Posts Tagged ‘Daniel’

The Importance of Thanksgiving III

Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.  Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. 

Daniel 6:9-10

The decree that king Darius signed in verse 10 was the decree that no person should pray or ask any thing of anyone other than the king for 30 days.  The people who got his to sign this decree were just trying to get rid of Daniel.  They knew that Daniel was faithful and that he prayed consistently, three times a day.  So, Darius signed this decree that anyone who asked any thing of anyone else would be put in a den of lions and Daniel knew about.  What did Daniel do?  Daniel did exactly what Daniel was supposed to do.  He went right ahead and prayed, ignoring the king’s decree.

It is interesting to note that, in verse 10, the first thing he did was “gave thanks before his God.”  Daniel’s prayers were prayers of thanks.  He even prayed a prayer of thanksgiving when he knew that it would mean his going to the lions’ den.  It didn’t matter what the consequences, he understood the importance of offering thanksgiving to the Lord and the importance of just being thankful.  He was determined to continue to pray and be thankful even if it would cost him his life.

That is serious thankfulness.  I’m sure that none of us have ever been put in the position of having to choose to be thankful and die or to not be thankful and keep our mouths shut and live.  But if we were, what would we choose?  Would we still be committed to being thankful?  Let us be thankful during the good times, and that will make it easier to be thankful during the bad times!

Biblical Thanksgiving (Daniel)

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

Daniel 6:10

As we come upon this season of Thanksgiving, let us look at a few of the people in the Bible who gave thanks or were thankful.  After looking at their examples, hopefully we will take a minute or two to be a little more thankful ourselves.

This verse is about Daniel.  The story is familiar: the king was convinced to put out a decree that anyone caught praying or “petitioning God” would be cast into the den of lions.  Daniel knew about this decree and just went on doing what he did every day, which included praying.  Part of that praying was “giving thanks.”  He knew that if he prayed, he would be put into a den of lions, yet he prayed and thanked the Lord anyway.  I don’t know if he was thankful for the opportunity to go the lions den or not, but he was thankful.

In the face of persecution and (as far as he probably assumed) even death, Daniel remained thankful to his God.  That is a great lesson for us: no matter what we face in our lives, we can be thankful.  Thankfulness is not based on what we have or what we have been given.  Thankfulness is a heart matter and a state of mind.  We can look at our circumstances and think that we have little for which to be thankful, but as long as we have Jesus Christ, we have the best reason of all to be thankful.  No matter where we find ourselves, let us always remain thankful.

Our Understanding

And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?  And he said, God thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

Daniel 12:8-9

There are parts of the Bible that I do not understand.  And I think that any Christian, no matter what their level of spiritual experience would have to say the same thing.  There are some things that I do understand: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  I can understand that.  But some of the prophetic parts of Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Revelation are a little more difficult.  I admit that I really don’t know what they mean.  I can venture a guess as to their meaning, but beyond that, I just don’t know.  And, after reading what the commentators have said about those passages, I have come to the conclusion that they don’t know what some things mean either.

The point of all of this is to help us realize that we aren’t going to understand everything.  Even Daniel, a great prophet of the Lord, didn’t understand everything.  He didn’t even understand everything that he was writing.  He wanted to understand, and he even asked the Lord to help him understand.  But the Lord told him “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”  God basically told Daniel to just do what he was supposed to do.  He told him that those words were “closed up.”  Daniel didn’t need to understand everything about the prophecy he was writing a couple thousand years ago.

Sometimes it’s easy to get tangled up in prophecy and visions and symbolism.  There is nothing wrong with any of those things (and they can be very good and helpful), but it is important to remember that we are not going to understand things that the Lord doesn’t think we need to understand.  Sometimes it takes more faith to not understand something than to understand it.  Let’s keep our focus on Him.

