DAILY BIBLE READING LINK FOR OCTOBER 24, 2013 Pastor’s Note: Today’s Old Testament reading is prompted by Jeremiah’s reasonable question regarding what is happening to Judah. The Lord takes him to school on the divine covenants of the sacred nation. … Continue reading
In Jeremiah’s preaching today we read about the frustrating reality of hardheartedness, which is such a common characteristic of humanity. Or to put it in the words of Hebrews 3:13, we need to see to it “that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” In the New Testament we begin our read of the “Pastoral Epistles” (i.e., 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). God’s concern that Christ’s Church be all that it is meant to be will dominate our thoughts over the next couple of weeks.
Evil in the Land
7:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’
5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6 if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
8 “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord. 12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.
16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19 Is it I whom they provoke? declares the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? 20 Therefore thus says the Lord God: behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.”
21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. 22 For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. 25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26 Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.
27 “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.
29 “‘Cut off your hair and cast it away;
raise a lamentation on the bare heights,
for the Lord has rejected and forsaken
the generation of his wrath.’
The Valley of Slaughter
30 “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the Lord. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32 Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. 33 And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away. 34 And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste.
8:1 “At that time, declares the Lord, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs. 2 And they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and which they have sought and worshiped. And they shall not be gathered or buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. 3 Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the Lord of hosts.
Sin and Treachery
4 “You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord:
When men fall, do they not rise again?
If one turns away, does he not return?
5 Why then has this people turned away
in perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit;
they refuse to return.
6 I have paid attention and listened,
but they have not spoken rightly;
no man relents of his evil,
saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turns to his own course,
like a horse plunging headlong into battle.
7 Even the stork in the heavens
knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane 
keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not
the rules  of the Lord.
8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise,
and the law of the Lord is with us’?
But behold, the lying pen of the scribes
has made it into a lie.
9 The wise men shall be put to shame;
they shall be dismayed and taken;
behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
so what wisdom is in them?
10 Therefore I will give their wives to others
and their fields to conquerors,
because from the least to the greatest
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
11 They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
12 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among the fallen;
when I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the Lord.
13 When I would gather them, declares the Lord,
there are no grapes on the vine,
nor figs on the fig tree;
even the leaves are withered,
and what I gave them has passed away from them.” 
14 Why do we sit still?
Gather together; let us go into the fortified cities
and perish there,
for the Lord our God has doomed us to perish
and has given us poisoned water to drink,
because we have sinned against the Lord.
15 We looked for peace, but no good came;
for a time of healing, but behold, terror.
16 “The snorting of their horses is heard from Dan;
at the sound of the neighing of their stallions
the whole land quakes.
They come and devour the land and all that fills it,
the city and those who dwell in it.
17 For behold, I am sending among you serpents,
adders that cannot be charmed,
and they shall bite you,”
declares the Lord.
Jeremiah Grieves for His People
18 My joy is gone; grief is upon me; 
my heart is sick within me.
19 Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?”
20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
21 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people
not been restored?
1 Timothy 2
Pray for All People
2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man  Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (ESV)
Today we read of God’s passionate and dramatic call to repentance through Jeremiah—to his wayward generation. How gracious God is to provide messengers that call people to repentance in light of his impending judgment. As unpleasant as it may seem, we must see the Lord’s mercy in the “harsh words” of the prophet, as he calls the people to see their sin for what it is. Even in the New Testament we read of what might have well been perceived as “harsh,” as the Apostle Paul calls the lazy busybodies to get to work and earn their own food.
3:1 “If  a man divorces his wife
and she goes from him
and becomes another man’s wife,
will he return to her?
Would not that land be greatly polluted?
You have played the whore with many lovers;
and would you return to me?
declares the Lord.
2 Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see!
Where have you not been ravished?
By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers
like an Arab in the wilderness.
You have polluted the land
with your vile whoredom.
3 Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and the spring rain has not come;
yet you have the forehead of a whore;
you refuse to be ashamed.
