Daniel – He Understood by the Books

…I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
(Daniel 9:2-3)

Yesterday, I preached on Daniel 9 and this amazing prayer Daniel makes before God. I’ve already written previously about Daniel’s understanding of the word and how it helped him in his prayer, but I wanted to make a few additional points.

Daniel understood God’s timing and accepted it. You know, Daniel 6:10 tells us that Daniel had been praying toward Jerusalem 3 times a day since he was a youth. So let’s just for argument sake say that Daniel didn’t miss a prayer in all those times. 365 days x 3 times a day x 70 years = 76,650 prayers! Daniel had prayed tens of thousands of times, but God said they would be in Babylon 70 years. The Bible says that Daniel understood the word of Jeremiah. He accepted that until the 70 years were over, he could not ask for God’s people to return home. God calls us to persisently pray, but He also asks us to trust His timing and purpose. He makes everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Daniel had his Bible opened when he prayed. He didn’t compartmentalize Bible study and prayer into separate “acts” or categories. His prayers were connected to his study of the Scriptures. If we’re not doing it, let’s get our Bibles open while we are praying and look at all the wonderful character of God so we can praise Him. How about we point to those promises of God in Scripture while we are praying? We can even quote prayers, because many prayers in the Bible are just as applicable to us today as they were back then.

Another simple point is that God’s word was not lost during the captivity. His word was preserved and traveled hundreds of miles to a heathen kingdom where Daniel was able to study that word while in captivity.

Daniel – His humility in prayer

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God,
(Daniel 9:20)

I encourage you to read Daniel 9 this morning and meditate upon Daniel’s prayer. Daniel, at the end of the 70 year captivity, turned to God in prayer and fasting with pleas for God’s mercy. There is so much to be said here from Daniel 9, and more articles will follow, but today I want to focus on the humility of Daniel in prayer.

As you look over Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9, take notice of a few things:

Daniel confessed HIS sin, not just the sins of the nation of Israel. He took ownership of his own rebellion against God. Whatever Daniel was like before he went into captivity, we don’t know, but it sure seems like Daniel had his own part in the sins that caused Israel to go into captivity. Maybe being taken into captivity sobered him up and straightened him out.

In his prayer, Daniel said “we” and “us,” not “I” and “they.” If you listen to good leaders talk, they use we and us much more than “I, Me, Mine.” This was a collective problem and Daniel could not distance himself from it.

Look at the understanding Daniel had of the whole situation. He knew the Scriptures. Moses told them what to do, and said that if they didn’t do it the people would go into captivity (1400’s BC). Several hundred years afterward, Solomon prayed/prophesied that when Israel went into captivity and recognized their sins, that they will pray toward Jerusalem and God will hear, forgive and bring them home (1 Kings 8, 900’s BC). Centuries later, Jeremiah added that they would go into captivity for 70 years, and that they will not come home a day sooner (Jeremiah 29:10, 600’s BC). Daniel was very discerning and knew that these things were written in the Scriptures. He knew the commands that he and the others had broken. It is plain he was aware of the consequences of their unfaithfulness. He also had come to learn and understand of the unfailing love and mercy of God for His people. But he also knew that Israel would not be going home until those 70 years were completed (538-536 BC). Once that time had come, Daniel began praying with all his might for God to act upon His promise. That wisdom and discernment does not come without first having humility.

May we all have the humble heart of Daniel. A heart like Daniel is one that looks in the mirror first before pointing fingers of blame. We will look at God’s word for guidance and light, even when it sheds light and the truth gets ugly. Daniel’s humble heart allowed him to see the ugly in his own life, but he also could see the outreached arm of God ready to forgive and take him back.

He Makes the Mute Speak

For our meditation today, let’s consider the following passages. Think about what God can do to your tongue and your mouth. If He made the mute to speak, and considering what God did through Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, what can He do for you and through you?

