Daniel the Faithful

I was led to believe that Sunday’s sermon was going to be on Jeremiah, and I was really looking forward to it because of all the sermon’s I’ve ever heard, I’ve never heard one on Jeremiah. Then Dave preached on Daniel, who I have no animosity towards but was really miffed at on Sunday simply because he isn’t Jeremiah.

As Dave introduced Daniel, I realized that Daniel was an uber human, which is not very relatable to me. And as I listened to how smart and wise Daniel was, how attractive he was, and how heroic he was, I found myself thinking very loudly, “Daniel, Daniel, Daniel!” in the style of Jan on The Brady Bunch.

Daniel may seem like a topdog, but his underdog story involves some very big cats.

In Daniel 6, we find that he is one of three presidents over leaders in the kingdom. Verse 3 (NRSV) says, “Soon Daniel distinguished himself above all the other presidents and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole kingdom.” It’s not surprising or hard to believe that the other presidents and leaders were unhappy about this and pretty much planned a political coup.

They tried to find some sort of fault with Daniel. “But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him” (v. 4).

There it was. They had their answer. Faithful. Faithful almost to a fault. I imagine a guy just leaning back in his chair and letting his hands fall on the table in exasperation as he says, “There’s nothing. We can’t touch him. What are we going to say? ‘Oh, he’s too reliable.’ ‘Oh, he’s too faithful.'” Then someone else says, “That’s it! What if we show the king that he’s more faithful to someone else than he is to him?” Verse 5 says, “The men said,’We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.'” They go to King Darius with their plan in hand and convince him to sign an ordinance saying that, for 30 days, anyone who prays to anyone or anything but him would be thrown into the lions’ den.

Daniel knew about this, but it didn’t stop him from kneeling in front of his windows that faced Jerusalem and praying three times a day. So he was found and brought before the king, who did not want to condemn Daniel to the den but eventually had to.

The king went to the lions’ den first thing the next day. “When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Daniel then said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.’ Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (v. 20-23). The king had those who accused Daniel thrown into the den along with their families. All of their bones were broken in pieces before they reached the bottom.

The takeaway here is not to have friends in high places but to have the best possible friend in the highest place.

Daniel was so close to God that I can’t help but think of them as friends. Friends are faithful to each other. Daniel didn’t ditch God because of a new ordinance just as God had never left Daniel before and certainly didn’t leave him in the lions’ den. Daniel shouldn’t have walked out of that den, but God rewarded Daniel’s faithfulness by showing His own.

My sincerest hope is that you don’t feel like you’re in the lions’ den, but if you do, please remember that God is faithful even when we’re not. He’s working on you and for you, and if you put your faith in Him as Daniel did, you’ll make it out alive and well.

By Carrie Prevette

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The Fourth Commandment

I love not having anything to do on Sundays. Resting on the Sabbath is no problem for me. I ordinarily just go to church, eat, sleep, and watch T.V. For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly lazy person, so this isn’t hard for me.

If you’re an active person, resting on Sunday may not come as easily to you as it does to me, and that’s okay. Because ultimately, the whole point is that what you do on your Sabbath isn’t labor.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT).

So no labor. But what about those who have to work on Sundays?

The most important part of the Sabbath is not the day of the week that we observe it. The seventh day is important because that was the day God rested after creating everything and because the number seven is symbolic of completion and wholeness (i.e., the seventh day of the week is the last day of the week, signaling its completion). If we have the option to observe the Sabbath on Sunday, we should because it is the seventh day. Life doesn’t always fall neatly into seven-day increments, though. The most important part of the Sabbath, whenever one can observe it, is that it is a day dedicated to God. This follows with the theme of the commands that precede it.

We do not get gold stars for not working on Sundays nor do we get gold stars for simply going to church. If the Sabbath is to be dedicated to God then we have to engage with God and the conversation about Him.

When the worship band plays, don’t just think about whether or not you like the songs. Think about what the lyrics are saying, and if a song resonates with you, express that to God, whether it’s by singing or dancing or raising your hands or meditating quietly. There’s no one way to worship, but we do need to worship.

When they’re taking up tithes and you are able to give, give. Whether you view it as a form of worship or sacrifice, do it for God by giving to God.

When someone prays aloud, don’t just stand there and listen to them. Talk to God by praying.