4 Have you not just now called to me,
‘My father, you are the friend of my youth—
5 will he be angry forever,
will he be indignant to the end?’
Behold, you have spoken,
but you have done all the evil that you could.”
Faithless Israel Called to Repentance
6 The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? 7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9 Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.”
11 And the Lord said to me, “Faithless Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say,
“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you rebelled against the Lord your God
and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree,
and that you have not obeyed my voice,
declares the Lord.
14 Return, O faithless children,
declares the Lord;
for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
and I will bring you to Zion.
15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. 18 In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.
19 “‘I said,
How I would set you among my sons,
and give you a pleasant land,
a heritage most beautiful of all nations.
And I thought you would call me, My Father,
and would not turn from following me.
20 Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband,
so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel,
declares the Lord.’”
21 A voice on the bare heights is heard,
the weeping and pleading of Israel’s sons
because they have perverted their way;
they have forgotten the Lord their God.
22 “Return, O faithless sons;
I will heal your faithlessness.”
“Behold, we come to you,
for you are the Lord our God.
23 Truly the hills are a delusion,
the orgies  on the mountains.
Truly in the Lord our God
is the salvation of Israel.
24 “But from our youth the shameful thing has devoured all for which our fathers labored, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”
4:1 “If you return, O Israel,
declares the Lord,
to me you should return.
If you remove your detestable things from my presence,
and do not waver,
2 and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’
in truth, in justice, and in righteousness,
then nations shall bless themselves in him,
and in him shall they glory.”
3 For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Break up your fallow ground,
and sow not among thorns.
4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord;
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
and burn with none to quench it,
because of the evil of your deeds.”
Disaster from the North
5 Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say,
“Blow the trumpet through the land;
cry aloud and say,
‘Assemble, and let us go
into the fortified cities!’
6 Raise a standard toward Zion,
flee for safety, stay not,
for I bring disaster from the north,
and great destruction.
7 A lion has gone up from his thicket,
a destroyer of nations has set out;
he has gone out from his place
to make your land a waste;
your cities will be ruins
8 For this put on sackcloth,
lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
has not turned back from us.”
9 “In that day, declares the Lord, courage shall fail both king and officials. The priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded.” 10 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God, surely you have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you,’ whereas the sword has reached their very life.”
11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, “A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow or cleanse, 12 a wind too full for this comes for me. Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them.”
13 Behold, he comes up like clouds;
his chariots like the whirlwind;
his horses are swifter than eagles—
woe to us, for we are ruined!
14 O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil,
that you may be saved.
How long shall your wicked thoughts
lodge within you?
15 For a voice declares from Dan
and proclaims trouble from Mount Ephraim.
16 Warn the nations that he is coming;
announce to Jerusalem,
“Besiegers come from a distant land;
they shout against the cities of Judah.
17 Like keepers of a field are they against her all around,
because she has rebelled against me,
declares the Lord.
18 Your ways and your deeds
have brought this upon you.
This is your doom, and it is bitter;
it has reached your very heart.”
Anguish over Judah’s Desolation
19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
20 Crash follows hard on crash;
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are laid waste,
my curtains in a moment.
21 How long must I see the standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
22 “For my people are foolish;
they know me not;
they are stupid children;
they have no understanding.
They are ‘wise’—in doing evil!
But how to do good they know not.”
23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
25 I looked, and behold, there was no man,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
27 For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
28 “For this the earth shall mourn,
and the heavens above be dark;
for I have spoken; I have purposed;
I have not relented, nor will I turn back.”
29 At the noise of horseman and archer
every city takes to flight;
they enter thickets; they climb among rocks;
all the cities are forsaken,
and no man dwells in them.
30 And you, O desolate one,
what do you mean that you dress in scarlet,
that you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold,
that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you;
they seek your life.
31 For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor,
anguish as of one giving birth to her first child,
the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
“Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers.”
2 Thessalonians 3
Pray for Us
3:1 Finally, brothers,  pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored,  as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.  4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
Warning Against Idleness
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 
13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.
