Daniel: Giving Up Your Life For Others

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-The Greatest Commandment!

One of the key lessons the Prophet Daniel shows us is how to give up our life for others. When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus responded, “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and, with all your might.” Then He said, “And, the 2nd is like unto it—Love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). In other words, the 2nd is only surpassed, in importance, by the 1st. Or, understood, in context, the 2nd comes out of obedience to the 1st. Jesus was saying that when we truly grow in love for God, we can’t help but grow in love for our fellow man!

-Help Others Reconcile With God!

We can give up our life for others because our God has given up His life for us! That’s how we help others become reconciled with God—we LOVE them! We deny self! We even die to self! Daniel lived that kind of life! Even when facing the prospect of death, he persistently shared the truth & incarnated that truth in the way he lived. I’m fairly confident that Daniel never would have scripted his life the way God did—to be torn away from your family & your homeland; and, exiled to a foreign land to serve the very King that ruined your happy home life! But, his yieldedness to a Sovereign God made for quite an exciting life & gave him ample opportunities to offer praise to God!

-Why Are We So Whiny?

We American Christians, unfortunately, have a reputation for being kind of whiny about things! God help us see trouble & pain as opportunities for God to do miraculous things so He can receive the praise He so richly deserves! When God stepped in & miraculously delivered Daniel from the lions den, King Darius rejoiced and said: “I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion, people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel: For He is the living God, & He endures forever;  His kingdom will never be destroyed, & His dominion has no end.  He rescues & delivers; He performs signs & wonders in the heavens & on the earth, for He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:26-28) Daniel could be used, by God, because he willingly gave up his life for others.  He served people!

-What A Legacy!

How would you like to be the one who led an Adolph Hitler or a Saddam Hussein to become a follower of Jesus? Sound impossible? That’s probably the equivalent of Daniel influencing Nebuchadnezzar & Darius to the faith! These were bad guys! History records that the kings of Babylon & the Medo-Persian empires were some of the most ruthless ever to walk the earth! But, it seems pretty clear, from Scripture, they’ll both be gathered around the throne of God—with the rest of us—worshipping & praising God for all eternity! Because Daniel saw God’s “big picture” & submitted to God’s plan for his life, he became a disciple maker of Kings! What a legacy Daniel has left us! In one of the most spiritually hostile environments in the history of the world, Daniel survived & thrived in his faith! Will you, like Daniel, trust God with all of your life?

 

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Daniel: Trust God With Your Life!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-When Crime Is Not A Sin!

Let me start this post by making another interesting point about God’s prophet, Daniel—He purposely committed a “crime” against a human government so he would not be guilty of committing a “sin” against God!  The scene unfolds in chapter 6, of Daniel’s book, as the enemies of Daniel deceive King Darius into signing “…an edict that for 30 days, anyone who petitions any god or man except you, the king, will be thrown into the lions’ den” (v.7).  An agreement that, if followed , would force Daniel to commit the sin of idolatry against his God.  Something he would not do! So, when he was observed praying to his God the trap was set & he was arrested for treason against his King & sentenced to death, a pit full of hungry lions to be his executioners! So, he purposely & knowingly committed a “crime” against a human government to avoid committing a “sin” against his God!

-Familiar Territory!

This was familiar territory for Daniel! Much earlier, in his life, he had observed how his 3 friends—Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—had made a similar decision when faced with their choice to obey God or man (see chapter 2). Instead of lions, they faced the prospect of death in a fiery furnace! But, Daniel noted that God delivered them! God always delivers—whether by a miracle; or, by death—but, He always delivers! When King Darius, who was NOT Daniel’s enemy, realized that he had been duped, he worked hard to deliver Daniel from certain death; but, he could not (v.14). The most powerful man, in the world, couldn’t deliver him from “…the law of the Medes & the Persians, that changes not…”

-The Weakness Of Man!

What a picture of the weakness of man! Even the most powerful, of men, was unable to reverse the inevitable! Don’t trust in man! Don’t trust in yourself! Trust God! Oh, how we need to learn that, don’t we? When Daniel submitted to God’s Sovereign plans, God was able to use his life circumstances to build another person’s faith! Daniel focused on God’s “big picture.” Without God’s help, we will always focus on our circumstances!

-Take Off Those Glasses!

