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EZEKIEL | Acts | DANIEL | MINOR PROPHETS | Romans

DateScripturesDaily devotional commentary
Nov 23-Dec 4: Acts
Dec 4:Acts 28 and Daniel 1* In Chains and Exile, N Sween
Dec 5:Daniel 2-3* The God Who Reveals Mysteries, N Sween
Dec 6:Daniel 4-5* Nebuchadnezzar, N Sween
Dec 7:Daniel 6-7* Thanking God - for Exile?, N Sween
Dec 8:Daniel 8-9* Foreknowledge, N Sween
Dec 9:Daniel 10-12* Insight and Understanding, N Sween
Dec 10-25: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

In Chains and Exile
Dec 4 reading #1
Acts 28
More on Daniel
Dictionary and Books
* Chuck Smith: Acts
"For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them." (28:27)
[Today's guest commentator for Acts 28 is Donald C Stamps, from the "Full Life Study Bible"]
"It had been Paul's desire to preach the gospel in Rome (Ro 15:22-29), and it was also God's will that he do so (23:11). Yet Paul arrived in Rome in chains and only after setbacks, storms, shipwreck, and many trials. Though Paul remained faithful, God did not make his way easy and trouble free. Likewise, we may be in God's will and entirely faithful to him; nevertheless, he may direct us in unpleasant paths involving troubles. Yet we can know that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Ro 8:28)." [plus Acts 14:22b]

Stamps continues by telling what is thought to have happened to Paul after the two years under house arrest, and that "the book of Acts breaks off suddenly with no formal conclusion". "God intends that the acts of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel continue in the lives of Christ's people until the the end of the age (2:17-21; Mt. 28:18-20)" "If the power, righteousness, joy, and faith found in our churches are not the same as what we read about in Acts, then we must ask God once more for a renewed faith in the resurrected Christ and for a fresh, new outpouring of his Spirit."

Dec 4 reading #2
Daniel 1
Daniel Commentary
Dictionary and Books
* Chuck Smith: Daniel
"Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.." (1:9)
How do we remain true to God when most people around us don't believe or trust him? This was the situation of teen aged Daniel and a few of his relatives, picked to go to Babylon (now in Iraq) for a 3 year program for young Israelites from the royal family. With the rapid growth of his empire, king Nebuchadnezzar needed more government workers. They had to learn the Babylonian language and literature, take Babylonian names, and become citizens. Whereas some of the group ate the royal food diet the king provided, Daniel and his 3 companions knew they would be defiled to eat meat sacrificed to idols. So he asked and got their guard's permission for a 10 day test to eat veggies and water instead. God was with them, and not only did they do well on their diet, but by the end of the 3 years, they were 10 times better than the kingdom's "best and brightest".

The God Who Reveals Mysteries
Dec 5 reading
Daniel 2-3
Daniel Commentary
Dictionary and Books
* Allen Roy's quiz on Daniel 2
"In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms, and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever." (2:44)
The King of Babylon was so successful, conquering the world -- ruling over a great empire -- being so wealthy, wouldn't you think he'd be one happy man?

Well, you would be wrong! His dreams had gotten so bad he couldn't sleep. So he decided to get some personal use of all the education he'd been pouring into the smartest of the smart men in his kingdom. Leary of their conspiracy, he decided that they would not only have to interprete his dream, but to tell him what it was. This way, he could confirm that they really had some wisdom about the matter. Otherwise, they die.

"Oh, wow," they said. "No one but the gods could both tell you your dream and interpret it -- and gods don't reveal what they know to men!"

"So what good is your wisdom to me? Guards, find and execute all the wise men of Babylon!"

When the commander of the king's guard found and explained the situation to Daniel, Daniel requested access to the king, and asked him for a stay of execution, time to find the answers. With Nebuchadnezzar's permission, Daniel went home and asked his three friends to interceed with the God of heaven. No one slept that night, and God revealed all the truth to Daniel in a vision. They spent the rest of the night praising God, then Daniel ordered the guard to take him to the king. Daniel introduced him to the God in heaven who reveals mysteries.

