The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Have You Room for Jesus?

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” - Luke 2:7

 

Are you in the Christmas spirit? This past presidential election was pretty withering. If you’re your candidate won you might be more inclined to be in the Christmas spirit. If your candidate lost, you might be packing to leave the Christmassy confines of the good ole US of A. There are new gadgets out: a Three-D pen, new IPhone 7, ionizing sports water bottles, compact wallets, and tactical space pens are all the rage. But if you’ve become infatuated with some new gizmo maybe the frenzy to buy gifts threatens to crowd out Christmas and the Christmas spirit. Even Christians can get caught up in the rush to spend rashly. Atheists have a new promotional drive this year they are calling “Skip Church this Christmas.” They are promoting the idea that you don’t have to be religious to celebrate Christmas; you can just gather with loved ones, eat a big meal, and share gifts, all without Jesus. There are a lot of reasons people choose to shut the door on Christmas. Some may go so far as to shut the door on Jesus. Have you room for Jesus?

If there’s no room for Jesus in your holiday season it wouldn’t be the first time there was no room for Jesus. The first time He came there was no room for Him. In the Gospel of Luke it states, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  (Luke 2:7).

Theologically this speaks of the incarnation of Jesus. It speaks of the humiliation of Jesus. And it speaks of the providential workings of God to carry out His redemptive plan in Christ. But there are other down to earth revelations intertwined in the incarnation of Christ. They speak to our present state of affairs; especially this year.

God’s ways are not our ways. God works in ways that we don’t readily understand. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:7-11). In Romans 12:2 it tells us not to be conformed to the world. A reason for this is that God regularly works in ways that the world and even in the religious community cannot relate to. The ways of God are nonconformist and unorthodox by secular and religious standards. Who would have thought that a single Teacher with an inner core of 12 rag tag disciples would turn out to be not only God in the flesh but the Savior of the world?  Who would have thought the Savior of the world, God in the flesh, would be born in a stable because there was no other place for his mother to birth? (I’ve seen what such “stables” look like. They are dark and dingy; only a poor needy family would resort to birthing their baby in such a place.) Who would have thought this child would be the way the truth and the life and the only way to eternal life with God? God’s ways are not our ways.

Our plan can be opposed to His plan. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s plans may keep us from things we think are best for us. But God’s plan is always the best plan. He has only the best of intentions for us. If He says, “No,” to a request of ours, it is only because He has something infinitely and eternally better for us. We are limited and finite in understanding. He is infinite and all knowing. It’s always best to trust the LORD; even when we don’t understand.  And, at the risk of turning people off with a political statement, I would say to those who are disgusted at the election of Donald Trump to be president to take a step back and consider that maybe God is at work in this. I would say that to my liberal friends. I would say that to “never-Trumpers” too. God’s ways are not our ways. He is always at work. And maybe, just maybe, God is planning a great big Christmas present for us and our nation. We can only hope and pray.

God is able to accomplish His will even when all seems lost. Mrs. A. E. Gadsby of Niagara Falls, Canada, in December 1940 mailed a Christmas parcel to her daughter in Prestwick, Scotland. The ship carrying the mail was torpedoed off the west coast of Ireland. All seemed lost in terms of that letter ever reaching its destination. But a favorable tide floated the package unerringly ashore on the beach of Prestwick. The contents were soaked but perfectly usable. The address was still legible and the package reached the addressee two days after Christmas. God has a plan and He will work it out come hell or high water (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Hope in Him (Psalm 42).

God incorporates human free will in His plans. Human free will does not take God by surprise. But it does make for an interesting journey in God’s plans. Because of human free will Joseph in Old Testament times was sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned, forgotten for a time, then surprisingly (to us not God) exalted to the second in command in the Egyptian empire and ultimately used by God with all of his hardship, for God’s good purposes to preserve the Messianic line (Genesis 50:20). God works His providential ways in spite of human free will. Human free will is no great obstacle to our sovereign Lord.

Because of human free will there was an innkeeper who had no room for Jesus. Because of human free will Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest and most trusted disciples. Yet God used all of this to bring salvation to the world through His Son. God uses human free will and because of that we can’t always see His plan. God unfolds His plan bit by bit. As we follow His lead we begin to see. Sometimes the full plan won’t be seen until glory. Through it all, no matter what, the best plan is to, trust in God, hope in God, love the Lord and let Him bring to pass His good plan (Romans 8:28). 

Obstacles don’t necessarily mean we are out of God’s will. What if Joseph and Mary said, “Okay, there’s no room here for us to have the baby, let’s go to the next town”? If they had done that Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem according to Messianic prophecy (Micah 5:2). And that would have disqualified Him as Messiah. But they trusted in the Lord and made due with what God provided. There is no record of any complaints on their part. There is only a record of humble submission. Christmas is a time notorious for combustible complaints and chaos. It starts in the stampedes of Black Friday, continues on the chaotic cyber Monday, and rushes on through Christmas and then the after Christmas returns and even better sales period of shopping. God’s word tells us to “do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). Maybe we should take action so that there’s room for Jesus but no room for bad Christmas attitudes.

When we encounter obstacles we should follow the leading of the Spirit. Mary and Joseph were humble enough to follow the Spirit. They didn’t come to Bethlehem expecting to have Mary give birth in a stable. But that is where the Spirit led them and that is where they went. The Spirit will never lead in a way that is contrary to God’s word. In fact, the Spirit most often leads us by the word of God (Romans 8:14). We discover God’s will by giving ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. To discover His will we have to surrender ourselves and our own agendas to Him and His will (Romans 12:1-2).  Don’t be so quick to give up your heaven sent dreams and life visions. Sure there may be some obstacles, but seek the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s a holy season. What God shuts won’t be opened. What He opens won’t be shut. Learn in the Spirit to discern between the two (cf. Isiah 22:2; Revelation 3:7-8).

There is an enemy who wants to shut Jesus out. The devil wants to destroy Jesus and all who love Him. We see this in the slaughter of the innocents ordered by Herod (Matthew 2:16-18). Herod and many other people in history have been enemies of Jesus and His people. But the ultimate enemy of Jesus is Satan. Of Satan it is stated: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  (1 Peter 5:8-9). You’ve heard of wolves in sheep’s clothing? There are also wolves that look like reindeers, maybe even elves, and dress even in a jolly red outfit. Santa is bogus! Keep Jesus Christ in Christmas.

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). We have an enemy and he seeks to distract, deceive and destroy everything connected with Jesus. We have seen our own version of the slaughter of innocents through the cutthroat evil wicked genocidal acts of ISIS and its sleeper cell demons. We look at such evil and it tempts us to allow the spirit to be punched out of us. The enemies’ objective is to make sure there is no room for Jesus in your life. He is ruthless and merciless in this effort. Don’t let him succeed! Make a conscious effort to have meaningful devotional times with the Lord each day during this time of year. This will help you make room for Jesus each day. Cultivate spiritual sensitivity to how Jesus might want to use you to help others make room for Him.

Not everyone has room for Jesus. Jesus states, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). Jesus especially knocks on the door of the church seeking to come in and fellowship. But not everyone has room for Jesus. Some have their own petty ideas or agenda to follow. Some are too angry to let Him in. Some have so many opinion points that they can’t get close to others and others can’t get close to them. It’s not always about your “points” or opinions. Yes, we are to speak and obey truth. But if all we do is lay out points and legalistically order obedience, well, there is little Spirit in that. Truth spoken and obeyed by a child of God must be done in love (Eph. 4:15). That love is the true spirit of Christmas. Some are too proud and busy caught up in self-love and worshipping themselves to let Christ in. And still others want to rule on the throne rather than have Jesus be Lord. When Jesus knocks, open to Him. He is the reason for the season. Don’t forget that. Don’t be cheated out of the presence of Jesus this Christmas (Colossians 2:8, 23).

