Week 44 – the FUTURE is about to break wide open for the people of God!

It could be time for God’s amazing grace to break out in blessing for you…see what He did for Israel!

DAY ONE – Daniel 1-3

The book of Daniel is a bridge. Across this bridge we journey directly from Jerusalem to Babylon. Jerusalem was no more, and the Jews of captivity were learning to live life in a foreign country. Among them were four young men–Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah–taken from their homeland of Judah in 605 BC as part of the first invasion by Nebuchadnezzar. Because of their excellent quality, the four teenagers were chosen and groomed for three years to be presented to the King of Babylon. They were then taken into the royal service of the king. Soon after, Nebuchadnezzar had his famous dream for which he MUST have an interpretation… if only he could remember what he dreamed! Then the impossible happened, and it saved the lives of all the wise men of the kingdom. As Daniel tells it: Daniel 2:20-23 (NLT) “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. 21 He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. 22 He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.” Nebuchadnezzar then placed Daniel over all his kingdom and gave his three friends important positions in the royal service. Next comes the furnace of fire, blazing seven times hotter than ever, to consume these three young men who are refusing to bow to the king’s great statue erected in his honor. However, instead of being burned alive, they walk alive out of the fire to stand before an amazed king Nebuchadnezzar, who makes an official announcement: Daniel 3:28-29 (NLT)  “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”

As we cross this bridge from Judah to Babylon, it is clear that God is God wherever His people are. And it is clear that God was making Himself known in no uncertain terms to the great king of the great superpower known as Babylon. Daniel would distinguish himself in royal service to at least four kings over a period of 60-70 years, and God would reveal things to him that span the ages. This book of Daniel is the great connector from the ancient past to the future yet to come. I praise you, Great and Almighty God, for you are our eternal Creator and Keeper for all time.

DAY TWO – Daniel 4-6

History has no previous record, so far as we know, of a man such as King Nebuchadnezzar, who lost his mind and lived as a beast in the field for seven years, taking on the visage of an animal. Against all odds, this man who held the lives of others in his hand, was driven from his kingdom by decree of the holy watchers of heaven, only to be restored at the end of that period.  Daniel 4:34-35 (NLT)  “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. 35 All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ Successive kings of Babylon, including Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius the Mede, who took over the kingdom, learned similar lessons concerning the eternal kingdom of Yahweh God. Though he knew his grandfather’s history, Belshazzar proudly defied God and was destroyed the same night. His successor discovered Yahweh God by Divine Intervention, after having Daniel thrown into a den of lions to be destroyed. Daniel was, of course, delivered; and his tormentors met their death by their own craft. Daniel 6:25-28 (NLT) Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 27 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.” 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

For hundreds of years Yahweh’s activities were centered within Israel and housed in Jerusalem. The other nations went on their way, creating and worshiping gods of their own making. But as soon as God’s people were exiled from their land, God showed up in a new way in Babylon and made His Presence and power felt in real ways. At the center of all this were people like Ezekiel and Daniel. Their integrity and godliness gave the Lord the point of contact to reveal Himself and lift up His eternal kingdom before all men. Yes, God is sovereign and does as He wills; but His will is to find godly people through whom to establish and demonstrate His eternal kingdom in a most public way. May the spirit of these godly ones dwell in us as well; may His everlasting kingdom be central to our life and work, HERE AND NOW.

DAY THREE – Daniel 7-9

Curiosity is a permanent characteristic of humankind. But nothing intrigues us more than understanding the future. People who read the Bible always want to know what comes next, and how events will unfold in the ‘last days.’ Christendom has divided itself over competing explanations of the end times, though we should be comforting one another with the knowledge that our wonderful Lord, the Creator and Sovereign of all things, is in everlasting control of earth and humankind. The KEY in Daniel’s first vision lies in this: Daniel 7:2-3 (NLT)  In my vision that night, I, Daniel, saw a great storm churning the surface of a great sea, with strong winds blowing from every direction. The ‘great sea’ in scripture usually represents the ‘sea’ of people populating the earth. This ‘great storm’ that Daniel saw surely describes the recurring conflicts and wars that go on around the world–this world, by the way, to which we have almost instant access through massive technology. This vision and the ones that follow in our chapters give a general description lasting from the time of Daniel until the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD.  Daniel 9:26-27 (NLT) “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end.  For over two thousand years the ‘great storm’ has engulfed first one part of the world, then another. Greater and lesser kingdoms arise from time to time, only to give way to the next superpower to come on the scene. However, there is an end–a final end. As we have said before, we must always keep our eyes on Israel, for God’s manner of dealing with the nations focuses on the middle east, with its unceasing turbulence and intrigue.