17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. (ESV)
In the Old Testament today we begin our read of the book of Jeremiah. Much like the call of Moses, and many other important figures in the Old Testament, I hope your reading of these opening scenes will remind you that the greatness of God is what makes even the most unlikely saints powerful instruments in the Lord’s hand. In 2 Thessalonians 2 we see that Christians can be assured they haven’t missed the coming of Christ and gathering of his church, if the “man of lawlessness” and his associated “rebellion” has not yet arrived. First the gathering up of his church and “our meeting him in the air” (as 1 Thessalonians 4 spells out), and then the appearing and dominance of the “man of lawlessness.”
1:1 The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.
The Call of Jeremiah
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”
9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
11 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond  branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”
13 The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” 14 Then the Lord said to me, “Out of the north disaster  shall be let loose upon all the inhabitants of the land. 15 For behold, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, declares the Lord, and they shall come, and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its walls all around and against all the cities of Judah. 16 And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands. 17 But you, dress yourself for work;  arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. 18 And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”
Israel Forsakes the Lord
2:1 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,
“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
3 Israel was holy to the Lord,
the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
disaster came upon them,
declares the Lord.”
4 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. 5 Thus says the Lord:
“What wrong did your fathers find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
6 They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that none passes through,
where no man dwells?’
7 And I brought you into a plentiful land
to enjoy its fruits and its good things.
But when you came in, you defiled my land
and made my heritage an abomination.
8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the shepherds  transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal
and went after things that do not profit.
9 “Therefore I still contend with you,
declares the Lord,
and with your children’s children I will contend.
10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see,
or send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant?
Why then has he become a prey?
15 The lions have roared against him;
they have roared loudly.
They have made his land a waste;
his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.
16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes
have shaved  the crown of your head.
17 Have you not brought this upon yourself
by forsaking the Lord your God,
when he led you in the way?
18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt
to drink the waters of the Nile?
Or what do you gain by going to Assyria
to drink the waters of the Euphrates?
19 Your evil will chastise you,
and your apostasy will reprove you.
Know and see that it is evil and bitter
for you to forsake the Lord your God;
the fear of me is not in you,
declares the Lord God of hosts.
20 “For long ago I broke your yoke
and burst your bonds;
but you said, ‘I will not serve.’
Yes, on every high hill
and under every green tree
you bowed down like a whore.
21 Yet I planted you a choice vine,
wholly of pure seed.
How then have you turned degenerate
and become a wild vine?
22 Though you wash yourself with lye
and use much soap,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,
declares the Lord God.
23 How can you say, ‘I am not unclean,
I have not gone after the Baals’?
Look at your way in the valley;
know what you have done—
a restless young camel running here and there,
24 a wild donkey used to the wilderness,
in her heat sniffing the wind!
Who can restrain her lust?
None who seek her need weary themselves;
in her month they will find her.
25 Keep your feet from going unshod
and your throat from thirst.
But you said, ‘It is hopeless,
for I have loved foreigners,
and after them I will go.’
26 “As a thief is shamed when caught,
so the house of Israel shall be shamed:
they, their kings, their officials,
their priests, and their prophets,
27 who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’
and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’
For they have turned their back to me,
and not their face.
But in the time of their trouble they say,
‘Arise and save us!’
28 But where are your gods
that you made for yourself?
Let them arise, if they can save you,
in your time of trouble;
for as many as your cities
are your gods, O Judah.
29 “Why do you contend with me?
You have all transgressed against me,
declares the Lord.
30 In vain have I struck your children;
they took no correction;
your own sword devoured your prophets
like a ravening lion.
31 And you, O generation, behold the word of the Lord.
Have I been a wilderness to Israel,
or a land of thick darkness?
Why then do my people say, ‘We are free,
we will come no more to you’?
32 Can a virgin forget her ornaments,
or a bride her attire?
Yet my people have forgotten me
days without number.
33 “How well you direct your course
to seek love!
So that even to wicked women
you have taught your ways.
