Journey with Daniel
In our reading of Daniel chapter 2, we cannot help but be impressed with the young protagonist. The chapter begins with King Nebuchadnezzar being troubled by dreams, losing sleep over a vision that he could not understand. He summoned his enchanters and sorcerers and presented them with what seems to be an impossible task: tell the king his dream. Interpreting a dream was one thing, but telling the king what dream he had was an entirely different challenge – one that the enchanters said “not a man on earth” could accomplish. Enraged, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that all the wise men of Babylon were to be killed.
Enter Daniel. Upon receiving the news of the king’s decree, he asked the king to choose a date and time and Daniel would be there to answer the king’s request. Daniel’s next course of action is exemplary. He and his companions prayed, asking God to be merciful. God revealed the dream and interpretation to Daniel in a vision and Daniel rightly praised God for his wisdom and might.
What follows might be my favorite line of the entire book. King Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel “Are you able to tell me both the dream and the interpretation?” And Daniel’s response was “No.” However, he did not leave it there. He went on to repeat what the other wise men said, “not a man on earth” could do what the king requested. “But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries,” said Daniel, “and this mystery has been revealed to me in order that you may know the thoughts of your mind.” This young man who had been transported far from his home and his heritage had the chance to impress the king. But that was not his priority, instead he wanted to bring glory to God. Directing the king to where the power really lay, Daniel revealed to him both dream and interpretation.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is one that many are familiar with even today. It contained a striking image and conveyed a powerful Messianic prophecy. The dream was of a statue (or image) made of multiple materials, which would indeed be a strange sight to behold. The statue’s head was made of gold, its chest and arms were made of silver, its stomach and thighs were made of bronze, its legs were made of iron, and its feet were made of an iron and clay mixture. If that image was not strange enough, a rock was carved and struck the statue on its feet and the whole giant image disintegrated, leaving just the rock, which began to grow and continued to do so until it filled the entire world.
Daniel explained that each material in the statue stood for a different kingdom, beginning with Babylon as the gold head. Things got really interesting when Daniel explained the rock. This rock was going to be the kingdom set up by the God of heaven, never to be destroyed or taken over. Instead, it would stand forever, spreading over the entire creation. Reading this now with the entirety of God’s Word at our fingertips, it is not difficult to see that this kingdom Daniel spoke of is the kingdom Jesus came to establish through his death, burial, and resurrection. This eternal and indomitable kingdom of heaven is the kingdom we get to be a part of today. Let us praise God for his providence in this!
Daniel Purposed In His Heart
When Nebuchadnezzar offered Daniel and his friends his meat and drink, he was not trying to be mean to them. Everything from the King’s table was a delicacy. Daniel and his friends just could not and would not eat what the king offered. Daniel would have no part in that which was from the table of the king. However, there were consequences to that decision. He could not sit at the king’s table and say, “I am not going to eat that nor drink that” without severe repercussions. No one did that. No one toyed with the king’s offerings.
How could Daniel say, “I am not going to eat nor drink what the king is offering? He had purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. What courage! He is not being obstinate, nor rude. He does not intend to insult Nebuchadnezzar. The bottom line for Daniel is, I have already determined what my choices will be. He was not going to be defiled. So really this is about Daniel’s respect for God and God’s rule. He had already determined in his heart that he would not violate God rule. Daniel did not say, “When in Rome do what the Roman’s do.”
We live in this world and we begin to advocate we will not draw any lines. We say, “We have to be in this world and fit in.” We are people who claim to be Christians. To whom But do we bear more resemblance, to the pagan world or being “of Christ?” People fail because they fail to determine in their heart what they will do when this world came calling.
Daniel made up his mind before the plan was put in operation. Before the pressure mounted. We must do that too!
Bringing it home: If we do not determine beforehand what we value we will decide, but it will be a decision that grows out of emotions, not reason. I must determine beforehand I will not defile myself. If we do that, we will not be ashamed to look in the mirror.
“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalms 103:12-14)
There is no god like Jehovah! There is no deed that reaches the heart of man like Jesus’ death on the cross. Here Jehovah is reaching out to man with pity and forgiveness. This Psalm gives us a poetic description of God’s forgiveness and mercy.
The imagery beautifully describes God’s boundless forgiveness. Unlike the distance from north to south, the distance from east to west is not measured. To “cast sin behind the back” means it is “out of sight, and out of mind.” When something is cast into the sea it is irretrievable. “In those days and in that time," says the LORD, "The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; And the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found; For I will pardon those whom I preserve” (Jeremiah 50:20). When God forgives sin he removes it entirely.
