In Nehemiah 1, we read about a report that Nehemiah receives from Jerusalem. When he hears about what is happening to God’s people and to the state of Jerusalem, he weeps. Not only does he mourn for days, but he fasts and prays continuously. He is more than a little upset. He is unsettled. He is grieved.
When I read about this grief, this mourning by Nehemiah, I cannot help but wonder if we ever grieve like that because of the spiritual state of others. Are we uncomfortable because God is not honored, when we know He alone deserves all honor, glory and praise? Is it upsetting when we see something that once glorified God, now broken and in disarray? When we see brokenness, do we seek out God to heal, restore, and redeem?
Today we are not looking to rebuild a wall. Nehemiah took care of that great work. But God has put a vision in your heart. He wants to do great things through you to glorify Him. Seek Him. Ask Him to reveal this great work. Ask Him to strengthen your feet. Ask Him to help you speak boldly. Press forward and watch Him move in mighty ways.
“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” – Nehemiah 1:4 [NASB]
In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar was told he would “eat grass like a cow” if he did not repent and do the right thing (v. 32 NLT). He had twelve months to make the choice but instead he stood on the roof of the palace and overlooked what God had given him.
As the king “looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By MY own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as MY royal residence to display MY majestic splendor.” Who gave him the position? Who gave him the city? Who gave him life? Who gave him food? Who? The king believed in his own strength. He acknowledged himself alone.
When you are overlooking your own life, is it a my, my, my world, or do you acknowledge the Lord? When you examine your own life are you pointing to Christ and boasting about the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 10), or are you claiming you are a self made success?
“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’” – Daniel 4:30 [NLT]
King Nebuchadnezzar was given a dream that Daniel interpreted. The king was warned to “renounce your sins by doing what is right” (v. 27 NIV). He had time to do it too. He had twelve months. Talk about patience. God is patient.
The king had twelve months to do what was right but he neglected to make the choice and ended up facing the consequences. God doesn’t want us to be in that situation. He wants each of us to not need the punishment—for each of us to make the choice, to choose life. God has promised life abundantly to those who believe in Him. God has promised eternal life to those who repent and believe in Christ Jesus.
Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). He is patient. He is waiting. He wants you to come home. Are you ready?
“Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon.” – Daniel 4:29 [NLT]
Almost a year ago I sat down to write about Daniel 3:18. When I write, there are two different ways that I begin. First, there are moments when I am walking my dog Max and the Lord leads me to something. Second, there are moments when I am reading my Bible (many times during my lunch break), when He leads me to something and I will scrawl down some notes for later. Nonetheless, this week I was again reading Daniel 3:18 and was led to write about it. But it felt very familiar.
I considered that perhaps I had written about it before. After writing devotionals, other books, papers, sermons, lessons, etc., it was a possibility. I felt this overwhelming need to search, and then I found it, “But Even If.” Does someone need to hear it again? Yes, and God knew—it was me!
Life has been very difficult lately. Life in general is difficult, but lately I have been feeling exhausted. Not tired. Exhausted. Everything is a battle. I have followed the narrow path. But when we are on the journey God has placed before us, our expectations of the outcome might be very different from where God takes us. Hence the exhaustion. For some of us it’s frustration or even worse. But God reminds each of us that He is with us and He has a great plan for our lives. No matter where we are at on the journey, no matter what our expectations for a situation, our lips should say, “But even if he doesn’t” we will still press forward and live each day firmly rooted in Him. I’m pressing forward. He is my hope and my confidence.
“But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” – Daniel 3:18 [NLT]
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” – Psalm 25:5 [NIV]
“As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” – Daniel 3:5-6 [NIV]
King Nebuchadnezzar made this foolish command, a command that basically says “do this or else.” Do this (bow down and worship this image) or else (you are going into the blazing furnace). We all have people who try to tell us that we will do one thing or else we will face the consequences. As a child, we hear this from our parents; however, this continues all through life.
People will try to get you to sway in your faith. People will attempt to pull you away from God. It might not be intentional. It might not seem to be such a bad thing at first. You may not even realize when it is happening. Again and again the Bible tells us to stand firm. There is a reason—there are so many “or elses” given and we find ourselves caving, we find ourselves accepting something we shouldn’t or doing something we shouldn’t because it’s easy, it’s what the crowd is doing, and we don’t want to cause any waves.