34 Also on your skirts is found
the lifeblood of the guiltless poor;
you did not find them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all these things
35 you say, ‘I am innocent;
surely his anger has turned from me.’
Behold, I will bring you to judgment
for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’
36 How much you go about,
changing your way!
You shall be put to shame by Egypt
as you were put to shame by Assyria.
37 From it too you will come away
with your hands on your head,
for the Lord has rejected those in whom you trust,
and you will not prosper by them.
2 Thessalonians 2
The Man of Lawlessness
2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,  2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness  is revealed, the son of destruction,  4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits  to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (ESV)
 1:11 Almond sounds like the Hebrew for watching (compare verse 12)
 1:14 The Hebrew word can mean evil, harm, or disaster, depending on the context; so throughout Jeremiah
 1:17 Hebrew gird up your loins
 2:8 Or rulers
 2:16 Hebrew grazed
 2:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 13, 15
 2:3 Some manuscripts sin
 2:3 Greek the son of perdition (a Hebrew idiom)
 2:13 Some manuscripts chose you from the beginning
God addresses Jerusalem as the “valley of vision”— a people blessed repeatedly over the centuries with God’s words through the clear revelation found in the Old Testament prophets, yet tragically missing the heart of God in their refusal to see their sin, pursue repentance, and be zealous for holiness. In our New Testament reading we encounter a motivating conclusion to the doctrinal section of the Letter to the Ephesians. May the prayer of vv.14-21 be our own today.
An Oracle Concerning Jerusalem
22:1 The oracle concerning the valley of vision.
What do you mean that you have gone up,
all of you, to the housetops,
2 you who are full of shoutings,
tumultuous city, exultant town?
Your slain are not slain with the sword
or dead in battle.
3 All your leaders have fled together;
without the bow they were captured.
All of you who were found were captured,
though they had fled far away.
4 Therefore I said:
“Look away from me;
let me weep bitter tears;
do not labor to comfort me
concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
5 For the Lord God of hosts has a day
of tumult and trampling and confusion
in the valley of vision,
a battering down of walls
and a shouting to the mountains.
6 And Elam bore the quiver
with chariots and horsemen,
and Kir uncovered the shield.
7 Your choicest valleys were full of chariots,
and the horsemen took their stand at the gates.
8 He has taken away the covering of Judah.
In that day you looked to the weapons of the House of the Forest, 9 and you saw that the breaches of the city of David were many. You collected the waters of the lower pool, 10 and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall. 11 You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.
12 In that day the Lord God of hosts
called for weeping and mourning,
for baldness and wearing sackcloth;
13 and behold, joy and gladness,
killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,
eating flesh and drinking wine.
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
14 The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:
“Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,”
says the Lord God of hosts.
15 Thus says the Lord God of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: 16 What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? 17 Behold, the Lord will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you 18 and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master’s house. 19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. 20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. 24 And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. 25 In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the Lord has spoken.”
An Oracle Concerning Tyre and Sidon
23:1 The oracle concerning Tyre.
Wail, O ships of Tarshish,
for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor!
From the land of Cyprus 
it is revealed to them.
2 Be still, O inhabitants of the coast;
the merchants of Sidon, who cross the sea, have filled you.
3 And on many waters
your revenue was the grain of Shihor,
the harvest of the Nile;
you were the merchant of the nations.
4 Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea has spoken,
the stronghold of the sea, saying:
“I have neither labored nor given birth,
I have neither reared young men
nor brought up young women.”
5 When the report comes to Egypt,
they will be in anguish  over the report about Tyre.
6 Cross over to Tarshish;
wail, O inhabitants of the coast!
7 Is this your exultant city
whose origin is from days of old,
whose feet carried her
to settle far away?
8 Who has purposed this
against Tyre, the bestower of crowns,
whose merchants were princes,
whose traders were the honored of the earth?
9 The Lord of hosts has purposed it,
to defile the pompous pride of all glory, 
to dishonor all the honored of the earth.
10 Cross over your land like the Nile,
O daughter of Tarshish;
there is no restraint anymore.
