Daniel

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This book shows how God’s has a habit of showing up during trouble, not absent as some think.  Jon Acuff says the next time you feel unqualified to be used by God remember He tends to recruit leaders from the pit, not the pedestal.

The book, named after its writer, was a Jewish exile renamed Belteshazzar by the court of Nebuchadnezzar in efforts to have him fit in with his Babylonian colleagues.  We know him as Daniel. He lived in Babylon during the period of the Israelites seventy-year captivity.  He, along with others, was part of the diaspora population.  This included his three friends better known by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Daniel and his friends were all pressed into the king’s service.  The book of Daniel is one of two (the other is Ezra) written bilingually, in Hebrew (chapters 1-8) and Aramaic (chapters 2-7).

Living in a pagan court yet still being faithful to their beliefs and customs, Daniel and his friends were singled out by others when they would not adhere to a foreign diet or to praying to the King Nebuchadnezzar as their lord.  Where the world perceives possible failure happening, God sees future.  The first part of this book tells how God was in control of the situation by delivering Daniel’s  friends from being burned alive in a fiery furnace (with the help of an unknown fourth man who appeared in the furnace) and then Daniel’s rescue from being eaten alive in the lion’s den like when God found Gideon in a hole, Joseph in prison, Daniel’s friends and then Daniel in a furnace and in a lion’s den.

Nebuchadnezzar shows to be wise enough to recognize God’s presence and power in Daniel’s life through an interpretation of the king’s dream.  Not only did Daniel must interpret it but he had to know what the dream was without the king telling him. The court’s magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers could not do it and in anger, the king ordered their execution.  Then spoken as a true ambassador of God in chapter 2:28, Daniel gives rightful credit by saying his God in heaven reveals the dreams to him.  Later in verse 47, the king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

Poet and philosopher Mark Nepo wrote to encourage mystery and understanding into food for life, to listen to your life.

The book of Daniel reminds me that God places godly people in all places, especially in areas where perhaps the leader in power isn’t one.  It’s a reminder to pray for those godly people to be an influence.

The prophet Daniel shed light on future events that point to Jesus’s timeline in chapter seven.  In chapter eleven he goes even further and foretells the history of that silent period between the two testaments.  The intertestimonial period  (400 years)  includes Alexander the Great, Cleopatra,  the Maccabees, Julius Caesar and the rise of the Roman empire. This period shaped Judaism, hellenizing their (and by default our) biblical teachings. Daniel prophecies extend all the way to the beginning of the rise of the Catholic Church.  In Daniel 9:24, he uses the word Messiah for the first time in the OT and then goes on to foretell an accurate timeline of the day Christ’s death would occur, 483 years in the future (by Georgian calendar count) to the exact date.   Prophecy about the end times and the second coming from the books of  Joel, Zephaniah, Ezekiel 39:25-38,  Malachi 3:1-6 and parts of Isaiah (chapters 33, 34, 63) are the only ones that are yet to be fulfilled.

Occasionally, I receive an immediate answer to my prayer requests followed by a confirmation. The answer to my prayer about my twelve-year-old brother who died is one example.

He slipped out one night to secretly follow my other brother, a couple of years older than him.  The older brother was accompanied by a friend, during an impromptu sleepover.  My younger brother was caught by the older one only after traveling a few blocks from home and sent back.  Mom didn’t report him missing from home until noon the next day because she thought the dark-haired boy under the blankets (the sleepover) was my brother.  However, he never made it home.  It was during that summer; I had personally bought my first Bible in the newest released translation (The Living Bible). I was determined to read it through from beginning to end.  I was fourteen.  I was in the book of Leviticus chapter 24 when my brother went missing.

I happened to have dated that page of my reading with an inscription while praying over my brother (Lev. 24:17) when my mother was notified by the legal authorities that his body was found. Just prior to reading, I inscribed on that page “GBJH” connecting the letters in girlish calligraphy.  My acronym translates to “God, bring J home.” A local and licensed hunter (who coincidentally I met years later)  came across my brother’s body on federal military property and called the authorities.   My youngest brother did arrive home but not the earthly one.

His murder, of course, was terrible for the entire family to come to grips with,  but I think most particularly for my surviving brother who felt much guilt and for my mother (who was a widow by now).  She was never the same after that.  It was a period when therapeutic intervention wasn’t as quickly advocated for help in situations such as this as it is now.   I almost grasp why my mother evolved in her later years the way she did by this soliloquy written by Whyte (In What to Remember When Waking: The Disciplines of an Everyday Life).   It describes a response when there is a fierce death:

“Listen, God, if this is how you play the game, then I’m not playing the game. I’m not playing by your rules.  I’m going to manufacture my own little game, and I’m not going to come out of it.  I am going to make my own bubble draw up the rules, and I’m not going to come out to this frontier of yours.  I want to create insulation, create distance.”

