(8) Daniel: Hope for birth-pain times

Daniel has become a book of great hope for me. Yes, it includes dire warnings and grim prophecies that both confuse and alarm us. Jesus told us the same things.

But as we read the book in its entirety, we cannot miss the hope:

We are very precious to God.
Heaven rules! Forever!
Our prayers do make a difference.
God rescues and saves His people.
Even through the hardest times, God is working His plan for His people.
And He can be trusted to keep His covenant with us.

This is how we face the birth-pain times. We do have to face them. God does not pluck His children out of the world’s turmoil and place them in a bubble where they are not troubled by the agony of the world. It will touch all of our lives in various degrees and intensities. But no matter what is ahead, these hopes are things we can depend on.

As I read Daniel, the “icing on the cake” comes with the very last verse.

Remember, Daniel was quite distressed by the visions he was given of the future. They made him physically ill. We can also become fretful and fearful as we read prophecy of the times before Christ’s return to earth. Even without reading prophecy, all we need to do is look around us at the scary, worrisome condition of the world today.

But the angel messenger’s words to Daniel speak peace to my soul too.

“As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you” (Daniel 12:13).

We know our ultimate destination, brothers and sisters. We know the One who is in control of it all. We know His plan. Our times are in His hands.

Let us continue to go forward, over the bridges of hope He’s laid out for us.

Finish the race.

Rest.

Rise.

And inherit!

 

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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)

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© 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.)

(7) Daniel: Hope for birth-pain times

“You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your command” (Daniel 8:9).

This lines are from Daniel’s prayer. This is the foundation of all our hope—that God keeps His promises and holds fast to His covenant with us. If this were not true, then every hope we have would be futile. We would have nothing to move forward on… Then, truly, the future would be depressing at best, terrifying at worst.

Remember that hope in Scripture is not simply wishing that something might happen or be true. Hope is the certainty that what is promised will come to pass.

Daniel’s prayer is for his nation. It’s a confession of Israel’s failure to keep their part of the covenant with God and a plea for mercy and forgiveness.

And for us, this is also a part of God’s covenant and promises. When we fail, confession and repentance will be met with God’s mercy and forgiveness.

His unfailing love has made us so many promises — and He is a God who keeps His promises.

Our hope lives on that.

 

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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.)

(6) Daniel: Hope for birth-pain times

Wouldn’t you like to know the rest of the story? I’d like to know more about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—after their walk through the flames.

We do know two things—King Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed with their God and their faith that he promoted them to higher positions in the kingdom (and remember, they were foreigners in the land!) and he also issued a decree that no one in his kingdom could speak a word against their Almighty God.

Impressive. They influenced the entire country with their stand of faith and improved their own earthly fortunes.

But throughout Scriptures, prophecy paints a picture of the people of God suffering greatly … and such positive outcomes will not always be seen on earth. Even after this seeming change of attitude toward the Israelites, there was still opposition. The plotting against Daniel that landed him in the lions’ den came after this incident. Opposition and persecution of God’s people will not end at any time in the history of this earth.

Our natural reaction is to shrink back from the flames. To do whatever we can to avoid being bound and thrown, against our will, into the devouring heat of the furnace.

But Jesus said if we follow Him, we can expect this. Prophecy says terrible suffering and persecution will come to God’s people, because the world will hate us.

Where’s the hope in that?

Remember the fourth man in the furnace?

Jesus left the earth, promising that He would always be with His followers, everywhere, right up to the “end of the age.” No matter what is coming tomorrow, He walks with us.

And then we have the words of the angel messenger who comes to Daniel. Daniel, too, cringes when he catches a glimpse of what will come, as we all probably do. But the angel tells him several times,

“Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials.” (12:10, see also 11:35)

Even in the fire, God works for the good of His people!

Who of us can say that we do not need more cleansing, more purifying, more refining?

Even when evil brings its worst against God’s Kingdom, the Almighty Sovereign works His purposes in His people.

The letters of the New Testament to a persecuted church (remember? they are being thrown to the lions….) echoes this hope.

Peter’s two letters, especially, are packed with encouragement and hope: Stand strong, because trials and suffering cleanse and purify. God will work through suffering and “restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10). Great joy is ahead!

And Peter also reiterates: “the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials.” (2 Peter 2:9)

Much of prophecy is vague and ambiguous. This part is very clear to me: God’s people will suffer. They will be hated and persecuted because of who they are and who they serve.

And yet —

My hope remembers the angel’s words to Daniel.
My hope remembers God’s promise to cleanse and purify and keep us strong.
My hope remember the fourth man in the fire.

 

 

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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.)

(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.)