Righteousness and Mercy

In Daniel 4:27, the prophet Daniel invites the arrogant, pride-filled king of Babylon to atone for his sin with righteousness and his iniquities with mercy to the oppressed.  His pride had led him to have no regard for God nor for any other human being.  He treated people anyway he wanted.  God’s call for righteousness here means actually doing things that care for those whose needs are not being met–either by supporting them financially or helping to create structures in society that offer support.  God’s call for mercy means being kind to those who are oppressed.
Job 31:16-23 reminds us what this looks like.
  • giving to those in need
  • lifting up the eyes of the widow
  • sharing our food with those who have none
  • giving clothes to those without
  • never using our power and status to throw others under the bus so that we look good
Helping others is not just charitable, it is seeking justice.  It is what we are commanded by God to do without excuse.
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Feeding 5,000 people

How do you unwind from when you return from work or a trip?  In Luke 9:10-17 the disciples have just gotten back from a mission of preaching and healing. It must have been exhilarating ,but you know they had to be weary– physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Jesus sensing their need takes them on a mini-retreat to Bethsaida.  But as soon as the crowd hears where Jesus has gone, they take off to find him.

Jesus welcomed all who came.  He preached and cured those who needed healing.  At the end of the day the 12 disciples told Jesus he needed to break up the party and send everyone away so that the people could find lodging and provisions for the night.  There were 5,000 hungry and tired people out there!  Jesus said to them, “You give them something to eat.”

In the end, Jesus fed the people.  He took 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He added his blessing and he started breaking up the food.  It never ran out!  Can you imagine how the disciples felt as they collected 12 baskets of leftovers!

Ask yourself today, from what do you need rest?  How would you cope if God gave you a new challenge instead?

The Ministry of Jesus

In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus shares 5 things his ministry will be about:

  1. bringing good news to the poor
  2. releasing the captives
  3. recovering sight for the blind
  4. freeing the oppressed
  5. proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.

Which of the 5 do you need Jesus to do for you?

Which of the 5 has the Spirit of God called you to do for others?

Daniel 2 retells the story of the great Babylonian Emperor Nebuchadnezzar who was terrified by a dream. A man who had conquered nations, built a huge empire, and now is rattle to the bone by a dream!  Desperately wanting to know the meaning of the dream, yet not trusting the honesty of his advisers, he decrees that all the wise ones in Babylon be executed unless they tell him what he dreamed and what it means!

When the executioner Arioch (whose name means “lion”) comes to gather up Daniel and his friends, Daniel requests the king give him a little time and Daniel will tell the king his dream and it’s interpretation.

Daniel has no idea what the dream might be, much less it’s meaning, but Daniel knows that God knows everything.  Daniel goes home and tells his friends the challenge ahead of them, then they pray.  In a vision in the night, the dream and it’s meaning is revealed to Daniel.  Daniel 2:20-23 records Daniel’s prayer of thanksgiving.

Life sometimes seems like a mystery to be solved.  But we can face the challenge like Daniel trusting that God knows and God cares about us.  God hears our prayers for understanding and wisdom.  As Daniel said, “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.”  How blessed we are that this God loves and cares for us!

Loyalty Requires Courage

Daniel 3 is a story of steadfast hope and faith in God in the face of death.  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon built a gold statue 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. He decreed that everyone must fall down and worship the golden image.  Refusal to do so would guarantee death in a fiery furnace!  Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (whose Babylonian names were Shadrach, Mishach and Abednego) knew that worshiping idols broke God’s commands. They had a hard choice to make–serve Neb or serve God?  They chose to serve God.  They did not expect their loyalty to guarantee them life.  But they did expect that God would never abandon them.  After being thrown into the furnace, folks outside in the cooler air could see there were not 3 people walking around, but 4!  Neb called for them to come out of the furnace.  Three came out–H., M. and A.–without even a single hair on their heads singed. Faith in God is required every time we walk through the flames of life that threaten to destroy us.  God may not put out the flames, but promises to walk around in the chaos of the unknown and unpredictable with us.  So be brave this week!  Be loyal to God and God’s ways!

Loyalty Requires Vigilance

Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah on the basis of their good looks and smarts were selected to serve in the Babylonian king’s palace.  (Daniel 1) It wasn’t a choice they made, but a choice made for them. In order to keep them strong and healthy, the selected men were served a daily meal from the king’s kitchen.  But these four guys chose to refuse this food.  It’s not that the king’s food tasted bad, but for them it was not the kind of food a follower of the Lord God would eat. Daniel and his friends were mindful of their Creator God through their eating and they wanted to keep up that discipline.  We might ask what’s so wrong with eating different foods?  But for Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, this kind of food was going against what a loyal follower of God would eat.  Times are different these days and we are not required to follow dietary laws in order to keep our faith alive.  But we still must remain mindful of our choices, actions and desires making sure they communicate to ourselves and the world that our loyalty lies with the Lord God.  What “royal food” is tempting you today and pulling you away from God?  Pray and ask God to help you remain faithful in all things.

Journeys

Last night after dinner and fellowship around the tables, we gathered in the sanctuary to reflect upon the journey of the magi to find and worship Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).  The story of their pilgrimage amazes me. I have been struck this year by how the only time they could have traveled would have been at night–for that is the only time they could have seen the star and known which direction to go. Rarely do we associate darkness with goodness, but for them it was.  All other distractions removed, with only the light of one new star in the night sky to guide them, they headed west to Jesus.  We talked about how the journey of the magi is like the Christian journey of faith.  Jesus was the goal for the magi and for us as well.  Like the magi, we don’t have the full picture of who Jesus is, but each day we learn more and more about Christ.  Deciding to start out on the journey is one of the most important steps and like the magi’s journey, the Christian faith takes time, commitment, effort and persistence.  In the spirit of the magi’s gift giving, a challenge is set for all of us to consider.  What three gifts will you give God this year?   Pause today and pray. What will you give God this year?

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