Coupled with God’s limitless forgiveness is his pity (verse 13). There is nothing like the pity of a parent for their child. A father’s pity would include shelter from the elements, sympathy in times of distress, strength when times get tough, encouragement to persevere, instruction in how to live, and correction when in the wrong. Like any good father, God will do everything within his will to help his children.
For what reason did God bestow such sympathy? The Psalmist says: “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (vs. 14). Man is weak in body and mind. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). At times man is feeble in his power of conviction, poor in his power of will, and woefully ignorant of God’s way.
Even though our service to God is imperfect, if one will fear Him, if our devotion is rooted in faith and sincerity, if it is motivated by love, and purified by prayer, it is accepted by God.
Enlarge My Heart
“I will run the course of your commandments. For you shall enlarge my heart” (Psalms 119:32, NKJV). The opposite is, “Indeed for you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them” (Ezekiel 33:32, NKJV).
Ezekiel pleads, “Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord” (Ezekiel 33:30). But the people came, sat, heard, but did not do them. They treated the words of the Lord as a very lovely song but found no value in them. How sad!
By contrast, the Psalmist says the word of God will enlarge his heart. How is it one can see the word of God as enlarging his heart, and another hear the same word as a very lovely song but do nothing about it? Ezekiel says it is because, “with their mouth they show much love but their hearts pursue their own gain” (Ezekiel 33:31, NKJV).
The heart makes all the difference. If we want our heart to be enlarged by the word of God, it will be. If all we want to do is hear it as a lovely song that sounds good and is soothing, then that is all we will do. It is determined by what we will. We must will to do the will of God (John 7:17). The will to do the will of God makes all the difference. The Athenians told Paul, “Hey, we like to hear new things. When you come up with another new thing come and tell us about it.” But they were not going to do anything with what they heard.
We can pursue our own gain or we can pursue the will of God. Those attitudes do not end up in the same place.
“Seek the kingdom of God first.” (Matt 6:33) This is God’s word. Will it enlarge our hearts, or will we just say, “Hey that sounds lovely” and do nothing about it?
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church.” (Eph. 5:25, NKJV) Will that enlarge our hearts, or will we just treat it as a lovely song and walk away?
“Keep yourself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27) Seems plain enough. Will we will to do His will and enlarge our hearts, or listen as listening to a lovely song and then become world-stained.
This is not rocket science. The reason people do not do what the Lord says is because they will not to do His will. They pursue their own gain. On the other hand, when the word of God enlarges a person’s heart, their lives are much more successful and peaceful. Who and whom we pursue makes all the difference in eternity.
Psalm 101 is a song of commitment from David to the Lord. There are several “I Will” statements that David gives, describing what he will do for the Lord.
I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music (v. 1) – it is David’s commitment to worship. I will commit my time, my thoughts, my voice to You in worship. Do you spend time daily in worship to God?
I will ponder the way that is blameless. (v. 2) – there is a way before the Lord that one can be blameless, a right path. Before I speak, before I act, I will think about which decisions will lead me and keep me on the blameless way.
I will walk with integrity of heart within my house (v. 2) – integrity brings to mind character. It is who you are when no one is around, like at home. Thus even in the privacy of my own home I will not give my heart over to bitterness, to greed, to lust, to pride. My heart will be pure and right, even when alone.
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. (v. 3) – in a world full of distractions, full of evil and alluring ways, I will choose to set my eyes on God, to keep my focus on things above, on the things that honor God and matter the most.
I will know nothing of evil (v. 4) – I will strive to preserve a heart of innocence. I will guard against the thoughts of the wicked. I will not be drawn by examples of evil. Rather than filling my heart with today’s news (which is almost always negative), I’ll fill my heart with the words of life.
Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. (v. 5) – the people I consider my close friends, where I turn to for advice, they will not be those who are walking away from God. I will use my words and example to speak the truth and love, to address sin and point others to Christ.
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. (v. 6) – in contrast to the thought above, I will surround myself with people of character and integrity. I will learn and lean on those who walk the same path, following the same goal, heading to the same destination – those who are Heaven bound.
7 I will statements. 7 powerful choices. What a big difference these 7 decisions will make in your life!
Holy Righteous God, like David the longing of my heart is to commit my life to You. Every day is full of choices – may the decisions and choices I make today be made with wisdom, with You in mind, with Heaven as my goal – may they be decisions that honor and glorify You. Father, today I WILL use my time, my thoughts, my words, my actions to further Your Kingdom, to demonstrate Your goodness, to bless and not to curse, to show the world my love and devotion to You!