We tend to see all our pain & suffering through the lens of our own self-centered glasses! We need the Holy Spirit’s help to remove the glasses of self! To deny self! Daniel saw God use the trouble in his life as a testimony that led first, to King Nebuchadnezzar’s faith (ch.4); and, now brought King Darius to faith! “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. No diversions were brought to him, and he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he reached the den, he cried out in anguish to Daniel. “Daniel, servant of the living God,” the king said, “has your God whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions?”  Even when facing the prospect of death, Daniel remained influential in the King’s life! He persistently incarnated God’s truth in the way he lived!

 

 

Daniel: You Should Know Better!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-Don’t Lick Frozen Flagpoles!

One of the most hilarious scenes in the movie, A Christmas Story, occurs when one of the characters sticks their tongue on a frozen flagpole because they were “triple dog dared” to do so! The reason that scene is so funny is because we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Licking a frozen flagpole is like some weird right of passage in elementary school. And, it wouldn’t make any difference if they put signs up all over campus— “DON’T LICK FROZEN FLAGPOLES”—kids are going to do it! When they complain that the top layer of skin, on their tongue, has been ripped off, we tell them, “You should have known better!” They knew the consequences! They’d observed it in their foolish classmates! When they complain, for the next week, that it hurts to talk, that it hurts to eat,  that it hurts to do anything with their tongue, we tell them, “You should have known better!”

-Pride Always Gets Us In Trouble!

That’s almost exactly what Daniel says to the Babylonian king as we open chapter 5 of the book, of Scripture, that bears his name. Here we’re introduced to King Belshazzar. Almost 70 years have passed since Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael & Azzariah were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon (Daniel chapter 1); and, it’s been some 25 years since the end of chapter 4 when we see King Nebuchadnezzar become a worshipper of Yahweh. The historical record fills in some of the details—we know that it was Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Nabonidus, who followed him to the throne of Babylon; and, it was his son, Belshazzar, who succeeded him & became the central figure here in the 5th chapter of Daniel’s story. We don’t know why; but, the Holy Spirit inspired Daniel to bypass the life of Nabonidus completely; and, all but the last day of Belshazzar’s life! Here’s what else we know—outside the massive walls of Babylon, the Medo-Persian army had surrounded the city. In his pride, King Belshazzar threw this huge drinking party for all his nobles to show them that there was no reason to fear the army outside the walls (ch. 5:1-4). Someone has said that “Pride is the evil response of sinful men to the grace of God”; and, King Belshazzar’s response was evil!

-The King Who Should Have Known Better

He had heard about the grace that God had shown his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar; but, his pride led him into the deeper sins of idolatry & blasphemy. And, as Daniel rehashed the details, of his grandfather’s story, with him (vs. 18-21) he concluded: “But you his successor, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven…”(vs. 22-23)  “You knew all this,” Daniel told him, “You should have known better!”  And, we should know better! God’s patience can be exhausted! We make much of God’s mercy, grace & patience with us; and, we should because God is loving, merciful, gracious & patient with us! But, we dare not ignore the justice & judgment of God! We do so—like Belshazzar did—at our own peril!

 

Daniel: Standing Against Evil!

-Evil Always Gives You A 2nd Chance!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

Have you ever noticed how evil will always give you a 2nd chance to do evil? If you miss the first invitation, there’ll always be a follow-up! That’s what Daniel’s 3 friends—Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah—observed after they failed to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold image as he had commanded them to do (Daniel chapter 3). “Ya know boys,” I imagine the King saying, “I’m thinking you just must not have heard me! When the music starts, all you have to do is follow the crowd! Just bow down & worship my gold image & all’s cool!

-He Picked On The Wrong Deity!

And, then he lays down the gauntlet: “…and who is that God who can rescue you from my power?” Oops! You just picked on the wrong deity, Nebuchadnezzar! Don’t ever draw a line in the sand & dare Yahweh to cross it! But, that’s what he did! He bragged that no God could deliver them from his hand! I love how they stood up to evil—they “…replied to the King, ‘Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the King. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as King to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” They had faith in God’s ability to deliver them—that God was ABLE!

-Don’t Make Promises For God He Doesn’t Make!

