Day 251 (Sept. 8): Daniel earns honor among Darius’s court, other members of the court are jealous and form scheme, Daniel thrown in with lions, God closes mouths of lions, Darius has Daniel’s accusers arrested and thrown to lions, Daniel prays to God for mercy on the Israelites, King Cyrus of Persia proclaims for Israel’s exiles to return, Cyrus orders the plunder from Jerusalem be returned with the exiles, Jehoiachin’s descendants

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Daniel 6

Daniel 9

2 Chronicles 36:22-23

Ezra 1:1-11

1 Chronicles 3:17-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 6:1-28): We all probably know this story very well and admire Daniel for his loyalty to God.  Some may say that it would be ridiculous to apply this story to today.  If someone were thrown in a lion’s den, would God save him or her, if asked?  Should anyone be crazy enough to go into a lion’s den anyway?  This reminds me of a story in a sermon I heard several months ago where prayer was the subject.  Someone had just arrived in California (I don’t remember all the details) to speak or maybe he was a pastor at this church.  Anyway, he was being driven to his destination and was notified that there were wild fires all around this place he was going.  Instead of rushing off to the place of the fire, he had the driver pull over and he prayed for 20 minutes or so.  The fire burned everything around this building, but spared the building.

A. God may do as He pleases, as we have often discussed.  I sometimes wonder if we do not vastly UNDERESTIMATE the impact of prayer: too often we assume that circumstances are beyond our control (or even beyond God’s control) when we might find our situation different if we would but pray, as is the case in the story you mentioned.  Now having said that, let’s look at the story a bit more closely.

Daniel does NOT pray for God to rescue Him; he simply prays as he always has, and has faith that God will meet his dire need.  Daniel knew he was being punished unjustly, so he counted on God to be his avenger, and God obviously delivers him.

One of the central themes of Daniel is faithfulness through times of persecution, with this story and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from chapter 3 being the primary examples of this.  It appears that God was sending His people a message (and a message to future generations who would read it): don’t compromise your faith, even when it appears foolish to not do so.  And while most Americans do not face REAL persecution for our beliefs (unlike many parts of the world), the pressure to compromise what we hold most dear is real in our society.  The book of Daniel still has much to teach us, even if we are not at risk to be thrown to hungry lions anytime soon.  Keeping the faith is easy when times are good, but the true test of the power of our faith is what effect it has on us when the chips are down.  To those in difficult times Daniel reminds us: it is always worth it to keep the faith.

Q. (9:1-19): I am surprised that Daniel pleads with God since God said that the land lay fallow for 70 years.  As a follower of God, why would Daniel plead for God to change His heart?  I would think that would be disrespectful.

A. He’s not asking for God to change His mind, he’s asking God to keep His promise to restore His people by confessing on His people’s behalf.

Q. (9:20-27): I’m not really following what’s all going on here.  Can you clarify this passage?  I don’t know what a “set of seven” (didn’t we talk about this with another vision) is?

A. Daniel is being given a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One) along with the decree from Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem, which will be narrated in Ezra and Nehemiah.  A set of sevens is most likely 7 years.  What that means is that according to verse 26, the Messiah will appear (what “appear” means we don’t exactly know) approximately 483 years after the decree from Cyrus (7×7=49, 62×7= 434, giving a total of 483), though it is possible Gabriel means the actual restoration of the Temple, which will come a few decades later.  In other words, we don’t know exactly HOW to do the “math” on the coming of the Messiah, and obviously Jewish and Christian sources disagree on how it should be interpreted.  You can read about the various interpretations here, but I will warn you, it gets a bit technical, and frankly cumbersome to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophecy_of_Seventy_Weeks.  A lot of Christians have gotten taken in by many attempts to “force” the math to show that Jesus is “proven” Messiah by these verses, but I am jut not convinced that you can make it “work” without stretching the numbers.  To me, Jesus is proven Messiah by what He does on the cross and His resurrection, not because some vague prophecy says that was coming at a set time.  But I would not stop anyone from looking into the math, I would only warn them that they will need to dig deep.  It is not an easy passage to interpret.

Q. (2 Chronicles 32:22-23): Is this the same Cyrus who was well, ugly?  He just seems to come out of nowhere.

A. I do not know exactly what you’re talking about, but Cyrus II was a major ruler of the Persian Empire who would have been well known to Jews of this era because of his role in restoring the Jews to their land.  We will see that process unfold over the next few weeks.

Q. (1 Chronicles 3:17-19a): I just assumed we were all done reading anything about Jehoiachin.  Do any of his descendants rise to be known?

A. His son Shenazzar might be the person that Ezra mentions as the “treasurer” of the people, but there’s not much here other than that.

Day 206 (July 25): Cyrus commissioned to return Israel to God, exiles will return, Jerusalem will be full of Israelites, Godless nations will bow to Israel, those who trust in God will never be put to shame, salvation continues from generation to generation, why live in fear of enemies when you have the power of God, the Creator?

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 48:12-52:12

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 48:12): When Israel is referred to here, God is addressing Israel, including Judah?  Judeans are still called Israelites even though they have been separated for a long time?

