Honored Guest

“Heart of a Mother’s Prayers” by Stephanie Romero decided to feature a couple of my “Dad” entries for Father’s Day this weekend. I am very honored to be chosen. Thank you, Stephanie! I think most of you would enjoy Stephanie’s blog (especially moms). Read a few of her entries and then subscribe.

I am looking forward to a great weekend. Tomorrow, Aidan and I are going to have a “boys’ day,” probably hiking at Sweetwater Creek. Then I will finish my preparation to teach on the return from exile (Haggai, Zechariah, etc.) on Sunday morning. I love teaching God’s Word! Enjoy a great Father’s Day weekend and make sure to tell dad (or husband) “thank you” for whatever he does well. Be an encourager!

Finding God in Daniel

When I started this blog, I thought I would write more posts like this one. However, I have discovered that a conversational, visual, and topical style is more suited for a blog. But I am going to try this anyway and let the readers decide its value for them. For me, I am excited to collect and organize my thoughts and research so I can revisit it in the future. (My memory is weak at times.)

Our church is reading through The Story,  a chronological arrangement of excerpts from the Bible that focuses on God’s big picture plan (called the “upper story”). It is a great tool for getting a grasp of what the Bible is about and understanding how God has been at work. Last week’s chapter was on Daniel and the time of Judah’s exile to Babylon. Oddly, Daniel is both a source for children’s stories and for all kinds of prophecies about the future. When I taught through the book in detail, I think we took 6-9 months to work through its 12 chapters. It is a tough, but rewarding study!

This past week, though, I read through Daniel again. I was struck particularly in chapter 2 when God is called “the revealer of mysteries.” This is an unusual title for God, but a powerful one, if you stop and think about it. In fact, I should probably just write about that. However, I wanted to dig a little deeper (or at least broader). I went back through and pulled out all the names and characteristics of God that are revealed in Daniel. Wow, there are many!

I think God had a reason for revealing Himself so vividly to Daniel and the people of his day.  Because God had to discipline His people with the exile, many probably wondered who this God was. They wondered if He had abandoned them to the pagan Babylonians. Perhaps they would be scattered like their northern cousins, never to return home. Maybe God wasn’t powerful enough to protect the promised remnant for a return. If you look at the list below, you will see that God reveals some of His character to Daniel (and Nebuchadnezzar) precisely to answer these charges. He is the sovereign Lord of kings. And He will do what He says.

I urge you to consider this God revealed in Daniel — at least meditating on one of these names or qualities. He is worthy of your trust, just like Daniel and his friends experienced. Let Him be your Lord today.

Chapter 1: Daniel and friends refuse the king’s food
1:2 – Gave Jehoiakim over to Nebuchadnezzar. (Sovereign over kingdoms)
1:9 – Gave Daniel favor/loving-kindness with others
1:17 – Gave knowledge in literature, wisdom, and dream interpretation (note: pagan knowledge) – better than all the rest

Chapter 2: Daniel reveals and interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream
2:18 – God of heaven
2:19 – Revealer of mysteries (also 2:28, 47)
2:20-23 – Changes times and epoch, gives wisdom, light dwells with Him
2:28 – gives dreams to show the future (also 2:45)
2:38 – Giver of nations and nature into the king’s hand
2:44 – establishes kingdom that won’t be destroyed
2:45 – great God
2:47 – God of gods; Lord of kings

Chapter 3: The fiery furnace
3:17 – able to deliver (also 3:29)
3:25 – appears in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, like a son of man (might be an angel/messenger instead)
3:26 – Most High God (also 4:24; 5:18, 7:25), delivers from the furnace

Chapter 4: The testimony of a humbled Nebuchadnezzar
4:2 – doer of signs and wonders
4:3 – has an everlasting kingdom
4:31 – God who speaks; able to remove sovereignty from rulers
4:32 – ruler over the realm, gives to whomever He chooses (recap in 5:21)
4:34 – lives forever; has an everlasting dominion (also to Darius in 6:26)
4:35 – has absolute free will, absolute power
4:36 – giver and taker of reason/knowledge; restorer
4:37 – King of heaven; works are true, ways are just, Humbler of the proud

Chapter 5: Belshazzar and the fall of Babylon
5:18 – granter of sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty
5:23 – Lord of heaven; holds lifebreath in His hands
5:24 – the hand writing on the wall
5:26 – ending the kingdom
5:27 – judge of the king
5:28 – dividing and giving the kingdom

Chapter 6: Under Darius, under Duress (lions’ den)
6:5 – gives law
6:16 – he will deliver
6:20 – living God (also 6:26)
6:22 – sender of angel; protects the innocent
6:27 – delivers, rescues, performs signs and wonders