But, even if He, according to His Sovereign plan, didn’t deliver them, they would not bow to his image! There’s a great application to take from their example—we need to be careful not to put words in God’s mouth! Don’t make claims for God on His behalf! We may think that God has to respond in a certain way; but, our knowledge is finite and limited! His ways are higher than our ways! Don’t make promises for God that He doesn’t make! We can’t presume, on Him, about how our story ends! God doesn’t always deliver the way we “think” He ought to! While He brought these 3 through the fiery furnace unharmed, He may not do the same for us! We don’t know! We just know that He’s ABLE! Our response is to take a stand against evil no matter the personal cost! “When ungodly men make ungodly laws, godly men disobey them!”

-This Was Real: It Was Life Or Death!

One of the biggest challenges, to preaching this text, is overcoming some of your childhood perceptions. This isn’t a “fairytale” or a “myth”—Daniel & his 3 friends were real people who loved God! They were people just like you & me trying to live out the difficulties of life by faith in God. And, their story—like our story—put them in a place where they had to make a tough decision! And, like they experienced, when we obey God rather than man, we’ll be judged, by the world, as insubordinate & NOT a “team player.” This 3rd chapter of Daniel points out that “…some (of the King’s counselors) took the occasion to come forward & maliciously accuse the Jews…” of ignoring the King! Nothing could be further from the truth! They had proven their loyalty to the King! Be prepared to pay a price if you obey God over man!

 

 

Daniel: Questioning Civil Disobedience!

-There Is A Law Above Our Laws!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I have a huge curiosity for all things Adolf Hitler & WWII Germany—perhaps, in part, because I’m of German descent; but, mostly, I think, because I find it incredulous how an entire nation could be duped by such an ungodly man! How could they ever go along with a plan to round up a certain people group & have them exterminated as Hitler did some 6 million Jews; not, to mention the thousands of non-Jewish German citizens that he killed because they wouldn’t go along with his plan? When WWII ended, in 1945, a series of military tribunals were held by the Allied forces, in Nuremberg, Germany, to prosecute the prominent leaders of Nazi Germany who carried out or participated in the Holocaust & other war crimes. Painted as patriots,  by their attorneys, their defense was that they were only carrying out the direct orders of their government; and, therefore could not be held responsible for their actions. But, one of the judges dismissed their argument with one simple question: “But, gentlemen,” he asked, “Is there not a law above our laws?

-We Ought To Obey God!

While Scripture gives us the general principle that, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities…” (Rom 13:1,2);  the higher, Biblical principle is this: “When ungodly men make ungodly laws, godly men disobey them!” The Apostle Peter taught the general principle to “…submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…” (1 Pet 2:13-15); but, he also said, “…we must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).  It’s in that kind of quagmire that Daniel’s 3 friends found themselves in chapter 3 of Daniel’s story! King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, from chapter 2, becomes a “nightmare” for Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah as he builds a 90’ tall gold statue, of himself, and demands that everyone bow down and worship it—“…when you hear the music…you are to fall down & worship the gold statue…” (ch. 3:5) This was a problem! They had been raised in good Jewish homes & knew the commandments Yahweh had given to Moses in Exodus chapter 20: “I am the LORD your God; do not have any other gods besides me…”

-It Was Us Against The World!

They knew the law: “…do not make an idol for yourself,” it continued, “you must not bow down to them or worship them…” (Exodus 20). So, here they were between the proverbial “Rock & A Hard Place”—obey the King & face God’s judgment or obey God & face the King’s fiery furnace! Let me try & paint the picture for you as you follow the narrative in Daniel chapter 3. There are probably thousands upon thousands of people, representing all the nations that Babylon had subdued, waiting for the sound of the music! They hear it & all the thousands upon thousands bow down & worship the King’s gold image….. EXCEPT 3 MEN! They knew their insubordination wouldn’t go unnoticed; and, it didn’t! But, the fear of God outweighed their fear of man: “When ungodly men make ungodly laws, godly men disobey them!

 

Daniel & The God Of The Impossible

-An Impossible Circumstance In Babylon

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I’ll never forget where I was on Friday, February 22, 1980 when the United States Olympic Hockey team shocked the world by beating the powerful Soviet Union team 4-3 on their way to an Olympic Gold Medal! It’s the hockey match that will forever be remembered as the “Miracle On Ice” because no one gave the U.S. team a chance of beating the Soviets. Daniel also faced an “impossible” circumstance in Babylon; and, after God delivered the miracle finish, Daniel was quick to deflect all the glory away from himself & redirect the praise to God.

-Anxiety & Panic Will Suffocate You!