A Model of Prayer

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for the city and thy people are called by thy name.  And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.  And he informed m, and talked with me…

Daniel 9:19-22a

In this passage, Daniel was just doing what he always did- praying.  He prayed when he was a young man taken captive.  He prayed before the king signed the decree forbidding anyone to make supplication to anyone but himself.  He prayed after that decree.  I am sure he prayed in the lions’ den.  And he prayed after he got out of the lions’ den.  In these verses, something amazing happened during his prayer – the angel Gabriel came and talked with him.

I will admit that I have never had an angel come to speak to me during a prayer before.  But I do like the example Daniel sets for us in regard to praying.  He says that he was “confessing my sin and sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God…”

First, he was doing a lot of confessing.  He was confessing both his own personal sin, and the collective sin of his entire country.  That is an important lesson for us.  We are never going to see anything great happen as long as we refuse to confess our sins to the Lord.  That is the first step.

The second step is to make our supplication to the Lord.  We need to ask the Lord for the things that we need in our lives.  Philippians 4:6 tells us “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

Daniel prayed and got to speak with an angel.  While that may not literally happen to us, praying and confessing will open great things to us!

Daniel’s Prayer

O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.

Daniel 9:18

In this verse, Daniel offers a touching prayer for his people.  It is a good pattern for us to use as we pray not only for ourselves, but for our communities and our countries.  Anytime we pray and make a petition to God, we are following the first part of the verse: “…incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations…”  We want God to hear us and we want Him to see and know whatever problem it is that we may have.  But the second half of the verse is really the attitude we should bring to our prayers:

“…for we do not present our supplications before thee for our own righteousenesses, but for thy great mercies.”  It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God “owes us something.”  We try to do right and live for Him, and somewhere in the back of our minds, we start thinking that God will answer our prayers because of all that we do for Him.  But He does not answer prayers because of our righteousness.  In fact, the Bible says that our righteousnesses are “as filthy rags.”  He answers prayers (especially prayers on behalf of communities, nations, etc.) because of His great mercies.

We have sinned against God, both individually and collectively.  When we pray for forgiveness, we are throwing ourselves on the mercies of God.  Fortunately, we have the promise of Isaiah 54:8:

“In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.”  We can look around us and see sin across our land.  We need to pray for mercy!

It Belongs To Him

To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him; Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

Daniel 9:9-10

We obviously know that everything that exists belongs to the Lord in the broadest sense.  But these verses bring home an important fact: the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness that we sometimes take for granted “belongs to” Him.  He owns and controls the mercy and forgiveness in our lives.  Sometimes we get a little prideful and start to mistakenly believe that we don’t need much forgiveness and mercy.  We might start to look down our “holy” noses at others who need “more” forgiveness and mercy than we do.  And we can begin to forget just how much of God’s mercy and forgiveness that we experienced in our lives, which can cause us to become unthankful.

The second half of verse 9 and verse 10 should help us to understand just what we are.    According to verse 9 (and according to our own experiences), we “have rebelled against him…”  Every one of us has rebelled against our Creator, the very God of Heaven.  Verse 10 goes on to tell us that we have not obeyed Him and we have not followed His laws.  Again, the Bible tells us that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  (I John 1:8)  The book of Romans tells us that “…all have sinned…”  Every one of us has rebelled against God.  Every one of us has sinned against a holy God.  And every one us desperately needs that mercy and forgiveness that “belongs to Him”

Fortunately, He has made His abundant mercy and forgiveness available to anyone who will come to Him.  Today (and every day), let us remember that it is He, not us, Who owns mercy and forgiveness.  And that it is us, not Him, who is in desperate need of them.  Let us be always thankful for His mercy.

The Lions’ Den, Part XII

Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.  I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.  He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Daniel 6:25-27

There is something that I think sometimes gets lost when read stories like this in the Bible, especially if we have grown up hearing these stories.  At some point, there is a tendency to classify stories like “Daniel and the lions’ den” and “David and Goliath” and others as just “Bible stories.”  They become little more than interesting stories, not all that different from an inspirational story that we would read anywhere else.  But I sometimes have to remind myself that these stories are real, not just part of Bible “literature.”

