The God Who is Able

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“…and who is the god that shall deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:15

 
Of all the questions that King Nebuchadnezzar could have asked, this is the most appropriate. I have to thank the king for asking this question and setting up this whole situation to demonstrate the answer. Because there is no god who can deliver us. But there is one God who can. And it happens to be the same God who placed King Nebuchadnezzar on the throne for such a time as this, whether the king wants to give Him credit or not.

 
Now I have no idea whether this image, this grand idol, that he made was of himself or a god of his choosing. I’m not sure if that really matters. But to set oneself up as a god is a pretty dangerous image of oneself to have. And there will come a point when the one true God will show Himself just that. Hopefully, that’s before it’s too late for the self-elevated ones, that it’s while there is still time to turn to Him instead.

 
But there is more to this story than Nebuchadnezzar’s self-image or than setting up idols. It’s a story of a whole society falling down before a false idol at the command of a “strong man” because of fear. Why would the people fall down before this idol? Because they were afraid of being thrown into a fiery furnace. They were afraid of death. They were afraid of losing their life, their families, their wealth, their position. Rich or poor, they would lose it all by the power of death. So all the people fell down at the sound. Every people group represented bowed. All those people. All except three Jews.

 
Now there were other Jews who did bow down. I know that because there were representatives from every group, from every nation that was there, from every language that was represented there. That’s what was meant by all. And that makes me wonder. How long of a warning did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have to prepare? Did they lie awake at night knowing this moment was coming? Did they discuss what their response would be with fellow Jews? Did their stomachs turn thinking about it? I mean, even Jesus tormented over going to the cross so much so that He sweat drops of blood.

 

What of these men? Was it easy to remain standing when the whole world around them bowed down? I think I would have to be delusional to think this was easy for them.
Yet I do know that these men had made a resolve earlier in their lives, along with Daniel, to glorify the Lord. And it appears that the same resolve remained foremost in their lives. So, because of this resolve, it was told to the king that there were these particular Jews in high position, these three upstarts, who had disregarded the king, who didn’t serve his gods, and who would not bow down and worship the image per his command.

 
You just don’t do that or tell that to a king. He was enraged and commanded they be brought before him. “Is this true? I’m going to give you a second chance, but if you still don’t, it’s the furnace for you!” And I’m wondering why he would give them a second chance? Did he not truly trust the Chaldean accusers? Did he know the character of these three Jews? Even in his fury, did he actually care? Why didn’t he just throw them right in? Was truth and justice actually important to him?

 
The second chance was not accepted. Why not? I think to understand what is happening here, we have to jump back to chapter one and remember who these three young men are. These three young men are not Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Those are their Babylonian names and we’re going to see how important that is. But even more important are their Hebrew names. Shadrach’s real name was Hananiah. It means God has favoured or God is gracious. Remember that. Meshach’s real name was Mishael which means “Who is like God?” And Abednego’s real name was Azariah, meaning “God has helped.” Hold those thoughts. See, names were very important in the ancient world. Names were a representation of who you were. This is what these young men had been brought up to believe and to live in their lives.

 
But now, enter captivity, and Babylon thought, “Ha, the jokes on you guys!” The goal was to meld them to the new culture. So they were given new names. Now pay attention here to the irony of the new names. Hananiah, “God is favoured” became Shadrach, “Command of the Moon-God.” Mishael, “Who is like God?” became “Who is what Aku is?” And Azariah, “God has helped” became Abednego, “Servant of Nabu (the Babylonian god of wisdom).” That’s a funny joke, isn’t it?

 
But the problem was that changing their names didn’t make them forget who they really were. They remained God’s children, regardless of their new names. Which brings me to their answer to King Nebuchadnezzar. I looked back at some of the Jewish translations of 3:17 as well as the King James Version, and do you realize it doesn’t say God is able to deliver us? It says, “If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, He will deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and out of thy hand, O King.” (Daniel 3:17 JPS) At first I thought, I don’t like that. But now it makes so much sense.

 
It’s like they were setting up Nebuchadnezzar and all of Babylon. “Let’s see who is the god who is able to deliver. Is it yours? Or is it ours? Who is God? Let’s see. If our God whom we serve is God, He will be able to deliver us from the fire and from you. If your gods are god, then we are doomed. If you are god, then we are doomed. So let’s see who is the true God? Let’s see if the Moon-god, or Aku, or Nabu are able here or if only God is able. Let’s see who the joke is really on.”

