Falling on My Face

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“…This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face…” (Ezekiel 1:28)

 
I know there are lots of commentaries out there but I still have lots of questions. Here is Ezekiel seeing this vision that You have given him, God. It’s about creatures with four faces, one like a man, another like a lion, one like an ox, and one like an eagle. They had four wings. Sparkling like burnished brass with straight legs and feet like a calf’s foot, they moved without turning. Two of their wings covered their bodies and two wings apparently stretched above and clasped together overhead. And there was flashing lightning and there were these wheels that went with them. And a wheel in the middle of the wheel. Read it. What am I to walk away with from this today?

 
Do you ever stop and wonder what Ezekiel took away from this? Did Ezekiel walk away from this vision trying to interpret every verse? Did he walk away and write down a commentary? I just wonder. Or did he walk away just thinking about the wonder and glory and unsurpassed glory of God? Do I need to be able to explain each item in this vision to see what You were showing Ezekiel? Can I really ever explain everything about You, God? Am I supposed to think that I can?

 
What if Ezekiel was given this opportunity to glimpse what it’s like before Your throne? What if he was given this opportunity to see how much different You are than us and that there is so much more to You that we don’t even know or understand? What if this is a vision of worship? And a vision of holiness? And a vision of power? And a vision of in-explainable things that match Your ways that are above our ways?

 
What if I would be better off standing and being amazed than explaining things? Maybe there are times when awe is more important than interpretation. What if my interpretation takes away from Your awe? Maybe I’m wrong or crazy, but I want to be cared for by a God who can’t be explained by man. I want a God who is bigger and knows more. I’m more than ok with You being in-explainable.

 
And if You are in-explainable, wouldn’t I expect those closest to Your throne to be also? I mean, if I could fathom You, You would no longer be infinite, would You? Finite things like me and this earth are fathomable. But not You and not things living and breathing according to Your spirit- like those living creatures.

 
Which makes me think. Maybe, the more of You in me, the more of Your Spirit that guides me like it guides those creatures, well, then maybe the less of me is fathomable. Maybe, in You, we begin to become unfathomable creatures, doing unfathomable things. Maybe that’s how the disciples and early believers turned the world upside down. Maybe they took on some of Your unfathomableness by taking on Your Spirit and letting it direct their paths like these amazing creatures.

 
I don’t know. I read the commentaries and it makes me think I can have an explanation for everything. And then I walk away with an explanation. Or I can read Your word, and think about what it would be like to see that for myself, and I don’t have an explanation. But I walk away with this greatness of You and this extra specialness of You above all things. And I can’t explain and I don’t want to and I don’t want to read someone elses explanation. I just want to be awed. I just want to respond like Ezekiel and watch in wonder until You show Yourself and then I want to fall on my face and just be allowed to be in Your presence and be overwhelmed by You.

 
I guess it takes me back to Isaiah 55. Isaiah is hearing from You, Lord, and You say, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” I mean, who is the wicked or unrighteous man here? Maybe the wicked and unrighteous is a broader spectrum than we like to admit. Maybe I fall in that spectrum. Maybe I fall there because I think too much of my way and my thoughts and interpretations. After all, You tell us outright “[M]y thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

 
I don’t just want to interpret You or have You interpreted. I want to see You and hear You and follow You and be moved by Your Spirit in all I do. Isaiah continues with Your words, “So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Your word is not static. When You say it shall be, hayah, it’s because it is becoming all that it is intended to become. It is doing. It is living. It is acting and being acted upon. It is accomplishing. It is delighting You. It is prospering and benefiting and bringing Your will to pass. It is being sent and being received. It is being heard and obeyed. Like the revolution of those wheels it, or rather, You are the center of our being and becoming.

 
I want to just sit back and take in the vision around Your throne. I want to remember who You are, that You are more than I can handle so that I let You be God, and I let You handle things and I let You handle me. I want the One who is glorious enough to create and control creatures as grand as those beings to control me by Your spirit. I don’t ever want to make You less than You are. I want You to be fully You in my mind and my life. I want to glory in You being God and You knowing more than me and being so capable that I understand what it is to fear the Lord. After all, when was the last time I fell on my face and trembled over You?

Baby Steps

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Photo credit to kellyandknapland.com

 

“Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” Daniel 12:10

 
Would it make you feel better to know that really bad times were coming, I mean, instead of them just sneaking up on you? Or is a bad time a bad time whether you expect it or not? Because here is Daniel, in his vision, being told that this difficult stuff is going to happen for what I take as a long time. And nobody is going to know how long, until they start going through it. And then those who belong to God will get it, and understand. But I don’t think it will make the time any shorter.

 
Here’s another interesting thing, all this hard stuff will scatter the power of the holy people. It’s happened before in the Jewish diaspora when persecution forced the believing Jews into other lands. And even though it was a bad thing to be persecuted, it wound up being good for the spread of the Gospel into the world. If I look around today, I see that going on in other countries. I also see terrible things molding men and women of God into beacons of light shining throughout the world. In some places, many die, and few survive. Why? I do know that those few who are surviving and living to tell about it, tell and walk with the beauty of God. Their lives will never be the same. They have lost everything of value to man’s standards. But they have gained You, Lord.

 
Through these terrible events and persecutions in life, “many shall be purified.” What does that mean, really? And how? It’s this Hebrew word barar. It’s about clarifying, examining, brightening, selecting, chasing, cleaning, polishing, and purging. David, in 2 Samuel 22:27 thought about this when he said, “With the pure You will show Yourself pure, and with the fraudulent You will show Yourself unsavory.” Now two different words for pure are used here. The first pure, the people who are seen and made pure and choose purity, they are the kind of pure like gold made pure and refined through the smelting process. Over and over again in the Old Testament we find that same Hebrew word tahor used of pure gold that is appointed for use for God. But God, You Yourself will show Yourself pure to those who are made pure. What does that mean?

