God provides evidence.
This is a story I’ve known since I was a little girl—how Daniel and his friends were captured, taken to Babylon, and entered into the service of the king. There, they were offered the “best” food in the land and were supposed to be educated in all things Babylonian. But, Daniel and his friends didn’t want to conform to Babylonian society; in particular, they didn’t want to eat the king’s food, which was probably not kosher and had undoubtedly been offered to idols:
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. . . Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.” (vs 8, 11-14)
I have always been so impressed with Daniel in this story. There he was, in a situation he had no control over, having been carried off to a foreign land against his will. Although he had other options available to him, there is something so reasonable in his approach to this issue of the food.
He could have started yelling about his “rights.” He could have gone on a hunger strike. He could have waged a public campaign against the king’s food, maybe even turned over a few tables for dramatic effect. Instead, he trusted that God had given his people dietary rules for a good reason, and he politely requested his commanding officer to test those rules for himself.
Because God is not arbitrary, He always provides evidence of the rightness and the appropriateness of what He asks us to do. In Daniel’s case, He proved to the Babylonian guards that His suggested way of eating was much better and healthier for the human body. He also proved that His people didn’t need to eat food that had been dedicated to idols in order to flourish!
There may be times when it is appropriate for us to get dramatic in our witness for the Lord, but often, I think He prefers to work on the basis of simple, silent evidence. For just as Daniel said, “Test your servants for ten days,” so the Lord also says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Ps 34:8)
God wants us to find out for ourselves how wise and wonderful are His ways! And whenever we put Him to the test, He always provides evidence.
God is revealed in suffering.
Well, you gotta hand it to King Nebuchadnezzar. While many high-ranking officials are so “out of touch” with the real world that they get taken advantage of by their closest advisers, Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t about to be taken for a ride. He wasn’t going to have the wool pulled over his eyes! Right of the gate, he decided to “test” the veracity of his wisest men by asking them to tell him about a dream he had.
Of course, these wise men were used to “interpreting” dreams—that was one of their main jobs. But having to “read the king’s mind” while he was dreaming was another story. They wasted no time declaring the unreasonableness of his request: “The astrologers answered the king, ‘There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks!’” (vs 10)
There was a lot at stake. The king threatened to kill them all and raze their houses if they couldn’t do what he wanted. (Some scholars suggest that Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t even remember the particulars of the dream himself—only just that it had troubled him greatly and had struck him as being important.)
Ultimately, Babylon’s finest failed the king. They had no idea what he had dreamed, and so he sentenced them all to death—including Daniel and his three friends. When Daniel found out about the king’s decree and why Nebuchadnezzar had decided such a thing, Daniel immediately went to the king and asked for time, saying he would be able to tell him the dream.
Once again, I’m amazed at the unflappability of Daniel in this circumstance. Here he is, sentenced to death, facing an unimaginable crisis, and he is not only able to keep a level head, but his faith in God is so strong that he announces to the king that he’ll solve the mystery—even before God has told him the dream!
As I was pondering this, I thought once again about crises and how they reveal our character. That’s right. Some people say that crisis makes a man, but I say that crisis actually reveals what a man already is. Daniel trusted God implicitly, and when the water suddenly got hot all around him, his actions revealed that his trust was intact.
It was also because of this crisis that God was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, and the king wasn’t ashamed to admit it: “The king said to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.’” (vs 47)
Often, as followers of God, we almost expect to be able to avert every crisis. Sometimes, when we encounter suffering in our lives, we act as though God has abandoned us—that we have been faithful to Him, so why isn’t He being faithful to us? (As if Him being faithful would mean shielding us from every calamity.)
But in this great, universe-wide war in which we’re all caught up, God is looking to reveal—the truth about Himself, the truth about the nature of sin, and the truth about us. The truth about all of these things are revealed in the midst of crises and suffering. Thus, as Peter wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Pet 4:12-13)
The truth about God is revealed in suffering. The truth about us is revealed in suffering. And so, for as long as it takes, the suffering will continue—especially for those who are God’s friends and are able to stand up underneath it.
Of course, nobody wants to suffer—God least of all! But don’t worry. As Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18) When we can see our lives as God sees them now, when we can see the beginning from the end, and when we can see all that was revealed in the suffering, we’ll see that the glory of what was revealed far outweighs any discomfort from our suffering.
