Re:Verse passage – Mark 1:1-8 (day three)
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Turns out that salvation, long the exclusive focus of evangelistic fervor, isn’t an end in itself. It’s crucial, but inaugural. The coming One will immerse all willing souls in God himself, active in the world. Immersion in a language – speaking it, singing it, writing it, conversing in it – will develop in you the habits of thinking which correspond to that language. When you live with God – speak to him, sing of him, think about him, develop a life with his people – you’ll develop the habits of being that emulate “God active in the world” – which is one way to think about the Holy Spirit. That baptism will lead you to an eternity of reigning with God – having say over resources and activity and initiatives that will lead to a continually flourishing life for humanity.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 12:1-13 (day three)
“Go your way, Daniel.”
How do you respond to a wrenching vision of the advance of a culture-shattering sweep of geopolitical occurrences that will involve the suffering of untold billions of souls and usher in the climactic end of history as we know it? You respond by…going about your business? That’s not the same thing as acting as if coming events don’t matter. To the contrary, the nature of such a vision has everything to do with how one lives now. There are two ways of life from which to choose. One way involves believing that you are at the mercy of world-historical events. That way of life requires you to take or be taken, rule or be ruled, kill or be killed. The other involves understanding that someone other than you clothes the lilies, feeds the sparrows, and cares for you.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 11:1-45 (day three)
“He will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many.”
It wasn’t for nothing that Daniel’s contemporary Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” One will always – always – seek to bend the world to one’s own ends. If you have a little power, you’ll do so in little ways: You’ll surround yourself with people who will not resist you. If you have vast power, you’ll do so in bigger ways: You’ll destroy people who resist you. All while issuing denials. History can expect a succession of ever more tyrannical overlords who will refine and hone despotism to unimaginable potency. It’s what we do; it’s how we treat each other. And there would be no end of it were it not for God, mighty to save. To the oppressor he will finally say, “No more.”
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 10:1-21 (day three)
“O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!”
Anybody know how many times the Bible addresses the human tendency toward fear? Gotta be a pretty high number. Anyway, it’s instructive that the scriptures don’t tell us merely to buck up. That’s the way we often dispense advice about courage, you know. We say things like: “Don’t worry.” “Think about something else.” “It’s not that bad.” I don’t know. Sometimes it really is that bad. The Bible will never pretend that you can shut fear off like a light switch. Therefore, with every admonition to put an end to fear you will find – explicitly or by strong implication – a declaration that the Lord himself has drawn near. The words “Take courage” are an announcement that God has come to you.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 9:23-27 (day three)
“…to bring in everlasting righteousness…”
Does an assured eventual eternal era of peace and goodness make current and future painful events more bearable? Only in the sense that it makes those events more meaningful. It doesn’t lessen the agony, the difficulty, the deep distress. But without meaning, nothing is possible. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” The greatest act of love that could ever exist, Jesus’s laying down his life for his friends, did not happen absent his awareness of its meaning, or it could not have happened at all. And by the way, “meaning” doesn’t signify for us that we understand something in every detail, but rather that we are assured that the actions or events in question will culminate in good for all those who’ve thrown their lot in with the Savior. History is headed somewhere.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 9:1-23 (day three)
“I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet.”
Daniel: fount of wisdom to kings, interpreter of dreams, faith-filled sage, courageous advisor, trustworthy friend. That’s character. How about including this descriptor: Bible reader. Daniel’s character – his seemingly unfathomable depth of benevolent goodness and quiet confidence – grew in part from how the Bible shaped his inner life and informed the way he moved in the world. He didn’t call it “the Bible.” He called it “the word of the Lord to Jeremiah,” who was a contemporary of his. But as soon as Jeremiah spoke those prophecies, they were written down. And what we have come to know as the Bible is in fact the written-down word of God. That same word which shaped Daniel’s character will shape yours.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 8:1-27 (day three)
“Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days.”
Human beings have been designed by God to live within a framework of a sequential progression of events we call time. We can see the present, and we have experienced what is past, so we have some familiarity with both of those parts of reality. But reality isn’t merely a collection of stimuli and responses. It’s also full of meaning. Just because something is happening now or has already happened doesn’t guarantee we know what it means. Prophecy is God’s way of leading human beings to apprehend meaning by operating briefly outside their natural habitat of time. That experience interrupts a person’s perception of the flow of time, and it is disorienting, troublesome, and frightening. Revelation of the future isn’t for the faint of heart. God’s help will keep it from overwhelming us.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 7:1-28 (day three)
“And the books were opened.”
There’s been a witness to every injustice you’ve ever suffered. Every act that has wounded your soul has been recorded. Despite the amount of power a person amasses, impunity is ultimately out of reach. Blood cries out from the ground; deeds get weighed in the balance; secrets become rooftop news; schemes lose their cover of darkness. Whether a king lords it over a subject, or whether a person in the inner circle merely looks with smug satisfaction on someone of lower station, God knows. The way others treat you matters to God, and you are therefore responsible for the way you treat others. This will all become starkly clear on that day when the books are opened.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 6:1-28 (day three)
“Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting”
Was Darius’s way of passing the night a type of prayer that God actually heard? One could claim that Darius simply engaged in an attempt to manipulate a deity: If I do A, God will be bound to do B. But the sense of the passage does not seem to indicate a cynical attitude on the part of the king. Instead, we see in Darius a genuine concern for Daniel, a high regard of God’s character, and a recognition of God’s power. Taken together with his self-denial through the night – no food, no music – Darius seems to have placed himself in an humble posture of prayer. If this was the case, God inclined himself favorably towards Darius’s righteous behavior. When anyone seeks God earnestly, God will be found.
Re:Verse passage – Daniel 5:1-31 (day three)
“Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin”
When God sees that a person can still hear him, he’s going to speak. And he spoke to Belshazzar. Actually, he sent the king an engraved invitation to pay attention to God, something Belshazzar had decidedly not done during his reign. As Aaron pointed out in yesterday’s post, Belshazzar had been keenly aware of God’s past activity, and of the particular necessity to wield power by God’s wise counsel. But Belshazzar didn’t steward power, he drank it. The kind of sophisticated and elegant communication such as dreams by which God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar apparently didn’t give Belshazzar pause, so finally God spelled it out plainly for him: Your kingdom is now at an end. Even when the news is bad, even when one has willfully rejected God, God will pursue until the last lamp goes out.