 
This time the Hebrew word used is barar. That one I shared in our original verse that brought us here. Remember that word is all about clarifying, examining, selecting, being chosen, being clean, being polished and purged. It’s also about being complete and perfected. Its equivalent in the Greek would be eklektos or the elect. You could replace any of those and they would make sense. But what does it mean? How does this impact who You are and who I am?

 
Now there is more to language study here than I am capable of so let’s listen to someone who knows more than me. “There is also another twist to this mystery and that is that this word pure is a Niphal participle when used in reference to us and is in a Hithpail imperfect form when used in reference to God. So this is really rendered: ‘With those who are making themselves pure (or complete, elected, chosen), God will make himself pure (or complete, elected, chosen). This kind of brings us back to the old question, can we make ourselves pure, completed, elected or chosen? Does God have to make Himself pure, completed, elected or chosen?” ( http://www.chaimbentorah.com ) Actually, I don’t know if I have ever thought about this before. But think about it.

 
The Jewish sages thought about this and it was baffling. “How did God who is infinite manage to communicate with human beings who are finite? When the infinite meets the finite, one of them must, by logical necessity, become the other. Either we become infinite or God becomes finite.” Now this was the thinking of a Jewish rabbi. How many people really understood how and why God had to come down to earth as a human? I doubt that rabbi really understood at the time. But think about the immensity of the truth and its impact here.

 
We don’t have the capacity to become God. But God came to earth as Jesus. He experienced the flesh for us, something the spirit cannot experience. He knew hunger and pain. Jesus was willing to meet us where we were, on our level, for His glory and our good. Bara, as purity or perfection, is God meeting us where we are. It’s us working on our purity and Him making Himself known at that level.

 
The leper was impure but he sought to be pure and the only way he knew how was to depend on and cry out to Jesus. Jesus met him where he was, in the middle of his impurity, and cleansed him. The prodigal was lost but his heart turned and he returned to the father, still full of shame and in tatters, but the Father ran out to meet him. He didn’t just stay waiting for him to enter his door. He ran to him. Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride and arrogance, but there were even times when Nebuchadnezzar stretched out his hand and heart to God, and pagan king that he was, God met him where he was. Purity isn’t about a static nature of being. It’s about a state of becoming, continual becoming, where we choose to take steps in walking in God’s purity and God meets us there in our baby steps and magnifies Himself in us.

 
Have you ever cried out, “This is too much for me, Lord!” Well, of course it is on our own. So take the baby step. Take the next step. Step by step we are grown into His perfection and purity. It won’t ever happen all at once. It’s a learning process and God loves to walk with us as we learn. It’s ok to be a learner. After all, that’s what a disciple is, someone learning under a teacher. Did you think Peter was perfect? Ever? He was continually being perfected, continually learning. We all are, until the day we die, and then in eternity, I think it will continue in a more glorious way.

 
So here we are, created to try and accomplish purity one decision at a time. It happens experience by experience, situation by situation, and only we can apply the right context to it. Do I see it as a blessing, a learning experience, or a judgment from God? My outlook and step will determine where God finds me. When my children stray, or my car breaks down, or I lose my job, or there is death or disaster or persecution, do I make myself pure by bringing You into it, God? Do I just stand there and feel sorry for myself, or complain, or calculate the bills, or walk away from everything, or give up? Or do I ask how I can walk closer to You and take a step closer to meeting You? Could I choose to learn trust? Could I choose to learn patience? Could I choose to understand Your sovereignty? Could I just let You love on me? Could I learn dependence on You? My choices and the way I walk in purity determines where You meet me and when. I can walk away like the prodigal or Nebuchadnezzar, but then I won’t meet You again until I choose to walk back to where You are waiting to run to meet me.

 
I should expect to be put in situations that will give me the opportunity to choose Your purity in my life. I should also expect these things to be hard for me. We won’t all go through physical pain, but my emotional or spiritual trials are just as significant. God, You know where we need to be refined. Will I surrender to that refining? It’s only when I surrender that You can meet me there. That’s when You make me white, laban in Hebrew. But I have to realize that this kind of cleansing of me takes purging and purging isn’t easy. And I have to understand and accept the purging. I have to step into the wash vat, and let myself be cleansed. Life does that. Even before the first sin, that first choice between the tree of life and the tree of good and evil, was an opportunity for Adam and Eve to choose purity, to choose to remain white, to pass the test. Only now, life is filled with many more opportunities to succeed in purity or to fail. But the truth is, we don’t have to fail, and neither did Adam and Eve.

 
We are tried daily, moment by moment. This is the Hebrew word tsaraph. It’s when things are fused, refined, tested. We get to learn moment by moment that we are not God. We get to learn moment by moment to depend on the One who is, who created us to thrive in Him. Yes, it’s hard. Sometimes it’s so hard we don’t know how to go on. But there, in that moment is the opportunity for purity and whitening and passing the test. We realize, “I can’t do this but I can step forward trusting in You, the One who is able, and I can know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that You will meet me, here, where I am waiting for You, and You will be everything I need to get through this moment, and the next, and the next…”

 
Which takes me to verse 12 in Daniel. “Blessed is he that waits, and comes to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.” “Blessed is he that waits.” What does it mean to wait here? It’s this Hebrew word chakah. It means to adhere, like piercing. Let’s see it in another context. “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18) This word translated here as longing is that same word chakah. It’s about a “state of expectant presence.” There is a yearning for fulfillment. It’s like a child waiting for Christmas. Imagine God yearning to be gracious to us. That helps me to see the prodigal reunion more strongly. This Father was waiting every moment like Christmas morning was coming! He was waiting and expecting.