God can prepare your mouth and teach your tongue to be a mouthpiece for Him. Don’t focus on your ignorance, His word will give you knowledge and wisdom will come from His throne.  God can and will send His people to teach you and equip you. Please don’t regard your lack of eloquence, think of what God did through people like Paul. Don’t take a minute to think about your “youth” or “inexperience” – consider what God did through a number of “inexperienced youths” in Scripture. The point in all of this is that glory goes to the power of God, not to how well we speak or how amazingly persuasive we are! It’s not about how witty we are or how good we are on our feet to stand toe -to-toe in a debate, it’s about God’s wisdom working in us and through us to reach out and teach truth to those seeking for it. It’s about God, not about us.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
(Mark 7:31-37)

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
(Exodus 4:10-12)

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
(2 Corinthians 10:10)

Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
(2 Corinthians 11:6)

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:6-10)

Break up your fallow ground

Jeremiah 4:3 – For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.”

Hosea 10:12 – Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

Yesterday, I preached from Mark 4, and we looked at the parable of the sower. In that very familiar story, we see four different types of soil, and four very different responses to the preaching of the word.

But here are a couple of questions: Am I predestined to be a certain type of soil? If I am a rocky soil or a thorny/weedy soil, can that condition ever change? Can a person be all four types of soil in his or her life?

I think the above passages from Jeremiah and Hosea answer those questions very clearly. Both prophets use the word picture of ground that was once plowed, but has now sat uncultivated. Weeds and thorns have crept in, and because of laziness and negligence, the good seed was not sown. The people of Israel and Judah did not take care of their hearts (soil), but they had a choice in the matter. They, with repentance and God’s help, could change that condition.

You see, these men were one kind of soil, and God calls them to be another. If you will look in Mark 4, Jesus repeatedly tells His disciples to “listen” and to “be careful how they hear.” The hearers have a good deal of choice and control in what kind of soil they will be.

No, you are not predestined to be a certain kind of soil. You with God’s help can remove the thorns and weeds (distractions of the world). You can remove the rocks and create a depth of character and faith that will endure the trials.

One final thought, if you are honest, can you see times in your life where you have been all 4 types of soil? Haven’t you seen times when God’s teaching went in one ear and out the other? Other times you sprung up quickly and happily but withered during the first test of that teaching? Haven’t you found your heart and soul choked by cares of this world? But then there are the times that God’s word connects in your heart and you really see the fruit growing over time. Yes, we all have been all four kinds of soil in our lives. It’s our choice today what kind of soil we will be. How will we listen to the word today?

Daniel – Why Did Gabriel Come?

We were reading Daniel 9 this morning and considering the prayer of Daniel that he made at the end of the 70 year captivity in Babylon. So many great things to talk about and think about here. What strikes me is that “while” Daniel was speaking, in fact, at the beginning of his prayer, Gabriel was sent by the Lord. Think about this as you read Daniel 9: Why did Gabriel come to Daniel? Why was Daniel’s prayer answered by God?

Below are a few excerpts from Daniel 9.

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans–in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.
(Daniel 9:1-5)

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
(Daniel 9:20-23)

Here are a few quick observations as to why Daniel’s prayer was answered and why Gabriel was sent to him.

  1. Daniel was greatly loved. Why does God answer prayer? Because He greatly loves us.
  2. Daniel’s heart was humble. You see his heart recognizing the sovereignty, the justice and the mercy of God. He also saw his own sinfulness in the presence of that holy God. Daniel didn’t just blame all the other people in Israel for the problem; he took personal responsibility for his own sin.
  3. Daniel read and understood the word. You see in Daniel’s prayer that he recognized the writings of Jeremiah and Moses as the words of God. He trusted in these words and understood from Moses that God’s law was broken and that punishment would follow. He also understood from Moses and Jeremiah that God was merciful and would forgive His people. Through the words of Jeremiah he understood that this captivity would last 70 years. Notice that Daniel wasn’t coming along at year 55 and asking for God’s deliverance. Daniel knew that when God said 70 years, He meant 70 years!
  4. Because God keeps His promises. Another reason Daniel’s prayer was heard was because God promised that when His people were taken captive and humbled themselves that He would forgive them and send them home (Leviticus 26:39-42; 1 Kings 8:33-34; Nehemiah 1:8-9).