He goes on to say that many people escape this way, staying there for a short period of time to reemerge to life, others don’t.  Mom, for the most part, stayed in the bubble, the world she created based on my observation of her never taking too much interest in her future grandchildren, avoiding getting too close to a child again.  Her grief was such she barely had the energy to be the family provider going to work each day much less fulfilling her role as a mother to watch over her surviving children.  She provided for our physical needs, but each night, for about a year, she would come home, go straight to her bedroom until the next day when she got up and went to work.

To add further sorrow to her heartache, she couldn’t find solace when she tried to seek out comfort from the church.  She hadn’t been to church since the changes of the Vatican II council in the 1960s took place.  I don’t think she ever thought about what changes took place in her worship community while she was absent.  Unfortunately, when she went to confession, her young confessor focused on why she hadn’t been to church to confess all those years, instead of comforting her in her grief.  It was an honest inquiry on his part, but his timing was awful.  She used to say she believed in God but for her man had a habit of getting in the way when it came for her to attend church.  I get my mother’s response in her weariness and fatigue from and in her grief.  She needed loving care at that moment not condemnation.

Unfortunately, people have lost sight of the importance of church fellowship. In regard to the above reference about “man” getting in the way, there are more things to consider which man is interfering (the other or self?). Jesus is the bridegroom of the church which makes the church a bride although the church is never called that in the N.T. As every committed married couple knows in a world where promises and contracts are easily broken, relationships are hard work.  So it is within the church. There is a verse for a husband to love their wife as Jesus loved the church (Eph 5:25).  That further emphasizes the importance of maintaining a relationship with a church by attending and participating in the ministry of the church.

In the New Testament, kingdom and church are often used synonymously.  The kingdom of God is more than the church, but the church is part of it (See Ephesians and Colossians chapters).  When I pray “Thy Kingdom Come”, I caveated it with “thanks to the Lord Jesus.”

One my biggest sorrows, is when someone allows the actions of someone else justify them walking away from a faith community.  It’s becomes a slippery slope in our faith life leading to a belief without action which makes that belief impotent.

There is another way I relate to Daniel’s, it is about dreams. In the narrative,  to the answered prayers of Daniel and his friends, King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was described and interpreted.   The dream Daniel revealed was not a good or easy message to convey to a king.

Once I heard a prominent business leader of a long-standing para-church organization say God does not reveal Himself anymore in dreams now that the Holy Spirit has been left behind to guide Christians after Jesus’s (cf. Jn. 14:16-17) ascension to heaven.  It sounded valid because reading 2Timothy 3:16-17 reveals that all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, training up.

I once had a dream, similar to my theophany-like experience except it was more of a Christophany, where God showed himself to me. It left an indelible mark on me, and I remember it well.  I was a young adult when I had it.  I know for the most part that night dreams stem from our thoughts while awake (conscious mind). When we sleep, the mind (the unconscious part) is trying to organize, make sense of maybe even archive those thoughts and impressions.

My dream took place in a room, bathed in luminous whiteness, yet I couldn’t see any walls.  It was crowded with people pressed up against each other with restless fidgeting.  I was at peace.  I was there to look for a person who was going to make an appearance.  I just wanted a glimpse.  In my dream, that person turned out to be Jesus.  He entered, and I could see Him although He was surrounded by many, many people.  Then He made eye contact with me and the appearance of people fade somewhat.  I was far from Him, but He looked right at me.  I distinctly remember a message being passed to me from His gaze:  it was telling me He knew who I am and I am significant to Him.

It’s not lost on me how I can look at the face of Jesus in this instance yet I mentioned in an earlier theophany (in the Exodus chapter) about Moses who veils his face so as not to see the glory of God.   I think the reason I could look on Jesus’ face may have something to do with the old covenant in the Hebrew Bible and the new covenant of the New Testament.   My paradigm is more to the message of the incarnate Jesus.  The old one was nullified because holiness could never be achieved from all those rituals and the new one is more about  Moses who veils his face so as not to see the glory of God.

My dream, of course, can come across as self-serving except that I know He acknowledges everyone in his way.  I honestly still get humbled and overwhelmed with the thought of God making Himself small enough for me, considering my soul through the meeting of our eyes, letting me know I am worthy.  Revelation 22:4 says, “They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.”

I refuse to limit the triune God on how He relates and conveys His message.  Obviously, He can communicate any way he wants.   Both these stories are “God” things to me.  Incidents and happenstances such as these confirm for me an intimate spiritual anointing for my life (cf. 2Cor. 1:21-22, 1Jn. 2:27).

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