Do you have room for Jesus this Christmas? Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart right now. You may have never paid attention to His knocking but now He is getting your attention. Will you open the door of your heart and invite Him in?

Admit you have sinned against God’s holy law and deserve eternal damnation (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Remember, the severity of sin is not measured by merely the sinful act, it is measured by Whom the sin is ultimately against. If I have a snowball fight with friends and hit one of them it’s no big deal. I can pummel them mercilessly and it’s still all in fun (even if I’m secretly getting some revenge – well I’ll leave that up to God to determine.) But if an elderly senior citizen happens to be walking by and I hit them, it’s much more serious. And if I happen to hit a police officer, I’m in trouble; that snow ball becomes a weapon under the law and I’ll be hauled off in handcuffs; not so innocent anymore. And let’s just say the president of the United States just happens to walk by and gets in the way of one of my snowy fastballs, well, I’ll be swamped by secret service officers and doing time in a federal prison before you can say “Merry Christmas.” Any sin is ultimately against God Most High, Creator of the universe, Almighty Holy God! Therefore, any and all sin is a serious offense (Romans 3:23; James 2:10; Galatians 3:10).

Acknowledge that Jesus died for your sins upon the cross; He died in your place on the cross; He paid the penalty you deserved for your sins on the cross. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). That is the greatest Christmas message of all. And we should to acknowledge that truth before God and in the sight of humanity (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10).

Ask God by faith to forgive you of your sin based on your accepting what Jesus as Savior has done for you on the cross (Romans 6:23; 5:8).  When you do this God will forgive you and the Holy Spirit will indwell you providing you a second birth; a spiritual birth (John 3; Romans 8:9-11). You must be “born again” as Jesus said, if you want to enter heaven.

Advance in the Spirit (who is now in you) and depend on God to help you bear spiritual fruit and live for Jesus. God knows us and knows who easily we are tempted to sin. He promises to show us a way around sin so that we can stand up to every test (1 Cor. 10:13). That is true for the “little” temptations as well as the “big” ones. What causes people to stumble varies greatly, but God’s promise to all is to show them how to overcome and march through to victory.

We can learn a lot from that short verse in the gospel of Luke. But the thing we need to consider is do we have room for Jesus in our lives, in all of our lives? Have you room for Jesus? That’s the question before us right now. Have a meaningful Christmas and make room for Jesus!

 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

“Giving thanks always for all things”

“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”     – Ephesians 5:20

Sometimes truth gets lost in personal translation. Many times we reinterpret words to fit our own understanding or our own plans. We read subjectively, selectively. We read with subjective selection. We read with a built in auto-correct or auto-edit so that if we don’t approve what we read we instantly dismiss it. There are a lot of reasons for our doing this.

For some subjective selection is a defense mechanism. We get our bank statement that indicates we’ve overdrawn our account and think that just can’t be, there’s no way I did that. We get a notice of employment termination and we respond they can’t do that. We read a blindsiding note from a paramour who wants to end our relationship and we think no, they wouldn’t do that. We read the results from a physical exam that has found a life threatening illness and we think this can’t be happening. In all these circumstances we defend against unwanted information by dismissing the information. But we do so to our perils of reality.

For others subjective selection is the result of rebellion. We read something and dismiss it because we don’t like what we see. We see a notice of a dress code and we take pride in disregarding it. We see, “No bare feet,” and we walk in with bare feet. We see a posted speed limit and callously step on the accelerator. We see “no smoking” and we steam and smoke away. We see signs limiting alcohol consumption and we drink away. The sinful nature is an inherent anarchist.

But admittedly some signs demand dismissing. We live in a better world because of those who defiantly disregarded signs that read, “No Blacks allowed,” or “Jews need not apply.” One day we will see signs like “no Christians wanted” or “Christians need not apply,” or “unisex bathroom.” We will one day see some form of “if you don’t accept same-sex marriage, lesbians, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, transgender you need not enter here.” When we see such words we will need to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. . . . [and] stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). 

And for others subjective selection is the result of misunderstanding. Maybe we read something and we just don’t understand what the message is. We don’t understand that chemistry formula or how an element is constructed and we cast its worth aside. We’re confused at the form at the Department of Motor Vehicles. We can’t understand the tax code. Who can figure out the car manual? Who can understand (or has the time to read) that online explanation for the newest software or latest IPhone agreement? In this age of information it’s hard to understand and easy to misunderstand.

But for whatever reason, when we come to something in God’s word that we don’t like or can’t accept, or don’t understand it’s never a good idea to go into subjective selection mode. It’s never a good idea to ignore what you simply view in God’s word as negative or not relevant to your world view. It’s never appropriate to delete what you don’t like and parse verses out of your personal interpretation. We see this in the politician’s selectivity when it comes to quoting scripture. They quote a verse that supports their purposes but neglect other scriptures that don’t serve their talking points. We see this when God’s word prohibits immoral lifestyles and people ignore or discount that part of God’s truth. They do that to excuse or even make it appear God condones the sin He so clearly prohibits. You can’t cherry pick God’s word.

We are not in a position to pick and choose what we will and will not accept as God’s word. God exalts His word above His own name (Psalm 138:2). The entirety of God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:160). God’s word is perfect (Psalm 19:7). God’s word is “holy,” it is unique and high above any other form of words (Psalm 119:140; Romans 1:2). God’s word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12). God’s word is effective; it will accomplish God’s purposes (Isaiah 55:11). God’s word defines sin, depicts its dangers and shows us how to avoid it victoriously (Psalm 119:11; 1 Corinthians 10:13). And that is why in His word God commands, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). We would be wise to accept God’s word as it is. If we ignore, omit, purposely misinterpret, or discount something in God’s word because we don’t like what it says, we need to understand God’s word will stand (e.g. Matthew 24:35). Our words will fall when they hit the righteous wall of God’s word. We will wither like grass. God’s word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).

One example of a portion of scripture that tempts us to question involves the circumstances in which we are to be thankful. Certainly it isn’t wrong to wonder how God would want us to be thankful “always for all things.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” When Paul writes this we question what “everything” means. We are tempted to think, that can’t be. We’d like to think that the word “everything” doesn’t really mean everything. We subtly ponder, surely God couldn’t mean for us to be thankful in times of tragedy, pain, hardship, loss, offense, persecution . . . .  But if God’s word says something, just because we question it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. God’s word stretches our understanding. God’s word is written from an eternal perspective. To disregard the “everything” in this verse about thanks would rob us of one of the transcendent glorious truths of God’s word. When God’s word says “everything,” it means everything. That’s the truth.

Look closely at that verse in 1Thessalonians 5:18. The “in” gives us an out. It doesn’t say we are to be thankful for all things but in all things. In other words we may not like what is happening but we are to maintain a spirit of thanks to God in the midst of and through difficulties. I can understand that a bit better. I can get my mind and heart around that instruction. But in light of the many hardships life so frequently comes with, it’s a much harder sell to be thankful “always for all things.” That’s what Paul says elsewhere. He is inspired to exhort his readers “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). How is it possible for us to give thanks “always for all things”?

