The Law of the Medes and Persians Has Been Revoked


During the Old Testament book of Daniel, God’s people were in exile in Babylon, and a group of Babylonian officials really wanted to make a point.  They wanted to do this so badly, that it’s recorded several times in just a few verses of the book of Daniel, chapter 6:

Verse 8: “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.”
Verse 12: “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.
Verse 15: “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.”
Verse 17: “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.” [bold emphasis mine]

What provoked them to insist on this law that “cannot be revoked”?

They decided Daniel (of the book’s name) needed to be persecuted for successfully contributing to the welfare of Babylon, while humbly giving God the glory for all his gifts, abilities, and success.  He was making them, and their gods, look bad.  It is remarkably similar to the reasons Jesus saw opposition.  Daniel, a Jewish exile, was about to get a big promotion and they wanted to sabotage it.  Knowing Daniel openly prayed three times a day, the officials conspired and convinced the king to sign a law “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.” (Verse 7).  Either Daniel gives glory to Babylon, or he dies.  Forcing Daniel to change his worship would prove that an unjust law was more important to him than his God.

What did Daniel do in response?  Nothing new.  He continued his standard practice of worship, praying in front of his open windows, probably including prayers for the welfare of Babylon[1].  Verse 10 says Daniel acted “as he had done previously,” which indicates he wasn’t snubbing his nose at his government or its new rule.  His faithfulness was more important to him than an unjust law, even when he didn’t know God would deliver him from the lions.  Daniel didn’t just come to God when he thought he needed God; he knew he needed God at all times.

Therefore, when the officials were provoked, it was an outcome of Daniel’s success and prayer, not Daniel’s intent.  Basic, consistent faithfulness to a higher power can sometimes irritate people, especially lower powers who think their rule “cannot be revoked,” even when it’s not very effective.

Following the law, the king had Daniel thrown into the den of lions, but “God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths.”  Daniel said he was saved because he had faithfully served his God and the king (verse 22), not because he was a provocative protester.

Seeing Daniel delivered by God, King Darius tore up the law that “cannot be revoked,” but even if Daniel had not been rescued from the lions, the laws would still have been revoked.  The kingdom of the Medes and Persians no longer exists.  Likewise at the end of time every law of every Babylon will be no more.  However, God’s promise of blessing for all who will worship Him and seek His will still stands.  On this promise Daniel stood, or rather, kneeled, and served his God and his countrymen, even in exile.

The law of loving service to neighbor will never be revoked, wherever and whenever you live, and even in heaven!  In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”[2]


[1] Jeremiah 29:7 says: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare,” referring to Babylon.
[2] Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy (1908).  P. 103.

What You Have Forgotten Today He Can Supply


The Gospel of Mark records two miraculous feedings of multitudes.  The first was mainly a Jewish crowd of about 5,000 in Mark 6:30-44; the second was a mainly Gentile group of about 4,000 in Mark 8:1-9.  These two stories are very well known, but if you read on Mark adds this about Jesus’ disciples in 8:14 – “Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.

On this verse Warren Wiersbe remarks: “It must have grieved Jesus that His hand-picked helpers were so spiritually obtuse. The fact that He had multiplied bread on two occasions and fed over ten thousand people had apparently made little impression on them! Why worry and argue over one loaf of bread when you have Jesus in the boat with you?”[1]

When well-known Bible stories have little impact on us, remember that these disciples knew the story even better than we do – they were there!  Jesus did not give up on them and will not give up on us.

Have you forgotten to trust Jesus with something today?  He desires to be “in the boat with you” in constant fellowship.  Ask Him to take your anxiety and to supply your daily bread.  He never forgets.


[1] Wiersbe, Warren.  Be Diligent (Mark) (1987).  P. 97.