Reading Jeremiah’s prophecies, Daniel realized that Judah’s exile would end within 70 years. So he replaced his fine clothes with sackcloth and sprinkles of ashes, then set himself to fasting and prayer for the exiles who were scattered all over the world, from both Israel and Judah. For days he afflicted himself, crying out to God for repentance and restoration for a people ruined by their own sin and rebellion. Not attempting to deflect blame, Daniel openly acknowledged responsibility for all the disaster that had come upon them, then pleaded for forgiveness and mercy from Yahweh God. This is one of the greatest prayers in the Bible from a man who honored God with his whole life. Is it time to FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE?

DAY FOUR -Daniel 10-12

In contemplation of these final chapters of Daniel, take note that it contains a supernatural vision with a supernatural being who came to Daniel following three weeks of fasting and prayer. Daniel was an old man, still in royal service, now serving the Persian King Cyrus, fourth in a series of kings. The vision is about what would happen in the times of the end of human government. Take note that we are on the other side of this period of history, and it appears that our times are related to these prophetic revelations that ended with instructions for Daniel to keep it a secret, to lock up the contents of the book, to be revealed at a very much later time. The entire period has seen wars, buildup of international strength, and alliances intended to increase that strength, along with riches. The general descriptions are of kings of the north and kings of the south, who continue to pursue their intentions, willing to sacrifice the lives of their peoples to accomplish their ends. This international see-saw of power and rule continues until the time of the end, when power from the western coastlands is introduced, and the entire world is caught in the conflict. Can we identify in this revelation continents such as Europe, Africa, Asia, North America? Perhaps. International and world relationships are at an all time high, and the tensions among them are no less. Into this we bring our questions that Daniel had and struggle to understand whether those ‘end time’ conditions are visible in our time. Again, perhaps. Actually, most likely. Yes, there are still unanswered questions and low visibility as we contemplate some of the details. But we should most certainly be alerted to the serious challenge of seeking and following the Lord at all costs as events and conditions shift perpetually around us.

Daniel 12:1-4 (NLT)  “At that time Michael, the archangel who stands guard over your nation, will arise. Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued. 2 Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. 3 Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. 4 But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” If Michael the archangel has indeed stood up over Israel in this time, then it is futile to try to preserve human government as we know it; rather is seems prudent to humble ourselves before Almighty God and His Anointed One, Jesus Christ. It would seem critical to me to seek Him with all our heart and soul, and to assure ourselves that we follow Him toward His eternal kingdom, which will surely rise soon.

DAY FIVE – Ezra 1-3

Has the Spirit of God ever prompted you to do something? Has He ever turned on the lights for you as you pondered a problem or question? Some two hundred years before King Cyrus of Persia was even born, Yahweh God named him and called him to carry out God’s will concerning Israel (Isaiah 45:1-7). Then, the first year that he was king, around 538 BC, the Spirit of God prompted him to issue an edict in writing, inviting any and all Jews who wished to return to Judah and Jerusalem, to step forward. It was in the king’s heart to encourage them to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem, and to give them the needed resources to make the trip, resettle the land, and commence construction. And oh, yes, it just happened to be seventy years of Israel’s exile! God’s prophecy through Jeremiah was being fulfilled as it had been spoken. Coincidence? Hardly, for a man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9). We are beginning to see a pattern as we make our way through scripture–someone is in control. We would love to believe that we are in control, but the evidence says otherwise. Over time it becomes apparent that those who follow the instructions of Proverbs 3:5-8 will become aware of God’s interventions and blessings. As generations came and went under the watchful eye of the Lord, prophetic words materialized into fulfilled predictions. They were so unlikely at times that the hand of Almighty God was undeniable. This story is one of them! A pagan king who thought Yahweh lived in Jerusalem was moved by that same God in Babylon, to organize and facilitate the return of Jews to their homeland. Forty-two thousand, including priests and Levites to carry out the Lord’s service, answered the call and made the trip.

Is the Lord prompting you now? Have you recently, or can you remember feeling or thinking inside that there is something you ought to do? Did you listen; are you listening, or do you write it off as something you ate? Pause a minute; God is real, and He has a real love for humankind; so He initiates thoughts, actions, events that may indeed be working in your favor, to draw you toward Him, or to reveal a pathway that has purpose and meaning. There are many forces applying pressure on us at any given time. Some of them would nudge us away from God, but His Spirit will always draw us toward Him, so that He can help us find our true identity and achieve our created purpose. Some inner thoughts or voices would lie to us about God so that we believe He doesn’t care, or that He is responsible for something we consider bad in our life. But His Spirit is working in your behalf, to reveal His loving nature and lead you to higher ground. Are you ready to trust Him, to be led toward His eternal kingdom?

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