He Is Coming!

Daniel 11-12, Revelation 22

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 ESV

As the books of Daniel and Revelation both come to a close, they provide encouraging reminders that the events recorded in them will take place. Daniel is told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4 ESV). He is to seal up what is contained in the prophesies provided by God and preserve them. God was not telling Daniel to hide them, but to make sure that he preserved them so that the words contained within them would be proven true when all took place just as God had said. In the book of Revelation, John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Revelation 22:10 ESV). This was an indication that the end was close. The culmination of all God's plans for the redemption of mankind were nearer than they had ever been. There is a surety and a certainty contained in both of these books. What God has said will take place. What He has prophesied will come to pass. There will be much that will happen between now and the end of time. Daniel was told of events involving the nations of the world that would result in all kinds of political and military upheaval in the centuries to come. The Persians, Egyptians, Seleucids, and Greeks would jockey for power, conquering one another and making the Middle East a volatile and unstable environment for years to come. All the way up until the rise of the Roman empire, Palestine would find itself in the middle of a power struggle between powerful nations, leaving the people of Israel as helpless pawns and easy preys for their enemies. The 400 years between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament were some of the most tumultuous times on earth – just as God had said they would be. But they would end with the coming of the Son of God as an innocent human baby.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But Christ's first advent was designed to pay for sin and offer salvation and justification to all who would believe in Him. His first coming was to satisfy the just demands of a holy and righteous God who had to punish mankind for their rebellion against His sovereign rule. Jesus became the sin substitute, accomplishing for man what he could not have done for himself. Jesus lived a sinless life and lived in perfect obedience to the just requirements of God's holy law. He became the perfect, spotless Lamb who was sacrificed as a payment for the sins of mankind. His death made eternal life possible. He exchanged His righteousness for man's sins. He bore our burden and died the death we deserved. All in fulfillment of God's divine plan. But while His redemptive work is finished, His job is not yet done. He is coming again. He has unfinished business. The point of all prophesy is the future. In Daniel's case, he was given insight into events that would take place over the coming centuries. And all of what was recorded in chapter 11, verses 1-35 has taken place. The various kings and nations mentioned can be easily traced and the accuracy of the prophecies contained in these verses can be easily proven. So if what God said would happen has actually taken place, why would we not believe that everything else He promised would be fulfilled as well. God told Daniel that “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1 ESV). He was speaking of the Great Tribulation, the missing seventieth week spoken of in Daniel 9. It will be a time of great trouble. Jesus Himself described it in these sobering terms: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV). But God had good news for Daniel. “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1b ESV). God would redeem a remnant of His people. He even told Daniel, “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13 ESV). This does not mean that Daniel would live to see the end, but that he would be part of the faithful remnant who would undergo resurrection from the dead and stand before “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:3 ESV).     

What does this passage reveal about man?

Jesus told us, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:7-8 ESV). The centuries have recorded a wide range of events, from wars to natural disasters. We continue to watch as the influence of sin on the world manifests itself in a variety of unsettling forms. There are days when it would appear as if the end was near. We even question whether it can get any worse. But Jesus said these things are simply the birth pains. They are the precursor to something even greater yet to come. Man's rebellion against God will continue to increase up until the bitter end. The period of the Great Tribulation will see the rise of the Antichrist and the greatest outpouring of persecution on the Jews that the world has ever seen. Sin will have reached its apex. Man's rebellion against God and Satan's war against God's people will come to a climax. And then God will step in.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

John records the stirring words of Jesus Himself, predicting His second advent. “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13 ESV). He is coming again. God predicted it and He will bring it to pass. Again, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon”  and the response of those of us who call Him our Lord and Savior should be, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20 ESV). We should long for His coming. We should pray for His return. And while we wait, we should issue the words found in Revelation 22:17: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17 ESV). Jesus is coming again. And while there may appear to be plenty of time before that event takes place, we must live with a sense of urgency. We are to live soberly and righteously, as if His return could take place at any minute. We are to issue an invitation to everyone we meet, inviting them to “Come!” We are to point all those who are thirsty to the source of living water – Jesus Christ. And while we wait for His return, we are to do exactly what the angel told John, “Worship God” (Revelation 22:9 ESV). He is to be our focus. He is to be our source of hope. He is to be our help in times of trouble and our strength when we feel weak. We must constantly remind ourselves that God is not done yet. His will WILL be done. His plan WILL be fulfilled. His Son WILL return. His Kingdom WILL come. And sin WILL be no more.

