Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 265: Daniel 4 - 6

May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you! (Daniel 6:16)

You know the story. The new king Darius divided up his kingdom under three rulers, one of whom was Daniel. Daniel outperformed his counterparts and was to receive a promotion, which made his opponents very envious of his success and position. Rather than work harder, they determined to bring Daniel down a notch.

Fast forward to a reluctant king caught by his own words. Darius doesn't want to punish Daniel, his chosen second in command, but he also doesn't want to vacillate in front of would-be contenders for the throne looking for any sign of weakness. So Daniel becomes potential Fancy Feast for ferocious felines.

Before the sentence is carried out, Darius whispers a message of regret mixed with a tinge of hope: May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you! The king knew Daniel's life was consistent. Daniel wasn't one who served God just because God had blessed him and who would now deny God to save his own skin. He also wasn't the kind of man with a milk toast faith who would suddenly call out for deliverance to the God whom he had previously ignored when everything was going good.

Are you more likely to cling to God when life is looking sunny or when it's circling the drain? Or, do you – like Daniel – continually and consistently serve the Lord your God?

Day 264: Daniel 1 - 3

Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. (Daniel 2:14)

Most critical biblical scholars affirm that Daniel was written not to the Jews in Babylonian exile, but to their grandchildren living 400 years later being butchered by the Greek tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes. The last six chapters are apocalyptic literature, written to help persecuted peoples get through their dark times.

During this first encounter between Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, the King has asked for something totally preposterous. He has demanded that not only must his wise men interpret his dream, but that they interpret it without being told what it was! When no one could comply, the king ordered the deaths of all his advisors, even though some had not yet been tested. When they came to arrest Daniel, instead of panicking, and instead of flying off the handle at the unjustness of the situation, the writer says Daniel responded with wisdom and tact.

No matter how unreasonable the request or violent the attack, we don't have to respond with panic or anger – even when our assailant is a monstrous tyrant. In faith, we can choose how to respond, and respond with wisdom and tact. If a violent response is deemed necessary, let it be a reasoned response, not a knee jerk reaction. Very few good arguments ever came out of a shouting match. Because he kept his head when others were losing theirs, Daniel emerged as the king's most trusted advisor.

When's the last time panicking or losing your temper successfully resolved anything?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 251: Ezekiel 10 - 12

The days go by and every vision comes to nothing. (Ezekiel 12:22)

Like Isaiah ben Amoz before him, Ezekiel tried to warn the people of Judah of their impending disaster, the penalty for disobedience to the Lord God. But that disaster had not fallen on Judah during the days of Isaiah, and as far as Ezekiel's contemporaries were concerned, it was unlikely to fall in their day either.

Others said that in the event Ezekiel's prophecies did come true, nothing would happen for years, maybe generations (vs 27). God told Ezekiel to let them know that the time was upon them, not years in the future, but very, very soon.

Just because judgment is delayed is no reason to assume judgment has been averted. The payoff – good or bad – for present behaviors may not be realized for years to come, but things have a way of catching up with us.

Think you've pulled a fast one on God? Caught him napping? Probably not. Long term behaviors add up. And so does the reward or the consequence.

What behavior do you need to change before it's too late?