The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection, for the week of August 6-12, 2017, is Daniel 6:6-18. This week’s reading is, no doubt, a familiar story. Daniel and the Lion’s Den! Perhaps it was one of your favorites in Sunday school, or perhaps your children enjoyed it as you read it to them. Even as an adult, valuable lessons can still be gleaned from this childhood story.
Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. (Daniel 6:6-18, ESV)
Often the emphasis of this story is placed on Daniel - his unwavering faith in the Lord, his refusal to cease his public worshipping of the Lord, his reward for faithful worship - but this week, look at Darius, the king. Every Christian wants to have a faith like Daniel, but all too often we behave like Darius. Darius allowed himself to be manipulated, though flattery, ego boosting, and pride, into attempting to kill a man he respected and considered a friend because others were jealous. Have you ever been manipulated into doing something you know is wrong? Mediate on, pray over, and reflect carefully upon this week’s verse and how it applies to your life.
The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of July 30-August 5, 2017, is Leviticus 24:10-16. It is the story of an event that occurred several years after the Israelites had left Egypt, but not too long, as there were still Egyptians living among the Israelites. This story is inserted amongst many of the Laws given to Moses by the Lord, which can make it seem out of place. However, this story highlights how the Laws were to be obeyed.
Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the Israelites, and he and a man of Israel quarreled and strove together in the camp. The Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name [of the Lord] and cursed. They brought him to Moses—his mother was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in custody until the will of the Lord might be declared to them. And the Lord said to Moses, bring him who has cursed out of the camp, and let all who heard him lay their hands upon his head; then let all the congregation stone him. And you shall say to the Israelites, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And he who blasphemes the Name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him; the stranger as well as he who was born in the land shall be put to death when he blasphemes the Name [of the Lord]. (Leviticus 24:10-16, AMP)
The first lesson is this story is obvious: blaspheming the Name of the Lord was, and still is, wrong! The second lessons requires a deeper study. During their time in Egypt, many Israelites married Egyptians. When the Israelites were freed, some Egyptian spouses chose to go with Israel, instead of remaining in Egypt. By joining the Israelites, these individuals were also held accountable to the Law, as were any children. This mixed-faith relationship shows the damage such parenting can have on a child. No doubt the child, while growing up, had heard his father curse the gods for ill fortune, a common practice. When the grown son entered into an argument with an Israelite, he followed his father’s example: the son cursed the God of Israel, as an insult to the other individual. For such a crime, he paid with his life.
Paul also addresses this issue in 2 Corinthians 6:14, calling believers to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (ESV). We are to be careful, not only who we marry, but also who we surround ourselves with and whose opinions we seek out. As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider those in your life. Who do you interact with everyday? Whose opinion do you value? Do these people hold you to God’s standard?
The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of July 23-29, 2017, is II Kings 18:1-7. Why is it so important to read and study the history of Israel, including their kings? This history, their stories recorded for us, serve as lessons. By studying them, we can learn actions that are pleasing to the Lord. We learn how the Israelites fell from the Lord. And the goal is to use what we learn and prevent the same thing from happening to us in our lives.
In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began his twenty-nine-year reign in Jerusalem. His mother was Abi daughter of Zechariah. Hezekiah did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his [forefather] had done. He removed the high places, broke the images, cut down the Asherim, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until then the Israelites had burned incense to it; but he called it Nehushtan [a bronze trifle]. Hezekiah trusted in, leaned on, and was confident in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that neither after him nor before him was any one of all the kings of Judah like him. For he clung and held fast to the Lord and ceased not to follow Him, but kept His commandments, as the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with Hezekiah; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and refused to serve him. (II Kings 18:1-7, AMP)
Years earlier, the people of Israel had demanded that the Lord provide them with a king, so that they could be like other nations. After advising them against such actions, He granted their request. Hezekiah was one of the few kings who did right in the sight of the Lord. Listed among his favorable actions was the breaking of the bronze serpent made by Moses. This bronze serpent was created in order to heal those bitten by snakes (Numbers 21:4-9). Following this event, the bronze serpent was kept as a reminder to the Israelites, but they had forgotten its meaning. Instead, they began worshipping the bronze serpent as a god and burning incense to it.
Is there something in your life that once served as reminder, but has become more than it should? We are to worship nothing - not jewelry, not a picture, not a cross - except the Lord God. Items can serve as a reminders - perhaps wearing a cross necklace or a WWJD bracelet can serve as a reminder to keep your temper in check - but we are not worship these items. As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider with what you surround yourself during your daily activities. Is there a false god in your midst?
The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of July 16 - 22, 2017, is Luke 22:14-23. In this passage, Jesus and His disciples are celebrating Passover. Jesus, knowing that it is His last and what is to come, introduces a new tradition.
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them,“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said,“Take this, and divide it among yourselves.For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. (Luke 22:14-23, ESV)
Compare this passage with Leviticus 16. Leviticus 16 describes the Day of Atonement, the day when the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies and offer a sacrifice for all the sins of Israel. Jesus knew that His death was coming, the final Day of Atonement. With His death no more sacrifices would be needed. Jesus gave us a new tradition by which to remember His sacrifice. Many refer to it as Communion. As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider the importance of the Day of Atonement for the Israelites. Consider the importance of Communion today. Why is it necessary to understand the importance of both traditions? How does this knowledge affect your relationship with Christ?
The Bible passage for meditation, prayer, and reflection for the week of July 9-15, 2017, is Psalm 81:1-3. This psalm describes a festive atmosphere! Worship does not always have to be solemn and serious - we are encouraged to be joyful and celebrate our Lord and Savior! Celebrate all that He has done!
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. (Psalm 81:1-3, ESV)
This description of joy and celebration could be describing a celebration during the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles remembers the 40 years that the Israelites spent wandering the desert after the Lord brought them out of Egypt. If you continue reading this psalm, you will read about all the Lord did for the Israelites after bringing them out of Egypt. During this time, the Lord cared for them, providing them with all that they needed. Indeed! The Lord should be celebrated! As you meditate on, pray over, and reflect upon this week’s verse, consider your approach to the Lord. Have you expressed your joy to Him and with Him?