Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“The secret of the sweet, satisfying companionship of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its deep inner meaning.”
“God-friendship is for God-worshipers,
They are the ones He confides in.”
The Message Bible
“If, in the worst times, God’s people can lift up their heads with joy, knowing that all shall work for them to good, they will own it is God that is the lifter of their head, that gives them both cause to rejoice and hearts to rejoice.”
“You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
Today’s Study Texts:
1. “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house and prospering in my palace. I had a dream which made me afraid, and the imaginations and visions of my head as I was lying upon my bed troubled and agitated me.”
2. “Then Daniel…was astonished and dismayed and stricken dumb for a while, concerned about the king’s destiny, and his (Daniel’s) thoughts alarmed him…The king said, ‘Belteshazzar, let not the dream or its interpretation trouble you.”
3. “Whereas the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘cut the tree down and destroy it, but leave the stump with its roots in the earth with a band of iron and bronze around it, in the tender grass of the field; and let him be wet with the dew of the heavens, and let his portion be with the living creatures of the field until seven years pass over him.”
4. “O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins and show the reality of your repentance by righteousness – right standing with God and moral and spiritual rightness in every relation and from your iniquities by showing mercy and loving-kindness to the poor and oppressed, that if the king will repent there may possibly be a continuance of your peace.”
Daniel 4: 27
“Earthly Power Versus Heavenly Purpose” Part 1
“Advice from on High”
“It is a great advantage to us to be warned of our danger, that we may stand upon our guard against it. The work of God’s prophets is to give us warning.”
What do I think it means to be “forewarned by God”?
Have I ever ignored a warning that I believe was sent to me from God?
What were the consequences in my life?
“Open my eyes that I may see,
Incline my heart that I may desire,
Order my steps that I may follow
The way of Your commandments.”
“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go, I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
King Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t sleeping well. It was troubling to awaken from what should have been a good night’s rest with the annoying and faded remembrance of a dream he thought had plagued him in the night. However, this perplexing problem was only made worse by the fact that again he simply couldn’t remember what the dream was about.
Just to be clear, this was a reoccurring problem with Nebuchadnezzar. Seems he had a dream before about a large image. And when his court “wise men” couldn’t tell him what he had dreamed – he nearly lopped off their heads. Fortunately, God’s four Hebrew children enduring an exile in Babylon, never forgot who their God was. Nor did they ever forget that He had a heavenly purpose for their lives, even though they were in a foreign country and surrounded by heathen gods.
So in the book in the Old Testament that contains what I like to call ”Daniel’s Diary” we are let in on the way heaven touched earth when God revealed to His prophet Daniel the meaning of the king’s forgotten dream. In this case, Daniel wasn’t keen to just blurt out what God was saying to Nebuchadnezzar. “Why,” one might ask? Well, if we take a few moments to read through Daniel 4, we’ll find that the chapter begins with the worldly King Nebuchadnezzar honoring the God of heaven and earth by testifying that: “It seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed toward me. How great are His signs! And how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4: 2, 3, Amplified Bible).
I don’t know how many of you ever attended an old-fashioned Wednesday night prayer meeting and testimony service. Years ago the “mid-week” service as it was called, became a staple in many churches. I can remember humoring my dad and going along with him to a number of these services. As I read the words of the powerful king of Babylon, my thoughts drifted off to the “hallelujahs” and “amen’s” that broke into the quiet pray meetings as one-by-one individuals testified to the fact that God had done something wonderful for them.
This is exactly what King Nebuchadnezzar did when he said, it seemed good to not only tell people what God had done but to show them as well. Make no mistake – there was no question about who got the credit from the king as he unequivocally pointed to the God of heaven and earth, “the Most High God,” as he called Him and the “One” who has “performed toward me.” I love that phrase because sometimes when we are overwhelmed with the trials of life, we need to specifically run through the many ways that our Father in heaven has “performed toward” you and me!
But Nebuchadnezzar didn’t stop by honoring God’s kindness. He continued with descriptive phrases detailing a portrayal of God that nearly takes your breath away:
1. “His miracles are staggering,”
2. “His wonders are surprising,”
3. “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom – it lasts and lasts,”
4. “His sovereign rule goes on forever.”
NIV and The Message Bible
Furthermore, we must not skip over the way that Nebuchadnezzar begins his testimony in Daniel 4: 1, “Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.” If we were looking through the Bible from the beginning in Genesis to the last chapter in Revelation, I’m not certain we could come up with a more comprehensive statement about God’s goodness than what Nebuchadnezzar sends out to all people, all nations and all languages on the globe. And down to this very day, thousands of years later, we are still marveling at the words which came from a worldly leader. Someone, no less, who had threatened to execute God’s faithful children.