Oh, to have that forward-looking faith!
God reveals Himself.
I have friends who say God never has (and never will) reveal Himself to human beings. I think Nebuchadnezzar would beg to differ. Of course, a person must define for himself what he means by “reveal.” Some people might expect a mysterious being to materialize in your living room and say, “Hi, I’m God.” For me, I think this chapter perfectly describes how God reveals Himself to us—in whatever way we will recognize and know it is Him.
So, Nebuchadnezzar threw Daniel’s three friends into the fiery furnace. They refused to bow down to the golden image he’d made and set up in the plain of Dura. (Hmmm… is it any coincidence that, after he found out he was the “head of gold” in his dream, he made a golden statue to be worshiped?) But after he threw them in, he noticed there was a fourth person in there, too—someone who looked like a god.
I laughed out loud at Nebuchadnezzar’s next statement: “Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’” (vs 26) Can’t you just hear the “foiled again!” tone in Nebuchadnezzar’s voice? Oh, that wily Most High God!
Nebuchadnezzar should have known better than to make his statue. He had just encountered the one, true God in his exchange with Daniel. But how quickly we forget and return to our idolatry! Fortunately for us, God won’t let us stay mindless for very long. Before he knew it, Nebuchadnezzar was having another encounter with God.
And, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I’m struck that, once again, the revelation of God came to Nebuchadnezzar in the midst of a crisis. The three Hebrew boys had been sentenced to die because they wouldn’t bow down to the idol. Their response? As unflappable as Daniel’s! “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 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 Majesty’s hand. 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.’” (vs 16-18)
Absolutely incredible. I want the faith of these Hebrew boys. They knew that God was able to deliver them from anything, yet they also knew that in some situations, God doesn’t deliver us. He knows when it’s best to deliver and when it’s not. And the boys were perfectly willing to submit themselves to God’s judgment in this instance. They were determined to do what was right—not just what they thought would save their hides.
Thus, God was able to once again reveal Himself to Nebuchadnezzar. And whenever we give Him the chance, He will continue to reveal Himself to us and through us—especially in the hardest and darkest moments of our lives.
God gives and takes away.
I have a feeling this is an Old Testament chapter that many of my Christian friends would protest over. For at the outset, it doesn’t appear to put God in a very positive light. There is Nebuchadnezzar, ruling his kingdom and minding his own business when, out of nowhere, he receives a message from God in a dream that he will be stripped of his kingdom until he acknowledges the sovereignty of Heaven.
How dare God demand such homage!
I have to say that, at first blush, I would be inclined to agree with those friends of mine who would be inclined to find this sort of behavior offensive on God’s part. Nobody likes a bully, and in that regard, we might all agree that if this is the way God goes around running His universe, He’s not going to get too far. Forced respect only lasts so long before it gives way to resentment and rebellion.
But, before we are too hasty, I suppose we should ask if God is really being a bully, here. After all, there’s a difference between bullying and, say, parenting (for lack of a better term). I will say and do different things with my 14-month-old child than I would with other children of the same age because I’m responsible for her well-being—and that includes her spiritual well-being and maturity.
For whose benefit is God acting in Daniel 4? Is it somehow for His own ego? Is it that He needs to be acknowledged and validated by all His creatures, or He’ll throw a temper tantrum? Or is it somehow for Nebuchadnezzar’s good?
Well, first, let’s see how God’s little demand for homage worked on Nebuchadnezzar. If God was looking to humble the king with His demand, did it work? Apparently not: “Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’” (vs 29-30) So, it would seem that demands don’t yield a lot of fruit.
So, Nebuchadnezzar ignored what Daniel had said (or, after a time, he slipped back into his old ways), and everything Daniel had said would happen to him came to pass: “He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.” (vs 33) In other words, Nebuchadnezzar lost his power, authority, and control of his kingdom.
But that’s not the end of the story. After Nebuchadnezzar had spent some time realizing that his blessings were from God and not his own majesty or power, God restored him. Actually, God did more than just restore him to the throne: “At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.” (vs 36)
Aha! God’s motives—they always come out in the end. By taking away His sanity, by stripping him of his kingdom, God wasn’t trying to destroy Nebuchadnezzar. He was trying to exalt him! As the king was given a lesson in humility and his heart was changed, he was able to achieve a much higher level of greatness (because greatness comes through humility).
