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Group Like Items Together

Now that we’ve decluttered our chosen space it’s time to organize it. We need to put our items into groups with other like items. Meaning if you’ve organized a cabinet and you have crafts, vitamins and socks all mixed together, now would be the time to put everything where it belongs. The socks will go to the sock drawer and your crafts can be collected and grouped together. Put the vitamins with other medicines.

All my precious “planning” supplies. Washi, stickers, etc.

Using craft tools as an example, when you put all your tools, and supplies together it gives you the big picture of how much you really have and it gives you a better idea of what types of containers you may need to purchase or create to house all those supplies.

Silver grouped together in a drawer and then separated by piece.
Tableware all divided out and like pieces put together.

The three categories you need to think about are room, activity, and tools. What room is the item most get used in? Clothing is mostly put on in your bedroom, so keep your clothes in your bedroom. What activity is the item used for? Is it a kitchen utensil or is it a power tool? Power tools most likely get used in the garage, so move those items to the garage.

Organize clothing in the closet or dresser drawers.
Organize clothing in the closet or dresser drawers.

Lastly, what type of tool is it? Scissors would be used in either an office or for crafting. Of course I keep scissors all over the house which is a great example of why you need to determine its use. I have kitchen shears in the kitchen, hair shears in my bathroom vanity, and craft shears in my craft closet. I really don’t like traipsing all over the house looking for scissors.

I keep my favorite pens and markers within arms reach.
I keep my favorite pens and markers grouped together and within reach.

I cannot stress it enough when you are organizing only focus on one space at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Once you get overwhelmed it’s really hard to keep your motivation up. So only focus on one section at a time.

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Decluttering

Week 1: We’re decluttering, getting our homes clear of all the clutter that has accumulated over the past year.

One thing I know is how easy it is for your home to feel cluttered. I also know how easy it is to feel overwhelmed when looking around at all that needs to be cleared. My heart for you during this series is to offer encouragement as you go through this process, and let you know you are no alone. We all have a ton of stuff, most of which needs to find a new home.

Here are some tips that I find help me.

Once you decide to clear out a spot, whether it’s a closet or even an entire room, the best thing you can do is to break it down into small sections. What happens is we start out all gungho, we tear through the closet removing every item stored inside. Turning our beds into a massive heap of clothing. Then become overwhelmed. Of course we would feel that way, we’ve bitten off way more than we can handle. We even lie to ourselves, “it has to get worse before it gets better”, no, no it does not. You can actually declutter any space in your home with out creating a huge mess.

Focus on just one sections at a time. Choose a drawer, shelf or surface, grab a timer, set it for 15 minutes and go to it. Challenge yourself to get that drawer finished before the timer goes off. I have a feeling you might surprise yourself.

Toss all the trash, stained, or even worn out items right into a trash bag. Nobody wants that stuff. Quickly toss the things you no longer use or want onto a pile. As for those things you no longer love (or ever loved) or need, those things can go into another bag/box. You will feel so good donating those. If its really special you can sell it, but only if you do it immediately.

What do you think? Can you narrow it down and focus on just one spot at a time. I promise this will be so much more doable than trying to “eat the whole elephant” at one time.

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Cut The Clutter

I love taking time at the beginning of a new year to declutter my home. It never ceases to amaze me just how much “stuff” accumulates throughout the year. This year I want to invite you to join me. We can do this together. I’ll share my best tips and I’d love you to share yours too.

The schedule (as of today) is:

  • Week one: Decluttering, you cannot organize clutter
  • Week 2: Give it a home, every thing in its place
  • Week 3: How to contain the madness
  • Week 4: My personal timesaving tips, how I stay on top of things
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Christmas 2021

Wow, can you believe 2021 is coming to an end already? I know it’s sounds cliche that time flies by, but time is really flying by and I realized I did not share my Christmas decorations with you. Let me remedy this right now.

I typically put up several trees in my home, this is a picture of my main one. I love using black/white buffalo check with deep reds and creams. You can see in the picture how I also use lots of textured ribbons and decorations to give is unique look.

This vintage aluminum tree is a showstopper in its own right. My husband gifted me this tree several years ago. It took him awhile to find one in such great shape, but I sure am happy he did. I like to use vintage decoration, this year I chose blues/teals and silver bulbs.

My home isn’t the only place I get to make festive. Here is a picture of our church stage all decorated for Christmas. I had so much fun with this tree, mostly because it’s new, huge and I could really be creative with it. It’s a shame I’ll have to take it down soon.

Also gracing our stage is the nativity of Jesus Christ. This picture really doesn’t do this scene any justice. It’s truly beautiful and a perfect way to promote reflection on the real reason for season.

This is a glimpse at some of the tree decorations on the “children’s church” tree. It’s fun, whimsical, busy. Almost like Christmas exploded onto this tree.

Last but not least is this woodland themed tree. As beautiful as the stage tree is, I have to say this is my personal favorite (shh, don’t tell the others). I love using red berries and again you can really see all the texture added with the different ribbons and ornaments. That poinsettia is the best, it’s made of felt, wired and sprinkled with glitter. I’m in love with it.

I was definitely busy with decorating trees this year. If I wasn’t a pro at it before, I definitely am now. Let me know what you think, which one is your favorite?

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Centerpiece Extravaganza

With Christmas in full swing, I’d thought I’d share a few pictures of a few centerpieces to give you some inspiration for your Christmas table.

In this picture, I’m using an old crock filled with artificial greenery picks. Feel free to use fresh greens if you have access to some. The poinsettia, placed in the center, is made of canvas with a jingle bell center. What makes this centerpiece most unique is the use of deer antlers, I like how it’s different, completely unexpected.

This picture collage was taken at our church’s women’s Christmas party. These were placed on each table and then given out as door prizes at the end of the event. Congrats to those who won them, because they were gorgeous.

I like to use battery-operated candles to add some pretty flickering light, this is a great way to create a beautiful atmosphere. Add is some red berries and your table is ready to wow your guests.

Tell me, do you put time and effort into finding the perfect centerpiece?

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My Thanksgiving Table Setting

I was feeling inspired today and decided to decorate my dining room table with a nice Thanksgiving feel. I decided this year that I’d really like to have a set of dishes for each season, so I started with fall first. I chose this white plate covered with cream, blue and orange pumpkins. I’m in love with how they look.

Next, I chose the white charger with gold accents. I rounded out the place setting with a rose gold/copper fork, knife, and spoon.

Have you noticed the latest trend in table decor? It’s using cutout words at each place setting like I did in this picture with the word “Blessed”. These can be found in all shapes and sizes. The blessed word is plastic, but you can find these in wood as well. Have you decorated with them yet? I’d love for you to share your idea with us.

Also, don’t think you have to use only “fancy” dinnerware. I think this paper plate is beautiful. Not everyone has the time, energy, or even finances to utilize glass dinner plates especially if you’re hosting a large dinner. You can still make the table pretty with paper.

What do you think? Have I inspired you to set a beautiful table for your Thanksgiving dinner?

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Let’s Talk Window Treatments

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Curtains, you either love them or hate them. I don’t really know of too many people who don’t care one way or the other. Most people need something over their windows. If you’re like me and live along a busy road you need those window treatments to block out unwanted peepers. The other reason I need to cover my windows is the sun. The front of my home faces South so the heat from the sun can be intense, now in the winter it’s welcomed, in the summer not so much. No matter what obstacles you are trying to work with the key is to have the window treatment fit in with the rest of your home.

The main colors in my home are black/cream/grey. I love the combinations of these three colors and the buffalo check curtains provide a big, unexpected punch in my living room. This is definitely a bold choice, but I’ve had these up for a few years now and I’m still thrilled with them. Which is awesome. This window gets harsh sun all day long so the curtains are lined with a nice thick backing to block out heat and harsh rays. I also have the windows fitted with blinds as an added layer of protection. The combination of the two make a huge difference in the summer. During the winter months I open them up and welcome the sunshine in.

Whenever you select your curtains make sure you get them at least 84″ length, because its best to hang them above your window trim, not level with the trim. Higher is better because it gives your room the illusion of being bigger than it is. I think it feels more “grown up” when the curtains are hung at a proper height. As a rule of thumb you want it to be approximately 6 inches higher than the trim if your ceiling will allow it. If you have low ceilings take the tip of the curtain to just skim your ceiling. If you have really high ceilings you may want to consider purchasing longer curtains like 94″.

My final tip is a doozy. You will never believe what I’m about to tell you but it will give you a lot more options where curtains are concerned. My best tip is to look in the table cloth section for your curtains. You can use long table cloths for curtains. Use the hooks and clip your table cloth to your window, easy peasy. Table cloths tend to be more trendy than window treatments. It’s as though the curtain designers only want to play it safe, but the table cloth designers tend to play it more trendy. Not only will this give you more options it is also a very economical way to decorate your windows.

I hope you try at least one of my tips and then let me know in the comments which one made the biggest impact on you.

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Fall Tree

I have had a tree in my home year-round for about 20 years now. First of all, how did that happen, 20 years, geesh? Regardless of the way time flies by, I enjoy changing the decorations on it when every new season approaches. The styles and decorations have changed over the years, but this is one tradition I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Do you keep a tree up in your home? If yes, that’s awesome tell me all about it.

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It’s Fall Y’all

I love a new change in seasons. It’s like a fresh start, something new to look forward to. One of the ways I like to transition from one season to the next is by decorating with pieces that have the look or feel of the next season. Like this farmers market sign and honey pot. The reference to bees makes them great for summer, yet the warm inviting colors blend wonderfully with my fall decor. Add in a wooden leaf and acorn with some pumpkin stems and I think we’ve got a beautiful fall tablescape. What do you think, is this something you could incorporate?

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Too Ashamed

Read 1 Samuel 12:14-23

Samuel has just finished getting a few things off his chest and in doing so he was able to restore his name, integrity, and reputation.  He also took the opportunity to remind Israel that they asked for a man to replace their heavenly King and their desire was granted.  They are getting exactly what they asked for.

Moving on from the past and now looking toward the future, Samuel continues, letting them know a man will lead the nation, but God will be in control.  He begins to urge his people to serve the Lord, their first love.  He just finished reminding everyone of their past, how sinful and sorrowful it was and how the Lord has forgiven them.  In verse 14 Samuel pleads that it is a privilege to fear, serve, obey the Lord, and live according to his commandments.  Following the Lord is not some duty that we are required to do.  It is a privilege, it’s not something to take for granted and it certainly is not something that everyone can do.  You get to serve the Lord, it is an honor to do that.  You don’t have to obey the Lord, God does not make you do anything.  He wants the best for you and He knows what that is, but His ways do not need to be your ways.  Realizing this is good. 

Samuel first addresses the citizens individually, because they are responsible for their own hearts.  You can serve the Lord even if your government does not.  Then he addresses the citizens and king together.  No one is exempt from God’s rule, He and He alone makes the final decisions, and God alone appoints those he wants in leadership.

Verses 16-18.  The Lord wants to drive into their hearts how offensive it was for them to reject Him.  He wanted to remind them of his power and authority and he did that via a terrible thunderstorm.  Now, thunderstorms aren’t particularly unusual, but this storm is a little different.

Scripture tells us it was the wheat harvest, which takes place between the middle of May through the middle of June.  It was rare to have any rainstorms during this time.  Add to this, Samuel specifically said that he was going to call on the Lord to send thunder and rain and that the people will realize what an evil thing they did in the eyes of the Lord when they asked for a king.  Samuel gave the people fair warning and now they will get to experience the power of God and just how sinful it is to reject Him.

The Bible tells us that none of Samuel’s words fell to the ground and this is another great example of that.  Later that day a huge thunderstorm blew in.  All of the events of the day combined with Samuel’s words and now this storm has the people standing in awe.  Awe as in, a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.  If they didn’t respect the Lord or Samuel before, they sure do now.

The Lord wanted to convince them that asking for a king was wicked.  I think he did a great job of convincing them because they began to fear for their lives.  They begged Samuel to pray to the Lord your God.  Notice they said your God and not our God.  It’s as though they were too ashamed or too afraid to call the Lord their God.  When we hurt or offend someone we don’t always feel as though we can go to them directly to ask for help.  It’s like that with the Lord, when we do wrong before the Lord we don’t always feel as though we have the right to then ask for his help.  They didn’t feel as though they could ask for help, but they knew Samuel could.

They needed Samuel to intercede, stand in the gap for them, they realized they have done a horrible thing and that was added to all the other horrible things they’ve done.  Their sins have piled up so much they fear they are about to die.  Samuel tells them, “Don’t be afraid,  yes, you have done all this evil”, why sugar coat it, right.  “Despite all the evil, don’t turn away from the Lord”.  “Even though you have sinned, don’t make it worse by also turning away from the Lord, just give Him all your heart”.  The only way to make this better is by committing your whole heart to the Lord.  Stop turning to those useless idols, haven’t you learned by now they can’t help you, they can’t rescue you because they are useless.  

Besides, the Lord will not reject you.  He is not going to reject you, you can always turn to Him.  The Lord is happy to make you his people.  You are His tribe, he wants to be with you, and because of that, he will not turn you away when you come to Him completely.  Notice, Samuel says, “but, serve Him with all your heart.”  That is one tall order and most people don’t realize what it means to serve Him with all your heart.  

We’ve learned to carry the cross, but most of us haven’t learned how to climb up on the cross.  We crawl our way to the base of the cross, clinging to it, staring up at it expecting miracles when the Lord requires us to climb onto it so that we can also die on that cross with him.  Gal. 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  A few other scriptures you need to reference are Galatians 5:24; Romans 6:8.

My favorite verse in all of chapter 12 is verses 23-24 because it shows us exactly what it means to be crucified with Christ. 

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Get It Off Your Chest

Read 1 Samuel 12:1-13

Chapter 11 left off with Saul and the Israelites enjoying a great celebration.  The nation banned together and defeated the Ammonites, then they honored Saul as their king and offered sacrifices to the Lord.  What a day of celebration indeed, they had so much to be thankful for.  I mean they had everything they could have ever wanted.  They were living in the land of milk and honey and they had an earthly king.  Yes, everything was falling into place perfectly.

There is one thing that is missing in this picture-perfect scene.  Samuel wasn’t celebrating, he was preoccupied.  Have you ever felt grieved in your spirit?  Have you ever been in a situation where the people around you seem to be in great moods without a care in the world, yet you have a sinking feeling as though something is just not right?  That’s the impression I get when reading this chapter.  Israel and Saul are celebrating, notice there is no mention of Samuel celebrating.  

Something just isn’t settled with Samuel so he gives a public address where he pours his heart out before his people. His Israelites have fully accepted this proud young king to walk before them and it stirs up some insecurities in Samuel, he cannot help but compare himself to Saul.  He can’t ignore the pain he feels from the rejection of his people.

The thing is, just because you are anointed by the Lord and you hold a place of office in the ministry of the Lord does not mean that you have no feelings, or that the words of people don’t sting and inflict pain.  Samuel is a prophet of the Lord, yet the rejection of his people, after all, what he has done for them is difficult for him to ignore.  

Samuel begins to share his heart.  He reminds the congregation how he has walked before them starting in his youth up to this present day, yet they demanded a king take his place.  I’ve given you a king to take my place, he walks before you with all his strength and endurance, he’s everything you hoped for in a king.  You all are excited and proud of this man.  He remembers how the people once looked at him that way.  

Samuel goes on, “Now I’m old and feeble.  Not able to perform hard labor anymore.  I’m a worn-out public servant that you all have cast aside for a new man”.  The elder’s harsh words about his age, physical abilities, and even his sons are a sore point, and Samuel addresses’ all that here.  He is painfully aware of his sons’ lack of reverence for the Lord, yet the elders thought it was something they needed to remind him of.  It’s always interesting how “concerned” church people think they need to remind ministers of their shortcomings.

Samuel is still the Prophet over Israel, however, his job description is changing, because he will no longer be the sole authority over this nation.  As if he is putting himself on trial he begins to defend himself.  “Here I stand, testify against me”.  I imagine him looking up toward heaven saying “before the Lord”, then immediately shifting his focus toward Saul, “and his anointed”.  He puts himself on trial before the people who are his accusers.  The Lord and Saul will be the judges.  This will be the first time the word anointed is used as a reference to a king which points to the future king Jesus.  

Samuel begins to demand that if he has committed any crimes or offenses that now is their opportunity to come forward.  The main driving force here is that Samuel was a man of integrity, honesty, and impeccable morals.  He has never defiled his reputation or the office which he held, yet the people wanted him replaced.  They had no bases to replace him, yet they wanted someone else to lead them.  He asks a series of questions which in his mind would give them a valid reason to have him dismissed.  He asks if he has ever stolen, committed fraud, or oppressed them in any way. 

Of course, the answer to those questions is a resounding no.  To make it official, Samuel once again calls on the Lord and his anointed to agree as witnesses the people have cleared the name and character of Samuel.  Do you realize how huge this is?  This is epic.  

Let me make this situation a little bit more relatable.  In our day this would be equivalent to a preacher, minister, evangelist who has gained popularity among Christians because they carry the anointing of the Lord.  Then along comes people who perhaps are jealous, or just plain miserable who decide to sow weeds by assaulting the minister’s character.  They either outright blame ministers of sin or they raise suspicions which in some ways is worse because you become even more scrutinized.   

Samuel was able to clear his name.  Any person whose character suffered criticism would love to have this opportunity.  Samuel not only cleared his name but the entire kingdom bore witness to just how upright this man was.  It is difficult to read this and not be happy for Samuel.  The man dedicated his life, he felt like he was cast aside and suspicions were surrounding him based on his sons’ lack of integrity.  Yet, here he stands before God and king with an impeccable reputation.  

(vs. 7) Samuel’s character has been established, but he has a few more things he needs to get off his chest.  The people assumed Samuel was finished and they started moving around, he was losing their attention and he tells them to stand still.  “Don’t go anywhere”, he says.  “I’m not done with you yet”.  Samuel confronts the nation and reminds them of all the benefits they received from the Lord.  He points out how they rejected the Lord and despite that, the Lord has shown mercy toward them, Samuel gives several examples of various calamities that came over Israel and how the Lord delivered them.  

As soon as the Israelites were aware of their sin and rebellion they would return to their first love.  The Lord was always quick to come to their rescue.  He was moved with mercy and compassion for those misguided people and He would defeat their enemy for them.  Samuel even reminds them that he was the one who interceded on their behalf to gain victory over the Philistines.  It was because of him that they didn’t continue to attack.

Regardless of all that, it was their most recent situation that was most hurtful.  The Ammonites began putting pressure on the Israelites and instead of seeking the Lord as their king, and instead of trusting Samuel’s position, they asked for a man to be their king instead.  They rejected Samuel as their Godly representative and rejected God as their king.                                

They tied the Lord’s hands so he gave his children what they wanted.  They wanted a king, he appointed a king.

Now here stands Samuel next to Saul (vs 13).  Samuel lifting his hand toward Saul, nodding his head he says, “Now, here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you.” 

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Don’t Go It Alone

Read 1 Samuel 11

In this chapter, we see how Saul steps into his position as king by taking a stand against the Ammonites, protecting his people, and earning their respect.

This story begins with a man named Nahash who was the king of the children of Ammon.  The Ammonites and Moabites are both descendants of the same ancestor whose name is Lot, Abrahams’s brother.  The Ammonites have a problem with Israel, they claim Israel had taken a portion of their territory.  This belief led them to, during the days of Judges, harass the people.  One of the ways they did this was by gouging out the right eye of every man.  It was the Hebrew judge Jephthah who led an attack against them, defeating them.  Fast forward to the time of Saul and King Nahash is still bitter about the disgrace his people faced during that defeat.  

Nahash looks at this moment to be the best time to seek revenge.  Samuel the current judge is old and on the edge of retirement and Saul, the newly appointed king is inexperienced and viewed as weak.  The territory of Jabesh-Gilead bordered the Ammonite land so the king decided to begin the harassment by surrounding that city.  

Decades before when the Ammonites were wreaking havoc about 7,000 Israelites fled to Jabesh-Gilead and found sanctuary there.  They were well aware of the devastation the Ammonites could inflict on them.  They also may have felt that their isolation from the rest of their people left them without protection.  This fear caused them to partner with the enemy.  They partnered with the enemy instead of trusting their God.  They believed the enemy would be honorable and stay true to his word, they hoped he would extend mercy to them if they agreed to live under his authority.  

Nahash was willing to take them up on their offer under one condition.  He wanted revenge and he wanted to bring disgrace on Israel.  He agreed, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.”  The elders hesitate a bit over this condition, in response, they ask for a grace period to think about it.  The elders ask for seven days, agreeing if no one comes to their rescue they will surrender to Nahash.  

This conversation is interesting to me.  The Israelites ask Nahash to work with them, hoping this would get him to ease up on his harassment.  Nahash gives them a yes, with one condition.  The Israelites must have been insulted with that condition so they tell the king they will agree after seven days and only if no one comes to their rescue.  The Israelites believe that Saul or even Samuel would come to their rescue.  When I think about this conversation I imagine Nahash scoffing at the elders and rolling his beady eyes.  As I said earlier he doesn’t see the current leadership as being a threat to him and he turns this into a bit of a cat/mouse game.  

The Jabesh-Gilead was stuck between a rock and a hard place and that caused them to put their fear aside and reach out for help.  They sent messengers to Gibeah of Saul or Saul’s hometown.  This horrible news caused the people to weep loudly throughout the city.       

Do you know the Lord hears the cries of His people?  The Lord heard the cries of his children over this threat and He moved, He moved big time, it says so right here in vs. 6, “When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger”.  This would be righteous anger, anger that moves against the enemy and is powered by the will of God.  There are a plethora of stories in the Bible telling how the Spirit of the Lord would settle on Israel’s judges causing an immediate and unusual surge of power that would give them the ability to successfully defend their people and to defeat the enemy. 

That is what is happening to Saul in this story.  The Spirit fell and Saul was endued with extraordinary wisdom, valor, and power to stand against his enemy.  It’s interesting because everything Saul did was in the natural, meaning, he didn’t do anything particularly supernatural, yet God settled on him to make it possible. Everything Saul did could have been done by anyone else, it wasn’t a special skill to chop an ox into pieces.  A supernatural ability was not needed to send messengers to the other tribes.  

During biblical days, credit was given to the Lord for all acts of protection, and intervention even though it was through man, no matter how supernatural or basic it seemed.  God was given credit.  In today’s modern world we tend to give credit to the man for using his wisdom and instincts rather than giving credit to God.  We tend to knock the move of the Lord down a few pegs rather than exalting the move of the Lord.  We dumb down our testimonies of what the Lord has done, rather than declaring that this is what the Lord has done.  This is the Spirit of the Lord at work.

While what Saul physically did was not incredibly superhuman, he did use divine wisdom and divine knowledge.  Saul was on his way back to his farm following behind his oxen.  Once he heard the news of the threat to his people, he took those oxen and cut them into 11 pieces, then had them Fed-exed throughout Israel, one to each of the other tribes.  This was seen as a war cry, it was a way of rallying the troops.  Opening the box and seeing the chunk of beef was just the visual the people needed to be awakened to fight their enemy, to stand as one nation under God.  

The box also contained a message, a public address if you will.  Saul declared, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.”  First of all, Samuel isn’t finished yet, and I love that Saul includes him, he recognizes that he still needs Samuel to mentor him, he still has room to grow and he needs Samuel’s anointing to do it.  Secondly, this is why I think this action showed divine wisdom and knowledge.  The Lord knows the heart of his people, and he knows what will get them to move into action.  Apparently, the thought of having their oxen chopped up into thick steaks is what moved them into action.  

Saul managed to muster together 330,000 men in Bezek.  The plan came together and the details were worked out.  By the time the sun was hot the next day, they would be there to rescue them from the hands of the Ammonites. The elders in Jabesh-Gilead did not want the king to develop any suspicions so they lied to him.  Yes, people told lies and those lies are recorded in the Bible.  We are not supposed to lie, but there are very specific times in the Bible when lies were used to defeat an enemy.  I suppose there are always people who have no problem lying and they will be used by the Lord too.

Saul separated his troops into three divisions and sometime between 2 and 6 AM they began their attack.  This battle raged until about noon.  The slaughtering lasted for many hours, any remaining Ammonites were scattered so much that no two of them were left together.   

Saul and Samuel stood as a united front.  Together they represent both the physical strength and spiritual strength of the Lord.  Together they are a team and together they are leading this nation.  So I leave you with this thought, who are you partnering with?  Who does the Lord want you to team up with?    

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You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

Read 1Samuel 10:11-27

Saul has recently undergone a tremendous transformation.  He was first anointed and then after a series of miraculous events he joined in with a group of prophets who were worshipping the Lord.  When Saul joined the prophets he allowed his heart to be fully committed to the Lord, he began worshiping, he even spoke the word of God which is a way of prophesying.  This transformation took place in Saul’s hometown and it did not go unnoticed.  People will notice a difference in you when you allow yourself to freely serve the Lord.  Saul wasn’t the most religious man so when the other citizens witnessed Saul worshiping with the prophets it got their attention.  Saul became the talk of the town and it was clear he was not acting like his old self.

The dialogue between the two citizens in vs. 11-12 is interesting because they are attempting to figure this out.  They have a hard time believing that Saul the son of Kish would ever be found in a group of prophets.  “How can someone so undistinguished as Kish raise a son to be a prophet?”  “How can Kish’s son be selected to receive this divine gift?”  The second man has an answer.  He answers with another question, pointing to the group of prophets he asks, “Who is their father?”  Those men weren’t born with those gifts any more than Saul was.  They were given their gift of prophecy from the Eternal.  Saul’s change of heart came from the Lord, not his earthly father.  Parents don’t always raise their children in the Lord, which seems to be the case with Saul.  

Once Saul came down from his spiritual high he went to the high place.  Saul was anointed with oil, he was anointed with the spirit of the Lord.  The only thing left for him was to go and sit in the presence of God of heaven.  I like vs. 13.  “After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place.”  Do you remember what it was like with your first encounter with the presence of the Lord?  How you just wanted to more and more of Him, it was easy to go to church because you were hungry for the Lord.  I think that is where Saul is in this scene.

Eventually, Saul does come down from the High place and meets up with his uncle Abner who is his father’s brother.  It appears that Kish (Saul’s dad) was content with the return of his donkeys and his son’s eventual return, but that wasn’t the case with uncle Abner.  Abner seems to be a bit restless, a bit sketchy which makes me wonder if he hadn’t already heard the details about the honor Samuel had given to Saul?  He begins to put the pieces together, the honor, the noticeable change in Saul’s behavior, and something that just does not add up.

Abner confronts Saul and his servant, he asks them where they went. Saul doesn’t lie, but he is smart enough to not give out all the details which is a huge lesson we can learn from.  God doesn’t always want you blabbing about His plans for you.  Sometimes he wants you to keep your mouth shut until the appropriate time.  

Verse 17 takes us back to Samuel and we learn what needed to take place before Saul officially takes his position.  Back in vs. 8 Samuel told Saul in seven days he would come to meet him in Gilgal, they would do their offerings and sacrifices and then he would tell him what to do next.  During those seven days, Samuel called a national assembly in Mizpah.  This national press release was not called so the citizens could vote on a leader.  This assembly was called so that Samuel could declare the man God chose to be king.  

The announcement begins with a reminder of all God of Heaven has done to protect his people.  How God alone set them free from the oppression of a human king.  Yet, here they are rejecting the Eternal as their King, demanding a man to take his place.  Never mind the fact that God saved them from their calamities and disasters, They think they know best and because of their insistence, God will give them what they ask for.  

The Lord called forward a representative of each tribe and clan to come forward.  Once brought forward they began to cast lots.  Now my understanding of casting lots wasn’t a form of gambling but rather in the Old Testament, it was a way of God’s plan being made known.  What was drawn out of the bucket is what God established for that clan, their fate so to speak.  The more modern form of this would be to draw “straws” or “sticks”, the shortest one wins or loses depending on how you’re looking at it.      

Samuel called each tribe forward one at a time to pull their “lot” from the bowl.  One after another each tribe and clan went through the system.  I suppose they were each eager to pull their name out in hopes that they would be the first king of Israel.  No tribe was chosen except for the tribe of Benjamin.  After being narrowed down this tribe, the next step was to determine which family the king will come from.  This was determined the same way and finally, it came down to the family members and of course, the “lot” fell on Saul.  “Saul the son of Kish was taken.”  Saul’s name was pulled out with the winning ticket.  He was called forward but the man was nowhere to be found.  This is a monumental moment in history and the chosen one wasn’t there to accept his fate.  

People set out immediately to find Saul with no luck.  They began to wonder if he was even at the meeting in the first place, so they (very smartly) ask the Lord if he was even there.  The Lord answers, “yes and he is hiding between the stuff”.  I love that KJV uses the word “stuff”, don’t we just love to surround ourselves with “stuff” instead of stepping into what the Lord has called us to do.  We use our “stuff” as some great excuses.  We use our “stuff” as a scapegoat.  It won’t work, if you haven’t figured this out yet take it from me, it will not work.  

Saul had seven long days to think about what God was asking him to do and he felt unworthy of it.  He lacked confidence.  He didn’t have time to train for this position, he wasn’t sure he could figure this out.  He didn’t have a plan to move forward, he didn’t even know how to plan for what lies ahead.  The problem with confidence is it can be self-serving, meaning our lack of confidence is us focusing on ourselves when we should have full confidence in God.  We should be focusing on God, not ourselves.    

The other problem Saul faced is he was changing his family tree, changing history.  I heard an interesting phrase this week, “The first one through the window gets bloody.”  Sounds morbid I know, but think about it.  The Lord is calling you to something that has never been done before or at least has never been done in your family and your thoughts of incompetence and doubt work against you, keeping you bound tight too afraid to step out.  When you are trying to change your family tree you face new territory and you’re going to have some battle wounds to show for it, but once you’ve plowed the way through it will be so much easier for your children and grandchildren to follow along.  You just have to want the dream the Lord has placed inside you more than the familiar life the world binds you in.

Saul was found among the stuff and was brought forward to stand before his nation as the first-ever King of Israel.  He stood taller than any other citizen, his heart was turned to the Lord and the Lord’s favor was on him.  The people shouted, “Long live the king!” Samuel read to the people the role of the king what was to be expected, then he dismissed everyone to return home.  Saul returned home with a group of valiant men.  These men were God-fearing men and they are stationed to assist the new king.  

