Day 259: The Lord of angel-armies

Daniel 10-12; 2 Corinthians 2

In today’s reading, it’s as if a curtain is parted between the physical and spiritual realms. And through this sliver of an opening, we see things too wonderful for us to comprehend! Daniel’s eyes were opened so that he could see fully into this spiritual world and he was so terrified, he couldn’t speak!

Surely, we underestimate the struggle for power that takes place in the spiritual realms. But Daniel 10 reminds us of the mighty warrior-angels who fight for God’s glory and people continuously!

In Chapter 11-12 we read the message revealed to Daniel by the angel… a most extraordinary description of the future. Amazingly, historians can confirm that every detail of Daniel 11:2-35 has been fulfilled (11:35 -12:13 looks further into the future). This is jaw-droppingly extraordinary…so extraordinary that some liberal scholars believe these verses could only have been written “after-the-fact!”

Now hear this…if you were Daniel listening to the angel account for the next hundreds of years of kings and conflicts, what would you think? I know what I would think…God is in absolute control! He has a plan, and He has appointed the time for the end – when all suffering will cease!

But we are not there yet…

We live in a time of great suffering and anguish…a time of natural disasters, world tyrants, persecution, fleeing refugees, disease, and emotional turmoil. Yet, in all these circumstances God can be glorified especially as the world sees the church act sacrificially to help those in need.

This is where the physical and spiritual realms collide in our world. Satan schemes to cause conflict and disunity among God’s people to destroy our witness in this world!

Paul refers to Satan’s work in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians 2:5-11… An excellent summary of this passage is found in the ESV Study Bible:

“The majority in Corinth had expressed their repentance by punishing the leader of the rebellion against Paul. Paul now calls them to follow his own Christlike example toward them by extending mercy to the offender, lest Satan have his way once again in the church” (ESV Study Bible, Crossway).

Satan seeks to tear apart the church. Every church split is a victory for Satan. Every person who calls the church hypocritical is a victory for Satan. The spiritual realm is alight with the battle for God’s glory on earth. Angels are not cute little keepsakes – they are warriors – fighting the demons of the air for God’s name’s sake!

We, too, are called into this battle for God’s glory! For whom do you fight? We fight for the sure victor…we fight for the Lord of angel-armies, the Lord of hosts!

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

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Day 258: God determines the end-date!

Daniel 7-9; 2 Corinthians 1

Today, Daniel shifts from historical literature to apocalyptic literature. Keep in mind that God does not give apocalyptic visions so that we can predict the future. These cryptic visions usually contain strange imagery which is difficult to interpret. So as we breeze through Daniel’s  visions, it will be difficult to invest time in all the many interpretation theories. But we can focus on what we learn about God! Daniel’s visions consistently teach: (1) God is sovereign over all of history, (2)There will be a final judgment, and (3) God’s kingdom will endure forever!

Especially poignant in today’s reading is Daniel’s prayer for mercy from Chapter 9. As Daniel is pleading to God for mercy for Israel as a whole, the angel Gabriel comes to show mercy to Daniel on an individual level. Gabriel says, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved” (Daniel 9:22).

What a comforting personal message from the angel, Gabriel! And even though Gabriel prophesied that Israel’s suffering would continue, his words proved that God had determined the duration of suffering. In other words, there is a predetermined end-date!

This is our hope and encouragement to persevere in the face of affliction!

Paul has much to say about the purpose of suffering in the opening chapter of 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians is an interesting letter. Opponents to Paul’s ministry had infiltrated the church and caused a large rebellion against Paul. Paul wrote a letter (which is now lost; 2 Cor. 2:3-4; 2 Cor. 7:8-16): pleading for the church to repent – which thankfully, most did. But some opponents still remained within the church. Consequently, Paul spends the first 7 chapters defending his apostolic ministry and indirectly refuting his opponents.

One argument against Paul being a true apostle was that he suffered too much! It is in this context that Paul addresses suffering in 2 Corinthians 1.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

God in his grace has designed suffering to produce good in our lives! God’s comfort in the midst of affliction transforms our hearts in a profound way. This enables us to share God’s comfort with others, and also share more in the person of Christ!

The ways of God are beyond understanding!

He controls all of history.
He has a plan to redeem a people.
There is an appointed time for suffering,
And in the end, God’s kingdom will stand in glory forever!