This story—in Daniel, chapter 2—will encourage you as you face all the “impossible” circumstances in your own life! Daniel fleshes out how a believer can handle the stressful things in life & all the things we worry about! We all find ourselves, from time to time, in a situation we perceive to be “impossible.” The anxiety & the sense of panic can be suffocating. When chapter 2 opens—in Daniel’s book—we find Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar dealing with a case of insomnia over some dreams he had experienced (vs. 1-3). So, he brings together 4 distinct groups of people to help him make sense of the dreams. These would be like his “wise men” & counselors—the “diviner-priests” were scholars who claimed the ability to forecast the future; the “mediums” alleged the ability to communicate with the dead; the “sorcerers” practiced incantations or the casting of spells; and, the “Chaldeans” were students of astrology who studied the stars & other heavenly bodies to determine the future.

-An Impossible Demand!

The narrative continues (in v.4-9) when the King gives them an “impossible” assignment. He demands that they give him not only the meaning of his dream; but, that they also tell him what he actually dreamed! Now, we have the luxury of reading Daniel’s entire story in one setting; but, there are actually months & years involved! God is at work in the King’s heart. He’s using the King’s relationship with Daniel to challenge the King’s “world view”; and, his faith in Babylon’s idolatrous religion! We’re starting to see some cracks in the King’s belief system! There’s a parallel application for us—don’t assume you know what’s going on in someone’s heart!

-Caution: God At Work!

Don’t write off a person simply because of the words they say; or, the way they’re currently living their life! Daniel’s story confirms that God is at work; even, when it seems “impossible” that someone—like King Nebuchadnezzar—could ever come to faith! In vs. 10-13, the “wisemen” & counselors are unable to tell the King what he dreamed! This is Sovereign God, behind the scenes, planting seeds of doubt in the King’s mind. God intends to draw a clear distinction between the false gods of Babylon; and, the true God of Daniel! When King Nebuchadnezzar responds with a “…tell me what I dreamed & the interpretation; or, I’ll have you all killed…” the stage was set for Nebuchadnezzar’s introduction to the God of Creation!

 

Daniel’s Story Is About Exile

-And, God Wrote Daniel’s Story!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

The Book of Daniel begins with these haunting words:  “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it.  The Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God” Daniel 1:1-2.  And, v.6 states that Daniel, among others, was exiled from his home, in Israel, to the land of Babylon. This would be God’s story about Daniel; and, hopefully, you find comfort in knowing that God is also writing your story! Just like Daniel’s story, there is purpose to the story of your life! There is NOTHING random about it! God is in the details!

-And, God Is Writing Our Story!

Just like any great writer takes you through all kinds of twists & unexpected turns until the end, when he ties up all the loose ends & it all makes sense, God does the same thing as He writes our stories. We can have faith, like Daniel, that God is writing all the twists & the turns, the heartaches & the disappointments, into the stories of our lives & at the end He’ll bring closure to it all & make sense of it! We may not know how He’s going to make it work; but, trust Him, He will.

-God’s Word Sustained Daniel

It was the truth of God’s Word that sustained Daniel because his story was birthed in pain, suffering and separation. Daniel’s story is about EXILE—that’s where chapter 1 begins.  Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, was not a very nice man. History records him as one of the most brutal, powerful and ambitious kings the world has ever known! He was arrogant and egotistical! Babylon has such an ungodly reputation, in the Bible, that it seems to be used as a metaphor—in the Book of Revelation—for the evil world system that anti-Christ will control, in the last days, before Jesus returns. This is who God writes into Daniel’s story.  They “laid siege” to Jerusalem—that’s a military term describing an operation employed, by an army, to capture a fortified place by surrounding it; by, cutting off all communications & supplies; and, by deploying weapons against it! Why would God allow this?

-God Choreographed All Of It

Why would God actually write this into Israel’s & Daniel’s story? The siege, against Jerusalem, was the result of God’s judgment for disobedience. When God gave Israel the land of Canaan, as an inheritance, He warned them that they were being used by God to drive out the wickedness in the land; and, that He would also drive them out of the land if they behaved like the nations they dispossessed! And, despite multiple warnings, they disobeyed & worshiped idols! They dishonored God’s Sabbath! Though there were times of revival & a brief return to God, the gradualism of sin & wickedness overtook every level of the nation from kings to priests to citizens. They preferred darkness over light; so, God judged them. He didn’t just ALLOW it, “…the LORD HANDED Jehoiakim, King of Judah, over to him…” God WROTE it into the story!