Unfortunately, not everyone is eager to submit to the men or women who are placed into a leadership position by God.  Saul is no exception, there was a group of scoundrels who despised him.  A group of good-for-nothing men refuses to submit to his authority.     

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Raise Your Voice in Worship

Read 1 Samuel 10:1-9

The next morning as Saul and his servant prepare to journey back home, Samuel calls to them on the roof letting them know that whenever they are ready he wants to send them off.  Samuel had one more word from the Lord that he needed to release to Saul, so he had Samuel send his servant ahead of him.  As for Saul, Samuel asked him to stay for a while longer.

Samuel proceeds to anoint Saul’s head with oil.  He pulls out a vial of oil, most likely balsam oil, and begins to pour it over him.  Throughout the bible, there are a few instances where kings are consecrated by anointing.  The act Samuel is performing is a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah.  The name Messiah comes from the Hebrew word “Mashiach” which means anointed one or chosen one.  Samuel will soon step down as judge, prophet, and priest.  Saul will soon step into the position of King.  The “Messiah”, Jesus, united all three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King.

Samuel then kisses Saul as a sign of reverence and as a way of paying homage.  In more modern terms he congratulated Saul on the office he was given and also as a sign that he was willingly handing over to him the task of running the government.  Then he makes a declaration.  

I imagine Saul giving Samuel this look of complete astonishment.  Looking at Samuel like he had a few screws loose, wondering what in the world he was doing.  Only priests were anointed with this oil and yet here he is pouring it down over his head and congratulating him on his new life.  Samuel notices the look on Saul’s face and answering the unasked questions he states, “You wonder why I’m anointing you and honoring you with my deepest respect, is it not because you are chosen?”  I’ll put it another way, “Do you still not understand that you have been chosen, you are the chosen one”.   

Sometimes we need more convincing especially when the Lord takes us in a different direction than what we were expecting.  I love how the Lord does just that in verses 2-7.  The Lord gives Samuel a word of knowledge for Saul.  This message includes three very specific events that will take place one after another.  These are going to be signs that will convince Saul that God has his hand on him and this is his doing.  These three events will further consecrate young Saul.  Each of these three signs was meant to increase Saul’s faith and build his trust in Samuel.  Each site contains historical significance and is a strong reminder that help comes from the holy place.

Sign 1:  Saul will be in the area of Zelzah, specifically near the tomb of Rachel, where two men will come out to meet him.  They are going to tell him the donkeys he was looking for have been found, but now his father is worried about him.  Whenever a prophet or someone claiming to be a prophet gives you a message it’s always a good idea to test it because that is how you know they are legit speaking on behalf of the Lord.  The way to prove a prophet is real is by what they say; if it comes true they are real prophets.  

In this case, the Lord is working both through Samuel and the two men near Rachel’s tomb.  The men may have just heard about Saul’s worried father, perhaps they recognized him from a few days ago.  Either way, the Lord orchestrated for them to meet at this exact moment to fulfill this message.  God will work out all the details when it is His plan.

Sign 2:  This sign has even more specific details in it.  Terebinth tree of Tabor; three men; three young goats; three loaves of bread; a skin of wine.  The men will also greet Saul and give him two loaves of their bread.  All are specific details that could be verified leaving no room to question the validity of Samuels prediction whatsoever.   

These three men were on their way to Bethel to be with the Lord and with them they carried sacrifices and offerings.  The sacrifices were the young goats and the wine.  The bread was set aside for their offering.  Do you remember what I’ve been saying over the past several weeks?  It seems to be my new mantra, whenever you go to see one of the Lord’s anointed you are to give an offering to them.  Well, it says in verse 4 they gave Saul two loaves of bread.  These men under typical circumstances would not give a stranger two loaves of their bread, yet they did exactly that.  They gave what was set aside as an offering to the man that carried the Lord’s anointing.  

Sign 3:  The third sign Saul was to experience came in the form of a school of prophets engaging in what is described to be like a parade.  By the time Saul meets up with the prophets, he will be back in his hometown.  In Saul’s hometown is a Philistine outpost.  It appears even though the Israelites chased the Philistines off their land they eventually began to infiltrate themselves back in.  Remember back in chapter 9 verse 16 Samuel mentioned that Saul would be the one to deliver his people from the Philistines.  They started worming their way back in louring the Israelites into temptation. 

I’m excited about the procession of prophets coming down from the high place.  The commentaries all seem to agree that they are students who belong to a “school of prophets”.  One of the accomplishments Samuel is most known for is his building these prophetic schools which in actuality are more like universities.  He understood that special care and training are needed when it comes to utilizing these special callings.  This became a safe place for the students to develop morally and mentally not just in biblical knowledge but also in education in general.  Many of these prophets became public preachers while others acquired jobs based on their literary skills.

As for the third sign, Saul met up with the group of prophets who were worshipping with music and it says they were prophesying.  People tend to lump prophecy into fortune-telling, this is most likely not what they were doing here.  The group of prophets was playing their musical instruments.  Instruments are a vital part of worship, we see this throughout the bible.  They raised their voices in worship by singing.  This likely sounded like words of highest praise to Jehovah being shouted and proclaimed boldly.  Perhaps like a chant mixed with words of praise spoken in tune with the instruments.  

When you sing a song that contains words of scripture, that would be a form of prophesying.  Singing songs about days gone by no matter how spiritual they appear is not speaking prophetically, the Lord wants us to sing a new song. I picture this scene to be one of deep worship and connections to God of Heaven.  Worshipping in this manner opens spiritual doorways.  For Saul it caused him to leave behind his past and opened the door to his future as the king of Israel.  Saul raised his voice louder and louder; more and more fervently and as he did his heart (vs. 9) began to change.  Worshipping the Lord outwardly literally changes your heart.  Saul was not a particularly religious man, yet the Lord touched his heart.  Samuel poured the anointing oil on his head but it wasn’t until Saul poured out his whole heart and soul in thanksgiving to God that the Spirit of the Lord settled on him.   

The filling of the Lord’s Spirit on Saul suddenly equipped him with skills, courage, wisdom, everything he needed to lead his nation.  Previously he wasn’t qualified to serve in this capacity, but with the Lord’s spirit, he became qualified.  Once those three signs were fulfilled the only thing left for Saul to do is to wait seven days for Samuel to come and visit him and tell him what to do next.    

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Searching for Donkeys

Read 1 Samuel 9:1-25

Genealogy was extremely important in ancient times, it gave a man validation especially when it came to sitting on the throne.  Here we read about Saul’s ancestors and we learn that they are mighty men of power, not necessarily men of God, but rather a strong and able-bodied family.  Out of that line is born Saul.  Saul is described as being a “choice” and a “goodly”; in all Israel, there was not a “goodlier” person than he. 

What this description means is Saul was a personable man, he was tall and had an athletic build.  He displayed all the outward characteristics desirable in a king during ancient times.  The people of that time didn’t look at a man to rule based on his integrity or knowledge, but purely on his looks.  They wanted their king to look like their fake gods as much as possible.  We should want a leader who looks like God, instead, they look for men who are like their made-up deities and Saul fits the description.

Saul was like most men in that era, they would serve their fathers, follow in their footsteps in taking care of their land and families, doing whatever was necessary.  In this story, Saul needed to go out and look for some of their missing donkeys and he took with him a servant, not a slave, this man worked for the family of his own accord.  In those days donkeys were very valuable, much like horses today, only people of quality would ride on the donkeys so it was very important to find them.

Saul and his servant set out looking for the donkeys, going from town to town searching field after field.  After traveling for miles and miles Saul decides it’s probably best to return home, he did not want his father to begin to worry about his whereabouts.  As a last-ditch effort, Saul’s servant recalls hearing about a man who everything he says comes true.  He’s thinking this man could point them in the right direction to finding the donkeys.

Starting at vs. 7 is where the story starts to get interesting.  Samuel thinks it’s a good idea, while they are in town, to go and see this well-respected man.  The only problem was he could not go empty-handed.  The custom was and I believe this should still be customary, is anytime you go to visit a man or woman in which you wish to gain guidance, especially if they are anointed by the Lord, you should give them a present or an offering.  They are good soil and you are wanting a harvest, so you should plant a seed in expectation for what God is going to do for you through that person.  Saul didn’t know what he was going to gain when he blessed Samuel with this seed of faith but God knew and I’d say he reaped a humongous harvest.  Sow into good soil!

The servant held out the last ¼ from a silver coin, suggesting they use this to give to the man of God.   Saul agrees with this and off they go into the city to see the prophet.  As they began their uphill climb they noticed young, unmarried women going out to the well so they stopped to ask if the seer was here.   

“Yes, he is”, they replied, but Saul needed to hurry so he didn’t miss him.  He is scheduled to go up to the temple place and bless a sacrificial meal.  This is one of the first instances where asking for a blessing or saying “grace” over a meal is written in the Bible.  

Just as the women predicted when Saul entered the city Samuel was coming towards them, he was on his way up to the holy place.  What Saul does not know is the day before the Lord told Samuel he was going to send to him a man from Benjamin.  He also told him that he wanted him to anoint this man to be the first-ever ruler over Israel, that he will be the one to deliver them out of the hands of the Philistines.  

It is now the next day and the moment Samuel laid eyes on Saul the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”  Saul is the man the Lord told Samuel about the day before.

Saul had no idea what the Lord was planning or that Samuel was expecting him and he inquired as to where the “seers” house is.  Samuel answered, “I am the seer”, and he invites Saul and his servant up to the high place to eat with him.  He also mentions that he is going to tell him all that is in his heart and that he and his whole family will be the desire of all of Israel.  Saul needs to be told what is in his heart because he doesn’t yet know.  He has no idea of what his future will look like or the power that he has within him.  

Saul is looking at his current lifestyle and it is so far removed from what Samuel is saying that it’s unfathomable.  All Israel desires to have a king like all the other nations around them and Saul fits the criteria.  You can tell by his reply that he was in amazement at the suggestion.  He is a Benjamite the smallest tribe in all of Israel and within that tribe, his family was the least of all families.  Saul had a difficult time understanding exactly what Samuel meant, he questioned him, “why are you saying this to me?”  Samuel doesn’t answer he just leads him to the parlor where he points to the chief seat, the most prominent seat at the table of 30 other men waiting to eat.       

As for the beginning of vs. 20, that is a word of knowledge.  Saul did not mention to Samuel that he was on the search for missing donkeys.  He only asked if he was the seer.  The Lord told Samuel to tell Saul that he didn’t need to worry about the donkeys anymore because they were found.  A word of knowledge is one way the Lord will get the attention of certain people.  The Lord reveals personal information to a prophetic person so they can prove they are speaking on behalf of the Lord.

Once Saul and his servant are seated at the head of the table, Samuel turns to the cook and requests for the special portion, previously set aside, to be placed before Saul.  This was the choicest piece, the best piece of meat set aside and given to Saul as a reference to Saul being the chosen man to make the change that was about to take place in Israel.    

Dinner was a huge hit, the guests were well fed and happy.  Samuel and Saul head back to Samuel’s home where they sit on the rooftop balcony.  Remembering that Samuel said he would tell Saul everything in his heart.  Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall of this conversation?  Apparently, this was a very private conversation and we are not privy to it.  My best guess is the conversation was more about what was in God’s heart versus Saul’s.  Samuel most likely used this time to convince Saul that he was the man God wanted to be the first-ever king.  Isn’t it interesting how different our plans can be from the plans the Lord has for us?  Saul was literally the only man who went out looking for donkeys and returned home as a king. 

The next morning as Saul and his servant prepare to journey back home, Samuel calls to them on the roof letting them know that whenever they are ready he wants to send them off.  Samuel had one more word from the Lord that he needed to share with him.

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Giving Up Freedom

Read 1 Samuel 8:1-22

It is estimated that from the battle in chapter 7 until now approximately 20 more years have passed.  Making Samuel at least in his fifties, possibly close to sixty.  At any rate, the man is in a season of life when he needs to begin to delegate his workload.  Samuel chose to appoint his two sons Joel and Abijah as judges in the area of Beersheba which is located in the southern territories and it appears that Samuel kept his office in the area of Ramah.    Notice he did not make them high priests only God has the authority to do that.  Samuels sons don’t appear to be as corrupt as Eli’s sons, they messed with the Lord’s sacrifices, however, they were corrupt judges non the less.  Joel and Abijah would take bribes.  They received money that swayed their judgment, they no longer judged their cases fairly and honestly.

Verse 4 tells us the elders of Israel got together, traveling to Ramah to meet with Samuel.  The scripture written here reflects the heartbreak and focus of Samuel as he wrote these words.  It’s almost as if you can feel his emotions welling up.  Samuels sons were not the sole reason the elders were frustrated, but it seems to be the most disappointing aspect for Samuel.  

The Israelites under Joel and Abijah were experiencing disunion and jealousy among the various tribes.  Their authority was limited and not consistent.  There was also a concern for Samuel’s age and the fact that he would not be able to lead them much longer and as far as they could tell the Lord has not raised up another high priest judge to take his place. On top of all this, they are beginning to receive threats of invasion from the Amorite king.  

They want a king, they want one central form of government and they begin to make this known to Samuel because they trusted he would make the right decision for the people despite his personal interest or even personal feelings.  The elders were not out of line to request a king according to Deut 17:14, it’s as though Moses predicted this would happen, more like the Lord knew this would happen and had Moses include it in his laws.  

Naturally, Samuel was displeased with this request but as a prophet-seer, he did what we all should do when faced with stressful decisions, he turned to the Lord in prayer.  I always find it interesting when the Lord answers us in a way we do not want to hear.  I’m sure Samuel was not expecting the Lord to tell him to give the people a king.  Samuel saw this request as a rejection and it was, it was a rejection of their invisible king, not Samuel.  They used Samuel as the excuse, he was their scapegoat and that was painful, yet the Lord reassured Samuel that it wasn’t him they were rejecting.

God is not surprised by their rejections at all.  He has dealt with it since he first placed his favor on them and led them out of Egypt.  The Israelites have given the Lord one big long series of ingratitude and rebellion against Him and the people he provided as intercessors for Him.  They did it to Moses, they did it to Aaron and now they are doing it to Samuel.  

God told Samuel to give them what they wanted, but before doing so, give them a fair warning of the reality of how things will be.  You see the grass on the other side is looking greener to them, but what they don’t realize is the grass is planted on a septic tank.  Currently, they are under the rule of a God who loves them and makes their best interest His priority.  The citizens are asking to be like all the other nations.  Their current government allows them to make decisions based on God’s word, but they are asking for a change to their governmental structure, one that will make them depend on man-made systems and structures that deliberately take away their freedoms and liberty to follow and trust in the Lord.

They were willing to exchange their Republican freedom for that of a sovereign like those foreign kings who threaten to attack or like Pharoah who held them as slaves.  It does not make sense that they would want to go back to that lifestyle after experiencing freedom.  

Samuel paints a very vivid picture for the elders.  He warns them of how it will be.  Here is the thing, Samuel is telling them word for word what the Lord says will happen.  This is prophecy, this isn’t just a warning, this is straight-up going to happen if they continue seeking an alternative form of government. 

I’ll put it in more common wording for our modern American way of understanding.  The people wanted a government that would take care of them, they wanted a better life and they didn’t want to depend on the Lord for it.  So they started a campaign for a government that gave them free healthcare, free education, free food, free paychecks.  Samuel then gave them a warning of what this would truly mean for them, warned them of what their lives will be like, not could, will be like.

Samuel began to point out some hard truths about their neighbors.  Truths of how their citizens are at their disposal for court retainers, military positions.  They would also be required to work for the government in any and all ways they appointed them from gardening their private estates to personal housekeeping, they could no longer choose their profession.  Any and all property the citizens owned would be seized and deemed governmental property, they would no longer own their land or homes they would only rent if they are deemed worthy enough by the government. They will be forced to work without a fair wage or any wage at all.

He makes a special mention of the horrible treatment of women.  Most ungodly nations do not honor women the way the Lord does.  They will not be safe in their family homes because the government can come in and take them away to work as slaves in whatever position they decided on.  

Basically, under this new form of government, you will have no life.  Rejecting the rule of God in your life will leave you with no life.  Vs. 18 says, on that day you will cry out because of the king you have chosen and the Lord will not hear you.  Vs. 19 tells us nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel.  Saying, “Naah, we’d rather have a king rule over us.  They would rather, willingly put themselves out of the Lord’s protection.  They are choosing this.  They would rather be judged by a man born to sin than the holy Lord.  

They longed to be like other nations.  How many times have I heard how other nations do this and do that.  If you want to be like other nations go live in those nations.  There is a reason other people run to our nation, yet people still keep crying out for our government to do things like other nations.  Look at Israel’s history over this one decision.  It’s a tragic story.     

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Balaam Couldn’t Curse Israel But God Could

Read 1 Samuel 7:1-17

The ark of the covenant of God has been passed around from city to city for months now and finally, it’s going to live in a more permanent home in the land of Kiriath Jearim.  The ark was carried to the property of Abinadab.  This location was most likely chosen because it sits at the top of a hill allowing the temple where the ark will be housed to be seen from every angle throughout the land.  They would easily be able to face the location of the temple during times of prayer.  Given the catastrophe at Beth Shemesh, this time the Israelites gave a great deal of thought in keeping the laws and giving the ark its due honor.  

Abinadab and Eleazar his son were not Levites, they were not ordained to be priests.  Eleazor was “sanctified” or “consecrated”, he was set apart to take care of the ark.  His job was to guard and maintain the environment around it. 

The ark of God remained in this city for a total of twenty years.  But those twenty years were not joyful or peaceful.  Verse 2 uses the phrase lamented after the Lord.  Verse 3 gives us some of the reasons the Israelites lamented.  You see, the Israelites did not give to their Lord all of their heart.  Their hearts were torn between serving the Lord and living like the rest of the world.  They continued dabbling with “strange gods” and with Ashtoreth which represents goddesses.  

Just because the Philistines returned the ark did not mean they loosened their hold on the previously conquered people.  The hand of the Philistines pressed heavily on the Israelites, they continued with the oppression.  The Israelites were destroyed in battle, the holy ark was captured, Eli’s death was sudden and tragic.  The final blow was the total destruction of Shiloh, leaving the once vital city of worship desolate.

Yes, the Hebrew people lamented, they expressed their sorrows in profound ways for twenty years.  Twenty years!  Then all the people turned back to the Lord.  But what happened during the twenty years?  It wasn’t easy peasy, vs. 3 brings Samuel onto the scene.  During this time Samuel was laboring to make things right with the Lord.

Various commentaries depict Samuel during this time as living as though he were a fugitive of sorts.  We know he traveled from city to city teaching and preaching the word of the Lord.  We also know that not all those cities wanted to live according to God’s laws.  Samuel received a great deal of pushback from his own people.  Nevertheless, he kept the course and gradually began to stir his people to understand just how great their sins are in the eyes of God.  He was striving to renew their trust and to return their hearts to their first love.  As he traveled, Samuel began to see different degrees of this happening throughout the land and it gave him hope for a future restoration.  

Samuel understood something that most people do not.  He understood that God punishes his people for their sins by withdrawing his protection.  The Philistines were putting pressure on because the Lord lifted His protection on the Israelites.  God will put bad leaders in charge of nations if need be, to get the attention of His people.  Samuel worked tirelessly to establish the word and will of God, believing they would repent.  Their repentance would restore Jehovah as their king and He would deliver them from their enemies. 

Samuel’s preaching is relevant today.  “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, and rid yourselves of the sin of the world, commit yourselves to serve Him only, he will deliver you out of the hand of the enemies.”  The idols and Ashtoreths are the specific sins of this time period.  To us, they represent all sin.  In the days of Samuel, the Baalim and Ashtoreth represented two pagan deities.   As long as the Jews held onto these idols it gave the Philistines a foothold to oppress them.  The idols represented a compromising heart, a divided heart is their sin. 

The Baalim was formerly a prophet who was hired by Balaak, the king of the Moabites to curse Israel.  After seven attempts and the Lord literally controlling his mouth to only speak blessings, he gave up.  God would not allow any curses to be spoken over his people, only blessings were established.  The plan of attack changed.  Balaam created a new plan to seduce the weaker Israelite men.  He sent in beautiful Moabite women to seduce the Jewish men (Num 25:1-3) with sex.  Ultimately the women invited the men to join them on dates to an idol sacrifice causing the men to eat a sacrificial meal, they then bowed down before their gods.  Israel was now yoked to Baal.  Balaam knew that if the men were seduced into idol worship then God himself would curse them (Num. 31:16).  Balaam couldn’t curse Israel but God could.  

It appears that something similar may have infiltrated their society yet again.  Balaam was a prophet who became idolized for his sneaky plan.  Today we see evidence of his sexual tempting spirit in various ways, from workplace flirtation to porn and even rape.  It is all designed to pull your heart away from full dedication to the Lord.  Any amount of division of your loyalty is still division and God will not allow it.

Samuel urged the Hebrew people to give all their hearts to the Lord and to serve Him only.  That is exactly what they began to do, as their hearts were convicted they began to cast down their idols.  They stopped traveling to the Philistine cities to worship in the idol sex temples.  They tore down all idols they built inside Israel.  The Philistines saw this as an overt act of rebellion and a huge insult.  Another way the God of heaven overruled their fake gods.  Their anger was stirred up and they began to plot their next attack.

Samuel, hearing the talk of war, calls the Israelites to assemble at Mizpah.  Mizpah means watchtower, it is a type of place where they would gather together to watch out for the advancing enemy.  Mizpah seems to be Samuel’s commencement to judgeship over both civil and military affairs.  Since his birth Samuel was trained to be the next judge and high priest over Israel, this is his breakthrough moment.  After twenty years of living in what seemed like obscurity, he is now in a position to lead both the military and the spiritual affairs of his people and he begins to do just that.  

God works in the order he established, his moves can be beautifully predictable when you understand his ways.  The first thing God wants for each and everyone of us is to repent, to turn our hearts to him for either the very first time or the twentieth.  That being said, it is not by coincidence that there is revival taking place here in chapter 7.  This story took place during the season of Teshuva.  This is exciting not only for Samuel and the Isrealites but for us today because we are literally in that season right now.  Teshuva is the days of return and repentance.  How awesome is our God of heaven that he planned for us to study this particular story at this exact time in our lives?  I believe we are in fact participating in the prophecies of people in the last days returning back to God.  

Samuel called together the people of Israel to physically meet in one location, he called them to do a corporate fast, then he interceded for them.  He stood in the gap between the people and the Lord decreeing the word of God over them.  Vs. 4 The Israelites, “served the Lord only”, vs. 6 says, “on that day they fasted and there they confessed.”  I can almost hear the moaning and travailing of each Israelite while Samuel prayed to God of heaven.  How cleansing this must have been for this great nation.  

While the house cleaning took place inside the hearts of the Jews the Philistines, the enemy, began to close in (vs. 7).  They caught wind that all of Israel was assembled at Mizpah and they engaged in their plan of attack.  They were sitting ducks, as good as dead, begging Samuel “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.”  Vs. 9 “He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.”   

As the sweet aroma of their sacrifices rose to the Lord, the Philistines drew near to engage in battle, but that day the “Lord thundered” literally with a loud thunder causing the Philistines to go into major panic mode.  The Israelites rushed out of Mizpah pursuing the enemy, slaughtering them along the way.  The Lord led them to victory because they cleaned up their mess, removed their sin, they returned their hearts back to the Lord and he returned his glory to his people.  His hand remained against the Philistines, they were subdued all throughout Samuel’s life.  

Not only did the Lord restore all of Israel’s cities, He delivered the neighboring nations from their hands as well.  And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.  Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life traveling from city to city judging, but he always returned home to Ramah where he built an altar to the Lord.

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Presents Without The Presence

Read 1 Samuel 6:13-21

It is now harvest time, so the end of May begins in June in the town of Beth-Shemesh.  God is so detailed.  The name Beth-Shemesh means “House of the Sun” or “The City of the Sun”, which seems fitting for a temporary home for the ark.  Beth-Shemesh is also a Priestly/Levitical city.  It is no coincidence the two cows stopped in the city that belonged to the priests.  The priests were the ones responsible for taking care of the ark of God. 

God led these two cows to Beth-Shemesh to the city his priests occupied and the city whose name represents the sun, a sign of God returning His glory.  The entire population would have been out in the fields during the harvest season giving them full access to witness this wonderful event.  Imagine, after the devastation of losing both a battle and the ark, lifting your eyes to see, off in the distance, the ark of God coming toward you.  

The sounds of rejoicing began rising like a wave as person after person realized the ark of God has returned.  Having the Ark return wasn’t the only glorious part of this story.  Up until now, the ark was in safekeeping deep inside the holy of holies of the tabernacle.  The ark was not seen by anyone other than the high priest.  The high priest, Eli, was the only man pure enough to have the authority to enter the presence of the Lord and look inside the ark of the covenant.  These people had only heard about the splendor and magnificence of this symbol.  Until now they only had the option of imagining what it looked like.

The ark of God represented to them the divine presence of the Lord and it is restored to them once again.  Here’s the thing, the Lord wants to be in the presence of His people, His children.  I wondered why the Israelites didn’t crave the Lord enough to seek him out.  Yet, in this passage, we see that the Lord loves His people enough to return to them anyway.  The people did nothing to restore the presence of God, they didn’t pay a ransom, they didn’t go to war, they didn’t even look for Him.  This story tells us way more about God’s love and devotion to us than it does about our devotion to Him.       

The citizens of Bethshemesh immediately went to work.  The Levites lifted the Ark of God and placed it on a large rock where the cows finished their journey. They dismantled the cart, using the wood to make a fire.  In the meantime, the two cows were being prepped for sacrifice.  Their purpose was for each to be burnt and sin offerings to the Lord.  The Lord always provides his tithes and offerings, it’s up to us to recognize and utilize them appropriately.  

The Hebrew word for burnt offering means to “ascend” or literally “go up in smoke.”  The smoke from the sacrifice ascended to God, “a soothing aroma to the Lord”.  This was done as an acknowledgment of sin, for the atonement of known sins, and a way of requesting a renewed relationship with God.

A sin-offering is different, it means “fault” offering.  A sin-offering was made for sins committed in ignorance, or unintentional sin.  It covers the times when you engage in something that later you realize was a sin.  We don’t know what we don’t know, but once we do learn we need to make amends, this sacrifice covers those times, the times when we have sinned and didn’t know better.

The offerings were for the Philistines, to cover their sins, their transgressions to the Lord.  Vs. 16 tells us the Philistine Lords, waited and watched until the sacrifices were given.  They left after the offerings were made, they felt satisfied that they had done their part, repaired their transgressions then headed back home. 

While the fire is made and sacrifices are offered the Levites place the ark and the chest on the large rock where it temporarily was housed.  As the day of celebration continued something unfathomable happened.  Vs. 19 the Levites allowed their curiosity to get the best of them.  They did something that not even the Philistines were guilty of.  They opened the ark of God and looked into it.  The ark had been sealed up since it was in the wilderness with Moses.  Those sacred stones secured inside had not been out of their home since they were written on by the very hand of God.  

The Levites now had an opportunity unlike any they’ve ever had and were unlikely to have again.  The ark of God is now exposed, sitting out in the open, with no barrier between them they do the one thing none of them had the authority to do, they opened the Ark of God. Just because the ark was exposed did not give them the right to look inside.  They were curious, they desired to know what was inside, they wanted to know the secret things, the things God locked away.  Adam and Eve were guilty of a similar desire, they ate the forbidden fruit because they desired to know secret things.  The Bethshemites looked inside because they desired to know the secret things of God but there was one huge problem with that, they were not holy.  They were not clean, pure, or without sin.   They were standing before the ark as unholy men and the Lord struck them and 1170 men died instantly.  

Digging deeper into the words in their original Hebrew we learn that just looking at the ark was not a sin but rather they looked at it with lust or malicious pleasure or a foolish staring, all of which goes against the holiness of the ark of God and according to Numbers 4:20 was punishable by death.    

The severe judgment of so many men caused the people to be alarmed, they started asking the question, “Who can stand before Jehovah, this holy God?”  They concluded the death was because of their unholiness and not any particular crime done by those specific individuals.  They realize they are all unholy, that no one was any better than those struck down.  They had the biggest realization of their lives, that sinners could not approach the holy God.  

The Bethshemites also began to ponder the question of where can we send the ark?  Where can it go from here?  They weren’t necessarily trying to move the ark, they were wanting to move the presence of the Lord.  They are a lot like the Philistines in that they wanted the presents the ark brought but they did not want the presence of the Lord.  They too wanted to avoid any further judgment against them and their desire to continue to live in sin.    

Their plan was now to move the ark to the next city, a more permanent location.  They immediately sent messengers to Kirjath-jearim to let them know the ark of God was returned and they need to come immediately to collect it and take it back to their town.   

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Just Get It Out Of Here

Read 1 Samuel 6:1-12

The Philistines had finally had enough of the Lord; they were living in sin and his presence was a constant reminder because they suffered constant judgment.  They were ready to get God out of their lives once and for all.  They wanted to go back to the old ways they wanted to continue to live in sin and not be judged for it.  Wouldn’t it be nice to never be judged and to just live in our sin?

On top of the Philistines’ judgment for harboring the ark, not a single Israelite tried to get it back.  This puzzles me.  It’s as though everyone is ok with just sitting in their sin. The Philistines tried everything to harness the Lord’s glory and the Hebrews were sitting in their pity party, upset that the Lord’s glory was gone but not doing anything to get Him to return.  If you want the Lord’s glory on you, then you have to seek Him.  Don’t just sit around moping about your miserable life, start seeking the Lord.  

If you were taken captive and placed out in the wilderness, wouldn’t you want those who claim to love you to come and get you and bring you back to where you belong?  No wonder the Lord is so willing to leave the 99 to go get the one that is lost.  He knows what it feels like to not have your loved ones seek you.         

For seven excruciating months, the Ark was passed around the nation.  Then finally the Philistines agreed they needed some help deciding what to permanently do with the ark of God.  Coming up with yet another brilliant idea, the government called in priests and diviners and asked them, “what shall we do to the ark of the Lord?  How do we send it back to his place?”

