Tag Archives: Christ

Daniel 6: Daniel in the Lion’s Den

I’m starting to blog notes and thoughts from our weekly graduate student Inductive Bible study. I’ve been wanting to do this for ages, but had gotten overwhelmed with establishing a consistent format and starting from the beginning of a book. Today, I’ve decided just to dive in. We mostly follow an Inductive method of Bible study, explained here, which is my favorite method of Bible study ever.  Essentially, it encourages us to first figure out what the passage would have meant to its original audience, and only then to ask how it applies to our lives.  Its basic steps are Observation, Interpretation, Application.  We’re currently in the middle of Daniel.

6 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement[a] to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he 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. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared[b] to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 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.”
28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

– Daniel 6, ESV

Assorted observations/insights from a commentary:
– v1. Darius is the new king – a Persian or Mede.  Scholars think Darius may have served under Cyrus as king of the region.
– v1. Satraps – officials or administrators
– v4.  There may have been some racial/ethnic envy here.  The Persian officials might have been offended that Daniel, a Jew, one of the peoples brought into Babylon in exile, was going to be placed over them.
– v7.  The officials tell Darius that all the officials agree, even though Daniel was not consulted.  Darius, who seems to like Daniel, may have assumed that this proposal had Daniel’s approval, too.
– v8.  The decree may have appeared political to the new king Darius.  He might have seen it as a good way to cement his authority over the people he’s just conquered.
– v10 and 16: “as he had done previously,” “continuously” – Daniel doesn’t change anything he was doing when he heard about the decree.
– v12 – 27 tell the story from the king’s perspective, not from Daniel’s perspective as we might have expected.
-v13. “Daniel…pays no attention to you, O king” – the officials misrepresent the truth here.  Daniel continued to serve faithfully as one of the three high officials of the kingdom; I think Daniel could have properly served the king without disobeying God, aside from this decree.  The officials here are trying to convince Darius that he has no choice but to throw his favorite official to the lions.

Bigger Observations/Interpretation:
– God’s law vs. the king’s law.  God’s law is true and worthy to be followed, no matter the cost.  The king’s law claims to be immutable, but, for Daniel, it’s subject to a higher law.
– God’s rescue vs. the king’s rescue.  The king “was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel.”  He labored all day to free Daniel, but in the end the best this powerful king could do was shout down into the lion’s den, “May your God… deliver you!”  God’s rescue, however, is powerful and complete.  Daniel emerges safe from a night spent with lions, lions that we find out later overpowered the officials before the officials had even hit bottom (I like the inclusion of a control for a test of the lion’s ferocity).
– Jesus.  (There is so much Jesus in Daniel!)  One common interpretation of this story (often when it’s told to children) is this: Daniel is a good man, Daniel obeys God even when it’s hard, and God rescues Daniel.  You should be like Daniel.  However, I think further examination of the passage shows that we’re not supposed to put ourselves in Daniel’s place.  I think that in this story Daniel represents Christ (and Darius might possibly represent us).
In literature, we typically identify with the person from whose point of view the story is told.  In this story, the most interesting bits are told from Darius’s point of view, not Daniel’s.  (It would have been so interesting to hear the details of the lion’s den from Daniel’s perspective, but we’re not given that.)  We also see numerous parallels between Christ and Daniel.  Daniel has “no error or fault,” like Christ is blameless.  Daniel and Christ are falsely accused by leaders who feel threatened.  They are both left in a cave/den/tomb whose entrance is sealed with a stone.  They both emerge in the morning fully alive by the power of God.

Applications:
– In some sense, I think we’re meant to identify with Darius.  He sinned, however foolishly, by signing the decree.  His efforts to save are ineffectual.  By God’s grace, Daniel’s rescue from the tomb enables Darius to praise God, like Christ’s resurrection enables us to praise God and be in right relationship with him.  Darius’s ability to worship at the end is a gift of God.  So, too, any righteousness we show is a gift of God.  Viewed through this lens, I think it’s fine to identify with Daniel – Christ is sanctifying us and making us more like him, so that we will be able to stand firm and obey God, even when it’s hard.  However, this steadfastness isn’t something we muster up inside ourselves – it’s a product of living and walking with Christ.