Thus, my friends, we can conclude that if and when God takes away, it is for the purpose of giving us more. If we are stuck in pride and arrogance—like the tall tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream—He will most certainly take an ax to our trunk. He will chop us all the way down so that He may have the opportunity to build us back up—even higher than we were before.
What do you think? Is that the definition of a bully?
God writes on the wall.
I never realized just how many Bible stories I learned in childhood came from the book of Daniel! I remember this one in particular, because in my mind, I can still see the illustration for it that was in the Bible books we read—a large, disembodied hand with one finger extended, leaving words behind on the wall.
It’s interesting to encounter these stories again as an adult. As I read them now, I ask questions I would never have thought to ask as a child. As I read today’s chapter, the one question that kept coming to me was,Why would God write on the wall?
I mean, here was Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who was taking the nation down the toilet pretty fast. He knew the story of what had happened to his grandfather (vs 22), but instead of taking that story to heart and sharing in the lesson Nebuchadnezzar learned, Belshazzar decided to throw a big party and desecrate the temple goblets that had been brought from Jerusalem by, first, drinking from them and, then, worshiping them.
Not only that, but history tells us that this raucous party was underway even as the Medo-Persian army had surrounded the city and was ready to overtake it. The enemy was crouching behind the walls, and instead of being alert and vigilant, the king was livin’ it up with a thousand of his closest friends.
So, I’m left to ask myself, Why would God even bother to write on the wall? Belshazzar, his people, and his kingdom were goin’ down. They were going to be conquered, and it would be the end of the Babylonian nation forever. (God had already prophesied about this two centuries earlier.) And since we know from the end of this chapter that Belshazzar was in the last hours of his life when he “saw the writing on the wall” (which is, by the way, where that expression comes from!), why did God bother?
As I pondered this some more, I thought of many times when I have traveled abroad and been in foreign countries where I couldn’t read the signs and billboards. Especially in a place like Serbia, where many of the signs are lettered in a completely different alphabet, I have never felt fear and trepidation when looking at the words. (Of course, I’ve never seen a billboard written by a disembodied hand either!)
I’m sure the hand-thing had a part to play in Belshazzar’s anxiety, but he seemed to be awfully fearful about the words themselves. Why? Not only could he not understand them, he couldn’t even read them! So, why did they bother him so much?
At least in part, I think that Belshazzar’s fear over the unreadable words would indicate that, underneath his party-boy hilarity, his conscience was still operating. I believe that, in his heart, he knew that he wasn’t doing what was right, so when this supernatural event occurred, he immediately assumed it had something to do with his misbehavior.
And he was right!
The Bible doesn’t provide any gory details about the last moments of Belshazzar’s life. We don’t know if he was slain in his sleep or if he went down fighting. But I would like to think that the fact that the king rewarded Daniel for his awful prophecy suggests that Belshazzar might have had a humbling change of heart in his last hours. (Because really, what king rewards one of his servants for bad news?)
But even if he didn’t experience a shift in his thinking, I think God still would have written on the wall. That’s what God does. He reveals, He sends information, He enlightens. He can’t help it; He wants us to know Him, and He also wants us to understand what is happening to us. I mean, it seems apparent that—handwriting or not—the Babylonians would have fallen to the Medo-Persians anyway that night, but God wanted Belshazzar to know why. And perhaps the knowing made a difference—for him, for Daniel, for others in his kingdom, and maybe for us.
I love that we serve a God who will write on the wall. He has every conceivable way possible under the sun to get a message to us. So keep your eyes open—you never know what you might see next!
God is (not) inflexible.
The book of Daniel really does have some of the best stories in the Bible. Any one of these incredible events would give enough memories to someone to last a lifetime, but imagine living through all of them! The way Daniel saw the Lord deliver him time and time again is truly amazing.
