(5) Daniel: Hope for birth-pain times

Two of the best-known Old Testament stories are in the first half of the book of Daniel. Dramatic and unforgettable, they’re often included in children’s books of Bible stories. But as I read the book in its entirety as an adult, I see details of these stories that I never knew as a child, details that fortify my hope in the God I trust.

God rescues and save His people. 

That hope is illustrated by the stories of Daniel in the lions’ den and of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were his three friends thrown into the blazing furnace. These are stories of incredible, miraculous rescue of God’s faithful people. Great and unforgettable stories.

As I read these stories yet one more time, I’m struck by several things —

First, the acknowledgement of God’s mighty power to save comes from pagan kings!

In both stories, the pagan kings are the ones who voice praise to Daniel’s God when they see the miraculous rescue. After Daniel walked out of the lions’ den without a scratch, King Darius sent out a proclamation announcing his belief in Daniel’s saving God. When the three friends were brought out of the furnace without one hair sizzled and with not a whiff of smoke on their clothes, Nebuchadnezzar bursts out with, “There is no other god who can rescue like this!”

No, King Neb, there is no other god like ours.

Sisters and brothers, children of the Most High God—other gods today might look powerful and might appear to offer us salvation. But none will be able to rescue us like our God can.

God rescues us on a daily basis. I think we often miss it. We are very precious to Him. He is here, right here with us, walking through every fire with us, just like He did with the men in the furnace. Big and little rescues and saves — He excels at them all. Watch for His rescue. Praise Him for it. Don’t miss it. And don’t, don’t, do not look to the wrong saviors, because nobody can rescue like our God can!

The three friends, who refused to bow down to anyone but God, stood firm with a strength I want. “Our God is able to save us from anything,” they say to the king, “but even if he chooses not to save us from this fire, we will never serve anyone but Him.”

May our faith in our God and in what He does for His people be this unwavering! Even when we have to walk into the fire…or we’re thrown into it.

And then, we look forward to God’s final, complete rescue of His people.

In the last half of the book, Daniel records his visions of the future. I can’t untangle exactly what future all of these visions refer to. Some of it seems to have already happened in Israel’s history. Yet the angel messenger tells Daniel at one point, “What you are seeing pertains to the very end time.” (See 8:19). There’s a numbering of days—but remember, we are also told that “days” means a very different thing to God than the literal meaning we give it. I don’t even try to sort it all out.

But here’s a promise: Michael, the angel, speaks of a terrible time of great anguish. “But at that time, every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued.” (see 12:1)

This is the detail that matters most to me: God’s final, full rescue of His people.

Let me amend that statement, because that’s not a “detail.” That is the entire story!

Remember: You are very precious to God. We can depend on Him to rescue and save His people. Today, tomorrow, and at the very end of time.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

(4) Daniel: Hope for birth-pain times

I don’t often touch on politics and current events here. We children of God are scattered all over the world and find ourselves in vastly different circumstances, and I believe the Spirit uses the Scriptures to speak to each one of us concerning how we live in our specific culture and unique life situations. I leave that up to the Spirit.

But today I’m going to dive into a subject the Spirit brings daily to my mind.

Frankly, it’s been hard for me to write of hope while I sit in my cozy nest but so many people are living in tents and waiting…waiting for a new place to call home. They were ordinary people living ordinary lives, just like me. Then, within hours, they lost all of life as they had known it. Now, there is only uncertainty. And waiting. And looking for hope.

I’ve been reading their stories. David Rupert has interviewed many displaced Syrian Christians and recorded some of these Refugee Stories.
It’s worth the time to read their stories.

God is not okay with what’s happening in the Middle East.

And how could He possibly be okay with His children doing nothing?

As heirs to His Kingdom, already here, and Christ’s partners in redemption work, surely we are to be mobilizing to do something?

But if you’re like me, you look at the enormity of this crisis, and you wonder, But what can I do? That’s been my question.

