Today’s Bible Reading: Daniel 1-2:23; 1 Peter 3:8-4:6; Psalm 119:65-80; Proverbs 28:14
Today we begin the book of Daniel, another prophetic book of the Old Testament. Daniel was a young Jew who was taken captive to Babylon after one of Nebuchadnezzar’s three attacks on Jerusalem (Daniel 1:6). It was the policy of Babylon (and most kingdoms of this time) to take the smartest and strongest people captive back to their countries and to leave a poor and weak population in the land that was conquered (Daniel 1:4).
While there Daniel was determined to keep the dietary restrictions God had given Israel (Daniel 1:8). Notice that Daniel was firm in his commitment to not compromise and do something that went against God. This was clearly a dangerous thing to do. The king could have been highly offended and ordered Daniel punished or even killed. But obedience to God was more important to Daniel than the risk of retribution.
It also could have been easy for Daniel to give in and do as he was commanded by the king. I’m sure the king’s food was more delicious and satisfying than a diet of vegetables and water. Daniel was willing to make a personal sacrifice in order to live a life that reflected God to those around Him. If he had given in or acted rebelliously, his witness would have been lost.
Instead, Daniel requested not to eat the king’s food (Daniel 1:8). He acted with politeness and respect to his captors. And in return his request was granted because God gave the king’s officers reciprocal respect for Daniel. God would not have been able to do that if Daniel had not acted in a godly way. God will always support us when we support Him.
In addition to keeping Daniel (and his friends) healthy on a vegetarian diet, God gave these men special wisdom (Daniel 1:7-20). This will come in handy very shortly when Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that frightens him (Daniel 2:1).
Interestingly Daniel 2:4 – 7:28 is written not in Hebrew but in Aramaic, the official language of the Babylonian empire. This is the only portion of the Bible written in Aramaic.
For some reason Nebuchadnezzar demands his magicians and astrologers to not only interpret his dream, but to tell him what the dream was (Daniel 2:5)! These men recognize that such a thing is impossible for man, but not for God (Daniel 2:11), although they were not referring to the true God but to their false gods. Nevertheless, this entire scene sets up another opportunity for God to display Himself to the King of Babylon through Daniel.
Notice how calm Daniel is while in the midst of his captivity and specifically these dangerous situations – including when one of the king’s commanders come to kill him (Daniel 2:14). Daniel was completely secure and confident in God. No matter what was going to happen Daniel was sure that God was in control of the situation. Wisely, Daniel’s first reaction is to pray (Daniel 2:18). When faced with a troubling situation, pray.
And when God answers our prayers we need to thank Him and praise Him, just like Daniel did (Daniel 2:19-23).
The real test our love for others is how we react when they wrong us. If we are truly concerned about them we will not retaliate in-kind but will respond with kindness (1 Peter 3:9). This is what God commands of His children. Its tempting to repay evil with evil because we get our satisfaction immediately. But the satisfaction of responding to evil with kindness is almost always delayed.
Note that God will reward us when we are unfairly punished for doing good, as long as we respond in a godly way (1 Peter 3:14). I’d rather have a reward from God than the satisfaction of telling someone off. Doing so may make me feel good temporarily, but will likely just ratchet up the tension. But acting peacefully will likely be a witness as such behavior is not the norm in this world. Someone may notice and ask why I decided to take the high road. Then I have a chance to explain the hope I have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15). Our behavior should always be opening doors, never closing them.
Did you ever wonder what Jesus did for 3 days when He was buried in the ground? Well, 1 Peter 3:19 tell us. He went to the underworld and preached to the evil spirits there. Pretty cool, eh? This was probably not a message of repentance but of judgement. But this is just more evidence that death does not contain God (Jesus was God in a human body). Jesus’ earthly body may have been dead, but His spirit was actively alive.
And now Jesus is in heaven where all the angels and other beings respect His authority (1 Peter 3:22). Someday all human beings will acknowledge His authority too.
When people wrong us we can spend the time and energy to retaliate. But doing so is just a waste of our time. Better to let God handle it while we brush it off and keep our eyes focused on Him (Psalm 119:78).
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.