This week's Bible Study - October 25, 2015
Quotes of the Week:
To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.
This lesson continues the story of Daniel and the Israelites, in exile under the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 1, you can read that the nation of Judah and the Israelites were taken captive by the Babylonians, even though they had been warned that unless they changed their ways, this would happen. Unfortunately, we can all relate to this scenario, as that is the essence of sin and its consequences. Even when we are made aware of the consequences of sin, we will sometimes go headfirst into sin, as if we are somehow exempt from those consequences.
Daniel and the others were in a foreign nation, apart from what was familiar to them. Most of us don't like being in unfamiliar surroundings. It may be a wonderful thing to visit different places, but the lack of familiarity can be difficult for many people long term. I've been on a few mission trips to different parts of the world, where the cultures and the food were vastly different from what I was accustomed to. However, I always knew that in a few short days, I would be returning home, so I didn't have to worry about the longer term impact of being in a strange place. I admired the missionaries who chose to live in different countries, foregoing many of the things that they took for granted back at home. Generally, these missionaries choose to be where they are, but in the case of the Israelites in Babylon, they were not able to simply call it a day and go back 'home'.
Fortunately, Daniel and his friends had been selected to serve the king, as they showed much aptitude and promise to help in the kingdom. God had blessed these young men with knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. In Daniel 1:30, we read that "In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom." When the king talked with them, he found none equal to them, and he wanted them to enter his service, along with his other 'wise men' and advisors. It was obvious that God's hand was on Daniel and his friends, so you would have to assume that things would go smoothly for them, right? Honestly, we know that when things appear to be going well, we often will face trials of many sorts. I've heard pastors say on multiple occasions that when things are going bad, know that it will not always be that way, and when things are going good, watch out! Life is very much a cycle that goes in and out of trials and successes over and over.
In this lesson, we will read about an absolutely impossible situation and how it was solved. One thing that I have learned through life is that, at any given time, many people are dealing with what seems to be impossible circumstances. Often, as believers, we put on a smiling face and tell everyone else that things are going fine, when we know that there are serious problems in our lives or that we are dealing with other issues that are anything but fine. As you read about this lesson and the situation that Daniel and his friends face, let us be reminded that we all will encounter what seems to be impossible situations. Will we try and face them on our own, or will we turn to our Lord for help in resolving issues, or peace and comfort in whatever we are facing?
We read in these verses that Nebuchadnezzar (hereafter referred to as Neb) had dreams that troubled his mind and he could not sleep. Have you ever found yourself tossing and turning, unable to get 'something' out of your head, but when you woke, you had no idea what that 'something' was? This was Neb's problem and he wanted to know more about the dream that had been troubling him. So, Neb summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers (hereafter referred to as the wise guys) to have them tell him what he dreamed. They responded as you might expect, saying "May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream and we will interpret it!" This was precisely the problem - Neb couldn't remember his dream and he was not happy! He told them that he had decided that if they did not tell him his dream and interpret it, he would have them cut into pieces and their houses turned into piles of rubble. On the other hand, if they were able to do it, they would receive gifts and rewards and great honor. Perhaps from Neb's perspective, it seemed like a reasonable request, although from the perspective of his wise guys, it was an impossible situation.
The wise guys figured that perhaps Neb was missing something. They were more than willing to interpret his dream - he simply needed to tell them what it was. That was only fair, right? Rather than listen to them, the king assumed that they were trying to gain time, hoping that the situation would change. Neb assumed that his wise guys were smarter than they were, or that they had much more insight, because he assumed that they should be able to tell him his dream, rather than simply interpret it.
The wise guys continued to speak back to the king, in an effort to talk some sanity into his insane request. They said that there was no one on earth that could do what the king was asking. It was not a matter of how great of a king he was, no king had ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. Yes, the king was asking something too difficult. Only the gods could reveal this to the king and they did not live among the humans. They assumed that their words would make sense to king Neb, and that he would relent. Have you ever tried to talk sense into somebody else that just refuses to listen?
Rather than having a calming effect, this made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. By lumping all of his wise guys together, the accolades that were once given to Daniel and his friends all of a sudden seemed to become a death sentence.
It is hard for us to understand the insanity of the king. He had ordered the execution of all of his advisors and counselors. It may have seemed like a good idea on one level, but it was very shortsighted. We can laugh at the king and how stupid this sounds, but how many times have we done something rash based on raw emotion that has backfired on us? For example, one of the things that I've learned is that electronic communication can be a great thing and yet it can cause many problems. Have you ever responded to a text or an email with your first thoughts, based on raw emotion? Seldom are those thoughts the ones that you would want to share and unfortunately, electronic communication is captured and your words out of emotion may end up causing great damage to a relationship. Think before you speak - and think twice before you ever hit send.