Father, You are worthy of worship. You are deserving of my praise and my trust. You have proven Yourself trustworthy and true time and time again – in history and in my life. Your Words always come true. Your prophecies always get fulfilled. Your will always comes to pass. Help me to live in light of those realities. And, come Lord Jesus, come! Amen

The Dwelling Place of God.

Daniel 9-10, Revelation 21

Daniel 9-10, Revelation 21And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” – Revelation 21:3 ESV

Daniel and his contemporaries had been in captivity in Babylon for nearly 68 years. He was probably in his 80s at the time these two chapters were written, and had spent the majority of his life living in exile, away from the city of God, and unable to worship in the temple of God. When Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C, he had completely destroyed the temple, the dwelling place of God. So since that time there had been no place for the people of Israel to go in which they might worship and offer sacrifices to their God. For almost 70 years, the people of Israel had endured exile and had lived with the awareness that their great temple lay in ruins. But by the time Daniel received his vision recorded in chapter 10, a group of Jews had been able to return to Jerusalem and had begun the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple – all by virtue of a decree issued by King Cyrus. God had miraculously provided a means by which His people would be returned to the land and the city of Jerusalem could be rebuilt – all in keeping with His promise. But the real emphasis in these two chapters seems to be the presence of God. In spite of the fact that Daniel lived in a foreign land, far away from the city of Jerusalem and the temple where God's presence was supposed to have dwelt, He received word from God Himself. When he prayed to God, He answered. “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 9:23 ESV). God then proceeded to give Daniel a glimpse into the future as it related to the people of Israel. He provided Daniel with the assurance of His ongoing presence and unwavering commitment to His people – the Jews. God told Daniel, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage” (Daniel 10:19 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

Much of what God shared with Daniel regarding the future of Israel was confusing and disturbing. He received news of “a troubled time” in which “desolations are decreed.” He heard about floods and war, abominations and destruction of the city of God. But Daniel also received encouragement. He was told not to fear. He was given news from God Himself, providing him with a reassurance that everything was going to be okay. God was working behind the scenes, orchestrating the affairs of men and implementing His divine plan, according to His perfect timeline. God sent an angel to Daniel who told him that he “came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come” (Daniel 10:14 ESV). God was sharing with Daniel news about the future. He was reminding that He had not forsaken His people. He had seen Daniel and had been aware of His mourning. He had heard Daniel and responded to His cries for mercy. God was not restricted to heaven or relegated to a temple built by human hands. He was the transcendent God who omnipresent, able to be everywhere at once and capable of being with His people wherever they were at any moment and at any time. He is not hindered by time or space. And in spite of the sins of the people of Israel, He was still with them and would one day restore them to a right relationship with Him.    

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man's greatest need is God. And yet our greatest weakness seems to be our insatiable desire to try and live without Him or simply in place of Him. When Adam and Eve were created, they enjoyed unbroken fellowship and intimacy with God. But sin changed all that. They went from having unrestricted access to God to being physically removed from His presence and denied entrance into the garden where they once walked and talked with Him. The story of the Bible is about God's plan to make right what sin destroyed. Sin marred the world. So God is going to make it new again. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1 ESV). He will start fresh. He will recreate. He will even make a new Jerusalem. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 ESV). When the remnant of Jews returned to Jerusalem during the days of Daniel, they were able to rebuild the temple, but the finished product was a shadow of its former glory. It was nothing like the once-glorious temple that Solomon had built. Because man cannot restore like God can restore. Man can't fix what is wrong in the world. Everything we do is little more than a band-aid on a problem that requires extensive restoration and healing. Even Daniel understood that his people were helpless to fix the problem they were experiencing. Their own sins had gotten them where they were. But God had not abandoned them. He was still among them. And He was always giving them assurances of His ongoing presence and power. But any glimpses they got of God were nothing compared to what was to come. Sin still mars God's creation and damages man's relationship with God. But the day is coming when those things will be remedied once and for all.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Man was created to have a relationship with God. Sin threw a monkey wrench into the plan, driving a wedge between man and God, and requiring God to do something radical to remedy the problem. God sent His Son to pay for the sins of man and to make possible the restoration of the relationship between God and His creation. But even now, sin continues to make it difficult for man to experience God's indwelling, ongoing presence perfectly, without interruption. So God has one last thing He needs to do. He is going to eliminate sin and its devastating influence. He will destroy Satan and remove him completely from the equation. John was told that God would “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV). God reminds us, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). A new heaven and a new earth. A new Jerusalem. A new relationship between God and man. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3 ESV). Over in his gospel, John writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). The word for “dwelt” in this verse means to “fix one's tabernacle” and it pictures God's choice to dwell among men in a physical form. In Revelation 21:3, John records the noun version of the same word when he writes, “the dwelling place of God is with man.” When Jesus came to earth, He made God visible to men. But the day is coming when God Himself will dwell with men once again. We will enjoy unbroken, unhindered fellowship with God. Sin will be eliminated. Confession for sin will no longer necessary. There will be nothing to get in the way of our relationship with God. He will be our God and we will be His children.