– This chapter wraps up the story portion of Daniel.  We discussed what the stories might have meant to Daniel, the kings, the Jews, the Babylonians/other foreigners, and to us.  Many of these stories show that obedience leads to fruit.  Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego each obey God’s law when it looks pointless – it looks like they will be killed for obedience.  However, God uses their obedience, saves them, and demonstrates His Glory to the foreign kings and the people.  For the Jews, these events were likely an encouragement in the midst of the exile as they show that God still listens and is still working.  The Babylonians and other foreigners get to see God’s power and a prefiguring of Christ.  Displaying God to the nations was the reason Israel was chosen to be special to God, and they are performing this function now in exile. Multiple kings have wrapped up a chapter of Daniel with a decree of Jehovah’s greatness.  For us, I think the stories are enjoyable as stories – they develop our imagination and show us the character of God.  They demonstrate to us what a righteous man acts like when surrounded by non-believers, and the prefigurings of Christ in the stories remind us that we are not asked to muster up this righteousness on our own.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Inductive Bible Study

Reflections on the New Year

Today I’m sitting in the library basking in the change of scenery from my office.  I’ve got a great view onto the main quad of this beautiful campus.  With classes starting Monday, I feel the excitement, the anticipation, the pregnant stillness of a college campus just before the start of the semester.

I’ve felt that atmosphere before (The Night Cometh).  What a difference just four years can make!  From the mundane (texting Google to get a Scripture?  Now I’ve got the whole Bible on my smartphone) to the world-changing (when I wrote that post, I hadn’t even heard of the man who would be my husband).  Just a few weeks later, I wrote “I’m trying to figure out how to get to my goal of helping large numbers of people in third-world countries with simple technologies.”  And now, that’s what I’m doing.   Here.  In this library.  Thank you, Lord, for fulfilled dreams.

There is no statue of Jesus on this campus to sit in front of, yet still He’s here, working.  Working “the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”  He’s worked amazing changes – big and small – in my life these last four years.  What will He do this year?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Seeing God in Card’s Homecoming Series

I recently read Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming series of novels* and thoroughly enjoyed them!  The god-like characters in the novels were interesting food for thought.  To talk about it, I’ll first give a brief synopsis here:

The series starts on the planet Harmony 40 million years after humans have left Earth.  The initial humans set up a computer system they call the Oversoul.  This system monitors all humans on the planet, and alters their thoughts when they conceive of technology that would enable them to cause large-scale destruction (such as the bombs that they believe destroyed Earth).  Over time, a sort of religion has developed around the Oversoul.  After 40 million years, the Oversoul realizes its systems are failing, and that it needs to return to Earth where the mysterious “Keeper of the Earth” might be able to repair it.  The Oversoul influences one family to locate the original spaceships that brought humans to Harmony and help the Oversoul return to Earth.  The final novel takes place on Earth and tries to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the Keeper.

Book one in the Homecoming Saga

When a book introduces a god, my mind starts comparing it to the real One.  What’s the same?  What’s different?  I really enjoyed the experience with these books!  (If you’ve read the novels, you’ll know that some of these observations apply to the Oversoul and some to the Keeper.)

Similarities:

– God communicates in dreams.  (I have a huge love for dreams, so it was fun to see this aspect played up in a novel.)  We know that God communicated through dreams in the Bible, and He still does so today.  Many of the conversions happening in the Muslim world are due to dreams about Christ!
– God plans large-scale.
– God’s plan is that His children would love one another.
– God wants people to choose to follow His will freely.
Differences:

– God does plan large scale, but He also cares very deeply about each individual.
– Most importantly, in the novels, the Keeper does not incarnate, does not die, and is not resurrected to save His people from sin and death.  (As far as I know, the only fictional God to come close to doing this is Aslan!)  While many aspects of “God” in the novels are beautiful and felt familiar to me, this difference is huge.  The Keeper becomes a powerful care-taker with morals, and, while worthy of the respect of humans, is not worthy of their worship.  These thoughts will be explored more generally in my next post explaining why I, as a Christian, love reading sci-fi.

