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 Word:  Daniel 2 (abridged)(NLT)

 One night during the second year of his reign,[a] Nebuchadnezzar had such disturbing dreams that he couldn’t sleep.

19 That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven. 20 He said,

“Praise the name of God forever and ever,
    for he has all wisdom and power.
21 He controls the course of world events;
    he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the scholars.
22 He reveals deep and mysterious things
    and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
    though he is surrounded by light.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors,
    for you have given me wisdom and strength.
You have told me what we asked of you
    and revealed to us what the king demanded.”

27 Daniel replied, “There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortune-tellers who can reveal the king’s secret. 28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the visions you saw as you lay on your bed.

29 “While Your Majesty was sleeping, you dreamed about coming events. He who reveals secrets has shown you what is going to happen. 30 And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart.

31 “In your vision, Your Majesty, you saw standing before you a huge, shining statue of a man. It was a frightening sight. 32 The head of the statue was made of fine gold. Its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs were bronze, 33 its legs were iron, and its feet were a combination of iron and baked clay. 34 As you watched, a rock was cut from a mountain,[d] but not by human hands. It struck the feet of iron and clay, smashing them to bits. 35 The whole statue was crushed into small pieces of iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold. Then the wind blew them away without a trace, like chaff on a threshing floor. But the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth.

36 “That was the dream. Now we will tell the king what it means.37 Your Majesty, you are the greatest of kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. 38 He has made you the ruler over all the inhabited world and has put even the wild animals and birds under your control. You are the head of gold.

39 “But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third kingdom, represented by bronze, will rise to rule the world. 40 Following that kingdom, there will be a fourth one, as strong as iron. That kingdom will smash and crush all previous empires, just as iron smashes and crushes everything it strikes.41 The feet and toes you saw were a combination of iron and baked clay, showing that this kingdom will be divided. Like iron mixed with clay, it will have some of the strength of iron. 42 But while some parts of it will be as strong as iron, other parts will be as weak as clay. 43 This mixture of iron and clay also shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermarriage. But they will not hold together, just as iron and clay do not mix.

44 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. 45 That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.”

Nebuchadnezzar Rewards Daniel

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar threw himself down before Daniel and worshiped him, and he commanded his people to offer sacrifices and burn sweet incense before him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.”

48 Then the king appointed Daniel to a high position and gave him many valuable gifts. He made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as chief over all his wise men. 49 At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be in charge of all the affairs of the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the king’s court.

 

What could make one of the most powerful kings of a godless nation acknowledge the King of All Nations?  In this case, it was a glimpse into the future.  Wouldn’t every world leader like to know what the future holds!  But who can predict with accuracy the long term results of economic sanctions, invading an enemy country, bailing out a bank too big to fail?  Who can predict the long term results of a Supreme Court choice or a national election?

Daniel says only the God of heaven, the King of All Nations knows because He is in firm control of the future.  Look what Daniel says,

“Praise the name of God forever and ever,
    for he has all wisdom and power.
21 He controls the course of world events;
    he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the scholars.
22 He reveals deep and mysterious things
    and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
    though he is surrounded by light.

From those presuppositions, Daniel then can tell the king, “Your Majesty, you are the greatest of kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. 38 He has made you the ruler over all the inhabited world. . . .”

The king of the godless nation thought he had conquered the world, not that it had been given to him, but Daniel knew better.

We need leaders who know the King of All Nations who will speak the truth to people in power, who will tell them what the God of Heaven says is going to happen to nations that do not know their King.

…And sometimes the king will surprise you and be overwhelmed by the inerrancy of the King of All Nations—and the nation will be changed, even if just for a moment.

 

Prayer:  God of heaven, it feels as if our leaders don’t have a clue where we as a nation are going! We go to war, we spend billions here and there, we alienate this nation and befriend that one—and we hope for a good outcome, but we are often disappointed. Our leaders need dreams, O Lord, and wise men like Daniel who believe in and follow the King of All Nations, to tell them where those dreams will lead the nation. And we pray, O God, that some of our leaders will recognize who really holds the future, that they will bow and worship you. Amen 

 

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Word:  Daniel 1 (abridged)(NLT)

Then the king ordered his chief of staff to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. 10 But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”

11 Daniel spoke with the attendant …12 “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. 16 So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.