Father, on this earth we only get glimpses of what fellowship with You can be like. Sin continues to make it difficult to see You, hear You, and experience You. The world can be a constant reminder of sin's reality and make it feel like You are distant and removed from everyday life. But the day is coming when we will experience You in uninterrupted glory. You will dwell among us and we will enjoy Your presence. Help me to stay focused on reality of that promise. Amen

Thy Kingdom Come.

Daniel 7-8, Revelation 20

…and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. – Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He gave them the following model to follow. “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10 NLT). Jesus began His prayer with a request that His Father's Kingdom be established on the earth and that the will of His Father be perfectly fulfilled here on earth just as it is in heaven. This was a request for something to be done that was yet future in its fulfillment. Jesus was teaching His disciples to long for and look for a day when the Kingdom of God would be established on earth in a real and final sense. While we see a partial fulfillment of God's Kingdom as we live on this earth as citizens of that Kingdom, and enjoy the Kingship of Christ in our lives; we do not yet see His Kingdom fulfilled in all its glory. That day is yet future. It is reserved for what Daniel records as “the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17 ESV). Daniel was given a glimpse into the distant future, a time called “the latter end” (Daniel 8:23 ESV), “many days from now” (Daniel 8:26 ESV), when God will bring all things to a close and establish His Kingdom on earth. The kingdoms of this earth will cease. The kings of this earth will be removed from power. The one true King will sit on His throne in Jerusalem where He will reign in righteousness and glory for 1,000 years. John was given insight into this event and shown that a day was coming when Jesus Christ would return to earth, defeat Satan and the armies of this world, set up His Kingdom and reward those who had been faithful to Him throughout the time of the Great Tribulation and had suffered martyrdom on His behalf. “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4 ESV). “…but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6 ESV). This refers to that yet future time period called the Millennial Kingdom, when God will establish His Kingdom on earth once and for all. His Kingdom will come and His will will be done, perfectly and completely. The prayer Jesus prayed will be fulfilled.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God showed Daniel and John things that no man had ever seen. He revealed to them things that had yet to happen, but that would most certainly take place because they were part of His divine plan for the redemption of His creation. Much of what was revealed to Daniel would have a short-term fulfillment. He was shown the various kingdoms that would come to power in the not-too-distant future. He was told of the coming of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the eighth king of the Seleucid dynasty, who would lead Syria to great power and prominence and become of the greatest persecutors of the people of God that had ever lived. He would kill thousands of Jews. He would desecrate the temple of God by setting up an idol dedicated to Zeus and offer a sacrifice of swine to this false god. But these events were just a precursor of something even greater and far more sinister to come. Antiochus would be the partial fulfillment of the Antichrist who was to come in “ the appointed time of the end” (Daniel 8:19 ESV). What Daniel saw had to do with events to come that have already taken place, but it also had to do with a future time that has yet to be fulfilled. God's focus is on the end. He is involved in the here and now, but His emphasis is on culmination of all things. He is all about answering the prayer that Jesus prayed. He is all about the coming of His Kingdom and the ultimate fulfillment of His divine will on earth.   

What does this passage reveal about man?