How timely, even providential, it is for us to be studying where we are in the Bible today. For as we look at the chaos all around the world, we need to remind ourselves that God’s Word is filled with advice that reinforces the fact that heavenly purposes are never subverted by earthly power. NEVER! If that doesn’t give us confidence when we arise, to meet each new day, I don’t know what will!
Just to provide you with a little proof of the statement above, I’ll get personal with you. Several months ago, the devotionals entitled “Furnace of Affliction” and the “God of Dothan” were not even on my radar screen. But as God always proves to me, He’ll use a suggestion by some of you or a book I’m reading or a passage of Scripture to jar me out of my routine and push me into “God-territory,” as I call it. This is how the series on “Affliction” and the three Hebrews came into being. I was so concerned as I read the increasing number of prayer requests about the hardships so many of you are enduring. “I feel like I’m being ‘afflicted,’ that was the word! And God used one Garden friend to help so many others who “praise God” found encouragement as they read about how our God walks with us and holds us close and never leaves the furnace of affliction while any of His children are in it!
Then the series I wrote three years ago came to my mind when my dear friend Mary was diagnosed with colon cancer and now faces a total of three months of radiation and chemotherapy and surgery as well. As I rewrote this series, “The God of Dothan,” I recognized that even if the series was only for Mary that would be enough. But the fact is, so many more of you have written in the past few weeks saying, “How did you know what I am experiencing right now? Did you write these devotionals for me?” And I smile as I realize we are back in “God-territory” again.
This brings me to today’s new series which grew out of a promise I made to one of God’s daughters several years ago. She wrote an asked when we would cover the book of Esther. I told her I didn’t know but when it was the right time I’d let her know. Interestingly, as I look back on those three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, God was already planting the seeds for this series, “Earthy Power Versus Heavenly Purpose.” And what a timely series this is for right now, all over the world, it is earthly power that appears to be winning in so many ways. And it makes the inhabitants of earth very nervous. Even Christians who claim to believe that our God is mighty and strong. Yet when you hear some Christians talk, you would think they’ve forgotten “Who” rules overall the Universe.
As I began studying in preparation for our in-depth study of the book of Esther, I had what I call “Dorothy’s Block.” I could not figure out how to get going on the book of Esther.
At the same time, my right hip and knee began to ache – badly. Even after an injection in the joint, which I might add, relieved the pain for a few weeks, the nasty ache came back. And so my dear husband pointed out that I hadn’t really followed the doctor’s order to “stay off my leg.” Finally, I decided to take this good advice and rest for a couple of days. And it was in this “quiet time,” that I chose to reread the first few chapters of Esther and BOOM! During those reflective hours, God grabbed my attention with the words found in Esther 1: 2,3 which I must admit I hadn’t read very carefully because I was so busy getting to the “meat” of the story. I wasn’t alone in skipping over the first few verses in Esther. Most Biblical commentators do the very same thing. You see, in Esther 1: 2, 3 we are informed that when “King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne which was in Shushan, the capital of the Persian Empire (127 provinces)…he made a feast for all his princes and courtiers. The chief officers of his of the Persian and Median army and the nobles and governors of the provinces were there before him” (Esther 1: 2, 3, Amplified Bible). As I read these words, a thought came so forcefully into my mind, “You haven’t gone back far enough yet.”
Immediately, I was struck by the reality that in order to understand the book of Esther properly, we need to recognize that place in Biblical history where the events found in the book of Esther took place.
Somehow, because the story of Esther is told in a book which comes before the Psalms and is placed in line with Ezra and Nehemiah, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar’s glorious realm, had fallen and now there was a new empire. Just as God’s prophet Daniel predicted in Daniel 2: 39 when he told the Babylonian king, “And after you shall arise another kingdom, the Medo-Persian, inferior to you.“ God’s words proved true!
What the book of Esther tells us right at the beginning is that God’s prediction through Daniel His prophet, came to pass. What’s more – God’s promise was fulfilled and His purpose carried out. The past history of God’s action provided the foundational truth that during the current time as well as the future time, God’s plans would not be thwarted!
By going back in time to the book of Daniel, we can tie up some of the loose ends which I errantly decided to skip over, yet which prepare us to enter the book of Esther with a confidence so great that we will be prepared to walk with a faithful queen and her cousin Mordecai. And – we will be courageously inspired to walk the path of any heavenly purposed pathway God unveils before each one of us. “Praise His Name!”
“Who brought me hither will bring me hence; no other Guide I seek.”
“Guide me in the path of Your commandments, for my delight is in them.”
Psalm 119: 35
“Lead kindly light,
Amid the encircling gloom;
lead thou me on.
The night is dark,
and I am far from home;
lead Thou me on.
Keep Thou my fear;
I do not ask to see the distant scene –
one step enough for me.”
John Henry Newnan
“God’s might to direct me,
God’s power to protect me,
God’s wisdom for learning,
God’s eye for discerning,
God’s ear for my hearing,
God’s Word for my clearing.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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