Notice they did not ask if they should send it back, but they are asking “how” to send it back.  They did not want to bring anymore destruction on themselves.  They want to make things right, they want to smooth over their offense and try to gain any favor they possibly can.  They sought out advice from priests, which is the same word for priests of the true God, and diviners cover their worship of idols and superstitions.  In other words, they are covering all their bases to get the ark back into its land.  

However, they still are not sure it is even God who caused the plagues.  The discussion continued, the advice was given to not send it back empty.  The Lord requires sacrifice, a trespass offering.  It says in vs. 3 to offer a trespass offering then you will be healed.  Repent and you will be healed, also, this would settle the question of where did the plagues originate.  

Sickness doesn’t always mean you have sinned.  Don’t just assume you are in the clear.  It would be prudent to seek the Holy Spirit to make sure there isn’t something tucked away that you are unaware of, even if it is a generational curse or sickness you need to repent of it.  Sometimes we partner with sin without even knowing it.  What “we” consider to be sin and what God says is sin are often two very different things.  We go with how we “feel”, “I’m not convicted so it’s not a sin”, we even blow people off by stating, “everyone has their convictions”.  You’ve got to stop doing that,  the enemy is not going to allow you to feel bad about going against the word of the Lord.   

The offering seems strange to us, but in these ancient days, it was a general custom to present an offering to the deities from whom they believed they received healing.  They would create a figurine in the likeness of the diseased part.  For example, if they survived a shipwreck they would offer a ship statue to Neptune.  Gladiators would off their arms to Hercules.  In this case, it was five gold tumors and rats.  The number five represents the number of Philistine lords, and tumors and rats represent the plagues.  

Everyone agreed with this plan and got busy making all the preparations.  The first on the list was building a new cart for the ark to travel on.  This is something that is seen at other times in the Bible as a sign of reverence.  They knew this would be ok with the Levites because they also used carts to carry their sacred artifacts on.  Once the cart was built, they took two cows, took their calves from them, and tied them to the cart.  They wanted to make sure the cows were directed by the Lord and not from training. 

 A cow that had already been yoked and trained to pull a cart would have tried to return to their calves.  An unyoked cow, however, would wonder.  On top of all that, these cows were momma’s, their calves were taken from them.  The scriptures said they were lowing all the way.  They were remembering their baby cows.  The cow’s instinct would have been to turn around and go back to her babies, in this case, they did not do that because they were led by the Lord, they were on a divine mission.

The only thing left to do was to secure the gold tumors and rats in a chest and strap it on the cart next to the ark.  All the preparations were now complete, they gave the cows a nice swat on the rump roast and they were off, they headed straight toward Beth-Shemesh.  They followed the road the entire way, never once getting off course.  This is what the Philistines were watching for as they followed the ark in complete amazement.  The fact that the cows headed straight to Beth-Shemesh was the proof they needed to verify the plagues were done by God’s mighty hand and not just random circumstance. 

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That Dagon Temple

Read 1 Samuel 5:1-12

All of chapter five and part of chapter six give us great detail of what happens to the Philistines and the whereabouts of the ark.  What it does not give us is what happened in Shiloh while the ark was missing.  Here’s the thing, the ark represented the Lord and the Lord’s glory was no longer in Shiloh or with the Israelites and so the Bible does not have a record of what happened immediately after Eli’s death.  The next seven months are a bit of a mystery for Shiloh.  It seems that when the glory is removed that is when biblical history is not recorded.  Another example of this is the intertestamental period.  God was silent and we know from recorded history other than what the Bible records are that this period included a time of tribulation in which a massacre on the Israelites occurred.

The Philistines defeated the Israelites in a battle the Lord did not approve of and they were able to confiscate the ark of the covenant of God.  The ark was carried away from Ebenezer, where the battle was won, to their capital city called Ashdod.  Ashdod was one of their most famous cities and was home to an idol temple.  Since the Philistines did not know the difference between God of Heaven and their fake idols, they decided to place the ark next to their Dagon idol, which is a hybrid fish/man creature god of grain that is also an ancestor to Godzilla.  

Dagon has shown up at times in various places throughout the Bible.  In Judges 16:23, the Philistines offered sacrifice to this idol after Sampson was delivered into their hands.  1Chronicles 10:10 mentions how they positioned King Saul’s head in the Dagon temple.  Even Jonah had an encounter with a relative of Dagon, the Ninevites believed Jonah was delivered to them via a female Dagon which they believed was the fish Johan lived in for three days.  God protected Jonah from their goddess and that is what got their attention, God of heaven protected Jonah from her, this is what led them to repent. 

There are a few scriptures that give us a look at what may have happened in Shiloh.  Directly after the Philistines were victorious in battle, they at once set their sites on Shiloh, where it is written in Psalms 78:60-64, they seemed to have avenged themselves for all their past injuries with a terrible massacre and destroying all the sacred buildings.  Jeremiah later writes, “This house shall be like Shiloh, this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant.”  Despite this crushing blow, we know that the Hebrew people were not completely exterminated. The citizens were murdered and their holy buildings were leveled, nothing more remained of this city Shiloh. 

It would be no surprise that placing the ark of God next to this pesky idol was not a good idea, but they did it anyway.  Only after God knocked this idol to the ground twice, breaking off his hands and head, leaving only a torso behind did they start to second guess their decision.  

It wasn’t just the events happening to the idol that caused the Philistines to realize this was a horrible idea, it was also the devastation the Lord brought on them.  His hand was heavy on them, he destroyed them by inflicting them with tumors.

Once the leaders of Ashdod realized the tumors were widespread and began the moment the ark was brought into the temple, they immediately called a meeting with all the other leaders throughout the area to discuss what in the world they should do about the ark.  Their bright idea was to just move it; they transported the ark of the God of Isreal to the city of Gath. They likely chalked the whole disease up to some coincidental outbreak, they didn’t tie it to the Lord.  They also didn’t take any chances of their Dagon idols being further destroyed because the city of Gath didn’t have a Dagon temple, so there shouldn’t be any competition between the two. 

It is interesting how the Philistines refused to denounce their Dagon god, they refused to repent to the God of Israel. Instead of seeking mercy from God, they would rather just get rid of the ark.  People with hard, sin-riddled hearts would rather keep God as far away as they possibly can than go into a covenant relationship with him.  As we see in this story, eventually fighting with God will lead to a divine judgment to increase on you.

Their judgment certainly did increase, especially in the form of tumors.  The tumors plaguing the citizens of Ashdod were more on the surface of their bodies, the lumps and bumps were much more noticeable.  The citizens of Gath, however, were plagued with internal tumors.  You can see this description in KJV where it says they were inflicted in their secret parts which is the most inward part of their bodies.  Our modern science teaches us that tumors forming inside our bodies are much more painful, not easy to get to, and certainly much more difficult to cure.  Thus the Lord is amping up his judgment on these wicked people.

Still not learning their lesson, and still not wanting to do what is right before God, they ship the ark off to yet another one of their main cities, this time it was transported to the city of Ekron.  We all know news travels fast, and bad news travels even faster, so the Ekron citizens had already gotten the news that the previous cities suffered this tumorous plague and they did not want anything to do with this ark, they protested against its presence.  Ultimately the decision was made to temporarily place the ark in Ekron until the Lords of the Philistines could convene to find a permanent location.

Just like the other two cities, the judgment of the Lord increased on Ekron’s citizens.  This time it’s described as “deadly destruction” or literally “a dismay of death” meaning the fear of the Lord was so intense it caused the people to suffer mental agony and despair.  The number of people who died was immense and those who did not die from despair were forced to continue living their lives being tormented from this sickness. 

The wording in vs. 12 reads as though Ekron was also inflicted with something else because it says, “those who did not die” were afflicted with tumors.  The judgment definitely increased with every move of the ark.  God amped up the plagues until the Philistines couldn’t handle them anymore. 

The Philistine rulers called an emergency meeting where they decided to send the ark of the God of Israel away;  finally, they decided to let it go back to its own place.  They were terrified if they didn’t return the ark it would kill them and the remainder of their people.  

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Ichabod

Read 1 Samuel 4:12-21

The story of defeat continues, up to this point Hophni and Phineas went along with the plan to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord into battle.  They had hoped the appearance of the ark would give them an advantage over the Philistines.  They were wrong in that assumption, in fact they ended up losing 30,000 foot men on the battlefield.  They didn’t just lose this battle, the Israelites also lost the ark of God and along with it Hophni and Phineas were both killed.  

The Hebrew military was placed in complete disarray, men were running back to their tents in agony, except for one man who was from the tribe of Benjamin.  I know it’s hard to believe but back then people did not have cell phones or email, so the only way to get news was by foot.  Men who could run long distances with great endurance were chosen to report on the status of the war.  The bible doesn’t specify who this benjamite man was, but Jewish history claims it is likely none other than Saul, the future king of Israel.  

During the devastation Saul tore his clothes and poured dirt over his head as a sign of great defeat and deep mourning, he then took off running back toward Shiloh.  In Shiloh by the watchtower sits 98 year old Eli waiting for news of this terrible battle and for the report of his wicked son’s whereabouts.  The awareness of the previous loss of 4k men weighed heavily on his heart, his sons had broken a covenant with their invisible king only added to his sorrow.

This is an extreme amount of stress for this old man, he could not see well, if at all, but he could hear the uproar of cries, he could hear the wailing of loved ones moaning in agony as they received this horrible news of possible death of their loved ones.  When Eli heard the cries, he demanded to know what the uproar was all about.

Saul rushes to Eli’s side informing him how Israel fled before the Philistines and the heavy loss they suffered.  The news gets worse because he learns his two sons were among the dead.  Then the biggest blow, the ark of God was captured.  

Back in verse 13 KJV reads, Eli sat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. This was the worst possible outcome he could have imagined, when he heard the horrible news of the ark, Eli fell backward off his chair and broke his neck.  Eli was old and fat, he indulged his children and himself over the years, his body was in poor health, and so when he fell backward breaking his neck killed him.  It seems like he may have suffered a heart attack given vs. 13 said his heart trembled for the ark of God.  The heart attack could have likely caused him to fall backwards.  Nevertheless, after 40 years of service Eli was no longer judge or priest over Israel.

One of the main interests to me in the part of Eli’s death is how it was the news of the ark’s captivity that caused his heart to react.  His love and devotion for the Lord was undeniable and it is shown in these verses.  It wasn’t the news of the war or the news of his son’s death that caused him to die, it was the news of the loss of the ark.  The finality of the Lord’s judgement, the loss of the Lord’s glory on him and his family and from the house of the Lord is what caused him to ultimately die.  

This terrible news continues to spread throughout Shiloh and all of Israel, but the next person recorded to receive word was Phinehas’ wife who was in her third trimester of pregnancy.  The devastating news caused this woman to go into labor.  Verse 19 says, “She bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.”  She was overcome with labor pains, falling to her knees as she travailed, this was a deep, sudden and excruciating childbirth .  

Travail is a pretty heavy word, it means to engage in painful or laborious effort.  Certainly childbirth on its own is painful and laborious but add to it the pain from the death of her husband and father in law,  and don’t forget the ark was no longer in their care.  This labor and delivery left her weakened to the point of death.  Her attendants tried to comfort her, tried to lift her out of this pit of despair, but it was of no use.  She would not respond to them or to her newborn son.  She paid no attention to their efforts.

Deep in thought and depression the new mom contemplated all that had happened, she understood completely that Jehovah was no longer with her or her people, that the glory of the Lord had departed.  She lost her husband, her Lord was no longer shining on her or her people, her father in Law, the high priest was now dead, this was all too much to handle.  She began to slip further and further, deeper and deeper into despair.  All the pain and hurt was summed up and placed into the name of her son.  She named him Ichabod which means “no glory” because the glory of Israel is no more.  The ark of God had been captured.  

The scripture is written in such a way that indicates both Eli and Phinehas’ wife were especially distraught over the loss of the ark of God.  To them these artifacts were priceless, they represented their Lord.  They believed the glory of God was carried off, taken away from them.  The ark is named the ark of the covenant.  When the Lord’s earthly throne was surrendered it left them feeling as though the Lord also abolished his covenant of grace with Israel, that his covenant with them was no longer in effect.

Now what does this look like in our time, can the Lord’s glory be taken from us or from our sanctuary?  Can the name Ichobod be given to a once vital church?  Unfortunately that answer is yes.  The Lord will always be present with his saints, however, that does not mean that it will permanently remain in a church, city or even a nation, especially if those places choose wickedness over worship.

So far through 1 Samuel we’ve studied how God’s glory was on the family of Elkanah, it was contrasted with the corruption of worship in the temple.  God will remain with those who are righteous before him, he will not remain in a place where righteousness is not prioritized.  Given the priest’s sins it was only a matter of time before the Lord would send judgement, he is generous in that he gives ample time to repent.  Instead of repenting they made their sin a way of life, their sins became second nature a new way of life.

When the word, worship and ordinances of God are not prioritized and instead are removed it will only be a matter of time before the glory of God is also removed from the church and from the people who go along with the sin.  

When people stop talking about the glorious Gospel of Christ, when we stop talking about sound doctrine, when we stop talking about the promises God made to us, when we stop administering the sacraments it means the glory has departed from the people.  They will have no one to blame,  they alone are responsible for being religious, lukewarm, unfruitful, negligent with their attendance for the worship service,  ignoring the spoken word and instead taking part in unbecoming conversations. 

I know you can make up a million excuses as to why you are not a participant in a “Ichabod” church, you love the Lord, you pray, you sing those songs when you feel like showing up, you toss a few bucks into the offering plate.  Hear me on this if you do not take the worship of the Lord seriously it is only a matter of time before his glory will not shine on you.  You need to start pressing in more and more.  Church is not a place to go just so you can focus your week.  It is a place where you go to worship the Lord of Lords.  In the Shiloh church the assistant pastors were causing the worshipers to be distracted, they took the focus of the sacrifice off the Lord and put in on themselves.  The lead pastor chose to look the other way, he didn’t want to cause a ruckus, he didn’t want to deal with the fallout so he kept the assistant pastors on payroll.

Church members, you cannot allow the worship of the Lord to be tainted, you need to press in.  Pastors step up to the plate and make sure your church members understand what it means to worship the Lord in the way He expects.

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Always Seek Godly Council

Read 1 Samuel 4:1-11

Verse 21 in chapter 3 ended saying, “The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word”.  Before Samuel met the Lord the prophetic word was scarce in Israel, in fact it has been a long 80 years with no word.  But, now we have Samuel who has been anointed as prophet and judge over Israel when the Lord visited him.  From that morning on the Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, he was building a relationship with Samuel by establishing his word in him and training him personally to be his prophet.

As Samuel grew in knowledge and understanding of the Lord he began to speak the word of the Lord to all of Israel, and every citizen responded in agreement that he was a prophet.

Contrast this beautiful story with the last half of verse 1 and it’s a stark contrast.  Despite Samuel being established as a prophet and Eli still managing the temple neither of them were involved or consulted before making the decision to go to war with the Philistines.  Nevertheless, the Israelites went out and camped at Ebenezer.  The Philistines deployed their forces against Israel and crushed them, defeating Israel and killing 4k soldiers.  

Devastated, the remaining troops returned to their camp and now the Elders are wondering why they suffered such a loss.  They could not figure out why the Lord brought this defeat on them, why did the Lord smite them before the Philistines?  The elders were correct in realizing that it was by the Lord’s hand that they were smitten, smited, killed.  What they didn’t grasp was the fact that it was by their own doing.  The elders are alot like many christians today who find themselves beaten down by the world, or they’ve endured hardship after hardship and the first thing they want to do is to invent all sorts of reasons for why bad things are happening to them, coming up with all sorts of excuses and never once owning the truth that the pain is there because they chose to depart from the Lord. Somehow, they betrayed the Lord. 

The way the elders chose to solve this conflict gives us more proof that their hearts were not in the right place.  Instead of repenting and returning to the Lord, they thought they could bring the Lord to them.  Have you ever tried to bring the Lord down to your level?  Hear me on this, you cannot infuse Jesus into your sin and expect things to be good.  Just because you listen to praise or worship music while doing ungodly things does not make it ok.  Just because you prayed and asked God to bless you, before a night on the town, does not mean you are in His will.  Stop trying to pull the Lord down to your level.  

The elders tried to bring the Lord into their mess by carrying the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield.  What a great idea, they thought. God has been showing up regularly at the temple in the holiest of holies so let’s bring the Ark here and God will work like a magic genie.  The elders were remembering the “good ole days” of Moses and even Jericho and how the Ark was present when they won.  The Ark was a symbol of God’s power; it was not God.  

They had no clue, they thought the symbol, the Ark, carried the power, not unlike the Philistines and their pagan idol worship. 

Symbols like crosses, angels, dove figurines don’t carry any power.  Power only comes from the Lord.  The Isrealites were digging themselves into an even bigger hole.  Never once did they think, “Let’s talk with Eli and Samuel to find out what the Lord says”.  Nope, they drew their own conclusions and took matters into their own hands by deciding to send men back to Shiloh to get the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts.  Lesson here, get godly counsel when making tough decisions.  

When they entered the temple, whom did they find there?  None other than Hophni and Phineas.  Not Samuel or Eli, but Eli’s two worthless scoundrel sons.  Samuel and Eli would have reminded them of God’s laws and they certainly would have pointed out their sins, but people don’t like that do they?  

The scene in verse 4 is the throne of Israel’s king.  “Dwelleth between the cherubim” Not so much where the Lord lives but rather his seat as King.  The people were bringing the throne of Jehovah to their camp, as a symbol of their theocratic ruler.  Theocratic means: a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God.  

They understand how their government functions, they understand an invisible Jehovah as their King.  They completely miss the point when it comes to their sin.  Verse 4 contrasts the throne of Jehovah with the immorality of the nation.  Hophni and Phineas were with the Ark.  The two priests who abandoned the Lord, the two priests who stole from the Lord, defiled all the sacrifices are now standing as the guardians of the Ark.  They carry the Ark into a battle the Lord didn’t call for.

The Ark is called here The ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts.  The Ark represented a covenant.  A covenant is between two parties.  While covenants promise favour they also contain conditions.  God’s promise was to be ever present with the Israelites.  The Isrealites were expected to obey His commands and His laws.  Turns out they expect God to keep  his end of the covenant without keeping their part.   I don’t care who you are, it does not work that way.  God will not remain present in a place where worship of Him is being defiled, and that still stands today.  

When the soldiers looked up and witnessed the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant it was a huge relief.  Their confidence was immediately lifted, the whole camp broke out with shouts of joy so loud and thunderous the whole earth rumbled.  This very Ark led their ancestors to many victories and they were certain they would now be victorious.

The victory shouts from the Hebrew camp did not go unnoticed by the Philistines.  The Philistines knew the Hebrews had no reason to celebrate, they just suffered a defeat so they investigated the reason for their celebrations and found out it was because the Ark had arrived.  The second they learned this information they became terrified, saying, “God has come into the camp”.  

The Philistines had heard the story of how God struck the Egyptians with plagues, they remember the destruction of the Red Sea and in their generation this has never happened before.  They never had to fear the Hebrews before.  It appears they really have something to fear now.  “Woe to us, it’s all over now.  The Philistines fear the God of Abraham yet proceed to oppose him.    

  They call together their troops, understanding that mindset is half the battle, they give their soldiers a pep talk, a motivational speech, basically telling them to pull up their boot straps and start acting like soldiers who are victorious.  Reminding them they do not want to end up being servants to the Israelites.  Quit acting like a bunch of babies, start acting like men and fight.  I’m paraphrasing of course. 

This must have been an awesome pep talk because they defeated the Isrealites with a slaughter of about 30,000 footmen.  Not only did they win with a devastating slaughter they captured the Ark of God killing its guardians Hophni and Phineas on the same day just as the prophet predicted.

At this point in history the loss of this battle was the greatest calamity to happen to Israel.  Every citizen would now see this as a terrible sign that their King had removed his countenance from them, he has turned his face from them, removing His glory.  The Bible tells us to turn from our wicked ways, and when we don’t we in fact agree to judgement from God, that is the agreement.  The Hebrews did not turn from sin and seek the Lord, they did what they thought was best and they received God’s judgement for it.  

Our American history also shows this to be the case,  once abortion was legalized and prayer was removed from schools there was no repentance, this was seemingly ok among the majority of the US.  Fast forward and our country experienced a devastating blow during the Vietnam war where almost 41,000 soldiers died on the battlefield.  Similar to the Israelites this was America’s first defeat, up until that point God’s glory was with us in battle because up to that point this nation honored the Lord our God.

The Israeli military had the outward appearance of being a godly nation, they had the Ark, they carried the name, the reputation,  even the priests were present.  On the outside everything looked great.  Unfortunately for them it is what is on the inside that matters to God.  God looked at the heart, and their heart was far from Him. 

Our nation claims to be “one nation under God”,  “in God we trust”.  At the creation of our nation we were a Christian nation that was understood by every other country in the world.  My concern is that we are only a Christian nation by name only, we have the symbols, we have the churches, we even have past victories, but what is it that God sees?  Are we like the Israelites, not able to see our own sin, making excuses and blaming God?  Trying to convince or force the Lord to bless our sin, to come down to our level.  If this is the case it will never work, we are expected to give up our way our old life and become righteous through Jesus Christ.

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Samuel Becomes A Prophet

Read 1 Samuel 3

Once again the book of Samuel reiterates the anointing Samuel carries even at a very young age.  Chapter two ended with Eli receiving a doom and gloom message from an unknown prophet and chapter three contrasts that with Samuel still ministering before to the Lord under Eli.

What I find so interesting is it seems like Eli has learned from his parenting mistakes with his sons Hophni and Phineas where he really steps up to the plate with Samuel.  It seems as though he has protected the young boy from his sons and their corruption.  Eli overlooked his son’s sins by not removing them from their priestly positions and that was a sin in itself.  

Anytime we learn from our mistakes it’s a good thing.  Eli gained wisdom and used that wisdom by training Samuel in the ways of the Lord and running the temple.  I can picture this young boy working in the temple doing whatever was necessary whatever was required wearing his little white robe that his mom, Hannah, made special for him.  His brothers and sisters are at their family home growing up with typical childhood experiences, yet he is not bitter, he does not resent his parents for their decision, he doesn’t hate God for putting him in this situation.  He serves the Lord with a mandate.

I also want you to take note that God placed divine protection on Samuel as he grew.  The boy was placed into an environment that was a cesspool of sin under the authority of the man who basically allowed it.  The odds that Samuel would grow to be a prophet of God was not in his favor.  Do you realize how much of a miracle it is to have a child grow up in an ungodly house and despite that serve the Lord in a mighty way?  

Hannah and Elkanah knew their son was going to be placed in the care of a man who didn’t have a good reputation of parenting well, yet they knew the call God placed on their son’s life, and they trusted the Lord in spite of what they saw happening at the tabernacle.  Samuel is a fantastic example of purity and innocence, an example of what lifelong service to the Lord looks like.  He did not “need” to sin in order to experience forgiveness or to turn to the Lord.  He learned how to love the Lord from his parents and from Eli.  Each of us can express the blessings of forgiveness, but how much more special is it that Samuel never wasted a moment of his life focusing on anything other than the Lord, now that is special.  Lifelong service to the Lord is rare.

The word of the Lord was “precious” in those days (KJV), it was rare.  The only message spoken was the doom and gloom one given to Eli.  The word of the Lord, is the will of God that was spoken to the people of God by a prophet, seer, or man of God.  God speaks or gives them a dream or vision and they share it with the people.  This wasn’t happening in the way the Isrealites were used to.  For the most part God was on mute.  The word tells us that God would send prophets who would make known His will and purpose (Deut 18:15).  Given all the corruption in the priestly leadership he was having a difficult time finding a man he could trust, until Hannah gave him Samuel.

In chapter three Samuel is 12 old and it is at this young age the Lord anointed him to be his prophet.  Who else was 12 years old and found ministering in the temple?  Jesus.  The old testament always points to Jesus, this is another one of those examples.

A more modern way of explaining verses 2-3 would be, Eli was preparing to go to sleep in his room, his eyes became heavy, and the lamp of God had not yet gone out.  The lamps are candlesticks that were located in the “holiest of holies”, the same part of the tabernacle where the Ark of God was also housed.  The candles were lit in the evening and would burn all through the night until early morning when they would be extinguished.  In this case the candles were still lit so we know it is early morning and it is still dark out.  

Samuel looked after Eli by offering him help during the night, so hearing his name called out while he was sleeping was common.  Eli and Samuel’s rooms were close enough for Samuel to hear Eli easily and  get to him quickly.  

Which is exactly what Samuel thought was happening, he heard his name called out in the wee hours of the morning while he was sleeping and the first thing he thought to do was to answer with “Here I am”, not in the sense of letting Eli know “where” he was, but to let him know that he was ready to serve him.  You know how Chick Fil A employees answer “It’s my pleasure”, Samuel automatically answers, “Here I am”.Three separate times Samuel heard his name called out, three separate times he immediately ran to Eli and three times Eli told the boy he didn’t call him to go back to bed.  

I love what verse 7 reads, “now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him”.  Samuel had not yet had a personal encounter with the Lord,  He was still learning how to hear from Him, he needed to be taught what that looks like and how to handle these types of experiences and now was as good a time as any to learn.  

The third time Samuel ran to Eli is when Eli realized it was the Lord speaking to the boy and he gave him some instructions on how to handle himself.  Eli willingly taught Samuel how to hear from the Lord.  This is significant because there are alot of spiritual leaders who are not willing to teach their replacements.  They don’t want to accept that their season has changed and now God is releasing another person to fill that position.  I have to say Eli handled this well.  He wasn’t bitter, he didn’t purposely give him bad advice or reply with snarky comments.

What Ele taught Samuel that morning is something I think is lacking in today’s world.  One of the biggest questions I’ve heard over the years is how do I know I’m hearing from God.  If Samuel needed to be taught how to respond to God, then we are no different.  

Ultimately, Samuel just needed to give the Lord permission to speak, not because he needed permission, but because Samuel needed to let Him know he was giving him his full attention.  When the Lord is speaking to you do you give him your full attention, do you let him know you are at His service?  We tend to want to put on all sorts of fleeces, we want confirmation after confirmation, we want the stars to spell it out, we test God with all this craziness all along. If we were taught how to listen and properly respond in the first place we may not be in this situation now.  

Samuel learned how to hear and converse with the Lord and we see him put what he learned to practice.  Again, something we should all do.  When a spiritual leader gives us practical tips designed to help us grow in the Lord we need to put those tips to use immediately.  

After three times of going back and forth to Eli’s room, checking in on him, Samuel was told that it is the Lord trying to speak to him and if he calls his name again to respond with I’m listening.  Don’t you know, the Lord did call out Samuel’s name again, he really wanted to talk with the boy.  He actually called his name twice, but the voice was coming from a different location.  The first three times the Lord’s voice came from the room where the Ark was placed, the holiest of holies.  However, this time the Lord stood next to Samuel.  

It’s as if the Lord presented himself to Samuel.  Samuel was fully awake, fully aware of what was happening, this wasn’t a dream or vision, but a full manifestation of the presence of the Lord standing next to him.  Then the Lord began to give Samuel his very first prophecy and what a doozy it was, it was going to change everything.

From there the Lord begins to confirm his plans for Eli and his descendants, that what he had already shared will come to pass.  That there will be no atoning for their sins, no sacrifice or offering will cleanse them for what they’ve done.  This was a pretty big and probably scary prophecy to be required to handle at such a young age, but Samuel was able to handle it and he had the help of Eli, even though he didn’t want to share it with him.  

In vs. 15 after Samuel’s visit with the Lord he remains in bed, thinking about this whole experience, until morning when he finally gets up and begins his day.  He is out in the sanctuary of the temple preparing it for the day.  He is opening the doors letting in fresh air and bright sunlight when Eli hears him and calls for him.  Eli being restless with anticipation cannot wait to hear what the Lord said to Samuel.

Eli is pretty firm with Samuel, “Do not hide anything from me, I want you to tell me everything the Lord said to you.”  Samuel tells Eli everything.  Most of what he said Eli already knew, but this was a major confirmation for him, it is also proof that Samuel will be the next High Priestly Judge over Israel.  Samuel must have expressed some concerns for his spiritual father because Eli ends this conversation by putting his life in the hands of the Lord, “He is the Lord, let him do what is good in his eyes.” 

Again, anytime we are called into another season, we should accept the Lord’s will and join with him, not fight him, not become bitter.  Eli accepted his fate and the fate of his family.  He knew to do better, but he didn’t and this choice, the decision he made will cost him dearly.  You can choose to do your own thing in life, but you need to be ok with the consequences.  If you are ok with the cost then so be it.  Just don’t blame anyone else for your decisions.

Reread vs. 19-21.

None of Samuel’s words fell to the ground, if you are speaking the words of God then what you say will come to pass, it will be truth.  That is how a prophet is established, by what you say coming to pass.  The entire land of Israel recognized Samuel as a prophet, not a single territory disagreed with this.  The glory of God was in Shiloh, he continued to appear there revealing himself to Samuel through his word.

Notice it to Samuel through his “word”. Samuel learned how to hear and respond to the Lord and that gave him the ability to completely connect with God.  The word is shared through the Bible, through writings from historians and prophets, it is also shared through the holy spirit.  The Lord communicated with Samuel through all these avenues, not just one, all of them.  

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What We See Vs. What God Sees

Read 2 Samuel 12-17

What a way to begin this section of scripture, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial”.  Do you all know what belial means?  NIV uses the word scoundrels, NKJV says they were corrupt.  All of these descriptions are true, however the word belial is more of a title than a description of how Eli’s sons were viewed by God. The term “sons of belial” does not mean that Eli was corrupt or a scoundrel, it doesn’t reflect God’s view of Eli.  It does, however, describe the character of his sons Phineas and Hophni and they were worthless.  Belial means worthless.  They were worthless, good for nothing men and the worst part is they served as priests in the temple of the Lord. 

These men had no regard for the Lord.  They are the pastor’s kids and yet they grew up without ever believing in God.  Your parents cannot save you, your parents can be favored in the eyes of God while you can be viewed as worthless.  Their position in the community afforded them a lot of opportunities that gave them access to take whatever they wanted.  