Daniel’s predicament in the story of the Lion’s Den didn’t have so much to do with a king who wanted to get rid of him as it did a king who couldn’t get rid of his own law. Some men who were jealous of Daniel’s position in the new government went to the king and asked him to make a ridiculous law that they knew Daniel would break: “So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said, ‘May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.’” (vs 6-8)
This was a common practice in the Persian Empire—an edict issued by a king couldn’t be overturned . . . even by the king! Can you imagine? Being in charge of your own kingdom, yet being bound as a slave to your own word? One could hope that this would have made kings very careful in issuing their edicts. Alas, in this circumstance, that wasn’t the case. Darius spelled out a law that he later regretted, but could not change.
As I read, I couldn’t help but compare this rigid way of ruling with God’s way—which, for a guy who doesn’t change, is highly more flexible! For instance, do you remember this statement of God in the book of Jeremiah? “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” (Jer 18:7-10)
Interesting, isn’t it? We might assume that, if any word would be inflexible, it would be God’s word. Yet there are many places in Scripture where God makes statements just like this one, indicating that His decrees are not set in stone, but that they are flexible and dependent upon our choices.
At first, this might seem to be in contradiction with the statement that God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). That could sound pretty inflexible—and, in fact, it is. But inflexible in what regard? Ah, here is the question! In what way is God inflexible?
He is inflexible only in His motives of love toward us. He will never, never, NEVER waver from the loving course of action! He will always do what is right for us and in our best interest, because He loves us. However, exactly what is “right for us and in our best interest” is ever changing as our free choices impact and influence our circumstances. Thus, referring back to God’s statement in Jeremiah, while it would be the loving thing for God to discipline a nation that is trying to ignore Him, that course of discipline becomes unnecessary if that nation changes course and acknowledges God.
The kind of rigid inflexibility espoused by the Medo-Persians in their government makes absolutely no sense if the Governor is trying to have a relationship (especially a love relationship!) with the governed. And precisely because God is inflexible when it comes to loving us, He is highly flexible when it comes to everything else. Whatever He knows we need at any given moment is exactly what He will do at any given moment—even if He has to do several about-faces in the process. He will do whatever it takes not to waver from the course of love.
God doesn't need our help.
I know, it’s a little disheartening when you hear that you’re not needed. Part of our sinful preoccupation with self is our ability to imagine that we can do everything and be everything and salvage everything. And we can do a lot and be a lot and salvage a lot. But, when it comes to this world, God let Daniel in on a little secret: We’re not going to save it. And, when it comes to His Kingdom, God let Daniel in on a little secret: We’re not going to build it.
God doesn’t need our help to establish His Kingdom. You know, it really goes back to the whole work versus rest thing. God came to give us rest, not to pile work on us. And this principle also applies when it comes to ushering in His Kingdom: “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’” (vs 16-18)
The Kingdom is a gift. It’s a gift that is given to the holy people of the Most High. They receive it—from God. They don’t build it themselves.
I think this point stuck out so clearly to me because I have a lot of very well-meaning friends who seem to believe that we will, in fact, build the kingdom of God through our actions. They seem to believe that we will save the planet, convert humanity, and usher in an eternal era of peace, love, and harmony by ourselves. Most recently, as I read Love Wins by Rob Bell, I got the distinct impression that his belief on “heaven and hell” was not that they were literal places somewhere else, but that we had the power to create either one we chose here on earth.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. God’s Kingdom is very real, and while He may not need our help in establishing it, He definitely wants us to be part of it! Though His Kingdom may not yet be established on earth in the literal way this chapter foretells, God certainly has invited us to participate in His Kingdom in the here and now as we lead our daily lives. He gives us the opportunity to reach out to others, to show love and compassion, and to brighten our little corner of the world.
But I don’t think we should mistake the invitation to participate in God’s Kingdom as a call to try to establish the Kingdom. According to this chapter, that’s impossible. We do not build God’s Kingdom and hand it to Him; He establishes His Kingdom and hands it to us.
And the more willing we are to participate in the Kingdom, the more we will receive it, little by little, day by day, until that great and glorious day when we experience the fulfillment of Daniel 7. Until then, may our prayer continue to be the one Jesus taught us: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10)
God has big shoulders.
I recently watched an episode of Dr. Phil dealing with infidelity in marriage. As if that isn’t a sad enough issue to deal with, one of the couples had three children (under age 10) whom they had discussed their infidelity with, even going so far as to elicit their opinions on whether they should get divorced or stay together and have an open marriage.