There doesn’t seem to be any out or getting around Paul’s words about giving thanks always for all things. Those words seem pretty straightforward and almost provocative to anyone who has experienced or knows someone who has experienced the harsh realities and trials of this life. Is that a heartless call to those who experience pain? What about those words, should we dismiss them; auto-edit them; auto-delete them? Is this a verse for subjective selection? No, I don’t believe so. In fact, if you join me in studying this verse I believe it will open the door to not only being thankful always for all things, but it will open the flood gates of God’s joy for you. Let me share a few things in response to these questions.

First, giving thanks for all things is made possible by God’s grace through faith. The phrase “giving thanks” is translated from the single Greek term eucharistountes. Not to get grammatically technical but the grammar of this term (Present/Active/Participle) conveys the idea of an ongoing life attitude. The idea is to have a spirit or attitude that is always giving thanks. This is an attitude we need to actively pursue by faith. It is a product of God’s grace.

The word from which we get this participle is eucharisteo which means to be thankful, give thanks, return thanks, or pray. This is a word of worship. Worship involves faith expressing thanks to God. Further, this is a compound word the root of which is charisteo. Charisteo means to give freely, bestow favor, gratify. Charisteo is linked to the word charis from which we get the English word “grace.” Charis means grace, attractiveness, or unmerited undeserved favor. For example, we are saved by God’s grace. Grace is undeserved favor. Salvation from sin isn’t something we deserve; it is something God offers us freely as a gift of His grace. He offers this gracious salvation from sin in love (e.g. John 3:16; Romans 5:8). We receive God’s gracious gift of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But the effect of God’s gracious salvation is life encompassing. We live by grace through faith. We live “from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17). And we live by God’s grace. Paul through whom God chose to write about this attitude of thankfulness also was inspired to write, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Do you see the sustaining grace in that verse? Do you see how by faith Paul “labored more abundantly”? The first thing we need to understand in “giving thanks always for all things” is that it is something we can only do by God’s grace through faith.

Second, giving thanks always for all things is the result of looking “to God the Father.” God our Father is Sovereign. He is in command. He is in control. Nothing that happens to us happens without His permission. Job was severely tested by the devil. But the devil could do nothing to Job without God’s permission (cf. Job 1-2). While Job was experiencing the devastating hardships shared in the Book of Job, he, his wife and his best friends didn’t understand what God’s purpose and plan was. We the reader are given insight in the spiritual element of these circumstances from the very start. But Job, his wife and family and the friends that came to help him all were unaware of this crucial contextual information about the involvement of the devil and spiritual warfare.

Job and his friends go back and forth throughout the book trying unsuccessfully to decipher and make sense of the tragedy and affliction that had come upon this righteous man Job. Job complained and even got angry, but he continued to believe in God. Job reasons, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? (Job 2:10). Though he was severely tested Job persisted, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Interestingly, Job and his friends attribute all his hardship to acts of God. God permitted the hardship but the evil instrument was the devil. Job and his friends never consider this. Without this book maybe we wouldn’t consider it either. The Book of Job provides us therefore with valuable insight into reality that proves a comfort of understanding to others in history who suffer.

Along with Job many have been brought to a place where, though like Job they don’t understand all that is going on in their lives, still they proclaim, “For I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). And also, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). These are precious eternal insights. But it isn’t until God speaks in chapter 38 that the truth comes out. And even then, God does not provide all the insight we the reader are aware of from the first two chapters. It isn’t until the last five chapters of a forty-two chapter book that God thunders, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2).

The point here is that even though we may not understand our life circumstances, because we do not have all the facts that God has, we should trust Him and be thankful no matter what. While the trials and tribulations God allowed into Job’s life stretched him to his limits and cost him in many ways, the product of God’s plan was a book included in His canon of holy writ that has proved to be profoundly helpful to others throughout history who are experiencing trials and tribulations.

Third, giving thanks always for all things can only be done “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Romans 8, the pinnacle of scripture, it states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b). It says that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:37-39). Whatever we go through in this life goes past the approval process of God’s desk. God is writing a poem and our life is part of the many stanzas (cf. Ephesians 2:10). God has a plan for us (cf. Jeremiah 29:11-13). God really is for us. He has our best interests at heart. We may not always understand that or even believe that but it is true. To prove it God inspired, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

It’s not by accident that in Romans 8:32 God mentions how He, along with His Son Jesus, “also freely gives us all things.” Here is the basis for giving thanks for all things even when the things God allows in our lives do not seem eligible for our being thankful. There is a far greater purpose in life than our comfort, material prosperity, ease, and even our health.  There is a far greater purpose in life than the comfort, material prosperity, ease and even health of our loved ones and others as well.

God’s paramount purpose for all who follow Him is to conform us to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). The finished poem of which I spoke above is a poem written with lines of Christ-like followers. God is preparing us for eternity with Him. That requires Christ-likeness.  And the bottom line is that being Christ-like involves sacrifice. Jesus came to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus came to serve in death (Philippians 2:5-11). “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Jesus went to and died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19). And we are called to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21) and walk like He did (1 John 2:6).

We add nothing to the saving work of Jesus. But when we live like Him for His purposes we honor Him and our lives become a living sacrifice of worshipful thanks to Jesus. God’s plan for us is that we come to a place where we can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Just as Jesus loved us we must come to a place where the love of Christ compels and motivates us (2 Corinthians 5:14-16). When you get to that place in your walk with the Lord, you will be eternally thankful for all things always.

Lastly, giving thanks always for all things is a work of the Holy Spirit in us. The context of Paul’s inspired words about giving thanks always for all things is an exhortation to allow the Holy Spirit to work in those he was writing to. “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:17-19). Be wise. Don’t try and drown your sorrows with drinking or drugging. Be continuously daily filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will put a song in your heart. The Spirit will give us songs in the night (cf. Job 35:10; Psalm 77:6; Acts 16). Giving thanks always for all things is a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s not something we do in our own understanding or our own strength. Giving thanks always for all things is a product of the Spirit’s illumination. It is the Spirit’s empowering revelation that enables us to be always thankful.

The next time you go through a trial or difficulty remember what Peter was inspired to write – “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2). Suffering doesn’t save us. Suffering does provide us with a greater depth of understanding and ability to relate to Jesus. We draw close to Jesus when we fellowship with Him in suffering (Philippians 3:10).

A faith untested cannot be trusted. A faith tested true will never let you down. It will bring you closer to Jesus. It will be a reason to be thankful. It will be a reason to rejoice. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith -  the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Now do you understand a bit more why God said to give thanks always for all things? Do you see how it can be done? Now it is up to us to present ourselves to God for help to obediently practice what God’s word says. By God’s grace through faith let’s be “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen!

 

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bitter or Better - 2 Chronicles 14-16

The national holiday of Thanksgiving is always met with mixed feelings. For some it is a welcomed time of thanksgiving to God and family gatherings, for others it is a tough pill to swallow. For instance, our nation just completed a national election that is unprecedented in its outcome as well as its effect. For some whose candidate won the election has led to elation. It is being called a second American Revolution. They see the outcome as a reprieve from the Lord. It is a stemming of the tide of evil. The Spirit of the Lord has raised up a standard or resistance against a flood of sin and evil. They are blessed. For them Thanksgiving is a welcome holiday this year.

For those whose candidate lost there is great depression. There is weeping and disappointment. They see the outcome as a step backward. Many are going to the streets in demonstration against the president elect and claiming he is not their president. They are shouting accusations of bigotry, discrimination, hatred, and unfairness. It’s going to be harder for these to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

It’s easier to be thankful when our candidate wins. It’s difficult to be thankful when our candidate loses. It’s easier to be thankful when things go our way. It’s harder to be thankful when things aren’t going our way. In such circumstances we have a choice; we can become bitter or we can become better in the Lord.
            Better Not Bitter

            If we are not thankful then we can become bitter.  If we are not thankful,
            then it becomes too easy to sit around and ponder the question: why me?