Much must take place before the end comes. Jesus Himself warned that things were going to get worse long before they got better. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8 ESV). We have been witness to the reality of His prediction. We have been eyewitnesses to countless wars, tragic famines, devastating earthquakes and other seemingly end time events. But Jesus told us not to be alarmed. These things are not necessarily a sign of the end. They are simply evidence of the devastating influence the fall and the presence of sin will have on God's creation and on mankind. Kingdoms will rise and fall. Nations will wage war against one another. Injustice and unrighteousness will become commonplace. The sin of man will reach epic proportions and the darkness of man's rebellion against God will appear overwhelming. The actions of an Antiochus Epiphanes will pale in comparison to those of the Antichrist. “His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand” (Daniel 8:24-25 ESV). Man's capacity for evil will reach it apex in this one individual. He will rule and reign over the world and turn his wrath against the people of Israel. Jesus described this period of time in very harsh terms: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

News of these yet-future events had a devastating impact on Daniel. “And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king's business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it” (Daniel 8:27 ESV). But rather than fear, we must be ready. Rather than live with a sense of trepidation, we should live with expectation. Jesus told us, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV). He is coming back. And when He returns the second time, He will come to defeat the kingdoms of this world, along with Satan, the prince of this world. God will take back what rightfully belongs to Him. He will establish His Kingdom and set up His Son as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. “…and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV). God's Kingdom will come. His will will be done. His Son will reign. His enemies will be defeated. Sin will be eliminated. The unrighteous will be judged. The redeemed will be rewarded. The God of the universe will have the final say. So as Jesus modeled for us, our constant prayer should be that God's Kingdom come and His will be done – on earth, just as it is in heaven. That day is coming. And it is for that day we hope and the creation moans in eager anticipation.

Father, while things appear to be getting progressively worse, we know that man's capacity for sin and rebellion knows no limits. Sin will increase. Unrighteousness will spread like a cancer. But Your Kingdom IS coming. Your will will be done. Your Son is going to return and set everything right. Help us to live with that reality in mind. This story has an ending and it is an unbelievably good one. Amen

An Instrument For God's Glory.

Daniel 5-6, Revelation 19

He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. Daniel 6:27 ESV

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… – Revelation 19:1 ESV

The story recorded in chapter six of Daniel is a familiar one. It tells us of the time when Daniel was cast into the den of lions for having worshiped God rather than bow down and worship King Darius. The temptation, when reading this story, is to make much of Daniel and his faith. But the point of the story is not the faith of Daniel, but the God whom Daniel worshiped and in whom he had placed his faith. Daniel worshiped God. Darius wanted everyone to worship himself. In chapter five we read of the story of Belshazzar, the young son of the king who, while serving during one of his father's long absences from Babylon, threw a party where he and his guests drank out of the sacred vessels that had been pillaged from the temple in Jerusalem years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar. These vessels, which had sanctified and set apart for the worship of God, were used by Belshazzar and his drunken guests to worship the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. Both Belshazzar and Darius were guilty of having worshiped something other than the Most High God. And in both of these stories, Daniel was simply an instrument through whom God displayed His greatness and glory. While Daniel was recognized for his “understanding and excellent wisdom” (Daniel 5:14 ESV), and we are told “an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6:3 ESV), he is not the focus of this story. Daniel existed for God's glory. He was used by God to deliver a powerful word of judgment against Belshazzar, condemning him of his pride, arrogance and for having lifted himself against the Lord of heaven. He accused Belshazzar of not honoring “the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways” (Daniel 5:23 ESV). And Daniel would be used by God to reveal His power and prominence over the king, his governmental representatives and even a pack of lions. Daniel had a reputation, but his life was intended to point others to God, not himself. While Daniel had received praise and a promotion, he remained dedicated and totally submitted to his God.    

What does this passage reveal about God?