Needless to say, Dr. Phil totally lambasted them for involving their children in their poor choices in such an inappropriate and appalling way. I’m not sure he ever even got around to discussing their infidelity problem!
Kids are not equipped to handle adult issues. If I could somehow explain to my daughter in infant language that the only thing standing between us and being homeless is a few mortgage payments, she would probably be overcome with worry. Even though there is nothing to worry about, and even though Mommy and Daddy are equipped to deal with the need for income, she would not be able to understand that. Trying to explain adult issues to her would only be an unnecessary burden.
I had to think of that as I read today’s chapter—yet another strange vision for Daniel. More animals with heads and horns and wings. More prophecies of things to come that were not only difficult to understand, but distressing. At the end of this particular vision, Daniel said, “I was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.” (vs 27)
I had to chuckle at Daniel’s reaction to the vision. I chuckled because, so often, I just wish God would tell me more. I have a sense that He sees a much bigger picture than I do—not just of my own personal life, but also a picture of what’s going on in the world—and sometimes, I would love an opportunity to see things as He does.
But I realized today that when Daniel saw things as God sees them, he was left exhausted and appalled. It didn’t invigorate or rejuvenate him; it wore him out! He could hardly handle it! It took him several days to recover. He very well might have been sorry that he ever asked God to give him a vision of what was in store for his people.
God has very big shoulders, and right now, those shoulders are carrying an awful lot of the junk that’s going on in this world. And I have a feeling that, like Daniel, if we could see some of those things as God sees them, it would be like trying to explain a mortgage to a 14-month-old. It would be confusing, overwhelming, and perhaps downright frightening.
Until we’re in a position to understand the full scope of what’s transpiring in this world, God’s shoulders are more than adequate to handle the load. Although He is eager to share as much of His perspective as we can bear, He will not unnecessarily burden us with more than we can handle. Until we’re ready, He’ll shoulder the load.
Earlier today, I was thinking about Psalm 8, one of my favorite psalms, where David asks God, “What is man, that You are mindful of him?” (Ps 8:4) When David looked up into the night sky and observed the wonders of creation, he wondered why God even bothered to pay attention to us.
And no matter what you think the “why” is, the fact is that God does pay attention to us. In fact, He pays incredible attention to us! I was reminded of that all over again in this chapter.
After becoming upset over the prophecy of Jerusalem’s desolation, Daniel turned to God in prayer. As he poured out his heart to the Lord for his people, something extraordinary happened: “I was still confessing my sins and those of all Israel to the Lord my God, and I was praying for the good of his holy mountain, when Gabriel suddenly came flying in at the time of the evening sacrifice. This was the same Gabriel I had seen in my vision, and he explained: Daniel, I am here to help you understand the vision. God thinks highly of you, and at the very moment you started praying, I was sent to give you the answer.” (vs 20-23)
No sooner had Daniel begun talking to God than God heard him and answered. Amazing! I mean, this is so “usual” in Scripture that I think we don’t stop to think about how incredible that is—that the Sovereign, Supernatural Creator of the Universe cares about, hears, and answers the prayers of a man.
God cares no less about your prayers than He did about Daniel’s prayers. To you, He says the very same thing He said to Daniel: “I think highly of you.” The very moment you begin praying, God hears, and He has an answer for you.
Of course, we don’t always receive or understand the answer as immediately as Daniel did. (Well, he received the answer immediately. Whether or not he understood it is another matter!) But I believe stories like this one are in Scripture precisely so we will know that even when we can’t “hear” God talking back to us, we can be certain that we have been heard by Him.
There is never a communications breakdown in Heaven. All of our prayers go directly to the throne. God always hears us when we talk to Him!
God is there.
Once again, Daniel is troubled by some of the things he’s been seeing in his visions, so he embarks on a course of fasting and prayer for three weeks. At the end of this time, as he was praying with some friends, “I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” (vs 5-6)
The description of fire and gold and bronze certainly makes this “man” sound an awful lot like Jesus. As He begins speaking to Daniel, Daniel relaxes and falls into a deep sleep. The next thing he knows, a hand touches him, and there is an angel, explaining how he was sent to help him. (He says he would have arrived sooner had it not been for some resistance he encountered from some other supernatural beings.)
