Is your life attacked some times? Or your faith, or your plans? How do you usually answer to these attacks? Observe Daniel's answer:
Daniel 6:11-12 (NIV 10-11)
"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help"
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Let's see four words in Aramaic which describe Daniel actions to answer to the attack against him:
"umetsalé" = "and prayed", from Aramaic "selá" = to "pray" or "ask"
"umodé" = "and gave thanks", fr. Ar. "yedá" = to "give thanks" or "praise"
"baé" = "praying", fr. Aramaic "beá" = to "ask", "seek", "make a petition"
"mitkhanán" = "asking for help", from Aramaic "khanán" = to "show mercy" - as in Dn 4:27 - or to "ask for mercy" in Dn 6:12 (NIV 11)
In a previous message we were talking about the trials we go through in our lives (you can read about it in Daniel 3:21-23 in this site) and we showed the example of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the burning furnace. Now we see another example of perseverance in the prophet Daniel, who was asking, seeking God's mercy, giving Him thanks and praising Him with opened windows - anyone could see him.
Why "windows toward Jerusalem"?
In the second book of Chronicles we can read about the building of the first temple, known as "Solomon's temple", in Jerusalem. The chapter six shows us a prayer which Solomon directed to God in the inauguration of temple:
2 Chronicles 6:26-27 (selected verses; you can read the whole prayer in your Bible)
"When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance"
Observe the words of the king, which we see in other verses: "when they pray TOWARD THIS PLACE". Solomon's temple replaced the tabernacle, which was a detachable temple that should serve during the exodus to the promised land. The temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in times of Zedekiah (see 2 Kings 25:9 and 2 Chronicles 36:19) In times of Ezra and Nehemiah it was rebuilt, and even expanded by king Herod under his rule. This second temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and we believe it will be rebuilt when Jesus comes back (fulfiling the prophecy of Ezekiel 40-47)
God's answer to king Solomon is in the next chapter of Chronicles:
2 Chronicles 7:12-16
"I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices"
"When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land"
"Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there"
The Lord promised not only to hear those prayers offered in the temple, but in the place itself. Daniel was in the same situation that Jews are nowadays, with no temple. But the place was there. That's why the Jews pray toward Jerusalem or in the Wailing Wall, toward the place of the temple. And that's why Daniel was praying toward Jerusalem. God promised that His eyes and His heart "will always be there".
Observe the attack which came on Daniel: a plot (manipulation) to kill him, undoing the king's plans and making Daniel devotions illegal (injustice) because of being a Jew (discrimination) and because he worshipped the real God (ungodliness) The conspiracy was not only to make the king sign the decree, but to spy Daniel in order to accuse him before the king (they persecuted the prophet to death)
Is Daniel the only believer who's been victim of manipulation, injustice, discrimination, ungodliness and persecution?
Observe the following verses:
"This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:"
"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper"
This verses are part of a letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent to the captives who had been deported to Babylonia. In the letter, Jeremiah prophesied that the Babylonian captivity would last 70 years - rebutting false prophets that foretold they would come back at once - and exhorted them to establish themselves in Babylonia and seek their prosperity there, as if it was their land.
The book of Daniel shows us some of the persecutions that the prophet and his friends went through in Babylonia, and how God delivered them from death in several occasions. The letter of Jeremiah is a word from God to the Jewish captives, giving them comfort and the certainty that some day they would come back to Israel.
Don't think for a second that only in antiquity the Jews were persecuted. In Israel is persecution an almost daily phenomenon, both with the use of military or terrorism against Israeli citizens. And this antisemitism is not limited to the Holy Land; terrorist Muslims have killed Jews in other countries without some Israeli connection, as in France (in the Kosher food supermarket in Paris, the day after the Charlie Hebdo massacre) Belgium (in the Jewish Museum, on may 24, 2014) Pakistan (february 1st, 2002) England (July 26, 1994) Argentina (march 17, 1992) and other ones.
The church of Jesus Christ has been under terrible persecutions also. In 1st Peter 4:12-19 we read:
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
"So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good"
The "fiery ordeal" was the persecution provoked by the Roman emperor Nero against Christians in the year 64 AD, under the pretext that they had set Rome in fire - a fire he himself caused. The apostle Peter calls the Christians under persecution to praise God, and to commit their souls to Him.
The persecutions against Christians were a main characteristic in the period of church history from circa 100 to 313 AD. The Roman emperors wanted to extirpate Christianity from the empire. But God had different plans; Rome fell and Christianity is alive.