 
So here is how God is waiting for us and wholeheartedly wanting to bless us, to shower us with all that is Himself. So what’s stopping You, God? If You want it that much, then what’s getting in the way? Is it because You can’t? Absolutely not! Nothing can thwart Your plans. You are sovereign. Then what? Who receives the blessing? Those who long as much for You as You long for us. “Blessed are all they that wait (long) for Him.” Your longing is completed in our longing. You fill the empty who make room for You. You long for us to long for You because then You meet us there and we find You.

 
It’s not about feelings, either. I mean, yes, they are involved, but it’s more than feelings. Chaka is God’s adherence to who He is and to us. Think of that piercing part of the root. He is so adhered to returning us to Him and to His glory and our well-being in Him, that He pierced Himself through because of His longing for us! Do I have that kind of longing for You, Lord? You demonstrated Your “willingness to do whatever is required to bring redemption and rescue to us, including sacrificial death.” (Skip Moen) Does our longing, our chakah convert into that kind of behavior for You? Does my human behavior demonstrate willingness to do whatever it takes to honor and glorify You? When our longings match Yours, You pour Yourself out on us.

 
Am I willing to be pierced for You? Do I long for You as much as You long for me? Am I afraid of being hurt or receiving pain? Am I too ready to forget that You are my strength and my shield and my sword? Have I forgotten that I’m a leper but I don’t have to stay there? Have I forgotten that You called the little children unto You and didn’t hinder them? Am I a child who comes with the excitement of seeing Christmas at its best or do I hang back and lose out or walk away?

 
The steps aren’t easy. They hurt. They change me. They push and shove and rip and mold me into something I wasn’t when I started. But I didn’t start out as pure gold. And I’m not there yet. But every step, every trial, every trouble, every moment, and every response is an opportunity to cling more tightly to You, to long for Your ways, to step into the fire so I can meet You and You can meet where I’m at. Would I be willing to step into the fire and die like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Why not? Because either way, I would meet with You. Keep working in me, Lord, through every situation and trial, to increase my longing for You and Your ways. May my steps continually bring me closer and closer to You. Thank You for meeting us where we are. There is no God like You!

Vehement Exploits

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“…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” (Daniel 11:32)

 
Here is the angelic being in the book of Daniel, telling of coming conquerors, and one who “shall return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land.” This is one who is busy doing wickedly, conspiring with those who despise God and His people, polluting the sanctuary and making it an abomination before all. And here is this word used, this word exploit, and I really wanted to understand it’s meaning, as to how strong this word was back then, because I see it being used for the faithful also not many verses down. Only, surprise of surprises, that’s not the word of the original Hebrew.

 
But let’s look at the exploits of this ruler for a moment anyway. I can’t help but think of how he is honing in on the people of God, focussing on oppressing their beliefs. And this is not gentle bullying.  It’s like what’s spoken of in Psalm 146:7-8,  (when we think of who’s doing the oppressing and how) “Who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.” These are the oppressed, the ‘ashaq of Hebrew thinking. It’s a guttural word. “Gerstenberger points out that guttural words like this one are almost always connected to some form of violent or aggressive action in nearly all Semitic languages.”(Skip Moen) This word, at it’s root, is connected with the words “destroy,” “deal violently with,” “slaughter,” and “quarrel.” It’s a threat against well-being and focussed on “negatively construed actions and states.”

 
This is more than “injustice.” It’s violent. It’s truly abusing and taking advantage of others terribly. It’s inhumane and godless actions towards others. God will judge the perpetrators for their violence. But who are the exploited, the ones violently mistreated? The righteous! The Lord, YOU, protect Your own. You vindicate us. We, believers, Your people, are the ones who will be found being exploited. We will be the hungry, the imprisoned, the humbled and blind. Have I ever experience this kind of treatment? Or am I too much like the world and not enough like You that the world would be offended by me as it was by You?

 
Am I rejected and exploited, then maybe I’ve found true success. Does Satan feel threatened by my stand? Is he trying to reak terrible and violent damage against me? Then I should know I’m doing just fine. God loves me and has given Himself that I might give myself away for Him. What am I doing with me? Is my life my own or is it truly Yours? What am I willing to do? What length will I go? How far shall I be spent? Will my dying to self be total?

 
By context or association, our interpreters of the King James Version translated the Hebrew asah as doing exploits. Well, asah is about doing in many senses. It’s how You brought the firmament into existence and how You enabled the fruit tree to bear fruit. It’s what You did when You took and formed Eve from Adam. It’s the serpent’s actions and choices in tempting man and woman in the garden. It’s the action and thinking in Cain taking the life of his brother. I suppose it’s more than exploits and sometimes less than but this is always about choices and actions that follow. And it’s about how greatly we can decide to do and live out that which seems to benefit ourselves yet violently disregards others, as well as God. Or, it can be about how greatly we can decide to do and be and live out that which delights God, so that it delights us, and benefits all those around us even though it appears to bring our own earthly demise.

 
See, the people of God, well, we don’t need man’s flatteries. We know You and we desire Your praise and Your presence. We know You. It’s all about yada. We know the vehemence of Your feelings for us. We know the measure of Your love and devotion. We know that You are going to vindicate us, more than MacArthur returning to the Philippines. We know Your passion. We know Your power. We know with our emotions, our will, and our intellect, every part of our being.