 
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were doing more than taking a stand of faith here. This was about more than three young men being strong on the part of their God. This was about displaying who God was before a whole nation. This was taking back the glory of God who had been ridiculed since they arrived. This was giving God the chance to shine as God before and over this pagan nation and all those that were bowing down to it. It was an opportunity to see God for who He really is and not just what we want to make Him to be.

 
Nebuchadnezzar had asked, “who is the god that shall deliver you out of my hands?” “Our God, Sir, if He alone is God is the One who is able to deliver us. If He is the true God, then He will deliver us from the furnace and from you. If He is not God, He won’t be able to deliver us and we’ll burn. So throw us in, because we’re putting our whole lives into the belief that He is God. We’re willing for you to use us as the guinea pigs, we believe so strongly. Because if it isn’t so, we might as well burn in the furnace anyway, because what would there be to live for?” That’s my paraphrase. You can check out Daniel 3 for their recorded words.

 
The king was so infuriated that he heated up the furnace seven times hotter than usual. He had them thrown in right there. It was so hot that the three guards tossing them in, where killed by the heat. But in they went. And among those amazing circumstances, Nebuchadnezzar is alarmed because though he sent three men inside the furnace, there were now four walking around inside, not burning up! And the other advisors saw and acknowledged it also. And none of those inside were hurt, and “the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” In other words, the fourth man resembled divinity, specifically God as though he were the son of God. Now maybe, Nebuchadnezzar was just saying he resembled divinity as in any son of any god, but I don’t think so. Don’t forget the play on words that was going on, and they all realized the play on words. It wasn’t a mistake. The Babylonians were mocking the God of the Hebrews and now the God of the Hebrews was turning the tables.

 
At that realization, Nebuchadnezzar calls the three men out of the furnace. They come out without even a smoke smell and no evidence of having been in the fire. Their hair and cloaks and bodies were unscathed. And right away, the king speaks, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed’nego, who has sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king’s word, and have yielded their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God…because there is no other god that is able to deliver after this sort.” He didn’t know Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s real names but He saw their real God. He knew he hadn’t just seen any god. No god could do what God just did.

 
I guess here is what I get today, Lord. My outcome isn’t what I ought to look to. I ought to always be looking to Your glory.  How can I uphold You and Your image in the world around me when everyone else is bowing down before false idols? How I can I take my eyes off of me and focus them on You so that my actions shine You forth before people and draw them to You? How can I make my life and actions not point to me, but show You for all that You are? No matter what the world tries to feed me, do I really know who I am in You? Do I really know who You are? Do I really believe, “Who is like God?” Does my life demonstrate that? Am I willing to offer my life to give You opportunity to show who You really are? Would I be willing to die to not only my self, but to actually die if it would show the kind of God You are?

 
How long will I let the world use me as a pawn to mock You? Will I wear the name that the world gives me or will I display who I am in You by letting You be You at every opportunity no matter the cost? My name is important, but more important is Your name, God, because it’s all that You are. But You promise to give us new names, so special that only You and I know the measure of it, because it’s that personal. Listen, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the called out ones; to him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows except he that receives it.” It’s that personal, and so ought my relationship be with You God.

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Arms of Love

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And I have declared unto them Your name, and will declare it:  that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  John 17:26Image

What’s really in a name?  What does it mean that You have declared unto us God’s name?  What does it mean to believe in Your name?  What do I have to know about names to really understand things here?

In Hebrew thought, a name is never something that is pulled at random out of a hat and assigned to a person. “The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named. ”  (Judaism 101)  It’s not just what you call someone; it’s who they are, what they are like, and what they’ve done.  “Because a name represents the reputation of the thing named, a name should be treated with the same respect as the thing’s reputation. For this reason, God’s Names, in all of their forms, are treated with enormous respect and reverence in Judaism.” (ibid)  

Here’s an interesting thought, “[t]he meaning of Hebrew words are always based on something tangible. Something you can understand through the five senses. ” (Deborah Sexton)  I wonder if that applies to You, Lord?  Well, let’s just hold that thought and we’ll see if Your other words bring that home today.  Right now, I want to think about this name thing.

Your name always represents Your character.  It’s who You are.  It’s what You are like.  It’s what You do and how You act.  It is You.  

A Hebrew text, Tanchuma, Vahak’heil 1,  shared this thought on names, “In life, you discover that people are called by three names: one is the name the person is called by his father and mother; one is the name people call him; and one is the name he acquires for himself. The best one is the one he acquires for himself.”  Now, I’m not so sure that the best name is the one acquired on our own.  But, that is often the strongest name, the one that represents us most.  And of those, You have acquired a name, a reputation that is Your own that You have shown and made known Yourself.  And in Your case, it is the best one.  Because we call You names, we learn Your characteristics by Your demonstration of Who You are as You make Yourself known to us.