Day 257: A life well lived

Daniel 5-6; 1 Corinthians 16

Today, we read the end of the historical narrative of Daniel’s life. He lived most of his life in exile, in service to foreign kings for close to 70 years! During that time, he remained faithful to God, and God kept him alive in a figurative lions’ den for all that time!

Daniel lived to see part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream fulfilled – as he witnessed the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians. Daniel continued to serve the Medo-Persian court – so well, in fact, that his jealous colleagues arranged to have him thrown in the lions’ den.

Wrapped up in this familiar children’s sunday school story… is the culmination of one man’s lifelong journey of faith. Daniel was faithful in a time when most of Israel had turned away. His trust in His God turned the hearts of foreign super kings. God honored Daniel’s perseverance!

We also come to the end of 1 Corinthians. We read Paul’s final exhortation to the Corinthian believers…

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love (1 Corinthians 16:13).

I think Daniel would say a hearty “Amen” to this list of commands!

The New Testament consistently teaches that perseverance is evidence of a saving faith. As members of God’s kingdom, we are called, similarly to Daniel, to persevere as exiles in this foreign land. May we follow Daniel’s example as we live life in the lions’ den with our eyes fixed on our Savior!

Day 256: Come Awake!

Daniel 3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Oh the folly of this world’s power and might. Who was this Nebuchadnezzar? He was the king of Babylon – the most powerful man of his time. He was so powerful that he commanded the death of others on a whim. He commanded limbs be torn and houses be demolished… and for three men who refused to bow before the golden statue made in his likeness, he commanded that they be thrown into a fiery furnace.

He sounds like a spoiled toddler to me – but unfortunately, he was no toddler. He was the king.

But he wasn’t The King.

Nebuchadnezzar got too big for his britches. He failed to realize he was just a pawn in God’s hand. God tried to warn the king through Daniel… (Dan. 4:27), but unfortunately… he didn’t listen.

“O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:31-32).

How the mighty fall! But do you see that even this severe act of God towards Nebuchadnezzar was an act of grace? Because of God’s humbling hand upon Nebuchadnezzar, he could say, “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).

For ultimately, our goal is heaven. It must not be earthly power, success or comfort – for these will all be wiped away. Just as our very bodies are perishable – all the things of this earth will be destroyed in the final day.

But. But…

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

This is our hope. This is our song!

Day 255: A Strong Mountain

Daniel 1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:1-34

Ahh. Daniel. He is a character that shines in the darkness. Daniel was among the first group from Judah to be exiled to Jerusalem. He lived during the time of Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s ministry. These prophets didn’t have too many encouraging words about the people of their time! But Daniel and his friends stand in stark contrast. They were faithful, and similar to the way God showed favor to Joseph (Gen 39-41), God showed great favor to Daniel and his friends.

The story recorded in Daniel 1-2 is probably familiar. But don’t let the familiarity steal its wonder! First, God greatly rewarded Daniel’s faithfulness to the law. God wasn’t honoring Daniel’s religious works, God was exalting a heart that strived to stay faithful in and amongst a foreign culture.

But the highlight of this story is God’s revelation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Somehow Nebuchadnezzar realized this wasn’t any ordinary dream, and Daniel’s trust in God’s faithfulness paved the way for God to use Daniel as His ambassador to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon!

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealed the future destruction of Babylon and the rise and fall of three subsequent earthly kingdoms. But on a deeper level, the dream revealed the sovereignty and power of God.

This God gave the tyrant-king, Nebuchadnezzar, the dream.

This God gave the faithful, Daniel, the interpretation.

This God would destroy the Babylonian kingdom and all future kingdoms – so that HIS KINGDOM would grow to fill the whole earth and endure forever! 

Listen to Daniel’s interpretation…

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever (Daniel 2:44).

Paul speaks of this same eternal kingdom in today’s reading from 1 Corinthians! Paul cites Jesus’ resurrection as the proof of this eternal kingdom. His resurrection represents the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:23) – or the first of many others who would one day be raised from the dead. At the end of the age, when all have been resurrected into new life, Paul says…

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power (1 Corinthians 15:24).

This is the fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream! Christ is the stone which destroys all other kingdoms to pieces and grows into a strong mountain which fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35)! And we are a part of that mountain! Thanks be to God!