreams concerning the future. I think anyone will agree that the stories are more fun than the visions. However, we find in these six chapters of Daniel Old Testament writing that reminds us of the Book of Revelation. In fact, it’s likely that the writer of Revelation borrows some of his imagery from these visions. When Daniel is tossed into the den of lions we read about it as a very personal account of faith and deliverance. Now, his visions of the flow of history are so broad in scope as to take our breath away. He sees kingdoms rise and fall as bewildering history unfolds before him. Theologically, I firmly believe the Lord has granted us free will and, because of that, the future isn’t predetermined in detail. However, I also believe that God is ushering the human race to a future he’s already declared. In other words, I’m free to cooperate with God or not. Because of that, my future isn’t predestined. The big picture, though, is known to God because he’s already determined to bring it to pass. When the Almighty decides to do something, well, he doesn’t have to see the future to state that it will happen. In this specific vision, Daniel sees a series of future kingdoms appear, flourish, and then give way to the next. At one point he notes that in the midst of all the rising and falling that there’s a fiery throne and on that throne sits the Ancient of Days. I love that picture. Kingdoms rise and fall, human history marches through time, and in the midst of it all we see God in his glory and authority. I don’t claim to have all that great a handle on prophecy but I think I have this one figured out. Through it all, in it all, above it all: God is.
Take Away: Everything else gives way. God remains.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – Notre-Dame Cathedral

Intercessory prayers
Daniel 9: All we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame.
As we well know, Daniel is a praying man. Honestly, when I first read of Daniel’s opening his window toward Jerusalem for prayer three times a day I had the impression he had some sort of reverent ritual of prayer. I have nothing against praying the prayers of other people or of repeating prayers that are meaningful to us and I had the feeling that Daniel prayed like that. Now, as I arrive in chapter nine I have the actual text of one of Daniel’s prayers. It’s anything but a ritual of prayer! Here’s a man pouring out his heart to God. Daniel has had a disturbing vision, he’s been reading Jeremiah’s troubling prophecies, and, as he considers these things his heart is broken. I note that Daniel doesn’t pray about “their” sins when thinking of the sins of his people. He sees a nation drowning in sin and, without joining them in their rebellion, jumps right into the pool with them. In other words, Daniel doesn’t piously hover above all the sinners calling them to repent. Rather, he becomes one of them and then begins to plead with God for forgiveness and restoration. His humbleness in identifying with lost people is a powerful picture of intercessory prayer. Also, there’s zero self-justification here. Daniel doesn’t try to explain to the Lord that there’s a righteous remnant left or that he, himself, has never wavered. Instead, he grieves “our sins,” confesses that God is right in judging those sins, and pleads for mercy and forgiveness. I need this lesson because I live in a sinful nation that seems intent on seeing how angry it can make God. At the same time, there are millions who have been swept along by this flow, not so much in rebellion against God as in confusion and ignorance. Like Daniel of old, I pray, “Lord save us. We are sinners living apart from you, lost and without hope. Have mercy on us, not because we deserve it but because you are the God of mercy.”
Take Away: Jesus taught his followers to pray for forgiveness for “our trespasses” – not “their trespasses.”

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – around the city – Eiffel Tower lit up

The unseen part of life
Daniel 10: I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia.
In general, I’m not a mystic person. That is, I don’t see the devil behind every bad thing that happens and I don’t think most of the events of life are being orchestrated by God. Still, I do believe there’s an entire part of our existence that’s very real yet mostly unseen. That isn’t really much of a stretch for us anyway. For instance, a person born blind can be fully convinced of the reality of color even though he’s never seen it. However, in that case the blind person has plenty of people around him who do see so he has an abundance of input concerning what is personally beyond his grasp. When it comes to the spiritual dimension there’s much less reliable information. We end up in passages like this one receiving just a fleeting glimpse of events beyond our normal sight. Even then, the purpose of the passage isn’t to explain all this anyway, so I have to tread very carefully here. Daniel has an encounter with a messenger of God, an angel. Others sense this being’s presence, but can’t see it. They flee. Daniel though, sees and faints at the sight! The angel is there to talk about future events, but in passing mentions that he was delayed by another angel for three weeks and also mentions he has to go back to fight against that same being when he’s finished with Daniel. I know that better educated people than I have worked through this passage, coming to various conclusions about the part of existence we cannot see (or concluded that this passage has nothing to do with that). For me, I accept the fact that there are realities that I can’t see. While I don’t think I go around with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, I do believe that this part of existence is just as real as the coffee cup sitting here on the table. I also believe that there are times when the unseen is very close by and having a direct influence over me and what’s happening in my life. Finally, I realize that I am, in general, blind to all of this. I have to trust the Holy Spirit, who can see it all and who was sent to be my Guide to help me navigate through the unseen part of life.
Take Away: We should be thankful for the guidance of the Holy Spirit who sees what we cannot see and helps us avoid that which would do us harm.

Devotional on Daniel

2011 – Paris – Versailles – Orangerie

The big picture
Daniel 12: It will be a time of trouble, the worst trouble the world has ever seen.
Imagine the second part of Daniel as a mural done by a master artist depicting the rise and fall of kingdoms through history. As we examine the mural we see mighty nations rise, then divide, and then fall to some new world power. Some folks have patiently examined Daniel’s “mural,” attaching labels to the various kingdoms he describes. Those folks might be right and they might be wrong. Frankly, for me to attempt this is a waste of time. The least of those who seriously attempt to match nations up with Daniel’s vision is superior to me. I get lost in it all fairly soon. I do come away from Daniel’s sweeping picture with certain impressions. For one thing, I’m reminded that, even though I firmly believe human beings have free will, there’s an overarching flow of human history that’s firmly in the hands of God. Second, even though it seems some things happen outside of God’s providence, I’m reminded that the Lord remains Sovereign over all. Whether or not I think God is orchestrating, down to some detail, the flow of events I need to remember that nothing’s happening on the world stage that he isn’t at least allowing to happen. Finally, I see that there’s an end to the story. Things won’t forever continue as they are. Daniel sums it up with a description of everything coming to a head with “the worst trouble the world has ever seen.” The Lord isn’t a bystander to human history. He’s ushering us along to some specific events and, ultimately, to a specific conclusion. As I watch the world news and see the clashes of world powers, it’s good to remember that nothing that happens is a surprise to God. That may not be a very complete view of the nature of prophecy, but it’s not a bad place to start and, while I may not understand the specifics, I do get the big picture.
Take Away: There’s an overarching flow of human history that’s firmly in the hands of the Lord.

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