11 He has stretched out his hand over the sea;
he has shaken the kingdoms;
the Lord has given command concerning Canaan
to destroy its strongholds.
12 And he said:
“You will no more exult,
O oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon;
arise, cross over to Cyprus,
even there you will have no rest.”
13 Behold the land of the Chaldeans! This is the people that was not;  Assyria destined it for wild beasts. They erected their siege towers, they stripped her palaces bare, they made her a ruin.
14 Wail, O ships of Tarshish,
for your stronghold is laid waste.
15 In that day Tyre will be forgotten for seventy years, like the days  of one king. At the end of seventy years, it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the prostitute:
16 “Take a harp;
go about the city,
O forgotten prostitute!
Make sweet melody;
sing many songs,
that you may be remembered.”
17 At the end of seventy years, the Lord will visit Tyre, and she will return to her wages and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth. 18 Her merchandise and her wages will be holy to the Lord. It will not be stored or hoarded, but her merchandise will supply abundant food and fine clothing for those who dwell before the Lord.
The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed
3:1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is  that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in  God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Prayer for Spiritual Strength
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family  in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)
 23:1 Hebrew Kittim; also verse 12
 23:5 Hebrew they will have labor pains
 23:9 The Hebrew words for glory and hosts sound alike
 23:13 Or that has become nothing
 23:15 Or lifetime
 3:6 The words This mystery is are inferred from verse 4
 3:9 Or by
 3:15 Or fatherhood; the Greek word patria is closely related to the word for Father in verse 14
Today we begin our read through the sixty-six chapters of the book of Isaiah. Isaiah’s lengthy ministry of warning and providing hope during the spiritual decline of Judah will prove to be an applicable exhortation to us in our age. Let us be careful to see the prophetic allusions that point both to the first coming of Christ, as well as to his second coming. In Galatians we gain important insights into Paul’s post-conversion experience, which Luke did not record in the book of Acts.
– Pastor Mike Fabarez
1:1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
The Wickedness of Judah
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
“Children  have I reared and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its master’s crib,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
4 Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the Lord,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
they are utterly estranged.
5 Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil.
7 Your country lies desolate;
your cities are burned with fire;
in your very presence
foreigners devour your land;
it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left
like a booth in a vineyard,
like a lodge in a cucumber field,
like a besieged city.
9 If the Lord of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we should have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching  of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
18 “Come now, let us reason  together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The Unfaithful City
21 How the faithful city
has become a whore, 
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
your best wine mixed with water.
23 Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
24 Therefore the Lord declares,
the Lord of hosts,
the Mighty One of Israel:
“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
and avenge myself on my foes.
25 I will turn my hand against you
and will smelt away your dross as with lye
and remove all your alloy.
26 And I will restore your judges as at the first,
and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
the faithful city.”
27 Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
and those in her who repent, by righteousness.
28 But rebels and sinners shall be broken together,
and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.
29 For they  shall be ashamed of the oaks
that you desired;
and you shall blush for the gardens
that you have chosen.
30 For you shall be like an oak
whose leaf withers,
and like a garden without water.
31 And the strong shall become tinder,
and his work a spark,
and both of them shall burn together,
with none to quench them.
The Mountain of the Lord
2:1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law, 
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord
6 For you have rejected your people,
the house of Jacob,
because they are full of things from the east
and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines,
and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.
7 Their land is filled with silver and gold,
and there is no end to their treasures;
their land is filled with horses,
and there is no end to their chariots.
8 Their land is filled with idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their own fingers have made.
9 So man is humbled,
and each one is brought low—
do not forgive them!
10 Enter into the rock
and hide in the dust
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty.
11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
12 For the Lord of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
13 against all the cedars of Lebanon,
lofty and lifted up;
and against all the oaks of Bashan;
14 against all the lofty mountains,
and against all the uplifted hills;
15 against every high tower,
and against every fortified wall;
16 against all the ships of Tarshish,
and against all the beautiful craft.
17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols shall utterly pass away.