Nebuchadnezzar's acknowledgement of God was short lived. Similar to what we anticipate from Rev 13:14-15, the king had a great statue made, and commanded everyone to worship it. Some people noticed that Daniel's three friends weren't worshiping it. Among the Gentiles, these three had first turned down food from the king, and now his command for idol worship. "The God we serve is able to save us from (burning to death), and He will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (3:17-18)

God's signs and wonders to confirm His message and existence to people often involves healing, but God is also able to do the impossible in innumberable ways. Nebuchanezzar made a decree -- not requiring all to believe in this God, but that no one is to say anything against this God. This can't be decreed, but I invite you: trust in God, and be willing to give up your life rather than to serve or worship any god but Him.

COMMENT: "Financial and trade sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations in late 1990 brought many of Iraq's economic sectors to a virtual standstill. ... The reason one of the highest flying economies in the Middle East plummeted to ground level has to do with a substance that lies below ground level. Large holes in the ground near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk have been venting burning natural gas since ancient times. Some historians say this is the place mentioned in the Bible, Daniel 3:27, where the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar tosses three of his enemies into a burning fiery furnace. Oil was discovered in Kirkuk in Iraq in 1927 and has been the mainstay of Iraq's economy ever since." from pages 100-101 of The New Iraq: Rebuilding the Country for its people, the Middle East, and the world, by Joseph Braude

NOTE - Nebuchadnezzar also threw two false Jewish prophets into the fire. They burned to death. (Jer 29:22)

Nebuchadnezzar
Dec 6 reading
Daniel 4-5
Daniel Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Babylonian Exile Chart
"Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue. (4:27b)
Because God "the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes", and because - for ignoring Him - His plan included the exile (and change) of the people who knew Him best, God paid attention to Nebuchadnezzar, and contacted him through dreams. For all his abilities, Nebuchadnezzar again had to ask his advisors to explain the dream. This time it warned the king to stop his arrogance and acknowledge the Most High God, or else. Daniel not only explained the dream, but told the king to renounce his sins and wickedness and be kind to the oppressed. Eventually, Nebuchadnezzar took personal credit for building such an outstanding city (remember those Hanging Gardens?), and was exiled away from people to live like an animal. When his sanity was restored, as God had promised, he praised God, the King of heaven, and his power was increased.

Within the 20 plus years after Nebuchadnezzar died, various ones of his heirs ruled. Although they knew the result of their ancestor's arrogance (father? grandfather?), they did as they pleased. The night Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall for the partying king Belshazzar, Cyrus (Darius the Mede) slipped into Babylon and into the palace, and killed the king. Babylon had fallen, suddenly.

Not many Babylonian kings are remembered today as well as Nebuchadnezzar. The former Iraqi leader Sadam Hussan named an army division after him. In the movie, "The Matrix", one of the characters has the name. I searched on-line for his history as a military genius and great administrator. I went back to re-read the accounts of God telling Jeremiah about the eventual downfall of Babylon, along with the necessity for Israel to go into exile. Then I found these secular histories of ancient Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. There is an extensive area timeline (see around 600 BC) and even a chronology study comparing Nebuchadnezzar's time of insanity with the times of the gentiles. None of this should obscure what was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar and through Daniel to us: "the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes."

Thanking God - for Exile?
Dec 7 reading
Daniel 6-7
Daniel Commentary
Dictionary and Books
Another view: Last Days Reporter
"In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (7:13-14)
The miraculous experiences of Daniel in this book were not the norm during the Babylon exile. Neither the king of Judah nor the king of Babylon were regularly asking him to seek God's counsel. On the whole, God's people had rejected Him, and those who did seek Him often just wanted Him to confirm their plans. They had a history of ignoring His prophets. Some of the people had the sense that He was lingering back in Jerusalem, far from them. Others were beginning to seek Him, getting the Torah in written form.

On the other hand, Daniel had a history of seeking God three times a day, thanking God and asking Him for help. And Daniel had a reputation for being trustworthy, neither corrupt nor negligent. This pleased and benefited King Darius, who planned to promote Daniel to chief administrator of the kingdom. Even though he was a relatively old man by now, the other administrators were not above lying and trickery to get Daniel out of the way of their own ambitions. Their plan backfired, when God rescued Daniel from the lion's den.