Daniel knew that His God was great. He was fully aware that God was in control of the affairs of men, including the various kings who sat on the throne of Babylon, whether it was Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar or Darius. When chapter five opens us, Daniel would have been in his 80s, having served as part of the court in Babylon for well over 60 years. He had seen the rise and fall of Nebuchadnezzar. He would watch as Belshazzar was killed for his pride and profaning of God. He would live to see Darius come to power and watch as he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, forsaking the greatness of God and demanding the worship of man instead. Yet Daniel knew that God alone was to be worshiped. He warned Belshazzar, “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Daniel 5:23 ESV). When he was made aware of King Darius' decree that all men should bow down and worship him, forsaking the worship of any other gods, Daniel “went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10 ESV). God is mentioned sixteen times in these two chapters. It was His hand that wrote on the wall, throwing a wet blanket on Belshazzar's party. It was His hand that protected Daniel from the lions in the den. It was to Him that Daniel bowed and prayed, not to King Darius. It was God in whom Daniel trusted and placed His faith. And it was God of whom Darius would decree, “that all in my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26 ESV). Because Daniel was willing to be an instrument in the hands of God, this pagan king would end up exclaiming, “he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:26-27 ESV).  

What does this passage reveal about man?

We exist for God's glory, not our own. Daniel was simply an instrument through whom God revealed His greatness, glory, and power, and proved His prominence over kings, nature, and the wisdom of men. As children of God, we are to be His instruments. We are to recognize that we exist for His glory. As we rightfully worship Him in the midst of a culture that worships anything and everything but Him, we provide Him with opportunities to prove His power and presence. We become vessels through whom He reveals His glory. Paul writes about this very thing in one of his letters to Timothy. “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21 ESV). Like those vessels that Darius used from the temple, we have been set apart as holy, useful to the Master. We are to be used for His glory and to bring Him honor. Daniel, in spite of his apparent success, had not lost sight of the fact that he existed for God and was intended to bring Him glory, being ready for every good work. He was even willing to die, as long as God was honored in the process. He knew that even his martyrdom would honor God because he would have remained faithful to the end. But should God spare him, God would receive honor as well. Living for God must include a willingness to die for Him, if necessary. Honoring Him is best achieved when I recognize my role as a vessel for His glory. My life exists for His glory, not my own. John the Baptist understood this. He revealed it in his simply statement regarding Jesus, in which he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30 NLT).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The goal of my life should be that God and His Son be lifted up through me. My life should reveal the power of God. My life should reflect that transforming presence of Christ. I must continually see myself as an instrument in God's hand. I am a vessel into which He has placed His glory and through that glory must be revealed to a lost and dying world. In the end, my life should be living proof of the reality that “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just” (Revelation 19:1-2 ESV). As people look at my life, they should be able to see God's power in me. My actions should point them to Christ as I live in dependence upon Him and place my faith in Him. Over in the book of Revelation, we are reminded that our great God is one day going to bring His plan of redemption to a close. He is going to send His Son one last time to the earth. The Word of God will appear one last time, and He will come in power, bringing judgment against all those who have chosen to worship someone or something other than God Most High. And He will bring with Him, “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure” (Revelation 19:14 ESV). Once again, God will use His people as His instruments, through whom He will accomplish His will and bring Himself glory. But the battle will be His. The victory will be His. It will be He alone who wears the title, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16 ESV). When all is said and done, the point of it all will revealed: “Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10 ESV). That is why we were created. It is why we exist. And it will be what we do for eternity. Because He has been, is, and always will be the point of it all.

Father, we exist for Your glory. We have one purpose and one purpose – to worship You and bring You glory as we allow You to work in and through our lives. May Your power be revealed in our lives. May Your presence be seen in our lives. May Your will be done in our lives. For Your glory and Your glory alone. Amen

The Most High Rules.

Daniel 3-4, Revelation 18

…and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.. Daniel 4:32 ESV

During the time period recorded in the book of Daniel, Babylon was the post powerful nation in the world. It was a pagan nation that had experienced tremendous success militarily. Its armies had conquered many nations and its influence could be seen throughout the Middle East. Nebuchadnezzar ruled over a vast kingdom and was a force to be reckoned with. But the book of Daniel is all about a much more powerful, sovereign and almighty King than the one who sat on a throne in the great city of Babylon. From the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace to the shocking case of Nebuchadnezzar's bout with insanity, the greatness of God is the resounding theme. Repeatedly we see Nebuchadnezzar struggling with pride and attempting to set himself up as the sovereign ruler of the world. His decision to erect a giant idol and demand its worship stands in direct opposition to the sovereign power revealed in chapter two. When the three young Jews refused to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar's statue, he arrogantly responded, “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV). But when God miraculously preserved the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Nebuchadnezzar changed his tune, exclaiming, “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:3 ESV). But apparently, Nebuchadnezzar's awareness of God's dominion and rule was short lived. Given enough time to consider his own greatness and all that he had accomplished, Nebuchadnezzar would end up putting himself back on the pedestal of his own mind. “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 ESV).    