The wise men were to be put to death, so Neb had the 'non-wise' men go to find Daniel and his friends in order to put them to death. Arioch, the commander of the king's guard had gone out to put these men to death when Daniel saw him and spoke to him with wisdom and tact. Daniel was in a very stressful situation and rather than come unglued and talk about how unjust this was, he was able to speak in a way that was calming. We talked about how we need to be careful in acting out of emotion. It isn't enough to simply count to 10 and then blast someone. As believers, when we need to address concerns, are we doing it out of wisdom and tact? There will come times in life where you need to address some difficult things in your job or in your family or in your church or anywhere else. When you have had to do these types of things, have you done them in the heat of passion, or have you sought godly wisdom and prayed about what it is that you have to say or write? When you are upset or even when you feel you have been wronged, are you willing to speak with wisdom and tact?
Daniel asked the commander why the king had issued such a harsh decree and had the matter explained to him. Daniel then went to the king and asked for more time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. Again, we see God's hand on Daniel, in that the king respected Daniel enough to listen to him. He wouldn't listen to the other advisors, but God was working in both Daniel and in the king.
This was indeed a dire situation. Daniel had bought some time, but he knew that no man could relate the king's dream on his own. It would always require the hand of God. Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends. He didn't carry this on his own, and he knew the importance of having others praying very specifically for the situation. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends would not be executed.
We don't know how long they pled for God's hand, but during that night, the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven, praising His wisdom and power. He acknowledged that God gave wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. While others do not know what lies in darkness, God does know and light dwells with Him. Daniel thanked the Lord and praised Him, specifically for giving him wisdom and power. The Lord had let Daniel know what he had asked and had given Daniel the dream of the king.
Daniel had the information that he needed, so he went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel asked Arioch to take him to the king and he would interpret his dream for him. We see that there was much boldness that was required of Daniel in this situation and the lives of many people were dependent upon him coming through. Often, we will find that we can take our requests to the Lord and ask Him for wisdom, but we will find that it takes initiative on our part to implement what we have been told. Are you willing to take a stand when God asks you to stand?
Arioch was certainly not too keen on executing all of these people, so he took Daniel to the king and told Neb that he had found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means. The king asked Daniel if he could truly tell him what he saw in his dream and interpret it. Daniel said that no wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain the king's dream to him, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. Then, Daniel told King Neb that his dreams and visions were concerning what would happen in the days to come.
Daniel and his friends had to adjust to life in a place that they would rather not be. This is true for so many people today, as they find themselves in situations that they never would have chosen. For some people, they will try everything in their power to get out of that situation, even when there is no turning back. While we may not like a particular situation in life, we need to find ways to make do with what we have. We know that God goes with us everywhere we go, and if you find yourself in a situation that is seemingly beyond your capability to handle, are you willing to seek help to learn how to endure?
In this lesson, we saw some key aspects that are applicable to relationships. We need to avoid responding harshly, especially when we speak in the heat of the moment. Acting out of raw emotion may feel good for a few moments, but the detrimental impact that can occur long term may be overwhelming. If you need to address issues, pray about them and seek godly wisdom in dealing with them.
A key lesson from this story is the importance of community. Daniel had a task to do, but he shared with his friends, so that they could pray for him and for God to act. There will be times in our lives when we face struggles and if we neglect to share with others, we are missing a key aspect to our faith. We are to pray for one another. Are you sharing your circumstances with others, not as a form of gossip, but in a way that you can ask for their prayers on your behalf? And, on the other side, do you know of situations that other face and are you praying for them? We often will say that we will pray for others, but are we really praying for them?
Daniel had to take initiative in multiple situations. He had to address Arioch with wisdom and tact, in order to gain a meeting with the king. If he had said nothing, or if he had responded in a rude manner, the outcome would have been much different. We also read that Daniel received the king's dream and meaning in a vision. He still had to take the initiative to gain more time with the king, in order to share what he had learned.
This was a situation that would never have been solved based on the intellect of Daniel, his friends, or any other human. Although several things had to happen to correct this situation, the key part was praying fervently to the Lord. As we deal with the issues in our lives, it is important to do what we can do, but we must always remember to take our concerns to the Lord.