 
This is what You have always been about, God. “For I desired loyal love, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”(Hosea 6:6) What more loyal love has been displayed than Yours for Your people? What more loyal love has there ever been than the unselfish sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah upon the cross? If yada includes “an act involving concern, inner engagement, dedication, or attachment to a person,” (Heschel) then didn’t God first demonstrate that for us? If it “also means to have sympathy, pity or affection for someone,” didn’t God go beyond that?

 
Nations were rising up and doing things for their glory, creating life the way they wanted it to be, and doing whatever they wanted to without any dedication or attachment to anyone but themselves. The fruit of that tree is violence towards others who stand in the way. I mean just look at the first example of the one who first turned away from God and sought after his own ambitions- Satan. And what came of that? Violence against all who would side with God, the One who stands in his way. Our actions speak the volumes of what is in our hearts or the lack thereof. Great doing in opposition to God leads to terrible exploitation. It’s so sad that we would come to so emphatically do that which defies our very purpose of existence.

 
But there are people who know God, who experience His affections for them and reciprocate them. There are people who God engages with and are engaged with Him. These are those who do and create and live vehemently for the One they know because He makes Himself known in and through them. They live extraordinarily and they die extraordinarily. They suffer extraordinarily and they shine extraordinarily. They have strength that surpasses knowledge in the midst of persecution. They have understanding and teach others. They fall by the sword and by flame and captivity and spoil, yes, they fall but shall never be broken. Why? “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

 
Therefore, don’t be afraid of prophecy and rulers whether here or to come. Instead, choose whose side you will be on. For those of us who choose You, Lord, You too will choose to be on our side and we will not have to fear in the midst of all this. After all, whatever man can do onto me is only temporary, not eternal. I want to boldly say and believe and live in the truth that You are my Helper so that I will not fear what man shall do unto me. I want You to be great in me. I want to cling to You all the days of my life here on earth and into eternity. Though I be violently exploited, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like deer feet, and will make me to walk upon my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:18,19)

Strength in Your Touch

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“And, behold, a hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.” Daniel 10:10

 
When I first learned of Jesus as a child of five years old, the thing that attracted me to Him most was the fact that He reached out and touched, that He let the little children come unto Him. And here we have Daniel, who was fasting and praying and pouring his sorrowful heart out before the Lord, not only for himself but for his nation, his people. For three full weeks he ate nothing but plain, basic food (probably just what would sustain him to have energy to be faithful to his responsibilities), he drank no wine, and did not anoint himself with oil which I suppose would be like using aftershave for a pleasant odor. Something was on his heart and he was lifting it up to You Lord, and looking for and expecting an answer.

 
Well, because You are a God who reaches out and touches us, Daniel looked up one day and there he saw a man unlike any other. But the people around him didn’t see this vision. Instead, they trembled and in fear, fled and hid themselves leaving Daniel to himself and this man unlike any other. Daniel was not unaffected by the sight and presence before him. He lost all strength. All his goodness or loveliness of body and character was destroyed and void in the presence of this man. He was nothing but a spineless jellyfish in comparison. And at the sound of his voice, he was cast into a deep sleep prostrate, face down on the ground. Now imagine that the word for that deep sleep can also imply death. This is serious fear here. This is serious power.

 
Yet, here is this “man” who is not a man of earth, with such a foreboding presence and what does he do to Daniel? He reaches out his hand and touches Daniel, setting him up on his knees and on the palms of his hands. In other words, he begins to help him up. And as he is helping him up in his presence, he begins to speak words of encouragement to him. “Daniel, you are greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto you, and stand upright: for unto you am I sent.” And Daniel stood, still trembling.

 
There was something about this “man” that continued to be more than Daniel could handle so he continued his encouragement, “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to chasten yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I am come for your words.” Do you know why it took three weeks, the length of time Daniel had been seeking God’s wisdom? The man visitor had been hindered fighting spiritual battles with Michael, the archangel, against the spiritual forces of the kings of Persia. Daniel’s prayers were a part of fighting that battle.

 
So this angelic man prepares to tell Daniel about what shall befall his people in the latter days and again Daniel’s face is to the ground and he became speechless. Come on now, this is a fearful thing. This isn’t the normal stuff of men here. And another being comes, like the “sons of men” and touches Daniel’s lips and opens his mouth so he can speak. Yet, even so, Daniel announced he was to weak to breath, and he was strengthless. So now one like the appearance of a man came and touched him and strengthened him and again encouraged him, “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto you, be strong, yes, be strong.” And he was able to be strong and speak in his presence.

 
“Do you know why I am coming unto you?” he asked Daniel. And I’m wondering if it’s more of a statement like, “You know why I’ve come to you.” And now this “other” is going to continue the spiritual warfare that has been going on, that spiritual battle that Daniel has been praying over and seeking God. the battle of spiritual forces vying for control over Persia and those to effect Greece. But the truth of scripture concerning it all, the spiritual realms and the effects on men will be made clear to Daniel. Why? Because there were very few, almost none, holding faithfully and clinging to this fight but Michael, Israel’s prince. And I can’t help but think that Daniel was included.

 
Can you imagine a spiritual battle over extreme evil forces being fought by only three? And imagine that one of those fighting that extreme battle and not even realizing it, was a mere man? And God loved him dearly for it! I don’t know if this man angel was Christ or not, but he sure touched like Jesus does and he sure imparted strength and power like Jesus does, and he sure encouraged like Jesus does. But I love to think about why he came and touched Daniel and why Daniel was so beloved by God and the angels.