Those same 4 things are true for you and me today. God answers the prayers of His people today because He loves them, because we are humble before Him and seek His word, and because He keeps his promises.

The Faithful Remnant

We are studying the Kings and Prophets, and we are going into the period of the Babylonian Captivity. Dark times for Judah, no doubt. It seemed like no one cared about God or followed God. That may have been pretty close to true, but there were still a few strong followers of God. Just like we considered yesterday with Noah, even in the midst of corruption and wickedness, there was a faithful remnant.

Jeremiah preached for decades, but was anyone listening? For the most part, no, but here are a few examples of the people who were faithfully following God.

Baruch, the scribe for Jeremiah. He wrote down the words that Jeremiah received from God. He was a faithful servant and assistant to Jeremiah. Just like Jeremiah, he was taken hostage and carried off to Egypt after the Babylonian captivity.

The descendants of Jonadab faithfully followed their father’s commands even after centuries passed. Their faithfulness was contrasted to Judah’s faithlessness to their Father (Jeremiah 35).

Many people were sealed by God before the destruction of Jerusalem, because as God told Ezekiel during these days, they were “sighing and crying” over the abominations committed there (Ezekiel 9). Even in Jerusalem, the hot bed of sin and rebellion to God, there were folks faithfully following God’s word.

Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian eunuch who helped saved Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38). For his faithfulness and bravery, he was blessed by God. Take note of this promise of God to Ebed-melech:

“Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.'” (Jeremiah 39:16-18).

Away in captivity, there were also others faithfully serving God during this time. Daniel, Ezekiel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are some examples.

The same can be said today. Scattered throughout the world, and in maybe the most unlikely of places, there are members of the faithful remnant. Most importantly, let’s make sure that you and I are part of that faithful remnant. We can, with God’s grace and help, serve God faithfully in this godless age.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
(Titus 2:11-12)

Is anything too hard for Me?

In Jeremiah, 32 we find Jeremiah sitting in prison. He has been preaching and warning Judah and her kings for decades. Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar, is once again surrounding Jerusalem. This is the third wave of attack brought about by God through the hands of Babylon. During this siege, the whole city and Solomon’s temple will be destroyed and burned to the ground.

While Jeremiah sits in prison for preaching the words of God, he is told by God to buy his relative’s field in Anathoth, bury the purchase agreement and deed in an earthen vessel that it may stay there a long time. Why? Because God was foretelling through a sign that the people of God will one day come back from captivity and buy and sell land in Israel.

This must have sounded like the most impossible thing, especially considering the circumstances in which Jeremiah and the people found themselves. Jeremiah follows with a prayer of praise as he recounts the character and merciful works of God in contrast to Judah’s faithlessness.

But we can see the challenge of faith that Jeremiah is having in this prayer. He admits readily that “nothing is too hard for God” (a statement which God turns around and repeats to him). However, at the end of his prayer, his is really struggling with the concept that God’s people will actually come back to this land.

Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”–though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.'”
(Jeremiah 32:25)

Jeremiah is like, I know you said this Lord, but that sounds like hope and light, and this is the most hopeless and darkest situations we could be in. It is at this point that God takes over the conversation, and replies with:

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:26-27)

God told Jeremiah that yes, Judah will be destroyed and rightly so because of their sins and rejection of God. But God will “restore their fortunes” (vs. 44). “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them” (vs. 42).

Trust me, Jeremiah, God is saying. Just as I will bring certain punishment, I will also bring certain hope, restoration and life! Nothing is too hard for God. And this is the the same God we serve today. God is a just God and will punish sinfulness, but He also a God of mercy who seeks to reconcile us to Himself and pour out upon us His blessings (Romans 5). When we are at our most hopeless and darkest places in life we need to remember that.

Nothing is too hard for God.

They Are New Every Morning

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him (Lamentations 3:19-25).