17 God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.

18 When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service.20 Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.

 

Babylon was not a nation that recognized the King of All Nations. I find it hopeful that God cared enough even about this godless nation that he blessed it with these four excellent representatives, who delivered wisdom and balanced judgment to the unbelieving king. I find it hopeful because perhaps God will bless our unbelieving leaders/nation with men and women who are so faithful to the King wherever they find themselves, that they will be a blessing to even national leaders and a nation who has lost its way.

Daniel and his friends were raised to high positions in the country, so high in fact as to incur the jealousy of other government servants who could not understand how they could be for their new king and country and still faithfully true to the King of All Nations.

Don’t you wish we could elect at any level people like Daniel and his friends?  They were young men, well-educated, gifted in every branch of learning, and with good judgment.  They did not compromise their moral values, but they did not picket the government’s food service; rather, they found a way to please both their King and the nation’s king.

Because of their faithfulness, God rewarded them—not with a new and better king, but with greater wisdom and understanding—and with greater position in the government of the godless king.

Daniel served his entire life in this godless nation, under multiple kings—and for his entire life, he humbly and effectively served both the king and The King.

Our nation needs such servants!

 

Prayer:  Lord, show us the Daniels among us, those who are brilliant and wise and who exercise amazing judgment in our complex world, and who want to serve both you and the nation, even if they never get close to the Oval Office.  Raise up more men and women, O Lord, who will not compromise their commitment to You, but who are wise and intelligent enough to work within the government even as it is now.  We believe these kinds of people will bring blessings to a nation that is forgetting who is King. Amen

 

Word:  Habakkuk 1:1-5 (abridged)(NLT)

This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision.

How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
    But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
    but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
    Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
    I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
    who love to argue and fight.
The law has become paralyzed,
    and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
    so that justice has become perverted.

The Lord replied,

“Look around at the nations;
    look and be amazed!
For I am doing something in your own day,
    something you wouldn’t believe
    even if someone told you about it.

 

One Pew Research study summarized its findings that over decades, five topics consistently increased newspaper sales in America:  war, weather, disaster, money, and crime.  What is certainly one common thread in these five topics—and there might be others—is that each of these topics often generates fear! War, disaster, and crime seem obvious, but think about the weather: tornadoes and hurricanes, floods and blizzards?  And what if the stock market crashes or our money runs out??

Even those who believe in the King of All Nations sometimes panic in the face of violence and destruction.  This ancient prophet expressed the existential fear that we all recognize, but he had the courage to raise the question to the King himself:  If you are in control, why are we surrounded by injustice and why does evil prevail?  Why are we afraid?

As is often the case, when we want to look behind the curtain and see what the big picture is, the King’s response is, “Well, I’d tell you but you wouldn’t understand if I did.”

So it all comes back—as it always has and always will—to trust.  How much do we trust the King of All Nations? Do we trust him to know what is going on?  Do we trust that He has enough power to really be in control?  Do we trust that He is good?  Do we trust that He cares what happens?

Fear is the immediate consequence of having no one in control, being at the mercy of chaos. Don’t vote for fear. Fear is only a question.  Trust the King of All Nations. That’s the only answer!

Prayer: Lord God, we stay glued to our TVs and the internet, looking for someone to trust, something to have confidence in, someone we can believe; we do this–and are still afraid. We as a nation are fearful because we no longer know, no longer trust that You are in control.  Give us trusting eyes, O God, to be able to see what you are doing in our own times. Then help us to know that it is You we are seeing. Amen

The King of All Nations offers healing and forgiveness, even to a nation that prostitutes itself.  Read the whole story of Hosea and Gomer to understand this.

Word:  Hosea 2: 14-23 (abridged)(NLT)

“But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there.
15 I will return her vineyards to her
    and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.