During the sermon, interact with the message. Personally, I take notes, and if it weren’t for this blog, I doubt I’d ever look back at most of them. I write down the points the speaker is making, but I also write down scripture that fits the message that wasn’t used and my own perspective on the scripture and points being made if they differ from the speaker’s.

An example of this is my post on the woman at the well. The way I see her and her story is different from how Alan views it all. We read the same scripture, but our life experiences (specifically, his as a man and mine as a woman) create different lenses through which we see and analyze the text. Thinking about these different perspectives and writing about my own was a way for me to interact with the message and the scripture.

This interaction with God and His word is what He wants from us and, I believe, what He ultimately commands us in Exodus 20. Not time when we’re with Him and ignoring Him, but time when we engage with Him.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always take the advice I’ve given here. (I believe it’s Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland who says, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”) I don’t always do or want to do these things, but if I want to observe the Sabbath and dedicate my time to God, I need to focus on Him, be mindful of Him, and interact with Him.

This is the importance of the Sabbath, whenever that may be for you if not on Sundays: dedicate your time to God. Not that we always want to or that we always find it easy but that God is always deserving of our best efforts and our affections.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S.- For more on resting and spending time with God, check out this post of mine from quite a while back. I hope you find it useful.

Devoted

Back when Israel was ruled by judges, there was a famine, and a man named Elimelech moved from Bethlehem in Judah to Moab with his wife, Naomi, and his two sons. After settling into Moab, Elimelech died. Both sons married, and both wives were Moabite women. Roughly a decade later, the sons died.

At this point, Naomi was pretty much alone, ┬ánot having a husband or kids around, and she heard that life in Judah was good again. So she and her daughter-in-laws packed up and headed to Judah. But on the way, Naomi told them to return to their mothers, speaking blessings over them for their kindness. They said they didn’t want to, but Naomi told them to return as she was out of sons for them to marry. One kissed her goodbye, but the other did not.

“But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi…. [She] replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!’ When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more” (Ruth 1:14, 16-18, NLT).

I kept thinking about a scripture for the New Year blog post, and I kept coming back to two scriptures, one being this one from Ruth.

The devotion Ruth demonstrated towards Naomi is one that we as humans often reserve for other humans.

And trust me, I am the last person who needs to be talking about this and the first who needs to hear it. I pre-order albums by bands I like without having heard a single note or lyric because I just really like the band. I’ll watch a movie or a show just because I adore an actor who plays in it. And I’d rather not even think of how much money I’ve spent on shirts and jerseys of certain teams or players. I understand – probably better than anyone – this weird sense of an almost sacred devotion to other people.

Unlike my devotion, which is probably more pathetic than anything else, Ruth’s devotion was hopeful and encouraging. I don’t know what Ruth’s relationship with her own mother was like, but we have no reason to believe it wasn’t good. Given how loving and kind Ruth was, I’m inclined to think her mother was the same way. So Ruth’s devotion to Naomi was strong because she chose her over someone else she loved.

What’s really remarkable about Ruth staying with Naomi was that she was a Moabite leaving Moab. Everyone regarded Moabites with disdain. They were seen as barbaric and dirty and awful. Their lineage is traced back to when Lot left Sodom and his daughters conceived with him. They had a history of being oppressive enemies of the Israelites for a very long time. Ruth was taking a big step in leaving both a place that was familiar and free of prejudice towards her. She was really leaving her comfort zone.

In this new year, whether you’re glad it’s here or are starting it with a feeling of hopelessness, we can all aspire to have Ruth’s devotion, but instead of directing it towards another person, we should demonstrate it towards God.

I know it’s hard to choose God over something else. I’m not going to act like it’s not. It’s a product of the fall of man. We naturally want to put people and things that we can see and touch and immediately and definitely behold the greatness of above a God we sometimes have to look for and who doesn’t always lead us to such seemingly great places.

But we can step out of that fondness and familiarity, that sense of happiness and safety, and step into a deeper understanding and a deeper relationship with God. Not because the year is new, but because it’s a time when there’s a big sense of starting over and betterment. It’s a good thing to start at any time.

The other scripture I kept coming back to was John 10:10, where Jesus says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (NLT).

But I’m a big fan of the NRSV translation of this verse, which says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”

This is where your love and devotion to God lead you – rich, satisfying, life abundant. Oh, it’s challenging, but anything worth having is. Life abundant never comes easy, but it’s certainly a reward worth fighting for. And with God, it’s a guarantee.

By Carrie Prevette

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