            Dr. Jim Moore, pastor of St. Luke’s UMC in Houston wrote a book entitled
            "You Can Grow Bitter or You Can Grow Better".  He writes that he got the
            idea for the title from a young woman who once came to him in a most tragic
            moment in her life.  She had tears in her eyes and her knuckles were white
            as she twisted a handkerchief.  She had just received word that her
            twenty-six year old husband had been killed in a farming accident, leaving
            her alone with three pre-school age children.  One moment he was alive and
            vibrant, the next moment gone.  "I don't know how I am going to be able to
            get along without him," she sobbed.  "But I do know one thing.  I can either
            get bitter or I can get better."


            One way that we can get better rather than bitter is to develop a thankful
            heart.  We must learn to be grateful to the Lord with whom we shall spend
            eternity.  Our morning prayer should always begin:  O Thou who has given me
            so much, I pray that you give me yet one more thing--a grateful heart.
[1]


In this study I want to talk to you about the life of a king of Judah named Asa. There is truth in the history of this king that can bring us all back together as a nation. There is truth in Asa’s story that can give us reason to be thankful in spite of life’s circumstances. The meaning of the name "Asa" itself is unclear but it is associated with the idea of healer and injurious. I pray his life story will bring healing and hopeful instructions to all of us for this Thanksgiving.

Asa, ruled 41 years. He was the grandson of Rehoboam, son of Abijah, and the father of Jehoshaphat. Unlike his father, he is said to have done what was pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. [2]But he is not one of whom it could be said "he finished well."

We can divide Asa's life into three telling parts:

I. The Blessed Truths learned by Asa - 2 Chronicles 14-15

II. The Bitter Root of Asa - 2 Chronicles 16:1-6

III. The Broken End of Asa - 2 Chronicles 16:7-14

 

and we will add in the end:

 

IV. The Better Way - Cure for Bitterness - 2 Chronicles 16:9; Exodus 15:22-27


I. The Blessed Truths Learned by Asa -
King Asa's good start


2 Chronicles 14–16 (NKJV)

14 So Abijah rested with his fathers, and they buried him in the City of David. Then Asa his son reigned in his place. In his days the land was quiet for ten years.

King Abijah of the Southern Kingdom of Judah was able to defeat King Jeroboam of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He was used by God to put a halt to apostate Jeroboam's advances against the Southern Kingdom. What Abijah started his son Asa would continue.

We should be thankful for good fathers who produce godly sons.  

Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images.

Blessed Truth #1 -  Do what's good and right.

One commentary states:

      You can do that which is good, but it will not necessarily be right. You can pray, and        that’s   good, but if you’re like the Pharisees who prayed simply to be heard by men or to           fulfill some obligation, it’s not right if your motives are wrong. Giving is good, but if you         give like the Pharisees, simply to receive the applause and approval of men, you’re      missing the mark entirely. Witnessing is good, but if you’re witnessing simply to add        another notch to your Bible, that’s not right. Asa did that which was both good and right,         and the result was quietness in the land.[3]

 He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment.

Blessed Truth #2 - Encourage others to seek the LORD and follow His word.

In encouraging others to seek the Lord and follow His Word Asa was creating and environment of revival and rest conducive to enjoying the blessings of the Lord.

 He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him.

Blessed Truth #3 - Clean out those things detrimental to following the LORD and enjoy God's peace.

Jesus spoke of heart soil in which weeds choked off the fruitfulness of the seed of His word (Matthew 13). It's always best to simplify life so that distractions and potential temptations are kept to a minimum.

And he built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest; he had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest. Therefore he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and make walls around them, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us, because we have sought the Lord our God; we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered. And Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah who carried shields and spears, and from Benjamin two hundred and eighty thousand men who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor.

Blessed Truth #4 - Use times of peace to prepare for future battles.

Asa didn't lounge around and do nothing when things were going well. He used his time of rest and peace to prepare for the future battles and challenges that he knew were a part of life and would inevitably come.

Even though King Asa started well and was doing the right thing to get the people back on track with God, it didn't mean he wouldn't face opposition or a trial. God allows trials and difficulties into our lives because trials are what test and build our faith (cf. James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9).

Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah. 10 So Asa went out against him, and they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. 11 And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, “Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!”

 

Blessed Truth #5 - Cry out to God in times of trial and understand that great obstacles are opportunities for our great God to work.

 

Asa passes this test with flying colors. When opposed by overwhelming enemy odds he cries out to the Lord. That's what we should do in every difficulty. Cry out to God for help and direction.

 

I like the note from Pastor Chuck Smith on verse 11 from the Word for Today Study Bible:

 

      "Asa cried, 'LORD, it is nothing for You to help.' Difficulty must always be measured by the capacity of the agent that is doing the work. If God helps us that's all we need.         Nothing is too hard for God.

 

That's encouraging!

 

12 So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. 13 And Asa and the people who were with him pursued them to Gerar. So the Ethiopians were overthrown, and they could not recover, for they were broken before the Lord and His army. And they carried away very much spoil. 14 Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them. 15 They also attacked the livestock enclosures, and carried off sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.

 

Blessed Truth #6 - Understand that God is faithful and He will bless and wants to bless beyond our expectations.

 

God is faithful! Be thankful for God's faithfulness. In the New Testament Paul is inspired to record a prayer for the church in Ephesus and at the end of the prayer he burst forth with a blessed truth of God's ability and willingness to bless us:

 

·         Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)  - 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God can and wants to do "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" in prayer. Our problem is that we often get in the way of that.

The Promise of God

15 Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; but when in their trouble they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them. And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands. So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity. But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

Blessed Truth #7 - "If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you."

If you turn your back on God you are headed for turmoil. If you turn to the Lord, you may still experience trials, but God will strengthen us and bring us through.

And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the Lord that was before the vestibule of the Lord. Then he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those who dwelt with them from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon, for they came over to him in great numbers from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.

10 So they gathered together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11 And they offered to the Lord at that time seven hundred bulls and seven thousand sheep from the spoil they had brought. 12 Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 13 and whoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. 14 Then they took an oath before the Lord with a loud voice, with shouting and trumpets and rams’ horns. 15 And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.

 

16 Also he removed Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah; and Asa cut down her obscene image, then crushed and burned it by the Brook Kidron.

 

So deep was Asa's commitment to the Lord that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord even when it meant going against his grandmother.

 

17 But the high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days.

 

Asa's heart was loyal to God but the people's heart was not completely loyal to God. A leader can walk a holy life, but there is a responsibility for the people to follow his lead.

 

And even though there was still work to be done, God spoke of Asa's heart as loyal.

 

18 He also brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated and that he himself had dedicated: silver and gold and utensils. 19 And there was no war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.

 

Asa brought the Temple utensils out of storage and put them back where they belonged. He was getting the house of God in order. And God gave him rest "until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa."

 

Blessed Truth #8 - Worship is the right environment to express the thanks God deserves and to enjoy the presence of the Lord together.

 

It's good to gather together to thank the Lord. It's good when a leader leads his people in restoration of a relationship with God. It's good to gather to worship the Lord and rejoice in His presence; to give thanks to the Lord. That's what Asa does here.  