Your name is You.   It is Your essence.  It brings identity.  And not only does it show us You, but it identifies You with us!  It relates You to Your people and allows us to be related, to know You, and therefore to make You known.

Now here I’m going to switch to the Good News Bible Translation.  “I made You known to them, and I will continue to do so, in order that the love You have for Me may be in them, and so that I also may be in them.”  I don’t want to miss this because it is just reverberating through Your words.  The King James Version chose the word “declared.”  And yes, You told, but You did more than tell; You showed.  “Gnorizo” and its root are all “rooted” in “knowing.”  Knowing goes deeper than telling.  Knowing as You wish us to know goes as far as experiencing for ourselves.  It’s one thing for someone to tell us about someone else, but it’s a whole new ballpark when we experience that person for ourselves, when we see Him, when we touch Him.  See, even though You are God and You are Spirit, in Jesus You have become tangible.  Actually, I think You always were.

In speaking of You, Jesus, John says, “We write to you about the Word of life [that’s You, Jesus], which has existed from the very beginning.  We have heard it [You], and we have seen it [You] with our eyes;  yes, we have seen it [You], and our hands have touched it [You].  When this life [You] became visible, we saw it [You]; so we speak of it [You] and tell you about the eternal life [You] which was with the Father and was made known to us.  What we have seen and heard we announce to you also, so that you will join with us in the fellowship that we have with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”  (1 John 1:103)  Well, it certainly appears that You can truly be experienced by the five senses.  John expressed You as very tangible.  You can be seen.  You can be touched.  Because in the seeing You and in the touching You, and in the being seen and being touched by You, we are joined in fellowship with You.

See, this is all part of Your prayer for us.  You didn’t just pray for us to have eternal life.  Yes, You prayed for that.  But in Your own words You said that eternal life was knowing You, knowing God.  There’s the same root “ginosko” in our previoius Greek word.  You, Jesus, came to glorify the Father.  All these words swirl around each other like the angels circling Your throne in worship.  “Doxazo”, glorify,  “acknowledging Him as to His being, attributes and acts.”  Vine’s Greek New Testament Dictionary shares this quote, “As the glory of God is the revelation and manifestation of all that He has and is.” 

You are the manifestation of God that we can see and touch and comprehend.  We heard Your “logos,” Your words.  We have been given Your “rhema,” Your words in a way that we can receive them and get hold of them by the power of the Holy Spirit.   I really think that every word  matters.  And Your words matter above all words.  And the thing is, You are the First Word.  I mean literally.  And everything in what we call Your Word is based on You and is there to help us to see, and know who You are.

So, who are You really?  That is so hard to describe.  And I think it’s hard because we don’t even know ourselves.  I mean what do we say when we introduce someone?  “This is Sharon, my wife.”  Is that all I am?  Of course not.  I’d rather be introduced as Sharon, child of God, because I think that leaves my identity more wide open.  That gives me a glorious beginning, a present, and an eternal future identity that’s all wrapped up in You.  And who can describe You fully?

What did You think was important in Your prayer?  Who we are depends on our personal knowledge of You.  To know You is to be known by You.  To know You is to enter into Eternal Life, You.  You receive back to Yourself the wonder of all that You are, this is being glorified.  It’s like Your light shining back on Yourself and continually making much of You.  It’s all about You continually making Yourself known, manifesting Yourself.  And as we support You with our lives and thoughts and are supported by You, You allow us to shine back on You and shine from You.  We become evidence of the character of God.  I resemble the Name.  We glorify you by entering into Your holiness which is You.  We dedicate ourselves to Your absolute standards.  

You prayed that we might be filled with Your joy.  And the interesting thing about joy is that this kind of joy comes out of knowing You in the midst of struggles and is learned by experience.  This is yet another opportunity to understand and know Your name, Your person.  We get to experience being kept and guarded and watched over by You.  You make us holy like You.  You send us out into the world just like Jesus.  And we’ll be one with You and each other in You because of how much we are becoming like You and getting to know the real You and experiencing You.  

I could go on and on.  But my eyes are getting physically sleepy.  The point here of experiencing isn’t that this is one way.  Experiencing means doing.  Trusting and believing means supporting.  Supporting You means showing we are banking everything on Your word, on You, by living according to it, according to You.  Then, You show Yourself True and support us back.  Because You are True and we were created to shine forth Your Truth, Your Character, Your Name, You!  And one of the greatest rewards of this relationship is experiencing the depths of Your love.  For as deeply and intensely as You loved Your only begotten Son, You love me that deeply too.  Jesus prayed that You would love me as You had loved Him.  And not only that, but You asked that the same love that was in You, would be in me.  