Hophni and Phineas’ unbelief is what made them morally unworthy.  They represent worldly spiritual leadership.  When priests and pastors are worldly minded they are worthless in the eyes of God and they behave in a similar way to these two sons.

Verse 13 & 14 describe the proper customs of the sacrifices for this particular feast.  Scripture tells us the priest’s servant would, after the fat was burned, take a three pronged fork, reach into whatever pot was being used to cook the meat, and he would lift out a chunk of the meat.  Whatever the fork pulled off would be given to the priest and that was his portion.

Let me go into a bit more detail so we can understand better what the sin is.  The animal was given over for a sacrifice of peace and was presented to the priest.  The priest then placed the animal on the altar.  All of the fat was burned up, this portion was strictly reserved for the Lord, the fat was God’s portion.  The remaining meat was then boiled and fully cooked.  Out of the remaining meat the priest took his portion, a small amount, the remaining meat was given back to the family as a fellowship meal.  At this fellowship feast the family was given back a larger amount, because God blesses those who are obedient and faithful to Him.

Vs. 15, Notice in verse 15 Eli’s sons were not giving God his portion first and they were taking more than what God said they could have.  Hophni and Phineas would send one of their servants to the sacrifice room with specific instructions to get the best cut of meat from the animal “before” it goes onto the altar.  They were taking their portion before the Lord was given his.  They were putting themselves before God.  

Hophni and Phineas would take the raw meat, and as it says in 15, they wanted roasted meat, not the “sodden” or boiled meat they were told to take according to the laws of Moses.  Not only that, but they wanted the fat left on it.  We all know that a roast is best with a bit of the fat left on, it melts down as the meat is roasting and that makes the meat delicious. The problem is the law specifically stated that the fat belonged to the Lord and would be burned as an offering only to him.

Vs. 16  The Isrealites knew the law and they could see the priests were not following the customs of sacrifice.  If anyone dared to question the process they were shut down real quick.  Notice vs. 16 says that even when anyone tried to make sure the Lord’s portion was burned and offered up first they were threatened.  The people didn’t care so much that their portion was smaller or handled incorrectly, they did not want the Lord’s portion to be taken from him.  Yet, no one gave a real effort to stop the injustice. They complained but that is as far as it went.  

God’s devoted people, the people who make the long trek yearly to offer up this peace offering, were being forced to participate with these lawless customs.  You see this was not a one time thing.  These priests made it their tradition to defile these offerings every year and with every person.  This caused the people to abhor the offering of the Lord.  In other words they began to loathe giving their sacrifice, they began to hate giving to the Lord, and they dreaded coming to church.  

What happened is the pastors’ kids are taking advantage of their position and authority in the church, it is so blatant and common that people begin to dread or even hate to come to church anymore.  The Jews were trying their best to serve the Lord, but the corruption of their leadership was blocking them and so they gave in. 

Just because church leadership is corrupt it does not give you a free pass to also sin.  You are responsible for what you do regardless of what the leadership does.  You being obedient to the word of God does not depend on anyone else.  The Isrealites sinned because they got to the point where they didn’t see the point in continuing with their sacrifice.  They figured it was better to not sacrifice at all than to have it not be properly handled.  

Let me put it into a context we might understand better.  This is equivalent to you withholding your tithes because you don’t like the way the Pastor handles the money.  If the pastor is purposely mishandling the money then he or she is sinning, but you are still required to give a tithe no matter what.  Most people, like the Israelites, would just stop sending in their sacrifice.  When you do that you are now in sin too.  Blaming your disobedience on leadership seems like a good excuse, but it’s not.

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It’s A Boy

Read 1 Sam. 1:20-28

Hannah spent time in the temple praying to God of Heaven.  Her prayer was from a position of pain, she was heartbroken and crushed because she wanted to be blessed by God and wanted that blessing to be manifested by birthing a child.  God knew Hannah was loyal and trustworthy; he knew she would keep her vow, so God chose Hannah to be the one to birth the priest God was looking for.

Hannah knew she had reached the throne room of God, her spirits immediately lifted and she returned to the feast celebrations with her family.  Hannah and Elkanah really celebrated once they returned home because God remembered her and she became pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.  

The dads were given the opportunity to name their sons, this was an important task, but in this case Hannah named her son, she named him Samuel.  She explains that she named the boy because she is the one who asked for him from the Lord.  She endured the pressure, the pain; she was the one who looked like a fool trying to get the breakthrough and she was the one who made the unbreakable covenant with the Lord.  The covenant where she would place her son in the protection and care of Eli, the High Priest at the temple, so he would grow and be close to the Lord.

Hanna had a discussion with her husband reminding him of the vow she made with the Lord and how once she made the trek to the temple their son would then stay there.  Right now, though, he was way too young, he was still nursing.  In those days the typical age for weaning was around age three.  So once Samuel was old enough to go to preschool, would be the age where he would be presented to the Lord by his mother to live in the temple for the rest of life.

Elkanah agreed with Hannah, this is what is best for their son, and they were exempt from making this trip.  There are certain times in life where we may not be able to participate in certain religious events.  God does not hold that against Hannah or Elkanah and he will not hold that against us as long as our intentions are pure and our motives are right.  

Before he leaves Elkanah gives Hannah his blessing.  One commentary mentioned that he said a prayer.  I like that, I like that because there is something extremely powerful and intimate when a man prays for and blesses his wife.  “Only let the Lord establish his word.”  Samuel was born under special circumstances which is enough for them to know that Samuel was created for extraordinary things.  His life would be unique and distinct.  

The word of the Lord Elkanah was speaking of refers back to Hannah’s prayer.  I believe the Spirit of God placed the vow to give Samuel to God on Hannah’s lips.  I believe that she was praying from the Spirit.  I believe that is the word Elkanah wanted the Lord to establish, to come to pass and he was affirming this.

Fast forward a few years and Samuel is now weaned and it is time for Hannah to have him dedicated to the house of the Lord.  Elkanah has always made sure each of his family members has an appropriate amount of  sacraments to offer the Lord, this time is only slightly different as he adds an extra bull, one that is three years old.  This three year old bull will be sacrificed on behalf of Samuel.  This bull represented Samuel’s consecration to the Lord and was also a burnt-offering representing Samuels lifelong sacrifice of service. 

The bull would have been brought into the tabernacle, bound.  Hannah and Elkanah would have brought Samuel in, the toddler would have laid his hands on the bull, honoring the sacrifice this animal represented.  Once the sacrifice was made, the only thing left was to present Samuel to Eli.

A few years has passed and Hannah reintroduces herself to Eli, reminding him that she is the one who prayed so fervently Eli thought she was drunk.  She says, “I am the one who stood right here, beside you praying to the Lord”.  Eli thought this was strange because for one 1) he did not hear Hannah make this vow to God.  Remember she was praying, but no words could be heard, her lips were moving but Eli could not hear what she was saying to the Lord.  

The second 2) reason he thought this was odd is because the typical age for a Levite to be admitted into the priesthood was age 25,  Samuel is 23 years too early.  The scripture reads as though Hannah had a lot of convincing to do.  Eli was not very receptive to taking on this young boy.  

Hannah does her best to convince him, saying “As my soul lives, my Lord” we might understand it better wording it a little differently.  “I’m telling the truth my Lord, I stood right here, right beside you and prayed this prayer.  I prayed for this child”.  Hannah is giving back to the Lord what the Lord first gave her.  

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How Hannah Got Through

Read 1 Samuel 1:9-19

I want us to focus on how Hannah prayed more so than what Hannah prayed for; and to look at what Hannah did that prompted God to move on her behalf.  We know she really wanted and even needed a son.  Back in those days giving birth to a child and especially a son meant you were blessed.  Without a child Hannah would be looked at as being a cursed woman, even though she was not, simply because people like to make assumptions about other people. 

The meal the family is eating in this set of scripture represents a fellowship and communion with the Lord.  I love how even in the old testament communion with the Lord was symbolized with food, with breaking of bread and even wine, all the same elements we use for our communion with Christ today. 

The family was still eating their meal, but Hannah could not wait to remove herself from the table.  She was in agony and that is when she moved.  It was at her lowest moment, her time of deepest need that she moved.  She stood up, she made a stand and she went to the only place she could.  She went to the altar.  She went to God.  She didn’t turn from God because he wouldn’t give her what she wanted on her timeline.  She turned to God even though she was hurting.  She did not sit and wait for God to move first, she took the initiative and stepped out.  

The tabernacle housed both the sanctuary and sleeping quarters, which is convenient for those attending from out of town.  Eli the priest was sitting on his chair which was located in or near the entrance to the sanctuary.  The chair that Eli sat on was more like a throne or even a judges chair, similar to what you would see in a courtroom which is fitting because his job was two fold.  Eli was a high priestly judge.  As high priest he would instruct people according to the word of God; as judge he would weigh in on any broken laws or injustices, putting an end to any disputes.  

Eli, sitting in his seat, noticed Hannah walk into the sanctuary.  He knew who she was as her family would attend the feast every year.  She must have looked like a hot mess, at least I would have because I’m an ugly crier.  “Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.”  Have you ever prayed to the Lord while weeping?  This is a deep anguish, a deep guttural sound coming from deep down.

Hannah’s need to give birth to a child is what drove her to pray this passionate prayer, her desperation fueled the flame and caused her to seek God on an entirely new level.  In the past her prayers were probably like most of ours, a petition, or a simple request that we ask the Lord for.  Honestly, that may have just been the reason for the lack of breakthrough, her lack of passion for God to move.  Are you passionate about God moving in your life?

You see, there is a huge difference in making a petition or request of the Lord and the type of prayer recorded here.  The example we are given here shows us that Hannah prayed on the level of intercession.  You may have heard the term intercessory prayer, it is basically praying on behalf of others.  Everytime a christian prays for another person, that is intercessory prayer.  

Now notice Hannah was praying for herself, and there was no one else praying with her, not even the priest Eli.  So why am I calling this intercessory?  As men and women of God we can pray one of two ways, one way is from our thoughts and feelings, the other way is from our spirit.  When you are making a petition or request it is often from our head.  When you begin to pray from your spirit that is intercession.  

When you pray from your spirit and you are filled with the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Christ will either pray on your behalf or inspire your prayers.  When you pray from your spirit you pray according to God’s will not your own.  Romans 8:26 says, “ In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Hannah was praying in the Spirit before Christ became man and was crucified and resurrected, by this description the Spirit of God was interceding for her.  Hannah tapped into what I lovingly call her “God zone”.  She was moved to tears, she was broken, and it was this current state that moved God towards her (Psalms 34:18),  According to  Psalms 51:17 God cannot despise or reject a broken and contrite spirit.  Contrite means to be crushed like a powder referring to a time where you might feel totally helpless and need God’s intervention.  

That is when the Spirit of God moved on Hannah, he led her prayer.  You see the Lord needed a Godly man to take over as High Priestly Judge and he knew Hannah’s heart and her loyalty and he chose her to be the mother of the man of God he desired. Hannah was willing and God moved.

At some point in our lives we’ve probably made some sort of vow to God.  For example, as a student you may have asked God to help you pass a test that you did not study for in exchange for going to church, for example.  “Lord, just help me with this and I will… “ fill in the dots.  Hannah’s prayer consisted of a vow that she made to the Lord.  She made a binding promise to God, vowing that if God would give her a son that she would give him back to the Lord, that he would live in the tabernacle and never cut his hair.”  Now that is a serious vow, that is not something that you would say other than by the leading of God himself.

 Hannah asked the Lord to look at her, to see her affliction, her weeping, her suffering and she asked him to “remember” her, not just “see” her or acknowledge her existence, but to “remember” her as in to move into action on her behalf.  In her pain, in her weeping she was begging God to move in her life, to look at her and to see her need and to heal her.  

The cherry on the top of this prayer is her vow to give her firstborn son to the Lord.  Hannah realized Israel was in spiritual decline, that the ministry team working at the tabernacle was living in sin and she knew God needed a Godly man to stand in the gap between God and his children.  She pledged that her son would be that man.  Her son would set the example for the Nazarite vow of not cutting his hair.  God needed a voice and Hannah determined that this firstborn child would be that voice for God.  

God’s will became Hannah’s passion.  Hannah prayed and got on board with what God wanted to do, not the other way around.  God wanted a man to be his voice to be a strong leader who would not betray him.  Hannah understood what God was looking for, because she spent time in the presence of God, and she got on board with Him and His plans.  If you want to see God move in your life then get on board with what He is doing, join Him and you will see Him move.  

Imagine this woman kneeling in the sanctuary completely crushed and praying in desperation, praying with intensity, weeping bitterly, making a scene of herself, looking like a drunk.  This apparently was not normal because Eli thought she was drunk, in fact he accused her of such.  Telling her it is now time to put the bottle down, and sober up that she looks ridiculous, to clean yourself up woman.   People don’t always see the Spirit of God on people, many of us just don’t know what that looks like even in the church sanctuary.

Hannah did defend herself, the woman barely ate anything let alone had enough wine to be drunk.  She was pouring out her soul to the Lord (vs. 15).  I wonder if Eli felt like a fool after this conversation?  I think once he looked into her eyes he could see the truth, he could feel the presence of the Lord on her and that is when he gave her his blessing.  “Go in peace, and may God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”  Hannah’s reply is unique as well.  She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.”  No one wants to have a bad reputation with a Priest.  I know I don’t.  She received his blessing and wanted it to be made known that she was not disrespecting her spiritual leader, she was following the leading of her Lord.  Eli incorrectly reprimanded Hannah, she stood her ground, cleared her name and did her best to make amends with the Pastor instead of holding a grudge against him.

Hannah was given a new lease on life after her encounter with the Lord, he interceded on her behalf and this gave her peace, no matter what she knew the Lord was with her.  Early the next morning Hannah, Elkana and the rest of their family rose early and worshipped the Lord.  This is beautiful, how you can go from being crushed to worshipping the Lord.  

The Lord remembered Hannah, she made an impression on Him and he remembered her and he remembered that her heart was in the right place and that she was a woman of her word and he could trust her.  He opened her womb and she and Elkanah were blessed with a son whom she named Samuel.

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Double the Offering

Read 1 Samuel 1:1-8

What we have here is a family who loves and fears the Lord.  This is the family of Elkanah who is from Ramathaim which is located in the hill country of Ephraim which is north of Jerusalem.  Elkanah’s ancestors are originally from the city or mountain area of Ephraim.  

Ephrathite is another description given and it is a Canaan city name; Bethlehem is the Hebrew name.  So going forward anytime you see Ephrathites written, those people are associated with the city of Bethlehem.  This tidbit could open up all sorts of golden nuggets, or hidden mickey’s as I like to say.

Elkanah had two wives, we are in the OT people.  One named Hannah, whose name means grace and who was barren and one named Peninnah, whose name means ruby colored and who had children.  As I said this family loves and fears the Lord, they were obedient to the laws and were careful to observe the feasts.  Year after year Elkanah and his wives and his children would travel to Shiloh where they would worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty.  

They lived in Ramathaim and every year they traveled to Shiloh.  Which brings me to my first question, what is Shiloh anyway?   Could be used to describe a person who would bring the promise of peace and tranquility-Our Lord, our Savior for example.  In this context Shiloh is a place.  In the hills of Ephraim is the place where the Israelites built a tabernacle in which they placed the Arc of the Covenant.  The arc was housed in this temple for three centuries and was the place of worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts or Jehovah Sabaoth.  God’s arc was in Shiloh and so God’s presence was there.  

Now, this is the first time the Bible designates God as Jehovah Sabaoth.  This is important because, as I said, there is a huge transition about to take place in the history of Israel.  Israel will soon be under authority of a monarchy, they will soon be ruled by kings.  God takes on the name of Lord of Hosts, which is what Sabaoth means “armies” or hosts is the Hebrew.  So God is now establishing himself as the sovereignty over all powers in the universe.  That God is the God of armies both earthly and heavenly. Basically setting the tone for His position in regards to what is about to come.    

I want to give props to Elkanah before moving on.  He was a man who honored God in his worship but also in the way he led his family spiritually.  You see men are the head of the house.  They have a huge responsibility given to them from God to make sure their families honor, love and serve the Lord.  The wife and children are positioned under his “umbrella”, they are under his covering and so it’s extremely important that men remain righteous before God.

The feast celebration in this particular scenario is most likely the Festival of Tabernacles.  This is significant because this particular festival celebrated God’s care for his people during the wilderness journey and it typically falls around Sept.-Oct.  So, at the end of their growth season they would take their offering to the temple and give it to the Lord.  The more they gave the more God would bless them the next growing season.  

Other areas of significance with this particular festival is that it is a “fellowship offering” or “peace offering” and it is done by freewill.  Meaning, the worshipper gave this offering as a way of saying “thank you” to the Lord for his generosity.  The other reason for giving this offering was to accompany a fulfilled vow.  For example, if you made a vow to God in exchange for his meeting a need you have, this offering is you holding up your end of that agreement.  Lastly, this offering is done as a way of thanking God for delivering you in your time of dire need. 

With the name “fellowship offering” you would expect fellowship and you would be correct.  Worshippers could not eat or take from any other offering, this is the one offering where the priests only took a portion of the meat or grain, the rest was given back to the worshipper so they could eat.  The worshippers family would then eat/feast on what God has provided back to them.  It’s beautiful because it shows us that God is not interested in taking from us, he gives and he wants to fellowship with us.     

Whenever Elkanah planned out his sacrifices he would make sure his wives had their portion as well.  He made sure everyone in his family had everything they needed to take to the Lord.  He was a very blessed man and he made sure he gave generously to the Lord.  To his wife Peninah he gave her and each of their sons and daughters a portion.

But to Hannah he gave a double portion. Because he loved her, and the Lord closed her womb.  Elkanah made sure that Hannah had a double portion.  If your Peninah you might be a little jealous over this.  Vs. 5 says he gave Hannah a double portion because he loved her.  But, did you catch the last part of this verse?  He loved her AND the Lord had closed her womb.  

Remember what this festival represents, it is a time to offer up a sacrifice to God for his generosity, for meeting a vow, and for deliverance in a time of need.  This is the time to appeal to a God who is generous, who keeps his promises and delivers His children.  Hannah has too much at stake and she cannot afford to be skimpy with her offerings.  She is giving to the Lord out of her need.  I ask you, when you have a need, no matter what it is, do you give a double offering to the Lord?  Or do you give the same ole skimpy offering you’ve always given?

The Lord closed Hannah’s womb; Elkanah loved his wife and so he gave her a double amount to present to the Lord.  The Lord closed the womb and the Lord was the only one who could open it.  

Year after year salt would be added to Hannah’s wound.  Vs. 6 says “her adversary” or “her rival” kept provoking her.  She was harassed and irritated.  Constantly reminded of her childless life, it became so terrible that Hannah would just weep.  Hannah would cry and sob, agonizing over this pain she felt as her heart would break over and over again.  It was so bad she would not even eat from the provision given back to her at the festival. 

It’s likely that Peninah was the rival that this verse speaks of, however, the word adversary means anguish and distress and it means satan.  Satan must have had a sense of what God wanted to do in Hannah’s life and in the lives of her offspring because he tried to get Hannah to stop worshipping God, he did not want Hannah to have fellowship with God because it is during that time of intimate prayer that you get your breakthrough.  

Satan used Peninah as the main person to go along with his plan, which was to remind Hannah every year of her anguish and to put her in distress. Isn’t it interesting how the enemy works, how he will harass you when you are on the path God wants you on.  Somehow he knows when God is about to present a breakthrough, when God is about to move and he will stop at nothing to try to get you to turn away and change course.  We need to do what Hannah did and we will find out what that is next week.

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The Final Chapter

Daniel 12:5-13

Looking back at verse 4 we see that this word was to be sealed up.  Signed, sealed and delivered.  The word, the interpretation of Daniel’s dream was to be sealed up until the time of the end because the people living at that time will need it to gain knowledge of what exactly is going on.  I’d say it was well preserved because here we are thousands of years later and we know exactly what the angel revealed to Daniel.  Great job Daniel.

The description of these writings being rolled up and sealed is a pretty cool picture.  I imagine that if we could see in the spirit realm as we open our Bibles to study, these ancient scrolls would be unrolled, and now that we are finished studying Daniel’s scrolls they will be rolled back up for further preservation.  

Before Daniel could respond, he looks out and sees two others, others as in two other angels or two other beings besides the one he was talking to all along.  He writes one was standing on the same side of the river as he was and the other was standing on the opposite side.

One of the angels spoke to the man who was dressed in linen and who was above the waters of the Tigris river, this is a fourth being.  Either hovering or walking on the water. He asked him “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?”  The angels are curious, Daniel is curious, we’re curious.  We also know that the one wearing linen who can walk on water is none other than the Lord himself.  It seems like Jesus had been there the whole time the messenger angel was giving the interpretation.  We also need to note Jesus does not know the timeline of when the tribulation will take place only God knows this.  So it makes sense that everyone is curious to know more.

Jesus was there the whole time the messenger angel was speaking.  Then these two other angels appear, you know angels are attracted to the glory and presence of the Lord, so of course they would show up and they would want to know how long will it be until the end of these wonders, they want to know specifically how much time the antichrist is going to have to do all these astonishing acts?

Why do the angels care about the timeline?  They have access to heaven, they get to go into the throne room of God and be in his presence, why do they care about the tribulation?  They have invested a lot in the future, that’s why they care. These angels have been fighting the enemy endlessly since the beginning.  Michael has been defending Israel for thousands and thousands of years.  Maybe they’re getting a little fed up with the constant battling and they want to see the Lord take his rightful place on the throne too.  Maybe, just maybe they’re just as anxious to see that crown placed on Jesus’ head as we are.

Jesus raises both his hands, first the right, then the left toward heaven.  We know that when we raise our right hand it symbolizes taking an oath or making an affirmation.  That is essentially what Jesus is doing here except he is raising both hands as in submission and swearing by the one who lives forever that it will last for 3.5 years.  1 Timothy 6:16 describes God as:  Who alone possesses immortality and bdwells in unapproachable light, cwhom no man has seen or can see.  Jesus swears by God that the wonders, the astonishing acts will last for 3.5 years.  

Who can tell me what the goal of these 3.5 years will be?  What is Antichrist going to accomplish during this half of the tribulation?  Verse 6 (kjv) tells us that he will have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people.  So 3.5 years and the accomplishment of the breaking of the power of the holy people.  This breaking of their power means they will be shattered and broken into pieces.  They will experience persecution like never before.  Israel will end up in total destruction, having no power to rebuild or to protect, no power to change anything.  

The antichrist will not completely destroy Israel though, remember there will be 144,000 Jews who will persevere, he will however, crush them to the point of where they will be so broken and so lost and so devastated that they will finally look to the Messiah.  They will finally be ready to receive and accept Jesus Christ, the Son of God as their Messiah.

“All these things will be completed.”  All of history will finally have an ending.  The people of God will finally be crushed and pressed so much that they will finally turn from their sins and they will turn to their covenant keeping God who is faithful and has given them a way to redemption through Jesus Christ.  Finally they will receive the salvation God has provided them.

This is not something that Daniel can begin to understand (vs.8) he is trying his best.  He asks the Lord what the outcome of all of this will be?  Once the holy people are broken and history is completed, then what?  What happens after all of the destruction?

The Lord answered the angel’s question of how long this will last.  Daniel heard this entire conversation but he now wants to know what is going to happen during this time.  The Lord’s reply in vs. 9 seems a little harsh, seems like a rebuke, but really he can’t explain much more to Daniel because no matter what he says at this point Daniel just will not get it. But the words are sealed up until that time, because that is when it will make sense.  Essentially the Lord is saying, don’t worry about this, God has it all in control and at the appropriate time the people who this concerns will understand.

I think this resonates with us as well. So many people spend so much energy trying to figure out every detail, that they miss the point that God has this and we aren’t necessarily supposed to know every detail beforehand.

Jesus doesn’t let the conversation end on this sour note of rebuke and I’m happy for that, he goes on to tell Daniel that during that time “many people will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked.  None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

During this time there will be people who will be saved, they will be purified, cleansed.  Yet, while some will be saved others will continue to be wicked.  The full fury of hell is going to be released during these 3.5 years.  Evil will be completely unrestrained, demons will be running wild, and yet there will still be salvation.  

The interesting thing about salvation is it doesn’t change.  It does not matter what is going on in the world you can turn to the Lord and receive him.  The world being more wicked does not make it more difficult to receive salvation.  Those in the tribulation can ask for forgiveness and believe with the same amount of faith as us.  All they will need to do is confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior, just like us. 

Those who are wicked will never understand what is going on no matter how good the preaching is, no matter how obvious the truth will be they will not or I should say cannot understand truth.  The only way to understand truth is by the Holy Spirit who reveals it to us, who gives us the understanding we need.  The wise are the people who understand the word of God.

Verse 11 sort of reiterates the timeline, except as I was pondering this verse an interesting thought came to my mind, let me know what your thoughts are on this.  We know that the temple will be rebuilt.  The antichrist is going to give Israel a time of peace.  The Isrealites will be back in their own country doing their thing, sacrificing in the temple, worshipping God like they did in the good ole days.  After 3.5 years the antichrist will become angry over some bad news of attacks and he will turn on the Jews and begin the final years of the tribulation.

What I find interesting is how the Jews will return to the temple and begin sacrificing the way they did in the old testament and times of Jesus.  Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets, he is the only way of redemption for sins, yet after all these years the Jews will return to the law of sacrifice for redemption.  They haven’t sacrificed for thousands of years and yet when they return to this custom.    

Daniel reads, “from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away”, There just is no need for the daily sacrifices.  At first this seems like just one more way the antichrist will persecute the Jews.  But this needs to be taken away, God needs to take away daily sacrifice because they keep putting their focus in the wrong place.  They need to be focusing on Christ not their own need to “do something”.

I see this as yet another reminder that God’s chosen people are still rejecting his son clear up to the bitter end.  This will be the final straw.  The temple being rebuilt is like a test in itself, a test to see what the Israelites will do when given the option to return to their old ways.  Will they finally trust Christ?  The answer here is no.  That is why the next 3.5 years must take place.  They need to be purified from their old mindsets, old sins, and old ways of doing things.  And this is literally the only way.

Verse 13 may have confused Daniel even more, but I think it’s amazing what the Lord personally says to him.  He says, “You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”  The Lord personally told Daniel that he will be resurrected at the end of the days at the end of the world rule.  He will be resurrected along with the other old testament saints at the end of the tribulation.  What a promise and what a legacy this man has passed on.  It has been humbling to learn from him and to glean from his experiences. 

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Rising to Glory

Daniel 12:1-4

Verse 1 begins “At that time.”  In the future the angel Michael will get up and take position.  Michael is the archangel who stands watch over the Jewish people.  At the time when the antichrist turns on the Jewish people.  When he unleashes a fury that has never been witnessed before.  When he sets up an abominable act in the temple and makes himself god of the world.  When he wages wars and seems victorious and unstoppable.  When he’s slaughtered more Jews than Hitler could imagine.  It is during this time that Michael will take his position.

Israel has suffered through Babylon, the Medo-Persians, they’ve suffered from the Greeks and from the Herod’s and the Hitlers.  They have suffered and suffered and suffered and this will be worse than any of those times.  The worst is yet to come is what the angel is saying here in verse 1. 

It is during this time that the angel Michael will stand up and Daniel’s people will be delivered.  Let’s look at who Daniel’s people are.  This is not a blanket statement that every Jew, whether they practice Judaism or not will be saved.  The Bible talks about a remnant being saved.  Verse 1 also says their names must be written in the book of life.  

During this time God is going to put his people to the test, he is going to put their feet in the fire and see who is loyal and who is not.  Two-thirds of the Jews are going to die, they will not live through the tribulation.  One-third is going to be protected because they are small remnants who obey the commands of God and honor and confess the testimony of Jesus Christ.  They will be Jews who believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah.  It will be their names written in the book of life. They are the 144,000 Jews talked about in Revelation. 

Verse 2 begins to talk about resurrection.  The NT talks about a resurrection of all saints of all believers.  This is specifically speaking about a resurrection of Israel.  Overall there will be a few different resurrections.  I’ll try to keep it basic here.  

  1. The first resurrection took place on Resurrection Sunday.  The day Jesus Christ walked out of the grave along with him came to life the men and women who died believing in Him, but they died before his crucifixion. 
  2. The second resurrection will be the resurrection of the church and is what we call the rapture.  Everyone dead or alive who make up the church, the body of Christ are caught up to be with the Lord.
    1. Within this second resurrection, is a part two, and will take place at the end of the tribulation period and will include OT saints and tribulation saints, along with any gentiles that turned to Christ during the tribulation.  They will all be resurrected to help build, rule and reign with Christ in the millennial kingdom.
  3. The final resurrection will happen at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ and this will include the unrighteous people who will be judged and condemned to the lake of fire.

We understand that these resurrections happen over a span of thousands of years each.  Daniel has it depicted as a sudden, sort of one and done, type of resurrection of everybody.  The scripture just states the facts that there will be a resurrection and leaves out the thousands of years that take place between them, which is why some people think the rapture takes place mid tribulation.

Verse 3 is awesome because it focuses on the promise.  There is no more condemnation, it’s as if it picks up a thousand years later where the fullness of all that God has ever promised is fully given to his children.  “The wise will shine like the brightness of heaven” and “Those who lead people to “righteousness” will shine like the stars forever and ever”.  

We will all be given the ability to radiate the full Glory of God.  The wise, those who know the word of God, who know who God is and understand Him and His ways will shine with his brilliant glory.

Those who lead people to righteousness, notice it says righteousness not salvation.  God desires for us to be the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ.  He wants us to stand before him in righteousness.  Not just saved, not just making it through the gate.  But to genuinely live a life of righteousness before Him.  Those who teach people to be righteous will shine like the stars forever and ever, they will have a special glow, they will reflect the Glory of God in their own unique way.  Inspire righteousness.

With that beautiful picture the meaning of the vision is finalized.  There is nothing left for Daniel to add so it’s time for him to “seal it up”.  He needs to make sure this is preserved until the times of the end at which time people will need this information.  It won’t make much sense to the people in Daniel’s time.  It makes a whole lot more sense now.  We can imagine these words will ring even more true in the future when the tribulation is taking place and the world is literally crumbling.  