When Bad Things Happen to the Greatest Disciples


Did Jesus fail John the Baptist?  John was identified as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight’”[1] prophesied by Isaiah.  John publicly announced the coming of Jesus, and soon baptized Him, then watched the Spirit descend on Him like a dove and heard the voice of the Father declare Jesus as the Son.[2]  Was testifying publicly about Jesus and His miracles John’s mission in life?  If so, why did John find himself in prison, unable to preach in the open?  As Matthew’s Gospel records, Herod Antipas, the Roman ruler of Galilee and Perea, had John arrested for criticizing Herod’s immoral relationship with his brother’s wife.[3]  While under arrest, John began to have some doubts about Jesus and sent messengers to Him, saying “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?[4]  To John, his circumstances didn’t make sense and he reached out to Jesus for an explanation.

Matthew, in preparing his gospel message, intentionally placed this question from John to Jesus after a long section about followers of Jesus meeting opposition and persecution in the world. If you have time, read Matthew chapters 10 and 11 now, or keep reading here and I’ll quote key verses and ideas as we go, starting with these:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” – Matthew 10:24
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” – Matthew 11:11

I think Matthew was making several points, starting with this: living like Jesus does not mean Christians will avoid uncomfortable circumstances, including criticism and/or persecution.  Circumstances are not always a sign we’ve done something right or wrong. In Matthew 10, when Jesus said “a disciple is not above his teacher” the context tells us that what He meant was that His perfect life and obedience led to the cross, and if we are like Him we can’t expect to be treated better than He was.  Still, we may be tempted to think that if we live the right life, if we preach the truth of the gospel perfectly, if we do everything we should, then we will not be like “sheep in the midst of wolves,”[5] but loved and admired by the world.  By moving right to the story of John in the next chapter, and saying “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist,”  Matthew is saying that not even the greatest disciple of Jesus who ever lived was exempt from the warnings of chapter 10, including “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you sin their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” – Matthew 10:17-18

Even the very best lives and preaching meet opposition, perhaps even more opposition from those who have no interest in the kingdom of God.

Second, by placing these stories side-by-side, Matthew shows that John the Baptist is an example for us when we have doubts[6].  In prison, John had doubts, but did not give up on Jesus.  If Jesus was who he said He was, then not only the warnings of chapter 10 apply to John and us, but also the assurances and instructions:

When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” – Matthew 10:19
What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” – Matthew 10:27
Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” – Matthew 10:31

John sent disciples to Jesus not to ask for rescue or to complain, but to confirm whether He really was the Messiah.  When we have doubts, we can also seek and find comfort.

Third, there is always more God is doing than we are aware of.  Instead of commenting directly on John’s prison situation to John’s messengers, “Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.[7]  In other words, Jesus was doing everything the Messiah should be doing, and even with John sidelined from public ministry, the kingdom of God was advancing spectacularly.  John had the information needed to believe and should not be “offended” by his unexpected circumstances. God remained in control of the situation.

Lastly, the circumstances of our lives may be what inspire others to better follow Christ, although it may be invisible to us.  Therefore, our patience and faithfulness in those times, or even the way we express and deal with doubt, can be a powerful witness.  As “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,” John saw his audience as those coming out to see Him and be baptized.  From this perspective, being in prison made John feel useless or like a failure to his calling. What had he and/or Jesus done wrong?  But God (see related post on these two words), through Matthew’s Gospel, saw John’s audience as all future generations, who could be encouraged that even the “great” John the Baptist faced criticism, persecution, and even doubt.  John may have thought his purpose was to keep preaching publicly, but instead his example benefits other believers in ways that his freedom couldn’t.

Faith Over Circumstance
Don’t let circumstances determine your faith and willingness to serve Christ.  In Matthew 10, Jesus said political and religious leaders, and even our own families, will resist Christ in us.  Often, they will appear to succeed.  Also, some will tell us that when things aren’t going our way, we need to “have more faith”, “pray harder”, “go to church more”, and convince God to improve our situation.  They argue we need to fix something we’re doing and our circumstances will improve.  But this is not the message of John’s story, and Matthew made sure of that by the way he wrote it.  There is no record of Jesus or Matthew telling John the Baptist why he was suffering and in prison, or that he could do anything about it.  Jesus only asked him to trust.  However, when John was ultimately beheaded[8], he met Jesus face-to face again, but fully glorified, and I believe John understood.  There is always more to our circumstances than we can see or comprehend, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”[9]

If even John the Baptist was not exempt from the warnings of Matthew 10, neither are we.  But also, if John could trust his Lord and Savior to love and provide for him, we can too. Odds are that nobody reading this will face what John the Baptist faced, but his story helps in whatever circumstance God asks us to glorify Him in.