* After drafting this post, I read that Card’s Homecoming series is a sci-fi retelling of the Book of Mormon.  It explains a lot about some of the things I saw in the series, but I don’t think it changes much of what I’ve written here.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Shepherds’ Annunciation

Today, our pastor gave a sermon entitled, “The Horrors of Hell, the Beauty of Christmas, and the Glory of God.” What a message.

His words about announcement to the shepherds in Luke made my mind soar.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone round them, and they were filled with fear.

These shepherds were sitting in the field in the middle of the night, keeping one eye on the sheep and likely talking about daily life in Bethlehem. Then, the Lord’s messenger appeared to them. The Lord’s messenger!!!! Remember, God had not spoken to the people of Israel for four hundred years prior to Jesus’ birth. Until the announcements to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds, God’s chosen people had seen and heard no messengers for many years, through many tribulations. And what an announcement the angel brought!
My mind went to my own life, when I haven’t heard God’s voice in a year and a half, though I have clearly seen His hand working.
The glory of God shone around the angel and the shepherds. God’s own presence was there with the angel, announcing the birth of His Son and the world’s Savior.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people! For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Oh, what good news! A great joy!! I want to climb on top of my apartment roof and shout it to the world!!!
Jesus is HERE.
My sin deserves an eternity in hell for its great offense against God. I deserve to be punished with unending fire in a place of agony, where I constantly long for just a drop of water, a place with no escape or cessation. Nothing would ever stop this punishment, and it is completely just.
Yet Christ, the Lord, is born! He has come as one of the race condemned to death to live under the Law and to save us from it. Because He has come, my sinful soul is counted free. God looks at me and sees not the rotting stain of my sin, but the blood of Jesus that covers me.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Kyle pointed out today that the phrase “heavenly host” means, not the hosts and hostesses of heaven, but the angelic army – the warriors.
I absolutely love this image. Luke says that the heavenly host suddenly appear, singing praise to God. I get the image that the host hadn’t planned to appear before the shepherds; they were remaining invisible behind the one messenger. However, when they heard the messenger’s message proclaimed out loud (“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”), they couldn’t resist hiding anymore and came forth in their full glory. They likely understood more of the miracle of Christmas than the shepherds did, having an intimate knowledge of the original fall and the time of purity before it. They knew why Jesus came and how absolutely absurd it was, and so they burst forth shouting loudest praise to God and proclaiming God’s blessing to His people.
Oh, what Joy to the world! Christ is come!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On death and Life

My family and I serendipitously stumbled upon Trinity Church today in New York City. My mother loves walking through old cemeteries, so we stopped for a visit.

Trinity Church Wall Street

Wandering through these cemeteries, the old ones, gives me a sense of peace and a sense of perspective. These antique tombstones were custom made, and most have inscribed upon them undying confidence in eternal Life with Jesus.
For many of these people, all that remains to mark their life on earth is a simple tombstone in the churchyard. Those tombstones that proclaim their ultimate faith in Christ are all that I can use to recreate their life in my mind. I see groups of people living in New York before the Revolution, living each day with faces turned to God and hands doing His great work. Dying was just walking through the doorway that they had been approaching all their lives.

Headstones
Many of the headstones are so old that nothing remains but the stone itself. No name, no date, no epitaph to identify the skull buried under it. The only clue to the person’s life is that he or she chose to be buried or had a family member choose to bury him or her at Trinity Church in New York City. What a reminder that, though many of our obligations and duties may be worthwhile, the choice for or against Jesus is the one that matters for eternity.

The memorial for Augusta Egleston particularly touched me.
Augusta Egleston

“She was not ashamed to confess the
faith of Christ crucified, and manfully
fought under His banner against
sin, the world, and the devil,
and continued Christ’s
faithful soldier and servant
until her life’s end.”

What an honor. I strive to make those words true about my own life.

I also love what is said on the tombstone of William Bradford.