 
Here is this man, this man set above most other men, and yet all he wanted to do was know and understand and walk in the ways of His heavenly Father and Master and Lord and King. His eyes, no matter what was going on around him, were not distracted by wealth or disaster or love or anything. His eyes were so firmly seeking after You, Lord. He was completely Yours; You were his everything. And You always reach out and touch those who seek You.

 
And even if there is only one in all the world, “the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) Now, it’s not hard for God to search the whole world over. He can do it in a blink of an eye. He’s not just searching the world for good people doing good things. He’s not even searching for that at all. That’s not impressive to Him. That’s why Daniel fell in fear and the others ran. Goodness doesn’t cut the cake compared to God’s goodness. He’s looking for those “committed to His purposes” so He can make them strong in a world that is not committed.

 
When this “angelic man being” tells Daniel that none holds with him, it’s this Hebrew word chazaq. It’s about holding fast and standing with strength. It’s about God loaning us His power like when Daniel was afraid and enabling him to get up and speak. But He only does this when we are in line with His purposes and not ours. Because Daniel’s heart was in line with God’s heart, God laid on his heart those things to pray for and God gave him power to prevail even in the spiritual realm over the nations.

 
This is the kind of heart attitude and life attitude that God reaches out and touches. This is good news because we can turn our hearts to God like that. It’s not making the right choice in life or doing the right thing that brings power and fulfillment. It’s the One we choose to line our life and being up with. Success is about our goals being in line with God’s purposes. Why? Because success isn’t about what we attain. It never was. Success is all about being touched by God, having a relationship restored with Him, being His wholly and unabashedly, being the image of Him in this world that we were created to be, and delighting in Him every moment of every day. Wow! Our goals have gotten so messed up, haven’t they?

 
We’ve gone from relationship with a God who wants to joy in our presence and us in His, to a people who run after “domination, expansion, protection, success, and fame.” We settle for momentary pleasure instead of eternal pleasure. We even fight battles for it. And then someone comes along and tells us the “bad” news that this isn’t the way. There’s not just a better way; it’s the Only Way. But will we align our lives with God’s way? Do we even care to feel His touch? Do we want to know His power and His strength? Do we really want to see what He sees and fight for what He fights for?

 
I’ll never feel Your loving touch like Daniel did, or the woman with the bleeding issue, or the children at Your knee, or John as he leaned his head upon You until and unless I align my will and ways with Yours. Do I want to be on my own?  Do I want everything I do to be numbered?  Do I want to fall and my plans to fall with me? Am I completely mine or will I be completely Yours?  Only one leads to You and to Your fellowship and Your touch and Your strength. Is my heart completely Yours?

 
Let the world turn its back to me. I want You to touch me and raise me up and give me strength that I might hold with You always. It’s funny, the religious leaders of Your day, Jesus, on earth wouldn’t touch other people’s burdens, but here You are, bearing our burdens with us. You touched Naman and other lepers no one would touch. You touched sick people whose family’s sought You for their healing. You touched the blind so they could see. And let’s not forget the crippled. Well, I’m like them all. I’m sick of spirit without Your touch. I’m blind and crippled without You. I’m an unholy cast off unless You do something inside of me. I’m just as desperate as Daniel for You, Lord, and I need Your touch just as much to raise me up and make me who I need to be in You. I want to be wholly Yours, Lord. Help my weakness so that You turn it into strength in You.

Oh, To Be Greatly Beloved

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“At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I am come to declare it; for you are greatly beloved; therefore look into the word, and understand the vision.” (Daniel 9:23)

 
Can you imagine God sending Gabriel, an angel who stands before Him waiting for His command, coming to you and telling you that God has heard your prayers and made a declaration according to them and, to top it all off, that you are greatly beloved? Now I’m going to leave arguments over the prophesy to others today. But I want to examine Daniel’s heart. I want to see what it is that causes God to delight in someone like that.

 

Why? Because I want to be that kind of a person. I want God to experience shear delight in me. Isn’t that what we were created for? Isn’t that part and parcel with glorifying God?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts off by asking this question, “What is the chief end of man?” And then it answers, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Where did they get this from? Well, you can read Psalm 86, Isaiah 60:21, Romans 11:36, and 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 10:31 to see. But don’t forget to look at the clincher in Revelation 4:11, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for You have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.” Am I bringing God pleasure with my life? Am I fulfilling my God-given purpose on this earth? Or have I given myself some other foreign purpose? And if I have adopted some foreign purpose for my life, is that really even living at all?

 
I can’t help but think how fully alive Daniel was. He’s lived through at least two kingdoms being overthrown, probably the death of his parents or at least total separation from them and another nation trying to wipe away his identity. But how does he respond? He holds on to his identity, but not with bitterness, and clings to You God and Your ways in a nation where it was anything but easy. But it’s as though he were living for You and living to please You in all he was. He wouldn’t eat what would be unpleasing to You. He wasn’t rude to those around him or why would they find favor in him? Was that a typical Jewish response to Gentiles and overthrowers? That was a God response in a young man or boy who cherished You.

 
He didn’t stop there. As a man, he not only wanted to save his life and that of his Jewish brothers, but cared for the lives of the other “wise” men and trusted You for the interpretation of the king’s dream. But he was not self-confident. He asked his brothers to pray and fast and did likewise because His confidence was in You, the One he delighted in. Even fear of the king’s anger at the outcome of a dream did not hold him back from sharing Your truth.

 
How boldly he stood before Belshazzar when summoned, probably in his 70’s and yet he had not forgotten all that You had done before. He held Belshazzar accountable before You and the people for not remembering and being moved to action by what he knew about You. He was so delighted in You that he cared nothing for the rewards offered by the king.

