TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- DANIEL 4:1-37
This chapter begins with a pagan king (Nebuchadnezzar) ascribing wonders to the Most High God and affirming that His kingdom will last forever. But he has yet to repent of his pride.
Then Nebuchadnezzar has another puzzling dream. This time he sees an immense flourishing tree, visible to the whole earth. The tree provides food and shelter for all living creatures. An angel from heaven comes down and gives orders to chop down the tree, strip its foliage, scatter its fruit, and let the beasts and birds flee from it. The stump and root are to remain but with a band of iron and brass around it as it stands in the midst of the new grass of the field. This is followed by the intriguing command to ‘let him be drenched with the dew of heaven and let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man to a beast for seven periods of time’.
The purpose of this judgment is so that all will know that the Most High is the ruler over all mankind.
It is with sadness and great concern that Daniel gives Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation of the dream, wishing that this predicted fate would be upon one of the king’s enemies rather than upon the king himself. The immense tree, Daniel said, represents Nebuchadnezzar. The angel calling for the toppling of the tree is pronouncing a divine decree, that Nebuchadnezzar would be cut down and afflicted so as to have the mind of a beast and eat the grass of the field. Daniel calls for the King to repent of his pride and to humble himself before the Lord.
Daniel 4:27 27 ‘Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’
Twelve months later, the vision is fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar makes a grand boast.
Daniel 4:30-32 30 “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’
Immediately Nebuchadnezzar loses his right mind and finds himself acting like a mad man roaming in the fields and eating grass while behaving like an ox. His body is drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like eagle feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.
But at the end of this period, Nebuchadnezzar lifts his eyes to heaven and returns to his right mind, only this time, it is the mind of humility.
The king declares the truth about the Most High God of the Hebrews. He claims that He is the one who has an everlasting dominion. He also affirms God’s sovereignty over all.
Daniel 4:35 35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
Nebuchadnezzar expresses his desire for a life change:
Daniel 4:37 37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
What about us? Do we have a mind of humility? When we see Christ for Who He is and recognize our own bankruptcy of any claim of righteousness in ourselves, then repentance leads to life as we call upon the only name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved.
We must recognize that the mind of Christ is a mind of humility. We are called to take up our cross daily in identification with Him who is our new life.
The apostle Paul describes the new way of living as it applies to his own gospel-preaching mission. This comes across well in the King James Version of Acts 20:18-21:
Acts 20:18-21 18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: 20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, 21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
And the Apostle Paul reminds the Philippians of this Christlike mindset:
Philippians 2:3 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
May we recognize God’s sovereignty over all, serve Him with joyful humble hearts and honor Him by giving Him the glory that is due His Name.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 2 PETER 1:1-21
Peter’s first letter emphasized the grace of God. His second epistle emphasizes the knowledge of God. The word ‘know’, or ‘knowledge,’ is found 13 times in this short epistle.
Peter isn’t writing about the accumulation of data but a real personal ongoing knowledge of God. He is writing about the kind of knowledge Jesus prayed that we should receive:
John 17:3 3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
It is the living knowledge that comes with a personal relationship.
Peter wants the church to be established in the true knowledge of God. He warns them of counterfeit faith, which is opposed to the ‘precious’ faith, or as he puts it, ‘faith of the same kind as ours’.
Peter is going to warn the believers of the dangerous false teachers and their counterfeit works and doctrines. But before he does, he reminds them of the true.
I am told that one way experts are trained to identify counterfeit money is for them to study and handle the real thing. When they know the real and the true, they can readily spot the false.
Peter knew the true, and he wanted to be sure that the believers he was writing to did also.
We have already been given all that we need in Christ, but Peter is asking us to cultivate what we already have with daily spiritual exercise. We can practice the virtues of Christ’s indwelling life in our day to day living. In other words, we are to give careful attention and intentional effort to developing these characteristics of Christ:
2 Peter 1:5-9 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
What about you? Are you affirming and practicing moral excellence? Are you a person of integrity? Are you growing in your knowledge of the Lord and His virtues?
We easily become occupied with our immediate needs, our own selfish preoccupations, conscious only of the here and now, the material and the temporal. Peter says that this kind of ‘nearsightedness’ leads to unfruitfulness. However, careful attention to living in the light of the gospel will be rewarded at the Lord’s coming.
At the time of writing this, Peter knows that he is going to die soon (2 Peter 1:14). He wants to be sure that these believers remember what he taught them after he is gone (1:15).
2 Peter 1:15 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.
Peter reminds his readers that he had a personal experience of seeing the Lord Jesus in His transfigured glory on the mount when God the Father affirmed that Jesus was His beloved Son. He assures them that the testimony of God Himself concerning Jesus proves that the words of the prophetic Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit and not the imaginations or determinations of men.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS – PSALMS 119:97-112
How wonderful it is to be taught by the Lord.
Verse 97 begins the series of eight verses, all beginning with the Hebrew letter, ‘mem’.
We dare not bring the testimony of the Psalmist down to the level of our experience. Instead, we should aspire to have our experience rise to the level of the Psalmist.
Notice the consistency of his life of meditation:
Psalm 119:97 97 O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
This is our goal. We want to hide the Word in our heart and have it fuel our meditation throughout the day.
Do you know how to confound the devil?
Psalm 119:98 98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine.
Do you possess God’s promises, commands, and precepts as your very own?
We have in the Word of God, a wisdom that exceeds that of our contemporary culture. Do you believe this?
Psalm 119:99 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.
It is not just what we know of God’s Word that will prove our possession of a wisdom greater than the aged. It is how we put it into practice. Jesus expects us to observe His prescribed way of living.
Psalm 119:100 100 I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts.
Can we say that we have been ‘taught by the Lord’?
Psalm 119:102 102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me.
Do you delight in the supernatural sweetness of God’s Word? It is sweeter than honey (119:103). Not only does God’s Word cause us to delight in what is true, it causes us to hate every false way (Psalm 119:1014).
Verses 105- 112 all begin with the Hebrew letter ‘nun’. These verses describe the kind of ‘revival’ that the Lord brings to our souls.
Psalm 119:105 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
The Psalmist reminds us of our full responsibilities as human beings and the precious provision of God’s Word.
Psalm 119:109 109 My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law.
Revive us, O Lord, according to Your Word! (Psalm 119:107b)
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – PROVERBS 28:17-18.
Proverbs 28:17-18 17 A man who is laden with the guilt of human blood will be a fugitive until death; let no one support him. 18 He who walks blamelessly will be delivered, but he who is crooked will fall all at once.
A person might try to trick their conscience as they pursue evil, but their foolery will be proved in the end.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – TURKMENISTAN
Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia bordered by the Caspian Sea and largely covered by the Karakum Desert.
Turkmenistan’s waterless terrain is inhospitable to plant and animal life, but it is still home to over five million Turkmens. Oases, found mostly along the foothills and rivers, are a welcome site in this nation comprised of 80% desert. Although desolate, its rolling sand dunes and ragged mountain ranges provide a beautiful landscape. With rich deposits of oil and gas, Turkmenistan has discovered great wealth even within the desert.
Once made a part of the Soviet Union, Turkmen property was taken, traditions were removed, and the Turkmens’ nomadic lifestyle came to an end. Turkmenistan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, but change has been very slow. Communist rule was replaced by a dictatorship until 2006. Turkmenistan has had difficulty rising to its feet, even under the rule of a new president elected under the first multi-candidate election in 2007. Rising crime, poverty, unemployment, and drug use have made progress difficult. The administration, although claiming to be a presidential republic and secular democracy, has often operated under more authoritarian rules, sacrificing certain human rights and religious freedoms. Despite the wealth brought in by the oil and gas industry, many of the Turkmen people remain impoverished.
Although the constitution claims religious freedom, the reality is quite different. With Sunni Islam (89%) and Russian Orthodoxy (9%) considered the only two legal religions, persecution of other faiths is prevalent. Unregistered religious gatherings are forbidden, often suffering grave consequences. But persecution and restriction have only strengthened the Turkmen Church. Prior to independence, Christianity was mostly non-existent, but today there are as many as 1,000 followers of Jesus. With all foreign missionaries expelled, several pastors exiled, beaten, or imprisoned, and the Bible not yet fully translated, the spread of the Gospel in Turkmenistan faces great challenges. Yet, the church continues to grow amid constant threat.
Two populated strips of irrigated land on its northern and southern borders, separated by the barren Kara-Kum Desert. Only 1% of the country is irrigated, arable land; 80% is desert.
Population: 5,176,502 Annual Growth: 1.34%
HDI Rank: 109 of 182 (UN Human Development Reports 2009)
Peoples: 42 (52% unreached) All peoples
Unreached Peoples Prayer Card
Official language: Turkmen using Latin script as in Turkey since 1994; previously Cyrillic script Languages: 9 All languages
Largest Religion: Muslim
Answer to Prayer
The atmosphere of the country is experiencing positive change. Turkmen citizens can travel abroad and within the country much more easily. Two Protestant churches have recently been allowed to officially register and meet publicly.
Challenge for Prayer
The new government and leadership face difficult decisions about continuing Niyazov’s legacy, about domestic policies and about the awkward relationships with Russia (its main buyer of gas), Iran, Afghanistan and China. Pray for godly wisdom for the new leader, for a departure from oppressive policies of the past, and for the respect of constitutionally guaranteed human rights and religious freedoms.
- Pray for new Bibles for house churches whose literature has been confiscated and destroyed.
- Pray for open doors for humanitarian organizations to meet practical as well as spiritual needs.
- Pray for governing authorities to abandon the strict policies controlling religious activity.
PRAYER: Lord, we do recognize that You are sovereign over all. Forgive us of our careless boasting. All Your works are true, and Your ways are just. So we humble ourselves in Your presence and ask that we would grow in the grace and knowledge of Your Son. We have the words of the prophets made more sure by Your testimony that He is Your unique, only begotten, beloved Son. We cling to Him as our Lord and Savior and ask that His virtues would become increasingly manifested in our lives as we give our attention to walking in the Spirit. We thank You for the ministry of Your Word. Revive us, O Lord, according to Your Word and cause us to put Your virtues on public display to the praise of Your glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.