To experience You is to experience Your love because “God is love.”  This is what we get to see and touch.  “…[T]he love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5)  It is shed abroad, it gushes out, runs out, just like the blood of Christ was shed abroad for us on the cross.  This same love is flowing in us from You.  And because You dwell inside us as believers, nothing can ever come between us while we are in You.  “Not height, not depth, not any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Because if I have placed my self IN YOU and You have placed Yourself in me then LOVE dwells in me because it is who You are.  You become my identity.  You define me.  I live by Your words, guard Your words, obey Your words, keep Your words because by It, and in It, and through It all things consist, are held together.  So, in You, I am held together by Your love and in Your love and You and Your character are consummated in me.  See, in You I have “a current state of moral maturity, moral perfection, or moral completeness lacking nothing.” (sermonindex.net) because it’s imparted from You and You are in me.  As I walk in You, as I live my life in You according to You, I am like You.  You are love.  “Every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.”  (1 John 4:7)  If I want to know real love, I must know You, because only You know how to love for real.  Remember how I said this is what we experience?  “And we have KNOWN and BELIEVED the love that God has to us.  God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.”  (1 John 4:16)  God’s character cannot be separated from the one who is dwelling in God, who is walking with Him moment by moment.  Which leads to this, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.”  (1 John 5:3)  This is faith.  It is placing all my weight, all of me to be supported in all of You.  It’s made tangible in me by my demonstrating the tangibility of who You are by living out Your Word.  I cannot love without walking it out.  I have to follow IN Your example, in You.

Lord, I want nothing more than to abound, have Your love pour out of me.  I am so grateful for the treasure You have shared with me, that the measureless love with which God loves You, You turned back to me by going to the extent of physically pouring it forth for me on the cross.  And it’s not just that I can touch the wound in Your side or in Your hands like You told Thomas he could do.  But I can believe by all the evidences  that You show me, all the ways You allow me to experience You, that go beyond the physical, and into the depths of my soul.  “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”  (Romans 10:17)  There is a spiritual hearing that is more valuable than the physical.  And by Your love, You offer each one of us the ability to hear and discern Your voice, the voice of Love.  But we have to be listening, listening for Your voice in Your word.  We have to listen for Your utterances, for Your whisper as we seek You, as we seek to know You.  Well, Lord, I’m so glad that You know how to put it all into words, because I don’t.  But I’m even more glad that You are continually putting Your word, You, into me.  Let me always remain walking and dwelling in You and in Your words that forever wrap me in the arms of love.  And in that embrace, may I embrace others in and with the same arms of love.  

 

 

Not Just Any Name

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“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:  that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”  John 15:16Image

What is in a name?  Because it must be important.  Well, at least what’s in Your name must be important.  You tell me that “whatsoever” I ask of the Father in Your name, He may, He will, give to me.  Well, that’s some kind of a promise.  But I had better make sure I understand what You mean.

So, do I get everything I ask when I pray “in Jesus’ name?”  “I pray that You heal my friend, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”  “I pray that You make sure we have really nice weather for the fund raiser, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”  So, are those requests to the Father a done deal?  Will He give these to me?  Did I just really pray in Your name?

When the disciples, the apostles, heard this, what was going through their minds?  It makes me rethink this verse.  “I chose you and gave you the responsibility and ability to bear eternal fruit so the result of all this is, when you ask to bear this fruit and for what you need to bear this fruit of Mine, God will give it to you.”    And what encourages God to give it to us?  It’s not just that I ask, but who I ask in, or better yet, who I am identified in, therefore, who I am in.

Names were much more significant in the ancient eastern world than they are to us now.  They weren’t just labels picked out because they liked how it sounded with the last name.  They were also “symbols, magical keys, as it were to the nature  and essence of the given being or thing.” (Ephraim A. Speiser)  Rabbi Andrew David pointed out that “[i]n life, you discover that people are called by three names: one is the name the person is called by his father and mother; one is the name people call him; and one is the name he acquires for himself.  The best one is the one he acquires for himself.”  

Naming is a divine gift.  God is it’s originator.  In the name is the whole identity and essence of a thing.  And God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light.  God named and it was everything that light is.  It wasn’t just called light; it was light.  Light’s character, light’s atomic structure, was created and established by God’s naming.