At that time people will be running all around, seeking understanding, trying to figure out what is happening and what went wrong, they will find the Book of Daniel and read word for word what is written there.  They will understand every word because they will be living it out.  You know how it is when you read the Bible and it’s like it was written just for you and your situation.  That’s how it will be for those surviving the tribulation. 

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Looking Toward The Future

Reading in Daniel 11:36-45 is where this prophecy really becomes what I call a prophetic parallel.  This scripture describes Epiphanes as an antichrist but it also looks into our future and the coming “big” antichrist.

We’ve quickly moved through history from Medo-Persia to Greek and now the angel gives a glimpse of Roman rule, the revived Roman empire that is.  The previous rulers mentioned in chapter 11 are Ahasuerus, Alexander, Antiochus the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes and the final ruler we know currently as AntiChrist.  I wonder if his name will begin with A like the others? Interestingly the name Antiochus means against possession.  There were 13 Seleucid kings with this name and none of them allowed possession of their Syrian domain.  The next antichrist ruler will be a combination of all four of these previously identified kings except on steroids. 

This last section of scripture can be somewhat controversial, some people say it only refers to the Greek empire and with Epiphanes specifically.  Verse 36 says “The king will do as he pleases.  He will say unheard of things against God and he will be successful–until the time of wrath is completed”.  FYI, the “time of wrath” will not be completed until Jesus returns.  That is the cold hard truth Daniel began to realize as the angel continued with this revelation.  His people will only have a few small temporary moments where they will be permitted to return to Jerusalem, but over all they won’t be able to fully have their land back until Jesus returns as King.  We can see through history those brief periods of time.  Currently, Israel is occupying their own land and Jerusalem has been identified and their capital.  

Verses 36-39 does switch its focus to the coming antichrist. To reference the vision in Daniel 9 this is the seventh seven noted in verse 27.  This section in chapter 11 gives us a pretty detailed description of what type of person the coming antichrist will be.  He will have similar characteristics as the little horn but they will be magnified, more distinct and more horrific.

He is described as a king who will do as he pleases, meaning he will make all the decisions, he will be an absolute ruler and an absolute dictator if you will.  His decisions will be based on his own personal agenda, what he thinks, feels and wants.  The one caveat is he will be influenced by Satan, Satan will be behind the scenes leading him and giving him full support of hell’s demons.  He will have the ability to perform signs, wonders and miracles all with the intention of deceiving people meaning he will have a supernatural power.  

He will rule the world, he will establish himself as a protector of Israel.  He will have ten other kings, but they will be more like “minion” kings, Antichrist will be the true ruler and will call the shots.  Once he is established other kings will try to rise up and conquer him, but they will not be successful.  According to Rev. 13 at some point every human on the face of the earth will be forced to take what the Bible calls “the mark of the beast” if they intend on maintaining a sense of life as they know it.  We can see how easily this can happen.  We’ve experienced or at least witnessed first hand how easily people will do what the government decrees or more specifically what one person of influence can incite.  Whether it’s legal or not.

The coming antichrist will set himself up above all gods, including the God of Heaven.  He will say unheard of things against God of heaven.  He will show no regard to the gods of his ancestors.  This gives us an indication that he likely will not come from a Jewish or Christian heritage because god is spelled with a little g in vs. 37. He will oppose ALL forms of religion.  Anything or anyone that is worshipped including all deities, all shrines, all images, all altars.  Rev. 17 says, “He consumes the whore, the harlot, the false church.”

He wants people to think he is the messiah, which is what antichrist means, instead of…instead of Christ.  His goal will be to deceive the religious world.  Do you get that?  He wants to deceive those who have faith in God.  Not necessarily to destroy, but to deceive, he wants to confuse you, he wants to mislead you, he wants you to listen to false doctrine, he wants you to question who God really is and why you follow him.

Israel will worship in their reconstructed temple for a short period of time then this antichrist will come in and desecrate it by putting himself as the one to be worshipped over everything.  He will be slaughtering Jews to the extent that 2 out of 3 will lose their lives.  Right on the temple mount, inside the newly constructed temple, the antichrist will place his throne.  He will be proud of his accomplishments and he will speak horrible things against God of heaven while sitting in the very place I Am is to be worshipped.  He will literally be the mouthpiece of Satan.  He will be speaking the hatred of hell, the hate filled words of the enemy.

He will try to change the moral laws of God, for example, what marriage is and looks like.  He will change the standards of basic human life like creation of man and woman for example, what makes men men and women women.  The family unit will break down, families will not care for one another.  Losing respect for parents, for traditions or family heritage, cancelling culture if you will.  The beliefs typically passed from one generation to the next will be disregarded.  People will lose a general sense of affection toward one another, becoming indifferent to those around them and their needs.  He will rewrite history.  This is the type of man that will lead and this will become the way of people in general.

There is a statement in vs. 37 (KJV) saying “not the desire of women”, which is interesting to me.  This part like many is interpreted in many ways.  I think it boils down to a man who will have a disrespect for women, including moms, grandmas, daughters.  That he will be perverted in his affections toward women and the way he views them.  Given what we are faced with in the news today, he could be homosexual or transgender.

The scariest thing about the antichrist is knowing that the world is ready for a leader like this.  The past few years have prepped and prepared us for this type of world leader.  It’s not really that big a deal to have a leader who is from a broken family or one who has no regard for family, a bachelor if you will, a man who doesn’t want to settle down, or even want to be with a woman.  A homosexual leader would be welcomed in our world, a transgender king?  Can you imagine? Can you see how this is all possible and can you see how we’ve been groomed to accept this?  People are being groomed to accept an antichrist world ruler and I believe it is a subtle shift, based on the description here in Daniel and what I’ve observed presently.

The religion thing wouldn’t be a big deal either.  Most Christians do not know how to spot a true man or woman of God.  They haven’t taken the initiative to learn theology, they have no clue how to study the word and they believe God is a genie who is only here to make their personal lives better.  So most people would believe an imposter when he speaks lies about God, because they don’t know the truth in the first place.

Verse 38 and 39 tell us how powerful he will be.  He will have a bottomless pit of finances that he will put towards a military fortress using it to devour the whole world. The people who prove themselves loyal will be given leadership positions and in order to solidify their loyalty he will give them land to govern on his behalf.  

At this point in the future we’re probably about 3 ½ years into the tribulation, this is the time where it seems like a honeymoon.  This ruler is accepted, he’s sweet talking leading people to believe he can solve all the world’s problems.  Israel has temporary peace, he has promised to protect them.  This man is the man.

But in verse 40 there is a bit of an insurrection from the South, could be Egypt, which is who the south was all throughout this chapter, Egypt could side with Africa.  We can also look toward Iran, Libya, Ethiopia and Russia.  Basically, the nations who would get irritated that Israel is its own nation and is protected.  They would want to own this land and it appears they get upset at the antichrist for his protection and they wage a war against him.  Remember he put everything he had into building this massive military and so with chariots, horsemen and many ships he fights back.  The ships we get, it’s the navy.  To me chariots might be military tanks, just think of modern day weapons.  Basically, he will attack back with everything they’ve got, invading country after country, sweeping through like a flood.  

Vs. 41-43 He will set his sights on Israel.  He doesn’t bother with Edom, Moab and Ammon.  Those nations are more southeast, he focuses more on conquering the southwestern areas like Egypt and every other Arab nation that attempted to come against him.  He will go in and take control over all their resources. 

Vs. 44 Sets out to fill the second half of the final prophecy for the end of days.  He will become bloodthirsty. He will fill his lust for power by worshipping power, the antichrist will receive a news report that will set him out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many.  This is most likely the point in which he flips a switch and sets himself up as God, returning to his headquarters in Jerusalem, desecrating the temple, slaughtering Jews and anyone else who refuses to worship him.  All of hell is influencing him, enabling him.  His god will be power and he will stop at nothing to obtain it.

Vs. 45 He will set up a tabernacle, he will establish himself as god on Mt. Zion. Yet he will come to an end and no one will help him.  Now his end is written in the book of Revelation and it includes a whole host of judgement.  As for Israel, when it literally cannot get any worse, the Savior will come, their King will finally sit on His throne and receive the honor due to him.  

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Still More To Cover

Read Daniel 11:20-35

  Antiochus the Great was succeeded by his son Seleucus IV Philopator.  He was required to send out a tax collector because when his dad was defeated by Rome it brought on a required Roman tax.  Syria had to now pay taxes to Rome, that means Israel, the Jews would also be required to pay taxes to Rome.  Do you see how things begin to creep into the government?  During this time he sent out his military men to go to the Jewish temple to plunder its treasures.  Again the Bible is true with every detail, Seleucus was later killed by assassination orchestrated by his finance minister.  

Philopater will be followed by a vile person who will invade the kingdom when its people feel the most secure.  Why does it have to be when the people feel most secure?  The next ruler is…   

Vs. 21 Antiochus Epiphanes became the next king to sit on the Seleucid throne.  How would you like to be the one the Bible describes as a vile, contemptible, rotten, evil person?  He had no claim to the throne, he was not an heir.  The rightful heir was Demetrius, the son of Seleucus, he was too young to take control so in the meantime Epiphanes decided he should be the one to rule.  He obtained the crown through flattery and bribery, he was an intriguing man who for some reason could get people to trust him.

Epiphanes would set his sights on a prosperous territory, he would go in peaceably, wanting to be friends, claiming that with him everything would be unicorns and rainbows, gaining acceptance and support.  Just when the people least expected it, he would turn on them.  “Invading the kingdom when its people feel secure”.  

(Vs. 22) He flooded Egypt and left the province devastated.  The last part of 22 mentions “a prince of the covenant will be destroyed”.  This speaks about a Jewish man, the high priest to be exact.  According to the Maccabees Epiphanes removed the Jewish high priest and replaced him with a very Greek man named Jason.  Epiphanes then broke that promise and gave the position to one of his own followers.  Completely corrupting the Jewish temple of the Lord.  

Verses 23-24, with his sights set on the richest provinces, Epiphanes continues to befriend and conquer so much that he accumulated more than his father or forefathers ever could.  The richest provinces are the Holy Land and Egypt.  We know the Holy Land is the cream of the crop, he would conquer and utterly destroy Jerusalem.  Once conquered he took the spoils and shared them with his supporters.  He gave them a reward of sorts for doing his dirty work.  Take from the rich and give to the poor so they are forced to remain loyal.  To go against this “mad man” would be insane especially when he takes care of your needs and wants.

You all see how it is when the government is your source of support you become dependent on it for survival and then it dictates what you do and who you are.

Verse 25-26, Epiphanes of the North will once again stir up a war with Ptolemy of the South (Egypt).  Egypt fights back with a large army, however loses.  Just as written in 26, Ptolemy’s Egyptian counselors are corrupt and purposely give him faulty advice, knowing it would lead to a loss.  The very men who sit at the Egyptian kings table, sharing a meal with him were corrupt and caused Egypt to lose this war.  

Verse 27, Ptolemy was under custody of Epiphanes for a while, they had meals together but they were both bent on evil and filled their conversations with lies.   

Verse 28, Now that Egypt was conquered and all their riches were confiscated, Epiphanes headed North, back to his own provinces with his heart set on the Holy Land, the other wealthy province.  He heads to the Jewish temple stealing gold and silver, and massacres many Jews all in an  attempt to break the covenant between God and his people and the land that was given to them.

Verses 29-30 While his followers are tormenting the holy people and ravaging the temple, Epiphanes is plotting his next wave of vengeance on Egypt and at the appointed time he invades it again.  The problem this time is Egypt is ready for them.  Egypt created an alliance with Rome where they had their Roman Navy send ships who demanded Syria leave, and they did.  

This time Epiphanes, aka “little horn-antichrist” shows favor to the apostate Jews.  He butters them up, working to gain their support.  (Vs. 31-32) Then he turns them on their own people to unleash this “mini” tribulation.  He storms into Jerusalem killing over 40,000 Jews.  He forbade the practice of circumcision, feasts, sabbaths and sacrifices.  Forced the Jews to watch naked olympic games.  Smeared pigs blood all over the altar and temple.  Also, turned the Lord’s temple into a pagan place of worship of the Greek gods Jupiter and Olympus, this is an abomination and leaves Jerusalem desolate for a while.  

Verses 32-34 is talking about the Maccabean revolution.  The Maccabees were a wise godly Jewish family who started a four year resistance movement against Epiphanies and his troops.  This revolt drove the pagans out of Jerusalem; out of Israel and the temple was then cleansed and restored in December 164 B.C.  

 “Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.”   In this one verse God gives us the whole purpose of his plan.  The reason for why this is happening.  So that we might be refined, purified and made spotless.  Nestled in the midst of all this sadness, all this destruction is the hope we are given in Jesus Christ, that we may be refined, purified and made spotless.  This is God’s desire for the Jews and it’s his desire for us.  He wants us to have a solid foundation in Him, he wants us to be loyal to Him.

The hard, sad truth is it takes sadness to turn to God.  When we are faced with our own demise it is then we choose to look up to see God.  When you are reminded of death, then you are reminded of how short life really is and how you will be judged.  This is the case with the Israelites too, even though they are God’s chosen people they have lost sight of who God is for them.  These periods of judgement are meant to spiritually purify them. 

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We’ve Covered A Lot of History

Read Daniel 11:1-19

This entire chapter 11 is a prophetic message that sweeps from Daniel’s time and as the other message extends clear out past our present day into the future to the tribulation.  The difference between this particular prophecy and the previous one in chapter 8 is this prophecy focuses more on the different rulers of the nation of Israel.  And the bottom line is it will be a very, very long time before Israel is free of gentile rule.

The angel is still talking, continuing his conversation with Daniel from chapter 10, he tells Daniel that in the first year of Darius the Mede, he was assigned to stand by him to support and protect him.  This is a bit of a controversial verse because the commentaries vary on whom the angel is supporting.  Some say it is Michael and others say he is supporting the king.

I tend to fall on the side of supporting the king.  Based on what we discussed in chapter 10 regarding the principalities that were surrounding the nation.  This is the Medo-Persian empire and there are two rulers.  Cyrus the Persian and Cyaxares the Mede.  Remember Darius is more of a title like king.  Cyrus was completely on board with supporting the Jews, but it appears that Cyaxares may have been on the fence which is why the principalities were doing all they could to influence his decisions against the Jews.  Eventually, this angel’s strength and support lead him to side with and give resources for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.    

Verse 2 speaks about three more kings ruling over the Persian empire and then a fourth king will rise up and will turn the nation against Greece.  Those kings are 1. Cambyses (Cyrus’ son) 2. Pseudo-Smerdis 3. Darius Hystaspes and the fourth king is 4. Xerxes or Ahasuerus.

Xerxes is the same king in the book of Esther.  He was just as this prophecy stated, he was stronger and richer.  He commanded the largest army in history and led a major attack on Greece, a completely devastating defeat.  

Moving into the future about 150 years later, the Greeks have never forgotten about this devastating attack and they turned the tables under the leadership of Alexander the Great.  Alexander certainly did as he pleased.  He conquered so much that he literally ran out of nations to conquer.  He ruled as an absolute sovereign, he came in fast and accomplished much in a short time.  Just like the Persian empire Alexander had full control over Israel.  

Alexander died at the age of 33 and after his death his empire was eventually divided into four territories.  His title did not pass onto any of his  heirs.  He had a half brother and two sons and all three were murdered and did not get the opportunity to sit as king.

With the title of king up for grabs, battles ensued over who would rule the world.  Eventually it was narrowed down to four of Alexander’s Generals.  For the sake of this prophecy we will focus mainly on the territories of the North and South of Israel.  

The north is Syria and is ruled by Seleucus and will be known as the Seleucid Dynasty.  The south is Egypt and is known as the Ptolemaic Dynasty.  Originally Israel was given to the Ptolemies, Egypt control.  From verse 4 until verse 20 about 200 years will pass.  

Verse 5 shares a bit of the Ptolemaic Dynasty (Egypt).  This dynasty starts out a little bigger than the north (Seleucid-Syria), but it doesn’t take long before the north (Syria) outgrows Egypt, becoming larger and stronger.

After some time passes the two regions decide to become allies, they make an alliance through marriage, which is the old way of doing it.  Kings would hand over their daughters to other kingdoms in marriage in hopes of having support when needed.  In this case the Egyptian king gave his daughter in marriage to the Syrian king, Antiochus Theos.

Antiochus Theos is the third king of Syria spoken about in verse 6.  The only concern he had in marrying the Egyptian princess Berenice, is he was already married, so he fixed the problem by divorcing his wife.    

The queen was happy about this, she was a scorned woman and so she murdered the new queen along with all her lady attendants, they were all poisoned to death. Verse 6 said the princess would “not retain power” which means the whole plan fell apart.  Everyone involved was murdered.

But don’t worry because Berenice’s brother steps up and avenges her.  Her brother becomes the next king of the Ptolemies, Ptolemy Evergetes and he attacks the next king of Syria, Callinicus, and defeats him, confiscating gold, silver and even their idol statues and citizens.

Callinicus falls off his horse, and has two sons available to take over the region and they are prepared for war.  They are not happy about what the south (Egypt) has done.  They trample all across the empire trampling through Israel and landing in Egypt.

Of course Egypt becomes furious and their king Philometer fights back with a huge military and yet again he wins the war making Syria hate the Egyptians even more.  Verse 13 says Syria will return to fight again and they did.  He scraped together a bigger army and after 13 years he returns with a thirst for blood.

Egypt has accumulated a lot of enemies and as it says in verse 14 many people will rise up against the south.  The north has a great army and many of the haters are joining forces with the north to fight against the south.  Even the robbers of the people.  Robbers in Hebrew in this context means to tear away or son of breaking.  The angel is referring to apostate Jews, Jews who turned from their faith and joined the war with Syria.  All of these events fulfill this vision, this prophecy and are you amazed it’s down to the very last detail?

The Jews that sided with Syria thought that if they fought for the king they might also gain favor with the king and he would give them freedom.  But, the war was a failure and their plans didn’t work out the way they hoped.  Which is typical of the results we get when we go and do our own thing without waiting on the Lord’s plan.

What happened was, (vs. 16) Antiochus, still king of Syria, will fight and push through gaining control over Israel and will now have total control over what happens in the “Beautiful Land”.  He will have power to destroy it if he chooses.  Basically, Egypt lost this war and that means that Palestine now belongs to the Seleucids.  The Jews tried to interfere with God’s plan and find favor with the king to gain independence and instead they are now controlled by another government.  Living under Antiochus was horrific for the Jews.  We talked about the horrid things this king did to the Jews in earlier studies.

After experiencing pressure from Rome, Antiochus was forced to give up his conquests, but that didn’t stop Antiochus from his goal of becoming bigger and stronger.  This time (vs. 17) he makes a scheme to create an alliance with Egypt.  This was a scheme because he gave his daughter to Epiphanes in marriage with the hopes that she would be a spy for him.  

This daughter was the famous Cleopatra.  She was a “daughter of women” meaning she was beautiful and seductive.  His plan backfired, Cleopatra did not stay with her fathers plans, instead she fell in love with her husband and became loyal to him.  

That plan didn’t work so Antiochus, He was persistent, decided to set his sights on the coastlands, or the islands in the Mediterranean, the Greek Islands to be more exact.  He was ultimately setting his sights on Greece, so he was working his way up.  This put him in a war with Rome and guess who won?  Rome defeated him in 190 B.C.  Which put him in his place for a while.

Verse 19 says Antiochus Theos returned home to his fortress, when he did he stumbled and fell when he went into a temple and attempted to steal all the treasures housed there.  His people got so mad they murdered him on the spot.  He fell dead and was seen no more.

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National Principalities

Read Daniel 10:13-21

The angel was dispatched on the 3rd of Nisan, it took him 21 days to finally get to Daniel and the reason for this was the prince (lowercase p) from the kingdom of Persia resisted him or KJV says withstood him. 

I want to break today’s section into two parts.  The first part will cover the spirit realm and the second part will cover what was happening in the human realm.  It will give us more understanding of what may have been causing Daniel to be so burdened.

Verse 13 says that a demon was resisting the messenger angel.  The name given to this demon was prince of persia.  This section of scripture gives us a great description of the spirit realm and the conflicts between God’s angels and Satan’s agents.  This demonic principality didn’t possess any person, rather it controlled the atmosphere surrounding the nation.  The principality would influence the decisions being made about Israel and the rebuilding of the temple, in a way that opposed God of heaven. 

The kingdom of Persia had its own demonic influence like every nation does, even the USA today.  There are demonic principalities doing everything they can to keep this Nation from honoring God in the way it was created.  The demon’s main job is to work against the people and the plans of God.  

Verse 20 lets us know that each nation has its own set of demonic forces; it says, “the prince of Greece” will come.  We know this prophecy was fulfilled with Alexander the Great.  A whole new set of devils stepped in to push back against God when Greece began to rule the earth.  

The angel that is finished speaking with Daniel, he will go back to the spirit realm and he will continue to fight the prince of Persia.  God wants the temple to be rebuilt, this angel, along with Michael will be the ones to make sure that happens according to God’s schedule.  When Alexander the Great took over the world empire was when the Persian demon was defeated.  

Daniel lives inside the capital of former Babylon and now Persia, the angel had to come to Daniel to give him the word concerning Israel’s future.  As the angel entered or attempted to enter the city he was met by this principality.  This demon was in no way wanting to let the word of the Lord go forward.  It was determined to stop the progression of rebuilding the temple and every attempt the angel made to speak to Daniel, this demon blocked him.  God then sends Michael to aid in putting the demon in his place and getting the word delivered.

Michael’s help allowed the angel to get away briefly to talk to Daniel, but he had to immediately return because his presence was needed to ensure God’s plans were carried out.  

Our world is affected by what happens in the spirit realm and vise versa.  This angel ended up fighting against this enemy for several years.  We can see here in chapter 10 that two years have passed since Cyrus gave the decree for the Jews to rebuild their temple.  This persian prince has been blocking them for two years at this point and we can see the physical, human side of this in Ezra 4.

I think it is important to understand this side of history in comparison to what Daniel recorded and to see what it potentially looks like when demons influence nations.  As we know,  Daniel remained in the capital of the nation, the city of Babylon, he was a man who had great influence with King Cyrus, even though Daniel is older now he still has a lot of influence and is greatly respected and honored, his word carries a lot of weight. 

By looking at Ezra, we can understand more of what Daniel was witnessing in regards to the trouble the Jews faced as they tried to rebuild their temple.  This trouble is likely what prompted his prayer.

In Cyrus’  first year God touched Cyrus’ heart and had him put out a decree that, according to Persian law, could never be broken or removed.  This decree was to permit the Jews to rebuild their temple.  The Jews, well the ones that wanted to, returned with the king’s blessing to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

For the next few years they would begin to have a lot of opposition.  Ezra tells us that the enemies of Judah and Benjamin came to the tribe leaders offering their help to rebuild the temple.  The Jewish leaders turned them down, telling them they wanted to rebuild it themselves.  I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want any help from an enemy?

Now remember the principalities are influencing these decisions against the people of God.  In our modern day we could relate them to a political party that does what it can to go against God and his people.  Their main reason for not wanting the Jews to occupy the city was because of money.  Samaria had become both a spiritual and economic center.  They collect large sums of tax money and with the Jews reentering and occupying this city again they would lose their control over their private economic empire. They would lose control and they didn’t like that. 

When their plan to work from the inside didn’t work the enemy decided to use fear to cause them to stop the construction.  The Hebrew word for fear in this section of Ezra relates to the fear aroused in a battle situation.  They were putting them in a “war like” situation.  They were using force, they were using violence.  Think of a riot.  We are all familiar with what those look like and the fear they cause.  These political leaders were encouraging riots against the Jews, against their business’ and against their homes.

On top of that they bribed other officials, persuading them to work against their plans.  The political party bribed, they blackmailed the other governmental officials forcing them to make the life of the Jews miserable.  Putting them in a desperate situation, the officials made it difficult for the Jews to obtain permits and licensing.  Banking would be difficult, zoning would be difficult.  Finding support from local businesses who were willing to sell to them was becoming more and more rare, because they would risk losing their own business license.   They continued to do this during the entire reign of Cyrus and throughout the reign of subsequent kings.  

When Xerxes took over they started a schmear campaign against the Jews.  They started fake news and attempted to destroy the reputation of the Jews. Doing their best to make them out to be the enemy.  Getting their followers, their supporters to call them names and spread hatred.  The Jews were nonnegotiable about their laws and traditions and the gentiles would view that stance as being intolerant, and hate filled.  Their view of remaining separate from the world would be viewed as not being inclusive.

This continued for years and eventually in Ezra 4:12 the enemies, the entire political party (Ezra 4:9), got together and wrote a letter to king Artaxerxes I.  The letter stated,  the “evil” Jews are rebuilding a rebellious and toxic city in Jerusalem.  They want the king to know that if this continues, no more taxes will be paid and that the royal revenue will suffer greatly.  Of course they only have the kings best intentions in mind and they’d hate to see him dishonored this way.

The king fell for it and ordered the construction to cease, this lasted until Artaxerxes 2nd year.  This was only a brief setback as the Jews started their construction back up, they were following the decree from God and the law Cyrus put in place. 

Those political leaders were not happy, they wanted to know who authorized the construction to start up and they wanted the names of everyone supporting this rebuild.  Why would government officials vet their citizens?  What purpose would they have in collecting data on citizens who are not breaking the law?  What does it matter who their supporters are when they are not breaking any laws? 

Ezra 5:5 says “But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease.”  Remember the angels are making sure God’s will is done.  The demons are influencing the politicians who are working against the will of God.  The angels are stationed to protect the will of God and to make sure his will is fulfilled.  

Artaxerxes ended up doing his own investigation and he learned about Cyrus’ decree and realized it could not be undone.  He told the offending politicians to stop interfering and to stay away.  He also gave the Jews more money, a stimulus check if you will,  to complete the construction.  The temple was officially rebuilt on the 3rd of Adar in Artaxerxes sixth year as king.

That takes us up to verse 21 in Daniel 10.  The angel finishes his explanation of what has held him up and that he needs to get back to the battle, but before he goes he wants to explain to Daniel what is written in the Book of Truth.  I like that he ends with there being no one else engaging in this battle with him except for Michael.  The two of them have a big task with fighting the principalities controlling Persia.

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Dieting During Easter

In Chapter 9 we discussed how God immediately sprang into action the moment Daniel began to pray his epic prayer.  We also discussed how Daniel was aware the 70 years of captivity would be ending soon and that is what his prayer focused on, the release of Israel to return to their homeland.

Ezra 1:1 tells us that God began to move toward ending this 70 year captivity.  While Gabriel was preparing Daniel, God was moving on the heart of Cyrus.  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

Not only did he issue a decree giving permission to rebuild the temple, but he gave each locality the task of making sure they had everything they needed to rebuild.   4 And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”  

As if that were not enough Cyrus also gave back all the temple articles King Neb confiscated.  Ensuring the articles were removed from the temple of Nebs “fake” god and placed back into the temple of “the God”.  

Out of potentially millions of Jews, only about 42,600 agreed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.  On one hand that seems like a large number, but out of millions of people this is a small remnant, a drop in the bucket of how many “should” have returned.  

I guess Neb’s indoctrination worked.  Many of the Jews turned from their roots and fully embraced the gentile lifestyle.  They could now just live their lives without all that silly sacrificing and rituals and cleansing and praying they were forced to do when they lived a life of faith.  People tend to find it easier to just live like everyone else rather than be different. 

An important point to make before moving on is that Cyrus’ decree only included the rebuilding of the temple.  Gabriel’s prophecy spoke specifically about the temple and the city being rebuilt and restored, it was at the rebuilding of both that the 483 year (69 weeks, 69×7) prophecy would begin.  So Cyrus’ decree did not initiate Gabriel’s prophecy.  That pivotal decree would be made much later from Artaxerxes.

Read Daniel 10:1-12

Daniel’s testimony begins in verse 2.  Verse 1 is a prelude.  He is preparing us for the testimony he is about to give, he is setting us up.  Daniel begins by telling us how he had been mourning for three weeks,  mourning as in, he was looking toward heaven and weeping, his spirit was grieved.  

Not only weeping because of a grieved spirit, but he was also fasting.  This fast was a type of fast where he did not eat any preferred foods.  You know the comfort foods we love, pizza, mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, cheeseburgers, etc.  There are several different types of fasts and with this one Daniel chose to limit his food selection to just the basics.  

He also did not use any oils at all.  Oils were used for health, hygiene and sun protection back in those days.  Oils are still used for all those reasons today.  I prefer to use oils like a lot of other people.   

Daniel did this for 21 days, verse 4 states that on the 24th of Nisan is the day he received his breakthrough in prayer.  He started his praying and fasting on the third of Nisan, but he did not receive an answer for 21 days.  Do you pray until you feel a release, do you continue to pray and fast until you get your breakthrough?  Going by Daniel’s example, we should wait for confirmation before moving on.

There is significance to these particular dates.  Passover always fell on the 14th of Nisan.  What this means is Daniel was fasting all through the Passover time and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  This was a very special time of year for the Jews, it was a time of celebration, it was one of the most important seasons on the Jewish calendar and yet Daniel is not celebrating.  He is not eating or joining in on the feasts, he is not indulging in all the special holiday meals, instead he is weeping, mourning.  To make matters seem worse he has not heard from heaven for 21 days.  Daniel was used to an immediate answer, waiting was not the norm.

 It is now the 24th of the month of Nisan and Daniel, still praying, still mourning and fasting decided to get outside and get some fresh air.  Getting out into nature has a way of helping you to feel more connected to God.  Daniel decided to stand along the bank of the Great Tigris River.  It was along this river bank that he looked up and saw before him a man who was dressed in linen and wearing a gold belt made from gold from Uphaz, which interestingly is an unknown place.

His body also was like the beryl, and his face like the appearance of lightning, and his eyes like flaming torches, and his arms and his feet like the gleam from polished bronze, and his voice like the sound of multitudes.” 