What does this passage reveal about God?

Nebuchadnezzar arrogantly and sarcastically asked Daniel's three young friends, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV0. God would provide him with the answer. Three different times in the passage God made it clear that He was going to do something so that there would be no doubt about who was in control. “…that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17 ESV). “…till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:25 ESV). “…until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32 ESV). The story found in Daniel is not about the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but about the God in whom they placed their faith. The real message of these chapters is God's sovereignty and rule over the affairs of men. Nebuchadnezzar, as great as he may have thought himself to be, was nothing more than “the lowliest of men” in God's eyes. He was simply another creation formed from nothing by the hand of the Creator. His very life and the throne on which he sat were the work of God, not himself. God had the power to remove not only Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, but his sanity as well. God could control the king's dreams. He could alter the king's behavior. He could do with His creation whatever He chose to do. And the ultimate goal is that all men will some day know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men.   

What does this passage reveal about man?

There has been a power struggle taking place ever since Adam and Eve decided to reject God's will for them, and buy the lie of the enemy that promised them, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5 ESV). Ever since that fateful day, men and women have been at war with the God of the universe, attempting to wrest control from His hands so that they might be the arbiters of their own fate and the masters of their own domains. Acceptance of God's sovereign rule and willing submission to His control over the lives of men continues to be an epic, ongoing struggle. Even in the lives of the godly, submission to God's rule can be difficult to live out. Our sin natures continue to tempt us to demand our own way and to fight for what we believe to be our rights. Our pride rises up within us, causing us to wrongfully assume that we are responsible for our successes and the best determiners of our own fate. In other words, we know what is best for us and we will do whatever we have to in order to get what we want. But God would have us know “that the Most High rules over the kingdom of men.” And that includes our own petty kingdoms and personal domains. Interestingly enough, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seemed to have come to grips with the sovereignty of their God. When confronted with the choice to worship the king's statue or remain faithful to their God, they didn't flinch. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV). They were willing to put their lives in the hands of God. They were wiling to face death rather than put someone or something else in His place as the Most High. And their faith wasn't academic or intellectual. It was real, taking the form of an actual commitment to face death in a fiery furnace rather than turn their back on God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The entire Bible, from beginning to end, is about the Most High God. It starts with His miraculous creation of the entire universe. It contains His sovereign interactions with mankind that spans the centuries and influences the lives of countless generations. It peaks with the coming of His Son as the divine solution to man's inherent problem of sin. And it culminates with a depiction of God's final plan for the restoration of His creation and His victory over Satan, sin and death. Even in the book of Revelation, we see the return of the image of Babylon. This once great pagan nation returns to the scene, but now as a representative picture of the satanic system of evil that will dominate the world scene in the end times. Whether or not the Babylon spoken of in chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation is a literal city is not clear. But there is no doubt that it symbolizes all that is evil with the world. Babylonianism is makred by pride, idolatry, injustice, immorality, greed, avarice, lust, materialism, and human glory. It is the attitude found in the life of Nebuchadnezzar, but on steroids. During the time of the Great Tribulation, pictured for us in the book of Revelation, the moral decline of man will reach its apex. The decadence and debauchery for which Babylon was famous will be worldwide and will impact everything from religion to commerce. Sinful, pride-filled, arrogant man will literally go to war with God Himself. “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14 ESV). Babylon will fall, “for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Revelation 18:8 ESV). When all is said and done, God will once again prove that He is the Most High God and rules over the kingdom of men. He will put to rest any debate regarding His sovereignty and defeat once and for all any rebellion to His rule and attempt to usurp His throne or His glory.

Father, You rule and reign, not just in heaven, but over all the earth. You are the sovereign God over all men, all kingdoms, and the entire universe. Your desire is that we might recognize You are the Most High and live as if we truly believe You are in control. Give us the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, so that we might be willing to submit to Your rule and even suffer death out of reverence for Your name and respect for Your righteous reign over our lives. Amen

God of gods.

