Re:Verse passage – Daniel 4:1-37 (day three)
“The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”
God had been at work for some time revealing reality to Nebuchadnezzar. In the course of that instruction, the king had reached a sticking point at which he did not wish to comply with reality. God then let Nebuchadnezzar know that his behavior had endangered his mental and emotional health, and suffering would result. God further told the king that this time of suffering, though, would not be in vain. God did not intend to put the king in a headlock until he cried uncle, but instead to form him into the kind of person who understands that he will endanger his life and the lives of many when he attempts to live as an authority unto himself. Reality originates with God.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 3:1-30 (day three)
“The appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”
Nebuchadnezzar employed his non-Hebrew cultural perspective in an honest attempt to describe what he could not explain: “one like a son of the gods.” Was he wrong? Would you just love to tweak his language (as some translations do) so that it emerges as the much more acceptable designation “the Son of God?” Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t wrong so much as he was observant. He believed that he was seeing profound evidence of something cosmic in scope. He now wanted to know more than ever what was real, where he could stand, whom he could trust. God can work with that. When someone is becoming ever more interested in the activity of the divine, God will put up with some awkward descriptors. He’ll put up with far more than that. Will you?
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 2:31-49 (day three)
“The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed.”
The story of revolution is the story of the founding of nations, including our own. People who rise up against established authorities do so as a result of long-held animosities against long-perpetrated injustices. What would an unshakable kingdom look like? It would be, by definition, a good kingdom – one in which human flourishing is the way of life for all people. Despots and dictators and technocrats tout the resilience of their societies, but they know – everybody knows – that revolutionaries always lie in wait. The scriptures reveal that at long last there is coming on the earth a kingdom which revolution will never threaten. How can this be? Here’s how: Human rulers hold their people down. God in his glory will lift his people up.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 2:1-30 (day three)
“Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
The royal advisors were good at what they did. They knew how monarchs thought. They’d heard countless dreams, and they knew that these visions from the unconscious followed familiar scripts involving power, pomposity, and paranoia. The interpreters would request to hear the dream not so much to learn the narrative as to gain an opportunity to discern Nebuchadnezzar’s verbal cues and which dream elements he would emphasize. The advisors’ guild would then get to work, producing an “interpretive product” that would please him. But this time, God’s communication to the king had shaken him to the core. For the first time in his life, he sought the truth rather than an engineered answer. He learned from Daniel that God will show the truth to those who seek it.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 1:1-21 (day three)
“Please test your servants for ten days.”
Did Daniel and his friends devise their plan in order to prove the superiority of the Lord up against the various and sundry deities of Babylon and of Israel’s fellow subjugated peoples? In actuality, Daniel was in no position to stage a showdown. As a prisoner of war, his influence amounted to as much as the geopolitical realities would have allowed, which is to say, nothing. Bible readers can look at the sweep of the story and thrill at Nebuchadnezzar’s eventual transformation to a believing – or at least “Yahweh-friendly” – monarch. But that story’s arc was far from apparent in the midst of war and forced resettlement. For now, Daniel had to find his bearings. Was God still God far away? Daniel did all he knew to do. And he discovered God’s familiar presence. Daniel was home.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 20:29-34 (day three)
“Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.”
Jesus dealt with more than one kind of blindness in his years of ministry. He often remarked that just because a person could see and hear didn’t mean the person wasn’t blind and deaf. And yet Jesus took physical ailments very seriously. Why? Because sight is no luxury. Hearing is no extravagance. Walking is no indulgence. The body is God’s creation, and its wholeness displays God’s perfect matching of creature to environment. The seriousness of spiritual ailments does not lessen the seriousness of physical maladies. Christ addressed both, and the world he is bringing in will shine with the beauty of human beings who can see, hear, and walk inside and out. Who will live in that world with you?
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 17:24-27 (day three)
“Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?”
How much pressure could Jesus apply to the system of customs and culture? When was it better to go along with certain expectations? When was it the right time to resist? These are strategic questions that often loom large in the minds of people who aspire to lead. Right away, though, a problem arises. People—actual persons—can become, in the perspective of that would-be leader, obstacles to change. When one views people in that way, one cannot love them. The question Jesus appeared to ask was not one of strategy: How can I move toward my goals in spite of the challenge posed by this particular group of people? Rather, it would appear to have been a different question: What is the good that I might do for this particular group of people? That is a question of love, and it is a question that does not shrink from death.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 17:14-21 (day three)
“Because of the littleness of your faith…”
Jesus says to his disciples that their amount of faith is very small. And according to the reasoning of those disciples, smallness would equal weakness, shortage, insufficiency. But Jesus makes the opposite point. He plainly states that it’s precisely the smallness that will in fact suffice. He said as much when he showed them that a small portion of food would feed thousands. Later, Paul, having learned this very reality, would declare: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Jesus tells his apprentices that they need not have achieved “paragon of faith” status in order to channel heaven’s power, but only that they learn that small is plenty in God’s economy. Absent that knowledge, they—and we—will keep on deferring to the convenient fiction that there’s just not enough faith to get it done.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 15:21-28 (day three)
“Even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
With his responses to the woman, Jesus just about exhausts the entire catalogue of standard behaviors of the stalwart faithful towards outsiders. He begins with unresponsiveness, shifts to isolationism, and finishes with hostility. It took Jesus’s demonstration of these postures to highlight their utter repulsiveness. The spectacle of the Son of God demonstrating such behavior shocks the observer with the sheer depravity of these approaches. But that was Jesus’s point: such ways are incongruent with heaven. Jesus can tell the woman knows better than to think the Christ believed such nonsense, and so he effectively enlists her to help him expose the moral bankruptcy of these habits of the heart. Together, they demolish long-standing falsehoods and reveal the truth and beauty of God’s loving response to a persistent, faith-driven request.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 14:22-33 (day three)
“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.”
Peter’s insistence on getting a positive ID on the Lord gave rise to his willingness to involve himself in a heretofore unthinkable endeavor. He reasoned that if this person could lead him to do the otherwise impossible, he would know the person was the Lord. It’s hard to walk on water, but Christ guided Peter to do it. It’s hard to forgive someone seventy-seven times, but Christ taught Peter to do it. It’s hard to leave the comfort of your own kind and bring others into the fellowship, but Christ enlightened Peter’s heart. It’s hard to value anything more than your own life, but Christ mentored Peter into such fearlessness. When you insist on discovering if it’s really God you’re seeing, that’s what happens.