Daniel is about 85 years now, he hasn’t been eating well, he’s exhausted from the weeping and praying and as he stands by the river he receives a visitor.  Now he is very familiar with Gabriel, so this is not him.  Some people say it’s Michael, but that doesn’t fit either.  This is definitely a heavenly visitation from the Lord himself.

If you compare this description with the description John gives in Revelation you can see they are the same.  The only difference is John describes his hair as wool.  Revelation tells us it is the Lord, God himself as he says, “I am the alpha and omega.”

This visit is even more epic, more awesome than Gabriel’s visit, this is the Lord coming to meet with Daniel personally.  After all the suffering, he got to meet the Lord and he was the only one to see him that day.  There were other people by the river with him, but they did not see the Lord and it didn’t matter because his presence was felt non the less.  The presence of the Lord caused a terror to overwhelm them and they ran for their lives and hid.  I suppose if you can’t stand before the Lord righteous you would run and hide too.

Everyone else fled and there was Daniel left alone, gazing at the Lord and he says, “I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless”.  It’s probably good that he had no strength because he may have ran away too.  The look of his flesh, I imagine to look very pale, colorless, like the skin of a corpse.  The blood ran out of him; he was so overwhelmed by the Lord’s presence, the holiness and glory of God. 

Vs. 8 When he heard the voice of the Son of God speaking it was loud, a thunderous roar.  Like ocean waves roaring, like crowds of people chanting.  He hears this roaring voice and it causes him to faint, to fall flat on his face.  Pure panic set in and caused him collapse.

I believe it was at this point that Jesus went back to heaven and his attending angel took over and ministered to Daniel, giving him the message from heaven.  I believe this way because looking at verse 13 the angel is the one being resisted by the prince of Persia, and had to be helped by Michael.  The Lord would not have been blocked.  This messenger was blocked for three weeks before he was released; after his release is when the Lord appeared along with him.

Angels all have different jobs, this angel is a messenger angel, Michael is a warrior angel, and others ministering angels.  This angel had a specific message that needed to be delivered and he was blocked, but Michael the warrior angels stepped in.  We will dig into those details more next week.

The voice of the Lord caused Daniel to collapse, the angel who looked like a human touched Daniel causing him to regain consciousness.  The touch set him on his knees, with his palms still on the ground,  sort of how we kneel down when praying.  

The angel reminds Daniel of his position in heaven, that he is highly esteemed, and he wants him to really listen to what he has to tell him.  He tells him to stand up.  “Stand up, I need you to listen.” Daniel was shaking too much to move, but he stood up anyway.  Have you ever felt the presence of the Lord and it caused your body to tremble, you try to move but you’re too wobbly?  

Once Daniel is standing the angel explains to Daniel that he was dispatched the moment he began to fast, which is what KJV means by “chasten thyself”.  The angel was dispatched the moment Daniel disciplined himself with prayer and fasting.  

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Sacrifice That Creates Breakthrough

Read Daniel 9:20-23

Daniel was a prayer warrior, he was even thrown into a lion’s den because of his dedication to prayer.  He takes his prayers seriously as we can see here in vs. 20 the elements he included in his prayer.  He writes, I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people, and presenting supplication (asking for what he wanted) before the Lord.  There is a lot of work that goes into a breakthrough prayer.  If you think lazy prayers are going to give you a breakthrough you might be mistaken.  Daniel did not pray lazy prayers, he prayed power filled prayers and received a breakthrough.  

Also, notice this prayer was not self focused in any way.  The sole focus for Daniel was for the Holy Mountain of God, for God’s plan for Israel.  He was getting on board with God’s plan, he was praying for God’s glory to be seen.  I hope you see the difference between your prayer and Daniel’s prayer and learn to pray like Daniel.

The actual prayer Daniel prayed is written out in verses 3-19.  It was while he was praying this exact prayer that God began to move.  In fact, the man wasn’t even finished when God moved.  It says in vs. 21, the man Gabriel, yes the same Gabriel, the angel, that had the job of delivering life altering and world shaking news, swiftly and quickly flew to Daniel with another revelation.  He arrived about the time of the evening offering.  Now we see another element to this prayer and its oblation or offering.  

The oblation is under an old covenant that required the Jews to offer daily sacrifices.  The evening offering, in particular, was a time for repenting.  Before their captivity the Jews would go to the temple to offer a sacrifice, it was a meal offering and a drink offering.  

A lamb would be slain for their sin and offered up to God.  The person bringing the lamb would lay their hands on the lamb, they would confess their sins and the lamb would be sacrificed.  Here’s Daniel approximately 69 years later, and he has not forgotten the importance of the evening offering even though there has not been a sacrifice for 69 years.  The temple was destroyed, the Jews could not offer up sacrifices in the temple.

Daniel was not offering an actual lamb for sacrifice, but he was still being faithful to what God requires of his people.  God requires a repentant heart.  The three oclock prayer time was the time set aside for the Jews to confess their sin, and Daniel was determined to do that even without a lamb.  He had such a strong sense of his need to be cleansed.  He was doing what I call “lingering in repentance”.  We do this when we are overwhelmed with a sense of sin.

I also want to point out that at the beginning of this chapter Daniel was also fasting for his breakthrough.  Fasting is a form of sacrifice.  This is the type of sacrifice we are most familiar with.  Daniel’s sacrifice may not have been a lamb but he was still meeting all required elements in his prayer.

It wasn’t just the prayer, it wasn’t  just the sacrifice that created a breakthrough, it’s both of those things combined with integrity that make a difference in answered prayers.  How you live your life, your convictions also come into play with receiving a breakthrough of answered prayer.

Gabriel arrives in Daniel’s war room, he finds him praying earnestly, eyes closed, face down to the ground, Daniel didn’t even realize Gabriel was there until he touched him.  Of course Daniel recognized him, he had the same manly appearance as in Daniel’s previous vision.  Verse 22 says, “he informed me and talked with me”.  I like that.  It’s as if they spent a few minutes catching up on some things.

I used to think the verbiage in the Bible always had to be solemn and serious.  That this verse would have been spoken, in a deep booming voice, “O Daniel, I have come forth”.  I don’t think that way anymore.  I don’t take away from the seriousness of the word of God, but I also don’t think everything was always spoken with such a lack of warmth.  

Daniel writes that Gabriel was talking “with” me, they were having a conversation and then Gabriel says, “O, Daniel, I’ve come here to give you skill and understanding.”  Less scary, less formal and more relational.  Gabriel is there to answer a prayer not convict him of a felony.

I did a quick word search for the word skill (strong’s 4678 sophia) and the original meaning is “the art of using wisdom”.  Apparently there is an art to using the gift of wisdom.  Daniel will know how to use wisdom.  The skill Daniel is receiving is knowing how to use what it is that Gabriel is about to share with him;  to know how to handle this prophecy.  He will understand it and he will know what to do with it once he understands.  

Gabriel continues, when you began to pray God gave me a command to come to you and share this with you.  There was no hesitation in heaven, the moment you began to pray, God commanded, God sprang into action, commanding me to get here as quickly as I could.

Why did God respond so swiftly to Daniel’s prayer?  Heaven was activated because Daniel was “greatly beloved”.  Imagine living a life so worthy of God that when you open your mouth he immediately sends his messenger to tell you that you are greatly beloved in heaven.  To have this type of confirmation of God’s love for you would be amazing.  Daniel must have been thrilled to hear this.  BTW, the Hebrew meaning of greatly beloved means man of desire, or one desired, or one precious.

Read Daniel 9:24-27

So far in Daniel we’ve studied two other massive prophecies.  They both covered gentile rule, then flowed into the kingdom of heaven and introduced Christ and also the antichrist as an added element.  This prophecy is different because its focus is not on gentiles but on the people of God; it covers the future of Israel which makes sense since Israel is the focus of Daniel’s prayer. 

The first thing we need to cover and understand is the verbiage of “weeks”, the term is shavua or shavuim in Hebrew and it means “seven”.  Just seven, so you have to look at the context of the surrounding scripture to figure out if it means days, weeks, or years.  In this case Daniel is already thinking in terms of years so we can use this term to be years.  The verse reads seventy shavua which means 70 years.

Verse 24 Gives us six different objectives in this prophecy.  Three focus on correction and three focus on positives.  The negatives that need to be addressed are: to finish the transgression; make an end to sins (plural); make reconciliation or iniquity. The three positives are: bring in everlasting righteousness; seal up vision and prophecy; anoint the Most Holy.

Verse 24: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint a Holy of Holies,”

Gabriel is explaining that seventy weeks (or 70 years) have been determined for your people and your holy city to take care of the six things outlined in vs. 24.  At the end of the 70 years God will have totally dealt with sin and will completely bring in righteousness.  

Notice also the word determined.  The meaning is to “cut out”, to set boundaries, to end or limit.  We can also see that this is intended for Daniel’s people, aka the Jews, and for the holy City, Jerusalem.  What we have here is a set amount of time that God has carved out with the specific intention of accomplishing these six things in His people Israel.  God has carved out a 70 years span of time that will deal with sin and reconciliation, to have his people stand before him in righteousness, he will seal up this vision and prophecy, anoint the Holy of holies meaning his temple will be a place of worship like never before.  Side note: we are the church, the holy of holies, I believe we will worship like never before.

Verse 25 gets a little trickier to decipher, but the time span will begin when the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and it will end when the Messiah the Prince comes. The city will be completely rebuilt, from the streets to the marketplace to the fortified walls surrounding it during this timeframe which boils down to be 490 years.  The seventy sevens in verse 24 equals 490 years.  

To Daniel this is all prophecy, to us it is history.  The rebuilding of Jerusalem took place under the ruling of Artaxerxes and with Nehemiah’s desire to go back and rebuild.  The prophecy also states that it will be during troubled times.  If you want to reference this more you can read Ezra 9 & 10, and Nehemiah 4, 6, 9.  

Verse 25 also gives us another timeframe, seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens. Or in KJ seven weeks, three scores and two weeks.  Which boils down to 69 x’s 7.

The time from the decree from Artaxerxes until the day Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem was 483 years.  The reason it’s his triumphal entry and not his birth or baptism is simply because verse 24 uses the wording either prince or ruler.  During Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Jews layed palm branches on the road like we do with red carpets.  And they shouted Hosanna to the King of David, the Messiah.  This was essentially Jesus’ inauguration parade.  Jesus was officially recognized as the King.

Reread verse 26-27.  After the sixty two sevens, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. Sadly just a few days after the worship of the new King, the Messiah was “cut off”, Jesus was crucified to the day as was prophesied.   

Daniel was hearing from Gabriel the future of their coming Messiah.  The very one they were looking forward to, and it was grim.  To hear that your Messiah, the one who was to come and save the world will die a horrible death had to be shocking for Daniel. 

Essentially this prophecy states a decree will go out to rebuild the Holy city, you’ll wait 483 years for the Messiah to be seen as the King and once he is he will be executed as a criminal.  He will receive nothing honorable, instead he will receive everything he does not deserve, our sins.

There will be one more “week” or year, do you see it?  In verse 27.  “He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven (year)”.  After the death of Jesus will come another “determined”, another period of time “cut out” by God to continue his plan of redemption.  From the finish of the 483 years until the next seven years there is a gap.  We are living in this gap. So future. 

This period of time involves a prince, in this case it is a prince with a little “p” so that tells us it is not Jesus as he is recognized with a capital “P”.  This prince is the antichrist and he will form a covenant with many for one seven, for seven years. 

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What Drives You to Your Knees?

Read Daniel 9:1-3

One of the main points in chapter 6 was how dedicated Daniel was to his prayer time.  He refused to allow anyone or anything keep him from praying, not even the threat of death.  He prayed morning, noon and night every single day.  He had the same routine every single time.  He would open the shutters in his upstairs room and he would kneel down at the windowsill and pray.  He liked this spot in particular, because it faced his hometown of Jerusalem.  

If you’ve ever wondered, “exactly what did Daniel say to God when praying, what were his prayers like?” Well, here is your chance to find out.  But, first I want to point out something very important.  Daniel was a man of God, God spoke to Daniel through dreams and visions, he even sent his most trusted angel, Gabriel, to reveal his word first hand.  I want you to understand that as much as God shared his will with Daniel first hand, Daniel never used those experiences as a substitute for studying the word of God.  He still studied the written word of God.  This is another area where Daniel did not compromise.

Verse 2 says, “I Daniel understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet.”  It’s not clear if he was studying this before or after his night in the lion’s den, but we have it here that studying the word of the Lord is a big deal for this Godly man.  It also makes me wonder if that is why the enemy worked so hard at trying to kill Daniel.  Is it possible that the enemy tried to take Daniel out before he put two and two together and realized the 70 years was up and the enemy could no longer have free reign over the Holy people.   

The enemy’s time was up and Daniel was made aware of it through the reading of scripture, and that is why Daniel took to prayer.  Verse 3 says that Daniel turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting and in sackcloth and ashes.  Daniel did not let anything to chance.  He pulled out all the “big guns”.  It was his understanding and studying of the word that gave him the promises of God.  The promise was that this desolation would last 70 years and that time is up and now it’s time for the Lord to send relief and take them back to their home and let them rebuild Jerusalem and their beloved temple.

Read vs. 4-19

First of all, I am appalled that this prayer is not discussed more often in churches today. I have NEVER heard a pastor or evangelist ever reference this prayer and I think that is an absolute tragedy.  As far as I’m concerned this prayer should have been prayed many times over, especially during the past year.  

Last week I hit pretty hard with urging each of you to pray, to seek the Lord and to turn from your wicked ways, and then I turned the page and read how Daniel prayed, fasted and repented for an entire nation.  This past week was inauguration for a new president, how many of you prayed on behalf of our nation?  How many of you repented on behalf of our nation?  It’s one thing to pray for your own sins, but it another to stand in the gap for an entire nation of sinners.  

I don’t want to repent for baby murders, I don’t want to be the one to repent for sexual abominations, because I don’t personally partake in those things, except God looks at us as a unit as a people.  And someone has to stand in the gap or there won’t be a gap to stand in.

Some of the words that stood out to me in this prayer are “We” have sinned,  Daniel didn’t sin, he honored God in every way, yet he understands he is part of one body.  “We” have turned away from your commands, “we” have not listened to your prophets, “we” are covered in shame.

Daniel took the time to understand what God expected of his people, he also took the time to understand where the Israelites went wrong, where their sin fell.  He was able to do this because he spent time studying the word of God.  God doesn’t reveal his heart to us for his benefit, he does it for our benefit.  The written word of God is for our benefit.  

And what we benefit from it is the opportunity to come into agreement with the Lord.  The way we come into agreement is through prayer.  The two work together, one without the other just doesn’t get us to where we need to be.  You read the word to find out what God’s will is, then you pray about his will so that you can come into agreement with it. 

What business do you have to pray for God’s will to be done when you don’t understand his will in the first place.  On the flip side of that, if you can read the word of God and not be driven to prayer, there just might be something missing there as well.  The word of God, whether reading about judgement or blessings, should drive you to prayer.  

Scriptures on judgement should drive you to your knees in repentance and scriptures on the blessing of God should cause you to stand with your arms raised high and mouth spewing out worship.  

Combining the word with prayer will not only cause you to be aligned with God’s will, but your prayers will be grounded in the word, they will originate from the word, not your own selfish desires. Daniel was studying the word of the Lord and it drove him to prayer and fasting.  It drove him to deep intercessory prayer. And it drove him to confession.  The Holy Spirit has a way of bringing you to repentance, it is a bi-product of intercessory. 

Repentance is another way of coming into agreement with God.  It’s not just a confession of “oh I did wrong again, forgive me.”  We need to have a heart that easily recognizes sin, but then there should be times where we have a greater sense of sinfulness.  A time where we linger in repentance allowing God to cleanse and restore us.  Repenting is agreeing with what God says is sin.  

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Gabriel Can Explain

Read Daniel 8:15-27

As Daniel was seeking God, he suddenly noticed a figure standing before him.  The figure had the appearance of being a man.  It looked human, but it wasn’t.  Angels have the ability to take on the appearance of humans, even though they are spiritual beings.

This wasn’t just any ole angel though, this angel was named Gabriel. (vs. 16) Daniel, standing along the banks of the Ulai, contemplating this very disturbing vision, now sees a figure of a man standing in front of him and he hears another man’s voice coming from between the banks of the canal.  

The voice called out to Gabriel and gave Gabriel the command to “make this man understand the vision”.  Let’s break this down before we move on.  First of all, the voice Daniel heard was the voice of God.  

Gabriel is an angel of the Lord.  There are several times where the Bible records God sending angels to humans with messages.  This is actually the first recorded time in the Bible where Gabriel is mentioned as God’s entrusted messenger, he visits Daniel again in chapter 9.  So Gabriel is the one who makes “huge” announcements on God’s behalf. In this case he is the one who reveals the meaning of the vision to Daniel.  God can and will reveal his word to us in different ways. 

Gabriel’s name literally brings together two hebrew words, the first is geber which means “mighty man” and the other is el which is God in hebrew.  Put them together it’s mighty man of God.  Pretty cool.  In Luke 1:19 Gabriel himself says that he stands in the presence of God. 

Verse 16 is beautiful, Daniel got to see and hear first hand, God commanding one of his angels to help Daniel.  We have the Holy Spirit who reveals to us the meaning of God’s heart to us.  In this case it is the angel who will give understanding.  Daniel just experienced the heavy weight and burden of seeing this vision, he was left feeling confused and didn’t understand everything that was going on, so God commanded his angel Gabriel to “make him understand”.  God needed Daniel to understand this vision.  His understanding of what he saw was a requirement, it was necessary.  The people of God need to understand this prophecy.  

 With the command Gabriel goes over to where Daniel was standing, as he got closer to Daniel, Daniel became terrified.  He became so terrified that he fell on his face.  This is not an unusual reaction.  Everytime an angel comes near a human in the Bible, they become afraid and many fall down onto their faces, he kneels down with his face to the ground.  Gabriel comes directly from the presence of God, all that holiness must be overwhelming.

The angel begins to speak to Daniel, telling him that he needs to understand this vision because it contains details of how it will be during the end times.  That is when Daniel faints.  The description is that he was in a deep sleep.  Well, that is sort of what passing out is, right?  Going into a state of unconsciousness.  But, Gabriel touched him and stood him upright.  He touched him and brought him back to consciousness.  

Gabriel begins to explain to Daniel the meaning of what he saw.  He also mentions that he will make known to him what will happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.  This is actually a “dual” prophecy.  It covers both the time of Antiochus and it extends through the future to the coming antichrist. The angel is revealing the meaning of the Greek empire and the coming end times of which Jesus sets up his kingdom. 

KJV uses the word indignation, so let’s look at that word. Indignation means anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.  Another definition is anger or extreme anger, mingled with contempt, disgust or abhorrence. 

God will become angry and when he does it will lead to judgement.  What is it that God will become angry with?  The biggest thing people do to cause God’s anger to rise is reject him.  When a nation, whether its Israel or America or any other nation, rejects God, God will begin his judgement on that nation.  One of the ways he does this is by putting into power bad leaders who will create abominable laws and who will persecute the righteous.  The bad leaders are appointed by God for the purpose of chastising his people.  Do you see any similarities with what is happening in our nation today?

We can read example after example of Israel experiencing periods of great peace followed by times of great suffering.  It seems like people get relaxed, they begin to take God for granted during the peaceful times.  It’s so easy to allow your convictions to be compromised because you think everything is going well and you let your guard down and the next thing you know you’ve rejected God.  

The Jews began to compromise their faith, they began to join in with the perverted practices of the Greeks.  In the beginning of Daniel, Daniel resolved that he would not allow his convictions to be compromised, he stood firm and refused to bend.  Unfortunately, not too many people have this same resolve.  I have been warning you all for the past few weeks, to be in prayer now over what you will and will not compromise.  You need to make your mind up now, don’t wait until it’s too late.

We’ve already covered verses 20-22 in our previous discussions.  Verses 23-25 is where Gabriel reveals the dual prophecy.  He is talking about Antiochus, and the coming antichrist.  We know this because at the end of verse 25 it says, “But he shall be broken without human means”.  Jesus is the one who will remove him from power.  

Once the vision was understood, Gabriel told Daniel to seal up the vision.  He was to write it down, he was required to preserve it because it would be many, many years before it would be fulfilled.  Everything with the exception of verse 25, has come true.  Every single detail about the Medo-Persian and Greek empires has come to pass down to the smallest detail.

The Bible is truth, the words written in it are truth.  We just spent the last several weeks comparing this prophecy to history.  Mostly because this happened during “between testament times” so we didn’t have a choice, but it allowed us to learn the truth.

We’ve been given the truth of what our future holds.  We are given “heads up” for how to escape the coming judgement.  It’s pretty clear, If you accept Jesus you will be given eternal life, to deny Jesus is eternal death.  

I want to be very clear, if you’ve been following the news, forget about the source, if you’ve been following any reports of what is happening in our nation, then you should be aware of the changes coming to this nation.  If you are one of God’s holy ones, now is the time to search your hearts and make sure that you are in fact “a holy one”, because God is going to separate his true children from the imposters and you need to make sure that every sin has been reconciled. 

What are we receiving corrections for?  Well, we’ve done a pretty crappy job of influencing this nation toward the kingdom of heaven.  We’ve allowed laws to be passed that should have never been.  We allowed the government to do what it wants, knowing full well it contradicts the word of God.  We’ve spent more time opposing political parties, than we have going to battle for God.  

The verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 has been quoted so much over the past year.  You all know it, it’s the one that talks about humbling yourself, praying, seeking God’s face and oh yeah, turning from your wicked ways.  I have to say I see very little evidence that anyone has really taken this to heart.  It seems to me that emotions would not be so high right now if this verse was taken literally and obeyed.

If you are not one of God’s holy children, then you are going to be judged.  This is imminent, this is what I sense is happening right now.  Many prophets have said that we are headed into a time of correction.  This nation is going to receive correction and it depends on what side of heaven you belong in that dictates what that is going to look like.

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The Time When God Was Silent

Read Daniel 8 9-14

This section of scripture really focuses on the part of Daniel’s vision of the little horn on the goat.  We know that the little horn represents Antiochus Epiphanes who was the eventual eighth king over the Seleucid region, which controlled Israel.  He ruled about 150 years (give or take 20 years) before Christ’s birth.  

This is interesting because he ruled during part of the 400 year timespan known as the intertestamental period, or the period of the Bible where God was silent.  The time from Malachi to John the Baptist, the time between the OT and NT.  Have you ever wondered what happened during this time?  Well we’re about to find out.

It was during this period in history that the Greeks dominated the earth and Antiochus in particular, dominated Israel.  It was also during this time that the political, religious, and social atmosphere of Israel changed dramatically.  The Greeks began to impose their culture onto the Jews.  They began to do everything they could to destroy their Jewishness.  

Under the Persian’s the Jews were permitted to practice their religion, they were even allowed to rebuild their temple and worship at it. Basically, the Persian’s rule was the calm before the storm.  This all changed under Greek rule.  

The Greeks really wanted the Jews to become “Greek thinking people”, they wanted them to embrace their culture, much like we discussed when the Babylonians gained control of the Jews.  Antiochus’ father began the push and as we see in the prophecy Antiochus will push or should I say bulldoze even further.

Reread vs. 10-14

Verse 10 says that this little horn, Antiochus, grew stronger, he gained more and more power.  It says he “cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.”  We can see the hosts of heaven when we look to the sky, when we look to the sky at night what do you see?  You see stars.  

Antiochus cast down stars, but what do stars represent in the Bible?  According to Daniel 12:3, the stars are the faithful, obedient people of God.  Antiochus, massacred the obedient and faithful people of God.  He made a decree outlawing Jewish rites and worship.  

Verse 11 tells us how he did this.  We know that Antiochus fulfilled this part of Daniel’s prophetic vision.  He raided the temple in Jerusalem, stealing its treasures. He set up an altar and required them to worship Zeus rather than Yahweh by sacrificing pigs on that altar and making them eat the pigs flesh.  He even made the performance of circumcision punishable by death. In fact indulging in any Jewish religious custom was punishable by death.  When the people expressed their outrage over this profaning of the temple, he responded by slaughtering a large number of the Jews and those he didn’t slaughter he sold into slavery.

This “pre antichrist” this Greek antichrist gives us a glimpse of what to expect from the “end times” antichrist.  The end times antichrist is going to do everything he can to massacre the holy people of God.  Alexander showed us the ability of antichrist to conquer and Antiochus Epiphanese showed us the personality of the antichrist and his hatred towards holy people.

Antiochus magnified himself to be equal to God, as it says in vs. 11, then he attacks God by going after the people of God.  He took away their daily sacrifices and their place of worship, the temple was cast down.  He went into the temple, took all the gold and silver, vials, vessels, crowns, even the veil and the table of showbread and took it all back to his land.  He turned the temple chambers into brothels.  Committed a massacre, and spoke arrogantly.

Verse 12 talks about an army, KJV says “hosts”, that was given over “to the horn”.  We already discussed that hosts are the holy people of God.  Here it is talking about hosts joining with the little horn.  These would be apostate Jews.  Jews who turned from their faith, turned from their God and turned on their own people.  They joined Antiochus’ army and they “cast truth to the ground”.  They literally went throughout the cities finding the written word of God and shredding as many books as they could, shredding them and burning them, and murdering the people they found in possession of the books.  

At the very end of verse 12, it says that he prospered.  As long as there are willing participants, sin will continue.  Evil seeds can be planted just the same as holy seeds and if the ground is fertile those seeds will prosper.  It’s up to us to weed out the evil seeds.

Lastly, verses 13 and 14 give us another viewpoint of the vision.  Daniel, in these two verses, is listening to a conversation between two saints or holy ones.  The holy ones in this section are most likely referencing angels.  These angels are discussing back and forth how long is God going to let the temple, and the sacrifice, and the people of God, be crushed like this? How long will this desolation last?

The end times antichrist’s terror will last 1250 days, any longer and there would be no saved souls.  This terror was prophesied to last 2,300 days.  Matthew 24 tells us that if the tribulation lasted any longer there would be no saved, it would be too destructive and the elect would not be saved.  The tribulation is going to be way worse than what Antiochus did.  His terror lasted a bit longer, probably because it was not as intense, as horrible as it was; it will not be as bad as the tribulation.

After the 2300 days the sanctuary will be cleansed.  This was also fulfilled during this 400 years of silence.  During the Maccabean revolution, the Maccabeas came in and cleansed the temple on Dec. 25, 165 B.C.  By the way if you want to study more you can look at the books known as the Maccabees.  They are not inspired by the Holy Spirit but they are considered religious/historical books.

If you’re wondering what desolation started this 2300 days of tribulation, we can go back into history about six years to the year 171.  Up until this point there was peace between Antiochus and the Jews.  Antiochus said and did all the right things to the Jews.  Much like we are warned about the future antichrist, there will be a time of peace, then a desolation will take place and then the 3.5 years of tribulation.

The desolation that took place was the removal of the high priest, at least that was the most obvious record for that year.  A good man by the name of Onias III, was removed from office. A very Greek man named Jason bribed Antiochus for the position, and was put in the place of the true high priest. The anger of the Jews became stirred.  It seems that the removal of the man of God from the temple started this tribulation period.  

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One Antichrist After Another

Read vs. 1-4

Chapter 7 covered the timespan of thousands of years.  From Babylonian rule through Roman rule to the world rule of Antichrist ending with the rule of Christ.  Chapter eight narrows that focus down to cover just two of those world rulers.  The Mede-Persians and Greeks.  

Currently in scripture timeline, Belshazzar is still king of Babylon, the Mede-Persian’s have not killed the king and taken over Babylon yet, so for Daniel no parts of his dream have come to pass.

Here he is two years later and he is having another “God vision”.  In Chapter 7 Daniel was sleeping and the vision came while he was asleep.  There is no indication that Daniel is sleeping here, so we can assume these are only visions and they happened while he was fully awake and aware of what was going on around him.  KJV says “a vision appeared to me, even unto me Daniel.”  It’s as if he could not believe this was happening to little ole me.  To think that Daniel was caught off guard when God chose him for this vision, is awesome.  It must be a universal feeling for people to feel that they are not worthy of the call of God.  To be shocked when God chooses to use you is a common emotion.

Alas, God chose to show Daniel this vision.  Daniel was in Shushan, also called Susa, which was in the capital of Babylon, where the palace was located, but his vision actually transported him to another place.  The vision took him to the Ulai Canal which is about 230 miles from the palace.  

During Daniels vision this place had no significance what so ever.  This was just some city located in the middle of a desert.  However fast forward into the future this is the location King Cyrus of the Medes-Persians designated as a royal city.  This will be the city where Esther will live in the palace.  This will also be the same place where Nehemiah will be commissioned to leave the palace and return back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.

God doesn’t do anything by accident.  This was a very specific location, even if Daniel didn’t understand it at the time.  One more point to make with this section is the word river, which is found in KJV.  This is the only place that specific word is used and it’s interesting that NIV uses the word canal.  The “river” Daniel found himself standing beside was a manmade river, it was a canal.  Its purpose was to bring water (life) to this desert land. 

To summarize, Daniel was transported via a vision to a small, very insignificant city (at that time), located in the middle of nowhere, standing beside a canal.  To what to his wondering eyes should appear, but a ram with two horns.  The ram was pushing all other animals out of his way, driving them back.  No other animal could stand up to or defeat this ram.  

Before we move on let’s discuss the symbolism.  We have one ram, which is unusual, typically sheep are in flocks.  This was one ram who had two horns, no big deal rams have horns.  The significance of the horns is that they are high, or they were really long.  The tallest horn was a late bloomer, it grew last but then became the longest horn.

We know from past lessons, that horns represent power or kings, two horns so two rulers.  But the ram, what does the ram represent?  The ram represents the Medo-Persian empire.  We know this empire has two rulers.  What you may not know is that those rulers would have a ram symbols placed on his garments or especially on his armor when going into battle.  Rams represent the Medes-Persian empire.

The first horn to develop was the Medes.  The second horn came onto the scene later and represents the Persians.  At the time of Daniel’s vision, the Medo-Persian empire did not exist.  King Cyrus led this military, he was unstoppable and he conquered the south, west and northern territories.  He took over Syria, Asia Minor, Babylon, Armenia, Egypt and Ethiopia.  He conquered all this within 10 years, and it was all according to God’s plan. 