Daniel 1-2, Revelation 17

Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery. Daniel 2:47 ESV

When studying a book like Daniel, there is a real temptation to make it all about the one whose name it bears. Many of us know the stories found in Daniel. We probably heard them as little children in Sunday School. We know about Daniel and the lion's den. We've heard about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. And it would be easy to make this story all about Daniel and his friends. But to do so would be to miss the whole point of the book of Daniel. It was written, not to deify Daniel, but to reveal the power and glory of God in the midst of what was a very difficult and hard to understand circumstance for the people of God. Everything Isaiah the prophet had warned would happen had taken place. The Babylonians had come into the territory of Judah, besieged the city of Jerusalem, and in 605 B.C., had taken captive the first group of the city's occupants. Daniel was included in this first wave of exiles. The book of Daniel was written for Jews who were living long after this events occurred. It was a history lesson, revealing not just the details of past events concerning the Israelites, but the reminding them of the sovereign hand of God over their lives. Ultimately, this book is about God. His influence can been seen on virtually every page. He is the one who is orchestrating every circumstance, from the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of the Babylonians to the captivity of Daniel and his subsequent promotion into the king's favor and service. God was behind Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's ability to interpret it. God is not only the star of the story, but its author.  

What does this passage reveal about God?

For the Jews who had to live through the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of its citizens into captivity in Babylon, there would have been ample reasons to wonder whether their God was either impotent or indifferent. Had He lost His power or had He simply lost interest in the people of God. It would have been easy for them to feel abandoned by God and left to fend for themselves. Even though God had warned them repeatedly that judgment was coming, they still would have found their circumstances hard to understand and difficult to endure. But the book of Daniel was intended to remind the people of Israel that their God was in control. Throughout the first two chapters, His hand is revealed and His involvement behind the scenes can be clearly seen. “And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9 ESV). “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17 ESV). Why would God give Daniel favor? Why would He give Daniel the ability to understand dreams and visions? Better yet, why had God allowed Daniel and his companions to be taken captive in the first place? There is much that happens in life that we question. There are circumstances that occur that cause us to doubt God's goodness, power, wisdom or presence. But the story of Daniel reminds us that God is always there. He is the ever-present God of the present and also the God of the future. What happens today, while difficult to understand, has implications for tomorrow. God's plan is far greater than our current conditions. Daniel's captivity, while difficult, was a necessary part of God's divine plan. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

The book of Daniel juxtaposes the weakness of man with the power of God. While Babylon was the most powerful nation in the world at the time, and King Nebuchadnezzar was feared and revered; they were no match for God. Daniel would even tell the great king, “You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all…” (Daniel 2:37-38 ESV). God had given Nebuchadnezzar his power. In his prayer of thanksgiving to God, recorded in chapter two, Daniel says, “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:21 ESV). Man is no match for God. Even the magicians, wise men and enchanters of Babylon are exposed as weak, ineffective, and unable to tell the king the meaning of his dream. They confess, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king's demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:10-11 ESV). They were right. Not a man alive could do what the king was asking. Not even Daniel. Even he would admit that. “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…” (Daniel 2:27-28 ESV). 

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In reading through these opening chapters of Daniel, it would be so easy to concentrate all our time and energies at trying to understand the vision that Daniel interpreted for the king. The same is true when reading chapter 17 of Revelation. We could spend countless hours trying to determine just what all the imagery means and what each portion of the vision represents. And while there would be inherently wrong in doing so, we could miss out on the most significant point behind it all. God is in control. Even in the book of Revelation, amongst all the imagery of beasts, harlots, heads, and horns, there is a strong and indisputable reminder of God's sovereignty. “For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17 ESV). Scholars and theologians have spent their lifetimes trying to determine the meaning behind all the imagery of this passage. There has been much debate and little consensus on just what all the imagery means. But we CAN know this. God is behind it all. He is in charge of all that happens – both now and into the future. Daniel knew that God had not abandoned him, in spite of his circumstances. So he prayed to God and was answered by Him. God revealed to Daniel the details of events that had yet to happen. He gave Daniel insights into the future and never fully explained to him what they all meant. God doesn't tell us everything. He doesn't reveal all the details behind His plans. God is not obligated to explain Himself or defend His actions. But I should know that he is God of gods and Lord of kings. He is a revealer of mysteries and the author of the entire story of mankind. He is in complete control and I can have confidence in Him, “until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17b ESV).

