This week, two things were facing me spiritually. One was a constant theme of the Book of Daniel- I'd been listening to a preacher on the way in to work speaking on him, and Saturday morning I woke up to hear Dr. Jeremiah finishing a talk on it. The main theme of the messages was how Daniel grew up faithful, and thus was able to resist not only the temptations but the commands of his rulers in Babylon and Persia without bending.
The second was my personal battle against my "thorns in the flesh", and what the readings were saying to me. This all wove itself together Saturday morning in a set of mirror-image readings that spoke to what needs to be done in a world hurtling toward judgment- and the consequences of not doing them.
So let me break this into three sections- the Monday/Saturday readings on the greater picture, the Tuesday/Friday readings on where I/we should be, and the Wednesday/Thursday on where we might actually be finding our/your/myselves.
Monday was Ezekiel 27, the passage on "the Ship Tyre". This, and it's mirror-image in Revelation 18 (the fall of Babylon) used these two famous cities to describe a great and wealthy power at the end of time. And if you read them both, you can see that this could very well be the United States it is talking about. How many times has the question been asked, "where is the US of A in prophecy?" Now read them and see.
In Ezekiel, this city is described thusly:
- taking pride in its own perfection (VV3-4);
-relied on its own "wise men" to guide them (VV 8-9);
-vast amounts of luxury items, brought in from all over the world, including "human lives" (VV 12-24)- the mirror-image Rev 18:13 calls this "and souls of men";
-worldwide reach and power (VV 25-26).
All of which leads to an ultimate and swift judgment; as Rev 18:17 put it, everything gone in just one hour. Why isn't the US of A in the Bible? I say it might be; just not at the end.
The Saturday mirror was Daniel 8, where he has the vision of the two-horned Ram (Media-Persia) being destroyed by the one-horned goat (Alexander the Great). But as Gabriel interprets this vision to him, it becomes clear that not only is he showing Alexander and his successors, especially Antiochus Epiphanes, but he is also looking at this far-future time. Because the Antichrist, if you read vv 8-12, is more than just a man. He is a "little horn" who grows up to reach the Host of Heaven, and cast some of them down to trample them, even comparing himself to "the Prince of the Host"; I believe this tells us the Antichrist will be Satan incarnate as man, trying to reverse what Christ did as an incarnate Man. Another verse says he will "cast truth to the ground". Jesus calls Satan in John 8:44 "a liar and the Father of it". And I really think all of those who are willing for their own comfort and political purposes to say that homosexuality is "natural", a baby growing in the womb is "not alive", and God "does not exist" ought to look closer at what side they're on. And considering this, look at how verse 12 ends: "He did all this AND PROSPERED."
But the final thing I need to mention about this Antichrist that such people will no doubt love and follow comes in two verses: verse 24- "His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power"; and in the next verse, "But he shall be broken without human hand."
Tuesday/Friday starts in James 5, where he lists several characteristics that we will need, which Daniel had, to overcome.
-"letting your yes be yes and your no be no"; in other words, integrity in yourself;
-calling on others to help;
-forgiveness and its flip-side, confession.
He finishes with the encouragement that Elijah was a man just like us, who by these qualities was able to do great things for God; and then adds one final goal- to turn our erring brethren onto the right road. So many times I see comments on others' blogs of, "as long as you don't tell me about it/ I don't need saved/ I don't need preached to". And so often we just say, fine. But it isn't fine, and we cannot let those who don't understand that dictate how we minister. Sorry, if you don't like it, pal, but I am commissioned to tell you.
The Friday mirror was Philippians 1, which Paul frames with the famous verse 6, " Being confident in this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Paul goes on to name off some of the good works God wants to see in us:
-growth in knowledge and discernment;
-approval of "excellent" things;
-sincerity in belief;
-and the use of one's fruits to the glory of God.
So it is these attributes- perseverance, love, integrity, study, coming together, sincerity, forgiveness, confession, and good works- that James and Paul tell us- and Daniel's life shows us- will save us from the judgment and falling for the lies out there now and the ones to come. But is this where you and I are at?
There are two kinds of people who are falling short in these categories, and that's where Wednesday/Thursday come in. Wednesday covered the unbeliever, courtesy Hebrews 10. The writer gives a clear picture of what those who refuse to believe are doing, from God's POV:
-They are trampling the Son of God underfoot;
-They are setting His sacrifice for our sins "as something common";
-They are insulting the Holy Spirit, whose grace is freely given to save them.
The writer adds something to put this in perspective:
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[e] says the Lord.[f] And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”[g] 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The other group is brought up in Revelations 3, the letter to the Church in Sardis, in which God says, " You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead", and tells us to strengthen that which remains before it dies as well. How close am I to James 5 and Philippians 1? On a scale of Philippi to Sardis, where do I fall? We are told that if we are closer to Sardis, there are two things we need to do- "Hold fast and repent". Somewhere in between Elijah and Tyre we all fall. Where do we want to be? Would we rather spend our eternity in the white robes promised to a faithful Sardis, with our name in the Book of Life and our cause defended before God by Christ, or wait and face Him without an advocate? As for me, I need to repent and hold fast. What will you do? Remember, as I said at the beginning, we may find soon that we are facing not only temptations, but COMMANDS.