29 November 2022
What a Bible Study in Daniel Taught Me
One of the most important things I’ve accepted about God’s sovereignty, I learned from teaching an extended Bible study on the book of Daniel forty-seven years ago. Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan, kingdom-swallowing dictator, a cruel, self-centered sovereign with terrible anger-management issues was at the pinnacle of success.
Then his lifestyle and world were overthrown. Three times in Daniel 4 he hears a heavenly refrain that shakes his soul. Initially, in a dream he hears heavenly beings speak an inescapable maxim to him (Daniel 4:17); next, in his throne room, he hears Daniel repeat it as he interprets the king’s dream (v. 25); and finally, in his heart, he hears those same heavenly beings carry out God’s divine judgment against him as they invoke this truth: “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever He will” (Daniel 4:32).
And then… well, you know what happened. God put Nebuchadnezzar on the Seven-Year-Grass Diet (Daniel 4:25,33; how strange that no one has ever made a dime touting this revolutionary “Bible-based health-food plan”!). And here’s an astounding, but unexamined, part of the story. Despite being sidelined for seven years in grass-eating insanity by God’s humbling judgment, God saved Nebuchadnezzar’s kingship for him, and He restored his throne to him. When one thinks about power struggles and political machinations throughout history, that restoration is all the more astounding, and serves to underscore God’s sovereignty.
Fast forward to the American elections of 2020 and 2022. A lot of Christians I know are more than unhappy, even fretful. One sister, a dear friend, asked me two weeks ago, “Aren’t you disappointed that the predicted ‘Red Wave’ fizzled?” Short answer: No. Why? “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” In my lifetime, I watched as God sovereignly exalted an unelected man into the Presidency, someone who had never run for President or Vice President. (Gerald Ford in 1974, remember?) However things might appear, the King of kings is always firmly in control.
Responding to God’s Sovereignty
So, coming to grips with this, how do we respond?
- We should humble ourselves and worship God for His sovereignty. It’s embarrassing and humbling to realize that part of our frustration might be that we don’t like the outcome that God has chosen! But remember in Isaiah 55:8 He says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways.” God sees the “big picture,” and how to prepare the world for Jesus’ return. This attitude of submission to God’s sovereignty would be required of us even if we lived in stolen-election countries such as Nicaragua, dictatorships like Venezuela, or sham-election countries like Russia, China, Iran… you get the idea. Considering this, I found my heart exceedingly grateful in going to the polls on Election Day, getting approached by volunteer representatives from both parties, and freely fulfilling my citizen-duty.
- “Fret not thyself because of evildoers” (Psalm 37:1,2). I fear that too much of our spiritual energy can be “fretted away” over election outcomes. We certainly need to be led by the Holy Spirit as we pray faithfully for our nation and “those in authority” (see below); yet our life-force should be focused on God’s Kingdom work.
- Pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:2-3). Yes, even (maybe especially!) those we wish weren’t in office. The Scriptures don’t say that we get to pick and choose which office holders we pray for based on our preferences. (Remember that those words of Paul were written to Christians living under the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, who later brought persecution and the death of Christians.) And the course of wisdom is to pray for the next election cycle starting now.
- Refocus on work for the Kingdom! Right after King David exhorts us to “fret not,” he implores us rather to “trust in the LORD and do good… delight yourself in the LORD… commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him” (Psalm 37:3-5).
It’s helpful to remember that the strongest advancement of the gospel is occurring (and has occurred) in countries where persecution of Christianity is rampant. God’s arm is not “shortened that He cannot save” (Isaiah 59:1) because of political opposition.
Thanksgiving for a Month of Progress
I suppose that part of the challenge about the providence and will of God is that we look at it from a time-bound, earthly viewpoint. In our hearts we add a word to Jesus’ prayer — “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done — now!” Often, we don’t have the perspective to recognize that God’s sovereign will is being done now. Trust-full patience is a worthy (and necessary!) response to God’s Providence.
Except for aging (which seems to move too quickly!), it seems like too many of our Kingdom assignments go more slowly and take longer than we wish. Nevertheless, projects get completed!
- We have been able to collect $279 for the Honduras relief project on which we reported last month.
- Our latest book, The Exceptional Messenger (book #1 of The John the Baptist Experience series) has encouraging reviews trickling in. And I’ve been receiving helpful, personal feedback and input from various readers. All of this is “grist for the mill” as I spend my pre-dawn writing hours laboring over another chapter for book #2. Once we’ve received about 20 reviews, we’ll move into the next phrase of making this book more available.
- Speaking of writing — with Christmas now less than 30 days away, we have released online this year’s “new Christmas chapter” in our growing manuscript of The Curious Corners of Christmas. Those of you who know me know that I stand foursquare on the inspiration of Scripture; and it’s for that reason that for a long time I was bothered by the seeming discrepancies — time discrepancies — between the Christmas stories of Matthew’s magi and Luke’s shepherds. But as I prepared my Christmas Eve message for Morningstar Church in Middleburg, Florida a few years back, the Holy Spirit seemed to have been pleased to open the matter more clearly. That message was short; this resulting chapter — Messiah’s Missing Months and the Magi — is a more thorough exploration of the subject.
- About that “mystery title” book we’ve been translating into Spanish — we have finished work on the bibliography. Soon we’ll tackle the 54 footnotes (notas al pie). But with the intervening holidays, the completion date is now sometime in January.
Prayer to Be in God’s Will
Let’s always seek to be in God’s will, flowing with the current of His Providence, not against it or heedless of it. To that end, would you please join us in prayer for…
- Missions-trip planning for early 2023. A possible double-duty trip in February would include both Guatemala and Honduras. There’s the regular May trip to the Guatemalan pastors’ conference; a possible teaching trip to Iowa sometime in the Spring; and an as-yet-unfulfilled teaching promise to keep with a Guatemalan church in south-central Florida once our car situation gets sorted out.
- Our ongoing translation work.
- Distribution of The Exceptional Messenger Marketing genius? I don’t even qualify as a marketing ignoramus (though I might qualify as a marketing curmudgeon, since I don’t like it). But I know the Lord has an important message to convey to Christian leaders through this book. Ask that we could follow God’s leading in this, doing as much as He wants done in the way He wants it done, entirely free of both reticence and self promotion.
- Writing of The Extraordinary Message: I can’t write nearly as quickly as the thoughts are coming to me. The chapter I’m writing at the moment — The Purpose of Grace — was conceived several years ago by a request from Peruvian-American pastor David Hodges (now his denomination’s national supervisor) in Perú. And this “grace chapter” is trying to give birth to another chapter before I can even finish the first draft!
- Giving towards missions travel. At times in the past I have had to turn down a trip because there wasn’t enough money to cover the expenses. (Here we return to the matter of God’s providence!) Since you’re praying with us for God’s will to be done, please be sensitive to the Lord about whether He would have you direct some of His resources toward these ministry needs, especially as 2022 draws to a close. Thank you!
And thank you for your love, prayers, and ongoing encouragement — they mean a lot as we look forward to what God will do in 2023! We can be in awe of, in submission to, and living in the comfort of God’s sovereignty.
Much love in Jesus,
Tax-Deductible Donations Gratefully Received
Have you thought about making this a monthly gift?
- Photo by Ochir-Erdene Oyunmedeg on Unsplash ↩
- Photo of Nero coin courtesy of Wikipedia.org. ↩
- Map of Central America is courtesy of Operation World. ↩