 

II. The Bitter Root of  Asa - King Asa’s Problems begin with his Treaty with Syria

In the New Testament book of Hebrews it states:

·         Hebrews 12:14–15 (NKJV) - 14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

King Asa was living a blessed life and walking strong with the Lord, until he took his eyes off the Lord. Then everything went downhill fast. We shouild take this as a word of warning.

16 In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.

Everything was going along smoothly until here carnal sister to the north, led by king Baasha, came against Judah. Baasha set u pa blockade against Judah. This blocked trade routes.

The armies of Israel led by king Baasha were a less formidable problem than the million man army of the Ethiopians. This led to the first part of Asa's problem:

ASA DIDN'T THINK THIS PROBLEM WAS BIG ENOUGH TO WARRANT GOD'S INVOLVEMENT. But that is a HUGE mistake.

No problem is too big AND NO PROBLEM IS TOO SMALL to seek God's direction and help with it. Any problem big or small, that we fail to seek God's direction and help with, inevitably becomes a BIG problem. 

What would king Asa do? Last time, when the Ethiopians came out against him and were a million strong, Asa cried out to the Lord. What did he do now?

Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you silver and gold; come, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.”

Asa had experienced a period of prosperity. He had some extra cash on hand. So what did he do in response to Baasha's blockade? He didn't seek the Lord, he paid his Syrian neighbor Ben-Hadad to go up against Baasha and do his dirty work for him. Asa acted lazily. He acted in his flesh. He took the easy way out. The second part of Asa's problem was:

ASA RELIED ON MONEY  AND A HUMAN RESOURCE INSTEAD OF FIRST SEEKING GOD FOR DIRECTION AND HELP.

It's not that human resources and money are necessarily bad, sinful or always the wrong instrument to deal with our problems. It's that ASA RELIED ON MONEY AND MEN INSTEAD OF FIRST SEEKING GOD AND HIS DIRECTION AND HELP.

So Ben-Hadad heeded King Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel. They attacked Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim, and all the storage cities of Naphtali. Now it happened, when Baasha heard it, that he stopped building Ramah and ceased his work. Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones and timber of Ramah, which Baasha had used for building; and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.

 

And guess what? IT WORKED!

 

And here is a great and important lesson to learn:

 

JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING WORKS DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN IT IS GOD'S WILL.

 

·         Just because you steal something and don't get caught doesn't mean it's God's will or that He approves.

·         Just because you have an affair and aren't getting caught doesn't mean it's God's will or that He approves.

·         Just because you indulge your flesh in some way and don't get caught doesn't mean it's God's will or that He approves.

 

Prayerless practices are powered by the flesh; no matter the outcome. And when we act prayerlessly or without seeking God, we always settle for less than God's best. 

III. The Bitter End of Asa - The loss of what might have been

And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand.

Here is another important lesson to learn:

WHEN WE ACT APART FROM GOD WE ALWAYS SETTLE FOR LESS THAN GOD'S BEST.

The Lord had intended to give Asa a mighty victory. Not only did God want to bless Asa with a victory against Baasha, but against Ben-Hadad too! Asa's Godless action led to half of what he might have experienced. Yes, he was successful to a degree by relying on his own carnal strategy. But he missed out on a windfall of God's blessing.

Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”

And here is another important lesson to learn:

GOD IS LOOKING THROUGHOUT THE EARTH FOR THOSE WHOSE HEART IS LOYAL TO HIM SO THAT HE CAN SHOW HIMSELF STRONG ON THEIR BEHALF. GOD IS JUST WAITING FOR THAT STEP OF FAITH, THAT LOYAL HEARTED STEP TO SHOW HIMSELF STRONG ON OUR BEHALF.

What do you think about that? What did Asa think of that?

King Asa's self-centered bitterness cut off further blessing from God

 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.

11 Note that the acts of Asa, first and last, are indeed written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 12 And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.

13 So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 They buried him in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him.

 

So what do we learn from this historic account? We might say this:

·         “Every test in our life makes us bitter or better. Every problem comes to break us or make us. The choice is ours whether we become victim or victor.” [Author unknown]

Asa spent his last days of life willfully aloof from God. And because of that his channel to Gods' blessing was broken. But it didn't have to end that way. There is a solution.

IV. The Better Way - Cure for Bitterness

 

What is the solution to turning bitter into sweet; for dealing with bitterness in life that robs us of blessing, joy and a thankful heart? It starts with understanding the issue is in the heart. The Lord told Asa through the prophet:

            2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV) - For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the             whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.   In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”

The issue is - Is your heart more loyal to yourself or to God?; are you willing to let go of  your feelings of bitterness based on thinking you know better than God?; Will you trust God in your life? no matter what happens?

One last Old Testament passage holds the key:

            Exodus 15:22–27 (NKJV)

        22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness            of  Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 Now             when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were           bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and          the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made     sweet.

      There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them,         26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put         none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the     Lord who heals you.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of     water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.

 

The Bible is filled with what are called types or symbols of God's truth. In this record of Moses and the people of Israel they come upon the bitter waters of Marah. So bitter were the waters that they were undrinkable; the water was useless to quench thirst and refresh a soul. When Moses cried out to the LORD, "the LORD showed him a true. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet." That "tree" is a symbol of the cross of Christ (e.g. Galatians 3:10-13; 1 Peter 2:24). Bible Teacher Jon Courson comments:

            It is the Cross of Calvary which still transforms bitter experiences, bitter people, bitter             circumstances. How? By realizing that the wrongs done to us, the offenses against us, the             disappointments registered by us have all been paid for, dealt with, washed clean by the    blood of Calvary.[4]

We need to put the cross of Christ in our bitter waters. We need to nail our bitterness, resentments, unforgiveness, to the cross of Jesus. If we are going to be broken, let our pride and bitterness be broken at the cross. Only when we humble ourselves before God in brokenness will the channel to God's blessing be opened for us again. That there is such a solution should cause us to be very thankful.

We need to let the bitterness go. If we don't we will miss out on God's best like King Asa did. He found good but he missed God's best. He lost his joy. He lost his perspective on life and the Lord's workings. He stopped being thankful. Don't let that happen to you! Look to the cross and be thankful. Look to the cross and thank God that all your bitterness, regrets, indignation, resentments, negativity, pride, prejudice, and all the stuff swimming around in your bitter waters, put it on the cross and turn it over to Jesus and ask Him for a thankful heart. Tell Him you are through settling for less than His best and purpose by faith and in the power of the Spirit to walk from this point on in the shadow of the cross of Jesus. There is blessing and thanksgiving and bitterness that leads to brokenness. The choice is yours.




[1] Staff, www.eSermons.com, November 2001
[2] Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary - The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Aleph-Beth.
[3] Courson, J. (2005). Jon Courson’s application commentary: Volume one: Genesis–Job (p. 1178). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
[4] Courson, J. (2005). Jon Courson’s application commentary: Volume one: Genesis–Job (p. 280). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Praying for Our Land

There are times when a nation needs prayer. A nation should always be prayed for by God’s people. But there are particular times when prayer is especially needed for a Land. Daniel chapter nine was such a time for Israel.

When I was a young student I remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every school day: “I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Our allegiance is to the stars and stripes, not the flag of the United Nations. Our government and its leaders have become corrupt. They have stopped seeing their calling as one of serving the people and see their political positions as opportunities to enrich themselves. It doesn’t matter much which party is in power; they prioritize self instead of their constituencies.