Many of you reading this already have heard that last Tuesday night our family suffered a tragedy in that our barn and riding arena burned down, and we lost our horses, sheep, goats and chickens. The family and our house is safe, praise God. But the pain we are experiencing is just hard to put into words. We certainly welcome your continued prayers to God on our behalf as we walk through this trial and seek healing and comfort. The outpouring of love and support from neighbors, the church family and from friends around the country has been overwhelming. God is good, and His love is seen in the people He has made in His image.

They Are New Every Morning

The picture I have attached to this post is of the sun beginning to rise on Friday morning. You know the sun rises every morning? Even when there is devastation and pain, the sun rises every morning. Seeing the sunrise made me think of the above passage in Lamentations written by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was standing in the midst of Jerusalem after its destruction. An entire city including the temple Solomon built for Israel to worship the Lord their God was destroyed and burned. I can only begin to imagine the devastation he saw. I can only begin to imagine the deep pain Jeremiah experienced as he surveyed the carnage. Fires take a long time to go out. The smells and sights are things you will never remove from your mind. Worse than that for Jeremiah was that he preached for decades warning of this event, yet the people did not listen nor repent. The book of Lamentations is structured such in the Hebrew that Jeremiah is literally weeping from A to Z.

Yet in the midst of all that pain, Jeremiah called to his mind some very important qualities of God. When we are in the depths our pain, we must also call to mind these qualities of God. I will leave you with these hopeful phrases from Lamentations 3.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning.

Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul.

Therefore I will hope in Him.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

Seek the welfare of the city

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:4-7).

The election is over. America has decided. God has appointed a ruler as He always does to accomplish His purpose (Romans 13).

Our responsibility as Christian men, fathers and husbands is to pray for the peace and security of the nation (state) where we live. Just like the exiles in Babylon in the verse above, we are to seek the welfare of the city were we live. When America is doing well, we do well. We are exiles and strangers, just like the Jews in Babylon (1 Peter 2:11-17).

Christians are citizens of a different kingdom, a heavenly kingdom, and we are simply pilgrims here. But no matter where “here” is we are obligated to shine as lights for God (Philippians 2:15). It is a simple principle, but we need to remember that our duty is always the same, no matter who wins our presidential election.

Lets remember to talk often about these principles with our sons and daughters.

…and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

The Sons of Jonadab

I encourage you today to read Jeremiah 35 to learn about the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab. It is a really great lesson tucked in the book of Jeremiah that we don’t hear talked about much. God used the family of Jonadab to contrast how loyal the ancestors were to Jonadab with how disloyal the nation of Judah was to God (Jeremiah 35:12-16).

Jonadab the son of Rechab lived over 200 years before the time of Jeremiah. This man had great zeal for God and he was taken by King Jehu to be a witness to the destruction of Baal worship and the punishment of the house of Ahab and Jezebel (2 Kings 10:15-17).

According to Jeremiah 35, Jonadab had given 2 clear commands to his offspring that they were to follow. He instructed them (1) to abstain from drinking wine and (2) to live in tents not houses. He wanted them to maintain their nomadic ways, and also to maintain their purity and holiness.

Jeremiah was told by God to test the sons of Jonadab by offering them wine to drink. They without hesitation resisted and told Jeremiah why they would not drink wine. The sons of Jonadab said, “We…have obeyed and have done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.
(Jeremiah 35:10). This led into God’s contrast to how disobedient the nation of Judah was to Him. Judah wasn’t even close to doing what God commanded them.

The Sons of Jonadab were loyal and obedient for centuries!

Here’s the thing, for over 200 years, the sons of Jonadab faithfully obeyed their father’s commands. They could have said, “Times have changed,” or “Dad’s dead now,” but they did not. Their loyalty to their father’s instructions was noted by God and he rewarded them for it.

Then Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father, kept all his commands and done according to all that he commanded you; therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me always”‘” (Jeremiah 35:18-19).

May we all be sons like the ancestors of Jonadab!