Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 26 November 18:
1. Daniel 3:1-7 – “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold….” King Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold was intended to enforce loyalty to the government and unity in a diverse society. The idea was that all personal beliefs and priorities should be subordinated to nationalism. Today, in America, Christians are often taught that we must subordinate God’s laws to a ‘greater collective good,’ one that accommodates offenses against God, because unity is considered more important than fidelity. This may seem noble to the ‘intellectual’ person, but God has always called His people to remain holy, set apart, and loyal ambassadors who proclaim Truth to the world, a ‘foreign land.’ As Daniel and his friends will demonstrate, we are to obey earthly authorities until they demand that we disobey God. Daniel will be put to the test as to whether or not he will subordinate God to government or government to God. You have already been put to that test whether you realize it or not, and you will be put to that test again and again.
2. Daniel 3:8 – “Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.” Nationalism and other man-made ‘-isms’ will eventually refuse to tolerate a higher fidelity to God, though nationalism is often couched in religious terms. History is replete with examples of governments and other organizations coopting religion for political ends. Sooner or later, everyone will choose between the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of men.
3. Daniel 3:16-18 — “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’” Christians, we could learn much from the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They boldly and confidently obeyed the True KING regardless the personal cost, without feeling the need to defend themselves before sinful men, even before a godless king. It is inevitable that God’s people will have to choose between loyalty to the earthly kingdom of their citizenship and the Kingdom of God of their true citizenship. Obey God proudly and boldly. You don’t need to justify your obedience before mere men – don’t cheapen it by acknowledging their complaints. You serve ‘I AM’. We tend to underestimate how powerful uncompromised fidelity to God can be – “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)
4. Daniel 3:16-18 — “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” For what beliefs are you willing to die? Many military personnel have gone overseas to be killed or maimed in defense of their nation, but how many of those same people would put it all on the line to proclaim Jesus publicly in the streets of their communities, to stand up against immorality, to stand up against abortion, to stand up against governmental injustice?
5. Daniel 3:25 — “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Could the fourth man, like a ‘son of gods’ be the Son of God, Jesus?
6. Daniel 3:28-29 – “Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.’ Shadrach’s, Meshack’s, and Abednego’s unyielding devotion to God transformed the mightiest nation on the planet. Though they did not engage in political activities or lead national movements, their actions led to changes in the law that protected their religious freedom.
7. Daniel 3:29 – “Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
– God performs miracles in your life, not primarily for your benefit, but rather to bring glory to Himself before a watching world. Many people want to see miracles for personal reasons or to strengthen their faith, but God doesn’t usually operate that way but rather uses miracles for His greater purposes. Those who are fully committed and fully surrendered to God’s work will see miracles. “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation…. acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men…. Renounce your sins by doing what is right (Daniel 4:3, 25, 27).”
– The theme that runs across our readings from the Old Testament through the New Testament is that Jesus is the KING of Kings, and all power and authority has been given to him. Governments receive their authority from God whether they realize it or not, and “the kings of the earth belong to God (Psalm 47:9).” We are subjects of the KING of Kings, and His sovereignty demands our wholehearted fidelity and obedience. His Kingdom is both now and still yet to come in all glory. We serve the King now and are called to proclaim His Lordship across the planet with the boldness of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, regardless of the response of men. Of course Jesus provides the ultimate example of faithful fidelity – “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above (John 19:11).”
8. Daniel 4:18 – “This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” It was evident to the king that the Spirit of God was in Daniel.
9. Daniel 4:25-27 – “…that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” God intended to humble proud Nebuchadnezzar and teach Him that God is King, and the King demands obedience from all people. Daniel counselled Nebuchadnezzar to obey God above all else – sound counsel for anyone. God will be honored as the Most High and the Sovereign.
10. Daniel 4:34, 37 – “I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever…. 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.” A ruthless king repented. God is always doing two things at once in the life of a person, He is working on His one-on-one relationship with that person, and He is also using that relationship to reveal Himself to a watching world. He is doing these two things in your life too.
11. Proverbs 26:7 – “Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” Knowing the words of Jesus is pointless if you are not ready to follow Jesus, which requires first that you deny self. You will act upon what you really believe to be true.
12. Proverbs 26:9 – “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” Those who foolishly handle God’s word are more harm than good. The fool approaches God’s word from a self-centered perspective. Listen carefully, and you will see that “me” is at the center of their presentation rather than “He.” Be very careful not to use God’s word to validate your own selfishness or self-righteousness. The Bible used carelessly can be very hurtful.
13. Proverbs 26:11 – “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” To sin is terrible, to repeat a sin far worse.