Around Long Island where I live there are sumps. Sumps are holes in the ground designed for draining off rain water so as to avoid flooding. I have one of these sumps up the block from where I live. Last summer the sump by me became so overgrown with weeds and other plant life that it had to be cleaned out if it was to operate properly. The sump needed to be cleaned. One of the candidates running for president has said something similar regarding Washington and government. He says, “It’s time to drain the swamp!” Our government leaders are aptly described as a swamp or a sump. They need cleaning. I hope and pray God would do it

If the swamp or sump is to be cleaned, it will take a move of God’s Spirit. That’s what this teaching is all about; seeking God in His word and prayer and asking for His mercy and to heal our Land. The book of Daniel and the story of Daniel and the historical context of Israel’s captivity has many parallels to our present day circumstances.

The context of Daniel chapter 9 is God’s people are in Babylonian captivity. The year is approximately 539 B.C., the same year that Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian Empire, and which is implied by the phrase, “In the first year of Darius,” (Daniel 9:1). Daniel is in his late eighties to nineties in age, but he is still receiving words from the Lord. He is in his nineties, but he is still a student of God’s word. He is in his nineties, but he is also still a man of prayer.

Daniel 9 contains one of the most incredible prophetic messages in the entire Bible. And it comes as an answer to the heartfelt prayer of  Daniel on behalf of God’s people and Israel.

God loves it when we seek Him. In fact when Gabriel spoke to Daniel he said:

 
  • Daniel 9:23 - “At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:” (Emphasis added.)

God loves us and He loves to have prayerful conversation with us. Did you know you are loved by God? You are His “beloved.” What does the Bible say about being loved by God?

BELOVED BY GOD


The phrase, “greatly beloved,” is found not only in Daniel 9:23, but is used two other times in reference to Daniel in this book (Daniel 10:11, 19). The term “beloved” in this verse is a translation of the Hebrew term CHEMDAH (pronounced KHEM-DAW. CHEMDAH (Strong’s #2532) means literally, “pleasant, desire, desirable, beloved, goodly, and precious.” [1]   Attach “greatly” to the front of this word and what you have in this verse is one who is greatly pleasing to God, very desirable to God, very precious to God. Daniel was known in heaven by Gabriel as one who greatly pleased God, was very desirable to God and was very precious to God.

God loves all the people of His creation. We see this in numerous verses throughout the Bible, of which the following are a small sampling:  
  • Jeremiah 31:3 – “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” 
  • John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 
  • Romans 1:7 – “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 
  • Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 – “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace,17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” 
  • 1 John 3:1 – “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” 
  • 1 John 4:7-16 – “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” 
When the angel Gabriel addresses Daniel in Daniel 9:23, he states that Daniel is “greatly beloved.” Daniel is especially precious to God. Why is Daniel especially precious to God? I believe it is because Daniel is living in God’s love. Daniel seeks God with all his heart out love for God. Daniel knows the love of God and lives in it. He knows that “beloved” love of God. As we continue to examine the life of Daniel in chapter 9 we will see what is pleasing to God, what He desires most, and what He finds to be so precious to Him. God has a special affection for those who seek Him the way Daniel did, in prayer. When was the last time you sought God? Do you even know how to seek God? How are you known in heaven? Do those in heaven say of you,  “Oh that’s greatly ignoring, they are greatly loved by God but they don’t even realize it, they pay little to know attention to the One who loves them so much.” Or perhaps they say this, “Oh that’s greatly unread, God has written them a love letter (the Bible), but they don’t read it to see His love.” Do they turn to you and say, “There’s greatly unheard of, they don’t seek or respond to the loving Master in prayer.” Or do they finally say, "Oh, what a shame, there’s greatly distracted, they give priority to all the temporal things, but not to the loving Eternal One.People it needs to be said, if truth were to be told by the way we live we would be more likely to be known by such phrases as, greatly a sports fan, greatly a shopper, greatly a luster, greatly a business person, greatly a home improvements person, and greatly a recreation specialist. Daniel, on the other hand, was a person who regularly sought God. We know from our previous studies that Daniel was a man of prayer who sought the Lord in prayer regularly three times a day (Daniel 6:10). God loves it when we seek Him that is very precious to Him. We can learn a great deal about how to seek Him by looking at the life of Daniel as depicted here in Daniel 9. I don’t know about you, but I want to be pleasing and desirable to God, I want to be seen by Him as being precious. I want to do everything I can to bring Him joy and delight. I want to be moved and compelled by His love in whatever I do (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). I want to be seeking Him and in touch with Him so I can experience the greatly beloved state in its fullness. I guess what I desire most is to be known in heaven as one who is “greatly beloved.” As we examine Daniel in this chapter we will see the characteristics of one “greatly beloved” and hopefully, with the help of God, we too will become one known to be, “greatly beloved.”

INTIMACY WITH GOD


Oftentimes we see God as cold, distant, far removed from us, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible tells us that God is loving and wants to share an intimate and personal relationship with us. We see this truth throughout the Bible.

In the book of Genesis we see that God establishes a friendship with Abraham (Genesis 18:18-19; 2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23). Friendship involves intimacy, sharing, caring, sacrificing, and trusting, between friends. Later in the Bible it states that God “set His love” on the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel):

  • Deuteronomy 7:7-8 - “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;8 “but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” 

In the Song of Solomon we have a symbolic representation of God’s love for His people communicated through the poetic interactions between Solomon and his Shulamite bride. IN this book we find the term “beloved” used 46 times in the 8 chapters of the book. Read some of the verses which depict God’s desired loving intimacy with us:

  • Song of Solomon 2:4 – “He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love.”
  • Song of Solomon 2:16 – “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” (See also 6:3; 7:10)
  • Song of Solomon 8:6-7 – “Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame.7 Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised.” 

In the New Testament we see the intimacy of God through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus was very personable and intimate with those around Him. Jesus wasn’t distant and cold. He was touchable and was One who touched others (e.g. Matthew 8:3, 15; 9:20-22, 29-30; 14:35-36; 20:34). The true test of Jesus’ approachability is seen in the closeness He had with children. The children came to Jesus and you can just picture them crawling all over Jesus (Mark 10:13-16). Children don’t run into the arms of a person with a cold and distant personality. Children run into the arms of One who is warm, friendly and who enjoys their company, closeness and friendship.

Some need more coaxing than others to come into the intimate presence of God. Do you remember Thomas? Thomas wouldn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. He was cold to that fact. But Jesus melted that cold hard heart by inviting Thomas to touch His wounds (John 20:24-28).

There are many believers who are very doctrinally sound but cold of heart. They are like porcupines; they have so many points you can’t get near them. But Jesus specifically calls us to friendship with Him, friendship with God. That is what He said to His disciples:

  • John 15:15 - “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” 

God desires a warm, loving intimate friendship with us and we would be foolish to settle for anything less than that! The Bible calls us to “draw near” to God:

  • Hebrews 10:19-23 – “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  (Emphasis added.)
  • James 4:8-10 – “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  (Emphasis added.)

How could you turn down an offer like that from the Master of the universe?! Wouldn’t you rather sense and experience the closeness of being “greatly beloved” as Daniel did? But in truth, we often miss out on such intimacy with God. Why? Because we fail to enter into the personal and intimate relationship God desires to have with us. The problem is with us. The Bible warns us to draw near sincerely, ready to have God apply what He teaches us in His word. It does us no good to simply go through the motions of drawing near. Listen to the words of Jesus who said:

  • Matthew 15:7-9 - “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, 1 And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”” [2] (Emphasis added.)