Like a letter from God, a magazine came in the mail yesterday. Within its pages I found part of the answer for me. And — of course! — it fit right in with yet another hope found in Daniel!

These two paragraphs come from an article on the genocide happening right now in the Middle East:

There are several things people of faith can do to help Middle Eastern Christians, says Travis Wussow, director of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s International Justice & Religious Liberty department—both personally and on a public-policy level.

“First, we need to believe that our prayers matter. We need to commit to praying for our brothers and sisters,” he tells Citizen. “Then we need to bear their burden. We must send our treasure to organizations that are doing great work on the ground. I’m not talking about our used T-shirts, I’m talking about serious cash.”*

Two things we can do, in this crisis and in every other situation as we work in the Kingdom: prayer and bearing each other’s burdens.

I think we sometimes wonder if our prayers make any difference in such a situation. If you’re reading Daniel, did you notice what happened when he began praying for his own nation? (And also notice, Daniel was living in another country, in relatively good circumstances, but he was praying for a country and people removed from his own situation.)

The angel messenger told him, “The moment you began praying, a command was given.” (9:23) and “Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven.” (10:12)

Another hope found in the Book of Daniel: Our prayers do matter!

And as for the second suggestion—that of sending our treasures to help others—one of the things I’ve been most convicted about this year is that God puts a great deal of importance and urgency on our taking care of the poor. The commands pop up again and again and again in Scripture.

I am a child of the King of this eternal kingdom in which I already live. By America’s standards, I have little. By the world’s standards, I have much. By God’s standards… what can I be doing with what I have?

How should I be conducting myself in this world today?

Father, may your Kingdom come through our lives, and may we do Your will here on earth as it is in heaven.

And, brothers and sisters, our prayers will be heard in heaven. Let’s not fail to send them up.

.

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*At the time I publish this, the article is not yet online at the magazine’s site, but I have no doubt it will be posted there soon. Watch for it at Citizen Magazine, from Focus on the Family.

The article also posts these links:

idc.org – To learn more about In Defense of Christians and how to become a member.
focusonthefamily.com/international – To find out about Focus on the Family’s work in the Middle East or contribute to it.
genocide-watch.net – To learn more about genocide
https://barnabasfund.org – To learn more about persecuted Christians around the world and how to help them.
westminster-institute.org – To learn more about how radical Islamic ideology threatens Christians

At his website, David Rupert also has suggestions for donating.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

(3) Daniel: Hope for birth-pain times

The next reality laid out for us in the Book of Daniel is voiced by the once-ungodly-and-arrogant King Nebuchadnezzar. He encountered God. His testimony after that encounter is evidence of an amazing transformation. (Read Daniel 4:1-3 and 34-35). Our hope today comes from his words about the amazing things God had done for him and the unending sovereignty of the Most High:

“His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal.”

It’s difficult to grasp eternal. We know only beginnings and endings in our earthly lives. Yet Scripture says the eternal is already planted in us.

Trying to gain a firmer grasp of eternal, I went to my concordance and looked up the word. And it did indeed give me a bigger picture. Here’s what my concordance reminds me of:

(Don’t just skim over this list. Savor the eternity in it all.)

God’s eternal covenant with His people
Eternal life…and an eternal fire of punishment
His eternal rule and kingdom
Sin with eternal consequences
God, worthy of eternal praise
God’s eternal power
God’s eternal plan
Eternal salvation=eternal rescue
An eternal inheritance
Eternal glory

Without even reading the Scriptures listed in the concordance, we have a glimpse—just a tiny taste—of a kingdom eternal. Under a sovereign God with an eternal plan.

And as the children of God, we are part of a kingdom and plan that go far beyond the years between our birth day and our physical death. What we do has results that go into eternal dimensions.

Amazing.

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When will it come?

That’s the question the Pharisees put to Jesus. The Jews had lived for generations with their hope looking forward to the coming Kingdom of God.