Daniel was a real man, similar to me.  He went to bed at night, he woke up in the morning, he ate, he worked; he was an actual person.  The lions’ den was not a story that he made up to put in his book.  There were real (and apparently ravenous) lions.  And he was literally thrown in with them.  Hearing the story hundreds of times tends to make those facts more mundane than they should be.  All of these things literally happened.

But, fortunately, as the new decree given by Darius can confirm, God also literally delivered him.  God literally closed the mouths of the lions.  As it says in verse 27, “He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth…”  Yes He does, king Darius.  And that is the God I serve!

The Lions’ Den, Part XI

Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den.  So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.  And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the  den.

Daniel 6:23-24

These verses illustrate the classic truth found in Proverbs 26:27, “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.”  When we set out to destroy someone or to take vengeance on someone, we are the ones who will be destroyed.  Bitterness destroys the host of the bitterness, not the object of the bitterness.  We know these things, but sometimes need reminded of them.  This verse gives us a graphic illustration of those truths.

The men who schemed and plotted to have Daniel killed in the den of lions we ultimately thrown to the lions themselves (along with their wives and children).  And I like how the Bible words what happened to them: “the lions had the mastery of them.”  The lions had no power over Daniel, but they certainly had power over those who hated Daniel.  God did not stop the mouths of the lions a second time.  In fact, the Bible says that were torn apart before they hit the bottom of the den.  That must have been a gruesome sight.  And that gruesome sight will stand forever as a reminder of what bitterness and jealousy can do to us.

It is so easy to allow bitterness and jealousy to creep into our lives.  It is so easy even to justify it’s existence.  But we must remember that harbouring it will eventually destroy us.

The Lions’ Den, Part X

My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.  Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den.  So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.

Daniel 6:22-23

In these verses, king Darius comes and finds Daniel unharmed in the lions’ den.  He gives the commandment for him to be taken out and he comes out with “no manner of hurt… found upon him.”  That phrase reminds me of the story of the fiery furnace in which Nebuchadnezzar threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.  Daniel 3:27 says “upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.”

Daniel came out of a den of ravenous lions and “no manner of hurt was found upon him.”  Just as the three Hebrews had earlier come out of the fiery furnace with no sign that they had ever been there in the first place, so Daniel came out of the lions’ den with no sign that he had spent the night among hungry man-eaters.  The fire had no power over Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and the lions had no power over Daniel.  God controlled the fire, and God controlled the mouths of the lions.  What a wonderful, powerful God!

And why did God stop the mouths of these lions?  That answer is found at the end of verse 23: “…because he believed in his God.”  Daniel was spared because of his faith.  No matter what part of the Bible you look at, you will find the need for believing God and obeying Him.  No matter where you turn, you find stories of people who believed God and obeyed Him and were blessed beyond measure for it.  The question is: could the same be said of us?  “He believed in his God.”

The Lions’ Den, Part IX

Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.  And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?  Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.  My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

Daniel 6:19-22

King Darius came to the mouth of the lions’ den the morning after Daniel had been put in to see if he had lived through the night.  He came to see if Daniel’s God had been able to deliver him from the lions.  He had.  Imagine the happiness and relief that Darius must have felt when he heard Daniel’s voice come back “O king, live for ever…”

I have often wondered how Daniel acted in the den of lions.  I have often wondered if he was scared at all when they first put him there.  I wonder if he spent the night in prayer, hoping nervously that the lions would also spend the night in prayer and fasting, or if he just curled up and went to sleep, ignoring the lions.  Being an animal lover, I wonder if he, at any point, petted the lions.  There is a famous painting that depicts Daniel standing in prayer with the lions halfway circled around him, just staring at him.  Unfortunately, the Bible gives us no details about how Daniel passed that night.  But, the only detail that we really need is the fact that Daniel did pass that night, and was delivered.

Daniel’s faith is something that we can emulate.  He believed God and that is the faith that will give us victory in every area of our lives.  As Hebrews 11:33 tells us “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…”