16 When that day comes,” says the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’
    instead of ‘my master.’

18 On that day I will make a covenant
    with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky
and the animals that scurry along the ground
    so they will not harm you.
I will remove all weapons of war from the land,
    all swords and bows,
so you can live unafraid
    in peace and safety.
19 I will make you my wife forever,
    showing you righteousness and justice,
    unfailing love and compassion.
20 I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
    and you will finally know me as the Lord.

21 “In that day, I will answer,”
    says the Lord.
“I will answer the sky as it pleads for clouds.
    And the sky will answer the earth with rain.
22 Then the earth will answer the thirsty cries
    of the grain, the grapevines, and the olive trees.
And they in turn will answer,
    ‘Jezreel’—‘God plants!’

I will show love
    to those I called ‘Not loved.’
And to those I called ‘Not my people,’
    I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”

 

What is worse than adultery?  The story of Hosea the prophet and his wife Gomer is a biblical story that goes beyond the pain of adultery and describes a person who abandons her marriage, turning not to another lover, but to prostitution.  One of the biggest questions raised in this story is whether the pain and shame of this betrayal can ever be healed? And why would anyone want to see such a devastating breach healed?

Nations prostitute themselves, selling their relationship to the King of All Nations very cheaply.  But these verses describe a King that will forgive the worst we can do. His desire is not just forgiveness, however, but restoration and reconciliation.  As fiercely as His anger is when a nation prostrates itself before other gods, His loving kindness is even greater when that prostituted nation comes home.  That is what makes coming home even thinkable!

Prayer:  Lord of All, your anger is just, but terrible–deserved, but more than we can bear. Take away our national desires that lure us to other powers, other houses. Draw our nation back to your house, our home, with these same promises of forgiveness and reconciliation that you have offered to other nations in times past.  Amen.

 

Word:  Ezekiel 22 (abridged)(NLT)

22 Now this message came to me from the Lord:   “Every leader . . . who lives within your walls is bent on murder. Fathers and mothers are treated with contempt. Foreigners are forced to pay for protection. Orphans and widows are wronged and oppressed among you. You despise my holy things and violate my Sabbath days of rest. People accuse others falsely and send them to their death. You are filled with idol worshipers and people who do obscene things. 10 Men sleep with their fathers’ wives and force themselves on women . . . . 11 Within your walls live men who commit adultery with their neighbors’ wives, who defile their daughters-in-law, or who rape their own sisters. 12 There are hired murderers, loan racketeers, and extortioners everywhere. They never even think of me and my commands, says the Sovereign Lord.

13 “But now I clap my hands in indignation over your dishonest gain and bloodshed. 14 How strong and courageous will you be in my day of reckoning? I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said. 15 I will scatter you among the nations and purge you of your wickedness. 16 And when I have been dishonored among the nations because of you, you will know that I am the Lord.”

23 Again a message came to me from the Lord: 25 Your princes plot conspiracies just as lions stalk their prey. They devour innocent people, seizing treasures and extorting wealth. They make many widows in the land. 26 Your priests have violated my instructions and defiled my holy things. They make no distinction between what is holy and what is not. 27 Your leaders are like wolves who tear apart their victims. They actually destroy people’s lives for money! 28 And your prophets cover up for them by announcing false visions and making lying predictions. They say, ‘My message is from the Sovereign Lord,’ when the Lord hasn’t spoken a single word to them. 29 Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice.

30 “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one. 31 So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

 

In a democracy like ours, we the people must take full responsibility for the political leaders we elect.  The majority of us have voted in both the best and the worst of our national leaders.  That’s a hard pill for some of us to swallow. The present divide is so deep that many seem to want to pretend that if their candidate does not win the election, then it is because the other candidate somehow cheated or stole their way into office in spite of the fact that nobody voted for them.

Since we the people choose our leaders, we must look for leaders who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land.  The prophet Ezekiel rails against the political leaders who abuse the helpless in the land. In his condemnations, Ezekiel includes the religious leaders who make no distinction between what is holy and what is not holy.  But his last word is to the common people—that’s us! What did we do? 29 Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice.

When did we the people do that?  We the people do it when we vote for leaders who do it!