14. Proverbs 26:13-15 – “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.” Laziness and complacency are parts of human nature that must be overcome by the Spirit. Christians are hardworking, don’t take shortcuts, and don’t miss an opportunity to do good while they have a chance.
15. Proverbs 26:16 – “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” Laziness is a spiritual issue and unacceptable for God’s servants. Spiritually blinded, the lazy usually don’t think they are lazy. Lazy people always seem to have a way of justifying their laziness. The Bible calls this foolishness.
16. Proverbs 26:17-23 – “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’ For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.” God calls us to bring peace into situations, not to add to discourse. We should never get involved in quarreling or gossip.
17. Proverbs 26:23-28 – God wants us to see past a person’s words to understand their heart and motives. The Bible says that no person can ever completely understand another person’s heart or motives, but we can judge the fruit of their lives, and we can also be enlightened by the Spirit which knows every person’s heart.
18. John 19:1-5 – “Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’” The world will mock and hate the truth. Jesus warns you to be prepared for that.
19. John 19:9 – “But Jesus gave him no answer.” Notice that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also felt no requirement to justify their fidelity to God and placed their fate in the hands of God. You have no need to defend yourself before scoffers. Simply proclaim the truth, let the scoffers scoff, and take up your cross as you follow Jesus, fellowshipping with Him in persecution.
20. John 19:11 – “Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.’” Our fate is never really in the hands of men. God controls every situation.
21. John 19:15 – “The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” What a shocking statement coming from the chief priests. However, a church that remains silent before legalized abortion and other state endorsed abominations has essentially proclaimed the same thing.
22. John 19:19-20 – “Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.” The Cross made clear in everyone’s language who Jesus is.
23. John 19:24 – “This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’” Read Psalm 22:12-18 to see this prophecy. Read Isaiah 53 too.
24. John 19:25 – “….but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” — From Henry T. Blackaby — There is no Christianity without a cross, for you cannot be a disciple of Jesus without taking up your cross. Crosses are painful, they forever change your life, but sometimes the greatest cost will not be to you but to those you love. You may be prepared to obey the Lord’s commands, whatever they are, because you’ve walked with Him and know that His way is best. Yet there will be those close to you who have not related to Jesus in the same way and have not heard His voice as clearly. Jesus understood that His Father’s will for Him led to a cross. The cross would mean a painful death for Jesus, and it would also bring suffering to those closest to Him. Because of the cross, Jesus’ mother would watch in agony as her son was publicly humiliated, tortured, and murdered. Jesus’ aunt and close friends would witness His excruciating death. His disciples would be scattered in terror and confusion in what would be the longest, darkest night of their lives. Because of Jesus’ obedience, there would also be a cross for each of His disciples. Obedience to your Lord’s commands will affect others (Luke 14:26). Don’t refuse to obey what you know God is asking because you fear the cost to your family will be too great. Beware lest you seek to prevent those you love from taking up the cross God has for them. Don’t ever try to protect those you love by disobeying God. The cost of disobedience is always far greater. Rather, look to Jesus, your model, and see what it cost those around Him for Him to be obedient to His Father.
25. John 19:30 – “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” — From Henry T. Blackaby — God always finishes what He begins (Phil. 1:6). God never speaks a word without ensuring that it comes to pass (Isa. 55:11). Christ is both the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev. 1:8, 17). Christ is as much at the end of His work as He is at its beginning. Jesus was given an enormous mandate. He was to live a sinless life, remaining absolutely obedient to His Father. Even the manner of His death was to fulfill numerous prophecies that had been foretold in Scripture (Matt. 26:24, 31, 54, 56; 27:9, 35; 46; John 19:28, 36-37). Yet, despite the extremely complex assignment Jesus received from His Father, He could shout triumphantly from the cross, “It is finished!” Christ now resides within each believer. His assignment today is to complete God’s will in each Christian. He is just as determined to do this in us as He was to complete God’s will for Himself. You will have to resist Christ in order to remain out of the will of God. What is it God wants to do in you? Have you allowed Him to complete what He has begun? He will not force you to receive all that He has for your life. If God’s work has not been brought to fruition in you, it is not that Christ has not been diligently working toward that end. Rather, you may need to release areas of your life to Him and be as determined to see God’s work in you completed as Christ is. Review the things God has said to you over this last year. Are there promises God has made to you that you have refused to allow Him to complete? If so, commit to yield your will to God today.
26. John 19:39 – “Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.” This is the same Nicodemus who previously sought Jesus secretly at night (John 3). The life changed by Jesus is no longer ashamed to worship Him in public.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 Nov 18: Be willing to step in the fiery furnace with confidence today by publicly proclaiming Jesus. Be willing to take up your cross today by publicly proclaiming Jesus. Be willing to worship Jesus publicly today like Nicodemus. (see today’s notes above)