Daniel himself had dreams that could be interpreted. Several years before the lion's den, he saw a vision of four beasts (four kingdoms) that will come later. The flying lion loses its wings, and stands like a man. The bear eats its fill of flesh. The flying leopard has four heads. The ten-horned beast with crushing iron teeth sprouts a boastful little 11th horn. The Ancient of Days, surrounded by multitudes attending Him, sits on His throne. The first three beast/kingdoms lose their authority but stay in existence for awhile. Despite all the boasting of the 11th horn, the fourth beast/kingdom is killed and burned. The Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven and is led into the presence of the Ancient of Days. He is given everlasting authority. The saints of the Most High will receive the everlasting kingdom, but first, the little boasting 11th horn will fight against the saints of the Most High, defeating them until the Ancient of Days pronounces judgment in their favor. Then the kingdom is theirs.

Go back and consider the 4th beast/kingdom, which will be different from all the other kingdoms. You thought Hitler was bad? This kingdom will not be limited to a single country, but will brutalize the whole earth. Policy will be to speak against the Most High, oppress his saints, try to change the set times and the laws. In fact for awhile, the saints of the Most High will be losing. But at the last minute, the court will sit, and the power of this 11th horn/king will be taken away forever. The sovereignty, power, and greatness of all kingdoms under heaven will be given to the saints (the people of the Most High). As rulers, they will worship and obey the Most High. His kingdom will be forever.

Wow, and amen. Like Paul, Daniel was shown what the saints would have to suffer before receiving the kingdom. (There is an old discussion on this chapter at Bible Forums, along with an end times chat)

Foreknowledge
Dec 8 reading
Daniel 8-9
Daniel Commentary
Dictionary and Books
* Daniel's repentance prayer (original post)
* Discipleship International
"We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy." (9:18b) "After the sixty-two 'sevens', the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing." (9:26a)
Two years after his vision of the four beasts, Daniel saw a vision of a ram and a goat. Hidden within apparent animal stories are facts that God wanted to put into Scripture, revealing them to someone faithful.

There was a song, "I've read the back of the Book, and we win!" Although Daniel is more in the front of the Book, part of the message is that there was, is, and will be strong opposition

to God,
to truth,
to Jerusalem,
to God's sanctuary,
to God's people,
and to God's Anointed One.
Kingdoms will come and go.

Even God's Anointed One will be cut off and left with nothing.

Peace will eventually come to Israel, not through whom you might expect, but through a ruler who sets up "an abomination that causes desolation until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."

Does any of this sound like the contemporary definition of success?

The Father wants us to know that He knows.

He wants us to know that there are times set, but that we don't have to understand exactly when these times are, for them to be.

Insight and Understanding
Dec 9 reading
Daniel 10-12
Daniel Commentary
Dictionary and Books
* Hanukkah & the Prophet Daniel 11, D. Leman
* Pastor Gregory, Byron Center, MI: Daniel 9-12
"Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me..." (10:12-13)
Do you believe Daniel saw what he said he saw? Remember how people reacted when Paul said he believed in resurrection? Jewish Sadducees didn't believe that. They didn't believe in angels, either. So they must have taken reading about angels Daniel wrote of with "a grain of salt". And I have the idea that some current day readers find Daniel great for stories in Sunday School or for Star Trek fans who believe in extraterrestrials, but hardly reliable for thinking adults.

The danger in this kind of thinking is that when Daniel had a revelation about a great war, he knew it was true, but he didn't understand it. In fact, the idea of such a devastating war upset Daniel so much that he determined to fast and pray until God sent him more information. Sure, Daniel was sinful (see Psalm 51:5), but his history with God was that God not only revealed things to him and gave him visions and dreams, but sent messengers to explain them when Daniel asked.

This time his messenger was detained three weeks while participating in spiritual behind-the-scenes battles corresponding to situations happening on Earth. Then he told of the long term, future history of battles, attempts at peace, and more battles around the eastern coastal area of the Mediterranean Sea that "must take place", centering around Israel. Things will really get bad during the rule of a conqueror whose only god is his fascination with fortresses. The current country of Jordan will conspicuously not fall to this king, but Israel, Egypt, and many other countries will. When this king dies, "there will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then."

God was updating His early warning system.

So here's the challenge: "Let God be true, and every man a liar." (Romans 3:4)
     * Man says, "Believe in God, give to the poor, and you will prosper financially!"
     * God says, "Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined..." (11:33-5a)

     * Man says, "I understand prophecy pretty well. I've read Daniel, Revelation, and Lahaye - Jenson's Armageddon"
     * God says, "Go your way, [fill in your name], because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked." (12:9-10a)

Tomorrow's Reading (Dec 10): Hosea 1-5 and Commentary

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