As I read, I was intrigued by this idea that, when the veil was pulled back, Daniel saw, first, the very God he had been praying to and, second, an angel from the heavenly host! There they were, close to him, right next to him, and when his eyes were opened, he could see them plain as day.
We don’t often think about it, but the reality is, there is an invisible world of spiritual beings all around us. And just because they are invisible to us doesn’t mean they aren’t there all the time. Even Jesus himself, whom many of us engage in prayer on a daily basis, was standing right next to Daniel, listening to him. That prayer didn’t have to travel very far!
A popular song from my childhood included the lyrics, God is watching us from a distance. But, perhaps if the veil could be pulled back for us, we would discover, as Daniel did, that God isn’t so very distant after all. If our eyes could be opened to the spiritual world, we might look up and see Christ standing in front of us.
Does it sound trite to say, “Wherever you are, God is there”? Perhaps, but it’s true. Even if He is invisible to you today, that doesn’t mean God isn’t always with us, literally alongside. In Proverbs, Solomon said, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov 18:24)
No matter where you go, God is with you. If the veil was suddenly lifted from your eyes, you would see His glorious face. He may be hidden at present, but He is there. And He will never leave you.
God is not surprised.
One of my favorite quotes by Corrie Ten Boom (which I think I have shared on this blog before, and I’m sure I’ll share it again!) is this: “There is never panic in heaven! God has no problems, only plans.” For me, this has been one of the most liberating realizations of my life—to understand that nothing I have encountered in this life has been a surprise to God. Nothing! He has never been blindsided or caught off guard.
I realize that this isn’t always the easiest idea to embrace. After all, there is a lot of suffering in this world, and most of us believe that if we knew the suffering that was coming to us before it came and we had a way to stop it, we would. So, when people consider the idea that God might not be surprised about all the bad stuff we encounter, many of them get angry.
(And if you’ve been there, I’d just like to say, that’s okay. God can handle our anger. In fact, I would say He welcomes it!)
But after reading a chapter like this, I couldn’t come to any other conclusion than that God is somehow able to know what is coming down the pike—even hundreds of years in advance! I mean, this chapter reads like a history lesson, rich in detail and nuance. But for Daniel, it wasn’t a history lesson. It was a future lesson, detailing the demise of the Greek Empire, spanning almost 400 years of events.
I wonder what the experience was like for those who were entrusted with Daniel’s vision when the events were actually happening. Could they connect what was going on in the world with the things Daniel had written? I also wonder about that for those who will live through the end events described in the book of Revelation. Will they be able to witness the actual events and “match them up” with their prophetical descriptions in the Bible?
Jesus said that prophecies are given so that when the events come to pass, we will know what is happening. God is not surprised, and He doesn’t want us to be surprised either. I am confident that we are living in the last days of Earth’s history, and things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. But no matter what comes, we can know that God is prepared, and He is able to give us whatever we need to stand during the hard times.
There is never panic in heaven.
God has no problems, only plans.
And His plans for you are good.
God likes questions.
I was amused by this closing chapter of Daniel, especially verse 8: “I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, ‘My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?’” Don’t you just love that? In essence, the book of Daniel ends with a question. And an unanswered question at that.
Usually, I picture God as the one who has all the answers. And, of course, He does. But He’s necessarily the guy who gives all the answers—at least not right away. At least in this instance, He left some very big questions unanswered, telling Daniel, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.” (vs 9)
I wonder if Daniel was able to do that or if the last vision he saw haunted him for the rest of his life. Let’s face it: he was in the habit of receiving answers from God, so to be left with a vision that raised more questions than it answered must have been quite a change!
But, I think there’s something to be said about God here, and that is that He likes questions. After all, what is eternity going to be if not one big educational adventure? Will we not spend ages upon ages making new discoveries and raising even more questions? Won’t those new questions drive us to continue in our educational pursuits? I hope that’s what eternity is going to be like, because if it’s not, I might get rather bored!
I read once that, in our vast universe, the placement of Planet Earth is nearly perfect in terms of discovery, meaning that we are situated in just the right place to be able to observe the universe beyond our world and discover answers to our questions (along with more questions). Indeed, even our experience with the Bible is like that, with each reading raising more questions than the reading before.
For me, this is one of the amazing things about God—that He wants us to search and discover and question and reason. Our brains were made to inquire and wonder and learn. Not just now, but forever.