Read vs. 5-7

Daniel is standing there thinking about the vision.  Trying to figure out the meaning, it was so bizarre for him, when the vision continues.  He is looking at the ram, when out of nowhere a male goat comes from the west.  This goat was not charging, its hooves didn’t touch the ground, it was sweeping across the whole earth.  Notice this goat has only one horn located right between his eyes.  

We know that the goat represents the Greek empire and the single horn represents the single king, Alexander the Great, as he would be known as.  Daniel saw the Medo-Persian empire take over; it would be about two hundred years later that the Greeks would conquer the Persians.  

Daniel watched as the goat would furiously attack the ram, shattering his two long horns.  The ram was powerless against this goat as it knocked him to the ground and trampled on it.  No one could rescue the ram from this attack.

This is what Alexander did when he conquered the Persians.  He swooped in and took control.  Remember in chapter 7, Greece was represented as a leopard with wings, because it swoops and is so swift and agile it never touches the ground.  His territory was larger than the Babylonian and Persian empires combined.   Covering Europe to Asia and a large chunk of Africa.

Read vs. 8-9

The goat starts off like a unicorn.  He has only one horn, then he tramples the ram and becomes the ruler over this huge world empire.  It was at the height of Alexanders reign that he died.  And just as the Bible predicted, Alexander was replaced by four of his generals.  

These four generals are represented as the four horns in vs. 8.  The four generals divided up the empire and each one staked their claim in their areas, North, South, East and West and it took them about 22 years to make this happen.  This wasn’t an easy task for them, they had to fight and earn their territories.

Looking at verse 9 Daniel watching the goat when out of one of the horns, he notices another horn branching out.  This horn started out small and insignificant, but grew to power and took over the land to the south and to the east toward the Beautiful Land or pleasant land which is Israel.  

Again, horns represent kings, this is a king or a ruler, just like the others, except he takes over as a king about 150 years past Daniel’s life.  Now hang on because we are about to go a little bit deep here.  This little horn grows out of the fourth horn on the goat.  So, this king will eventually take over the fourth kingdom of the Greek empire.  

We know that this man’s name is Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  He was the eighth ruler of the Seleucid dynasty.  Daniel describes him as starting out small.  Antiochus had no claim to the throne, he was not an heir, however, he managed to claim the throne following the murder of his brother; the rightful heir was a man named Demetrius, who at this time was a hostage.  Antiochus took the throne, even though he didn’t deserve it.  Basically, he made himself king.  He did everything in his power to obtain and then maintain his control.

I want to point out something so there is no confusion.  In chapter 7 Daniel saw a “little horn”, the little horn in 7 is different from the little horn here in 8.  However, both represent an antichrist.  The horn in 7 has not been identified yet, and it will form from the Roman empire, and it will be the antichrist who will reign just before Christ becomes king.

The little horn here in 8 is also an antichrist.  Their goal and purpose are similar; however, this antichrist rises up from the Greek empire, not the Roman.  Sort of like a sample of what it will be like in the end times.

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The Thrones Were Put In Place

Read Daniel 7:9-28

The book of Matthew covers details on Jesus’ coronation ceremony.  For example, Jesus had a coronation parade when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and for miles people laid palm branches and cloaks out before him, giving honor to the man they viewed as their king.  Fast forward way into the future, even for us, we now get details of what Jesus’ actual “coronation” might be like.  Daniel had the privilege of looking into the future via a vison and seeing this magnificent sight.

So, while we are here on earth we are experiencing the “birth pains” of the ten new nations impending births, and the birth of the antichrist.  Ancient of Days is taking his place on his throne, he is preparing his son to take his rightful place as King of Kings.   Most High is preparing both heaven and earth for this one main event.

Verse 9, “I watched till the thrones were put in place and the Ancient of Days was seated.  Notice the word thrones is plural.  In Matthew 19:28  Jesus tells his 12 disciples, that at this time they will each also sit on a throne judging the 12 tribes of Israel.  You have the Ancient of Days on 1 throne, Jesus takes his seat on his throne, and then there are 12 additional thrones.  Daniel is witnessing these thrones being put into place in heaven in this vision.

Daniel gives more attention to detail with the throne of the Ancient of Days.  He describes the image of an aged man, meaning he is with much wisdom, his clothing is white as snow and his hair is like pure wool.  He takes his seat on a throne made of  fiery flames.  He is pure white, holy, sovereign and sits on a warriors chariot of fiery flames.    

Verse 10, “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand time ten thousand stood before Him. The judgment was set, and the books were opened.”

Daniel watched a fiery stream flow out from this warrior chariot.  I imaging it similar to fire following down a stream of gasoline to the source where it consumes everything.  This stream fire is symbolic of the Ancient of Days (God) devouring his enemies.  While the ten Roman revived kings are persecuting the holy people and while the antichrist is setting up his position, heaven is lining up to do battle.

The throne room of heaven is filled with a million angels.  This most likely not a literal 1 million, but more of a description of an immeasurable amount.  These celestial beings would attend to Most High, they are there prepped and ready for activation with just one word from God.  Before the throne an additional multitude of tens of millions more beings stand before him.  The KJV says, “judgement was set, and the books were open.”

God takes his place on his fiery chariot throne, all the other thrones are set into place.  Judgement was set, the fate of the beasts was already determined.  The millions of angels who were on duty opening the books, opening scrolls, pouring out bowl, all the prophetic things are taking  place.

That’s the scene from heaven. Now let’s go to verse 13. 

Finally, Jesus Christ enters the throne room.  Can you imagine, how it will feel when Jesus enters that room to take his rightful place on the throne.  It says, that he entered the room riding on his cloud chariot.  I bet Jesus has a ball riding these clouds.  In the Bible clouds represent a divine presence.  All through the Bible God in his glory was concealed in a cloud.  We see the same goes for his son.  

But, this visions describes Jesus as riding on the clouds of heaven, not concealed in the cloud.  He comes to the Ancient of Days and it says “they” brought him near before him.  The angels that will be attending Most High will lead Jesus up through this 10’s of millions crowd of beings, leading  him to God of heaven.  Talk about making a grand entrance. 

Reread verse 14. 

There you have it, Jesus’ coronation.  The Father giving the kingdom to his heir, his son stepping up to take the throne. 

  • He gave him dominion.  On earth dominion is being removed and given to Jesus, he will rule for eternity.   
  • He was given glory:  he will honored by those he rules.
  • He was given a kingdom where all people, nations, languages should serve Him.  Should because there will be some that will still rebel, but they will be dealt with later.

Verses 15-21 talk more about what will be happening here on earth with the antichrist.  Which we’ve covered.  The antichrist will continue to make war against the saints and he will dominate them until the judge makes his final ruling (vs. 22) and his ruling is in favor of the saints.  Daniel watched as the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.

Verse 27, “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”.  The kingdom of heaven is for the saints of the Most High.  The kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom will be given to the saints of Most High, and it will last for eternity.

Those of us who are covered with the blood of Christ will inherit this new kingdom, we will live in this kingdom for eternity.  But this isn’t just a free for all, time of nirvana because all authorities shall serve and obey Him.” Everything comes under the authority of Christ. He will reign absolutely; He will reign supremely; He will never share His glory with anyone else.

Jesus will be the supreme ruler of this new kingdom, and he allows the saints of God to inhabit this land.  It will be ours to take care of and live on.  If you have trouble living according to the kingdom of heaven now here on earth, you might find it difficult to do the same in the new kingdom.  Think of this time on earth as your opportunity to “learn” the ropes, the ins and outs of kingdom living.  Immigrants need to go through classes on how to live in a new country, I don’t see this as being any different. 

This your chance to learn the language, learn the culture, and understand who the ruler is. 

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One Little King

Read Daniel 7:8-14

The main theme of this section of scripture is the coming of the king and his final kingdom being established on this earth.  This will be an eternal kingdom, that will never be destroyed, this king and his kingdom will not be like any other earthly kingdom.  This will be glorious kingdom and a glorious king.  I am going to break this up into two parts. 1) the world kingdoms and 2) the heavenly kingdom. 

Verse 7 describes one of the beasts in Daniels visions, one of the details given was this beast had ten horns.  Here is verse 8 Daniel is considering the horns,  he was seeking God for the meaning of these horns when he noticed an eleventh horn.  He noticed another “little” horn emerging from among the other ten. 

This little horn had eyes and a mouth.  The eyes were like human eyes and the mouth (KJV) was speaking great things.  Great meaning: bigger than usual; important or powerful.  This little horn was making some powerful, bold and even boastful statements.  He appeared to have more influence and power than the other kings.

Are you curious what he might say?  We already know what he is going to say, the Bible tells us in verse 25.  The ESV  states it, “He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the Saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and a half.” 

I want to explain a bit more on who this little horn is.  We know the little horn represents a ruler who will be around during the time of judgement.  At the time of his rise to power three of the original kings will fall.  This king will speak against Most High and oppress his holy people.  He will also change times and laws (very important clue here).  He will exert his oppressive power over God’s people for 3.5 years.  Pay attention to this, did you catch the last part of vs. 25?  “The saints shall be given into his hand for 3.5 years.”  Vs. 21 in NKJV says, “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them.”  He will wage war against the saints and he will dominate and control them.

This is concerning because, we are the saints.  God is going to give us into the hands of this antichrist for 3.5 years.  Why?  Why would God do that to us?  I expect him to do this to those who choose to not accept Jesus as Lord, but I don’t expect this to happen to those of us who put our trust in the Lord.  What could be the purpose of this?

This little horn emerges from the former Roman empire.  How did the Roman empire treat the children of God?  They persecuted the them.  They heavily taxed them.  They hated them.  They tried from the time of Jesus’ birth to kill him.  They hunted him down with the intention of murdering him, killing millions of babies in the process, they killed all but one Apostle.  The description given is dreadful, terrible and exceedingly strong.  Great description of how they treated and will treat Christians.

These 10 kingdoms and this one “little” king will emerge from this same Roman empire, with this same murderous, oppressive mindset.  The Roman empire treated the children of God horribly and when it emerges it will continue to treat the children of God horribly.  Not very encouraging, I know.

And to answer my question of why will this happen to us.  I think this will be a way of separating true Christians from those who are not covered with the blood of Christ.  Scripture from Matthew 13:24-30 comes to mind and in those verses we learn about the separation of the wheat (children of God) and the tares (the children of the devil).  God wants to see if you are for Him and not against Him.  You say you love the Lord, but being faced with intense persecution will prove whether or not you’re telling the truth.

According to verses 9-11 this ruler will continue to speak in a blasphemous, hate filled, arrogant way until the day of judgement arrives.  At the time of judgement the entire beast, not just the remaining horns, the entire horrible beast will be slain and its body will be thrown into the blazing fire.  And that will also be the end of the “little horn” or the antichrist. 

Vs. 11 tells us that the fourth beast was destroyed and thrown into the burning flame.  Verse 12 tells us the other three beasts (the Babylonian, Mede-Persian, Greek empires) had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.  Each of these empires lost their dominion when the following empire took over.  Their dominion was taken away before the Roman empire.  Yet, we see bits and pieces of their mentalities still in existence, for example the Medes-Persians with their laws that go against God.   They were all replaced with the Roman empire and will be destroyed along with it.

There is one more topic I’d like to discuss.  The antichrist will rule during the first half of the tribulation.  This will be his main time of persecution of believers.  That being said, if you believe in pre-tribulation rapture, don’t think that you will not have any persecution.  It might not be during the tribulation, but it will happen before the tribulation. 

Daniel watched the little horn emerge.  The emerging of this antichrist happens before the tribulation.  As he emerges all Christians will experience an increase is persecution.  We are seeing this more and more in our world today.  We can watch the news and understand what season we are in.  There is evidence all around that the enemy is preparing his take over for his appointed time. 

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Dreaming About Beasts

Read Daniel 7:1-7

Nebuchadnezzar had been dead for several years, we’ve discussed the line of kings that followed him, and they just were not as effective as King Neb.  The Jews are still living in captivity under the Babylonian rule at this moment in history; wondering if they will ever be restored back to the land God gave them.

It was during this type of atmosphere that God chose to speak to Daniel in a dream.  Up until now Daniel recorded the dreams of other people that he would interpret.  This time he gets to experience the dream firsthand, not only a dream but at some point the dream turned into a vision.  Looking at verse 1, Daniel does the one thing I’ve been urging you all to do after having a dream.  He wrote it down.

Vs. 2 Not only did he record the dream, but he also made it known publicly because it says he spoke.  He began to share the dream.  Perhaps he started with his three best friends, then he may have shared it with the other “wise” men.

Daniel summed up the dream, beginning with what he saw first.  Now chapter 7 is one big dream that is made up of three smaller visions; the first of those, found in vs. 2-3 was the vision of four winds of heaven stirring up the Great Sea, causing four different great beasts to come up out of it.

The Mediterranean Sea was often called the Great Sea.  In Daniel’s vision he is standing on the shore of this Great Sea.  The Sea which is a main supplier of their resources.  He’s standing on the shore, the wind begins to pick up with hurricane like force, the water begins to churn, and becomes turbulent, creating huge waves.

Let’s break the symbolism as we move through the passage, so you can begin to understand your own God dreams. 

Water, Rev. 17:15 tells us that water represents people.

No. 4 is a number associated with earth.  The Bible often says, “four corners of the earth”. 

The people on the earth are in great turmoil.  Do you see the connection?  Daniel sees all human history in great distress, its being churned and tossed in great distress.  The winds come from all directions, no single nation or people group is responsible for this upheaval, it comes from every direction, everyone, in all of history is to blame for the upheaval.

Something to understand about dreams and vision is they are literally the heart of God.  God is showing you his heart.  In this case when God looks upon the earth, he sees nations as being in turmoil.  He sees the people on this earth living in utter chaos and turmoil as though the waves just keep tossing us around like a rag doll.  Have you ever been in the ocean when the waves are rough, like just before or just after a storm?  It’s difficult to get a solid foothold, it difficult to stand when your being tossed around.  God is showing Daniel what he sees, and this also covers us today.  We are in that ocean being tossed around by the world around us, getting thrown in all different directions.

From the midst of what we might describe as a hurricane comes four “great” beasts.  Now the word great doesn’t mean awesome, good, or wonderful.  Great in this context means huge, massive monstrous creatures.  Daniel describes them as being “like” animals because that’s something that we can relate to.  These are not animals, they are beasts, monsters if you will.

Again, the number four is evident and that lets us know it pertains to the earth.  These four beasts are the same as the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  They are four world empires.  Babylonian, Mede-Persian, Greek, and Roman.  When God looks at these world empires he sees them as wild, uncontrolled beasts.

Beast 1 is like a lion, that has eagles’ wings.  Its wings were plucked off and it was lifted from the earth and it was made to stand on two feet like a man and it was given a man’s heart. 

This beast was not a lion, but it was like a lion.  Lions are symbolic to the Babylonian empire.  The lion is known as the king of the jungle and just like Nebuchadnezzar God made him king of the world.  This beast also had eagle wings.  This is awfully specific; eagles would be considered the king of birds.  By the gates of Babylon there were found statues of lions with wings.  Nebuchadnezzar swooped across the land conquering and acquiring land and people. 

Daniel continued to watch the dream and he saw the wings of the lion being plucked out.  This most likely represents Nebs seven years of humiliation, do you remember the description of his hair being like feathers, no coincidence here.  Then the beast was made to stand on two feet like a man.  Neb was restored fully, and his heart turned toward God.  The beast had a man’s heart.

Beast 2 is described as like a bear.  When Daniel had this vision, he was still living under Babylonian rule.  Chapter 6 hasn’t happened yet in history.  So, this is all prophecy to Daniel.  But we know the next empire to form and take control was the Medes-Persian empire.  The Medes-Persians are known for their strength and being fierce in battle.  The beast was raised up on one side, which we know the Persians dominated more than the Medes.

The beast had three ribs in its mouth and specifically between its teeth.  The Medes-Persians took over the Babylonians, Egypt and Lydia empires and remnants of their cultures remained and remain in our culture today.  In verse 5 “They said to it, arise, devour much flesh.”  I wish I knew who “they” were.  They say a lot of things, yet we rarely ever know who “they” is.  But they said, arise, devour much flesh.  The Medes-Persians did just that.  They expanded the Babylonian empire and controlled more than any kingdom before them.  This kingdom lasted two hundred years.

Beast 3 is described to be like a leopard, and it had on its back four wings of a bird and it had four heads and it was given dominion.  This beast represents the Greek empire.  This beast will be the swiftest of all.  Leopards are fast, agile and have a thirst for blood.  Leopards are fast enough on their own but add bird wings to the mix and this takes the beast to a whole new level of fierceness.  We know that Alexander the Great conquered the world faster than any other leader in history.  He ruled everything from Europe to India.  He conquered the world by the age of 33.  This beast also had four heads, Alexanders empire was eventually divided and given to his four high ranking generals. 

Beast 4 does not give us an indication of what type of beast it is most like, but the description gives us a good indication of what empire it represents.  Its described as dreadful, terrible, exceedingly strong and has iron teeth.  The iron teeth give it away, it is the same as the statue, iron is the Roman empire. 

“it devoured and broke in pieces; it stamped the reside with its feet. It was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had–ten horns.”  The Roman empire was extremely strong, immense in size and in power.  The Roman military would crush and trample its way through the world for over 1,500 years.  It was different from all the other empires and the biggest difference was it had ten horns.

The fourth beast prophesy has not taken place.  What or rather who the ten horns symbolize is still unknown.  A horn represents either, power, authority, or a king or all three really.  The final earthly kingdom will be made up and led by ten kings, people, or nations.  Revelations 17 tells us there will be a revival of the Roman empire.  This part of Daniel’s prophetic dream and vision has not happened yet, perhaps we will see this come to pass too.

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How to Survive A Den of Lions

Read vs. 11-28

And so, it begins, the persecution begins.  I find it interesting that all the men assembled at the precise time Daniel was praying and making supplication before his God.

Let’s set the scene.  The presidents and princes got together and formed their plan.  They gathered in the morning made their case to Cyrus, convinced him this was the best thing for the empire, he agreed and signed the thirty-day mandate, I mean decree.

This took most of the morning, but they have plenty of time to meander over to Daniel’s home to first, fill him in on the decree make sure he heard the news.  After hearing about the decree, Daniel immediately takes to his prayer room, it is noon time after all, and just like every other day he prayed at noon.  Watching from the street the leaders wait for Daniel to begin his prayer time.  They watch him open his window, they watch him kneel by the windowsill, making it his altar, and they hear his prayers billowing out his window, all throughout the city.  His prayer could clearly be heard from the street below.

This is just what they needed; this is the only way they could take this “old Jew out”.  Going back to the palace they stand before the king, asking him, “Didn’t you just sign a decree, demanding that no one, and we mean no one, was permitted to petition or pray to any other man or god, except you, for thirty days?”  And didn’t you decree that if anyone were found doing so they would be thrown into a den of lions. 

“Yes”, the king replies, “according to the law which can never be altered.”  I imagine he found it odd that he just signed the decree only a few hours prior, and now they are asking him about it. 

They go on, “Well, that Daniel who, by the way, is one of those captives from Judah, has no regard for you O King or your decree”.    “Even though you signed a decree, he still makes petitions, three times a day.”

As soon as the king heard this, once he heard it was Daniel who was caught petitioning God, it says in vs. 14, that he was extremely displeased with “himself”.  He was not angry with Daniel, he wasn’t even angry with the other government officials, he was mad at himself.  Why do you think he was angry with himself?

He thought highly of Daniel.  He knew and understood Daniel’s faith in his God.  He was mad at himself for being rash and jumping into creating a decree without giving any thought to how it might affect him or his people.  He allowed his own ego to get in the way of creating a law that was right.  We know of people who allow their ego to get in the way of properly running this nation, it’s no different today.  At least he accepted the blame, we don’t see that much.

He was so upset with himself for creating such a ridiculous law, that he set his heart, he became determined to find a way to deliver Daniel from this horrible fate.  The leaders came to the king around noontime.  From noon until that evening, the king labored over finding a way to undo this law he created.  He researched every law, trying to find a loophole, alas, there were none.

Another law or custom of the Medes-Persians held was to perform the executions before nightfall.  The king has wasted the entire afternoon trying to get Daniel out of the mess he put him in, the leaders are now out of patience and they return to the king, again reminding him that this law cannot and will not be broken, there is no way it will be changed.  Even if it could, they wouldn’t have permitted it.

What I find interesting is how there are no records of Daniel saying one single word.  He didn’t protest, he didn’t argue, he didn’t put on a pity party, he didn’t beg for mercy, he said nothing.

The king ordered Daniel to be brought to the lion’s den, where everyone gathered to witness this event.   Just before they tossed him into the pit of starving lions, the king said to Daniel, “Your God whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.”  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  The king is speaking prophetically.  “Daniel, you have served your God continually, you are faithful to him, you have honored him with your life, and He will save you.”

Following the prophetic decree, Daniel was thrown down into the lion’s den.  Are you all familiar with Joe Exotic or Carol Baskin?  If you’ve watched the show, you would have witnessed how ravaging these lions are when it is feeding time.  The lions on that documentary were given regular feedings.  The lions in the den Daniel was tossed into were deliberately starved so that they would immediately consume whoever was tossed down for execution.

Another point I want to make is this isn’t just a few lions; this would have been an entire den of lions.  Looking ahead at vs. 24, Daniel’s accusers, their children and their wives were all thrown down into the same den and it reads they were all overpowered by the lions and their bones were broken into pieces before they came anywhere near the floor of the den.  A large grouping of people was thrown into the pit, they were brutally attacked before any of them even hit the floor.  That is a massive number of lions.

Daniel looks down, sees the lions circling, and leaping towards the opening, he hears the loud thunderous roars.  Yet he does not tremble, he doesn’t not falter, he does not say a word.  He is pushed into the opening.  The stone was rolled across the opening and sealed with the king’s signet ring along with the other lords’ seals.  This was done so that no one could say he escaped or was taken from the pit.  Does this part sound familiar?  This is what was done when Jesus was placed in the tomb.

In vs. 18 king Cyrus left the scene and went back to his palace.  KJV says he fasted, he did not listen to any entertainment and he had a long night because he could not fall asleep.  Did you ever have a night like that, those are long miserable nights. I’m also interested in the use of the word fasting.  I wonder if he, in his own pagan way was reaching out to Daniel’s God or if he was just too upset to eat.  I tend to think he was trying to connect with God in some way on Daniel’s behalf.

Finally, the sun began to rise, the king ran down to the lion’s den.  You’d think he would have stuck around for a little bit to check on Daniel if he were so distraught over the situation.  But it is recorded that he left the pit, and he went back to the palace for the night.  I think it just got to be too much for him, he just had to know if God rescued Daniel. 

Arriving at the den, Cyrus cried out to Daniel in a lamented voice.  A lamented voice is one that is moaning, grieving, weeping.  He was weeping as he yelled down the pit to Daniel.  He was wailing in agony over what he might learn.  In a wailing voice he yells out, “Daniel, was the God you serve able to deliver you?”  “Did he keep you safe from the lions?” “Are you alive”, he cried out.

“Oh king, live forever” is what Cyrus heard echoing back to him.  Reread vs. 22

God not only shut the mouths of those lions, but he also temporarily declawed them.  No wounds not even a single scratch was found on his body.  God didn’t do this just because he thought this would be one fantastic story to tell your grandbabies, even though it is.  He controlled the lions because Daniel was found to be righteous before him.  Daniel had an incredible faith in God, he was found innocent before his accusers and God protected him.  God used this to show Cyrus as well as any other gentile that God is most high, and all powerful, and he alone determines the fate of his people.

Once Cyrus realized Daniel was safe and that his God saved him, he put out a press release.  He wrote to all the people, nations, and languages.  He issued an amazing decree that can be found in vs. 26 (reread).

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Where’s The Compromise?

Read Daniel 6:1-10

Cyrus is now building his new empire.  We all know how important it is to put the right people into positions of power.  You want people you can both work with and trust.  Cyrus appoints 120 satraps or princes to rule across the land.  Then he narrows down the position of president to just three, one of which is Daniel.

Daniel is now pushing close to 90 and he is still as valuable to God as ever if anything the anointing of God is on Daniel even more.  Because of this favor of God, Daniel was naturally preferred over all the other presidents and princes.  King Cyrus knew he could trust Daniel, they’ve had many conversations and dare I say he would have heard all about his reputation and his relationship with Nebuchadnezzar, he knew was a Jew and that he served the God of Heaven.

It seems like anytime God’s favor is upon you, that the enemy wants to try and take it from you, and he uses anyone he can to do just that.  In this case the other two presidents and the princes started watching Daniel closely, expecting for him to be corrupt.  As you know most politicians are corrupt, very few rises above the temptation to make lots of money and gain lots of power.  Except for Daniel, that is, when it came to Daniel they found that not only was he faithful, but he was also not corrupt.  There was no error or fault found in him.  They were trying to impeach him, but legally they had nothing to go on.

We witness almost daily politicians manufacturing lies in hopes to remove presidents from power.  Currently we have an entire government filled with rage that a non-politician, an outsider was positioned by God to run this nation.  Daniel was over the wise men, now he is over the government as well.

I have to give them props though; they didn’t manufacture a lie.  They didn’t just lie and say Daniel was corrupt.  No, they were much to clever for that, instead they created a royal statute and made a firm decree that if anyone petitions or prays to any god or man except for the king for thirty days they will be cast into the den of lions.  They knew Daniel prayed daily, multiple times a day, to God.  They knew he would not, under any circumstances miss his time with his God.  They also knew he petitioned God for various things.  This is all they had to go on.

The only thing they had against Daniel was that he was completely sold out and loyal to God.  Imagine if the only thing you could be faulted for was being totally, completely sold out for Jesus. 

The plan is set in motion, it was brought to the king, now all they need to do is convince the king to establish the decree and to sign the executive order.  Once the order was signed the law would be established, it would also never be altered.  Not even the king could or would go back on the laws he established. 

The Medo-Persian spirit is evident in our government today.  Once passed our laws are set in stone and cannot be altered.  It is also apparent in that the laws they set do contradict the written word of God.  I’m sure you could think of a dozen laws that prove this to be true.

When the presidents and the princes went to King Cyrus, they really laid it on thick.  They said, “all the presidents”, now this is a lie because Daniel did not agree.  They said all the presidents, the governors, the princes, the counsellors, and the captains.  They literally told the king that the entire government was unanimous with this decree.  The king made a huge mistake though, he went along with what he was told.  He believed these men were looking out for the best interest for the empire, he put his trust in them and what they had to say, and it backfired.  They put a lot of pressure on him to agree with what they were saying is the majority.

The worst part about this “law” not only does it prohibit petitioning God, but no citizen would also be able to ask for anything from any other person except the king during these 30 days.  No asking grandma to keep the kids, no asking your boss for a day off, no asking your husband to pick up a pizza for dinner.  I wonder how seriously this was taken.

When Daniel heard the executive order was signed, he went back to his home and straight into his “war room”.  The bible doesn’t say who shared the news with Daniel, I imagine the other presidents and princes couldn’t wait to give him the news, to rub his face in it.  It doesn’t really matter because, as we know once Daniel makes up his mind he does not change it.

He decided years ago that he would follow God and obey his laws.  He followed the laws of Persia if they did not contradict God’s law.  This absolutely goes against the word of God.  We have the same responsibility today.  Just because the government says two men can marry does not mean that a minister of God should do it.  Just because abortion is legal, doesn’t mean you should do it. 

Daniel goes into his home to his prayer room, where he has a window that faces Jerusalem, it’s his home place, it represents God to him, so he likes to face it while praying.  Vs. 10 with his windows open, he kneeled three times that day.   Just like he did every other day of his long life he prayed and worshipped God.

Now, Daniel could have been a “secret worshipper”.  He didn’t need to pray with his window open for all the world to see and hear.  He could have closed the lattice and just paced around his room acting like he was cleaning or something, he didn’t need to bow down.  He could have found alternative ways to “comply” with the mandates.

Over the past nine months Evangelical Christians have been put under pressure to comply with a government “mandate” to muzzle our praise and worship.  We are mandated to worship God in a way that contradicts with our traditions.  Can we worship God with a mask on, yes?  Could Daniel worship God with his window closed yes.  The point isn’t how you worship, it’s how easily you can be persuaded to compromise our convictions. 

Most of us would agree that praise and worship is a required part of our faith, yet we find it perfectly ok to muzzle those voices, to diminish the intensity, to allow a mask to compromise that belief.  Of course, some of you are ok with being muzzled because you don’t cry out to God in a public setting to begin with.  Wearing a mask during church is not a problem if you are just there for the show.  It is only a problem when you try to call out to Jesus.

You see compromises are for your benefit, not God’s.  Compromises make us feel better, they don’t lift God.  When you shift your prayer time to meet a friend, that compromise is for you, it makes you feel better, not God.  You’re putting God on the back burner and that is something he will not tolerate.

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Time is Up

Daniel 5

Chapter four of Daniel was a written testimony of King Nebuchadnezzar.  He described how God humbled him and how being humbled caused him to finally acknowledge that the Most High was the only one to have full authority and gives and takes away as he wills.  Like many people today, the king had to endure hitting rock bottom before he would acknowledge God’s sovereignty. 

Everything begins to shift starting in Chapter 5 of Daniel.  Chapter 5 takes place 23 years after the king’s restoration to the throne and a lot has happened during these years.  It is also 70 years past chapter 1.  Do you know what that means?  Babylon would rule over Israel for 70 years, the 70 years is now up.

Daniel is in his late 80’s.  After 43 years of reigning King Nebuchadnezzar has died and his “son” is now the ruler of Babylon.  Daniel didn’t list what has happened over the last 27 years, so I’ll fill you in.

After Neb’s death the empire began to deteriorate.  Neb reigned 43 years of the 70, his son Amel-Murduk aka evil-Merodach (mentioned in 2 Kings 25; Jer. 52) was next in line, during his reign he released Jehoiachim from prison. 

Amel-Murduk reigned for two of the 70 years and was killed by his brother in law Nergel-Sharezar aka Neriglissar who was next to rule the land.  Nergel reigned for four years (Jer. 39), he aided in Jeremiah being released from prison. 