William Bradford

“… and being quite worn out,
with Old age and labour , he left his
mortal State in the lively Hope of a
blessed Immortality.
Reader reflect how soon you’ll quit this Stage.
You’ll find but few atain to such an Age.
Life full of Pain. Lo here’s a Place of Rest.
Prepare to meet your GOD, then you are blest.”

I especially love the phrase, “and, being quite worn out, … he left his mortal state in the lively Hope of a blessed immortality.” I read it in a very happy, light tone, as if the writer is stating something like, “And, being quite hungry, he went to the kitchen for a bit of cake.” It also sounds like Enoch, who walked with the Lord and simply was no more.  Death was nothing to be feared.
How beautiful a picture of who Christ is! From the dawn of consciousness, humans have worried about death. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest recorded human story, follows Gilgamesh as he travels to the ends of the earth to find a cure for death, and subsequent literature has only continued to attempt to make sense of death. The idea revolts us. We know innately that we are meant for eternity, yet to so many people death appears to be the end of it all.
Yet Christ is Life! He comes to bring us Life, and what abundant Life it is! For His followers, death has no sting. We walk through Hades’ now-broken adamantine gates and into the arms of our souls’ One True Love. Instead of the fearful spectre that has haunted the human race for thousands of years, death is simply the gateway to True Life. Like the infant emerging from the darkness of the womb into the world, death allows us to “shuffle off this mortal coil” and proceed into true Life.

I know that when, like these tombstones, all record of my life on earth has been eroded away, my Life will be hid with Christ on high. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leviticus

Leviticus is in the Bible for a reason.
This is my 6th time though it, and I’m still trying to convince myself of that statement. So I paid more attention this time.

Leviticus 14 tells the Israelites what to do if their house contracts leprosy:
1. Tell the priest to examine it.
2. Quarantine the house for seven days.
3. If not healed, scape the walls clean. Quarantine again.
4. If still not healed, dismantle the house and put it in an unclean place outside the camp.

That protocol came in handy tonight. I think we shall follow these Levitical laws in taking care of this chair, minus the priest bit:
Rotting Pumpkin

On a more serious note, I have learned important lessons from Leviticus.
– God is Holy. Holy holy holy. He demands perfect sacrifices and ritual cleanliness.
– God knows exactly how He wants us to live, and He is merciful enough to tell us.
– Sacrifice is serious business. (See Leviticus 10)
– God took care of His people before they knew about the germ theory of disease by instituting cleanliness laws. (There are at least four chapters dealing with skin disease and bodily discharges.)
– Love your neighbor. Really.

And, I think most importantly,
– It is impossible to be perfectly blameless before God. No one can keep all His statutes.
That is, after all, the ultimate purpose of the Law: to show us that we cannot come to God without His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness. Christ is the perfect, unblemished, holy atonement sacrifice described in Leviticus, sacrificed to cleanse us in God’s sight once and for all.

And that, my friends, is why I continue to read Leviticus.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Night Cometh

Last night my roommates dropped me off, bike pump in hand, to rescue my poor flat-tired bike several blocks from our apartment. As they drove off, I noticed the silence and stillness associated with a college campus between semesters. It is not the empty silence of an abandoned home, but an expectant, pregnant silence preparing for the things to come.
I walked past the statue of Christ that sits with folded legs in a bed of flowers. His hands are open. His eyes stare upwards and to the right, as if they expect to see something.
Something about the atmosphere told me that if that statue of Christ were to come alive, turn his head toward me, and rise, I would not be surprised.

I fought the urge to climb into the flower bed and sit beside him. Instead, I sat next to my bike facing him and breathed in the expectant silence. I texted Google, hoping to finally learn the connection among the bronze statue, the phrase “The Night Cometh” posted above him, and John 9:4.
I sat there feeling slightly awkward, hoping one of the few passers-by would not ask me if I needed help with my bike. I gratefully received the few moments of still, quiet, expectation God had granted to me.

I pumped life back into my tires and rode home, where I finally looked up the verse. The King James Version reads, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
How strange that a verse about labor followed my encounter with stillness. Yet I feel like some of my most important “work” yesterday was to sit quietly at the feet of Christ in silent, hopeful expectation.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized