Tuesday, July 31, 2018

spiritual battle, Fiery Furnace (Dan.3)

The following events should be familiar to a lot of people.  This all happened while the Israelites were in Babylonian captivity...

(Daniel 3:1-7)  Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.” Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

We do not know where Daniel was at this time, but Daniel's three friends had been there, and had refused to bow down to the image.  Someone then reported them to the proper authorities - the king!

Now let's just look at this a bit.  It was the Chaldeans who made the report.  In this case, this was not referring to the race of people as a whole.  There were a particular group of Chaldeans who were a class of wise men priests.

They were among the king's select servants (mentioned in Daniel 2:2), which also included the magicians (textual scribes of the religious ritual), the conjurers (who practiced magic and reached out to the dead or spiritual realm), and the sorcerers (also known as enchanters, who specialized in magic potions).

It was this entire group who could not describe or interpret Nebuchadnezzar's disturbing dream.  They all would have been executed had it not been for Daniel and his three friends who had all prayed for God's guidance (Daniel 2:17).

So, these Chaldeans were not grateful for being kept alive, but rather, they were jealous and threatened by these men, and were probably watching them closely - just waiting for them to make a mistake in order to get rid of them...

(Daniel 3:8-12)  For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. 11 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar challenged the three friends, wanting them to change their minds!  He knew how valuable they were to him and so he gave them a second chance.  But notice how they responded.  They knew God was able to save them, but they had no expectations.  They were going to remain steadfast, even if it meant dying...

(Daniel 3:13-18)  Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 If it be soour God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does notlet it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar had the fire in the furnace made so hot, that the guards who got close to the fire were killed;  but nothing happened to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.

As for the fourth "man" - we are not told if this was an angel or THE angel of the Lord (Jesus pre-incarnate).  Either way, the three men were protected from the fire.  They did not even smell of smoke.  And Nebuchadnezzar had to give God credit!...

(Daniel 3:19-30)  Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. 22 For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. 23 But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. 27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.
28 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, in as much as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” 30 Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.

From this we see:
- angels can withstand fire
- angels can protect us from fire

Personal experience:  we are so afraid of pain.  And not just physical pain, but emotional pain.  If we dare witness to a certain friend or family member, it might mean that they will reject us.  But it is not about our personal comfort!  We need to look at the bigger picture.  It is about the other person's eternal salvation.

God promises that we will suffer for His namesake!  Yet He also promises to never leave us!  He promises to be our strength, guidance, love, joy, peace, hope...  God will protect us spiritually, and He is able to protect us emotionally, financially and physically.

Now, I've burned myself a few times in my life - emotionally, financially - but also physically - I've literally burned myself.  But there have been a few times when I have touched something very hot, and the skin was completely fine.  From past experience, I know that at the very least, it should have been red and very tender, but it was like nothing happened.

I don't wonder why - because I have no idea.  And I'm not going to try it again to prove anything.  So in those moments, I can't help but just be thankful!!!  And, be reminded that God is able to protect us!!!  I am reminded of the words Jesus told his disciples...

(Luke 10:19)  Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.

Today's takeaway:  so there are definitely times when God will protect us.  And just like Daniel's three friends, we should know that God CAN protect us, but even if He chooses not to, we should be willing to take a stand - even if it means that we might suffer (emotionally, financially, physically), or even die.

Easy to say.  But in those moments - if we are truly looking to God - I believe God will give us the courage and strength!  Like with Stephen!  Here is an example of a man who had a very short, but very powerful ministry.  God is able to work in so many ways!...

(Acts 7:7-15)  The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 10 But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. 13 They put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” 15 And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.

Stephen then delivered a God-inspired message, giving historical examples of how the Israelite leaders rejected God's prophets, and ended with this challenge...

(Acts 7:51-60)  “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”
54 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

(118:4-8)  Oh let those who fear the Lord say, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
From my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

(Philippians 4:13)  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

(Ephesians 6:10)  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

(Romans 8:28)  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

(2 Timothy 1:7-14)  For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

Monday, July 30, 2018

spiritual battle, Like the Appearance of Bronze (Ez.40-47)

In Ezekiel's last vision in the book, he is "taken away" by the hand of the Lord.  But then he sees a man "whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze".  The man, who takes Ezekiel on a tour of what the new Temple is going to look like, carries a line of flax for longer measurements, and a measuring rod for shorter measurements.
The new Temple that is shown to Ezekiel, is different and bigger than the one Solomon built, and these plans were never referred to in the rebuilding of the Temple after the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity.  This new Temple will be built in the Millennial kingdom...

(Ezekiel 40:1-4)  In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, on that same day the hand of the Lord was upon me and He brought me there. 2 In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was structure like a city. So He brought me there; and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway. The man said to me, “Son of man, see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and give attention to all that I am going to show you; for you have been brought here in order to show it to you. Declare to the house of Israel all that you see.”

Besides seeing the future Temple, Ezekiel was told about how the a right relationship would be established between the Lord and Israel.  This will happen - when during the Tribulation, the Israelites will realize their sins and recognize from the signs (the judgments on the earth) that Jesus was and is their Messiah.  They will then believe and turn to Jesus.  And after the Armageddon battle, Jesus will take all believers into the Millennial kingdom and fulfill all of the Israelites' covenants.

In the following chapters of this last vision, there is some speculation that "the man" who is giving Ezekiel this "tour" is the Lord Himself (the pre-incarnate Jesus);  but we are never clearly told one way or the other.   

From the following verses, it does look to me like the man was just an angel, because while the man led Ezekiel to the gate, the Lord approached Ezekiel from the other direction, and it was then that Ezekiel fell to his face.  And while the Lord spoke to him, the man was still standing beside him....

(Ezekiel 43:17)  Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing toward the east; and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. And it was like the appearance of the vision which I saw, like the vision which I saw when He came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision which I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate facing toward the east. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.
Then I heard one speaking to me from the house, while a man was standing beside me. He said to me, Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever. And the house of Israel will not again defile My holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their harlotry and by the corpses of their kings when they die, by setting their threshold by My threshold and their door post beside My door post, with only the wall between Me and them. And they have defiled My holy name by their abominations which they have committed. So I have consumed them in My anger. Now let them put away their harlotry and the corpses of their kings far from Me; and I will dwell among them forever.
10 “As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. 11 If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them. 12 This is the law of the house: its entire area on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house..."
13 “And these are the measurements of the altar by cubits (the cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth): the base shall be a cubit and the width a cubit, and its border on its edge round about one span; and this shall be the height of the base of the altar. 14 From the base on the ground to the lower ledge shall be two cubits and the width one cubit; and from the smaller ledge to the larger ledge shall be four cubits and the width [p]one cubit. 15 The altar hearth shall be four cubits; and from the altar hearth shall extend upwards four horns. 16 Now the altar hearth shall be twelve cubits long by twelve wide, square in its four sides. 17 The ledge shall be fourteen cubits long by fourteen wide in its four sides, the border around it shall be half a cubit and its base shall be a cubit round about; and its steps shall face the east.”

Without a doubt it was the Lord speaking in verses 7 to 9 (above).  Notice that the Lord spoke in the first person.  Verses 10 to 17 could still have been the Lord speaking, or maybe the man (the angel) picked up where he left off.  Because...

Beginning at verse 18, it looks like "the man" (the angel) continued the tour again for a while.  Even though this NASB version capitalizes the pronoun "He", the "he" now speaks in the third person.

(Ezekiel 43:18)  And He said to me, “Son of man, thus says the Lord God, ‘These are the statutes for the altar on the day it is built, to offer burnt offerings on it and to sprinkle blood on it..."

Right up until chapter 47:13, the man (the angel) continued to say "thus says the Lord God..."  After the man showed Ezekiel the river (of life), he is not mentioned again.

The Lord then spoke to Ezekiel and ended the vision by explaining how the covenants (His promises to the Israelites) would be fulfilled in the Millennium, and how the land was going to be divided among the twelve tribes.

From this we see:
- if this was an angel, angels could look like a man with the appearance of bronze (Ez.40)
- if this was an angel, angels can describe things in great detail (Ez.40-47)

Personal experience:  if angels can act as tour-guides, then I'm curious when we ask God for directions in life - if He sometimes uses angels to lead and/or block our way.  We may never know how many times angels and/or demons are involved in our experiences.  But we CAN know that when we depend on God, we can trust in Him. 

For many years now, whenever I ask God for directions or help in making decisions, I ask Him to either open or close doors as He sees fit.  And then, using what wisdom I have been given - I take a step forward.  If it is not meant to be, God will block my path somehow.

I began praying this way, back when I considered going out on the mission field.  My parents and I had asked God that if we were to go to Puerto Rico, He would make it happen and open those doors.  And if we were not meant to go, He would shut those doors!

Well, those doors opened in miraculous ways, so there should have been no doubts about it being God's will.  But once we got there - suddenly we had doubts!  Things did not go very smoothly - at all.  And so we struggled for a few months, wondering what God really had in mind!  WAS it really God's will for us to be there???

We should have realized that those doubts came from "Satan".  It finally dawned on me - wherever we are - we need to do God's will - and then we will be in God's will ! ! !  Once I realized this, I had such peace about being where I was at that very moment in my life!

Today's takeaway:  we can have peace when making decisions in life - big or small...

(James 4:13-17)  Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

(James 1:5-6)  But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

(Philippians 4:6-7)  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Jeremiah 29:11-13)  “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

(Psalm 23:1-6)  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; mcup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

(Psalm 25:4-5)  Make me know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.

(Psalm 119:105-106)  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 106 I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Your righteous ordinances.

(Psalm 5:8)  O Lordlead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; make Your way straight before me.