Even though the Pharisees often engaged Jesus in conversation to try to get the best of Him and trip Him up, I hear in this question an authentic desire to know: When will the Kingdom of God come? 

Jesus answered: “It is now here, among you, (or, within you, within your grasp)” (see Luke 17:21).

As we read Jesus’ teachings, we cannot fail to hear Him talking about the Kingdom and what life in God’s Kingdom is to be like.

It is here. It is planted within us. And we are part of this eternal Kingdom!

How does that affect my life today?

As children of the sovereign King and His heirs, should we not be conducting our lives in accordance with the purposes of the Kingdom?

This has a bearing on how we live in every area, from our attitude and behavior toward the overbearing boss that everyone else hates to what we choose to do in response to the Syrian refugee crises. It affects the decisions we make and the way we spend our money. It shapes our motivations and our goals. It changes how we work together with others in the Kingdom.

We are partners with Jesus in His mission of redemption here on earth. The eternal Kingdom is here, now. We are working for and in the Kingdom.

When Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” I don’t think He was looking forward to a someday. I think He was teaching us to pray, “Bring Your Kingdom alive through our lives, Father, and may we do Your will just as heaven does…”

Ask the Spirit to give you a glimpse of the eternal dimensions of the Kingdom, in which you are a part.

Ask the Father what this means for your life, right now, today.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

(2) Daniel: Hope for birth-pain times

The accounts of two kings give us a second truth we can hold onto through the birth-pain times. This truth is trumpeted throughout the Book of Daniel. You can’t miss it. And all of heaven and earth will eventually acknowledge it as God moves on with His plan.

King Nebuchadnezzar and his successor, Belshazzar, came face to face with this reality. One came to the truth in time to save himself and his kingdom. The other refused to acknowledge it and lost both his kingdom and his life.

Heaven rules!

Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful, rich king, controlling most of his known world. It was his empire that had overcome Judah and moved Daniel and many other Jews to Babylon as captives. He became very proud and arrogant as he surveyed all he had accomplished and built. He even had a statue of himself erected and ordered people to worship there.

And at this point, God let him know: You must learn that “the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world, and gives them to anyone he chooses.” (see Daniel 4)

God warned the king in a dream: He would lose his sanity for a period of time…but all was not lost. He could still regain his kingdom, “when you have learned that heaven rules.”

And that is what happened. This arrogant, idolatrous, pagan ruler learned. Chapter 4 of Daniel records his own words of new allegiance to and worship of the Most High King.

His successor, Belshazzar, knew all of this, yet he defied God. Daniel had a message for the king from God: “You have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny.” And so, God took the kingdom from Belshazzar. That very night, he died. (see Chapter 5)

Satan is at war with God, and this earth is a war-torn, weary, bloody battlefield. But God is on the throne. The birth pains tell us a new world is coming, where creation will be resurrected and renewed. And in the end, God will have the last say.

My hope lives on these words: Heaven rules!

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

(1) Daniel: Hope for birth-pain times

As Daniel received visions of the future, he became so upset and terrified by them that he was physically ill. We might, likewise, find these foretellings unsettling and frightening.

But God sent an angel to explain things to Daniel. And the Book of Daniel holds messages of hope for us, too, set like jewels against the darkness of what must happen.

The first is this word from the angel: “Don’t be afraid. You are very precious to God.”

The angel repeated this several times, as he saw Daniel’s confidence and courage waver. Since I’ve read Daniel, the Spirit has repeated that to me, when worry and fear knock at my door. You are very precious to God.

As Jesus spent His final hours with His friends and looked toward the future, He reminded them of this: “The Father loves you dearly because you love me and believe I came from God” (John 16:27).

Later, the disciple-turned-apostle John wrote a letter and reminded all of God’s children: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love” (1 John 4:16).

I have put my trust in this—that I am very precious to God. No matter what events are here today or coming tomorrow.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)