Stand firm. Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego stood firm and they weren’t alone in that furnace. You aren’t alone either. Today, if you find yourself being told to bow down to something, remember that you are not alone, even through the “or else.”
“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”
– Daniel 1:17 [NIV]
Today’s verse says that God gave Daniel and his friends the knowledge and understanding. Now in this passage, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are all supposed to eat what the king has commanded. It was from the king’s table so one would believe it to be good—fit for a king. However, Daniel “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine,” and he asked if he could eat his own diet of food (v. 8). The official agreed to let Daniel and his friends eat what they wanted for ten days. After the ten days, they were “healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (v. 15). This could cause some people to have problems digesting.
So often we look at Daniel and his friends going against the king’s rules and following a special diet of vegetables and water. We conclude that these vegetables and the water provided the four young men with better nourishment, as the passage states, and that is what we take from this passage. However, we cannot forget that it was God who gave these men the knowledge and understanding. God was and is at the forefront.
There are times in our own lives when we use our God given gifts and resources and find great success. We start to attribute this success to our hard work, our talents, etc., but we need already remember that God gave us everything—God gets the glory.
Today remind yourself of what God has given you and take the time to thank Him.
“But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” – Daniel 3:18 [NIV]
The beginning of this verse sets the tone. It is a phrase that is sometimes hard to chew on for us. Imagine this—even if God doesn’t do what I am hoping and praying He does—even if God doesn’t show up in the same way I expected—even if I have to face hardship and possibly death—I will not back down. I will stand firm. I will continue to serve God with all that I have and with all that I am.
We should possibly read that paragraph over when we are praying for healing. We should read that over when we just lost our job and are about to foreclose on our mortgage. We should read that again when we are given a moment to defend our faith but it comes with consequences.
That “but” is a hard word to face. These men were facing the possibility of a fiery furnace. What if it didn’t end the way it did? What if they were burned alive, three martyrs burnt alive? We take this historical event and think that it will be the same for our lives. There will be a similarity—God will show up. He always does. However, He might not do what we expect. He could stand with us in the furnace to deliver us and we could come out not even smelling like the fire. But, He could stand with us in the furnace and we might not get out as we planned.
Today, I want to challenge you. Your faith in God should rest on His character, not what He does for you. It is hard; however, we need to face the “but” in life. He is faithful. He will not leave you. He has a plan and purpose for your life—a hope and future. But it might not be what you think. Continue to seek His will for your life, being okay with the “but.”
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.” – Daniel 3:17 [NIV]
Could you imagine being the three young men standing before Nebuchadnezzar and this promise of the furnace? They stood before him and declared that God was able. God was able to deliver. God was able to defend them. God was able to save them. God was able.
We each have a furnace before us—it may be a situation at work, problems at home, a family issue, a health ailment, etc.—and we might see the furnace heat get cranked up like these three men did. But we need to remind ourselves that our God is able. God will deliver us.
Don’t cower down when you feel the heat. Allow God to help you rise above. These young men stood tall with the Lord, and take note—they were with the Lord every step of the way. God is with you. He is able. Whatever you may be facing today, you are not doing it alone.
One of the stories most taught to children that comes from the Bible is from chapter 6 of the Book of Daniel. We love to hear about how Daniel refused to give up praying to God, and was thrown into the den of a vicious lion, but was saved by God as a result of his trust in God. Afterward, when he was removed from the lion’s den, King Darius wrote a decree to the people. The decree said that all the people of the kingdom were to fear “the God of Daniel” (v. 26).
I think it’s important to note that it does not simply say God. When we think of King Darius calling God “the God of Daniel,” it gives us the impression that Daniel must have done something for such a close association. If Daniel did not act as he did, would Darius have said, “the God of Daniel” at all? I speculate that he wouldn’t have associated Daniel with God because he would have had no proof– no connection that Daniel served God.
Do you think that we should see our names there as well? Are we such dedicated Christians that people would look and say, “the God of…” has done this or has blessed him or her? Simply put, do we show people God and do we make it clear that we are Christians? If a poll was taken of your friends, co-workers, family members, what would they say?
We are to be image bearers of Christ. We are to shine the Light each and every day. If we aim to do that and we have some success, people will notice. Light is always noticed in the dark, no matter how small of a flicker. Right now we see a lot of darkness. May the Holy Spirit help you to shine some light somewhere today.
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 [NASB]