Bible reading for Oct 18 -- 19
Oct 18 -- Daniel 3 and Psalm 107
Oct 19 -- Daniel 4 and Psalms 108-109
"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble." (Daniel 4:37)
THE DANIEL DIET (ch 1). The book opens with an introduction to Daniel, chronicling his arrival in Babylon after deportation from Jerusalem in 605 BC, along with three friends. As a young man, an exile in an alien culture, he enters Babylonian royal training. There are many parallels between Daniel and Joseph (Gen 39-50), who both served foreign powers while faithfully serving God at the same time. Regarding the diet, Daniel's abstaining was not because he was fastidious about healthy food, but he was an observant Jew, being faithful to the Mosaic covenant. Jews recognized that all of life -- food, clothing, work, marriage, child-rearing, agriculture, ethics, business, charity, public morality, worship -- were all governed by one Lord. Food was seemingly a small matter, but faithfulness in small matters is a great matter, and Daniel was willing to be different. We Christians should realize, as well, that God calls us to honor him in every part of life and we must be willing to be different from our surrounding culture, even in matters that to them seem no big deal. Faithfulness in little things is actually a big thing.
NEB'S FIRST DREAM (ch 2). Compare this story with Joseph and Pharaoh (Gen 41). Daniel is a book about empires, giving God's revelation of future world events. God is the One who directs times and seasons (v 9, 21) and to him who guides history all praise and thanks are due (vv 20-23). There will be, according to the first dream, a succession of empires -- usually identified as the Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires, respectively, and then -- with the coming of Jesus -- the kingdom of God, which will fill the earth (vv 34-35, 44). (Here's a good overview of the book of Daniel by the Bible Project.) Daniel is honored for his role in interpreting the dream and, remembering his three friends, he uses his new position to promote their advancement, as well (v 49).
THE STATUE AND THE FURNACE (ch 3). In his pride, and perhaps having received the idea of a statue from his first dream, Nebuchadnezzar erects a golden statue of himself and demands worship. (Compare with Rev 13:11-18.) The three friends of Daniel again show faithfulness to their covenant with God by not bowing down to worship a creature or its image (Ex 20:1-6). Daniel himself, not mentioned, may have been elsewhere in the empire at the time, or for some reason indisposed. The three are miraculously spared from death in the furnace. Though Nebuchadnezzar never repents -- Babylonian and Persian monarchs never reversed themselves -- he does publicly vindicate the three and legitimized their religion.
NEB'S SECOND DREAM (ch 4). Nebuchadnezzar "was at ease in his house" and "prospering in his palace" (v 4), and he was proud of his empire (v 30). However, he has an unsettling dream of a large and beautiful tree being cut down. Daniel again interprets it for him. The tree symbolizes his powerful and prosperous kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar's reign would be taken from him for a season of time, until he would recognize that God rules over all. Unique to the book of Daniel, angelic beings here are called, "watchers" (or, "sentinels, observers"), who serve as a kind of holy council against Babylon (vv 13, 17, 23). Notice this also in Revelation, that angels not only serve God's people (Heb 1:14) but also act in bringing judgment upon the nations. Here in Daniel, the king loses his mind for a while, but is reinstated to his kingship at the end. He lifts his eyes toward heaven and confesses that God's dominion "is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth..." (vv 34-35).
GOD'S KINGDOM BECOMES THE TREE. In giving parables about his coming kingdom, Jesus spoke of the mustard seed: "It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches" (Matt 13:32). As beautiful and powerful was the Babylonian empire, it was built upon human pride, and so it would fall. The kingdom that will endure forever is God's kingdom, where his Son Jesus is Lord. He is the One who humbled himself to serve his Father and so inherits the name above all names (Phil 2:5-11). To him every knee shall bow!
"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble..." (Psalm 107:1-2)
THINGS WILL CHANGE (Ps 107). We should give thanks to the Lord for the ways and times he has delivered us from trouble (vv 1, 8, 15, 21, 31). This should be verbalized in the hearing of others! Whether from the wilderness, or darkness and the shadow of death, or from folly resulting in affliction, or from the tempest of the sea, the Lord delivers those who call upon him. I am thankful that he "sent forth his word" (v 20) and brought healing to my heart and soul as a troubled college student in 1971. (Yes, fifty years ago, imagine!) He changes conditions (vv 38-42). There is comfort in this, that those who trust the Lord in their affliction will eventually see their condition change. (For the better!) Conversely, those who are satisfied without God, prospering in their wickedness, will also see their condition changed, for the worse. Things will change.
JUST SAY SO! We live in a time of unrest. Only in Jesus is there true and lasting deliverance. In him there is forgiveness, and power to forgive. In him there is restoration of human dignity and equality and humility and justice. In him we experience new desires for God and willingness to obey his good and perfect will (Rom 12:2). If God has rescued you and delivered you from trouble, if you are redeemed, you have an obligation to say so! Now is the perfect time to speak to others about Jesus.
DEFEAT (Ps 108) AND DECEPTION (Ps 109). Read my comments here.
Image credit. Photo of Richmond Park (Richmond, UK) by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash. About this newsletter: I'm Sandy Young, and I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Subscribe for email at Buttondown.email/Sandy. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. A very helpful resource is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.
Bible reading for Oct 18 -- 19