Posts Tagged ‘Daniel’

Preaching the Word

Again, the Christian minister must have a word from God for the teen-aged, the middle-aged and the very aged. He must speak to the scholar as well as to the ignorant; he must bring the living Word to the cultured man and woman and to the vulgarian who reads nothing but the sports page and the comic strip. He must speak to the sad and to the happy, to the tender-minded and to the tough-minded, to those eager to live and to some who secretly wish they could die. And he must do this all in one sermon and in a period of time not exceeding 45 minutes. Surely this requires a Daniel, and Daniels are as scarce in the United States as in Babylon in 600 B.C. To add to the pastors burden is the knowledge that in each service there will likely be a few lost sons who should come home, some who never loved God at all and some who lost the love they had. So he must call sinners to repentance, warn the unruly, comfort the feebleminded, instruct, reprove, rebuke, encourage, console and exhort all at the same time, or at least on the same day. This is the situation stated baldly, but it is not actually as difficult as it looks. I said that the preacher appears to be at cross purposes with himself; but it is in appearance only, for what seems to be confusion is but the seamy side of the tapestry. The artistic pattern is on the other side.

Wrapped in blankets in my grandparents’ pickup, I watched as fire consumed our home. My father says I slept soundly as he carried my brother and me and our puppies out to safety. When I woke up and saw the huge blaze, I was already safe. I was too curious and too young to be scared.

I remember several things from that night. Even inside the truck, the heat was intense and the fire was mesmerizing. I remember too the fear on the faces of everyone else, checking and re-checking to see if loved ones were safe. Later I learned that in the chaos my father raced into the fire to look for my grandfather, which prompted my grandfather (who was not inside the house) to race in to get my father. Their courage affected all who saw it that night.

I’m reminded of that fire every time I read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. When challenged with the decree to bow to the king or face execution (Dan. 3:10-12), these three bravely faced the fire for the One they loved (vv.16-18). And the Lord stood with them in the flames (v.25).

When life’s “flames” test us, may those who observe our choices recognize our love for each other and for our God.

For Further Thought Read more of Daniel and his friends in Daniel 1–3. How do their lives encourage you to stand firm for God? Ask the Lord to help you make courageous choices today.
Trials are the soil in which faith grows.

“Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.” — Daniel 5:5–6

Belshazzar, the last Babylonian king, was having a feast when he saw a vision that shook him to his core. A human hand came out of nowhere and left a message on his wall. No one could figure out what the words meant, so they called on Daniel to interpret them.

Daniel explained that “mene, mene, tekel, parsin” — literally “numbered, numbered, weighed, Persians” — meant that because of King Belshazzar’s many sins, his days were numbered and that his kingdom was about to be given over to the Persians. Tradition teaches that it didn’t take long for Daniel’s prediction to come true. That very night, the Persians broke into the palace and killed King Belshazzar and everyone in attendance at the feast.

Isn’t that a little unfair? Couldn’t Belshazzar have had some time to repent? One minute he sees the writing on the wall, and the next, its message comes true!

As Daniel interpreted the words written on Belshazzar’s wall, he reminded Belshazzar of what had happened to his father, King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel recalled how Nebuchadnezzar had become arrogant and was punished by God until he repented and recognized God’s supremacy. But Belshazzar had learned nothing from Nebuchadnezzar’s life and had become even more arrogant than his father.

In fact, just before the infamous writing had appeared on the wall, Belshazzar had been drinking from cups and vessels stolen from God’s Temple! He should have known better. As Daniel told him, “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this” (Daniel 5:22).

Nebuchadnezzar’s life had been Belshazzar’s warning. The writing on the wall had been there the whole time; he just refused to see it. So no, it was not unfair that Belshazzar wasn’t given any time to repent after the message had finally been written in black and white. God had given him a lifetime to repent, and now his time was up.

Years later, King Cyrus would make history when he urged the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple. Tradition teaches that Cyrus had learned from Belshazzar’s experience and understood that his kingship hinged upon his respect for God. Unlike Belshazzar, Cyrus had learned to read the writing on the wall. He got the message and let it dictate his life.

It is said that those who ignore the past are bound to repeat it. I would add that those who read and acknowledge God’s messages can write a new future.

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” — Daniel 6:23

Do you need a miracle?

Daniel did. In the sixth chapter of the book of Daniel, we read about the famous episode of Daniel in the lions’ den. But first let’s back up and understand how he got there in the first place.

As Daniel had predicted, the Babylonian empire fell into the hands of the Persians. The new king liked Daniel and he was planning to appoint him as ruler over the entire kingdom. This made all the other officials very jealous, and so they plotted Daniel’s downfall. The only problem was they couldn’t find any dirt on Daniel! It’s not easy to bring down such a righteous and faithful man. So they had to be sneaky.

The officers suggested that – as a tribute to the king’s newly established kingship – the entire kingdom be commanded to pray only to him. The penalty would be a cruel and painful death meted out in a lions’ den. The king gave his approval.

What does Daniel do? He continued to do what he had done every day of his life. He put his faith in God and prayed for His help. The men who were planning Daniel’s downfall expected nothing less. They were quick to catch him and bring him before the king in order to be punished. The king is distraught but his hands were tied. A king’s decree could not be revoked.

That’s how Daniel found himself in the lions’ den in need of a great miracle. And he got one. At the crack of dawn, the king ran to check the fate of his dearest adviser. Miraculously, Daniel was alive. When the king got to the lions’ den, he called out, “Daniel . . . has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” To which, Daniel replied, “My God sent his angel,and he shut the mouths of the lions.They have not hurt me” (6:20, 22).

Here’s the kicker:  By what merit did Daniel receive such a great miracle? Scripture tells us, “because he had trustedin his God.”

Centuries earlier, when the children of Israel were taken out of Egypt, they were on an extremely low spiritual level. But God does incredible miracles for them anyway. Can you guess why? It’s because they had faith.

Faith in God is the key that opens the door to miracles. Even if you may not have been the most perfect person, God’s intervention is available to you anyway. The power of faith is so great that it can overpower our previous shortcomings. So never despair. If God can turn a fierce lion into a gentle kitten for Daniel, imagine what’s possible for you.

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’ So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” — Daniel 3:26–27

In a dramatic scene in the book of Daniel, Daniel’s friends were put to the test. King Nebuchadnezzar built a statue and commanded everyone to bow down to it. A trouble-maker suggested that there were Jewish men who would refuse to do so.

So, the king called upon Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who predictably refused to bow down to the idol. Nebuchadnezzar was furious and threatened the men with their lives. Still, they remained adamant which only increased the king’s fury.

Finally, he commanded that the men be thrown into the furnace, and just for added agony, he decreed that the furnace be made seven times hotter than usual. The flames were so intense that the servants charged with placing the men in the fire were killed doing their job. Yet miraculously, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego remained completely unscathed. Not one hair singed.

Jewish tradition tells us that the three friends had the courage to face the fiery furnace because they were inspired by the frogs in the second plague that God brought against Egypt. They reasoned if the frog, in obedience to God’s will, could leave their cool, wet habitat and leap into the hot, dry ovens of Egypt, they would be obedient as well.

There is a beautiful story that went around the Internet about a young woman and her first rock climb. Half-way up, Brenda’s contact lens gets knocked out of her eye. She tries hard, but can’t find it. She climbs the rest of the mountain with blurry eyes. When she gets to the top, Brenda sends a heartfelt prayer to God:  “Lord, you can see everything. You know every stone and leaf and you know where my lens is. Please help me find it.”

As Brenda makes her way down the mountain she can hardly believe it when she hears someone shouting, “Anyone lose a contact lens?” The man explains that he found the lens because an ant was climbing slowly in front of him carrying the lens on his back.

When Brenda arrives home she tells her cartoonist father her story. He draws an ant carrying a contact lens and adds the following caption: “Lord, I don’t know why you want me to carry this thing. It’s heavy and I can’t eat it. But if this is what You want me to do, then I’ll carry it for You.”

We can learn a thing or two from the ant, the frogs, and Daniel’s friends. Sometimes in life we are given a heavy burden to bear. It’s hard and we can’t always see the point. But we need to be strong and say, “For you God, I’ll carry this burden.” He might just carry yours too.

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

If you’ve been around the world of golf for long, you know that winning the coveted “Green Jacket” at the Masters is arguably the most coveted accomplishment in golf. As I was watching the final round of the Masters Golf Tournament in 2007, I was thrilled to hear the winner give credit to Jesus for the gifts and abilities the Lord had given him. With much of the world watching, he turned the spotlight from himself to Jesus!

It brought to mind the year that Bernhard Langer won the Masters. In the Butler Cabin afterward, before millions watching on TV the interviewer said to him, “Winning the Masters must be the greatest moment in your life.” To which the champion replied, “This is no doubt the greatest moment in my golf career, but it doesn’t compare to the fact that 2,000 years ago today my Lord and Savior rose from the dead to give me eternal life!”

I was off my couch, ecstatic that Jesus and what He has done for us was getting such global recognition!

This is exactly what it means to glorify God and to live with enough biblical sanity to know that all we have and all we are is directly attributable to God’s grace and provision in our lives. Think about it. Where would you be today if God had not given you the mental horsepower to figure stuff out, the opportunities for education and promotion, the talents to do things well, the spiritual gifts to participate successfully in His work, the income to keep food on the table, or the wisdom of His Word to help you know how to live? The list is long when it comes to what God has graciously given you. To say nothing of the gift of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection! The fact is that you and I would be nothing if it weren’t for God’s generous and undeserved supply.

So, since all we have is from God, it’s important that we don’t act like we are self-made people. In fact, when King Nebuchadnezzar took God’s glory for himself, he was banished to eating grass in the field like an animal until he got the picture straight about who should get the glory for his power and position (Daniel 4:29-34). And Herod was eaten by worms and died for letting the people call him god (Acts 12:21-23). God takes it seriously when we rob Him of His glory!

Granted, it’s not always easy to know just what to say when you want to transfer the applause from yourself to God. But just knowing that it’s important to give credit where credit is due is a good beginning. Every once in a while, someone will tell me what a great sermon I preached, and in that moment I am keenly aware that what I do with the spotlight is very important. I have to tell you, when I take the compliment for myself I end up feeling small and disloyal. But when I acknowledge that I had no idea what they needed to hear, I can say with confidence, “We both know where the blessing came from!” and I love to tell people that if they were blessed by the sermon it’s a sure sign of how much God loves them. Every time I turn the spotlight where it belongs, I end up feeling grateful to God and joyful that I was able to give Him the glory.

So take the Bible’s advice: Keep the spotlight on Jesus—then know the joy of what it means to live for His glory.


  • What things in your life tend to attract compliments from others? Could it be your knowledge, your ideas, your talents, your home, your car? Are you tempted to steal the glory for those things, or do you readily and regularly give credit to God?
  • Are there things in your life that you wish would attract compliments from others? Ask the Lord to reveal those areas, and allow Him to reshape your self-seeking perspective with a biblical sense of gratitude for those blessings.
  • Read about what happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:29-31. How did Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude change in verses 34-37? What can you learn from his example?

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility — young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.” — Daniel 1:3–4

Nebuchadnezzar had an ingenious plan. He would enrich his own country while impoverishing Judea and assuring that she would have no rebirth by finding the best and brightest youth in Judea and bringing them to live with him in Babylon.

There, through a carefully regimented program, he would turn them into loyal Babylonians and reap the benefits of their brilliance. He never considered that things might turn out the other way around! Yet, after just a short while with Daniel and his friends, Nebuchadnezzar proclaims, “Surely your God is the God of godsand the Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47).

In 1974, media heiress Patty Hearst became famous when she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Patty subsequently joined the SLA and identified with the very captors who had abducted her. Patty’s odd behavior was attributed to a phenomenon known as the Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition where abductees associate positive feelings with their captors.

We would expect that those held captive would resent those who had abducted them. However we find that in stressful situations, some victims not only tolerate their abusers, they also admire them.

When young Daniel and his friends were kidnapped and brought to Nebuchadnezzar, they were treated like royalty. They were given food from the royal table, wine, regal lodging, and an elite education. They even were furnished with respectful Babylonian names. All of this was done in order to get the young boys to shed their old identity as Jews and associate with their new society in Babylon.

But Daniel could not be changed:  “Daniel resolved not to defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). From the very beginning of his captivity and all throughout his life, Daniel could not be persuaded or forced to change his ways. No Stockholm Syndrome here! In fact, just the opposite occurred — Daniel was able to get his captors to identify with him!

Several kings later, King Darius proclaims: “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and revere the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26). How’s that for a positive influence?

We say we live in a free world, but no one can deny that mass media has a hold on our minds. Society has a set of values that are not always our own – and we are bombarded by them every single day. The question for each one of us is: will we let the world change us, or will we change the world?

We can associate with those who bring us down, or – like Daniel – we can influence everyone around us and raise them up.  By sticking to a moral code dictated by biblical values instead of the latest magazines, we set an example and encourage others.