The King of All Nations wants leaders who build a wall—a wall of righteousness. We the people must search for those as well and elect them to be our leaders.

Prayer:  We pray, Sovereign Lord, for leaders who will rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. We are afraid that the wall lies broken in many, many places because we have chosen leaders who did what was wrong–and we have followed and celebrated them because we voted for them.  Forgive us, Lord, and give us the will to elect those who know what is holy and what is not.  Amen.

Word: 2 Kings 23 (abridged)(NLT)

And the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the people …, along with the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. There the king read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the Lord’s Temple.The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the Lord’s presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. In this way, he confirmed all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll, and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. . . .

15 The king also tore down the altar at Bethel—the pagan shrine that Jeroboam son of Nebat had made when he caused Israel to sin. He burned down the shrine and ground it to dust . . . .

19 Then Josiah demolished all the buildings at the pagan shrines in the towns of Samaria . . . .They had been built by the various kings of Israel and had made the Lord very angry . . . .

21 King Josiah then issued this order to all the people: “You must celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as required in this Book of the Covenant.” 22 There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, nor throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah’s reign, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem.

24 Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the Lord’s Temple. 25 Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.

 

The king of ancient Israel had two significant responses when the Word of God was re-discovered after having been lost for centuries.  First, he goes throughout the country—even beyond his own borders—and destroys every semblance of false religion that he could find.  He is not tolerant of idolatry, of immorality, or any of the cultural icons or rituals that have sought to replace the Truth that was lost. He even goes so far as to seek out the very root of national dissipation, the national shrine that his ancient predecessor Jeroboam first created as the first step away from Truth.

But destruction only leaves a vacuum. Josiah is wise enough to re-institute the worship and national celebrations that God had proscribed, both of which had been lost with the Word.  National memory needed to be restored as well—the recollection of what God had done for the nation.

Tearing down national idols is essential—but not enough. Being against the loss of national morality, fighting cultural norms, opposing historical lies, these are all part of what God’s people do when Truth takes hold, but demolition and attack is not enough—not nearly enough.

Perhaps today it is reminding us that Thanksgiving is about thanking God for every good gift, that Christmas is a time for reminding the nation that Jesus came to bring peace on earth, good will toward men, or that Sunday is still the Lord’s Day, not the NFL’s sacred day.

Restoring the ancient national celebration of Israel was as important as removing the idols.  Is this a Truth that we as a nation have forgotten?

 

Prayer:  Lord God of Heaven and Earth. What have we forgotten as a nation?  Teach us again, Lord, what to destroy and what to restore.  Give us the passion to oppose everything you hate, but also the joy to celebrate all that you love.  Amen.

Words:  2 Kings 22 (abridged) (NLT)

22 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, … He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.

Shaphan went to the king and reported, “Your officials have turned over the money collected at the Temple of the Lord to the workers and supervisors at the Temple.” 10 Shaphan also told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a scroll.” So Shaphan read it to the king.

11 When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. 12 Then he gave these orders … 13 “Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing everything it says we must do.”

Truth can just disappear!  It can be missing for generations. How difficult it must have been for this young king. He was committed to restoring the temple, which was already a big step and something his forefathers had not done.  He wanted to do right by God—everything that he could think of! Perhaps it is God waiting for the right king before he allows the Book of the Law to be found.  Another king might have simply burned it!  But not Josiah.

Josiah’s response is to believe that it is the Word of God. He does not challenge its authenticity. He does not attempt to rationalize whether the nation should listen or not to words written hundreds of years earlier. He says, so this is the reason we have so many national troubles!  We are not doing what God has always wanted us to do.

Banning the posting of the ten commandments does not invalidate them. Keeping prayer out of schools does not keep prayer out of schools nor make prayer ineffective.  We can begin to ignore God nationally, but that does not diminish God nor make him impotent. By losing God’s book, we might return to the spiritual dark ages, but one day—according to his plan—He will be found.

 

Prayer:  O Lord, make this a national day of finding your words and your will, not of losing them. And when we find them, Father, give us first penitent hearts for having lost your words, but then eager hearts to restore your reign. Your kingdom come, your will be done.  Amen

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