Chapter 7: Vision of Daniel during first year of Belshazzar
7:9 – Ancient of Days upon throne, purity and fire (also 7:13, 7:22)
7:10 – myriads/thousands were before Him
7:13 – Son of Man
7:14 – gives dominion and everlasting kingdom to the Son of Man
7:18 – Highest One (also 7:22, 25, 27)
7:22 – rendering judgment
7:27 – dominions will serve and obey

Chapter 8: Vision of Daniel during third year of Belshazzar
8:16 – sender of Gabriel; giver of vision
8:17, 19 – knows details of the “time of the end”
8:26 – revealed something of the far future

Chapter 9: Daniel’s prayer (my favorite chapter – READ it)
9:2 – Lord, spoke to Jeremiah about the 70 year judgment
9:3 – Lord God (also 9:4)
9:4 – great and awesome God, keeps His covenant and loving-kindness (chesed) for those who love Him and keep His commands
9:5 – has given commandments an ordinances
9:6 – sender of the earlier prophets (also 9:10)
9:7 – righteousness belongs to Him; drove out His people because of their deeds against Him (also 9:14)
9:9 – Lord our God, compassion and forgiveness
9:12 – confirmed His words; brought great calamity
9:15 – brought people out of Egypt with a mighty hand; made a name for Himself
9:16 – turned anger and wrath against Jerusalem
9:18 – can hear and see (also 9:19); has great compassion

Chapter 10: Daniel’s vision in the third year of Darius
10:12 – heard Daniel’s humble prayer from the beginning
10:14 – gives understanding of the latter days

Chapter 11: Daniel’s understanding in the first year of Darius
11:32 – will be known by His people
11:36 – God of gods

Chapter 12: The Time of the End
12:2 – judge and resurrector (hinted at)
12:7 – lives forever
12:9 – concealer and sealer of some future events

Which name or characteristic speaks to your need today? 

Psalms Project: Psalm 19 – From Venus to God

 “The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky. Flannery O’Connor in Wise Blood, chapter 3 (emphasis mine)

Yesterday, millions of people around the world were focused on the transit of Venus across the sun (from our point of view). My son, Aidan, a would-be astronomer, wanted to watch it, too. So we turned on NASA TV and watched for awhile. Aidan got bored with just seeing the black dot of Venus against the solar backdrop.  It didn’t move fast. It didn’t explode or shoot off fireworks. It just kept imperceptibly moving. (He loved the solar flare pictures and other parts, though.)

However, I was in awe of the Creator of this universe. I am not alone. King David was often moved to worship as he observed God’s creation by looking up. Psalm 19 is a prime example. (Stop and read it before reading on here.) What is most interesting is that David moves from a poetic description of the stars and the sun to outbursts of praise for God’s laws and commands. How did he make that leap? I think the Venus transit explains it perfectly.

The transit of Venus was no surprise to us. Astronomers knew exactly when it would happen. Why? Because the motions of the universe are consistent and calculable. The laws of gravity, mathematics, and physics predict these astrological alignments. This order, understood by the ancients even before the descriptions of physics, points to a Designer and Sustainer. That is exactly how David reasons:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
Psalm 19:1-2, 7 (NASB)

David does not stop with praise and wonder, though. In verses 1-6, he uses only the general name for God, El, one time. In verses 7-14, though, he uses the personal, covenant name Lord (Yahweh), seven times. He is getting more personal with Yahweh. In verses 11-14, he submits himself to this Creator and Lawgiver God:

Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:11 (NASB)

Finally, he ends with one of his most quoted prayers. His contemplation on the Creator has brought him to a powerful plea:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 (NASB)

European Space Agency, NASA & Peter Anders (Göttingen University Galaxy Evolution Group, Germany)

A thousand years later, the apostle Paul argued similarly that God’s creation reveals God’s attributes. So no one can say they had no knowledge of the one, true God:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Romans 1:19-20 ESV

Yet, I wonder how many people watched the transit of Venus and missed the Creator God who designed all of this. Flannery O’Connor alludes to this same ignorance in the great quote above that I “happened” to read today. (Thanks, Jacob Willard, for the Top 100 Novel Challenge that got me into that book!)

The next time you look up into the heavens, stop to think what God is telling you. He is speaking, if you will listen.

(Yes, this post for the Psalms Project is out of order, but I decided this one was timely.)

Catching up with the Psalms Project?
Psalm 1: Planted or Seated?
Psalm 2:  Safe, Not Shackled