19 And people shall enter the caves of the rocks
and the holes of the ground, 
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
20 In that day mankind will cast away
their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
which they made for themselves to worship,
to the moles and to the bats,
21 to enter the caverns of the rocks
and the clefts of the cliffs,
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
22 Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he?
Judgment on Judah and Jerusalem
3:1 For behold, the Lord God of hosts
is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah
support and supply, 
all support of bread,
and all support of water;
2 the mighty man and the soldier,
the judge and the prophet,
the diviner and the elder,
3 the captain of fifty
and the man of rank,
the counselor and the skillful magician
and the expert in charms.
4 And I will make boys their princes,
and infants  shall rule over them.
5 And the people will oppress one another,
every one his fellow
and every one his neighbor;
the youth will be insolent to the elder,
and the despised to the honorable.
6 For a man will take hold of his brother
in the house of his father, saying:
“You have a cloak;
you shall be our leader,
and this heap of ruins
shall be under your rule”;
7 in that day he will speak out, saying:
“I will not be a healer; 
in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;
you shall not make me
leader of the people.”
8 For Jerusalem has stumbled,
and Judah has fallen,
because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord,
defying his glorious presence. 
9 For the look on their faces bears witness against them;
they proclaim their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
For they have brought evil on themselves.
10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.
12 My people—infants are their oppressors,
and women rule over them.
O my people, your guides mislead you
and they have swallowed up  the course of your paths.
13 The Lord has taken his place to contend;
he stands to judge peoples.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment
with the elders and princes of his people:
“It is you who have devoured  the vineyard,
the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What do you mean by crushing my people,
by grinding the face of the poor?”
declares the Lord God of hosts.
16 The Lord said:
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty
and walk with outstretched necks,
glancing wantonly with their eyes,
mincing along as they go,
tinkling with their feet,
17 therefore the Lord will strike with a scab
the heads of the daughters of Zion,
and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19 the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; 20 the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 21 the signet rings and nose rings; 22 the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23 the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.
24 Instead of perfume there will be rottenness;
and instead of a belt, a rope;
and instead of well-set hair, baldness;
and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;
and branding instead of beauty.
25 Your men shall fall by the sword
and your mighty men in battle.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn;
empty, she shall sit on the ground.
Paul Accepted by the Apostles
2:1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Paul Opposes Peter
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Justified by Faith
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified  by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness  were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (ESV)
 1:2 Or Sons; also verse 4
 1:10 Or law
 1:18 Or dispute
 1:21 Or become unchaste
 1:29 Some Hebrew manuscripts you
 2:3 Or teaching
 2:19 Hebrew dust
 3:1 Hebrew staff
 3:4 Or caprice
 3:7 Hebrew binder of wounds
 3:8 Hebrew the eyes of his glory
 3:12 Or they have confused
 3:14 Or grazed over; compare Exodus 22:5
 2:16 Or counted righteous (three times in verse 16); also verse 17
 2:21 Or justification
Texans have an expression for being in a difficult situation. They call it “being between a rock and a hard place.” That is an appropriate title for this message because Daniel seems to be caught in the middle between God and Nebuchadnezzar. If Daniel were to follow exactly the plans Nebuchadnezzar had for the Hebrew captives, he would defile himself and displease God. If Daniel simply refused to do what Nebuchadnezzar expected, he would be in trouble with the king who had taken him captive.
This is not the only time in Daniel where we will find tension between pleasing God and pleasing those in authority. In chapter 3 Daniel’s three friends must choose between bowing down to the king’s image and being thrown into the fiery furnace. In Daniel 6, Daniel’s choice is between forsaking his prayers and facing the lions.
The dilemma Daniel faces in chapter 1 is different from that found in Daniel 3 and 6. In these latter chapters, the issue is: Pleasing God OR Pleasing men.
In chapter 1, Daniel and his friends face the opportunity for: Pleasing God AND Pleasing men.