God is not the one cold, distant and removed, we are! We pay God lip-service but when we draw near we leave our hearts behind. We need to come to God with our hearts. It is with our hearts that we believe, God wants our hearts:

  • Romans 10:8-10 – “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” 

How can we enter into such intimacy with God? By drawing near to God with our hearts. Daniel 9 shows us by way of Daniel’s example how to seek God with all our heart and enter into experiencing the “greatly beloved” relationship with God.

The “Greatly Beloved” Seek God

When you look at the life of Daniel from beginning to end you see a man who sought the Lord consistently. His “greatly beloved” relationship with God is what fortified and strengthened him through the years of turmoil he experienced. There are two ways to seek the Lord and Daniel shows us both in this chapter.

SEEKING GOD IN HIS WORD


Daniel 9:1-2 – “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” 

Daniel was a student of the word of God. He studied it consistently and his study yielded great dividends. It was through Daniel’s study of the book of Jeremiah that he discovered that the duration of the exile imposed by God on the people was 70 years. Daniel was likely reading the following verses, which state this:

  • Jeremiah 25:11-12 – “‘And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.12 ‘Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the Lord; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation.” 

If we want to know God we must be into His word. This is almost too obvious to mention but obvious as it may be, study of God’s word is often one of the most neglected aspects of believer’s life in God. We need to study God’s word my friends. There is so much benefit from doing so (e.g. Psalm 19:7-11). Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, conveys this truth:

  • Psalm 119:1-2,9-11,18,25,28,41,50,81,92-93,99,105,130,133,160,162 – “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, 1 Who walk in the law of the Lord!2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! . . .9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! . . .18 Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law. . . .25 My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. . . 28 My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word. . . 41 Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord—Your salvation according to Your word. . . 50 This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life. . . 81 My soul faints for Your salvation, But I hope in Your word. . . .92 Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.93 I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have given me life. . . .99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. . . .105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. . . .130 The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.133 Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me. . . .160 The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. . . .162 I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure.” 

Daniel had access to these words. Daniel took them to heart and sought the Lord in His word. Daniel was into God’s word and God’s word was into Daniel and that led to Daniel having understanding, stability, hope and encouragement in his life. But he did not just read it, he obeyed it. The Bible tells us very clearly that reading the Bible is not enough, we need to apply it to our lives with God’s help. Jesus said we find intimacy with God as we keep His word:

  • John 14:15,21 - “If you love Me, keep My commandments. . . .21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” 

If you want to experience intimacy, closeness and be “greatly beloved” then study and apply God’s word. (See also James 1:22-25 and 2 John 6).

Oh the blessing to his heart he must have felt when he went on to read in Jeremiah that God was not finished with Israel but had a plan for their lives:

  • Jeremiah 29:10-14 – “For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.”  (Emphasis added.)

It says, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Daniel took those words to heart. Those words inspired in Jeremiah by God telling him that a time would come when they would call upon God and find Him when they SEARCHED FOR HIM WITH ALL THEIR HEART! That is exactly what Daniel did. He didn’t just respond to those words with lip service. Daniel didn’t just say, “Hmmm, yes, I must pray to God more, I really should,” and then walk away. As soon as the Lord directed him to the book of Jeremiah, he purposed in his heart to allow God to apply those words to his heart. So he sought God in prayer.

SEEKING GOD IN PRAYER


Daniel 9:3 – “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” 

As soon as Daniel learned that the captivity was for 70 years, (which was nearly completed) and that God promised to be found by those who seek Him with all their hearts, Daniel got right down to business. Daniel wasted no time in seeking the Lord in serious determination and humility. He didn’t just give a flippant sentence of prayer toward the Lord, but he meant business!

The Bible tells us that God’s forgiveness comes to those who “confess” their sin to Him, who repent. We see this in the Old as well as the New Testament. Read the two sample verses of this below:

  • 2 Chronicles 7:14 - “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 
  • 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

The term “confess” found in 1 John 1:9 is a translation of the Greek term HOMOLOGEO (Strong’s #3670), and literally means, ““to speak the same thing” , “to assent, accord, agree with,” . . . “to confess by way of admitting oneself guilty of what one is accused of, the result of inward conviction.”[3] Therefore, when we confess our sin before God, in effect it means TO SEE THE SIN THE SAME WAY GOD DOES, TO SEE OUR SIN FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE. That is exactly what we see Daniel doing in this prayer. Daniel is putting our on the table before God, the sins of the nation, and doing so as God sees the sin.

Daniel had an intimate relationship with God and he knew God is merciful and forgiving. Therefore he sought the Lord on behalf of the people. Daniel’s prayer reveals the heart of a prayer warrior. He was an intercessor. Daniel was experienced in prayer, this was nothing knew to him and he intended to pull out all the stops. He believed God existed and he believed God was faithful to His word and so He approached God on the basis of His word. That is the best way to approach God, on the basis of His word. When was the last time you sought God with all your heart? Do you know what it means to seek God with all your heart?  If you want to know what it means to “seek God with all your heart” just look at Daniel’s prayer. Let’s see what and how Daniel prayed to God.

FIRST, DANIEL CONFESSES GOD’S GREAT FAITHFULNESS


Daniel 9:4 – “And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments,” 

Daniel begins his prayer by confessing that God is “great and awesome,” that God is faithful, “who keeps His covenant,” and that God is merciful. Noting these qualities in God serves as a backdrop and contrast to the sinful behavior of the people. This contrast shouts of God’s grace as God responds in forgiveness. Daniel is saying, “Lord, there is none like You and You are not the problem here, we are, we are the ones who have caused all the problems, we are the ones who have been unfaithful, we deserve these consequences to our sins.”

When David confessed his sin with Bathsheba before the Lord he began with acknowledging God just as Daniel did:


  • Psalm 51:1-4 – “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.” 

Only when we come to know and acknowledge God according to His nature do we really understand the sinfulness of our sin. Isaiah probably thought he was a pretty upstanding man and right on with God, but when brought into the presence of God, he understood his utter sinfulness before the holy God:

  • Isaiah 6:1-5 – “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.3 And one cried to another and said: 1 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”  

I believe that what happens to Daniel in this prayer of chapter 9 is similar to that which occurred to Isaiah. You might think to yourself, “Hey, wait a minute, why is Daniel including himself in this prayer of repentance? Isn’t he one of the good guys? He hasn’t done anything wrong.” But no matter who you are, when you come into the presence of the “Holy, holy, holy . . . LORD of hosts” you will see your utter spiritual bankruptcy before Him. Daniel wasn’t fool enough to think it necessary to excuse himself before God, “Now God, you know I’m not as bad as the people, in fact I’ve been a pretty upright guy, a shinning light of yours, but let me intercede on their behalf.” No, you see none of that. Daniel sees himself as a sinner before God, plain and simple (e.g. Romans 3:23; Gal. 3:10; James 2:10).

Thank God that we are saved by His gracious provision in Christ and not holding on to that chain of the Law in our own strength!

  • Psalm 32:1-2 – “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.” 
  • Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • Ephesians 1:7-9 – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,” 

Daniel had a personal relationship with God and you cannot have a personal relationship with Holy God unless you understand His grace and forgiveness. We come into His presence by His grace. ON our own we are unfit and ill equipped to come into His presence. By grace administered to us in Christ, we come into His presence:

  • Ephesians 2:18 – “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” 

Because of Daniel’s intimacy with God, when he comes before God to intercede, he comes openly and honestly.

SECOND, DANIEL HONESTLY CONFESSES SIN


Daniel 9:5-8 -  “we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.6 “Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.7 “O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.” 