Father, it is so easy to miss the point of the Bible and make it all about man. I can spend so much time focusing on the people of the Bible that I miss out on the God of the Bible. Help me to recognize that the Bible is Your personal revelation of Yourself to man. It is not about us. It is about You. We are bit players in the great redemptive story. We are the beneficiaries of Your goodness and the spectators who get to witness Your greatness. Never let me lose sight of the fact that, regardless of what I see or experience, You are in control and Your words and Your will are going to be fulfilled. Amen

Can Your God Save?

Daniel 6

He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”– Daniel 6:27 NLT

This is what I call a "Sunday School story." It is one of those stories from the Bible that we are told in Sunday School as children when we are growing up. When I was a kid, it was told with the use of Flannel-Graphs, those colorful fabric pieces that were cut-out pictures of the characters that stuck to a piece of flannel. As the teacher told the story of Daniel and the lion's den, we kids would take turns placing the figures of Daniel and the lions on the flannel-covered board. We were amazed at the bravery of Daniel. As a matter of fact, this whole story was about Daniel – thus the name, Daniel and the lion's den. It was all about the faith of Daniel, the bravery of Daniel, the courage of Daniel, and the prayerfulness of Daniel. And it is still easy to read this chapter and think that this is a story about a man, a very brave, courageous, prayerful man. But the hero of the story is God. He is the one who ensures that there is a happy ending. He is the one in whom Daniel believed, to whom Daniel prayed, and to whom Daniel owed his life.

Even Darius the Mede recognized that God was going to have to be the one to save Daniel from his predicament, because even as king, he was unable to rescue Daniel from a certain death in the lion's den. "So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you" (Daniel 6:16 NLT) Darius knew that it was Daniel's God that would make the difference – not Daniel. And Daniel himself knew that it was God who was going to have to get him out of this mess. When he heard about the new law, Daniel did what he always did, he prayed to God. This time he had something new to pray about, and he did. "Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help" (Daniel 6:11 NLT). Faced with a difficult situation, Daniel turned to God for help. And the amazing thing is, God didn't answer Daniel's prayer the way I would have expected. He didn't miraculously change the law. He didn't give Darius a disturbing dream and cause him to revoke his decree. He didn't cause a strange new disease to break out among the lions, wiping them out and thus, sparing Daniel's life. No, Daniel was arrested and had to face his punishment. Where was God? What was He doing? What was He thinking? The last words Darius had for Daniel were, "May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you" (Daniel 6:16 NLT). Even Darius knew it was all up to God now. Only He could prevent tragedy from striking Daniel. And He did.

The next morning, Daniel was found alive and unharmed. There wasn't a scratch on him. And Daniel knew why. "My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight" (Daniel 6:22 NLT). Daniel had trusted in God, and God had come through. Why? Because, "He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions" (Daniel 6:27 NLT). This story is about our God, not Daniel. Sure, Daniel was a man of faith, but the whole point of the story is the ONE in whom Daniel had faith. Yes, Daniel was a man of prayer, but the moral of the story is that it is GOD ALONE who answers prayer. We are sometimes guilty of making the Bible about men. We read stories about the men and women of the Bible and we determine that we either should emulate or avoid their examples. We are told to "dare to be a Daniel." We are encouraged to "fight the good fight" like Paul. We are encouraged to be a "man after God's own heart" like David. And while modeling our lives after other saints isn't necessarily wrong, we would be better off focusing our attention on the God in whom they believed. He is the real moral to the story. God saves. He rescues. There is not predicament too big for Him to handle. He is the living God.

Father, forgive us for making it all about us. Our pride is so great. We sometimes think You exist for us. We seem to believe that the story is all about us. And we lose sight of the reality that without You, there is no story. There would have been no creation. Mankind would never have existed. None of us would have taken our first breath. And not a single one of us would have the slightest chance of making it through this life unscathed without You. You alone are God. You are the star of the play. You alone deserve glory and honor. Not Daniel. Not Moses. Not Paul. And not us. Amen