God’s naming represents our identity.  The name defines us.  The Hebrew belief is that the “names we are given at birth aren’t accidental.  They are to some extent prophetic.  They capture our essence…Your name is the key to your soul.”  Rabbi Benjamin Blech states, “Names are a book.  They tell a story.  The story of our spiritual potential as well as our life’s mission.”  And keep this in mind.  I must keep this in mind, that God has created a name for me.  It is my story.  It is my spiritual potential.  It is my life’s mission.  And that name is “Christian.”  That name means “in Christ.”  That name is Jesus.  And I am in that name.  That name now represents me as I represent Him.

Abram received a new name from God because He was receiving a new life, a new identity.  “Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made you.” (Genesis 17:5)  Jacob’s name comes from the root word “heel”.  He used to believe in “flight, not fight.”  But then he chose to fight the angel instead of flee.  “Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:29)

But we’re not talking about men’s names here.  If I ask in Your name.  This isn’t about asking in my name, or Abraham’s name, or Israel’s name.  This is all about the significance in Your name.

“As his name, so is he” (1 Samuel, 25:25). Now this is talking about Nabal, and his name wasn’t a good thing.  But I think this is perfect for thinking about Your name.  As Your Name Is, So Are You.  Your name, Your names represent Your power, Your actions, Your reputation.  If I look at the Greek meaning of the word for name here, “onoma,” I see that it literally means authority, character.  And that’s what Your name is all about.  It’s all about who You are.

Hebraicly thinking, “a person’s name was viewed as equivalent to the person himself.  A person’s name signified their person, worth, character, reputation, authority, will, and ownership.” (Jason Dulle)  The name is the person.  I need to say that again, the Name is the Person.  When Proverbs says, “the name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous run to it and are safe,” it means You, God, are a strong tower.  You are not like a strong tower; You are our Strong Tower.  Your name is equivalent to who You are.

Jason Dulle went through Scripture and pointed out the significance of naming.  He found that “speaking and writing in “the name” signified authority; naming something indicated one’s ownership of that person/thing; to forget God’s name was tantamount to departing from Him; acting in someone’s name was to represent them; to blot out someone’s name is to destroy that person; one’s name signified their reputation, and their character.   Christ is said to have manifested the Father’s name, meaning that He has made His person known to humanity.   To believe on the name of Christ is to believe in the person of Christ. To be gathered in Jesus’ name is to be gathered together in His mind, will, and purpose.

“Knowledge and use of God’s name does not provide power over Him but rather relationship with Him and responsibility to Him.”  His identity and nature are revealed through His name which imparts to us His history and His words and His actions.  Through His Word we learn of Him by relationship with His people.  That’s what this is all about, being in relationship with You, Jesus.  This is all about knowing You intimately.  This is all about being under Your ownership, under Your authority, hiding in Your Strong Tower.  This is all about letting You make Your name, my name.  It’s all about giving up my identity to take on Yours.  It’s all about dying to self and living to You and in You and for You.  And I can only know Your name and understand Your identity and have a relationship with You because You revealed it to me, You chose me to know You.

To call on the name of the Lord, to ask in Your name, is to trust in Your faithfulness, to trust in all that You are.  I can’t use Your name to force You to act.  I don’t want to.  Well, I hope I don’t want to.  You are to be invoked by all that You are.  When I ask for something that You are or something that is Your desire, it’s not even that You start doing it.  You actually already were doing it.  You were just waiting for me to join in with You so that I could rejoice in experiencing You with You.  You want me to come near, so that I can experience You more.  Your promises are true and You want to show that, but I have to know them, and I have to seek them in You, and then I will see them and I will experience them.  But more importantly, I will experience You.  You will come to me and bless me, not for the things I ask, but because I am seeking You, and all that You are will flow from You, because it has to, it’s who You are.  

You want me to be bound up with You.  You want me to be one with You.  To be bound in Your name is to be bound in You.  With Your presence, God’s presence is given to me.  Because You “‘possess a relationship with God which none can perceive’” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament), as I place myself in Your identity, in Your name, I too possess that relationship in You.   

Lord, may Your name, may Your identity, may Your life and all that You are, be glorified in me.  May others admire me because they see You in me and it draws them to admire You.  Count me worthy of bearing Your name, of representing You.  You must make me worthy, but let me seek You continually.  Let me seek Your presence, Your encouragement, Your correction, Your power, Your love.  Let me seek all of You more and more every day.  Remind me Who I represent.  Remind me Who dwells within me.  Enable me through all that You are to fulfil all the good pleasure of Your goodness and all the works of faith that You have for me in Your power.  Let this be so that Your name, Your identity, You will be glorified in me and I in You, according to Your grace.  Your name is precious because You are precious.