 
On the other hand, You were so delighted in Daniel that when the kingdom was overthrown, You gave those rewards and more to Daniel anyway. Because of You and his love and honor of You in everything, Daniel’s character stood out in every reign and he was continually chosen as a leader and advisor even to the kings. Which brings me back to this saying, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2)

 
I can’t help bringing up this verse again and again. What does it mean, especially in context today? I mean, God, You are continually concealing things and giving us, like Daniel and the kings, things we need to search out but that You know the answer to. And maybe that’s the point. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing. You carry the weight of knowing everything and when is the right time to reveal it and who are the right people to reveal it to lest it be like pearls trampled by the swine. But is it really only for kings to search it out? Or do we receive the honor of a king, are we acting like a king ought to act, when we, whoever we are, like Daniel search out every matter according to You and in You? Daniel was not a king and yet he received the glory of a king by kings and from You. Why?

 
Could it be because Daniel delighted in the King of kings? It’s so hard for us to grasp this since we live in a democracy because Your kingdom God is not a democracy. You are King. If Your thumb is up we live, if down, we die. What You say goes, despite what we say. Skip Moen shares, “It is the King’s right and prerogative to involve himself in any aspect of any life under His authority. Furthermore, since God is the King of all the earth, everything belongs to Him. He doesn’t have to prove ownership in a court of law. He cannot be stripped of His property. What He decides to do with His possessions (including you and me) is entirely up to Him. And He holds everyone under His domain accountable for their treatment and stewardship of His resources. There are consequences for refusing to live according to the will of the King. In the days when we are awash in political rhetoric and the promises of leadership, it is well to remember who the King really is. No matter who we choose to lead us, they must answer to Him. So must we for our choosing. If we choose leadership that does not honor Him, we will pay the price. There is only one King, and He is not on the ballot.” And Daniel shows us how to live according to the True King who is not on the world’s ballot.

 
Kings would be wise to search out matters God’s way who conceals and reveals. But it’s not just for kings. We can reap the honor of kings, and especially our King, to live as the kings aren’t living, to love the One the kings aren’t loving, to honor the One the kings ought to honor. Earthly kings and kingdoms are temporary. Come on, look at history. But the True King and His Kingdom are forever. Like Daniel, I better learn how to live under and for Him now. Like Daniel, I want to love and enjoy service under my King all the days of my life.

 
Daniel’s heart was so sensitive to You Lord. He not only thought of himself but of those around him. He lifted up the whole nation and advocated for them, identifying in their sin against You. He set his face unto You. You alone were His source of help and sustenance and answer to the things he didn’t understand. He was serious about hearing from You, so serious he fasted and prayed. He knew You and knew Your word. He sought You out everywhere, looking for Your evidences all around him. There was confusion and shame where You were not, but righteousness with You, and that, or rather You were what he sought. From You and in You were the mercy and forgiveness he sought. He understood that they belonged to You and weren’t just things You gave out. To find them, one must be in relationship with the One who emits mercy and forgiveness because they are part of His essence.

 

Daniel had been doing the job the kings should have done, seeking answers from God. But they weren’t. But since he was, God delighted in his delighting and gave him the answer of kings from Himself, the King of all.  And You send Gabriel to bring the answer to this man who has been spending his life delighting in You, to this man who You hold as beloved. You send this angel named Gabriel from Your presence into his, to share a prophecy. Now, whether that was concerning “Messiah the Prince,” search it out like a true king, I won’t tell you. But the next two times that Gabriel shows up, he’s telling Zacharias that his son will be a forerunner before the Lord, and he tells Mary that her son will be called “the Son of the Most High.”

 
There are a lot of things in our lives that aren’t clear to us, a lot that is concealed before us. If I want to know the truth about it, I need to seek it out from one Source, God alone. I need to stop living like the world and start living like You and loving like You and delighting in You above everything else around me. I need to be willing to sacrifice my comfort in this world, to be comforted by and in You. If You aren’t my most beloved then how can I expect to be Your beloved? We reap what we sow, right? How much of myself am I truly sowing in You? When I think of all that You have sown into people who continually fail You and disregard You, I am amazed and shocked. Because I have been one of those. And yet You love me, and gave Your Christ to return me into Your glory that I might love and serve You again and be loved by You. I guess we’ve always been loved. But it’s maybe greater to be beloved because it’s a reciprocal relationship experienced and treasured by both parties. That’s the kind of relationship Daniel had. And that’s the kind of relationship I want, no matter the cost.

Clinging Tighter Than Our Lives

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“And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many…” Daniel 8:25

 
Did you ever imagine that peace, yes, PEACE, could be destructive? Could these words of Daniel written 2,500 years ago be important to us today? Should they make us stop and think? Should they cause us to be moved and to change our thinking and actions? Daniel saw this vision from God, heard it’s interpretation from the angel Gabriel at God’s command, and became weak to fainting and sick. And even after he got over that, the things he had seen still made him feel numb. And still he couldn’t put it all together. But here’s the point: He didn’t walk away unaffected. He carried those thoughts with him and they affected his whole being.

 
Maybe it would be beneficial to take time out to think about what Daniel was shown. His vision is about kings rising to power and then being overthrown by other kings with other kingdoms. This is actually a vision given right before King Belshazzar was overthrown and it tells of his destruction. So knowing that must have made Daniel uneasy. After all, he had already been through the destruction of his own kingdom, and seen the death and havoc it rained on those he cared for. Now to see that again? But this wasn’t just a vision of now, for David. It was a vision that stretched to the end times. How near were they?