The task at hand was not an easy one. For Daniel and his friends, it would require commitment and perseverance. Beyond that, it would require divine strength and intervention and certainly supernatural motivation. Daniel and his three friends did not do “what comes naturally” in this chapter. They did “what comes supernaturally,” to the glory of God.
Think for a moment how a person like Daniel could have felt toward God and toward government, because of what had happened to him. From what little we are told of Daniel’s early childhood (see Daniel 1:1-2), we can surmise that he grew up in Judah, perhaps in the city of Jerusalem. He was likely born of parents high in the social rankings of Judah, maybe even of royal blood (Daniel 1:3). Daniel’s life dramatically changed for the worse (or so it seemed), through no fault of his own.
Long before Daniel’s day, the united kingdom of Israel once ruled by Saul, David, and finally Solomon, divided into two nations. The northern kingdom, known as Israel (sometimes called “Ephraim” by the prophets) was consistently wicked, worshipping idols and forsaking the law of God. The southern kingdom, known as Judah, was often wicked, too, but had times of repentance and revival.
The prophets of God warned of future judgment against Israel if she did not repent from her wicked ways. Israel did not listen, and God’s judgment came upon this wayward nation in the form of defeat and dispersion by the Assyrians.
Assyria was eager to extend her empire by adding the southern kingdom of Judah to her conquests, but God intervened, sparing Judah from the hand of the Assyrians. God pointed to the fall of Israel at the hand of the Assyrians as an object lesson for wayward Judah. He warned of a similar fate for Judah at the hand of the nation of Babylon. Judah refused to heed these warnings, so captivity came upon the southern kingdom as well.
Daniel, along with a number of other Hebrew youths, were part of the first wave of captives held hostage in Babylon. Several attacks on Jerusalem would follow, with many Hebrews deported to Babylon to spend 70 years in captivity. As were others, Daniel was torn from his native land, his family, and his friends, so far as we know, never seeing his homeland again. It is even possible, since Daniel is called a eunuch, castration was a part of his humiliation as a Hebrew hostage.18
How easy it would have been for Daniel to become bitter toward Babylon, toward his own people [after all, Israel’s sin brought on God’s judgment], and even toward God [God gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:2)]! We are not told about the attitudes and actions of any of the other Hebrew hostages, but it is probably safe to assume they did not respond the way Daniel and his friends did.
The first chapter is critical to our understanding of the entire Book of Daniel, providing the historical setting for the entire book, and especially revealing the mind set of Daniel and his three friends. It explains, in part, the reasons for Daniel’s rise to a position of great influence in the Babylonian government.
Chapter 1 introduces Nebuchadnezzar, the king under whom Daniel serves in chapters 1-4, as being impressed with Daniel and his friends because of their wisdom. As the book proceeds, the king begins to understand that their wisdom is from God. In Daniel 1, Nebuchadnezzar places the articles he took from the temple in Jerusalem, the “house of God,” into the house of his god supposing that his “god” is greater than the God of the Jews. By chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar is humbling himself in worship and praise before the God of the Jews, acknowledging Him to be the God of the universe—God alone.
Daniel 1 presents those who live in the “times of the Gentiles,” whether Jew or Gentile, with the ideal, the goal for which every Christian should strive—pleasing God and pleasing men. Daniel and his friends are the “ideal Jews” who did what the Jews as a nation did not do. They refused to defile things the Jews persistently practiced. In our text, Daniel and his friends provide us with a model of biblical submission, primarily a submission to God, but also a submission to those under whose authority God has placed us.
Chapter 1 instructs us in holiness. Daniel and his friends knew where and how to “draw the line” between what was defiling and what was not. We who desire to live godly lives will find much to gain from the example of Daniel and his friends, as revealed in this great text of scripture.
Finally, our text establishes a connection between godliness and wisdom. As a result of their actions, Daniel and his three friends are given wisdom which far surpasses that of all others in Babylon, whether Jew or Gentile. Our text has much to say to us about the source of true wisdom. Let those who would be wise learn from Daniel and his friends and listen well to what the Spirit of God has to teach us, through these men, about godly living in an ungodly world.