Why is it the righteous are made to suffer? When we have been obedient to God, why do we often have to endure fiery ordeals? Where is God during these times? And what of His fairness and justice? These are natural questions for those who suffer unjustly. Daniel's three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—could have asked similar questions. They literally went through a fiery trial, but they discovered that God was in their midst. And this truth is a comfort when the suffering and questions come.
Struggling through reading the lesser-known Old Testament passages and long prophetic oracles may seem to have little relevance to everyday 21st-century life. But there are important things we can learn from the Old Testament. First, the New Testament is based on the Old Testament. Second, the Old Testament reveals the character of God. Third, the Old Testament has transformational power. Its message transcends time, geography, and culture. It speaks to everyone, everywhere, in every situation.
Nebuchadnezzar may have been anxious to know the interpretation of his dream, but he probably winced when Daniel told him that Babylon would not endure for eternity. How did Daniel know? The Lord revealed to him the king's dream of a great statue made of precious metals and clay and of a rock that destroyed the statue and grew into a mountain. This was God's blueprint for the future—a blueprint encompassing the whole world, beginning with Babylon.
Startled from his sleep by a nightmarish dream, King Nebuchadnezzar called his magicians, conjurers, and sorcerers together and put them to a test. Would they be able to relate the dream and give its interpretation? Each of these learned men failed. In a fit of rage, the king ordered the death of all the wise men of Babylon—even those who had not been asked about the dream, such as Daniel and his three friends. But with wisdom, Daniel asked for time and God gave the answer.
The prophet Daniel is unquestionably one of the most remarkable men not only in the Bible but also in all of Jewish history. The book that bears his name traces his life from his teenage years through his days past the age of 80. For 70 years, Daniel lived in captivity (605-536 BC) while serving in the metropolitan capital city of Babylon as prime minister. But when the Jews returned to the Promised Land, Daniel's life, work, and ministry drew to an end.
We don't need to be prophets or sons and daughters of prophets to realize that the world is turned upside down. The cliff-hanging posture of the world today—terrorism, rogue nations with nuclear weapons, predictions of environmental catastrophe, governmental and business corruption—spells the end of our civilization as we know it. To make sense of it all we must first understand God's plan for the future, outlined in the book of Daniel and related Scripture.
Tragically, King Uzziah didn’t learn well enough what it meant to fear and worship God. He had a good start. He walked humbly with God, pursued the disciplines of godly living, and sought wise counsel. But when he achieved military prowess and gained notoriety, his heart became proud. He built monuments to himself. Then his fear of God waned, and he sinned against Him. And Uzziah’s sin had lifelong consequences.
Deep in the heart of Elisha’s helper, Gehazi, were smoldering embers of greed. Silently, secretively, they remained hidden. No one could tell by looking. Words never passed from Gehazi’s mouth, admitting such sin, but it was there nevertheless. Through a series of events those embers burst into full flame. As we recount the story, we want to take sufficient time to examine our own hearts and determine if we suffer from a similar malady.
Though not strong in faith, Naaman was nevertheless greatly respected as a leader of troops and as a military warrior. One day all that was put on hold. None of his trophies seemed important any longer. He was unclean…he had become a leper. This is a story about a man, once proud and self-sufficient, finally humbling himself before the only One who could cleanse his leprosy…and did.
Jabez emerges in the midst of epitaphs on tombstones as the Spirit of God is pleased to hover over his life a bit longer than any other mentioned in this context. Because God singles out Jabez, we are wise to pause and learn the truth of the story. By doing so, many who feel their lives are marked by obscurity and insignificance can gain fresh courage to excel.
Although a rather obscure character, Rehoboam, who lived in the days of the kings, illustrates the principle what appears on the surface doesn’t always match what lies beneath. We can learn many lessons about integrity from his life!