 
Lord, You didn’t just give this vision to Daniel for people of his time to be aware. You gave this vision to Daniel so we could be aware today also. Because Your vision has not yet been completed. It is still coming to be. Even now, we are somewhere in that latter time of the kingdom. Even today we may be in the time of the king with the fierce countenance and understanding of stratagems.

 

What could that mean to have a fierce countenance? It could mean Hebraicly that your face, your personage exhibits strength, vehemency, harshness, power, or greed. It could be that you are hardened and that your self is puffed up in it’s own strength, like what happens with so many leaders. Here’s someone who is coming who will understand stratagems. Understand that stratagems can be conceit, tricks, and being good with lots of wordiness about philosophy and general principals.

 
But this leader, who will have power, well, it won’t be his own. I wonder then from whom this power is imparted to him? Who gives him this power to “destroy wonderfully”? That word for wonderful can mean miraculously. That’s pretty scary. I mean, Jesus came to seek and save and did and does so miraculously and we know that His power is of God. “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56) So who comes to destroy them?

 
Jesus discussed this with His disciples and for our benefit. “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Who is the thief? It’s not God because God gave Jesus as the Good Shepherd. But there is also a thief at work trying to destroy God’s work by destroying His workmanship- the people of God, His beloved.

 
Well, let’s continue to search for who this ruler’s power comes from. Who is the thief of thieves? Peter warned believers, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” (1 Peter 4:15) Obviously, these characteristics are not of God, not a part of being in Christ. Jesus Himself accused some men of these characteristics and let’s see who He equated that with: “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

 
Think about it. What will it be like to be under a ruler who is full of the power of deception given from his father, the devil? Think about him or her prospering, pushing forward, doing his will. And what is his will? What is Satan’s will? He’s a defeated foe. How do they act? I think of Japan in the Philippines when they knew the Americans were coming back and they would be defeated. I have a friend who was there, living in Manila. His dad was working for the Japanese, (actually telling secrets about them to the resistance!) and the Japanese he was working with liked him and his kids. So one day, they told my friend’s father, “Get your family and leave because all the people will be gathered into the fields and slaughtered.” Defeated enemies can be terribly violent. This is the type of enemy that the devil is.

 
His aim will be to use this man to destroy God’s people, the mighty and holy ones of God. Who are these mighty and holy ones of God? That’s you and I if we are His. And how will this leader empowered by Satan do that? By his policy, the way he uses his intelligence and understanding, deceit and fraud and subtlety and treachery will be employed to its fullest. And people will be sucked in to this way of thinking. He’ll be puffed up in his own heart which will lead others to be puffed up in their own hearts. And get this, by peace he shall destroy many! Can you imagine that? We all cry out for peace and he will use peace to destroy. How is that?

 
The Hebrew word here for peace is shalvah. It’s about security. It incorporates abundance, peace, prosperity, and quietness. It’s what the world is looking for in itself but what can only really be found in God. So this leader, under Satan’s influence will give it to everyone the world’s way and deceive them into thinking that security in things and power, and abundance in wealth and possession, and quietness between people and nations is the goal of life. Now here’s the scary part. As a society, actually as societies all over the world, the majority are already buying into this way of thinking. Terrorism is at our door but we choose to believe the lie that all people are good. So we don’t act upon the facts but upon our false feelings. And it’s not just people who don’t know Christ. It’s among people who call themselves believers and yet don’t act like You. Instead, believers are clinging to the security of their government instead of God. We fight Islam with weapons instead of the power of God’s word and God’s love. We choose comfort and abundance and quietness instead of sacrifice. It’s not just the problem of those on the outside. We’ve allowed ourselves to become deceptively corrupted from Your intent. And it’s time that it made us weak inside and sick like it did Daniel. But does it?

 
One day You are going to show us that our beautiful big homes that we feel so secure in, have no security at all. Just let an earthquake or Tsunami or flood or fire come, and then what? Where will our security be? One day, banks will fail, or we will be robbed, or lose our job, or so many financial things will happen at once that we’ll wonder what happened to our abundance we were relying on. And what happens when something happens to my happy family and it’s not so happy and peaceful any more? Where will I be then? What happens when my quietness I have rejoiced in becomes loneliness? What benefit is that kind of peace?

 
Here’s the thing. Our peace must be in something Other than this. Paul shared, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) Our peace must come through God in Jesus Christ. Our peace and our existence is only found in Him. And in Him we are given the ability to spread that peace to others, that’s that perfection He is bringing about in us to do His will, His way, by His power to make Himself known in those He created to be His vessels.

 
Satan would have us believe that we are our own vessels, dropped here by chance to shape ourselves. But that is total deception and total emptiness. It’s deception of the worst kind because it’s willful maliciousness to turn our hearts to believe that and to disbelieve God’s purpose for us. This is such a tragedy! Jesus wept over it. In Luke 19:42 we hear His voice, “If you had only known today what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden, so you cannot see it.” Today, do I know what will truly bring me peace? Or have I chosen to let it be hidden from me and unattainable?

 
Jesus, You wanted us to understand this so badly. You kept telling Your disciples and by that, You keep telling us. “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you My peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.”( John 14:27) And right before He would be taken captive toward the cross, “I’ve told you this so that My peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There is a different kind of peace, an eternal peace that overcomes the hardships and tragedies and heartaches and deceptions of this world. The question is, which peace will I cling unto? Will I cling to a self-serving peace that will be destroyed, that is a lie? Or will I cling to the Prince of Peace who will reign forever and invites me to the security of His presence throughout eternity?