Daniel makes no attempt to sugarcoat or rationalize away their sin, but he speaks openly and honestly about the fact that they are guilty in all these things. He doesn’t even distinguish between himself and the people; he includes himself with them in their sinfulness. He says, “we have sinned” (9:5). Sometimes we go to God and we tone down our sin. There may be a person we can’t stand, who we even hate; instead of confessing to God our true attitude toward such a person we go to Him and say, “Well God, you know I have a bit of a problem with old so-and-so. I don’t love him as much as I ought to. I mean, it’s really not my fault. They’re such a creep. They . . . .” We end up battering the other person in our prayers instead of coming clean before God in our prayers. If you are going to seek God with all your heart, you have to open your heart, every nook and cranny of it, honestly, open it to God. Daniel acknowledges that they have not obeyed God’s word and when God sent prophets, or took steps to wake them up to their sin and need, the people sinfully rebelled and ignored God’s efforts. Daniel makes no excuses here, he simply says, “Lord, we were dead wrong and You were right to bring captivity upon us. You are righteous and we are ashamed to have rebelled against you as we did.” When you come to God, you need to come to Him openly, honestly and see your utter sinfulness before a great and awesome God.

THIRD, DANIEL ACKNOWLEDGES THE TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD


Daniel 9:9-15 - “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.10 “We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.11 “Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.12 “And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.14 “Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice.15 “And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!”  

Daniel expresses confidence in God’s “mercy and forgiveness” even though they have sinned. What Daniel says in effect is that everything that has happened to them has occurred due to their disregard of God’s word. Daniel acknowledges that God warned them in His word (9:10). The Law of Moses stated this would happen and God’s word is true (Deuteronomy 28). Daniel admits that based on God’s word they are all guilty before Him. This is true always, all fall short of God’s glory, all have sinned (Romans 3:23). But thankfully the same word which shows us our sin, also speaks of the righteous mercy and grace of God.

FOUR, DANIEL APPEALS TO THE MERCY OF GOD


Daniel 9:16-19 - “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us.17 “Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate.18 “O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.19 “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” 

Daniel says, “for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deed, but because of Your great mercies.” We should never go to God and appeal to Him to treat us justly, because justice means we will get what we deserve and that is judgment! Mercy however, is not getting what you deserve and as Daniel did, we should appeal to God’s mercy so that we don’t get the judgment we deserve. There is a third aspect of coming to God, which blesses us and that is God’s grace. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve the countless second chances given us by God, but His grace secures our hope.

God Shares With the Greatly Beloved


Daniel 9:20-23 – “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God,21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.23 “At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:” 

The final verses of Daniel 9 contain an incredible prophecy about the coming of Christ and the End Times. It should not be lost on us that this awesome prophecy was given to one seen as “greatly beloved” who expressed that love in prayer.  God opened up Daniel’s understanding and gave him this prophecy after he had been seeking God in His word and seeking God in prayer. Its almost as though God looked down on Daniel thinking, “Oh how I love that Daniel, I’m going to bless him in a very special way and all those who read the word I inspire through him I’m going to let him and all the world know just exactly when My Son Jesus will make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.” Daniel was ready and able to receive this blessed prophecy because he was living in the greatly beloved  relationship with God.  That should speak to us. If we are going to experience illumination and revelation about God, we need to be in His word and on our knees. God opens His treasure chest of truth to those who seek Him.

God goes on to lay out prophetically 490 years of future history for Israel. It is a fantastic word from the Lord that must have served to be greatly comforting to Daniel and God’s people. If we love the Lord and pray to Him, perhaps He will provide us with illumination from His word to comfort and direct us. He already has done that. We simply need to be illuminated to that word. That will happen if we pray.  

CONCLUSION


“Greatly beloved,” was how Daniel was seen in heaven. He was a man of God’s word and a man of prayer. He had an intimate and full relationship with God that made him ready to receive one of the most incredible prophecies in the Bible. Now if we follow in the footsteps of Daniel and are seen as “greatly beloved,” it doesn’t mean we will receive a prophetic revelation like he did, (God has closed the canon of scripture). But what it does mean, I believe, is that we will receive deeper illumination of God’s word and have a greater sense of the presence and intimacy available for us with God. In effect, when we seek God in His word and in prayer, we come to know what it means to be “greatly beloved.”

But we often miss out on the “greatly beloved” life with God. Why? We miss it because of distractions, unconfessed sin, or simple neglect or the memory of Who God is crowded out of our lives. . Tennessee Williams in a story entitled “Something By Tolstoy” tells the story of two people who were at one time “greatly beloved” to each other, but because of neglect and distraction they missed out on that love.

“Jacob Brodzky, was a shy Russian Jew whose father owned a bookstore. The older Brodzky wanted his son to go to college. The boy, on the other hand, desired nothing but to marry Lila, his childhood sweetheart -- a French girl as effusive, vital, and ambitious as he was contemplative and retiring.

A couple of months after young Brodzky went to college, his father fell ill and died. The son returned home, buried his father, and married his love. Then the couple moved into the apartment above the bookstore, and Brodzky took over its management. The life of books fit him perfectly, but it cramped her. She wanted more adventure -- and she found it, she thought, when she met an agent who praised her beautiful singing voice and enticed her to tour Europe with a vaudeville company. Brodzky was devastated. At their parting, he reached into his pocket and handed her the key to the front door of the bookstore. "You had better keep this," he told her, "because you will want it some day. Your love is not so much less than mine that you can get away from it. You will come back sometime, and I will be waiting. "She kissed him and left.

To escape the pain he felt, Brodzky withdrew deep into his bookstore and took to reading as someone else might have taken to drink. He spoke little, did little, and could most times be found at the large desk near the rear of the shop, immersed in his books while he waited for his love to return. Nearly 15 years after they parted, at Christmastime, she did return. But when Brodzky rose from the reading desk that had been his place of escape for all that time, he did not take the love of his life for more than an ordinary customer. "Do you want a book?" he asked. That he didn't recognize her startled her. But she gained possession of herself and replied, "I want a book, but I've forgotten the name of it. "Then she told him a story of childhood sweethearts. A story of a newly married couple that lived in an apartment above a bookstore. A story of a young, ambitious wife who left to seek a career, who enjoyed great success but could never relinquish the key her husband gave her when they parted. She told him the story she thought would bring him to himself. But his face showed no recognition. Gradually she realized that he had lost touch with his heart's desire, that he no longer knew the purpose of his waiting and grieving, that now all he remembered was the waiting and grieving itself. "You remember it; you must remember it -- the story of Lila and Jacob? "After a long, bewildered pause, he said, "There is something familiar about the story, I think I have read it somewhere. It comes to me that it is something by Tolstoy. "Dropping the key, she fled the shop. And Brodzky returned to his desk, to his reading, unaware that the love he waited for had come and gone. [4]

How sad it is when we are distracted from that which would have fulfilled and completed us. There is nothing greater than to be “greatly beloved” by God. I believe all believers are “greatly beloved” by God, but sadly, only a very few understand what it means to be “greatly beloved.” Won’t you draw near to God with all your heart? Won’t you come to experience that “greatly beloved” relationship with God? Don’t let this love pass you by. Seek the Lord with all your heart and He will be found by you.

If we are to keep God in our remembrance and recognize Him when He comes, we need to be in prayer and in His word. Then we will recognize Him when He comes. Then we will know Him. Then we may too remember what our beloved nation once was and welcome her back to what she can be once again. Oh LORD, bring it to pass. Help us to pray for our Land!



[1]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.
[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.
[3]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.
[4] Signs of the Times, June, 1993, Page 11. http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/l/love.htm