Nergel was succeeded by his son Labashi-Marduk.  Labashi was a child and only ruled for nine months when he was beaten to death by conspirators.

One of those conspirators appointed a man named Nabodidus to be monarch, he was no relation to Nebuchadnezzar at all, he had no noble blood, yet he ruled for 17 years.  Constantly looking over his back because his right to the throne wasn’t legit and he was constantly being threatened.  He did marry one of Neb’s family members and this solidified his claim to the throne as regent. 

There is uncertainty if Nabodidus adopted the noble son or was the biological father, either way this child is named Belshazzar and this brings us to Chapter 5.  Belshazzar is probably the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar which is why they use the term “son”.  Grandson and son were basically viewed as the same, same blood line.

It was during Nabonidus’ reign that Cyrus the king of the Medes-Persians began making strides to conquer Babylon.  Nabonidus was captured and held captive until he died, leaving his son completely in charge of Babylon, prior to this they worked together to run the empire.  Belshazzar is about 36 years old; he was known to be decadent, idolatrous, immoral, and unworthy.  Nevertheless, he was heir to the throne, and he was sitting on that throne the night Babylon fell.

Read chapter 5 of Daniel

The scriptures read as though Cyrus and his army came out of nowhere, but Cyrus and his army have been surrounding this walled fortress and they’ve began their process to seize Babylon.  They have already made strategic attacks throughout the land and they are on target to take the last step in being the next world kingdom.

While being fully surrounded Belshazzar is still living in Babylon and instead of protecting his kingdom he decided to ignore the coming war.  He felt that he was secure and that nothing could get to him or take away his kingdom and his power.  Belshazzar chose, instead, to have a grand feast.  A party to beat all parties.  This party would rival any frat house party of today’s world.

In attendance was 1,000 of his lords, his wives were all there as well as his concubines.  The best wine was served, and the king drank it freely and heavily before his guests, so much so he became a bit tipsy, he had a buzz, he was drunk.

 Drinking from the palace’s ordinary wine glasses wasn’t cutting it, so Belshazzar got the brainy idea to use the gold and silver wine vessels his grandfather confiscated when he took over Israel, the very vessels that the priests used that were property of the temple of God.  The king is now serving wine in the very vessels that are to be used to honor God.  Not only is he oblivious, but he is also now desecrating, blaspheming, and openly defying the God of Israel.

Drinking from these vessels and getting drunk wasn’t enough, the king and his guests took it a step further.   They began to worship a slew of their fake gods.  They used holy vessels to worship false gods.

Earlier I said this was the frat party of all frat parties.  This scene wasn’t just a booze party, this was a full tilt heathen party filled with loud vulgar music, alcohol, sensual dancing, orgies, and all sorts of nakedness, let’s not forget the potions aka drug abuse.  Hardcore partying going on here.

It was at the epitome of this horrific party that a man’s hand or fingers appeared by the lamp and began writing on the plastered wall behind the king.  At the time you least expect it, is when God will appear.  When the sex, drugs and alcohol were at their climax is the time when God’s hand began to move.  The very word of God was written in stone. 

God wrote his word on the plastered wall by the lampstand.  The word of God was placed by the light, the one place it could be easily seen by everyone.  The moment the king saw the hand his countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him.  He became very concerned; fear of God had stricken him emotionally and physically because even the joints in his hips became loose and his knees began knocking.  I picture him crumbling, collapsing onto his throne in fear.

Then he began to shout, crying aloud for help.  Demanding his Chaldeans, astrologers and soothsayers be brought to him immediately.  He wanted his wise men to brought in to help him understand what was going on.

The king wasn’t concerned in the slightest about what was happening on the outside of the city, but what was taking place on the inside was another story.  Isn’t that true, what happens on the inside is what makes the difference. 

These wise men were useless when king Neb needed them most, and here it is 70 years later, and they are still useless.  Belshazzar even sweetened the deal for them, promising to give them a high place of honor, but even that was of no use.  Only God can interpret the written word of God.  Only God give understanding of his word.

Hearing the commotion, listening to the conversation, and seeing that it was going nowhere fast, the queen enters the banquet hall with good news.  This is most likely the “queen mother” as the wives of the king were already at the party and there was no mention of him mother being in attendance (vs. 10).  Being the mom of a 37-year-old, and the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar she would have known who Daniel was. 

She explained how she knew of a man who had the Spirit of God.  She shared how God would speak through Daniel and she urged the king to call on him.  Guess what?  He did, he was desperate after all.  Daniel was brought before the king to read the written word of God.

In verse 17 Daniel begins by telling the king how God is the one who gave Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, his majesty, his glory, and honor.  It’s because of what God gave the king that the people feared him.  The king was given the power to give life and to take life, he was able to promote and demote whomever he wanted, but when the king’s heart was hardened with pride that is when God removed his kingdom, his majesty, his glory, and his honor from him.

Daniel also told Belshazzar how his father/grandfather was made, by God, to live like an animal in the wild for seven years until he finally relented and acknowledged that the Most High God rules everything.

Verse 22 is where Daniel drops the news, he gets to the point telling the king, “You Belshazzar have not humbled your heart, you’ve blasphemed and defiled the holy property of God by using his vessels to worship other gods.  You chose not to worship the true God, the God who holds your breath in his own hand.”

Then the interpretation was given:

Mene:  God numbers your kingdom and finished it.  Your number is up, you are out of time.

Tekel:  You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.  You’re not worth your weight.  You took things too lightly, didn’t take God seriously.

Peres:  Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes-Persians.  You didn’t do what was expected of you and now you are being replaced.

While King Belshazzar was living the high life without a care in the world with his false sense of security the Medes-Persians were busy moving forward in life.  While the Babylonians partied like it was 1999, the Medes-Persians were outside the walled fortress digging tunnels and building dams.  They dammed up the Euphrates, diverted the water to a swampland which at the precise moment flooded the banquet hall.  The now shallow water allowed the soldiers to walk through the empty riverbed, under the massive wall and right into Babylon.  Once inside they killed the guards, opened the gates, the army flooded in causing the city to fall in one fell swoop.  With one shot Belshazzar was assassinated.

Belshazzar was in the worst possible place when he was killed.  He literally died in his sin.  He was drunk, covered in the filth of his sinful lust.  He died in the sins he worshipped.  Two hundred years later Alexander the Great will have a similar fate, he will also die while in a drunken stupor.

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Is This Curse Real?

Read Daniel 4:28-37

Even though we are hardheaded, and hard hearted toward God, He is still gracious and merciful toward us.  He gives us every opportunity to do the right thing.  He gave the king one full year to turn from his sins.  (vs. 28) The king received the warning and was given a year to contemplate and accept and instead he ignored the warnings.  We are given warnings every day, yet it’s amazing how easily we ignore them.

I imagine during these 12 months Daniel did everything he could to get the king to turn to the God of heaven.  He spoke to him, encouraging him, praying for him, reminding him of his coming hardship yet his ears were closed to anything he said.  Have you ever tried to warn a loved one of imminent danger only to have them ignore you?  It’s really frustrating to watch a loved one make a bad choice in life, it’s like watching a train derail, there is nothing you can do about it.  You can give warnings, but you can’t stop it.

Now here he is one year later, the king was strolling along the rooftop of his magnificent palace.  He is just so impressed with himself; he is proud of everything the “he” built.  He built this walled in city known as Babylon, think of it like the capital of his empire.  Babylon or this royal residence is impressive, it would be difficult for anyone to not be proud of.

From his rooftop he sees a fortified city, a city filled with gold and silver.  The walls around the city were wide enough that four chariots could lineup side by side.  In other words, four midsize SUV’s could drive along the top side by side, like the beltway with four lanes of traffic.  This is a literal fortress that he has built, not to mention there was a moat around the outside perimeter filled with water.

The population around this time was 1,200,000 people.  The city was 15 miles, forming a square city.  The Euphrates river ran through the middle, he had levies built throughout the city.  Roads all intersecting and leading to 12 different gates. 

What this city is most known for are the Hanging Gardens.  This is one of the seven wonders of the world; however, it no longer exists.  The Hanging Garden was built for the king’s wife, she was homesick for her mountain home, so the king constructed a “mountain” in the dessert.  He built a massive structure to include many different levels made with brick and stone to form balconies where he planted massive trees and hanging vegetation all over the sides of the balconies.  The way the irrigation system worked allowed the palace to be air conditioned.  The water flowing down over the plants would cool the air.  This really was a paradise for the king and his family.

This is what the king looked at and was well pleased with as he walked along the rooftop.  He was so proud of himself that he even said out loud, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”  He did not give credit to God for anything, not the ingenuity, not the creativity, not even for the skilled craftsmen that he captured from Jerusalem. 

Because of that, even as he was speaking those words a voice from heaven spoke.  This was an audible voice and it said.  Read verse 31-32.  The voice reminded Neb of the words spoken in his dream and in vs. 33 we read that it happened immediately.  Immediately what was said was fulfilled.

Immediately the king was removed from his power, he was removed from his family, he was humiliated among his subjects, everything was taken from him including his mental capabilities.  He began to roam around in the fields.  There would have been fields inside this fortified city and remaining in the city would have allowed everyone to witness this for seven years.  His advisors, governors, all the big wigs in his empire would witness this mighty man roaming around the fields eating grass. 

They would watch as his hair became more like feathers, where it would be coarse and stiff and as he would pull up a tuft of grass and bring it to his lips they would notice his nails becoming thick and hard like claws, growing out and curling under. 

Don’t brush off these description as though they are some fairytale creature.  This type of curse is very real.  There are scientific records stating that this could and has happened to people other than the king.  Scriptures read that he will become like a wild animal, just to touch on some of the more modern examples, you’ve most likely heard of werewolves.  Halloween was yesterday and that is something that might be on the minds of people this time of year.

This type of disorder or as I want to refer to as a curse is known as lycanthropy (lukus/wolf and antrhopes-man) is a wolfman or werewolf.  This is where the concept for movies and stories is derived.  Think of Twilight movies or the oldie-Teen Wolf.

Another example of this that has been recorded by psychologist is boanthropy, this where the person thinks they are a bull/cow.  The most recent case of this was in 1946, where a patient would roam around the grounds of an asylum eating grass.  The records also show that his hair began to change, it became coarse and his nails became thicker and longer.

In Neb’s case this disorder was brought on by God.  God gave the king every chance to acknowledge Most High and his authority in his life.  He even gave the king an extra year to get his act together.  The king knew this would be the outcome and he chose to keep the credit for himself.

One of the things I find interesting is that no one tried to take the throne, no one swooped in to take control of the empire during these seven years.  This proves that God is the one in control, he gives the leaders the ability to rule and he takes it away.  You can go for years without leadership or you can be ruled by an evil murderous king or God can give you a Godly man to lead you, it His choice.

The same goes for our church, God will put into place the leadership He chooses, not man.  We can get on board with his decisions or we can grumble about them that is your choice.  Either way God will do what God wants to do. 

Just like that, the end of the seven years rolls around (vs. 34) the king lifted his eyes to heaven, and just like that his sanity was restored.  He finally relented, he finally gave God the glory, he praised Most High.  He honored and glorified him who lives forever.

Re read vs. 34-35

As I said at the beginning of Chapter 4, this is Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony.  This is written from his view; these are his thoughts.  This man has a testimony because he turned to God and then God blessed him.  God had already given him the world, but the world isn’t what he needed.  What he needed was a relationship with the God of Heaven.  He needed to be in right standing before God of Heaven.  And God loved him enough to keep after him, giving him so many opportunities to turn to him.

Verse 37 of his testimonial is interesting; this verse contains words of hope.  If you know someone who is too prideful to turn to God, then this verse is for you.  I’m looking specifically at the last sentence in that verse.  “And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”  Even those who seem to have the hardest heart he can bring around.  The person who seems the furthest from Christ he can humble.

A murderous evil king turned from his unrighteousness and turned his face to God.  Have you ever thought that you just might meet Nebuchadnezzar someday in heaven?  You could meet Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  What stories could they tell?

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Strong Like An Ox

Daniel arrived at the castle just in time to answer the kings request, and in this section of scripture Daniel gives the interpretation.

Read Daniel 4:19-27

The king turned to Daniel for this interpretation because he knew Daniel.  He knew Daniel was a spirit filled and spirit led man.  “The Spirit of the Holy God was in him”.  Daniel stood out because of the Spirit of God; God’s spirit was in him.  This gave Daniel influence over his surroundings.  The way Daniel influenced the government of his time is how we are to influence our government today.  Daniel is the one the king looked to for guidance.  We should have the same influence in our environments.

As Daniel listened to the description of the dream, the interpretation was being revealed to him.  The meaning of the dream caused Daniel to become troubled, he was perplexed, and he agonized over the message for an hour.  Daniel was conflicted because he knew the meaning was bad news.  Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news.  He needed to be careful and use wisdom with his words.

Finally, the king notices Daniel’s hesitation and he breaks the ice telling Daniel to just give it to him straight, “just tell me what it means!”  Daniel with compassion, starts off “I wish it were meant for your enemies”.  This statement let the king know that he was on his side, that he didn’t wish him any ill will, that he cared for the king. 

Anytime you are conflicted with the weight of sharing a message of judgement or correction, you want to make sure the person you are sharing it with understands that you care about their wellbeing.  Daniel has no doubt spent the last 30-35 years praying for his king.  He spent one on one time with him and now he’s gotten a message that he is going to suffer greatly.

No one wants to receive a message from God saying the people that you are praying for are going to fall hard and suffer greatly and the decree is final.  It will for sure happen.  We want, we expect to see positive things happen when we pray for those we love and respect, especially after we’ve invested years of our lives interceding on their behalf.  This is Daniel’s situation, he spent years praying for this man only to have God say he’s going to cut him down, he’s going to fall and suffer.  Can you understand Daniel’s conflict?  How would you handle this?

We are required to share the exact thing God reveals to us to share, even if it’s a hard message.

Now for the interpretation.  In verse 20 Daniel begins to repeat the description of the tree, describing how beautiful and abundant the tree was and in verse 22 “Your Majesty, you are that tree!  You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the heaven, and your dominion extends to the ends of the earth.” 

And now for the bad news (vs. 25) “You will be driven from men, you will live in the wild, eating nothing but grass like an ox.  You will have no shelter to keep you dry from the dew.  You will be treated like a wild animal.  This will be your life for seven years.”

Can you believe it is going to take the king seven years to acknowledge that Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and Most High gives them to whom he wishes?  Seven years seems crazy, you’d think after the first few days the king would turn and repent.  Who sins for seven years without repenting?

The future for the king was not going to be an easy one, he is going to be humiliated, removed from his throne, and he is going to completely lose his mind.  His behavior is going to be wild and erratic for seven years.

Now verse 26 does offer a glimmer of hope.  You see the stump and roots of tree will remain, the stump isn’t being ground down or dug out, it’s still intact, still existing.  In other words, the king will not be killed during these seven years.  He will live through this experience and he will be restored.  Once he acknowledges that the heavens rule he will get his throne back, he will be reinstated on his throne.

 As I said earlier Daniel is very compassionate and he offers the king a bit of advice, (vs27) he tells the king to separate away from unrighteousness, to turn from his sins and to begin showing mercy to the poor because if he does he may have a chance of lengthening this time of peace.  There is a chance that if he turns from his sin that God will hear him and have mercy on him.  If he would just offer his body as a living sacrifice to God and only God and love his neighbor as himself, there might be hope for him to not go through this judgement.

King Neb was a murderous, merciless king.  His favorite thing to do was to chop people into pieces and worship his idols-the idols he created.  He had a lot of sin to turn from and Daniel is urging him to do so.

Clearly, he did not listen to this “wise” man’s advice because this dream becomes a reality.  If only he had repented things could have been different.  It’s amazing to me how we force ourselves into a hard spot.  We’d rather hit rock bottom before turning to God and offering true repentance.  We’d rather have everything that has ever meant anything to us be stripped away than to do what is right.

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Chop Down the Tree

Read Daniel 4:1-18

A little bit of a spoiler alert here,  by the end of this chapter you will see the life of the king go from being a proud, mighty ruler to being crushed into nothing by the hand of God and then the miracle comes, the king is restored and gives all glory to King of heaven. 

You can tell he is in a good mood as he begins his speech with “may you prosper greatly” or “shalom” as was the typical phrase.  Then he goes on with a testimony about the glory of God, this is something that everyone single one of should be doing.  Giving our testimony of the goodness of God to the world.  When was the last time you shared your testimony on Facebook?  Certainly, this would be telling the world about the God of Heaven.  I also, think it’s sad that this pagan king has more gumption than most Christians when it comes to sharing the gospel, yet here we are.

He continues is verse 4, with a specific example of just how powerful the God of Heaven is.  You see the king was at home in his palace, he was content, as I said earlier his empire was prospering, there was peace through the land.  It seems like when this king takes time to reflect is when God gives him a dream.  This is how it was when he had the dream of the statue and now he is describing another dream or vision and it came to him during a time of reflection.

This dream, like the other dream, caused him to be afraid, it terrified him.  As he was lying in bed the dream began to play out as he watched it run through his mind he became terrified.  I’m a little irritated by what he did next.  You see he knew Daniel was the best man for the job of dream interpretation, yet he turns to his wicked men instead. 

He called together his “wise men”, his magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners once they were all gathered he told them his dream, and of course they could not interpret the dream for him.  Vs. 8 We have no idea where Daniel was, but he was late to the wise man council meeting.  “Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream”, said the king as he continues his testimonial speech.

The king uses the words dreams and visions as plural, more than one.  The dream the king had was a two-part dream.  The first part of the dream was about a tree.

The tree:  was in the middle of the land, the center of the world.  Grew large and strong, it was enormous, it touched the sky and could be seen from anywhere on the earth.  The leaves were beautiful.  This tree produced an abundant amount of fruit. The fruit could supply and feed everyone including animals.  It offered a great covering for shelter; the branches were sturdy and gave shelter to birds. 

Then in verse 13 the visions go to part two.  The dream shifted from a tree to an angel.  The angel was described as a holy one, a messenger and it came down from heaven.  The description of the angel is accurate, they are holy, they are messengers, and they are on assignment. 

The assignment for this angel is to announce the fate of the tree.  The angel announced in a loud voice for the tree to be cut down, trim off all its branches, strip it of its leaves and scatter all its fruit.  The animals are to flee, and the birds are to fly away. 

The tree won’t be destroyed though.  The angel announced the stump, and its roots will remain in the ground, surrounded by green grass.  The stump will also have bands of brass and iron.

Verse 15 begins to describe the tree as a “him”.  The tree once beautiful and glorious will be chopped down in a destructive way with the leaves scattering, animals and fruit scattering.  Branch by branch being sawed off hitting the ground with loud thumps.  Finally, the main trunk of the tree will be cut away from the roots leaving nothing but a stump. 

The only thing to remain will be a stump, some roots and it is bound with brass and iron, now called “him” it represents a man.  This man will be drenched with the dew of heaven.  He will live with wild animals; his home will be the wilderness.  His mind is going to become like a wild animal, he will be wild and erratic, living by animal instincts instead of human.  He will live in this wild animal state of mind for seven years.

In verse 17 we learn that this is set in stone, it’s true, it’s going to happen, the decision has been made.  After describing all this to Daniel, the king asks Daniel to interpret the meanings.

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Defying Man and Trusting God

Read Daniel 3:16-30

I love the men’s reply to the king regarding the king’s question.  In vs. the king asked, “is it true?” and their answer is classic, I think we should use it when questioned in a negative way about our faith.  They said, “We don’t need to defend ourselves before you on this matter”.  In other words, we are not wavering on our beliefs, not matter what they said the king would not have accepted it.  Sometimes you believe what you believe and that is all that’s to it. 

There are times we get so hung up on trying to get validation from people who just don’t know God that we miss the point, it’s our faith, not theirs.  If you know God and you trust him, and you’ve devoted yourself to full submission to His authority it does not matter what anyone else thinks.  Stop trying to convince them to agree with you and start letting them see your faith in action.

They know and completely understand who God is, they trust him completely and their answer shows that faith.  They went on to tell the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesties Hand.”  They remind the king that God is bigger than he is and no matter how much power he has over his subjects, these men live according to a different kingdom and their God will have the final say.

They are also fully aware that there are two directions this scene could go; they could be rescued by God or God could decide to let their lives be taken in this fire.  They are ok with either decision.  Vs. 18 “But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up”. 

Did you catch onto the reading of their reply?  The thought of making it through the fire never even crossed their minds.  Vs. 17 reads “deliver us from”.  They confess that God can keep them from ever entering the furnace in the first place.  If he doesn’t keep them out of the furnace they still will not bow down, and they will accept that their fate is to be consumed by the fire.

Vs. 19 Neb was already furious with the men and this reply only amped his emotions up more, he became so enraged that his “visage” his facial features literally changed.  Have you ever witnessed the facial expression of someone filled with rage?  Their face turning red, nostrils flaring in and out like a bull.  This is a whole new level of anger and with this anger he ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times hotter than usual.

Seven times hotter than usual, I wonder what the usual temperature for this furnace was and how hot is seven times hotter?  First of all, the gold 90’ high statue was recently built, in order to cover this thing in gold they would have had to melt the gold down, make it liquid, then apply it to the structure.  To melt the gold, they needed a furnace, how convenient for the king.

This furnace was probably a pit of some sort because the king was able overlook it, with out being burned, he could supervise the process through an opening.  It would have also had a way for the workers to get the gold in and out. 

The temp needed to melt gold is 1,948 deg. F.  The average house fire is 1,100 deg. F.  The furnace is 800 degrees hotter than the average house fire.  Now, fires don’t get hotter because they burn longer, what makes the fire hotter is what is used to fuel the fire.  For example, coal will increase the temperature of a fire. 

An interesting tidbit is Babylon is in what we know as Iraq.  Iraq is one of the top five oil producing nations, producing 4.5 million barrels per day.  Modern day Iraq is known for black pitch-like and oil-like substances that are used for lighting lamps and building fires.  It seems logical these things were used in this furnace along with techniques to fan the flame to melt the gold.  They certainly had access to it, and they were skilled with gold melting. 

The fire is heating up to 1,948 deg., the strongest soldiers are ordered to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Here we have these government officials completely decked out in their best suits.  They were dressed in their full regalia, ready for this massive ceremony.  They were dressed to kill, their coats, their tall socks, their turbans poised perfectly on their heads.  They weren’t given the opportunity to change, they were immediately tied up and taken to the furnace.

The furnace was so hot the soldiers leading the men were killed.  Forget the flames, the heat was so intense they died just from being near it.  So, when it says they were cast.  They were literally tossed in.  The soldiers could only get so close that they would give them a big push and down into the pit they went.  Vs. 23 firmly tied they fell into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

That is when the king leaped to his feet.  As they toppled to the ground the king watching from his balcony of safety jumps to his feet and confirms that only three men were thrown in because he is watching, and he sees four men.  He watches as the three men stand to their feet, and the fourth one greets them.  The fourth one was already there waiting to meet these Godly, steadfast men.  They are literally walking around, surviving an impossible situation and the king cannot believe his eyes.  Not just enduring the fire, but they are completely unaffected by it, they aren’t even wiping the sweat from their brows. 

Their chains were broken, they were no longer in bondage, they are in the refiner’s furnace, being made pure by the hand of God.  The fire was heated 7 times hotter, that is not by coincidence.  Seven is reserved for God, it means perfection.  They were being perfected, refined, and the fourth man, well he was “like the Son of God”, rather he is the Son of God.  

Neb runs down to the opening, maintaining a safe distance, he yells into the blazing inferno telling the men to come out.  Three men come out, and they are in better condition than when they went in.  There was not a single burn mark on their bodies, not even a little pink flush to the cheeks, their hair was not singed and get this, their clothes did not smell like fire.  Have you ever gone to a campfire?  You don’t need to be playing in the fire to smell like a campfire, the smell fills the air and attaches to your clothing. 

As they exit the entrance they are immediately surrounded, not just by the king, but all his national leaders.  They all witnessed the hand of God protecting these men.

And the king gives praise to The God of Heaven.  He’s like well done God you rescued your servant kudos to you.  They defied my commands and instead trusted you, they were more willing to give up their lives than to worship any other god than you. 

Then he puts out a decree that no one, and I mean no one, is permitted to say anything against God, if they do they will be cut into a million little pieces and their houses will be turned into a dump, because there is no other god like this God.  And with that they were given another promotion, exalted even higher in the kingdom.

Rac, Shac and Benny expected God to keep them out of the fire, sometimes we expect God to keep us from harm too.  We expect to just avoid anything that could be painful, but sometimes God does his best work during the fire.  We want the easy way out, but the greater blessing is submitting to God’s way. 

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When Music becomes an idol.

Read Daniel 3:8-15

The part of this scripture that stands out the most to me is not the idol worship (we talked about that last week) and it wasn’t the fact that the three Jews did not bow down to it.  What really caught my attention this time was the use of music for idol worship.  I mean how could I not find it to be a focus point the instruments and the decree were repeated no less than four times during these first 15 verses of Daniel 3.  Clearly there is some significance that I want to begin to unpack today.

You’ll want to hang on because we are going down, we are going deep today.  Before Satan was cast out of heaven he was known as Lucifer.  When Lucifer was an angel in heaven, he was the most powerful and beautiful being, an angelic heavyweight if you will.  Ezekiel 28:13 says that he was fitted with trimbels and pipes.  Basically, he was equipped to create various sounds like an instrument.  Sounds, melodies, high and low pitches, he could produce musical sounds that no other creation could produce.  Some people think the pride he had in his abilities is what led up to him becoming prideful and ultimately cast out of heaven. 

Isaiah 14:11 talks about the noise he made or will make when he was cast down and when he will be cast down.  It will have a sound like a bagpipe. 

My point in all this is Lucifer had a unique place in the worship of God in heaven.  He became arrogant and prideful and in his heart he declared that he would “ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”  Isaiah 14:13-14.  He held true to his words; he has done everything he can think of to mimic the most High.  He replicates all the good the Lord does.  This section of Daniel is no different.

Lucifer worshiped God day after day until he decided that he wanted to be worshiped, then he was cast down to the earth.  Now that he is here on earth he does everything he can to be “like God”, including creating images that people will worship instead of God.  Music was meant to be a part of worship for the God of heaven.  Over the years it has been defiled just like so many other things.  Music’s original intention was to lead you into worship, it was intended to cause you to think of God and to celebrate him.  But Satan has corrupted it.

As we read here in Daniel music is now being used to usher people into worship of an idol.  Satan has drawn people’s attention from God and onto an idol.  Daniel listed an impressive list of unique instruments, both wind and string instruments.  He also mentioned all kinds of “musick”.  The word musick in Hebrew means praise.  In other words, every time you hear praise music you must bow down and worship the idol.

I wonder how it would be if you were told to bow down and worship an idol every time you heard a certain song playing on the radio?  It seems silly, but honestly we do that in a way already.  When a favorite song from your rebellious teenage years plays, what do you think about?  Are you worshiping God or are you thinking back to that time when you were with your friends having a rebellious time, doing the things you knew were wrong?  Sneaking alcohol or a smoke.

What about a song that you shared with a previous love interest?  Are you thinking about your spouse or does it take you back to the times you shared with another?  80’s metal music makes me remember all the headbanging I did at dances; it does not prompt me worship Jesus.  The music itself draws us away from God if we are not careful.  That is the enemy’s intention to have us form a relationship with music that does not prompt us to worship the Lord.  Music itself can become an idol and the question becomes who are you bowing to when you hear it?

Babylon is the head of the statue in the dream and this empire was the first to create an idol and now this idol is worshiped with music.  The king decreed that anyone who does not bow down when the music plays will be cast into a fiery furnace. 

The last empire to form (the toes of the statue) will be led by the antichrist and he will force people to bow to an idol.  Again, Satan is mimicking the word, because if you do bow to these images rather than worship Jesus you will be tossed into a fiery furnace.  This almost seems like a no-win situation here at least for three very well-known Jewish men.

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego are three of the Jewish men who were taken captive from Jerusalem.  They are currently in leadership in provinces of Babylon.  The Chaldeans apparently are not happy about their status and they take this opportunity to get even with them and to earn some bonus points with the king. 

While the music played and thousands of leaders bowed, these three men stood, they stood out like sore thumbs.  They refused to bow to this image, they refused to worship any idol for fabricated image at all.  They chose, instead to stand, they chose to obey the law of Moses.  They understood the importance of keeping God first, they understood their Jewish history and how idols worship lead to the downfall of Judah in the first place.  These men saw firsthand how angry God became when his children worship other gods.

Everyone else was doing it, there really aren’t any other Jews standing so they could have easily gone along with it.  Daniel was nowhere to be found so he would know what they did.  They were men of integrity and they did the right thing even when they could have seemingly gotten away with it.

How many of you would have just thought, “oh I’ll bow down, except I’ll pray to Jesus instead” “no one will know I will just be worshiping God.”  Desperately keeping one foot in the world and trying to keep the other foot in heaven.  It doesn’t work that way though.  You can not bow to an idol and worship God with your mouth.  You are to present your body as a living sacrifice and so whatever you bow to is what you worship.  Whatever you give into continuously is what you worship. If you can’t say no to the flesh then that means you have an idol, that thing you can’t say no to is your idol. 

They knew God was watching though.  They knew God was there in the midst, ruling and watching.  Just like he is with us.  When you bow or worship other gods, the God is watching, he sees you.  Knowing this these men refused to compromise.

Watching the three Jews stand, some Chaldeans decided to turn them in.  They went straight to the king with the news.  They remind him that he made the decree and yet the very Jews that he put into positions of influence are ignoring his commands.  They tell the king they have no regard for him, they deliberately disobey him, and they give the names of the men to the king. 

This caused the king to become furious with rage.  He became a raging lunatic, he ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to brought before him, and he asked them if this is true.  He must have had some respect for these men because he is giving them a second chance.  Remember they were also found to be wiser than any of his wise men, I think he did have respect for them in that regard.

He asks if it true and gives them one more chance to bow down, if they do not they will be immediately tossed into a blazing furnace, then adds “Then what God will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

He knows he is the king of kings, but now he believes he is a god of gods and no other god has more power than he does.

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