 
Life’s not easy and peace won’t be found permanently in this world system. But I agree with Paul, that the “momentary” suffering I could ever experience here on earth could never surpass the peace of being with You eternally. And Paul’s not talking about light afflictions here. He knew of afflictions and suffering and persecution that led to death. And he believed it was all worth it to know You and to be with You, Lord, and so do I. So, let me conclude by sharing Paul’s words to us: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-17) So may we become weak and sick over the deception that surrounds us and use that to be appalled by it so that we rise up and cling tighter than our lives to the peace and security that is only found in God through Jesus Christ our risen, living, and intervening Savior and Lord.

Pondering Divine Sunglasses

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“Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.” (Daniel 7:28)

 
So, some of those words aren’t words we use much nowadays, but it made me think about the intensity of feelings this dream left with Daniel. Daniel had a dream, a vision given from God, and it was pretty intense. It was so intense that he was “grieved in [his] spirit in the amidst of [his] body, and the visions of [his] head troubled [him].” So he asked one of the bystanders in the vision what it meant. He wanted to know the “truth” of it.

 
Four kings would arise out of the earth but the saints of the most High would take the kingdom and possess it for ever and ever. But there was a fourth beast with ten horns and another little one comes up with three of the first horns plucked up by the roots. And then comes the vision of the Ancient of Days with garment white as snow, hair like pure wool, a throne like a fiery flame, wheels like burning fire, and a fiery stream from before Him. Ministering around him were too many to be counted. And there’s more, but you can go back and read it and dig into it for yourself.

 
All I know is that this vision and it’s interpretation was not only hard to grasp so that Daniel needed help but that even starting to grasp it was terrifying to Daniel’s thoughts or cogitations so much so that it altered his whole mood. But he didn’t dismiss it. He kept the matter in his heart. Now, heart for the Hebrew (leb) isn’t just that organ inside that pumps blood or what we think of when we think of strong emotions. Putting something in your heart was about your feelings, your will, and your intellect. It wasn’t just about your thoughts or feelings. Your will is what you do. So, when the Psalmist says, “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You,” he’s not just talking of tucking an emotion or memory away. He’s talking of tucking that emotion and knowledge in so deeply that it effects his will and actions. So too was this vision for Daniel.

 
Daniel didn’t just remember this vision as a vague memory attached to strong feelings. It now colored how he looked at events in life around him. It was as though God gave him a pair of divine sunglasses to think about things in the world. Daniel would now look at his world expecting to see, expecting to spot these kings, these events. Daniel was walking in faith because he didn’t just tuck God’s word away in some crevice of his brain.

 
I think of someone else like that. Her name was Mary and she was young and was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And she had no idea how it would all pan out, only that it would come to pass, because the angel sent by God had said so. There was that day that God chose to have Mary give birth to Jesus in that little sheep cave of a stable. And these shepherds see angels declaring “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12) And here was this multitude of angels praising God and saying, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” So the shepherds run to see this baby and tell of all that has passed. And other people wondered about those things. They marveled, like, “Wow! That’s amazing!” But Mary kept all those things and pondered them in her heart.

 
What’s the difference between marveling and keeping and pondering? The word for keeping is suntero. It’s when you keep something closely together. It’s remembering mentally and obeying. Mary remembered and held on to these words and happenings in a way that she would act upon them. Marveling is like standing by and watching a really cool air show, seeing some outrageous stunt or a crash, and walking away and living life as usual without it having any effect except to say, “Wow!” But not Mary. She pondered these things in her heart. That’s the word sumballo. It’s like she consulted these things. She considered them over and over again. She used these events to help her as she walked through life. These events became her divine sunglasses through which she saw and interpreted and acted upon life. She understood what Daniel understood, at least on seeing things through God’s perspective.

 
Even when Mary and Joseph “misplaced” Jesus and he had remained behind in Jerusalem dialoguing with the teachers at the temple, we see this attitude again. This is twelve years later for Mary. And Jesus has asked, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” And even though they didn’t understand it all at the time, as Jesus returned with them, Mary kept all these sayings in her heart. It painted and effected how she thought and how she lived out life.

 
I’m not a trained Bible scholar so I’m not going to get into hashing out Daniel’s dream here. But I do care about it and I care about Daniel’s character and how he handled the word of God, whether written Scripture, oral tradition, or visions. And I do care about Mary’s character and how she handled the same, including the life and actions of her own son, our Jesus Christ. And I do care what I can learn from their examples before me.

 
It’s such an easy trap to fall into to intellectualize God’s word, to hide it in my heart by just memorizing and being able to spout it out in a moment’s notice. But that’s not the same as meditating over it and asking God’s help to understand it His way and be able to live it out in my life His way. And Lord, You went so far to make it clear on how to live it, that You sent Jesus to demonstrate it in real life for me and for each person.

 
I know by Daniel’s actions and not just his words that he truly believed and acted upon that belief. Had he been one of the 12 spies sent into the promised land, he would have been a Joshua. Like the Psalmist who shared, “In God I have put my trust: I will not be afraid of what man can do unto me,” (Psalm 56:11) so was Daniel. And Mary was learning the same in a world not favorable to women at all. And each of us has the ability and the wonderful opportunity to learn what it is to truly trust in and rely on a God who cares and is intimately involved with us, a God who sacrificed His only Son for those who had turned from Him and denied His way to follow their own. I mean, how great a love is that?

 

Maybe if we took time to ponder and hide that down in our hearts so that it could take effect and reshape every bit of our being, maybe then our lives would resemble what they were created for- to be Your image bearers, Lord. So today, Lord, let Daniel and Mary and Your working as a living God be our example and may we let You change our thinking and our actions until we are Your spitting images in a world that needs to not only see You and be amazed, but needs to know You and be changed.