A. As long as Israel (Jacob) is the patriarch of the 12 tribes, along with Abraham, the people shall be called Israelites.  The people continue to “wrestle” with God, do they not?

O. (49:23, 50:6-7): This is a message for those who are scared to claim their belief in God: “Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will.  And, I know that I will not be put to shame.”

O. (50:2-3): I like this scripture.  God has His reasons for doing things the way He does.  He has the power to make decisions however He wants.  And, we will likely not understand it.

O. (50:10-11): Verse 10 is a great verse, but v. 11 is always knocking on the door.  I was talking to my girls today about how the Bible says it’s hard for the rich to get into heaven.  They said they would definitely give the money to those who need it.  Good kids!

Q. (51:1): Rob, can you elaborate on the significance of God using a rock and quarry for examples?

A. The OT has in several previous places referred to God as the Rock of Israel (Genesis 49:24, several times in Deuteronomy 32, 1 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 22:47, Psalm 28:1, etc.).  All Isaiah is doing here is extending the metaphor of God being the Rock for Israel: if He is the Rock, the nation of Israel is cut from it.  Rocks then, and now of course, come from quarries, and it would have required skilled craftsmen to select and cut huge slabs of rock for building purposes, notably walls.  So all Isaiah is doing here is cleverly extending an existing metaphor to make a point about knowing where Israel comes from.

O. (51:13b): This verse really puts fears of enemies into place.  Why should you fear them when you’ve got the power of God, the Creator, on your side?

Q. (52:1-12): God is protecting them just like when the Israelites escaped from Egypt.  This is a prophecy after the fall of Jerusalem, right?

A. Yes, once we are passed Isaiah 40 (and we are well past it), the writer is talking about the RESTORATION of Israel and Jerusalem specifically, not its destruction.   Verse 9 is the dead giveaway.

Day 205 (July 24): Idols are merely man-made objects, Jerusalem shall be populated, God empowers Cyrus, enemies with idols are ignorant, God will deliver Israel, God foretells,

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 44:6-48:11

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 44:6-8): Several readings back, you said that “other gods” of enemy nations could be fallen heavenly bodies like angels.  Here God is saying, via Isaiah, that there are no other gods.  Is this just something that is unknown?  Or, maybe He is saying that He’s the only One, True God?

A. As I mentioned in that answer, it is speculation what rule the demonic plays in the actions of gods of this era, but your last sentence is surely correct: compared even to these demonic figures, there is none like God!

Q. (44:12-17): Great speech!  (I’m not being sarcastic.)   But, those who are “stupid and ignorant,” as it says in v. 18, rarely change.  I would say mostly because they are self-centered and don’t think about the greater good?  How can Christians open their eyes to God?

A. I suppose it begins with a desire to change.  Part of the reason we are compelled to share the gospel message with others is that it is important for them to see their own great need for God in all aspects of life.  But if people see no benefit to following God, as is often proclaimed among non-believers, then frankly there is no incentive to change.  We must make the need real.  Part of what Jesus spent a lot of His time in ministry doing was talking about how good life is once we decide to follow God: we can be completely different people (primarily because of the Spirit’s guidance, not our own will).  Unfortunately, these passages, such as Matthew 5-7, often get construed as legalism: things that we must do in order to follow God and have Him love us.  But this couldn’t be further from the truth of the Gospel: God loves us already, and if we yield to Him, we can begin to change.

Q. (44:21, 45:4): Who is Cyrus?  I thought vs. 45:4-5 was going to tell us more about Cyrus, but it really doesn’t … to me.

A. Cyrus was an emperor of the Persian empire around 530 B.C., and that’s all you’re getting for now because I don’t want to spoil the story.  But you can look him up under the title of Cyrus the Great if you want to “read ahead.”

Q. (45:3, 13): Why would God give Cyrus treasures? True believers should do God’s work because we want to, not for riches.  Then, v. 13 says he helped God and was not rewarded.

A. Well, God can do as He pleases, and the reasons for doing so will be made clear, so I have the same answer: have patience.  All answers in due time.

Q. (47:13-14): Just a note about the taboo against astrology.  God says it’s all a farce?

A. Yes.

Q. Just a personal question:  The last two Sundays at church I have teared up almost nonstop … pretty much a cry.  Last Sunday, I cried over the thought of Jesus willingly dying on the cross for our sins.  And, me feeling so undeserving.  Today, it was the thought, “Am I good enough,” meaning am I good enough to go to heaven?  Most of me knows the truth, that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are real.  But, my head does the questioning.  Even when I’m asking some blog questions I feel that I am disrespecting God for asking some of them — the ones that question God and His reasons.  Then, I wonder if my heart is strong enough to receive God’s reward of eternity.  And, how do I become stronger and get rid of those doubts?

A. The longer you walk with God in communal relationship, the easier it will be, though very rarely are all our doubts put to rest this side of eternity.  I do not fear doubt, so long as it does not lead us to abandon our faith; it is the very definition of tossing out the baby with the bathwater.