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”” – Matthew 10:38-39, 42


[1] Isaiah 40:3, quoted in Matthew 4:3.
[2] Matthew 3:16-17
[3] Matthew 14:3
[4] Matthew 11:3
[5] Matthew 10:16
[6] Also, I recently posted an example from the life of Jeremiah the prophet.
[7] Matthew 11:4-6
[8] Matthew 14:10
[9] Romans 8:28

The Desires He Delights to Give


Does God give us what we desire, or does He decide what we desire?  Some of my earliest prayers I remember (I was probably about 6) are ones asking to wake up the next day with my room full of all the toys I wanted.  Naturally, I never woke up to a room full of toys.  God probably knew I would only ask for more, and there would never be enough.  That doesn’t mean I only prayed that prayer once…I learn slowly, but He is patient.

In later life, after understanding Christianity somewhat better, one of the first Bible verses I set out to memorize was Psalm 37:4, which says
Delight yourself in the LORD,
            and he will give you the desires of your heart.

But I still wondered: are the desires what He gives us, or is the fulfillment of desires what He gives us?  I now believe it is both.  In the times I genuinely seek Him, I find that He molds my desires, so they become more aligned with His character.  I also find that He directs those desires toward what will fulfill them.  While that fulfillment is not always immediate, I learn to trust from what He does fulfill that all will be made right in eternity and learn patience and peace.

When we truly delight in Him, we end up finding out that what we desire is righteousness; we also find out that He provides all the righteousness we desire and need.  We find those desires fulfilling rather than frustrating, we find that fulfillment durable rather than fleeting, and therefore find ourselves content rather than anxious.

However, we don’t always delight in Him, and we find ourselves conflicted and unfulfilled.

Therefore:
“Commit your way to the LORD;
            trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
            and your justice as the noonday.” – Psalm 37:5-6

Today, pray we will find our delight in Him.

God Rules in His Sleep – Psalms of Ascent #5 1/2


In Mark’s Gospel, he tells a story of Jesus taking a nap, causing His disciples to panic.  In last week’s Psalms of Ascent post, I asked whether God seems to be asleep sometimes, leaving us feeling adrift the world’s circumstances.  Today is a little detour from those Psalms to a time when God literally was asleep.

The story comes from Mark 4:35-41.

On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

At the beginning of the story, Jesus told His disciples they were going to cross the Sea of Galilee, then knowing what was coming, “He who keeps Israel[1] took a nap.  Had the disciples understood Jesus, His napping should have reassured them that they were safe, since He was not concerned about the storm.  Instead, they thought He didn’t care, which showed that fear of the storm had overcome whatever faith they had.  Jesus said they were going across, but they doubted.

Which brings up a very important question.

When did the wind and the sea obey Jesus?  At the beginning of the story, at the end, or both?  Or at all times?  Before Jesus calmed the storm, was the sea being disobedient to God’s laws and will?

I believe Jesus calmed this storm so that next time He wouldn’t have to.  He was teaching them that He always cares, regardless of what the circumstances seem to say.  He was teaching them that even when it seems like He’s asleep, He is still in control of our circumstances no matter how chaotic they look and feel to us.  During the next storm, He wanted them not to panic, but to trust Him because He showed them no circumstance escapes His notice.  The storm does not control us; He controls the storm.

When Jesus calmed the storm, He did not create a hedge (See Job 1:10) around His disciples, He just demonstrated that it existed all along.  God was not going to let His Son drown before His mission was complete and neither will He let His other children drown before their work is done!

Sometimes when God seems distant and we feel we are sinking, in reality we are being given a divinely designed opportunity to learn to trust that:

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
            he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
            your going out and your coming in
            from this time forth and forevermore[2]

He knows sometimes we have to learn the hard way, and He knows best.  Even when He is sleeping.

“Let us go across to the other side.”


[1] Psalm 121:4
[2] Psalm 121:7-8

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