Unfortunately, persecutions against Christians didn't end with the Roman Empire. This is nowadays the most persecuted community in the world, with the worst cases in countries with Muslim majority. And persecution doesn't come only from Muslim terrorists.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the USA legalized same sex marriage for all States (which means that citizens from states which didn't have this "law" have got it imposed) This outrageous decision is a blatant violation of the Word of God, in which the Civil Authorities have arrogate themselves the right of trampling Christianity, defining as "legal" a kind of union which is called sinful in the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. But they didn't stop there. Some ministers - both religious and civil - who don't want to take part in this abomination have been persecuted and in several cases imprisoned.
Let's pray to the Lord so that He invigorates their faith and give them victory. They refuse to call good evil, and evil good. Maybe those judges don't care about God and where they will be on eternity, but Christians do. The ONLY form of "matrimony" is between a man and a woman. Any other kind of union between two or more persons is anything but "matrimony". Especially, the union of two persons of the same sex is a sin in the Bible from the beginning to the end, and we have been warned about it.
But Our Lord prophesied this kind of events. He said,
"But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict"
"All this" is a reference to the wars, cataclysms on earth and heaven, and all the signs we read about in the book of Revelation, by the times of Jesus Second Coming. Before this would take place, he prophesied persecutions and prison for Christians because of their faith, "before all this". And He promised to give us "words and wisdom" that nobody should resist or contradict.
Some ones could think, "if God is love, why do persecutions come?"
There are - at least - two reasons: trial and blessing.
Let's read about the first one in Luke 8:6, in the Parable of the Sower:
"Some [seed] fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture"
Luke 8:13 gives us the interpretation of the parable for this kind of believers:
"Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away"
The Lord doesn't save us and give us His Spirit so that we will be test free. He equips us so that we can resist trials - especially those which would have defeated us without Him. Observe these verses:
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers"
These words were spoken to Peter the apostle, preparing him for the persecutions that Satan should provoke against him. The Lord was not praying in order to avoid it, but in order to strengthen Peter's faith so that he could pass the tests. This image of a sift aludes to the feeling of someone who is on trials and conflicts. But also to the reason of sifting wheat, or sand, or any material: some corns are wanted and others aren't. The trials take away the unnecesary, that which don't resist, and lets behind only the pure and good.
This is indispensable. If our math teachers wouldn't teach us tu sum, maybe we would be speculating yet, "is 2+2=5, or 34, or 3,1416?" If the English teacher shouldn't teach us grammar, many could say, "apostle are instructed of Jesus to be able to endures the trial which had come". And if nobody would teach us geography, maybe we should believe that Jerusalem is the capital of a country called "Palestine" and that Israel doesn't exist.
But thanks God we've got teachers who taught us many things, and TESTED us to control that we had learned. In this context, the Word (1 Peter 1:6-7) says:
"In all this [the hope of salvation] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed"
It is not casual that the same apostle who was "sifted" is telling us later that it is necessary and that we have to "suffer grief in all kinds of trials". He suffered persecution, prison and even death because of his faith.
The test of Mathematics, Geography or English show us that we know something about those questions. And the test of our faith is the way we see how much we "live by faith", it means, how genuine is our faith. The verses in the Parable of the Sower show also that the test reveals the true believers and those who aren't. In the same way that some students make it and others don't, there are believers with a real faith and another fake ones.
Persecutions have another reason: they bring blessing to us. Observe this verses:
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you".
When you make it at the end of a career, then you are able to work in some profession. Generally you'll get some diploma showing your qualification, which will be useful when you're searching work. This is a REWARD to your endeavour.
In the same way, the Lord has REWARDS for us in heaven, to all of us who have suffered persecution because of our faith. He doesn't call us "poor thing", "disgraced", "unfortunate". He calls us "BLESSED". This word is the rendering of the Greek "makários" which means "fortunate", "blessed", "happy". To experience or to have experienced trials is a motive to consider yourself fortunate, a motive of blessing and happiness. Because the outcome of these trials is that the Lord blesses us richly.
Daniel and his friends experienced terrible persecutions. They were under death threat, their Jewish identity was taken from them and they were sent to death. Their integrity and their faith caused this book to be written circa 600 BC, and since then it has been "Word of God" for both Jews and Christians. Would this book be written if they should follow the evil plot of chapter one, or worship the golden image in chapter three, or if Daniel should stop praying and leave his God because of the plot in chapter six? The stories of these men of God are written as a testimony about their faith. Because of that faith which overcame persecutions, they are today, more than 2500 years later, an example and a blessing to us, leading us to know God and His ways.
Is your life attacked some times? Or your faith, or your plans?
The Lord tells you: you are blessed! Rejoice and be glad, because in the same way they persecuted prophets who are now in God's presence. Under death menace because of the royal decree, Daniel continued praying, seeking, giving thanks and praising God, even when it was precisely these activities the very ones that endangered his life according to the royal decree. This is one of those "prophets who were before us". He was persecuted, but the perseverance in his faith gave him the victory.
Since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the Jewish people has been living under persecution, first from the Roman Empire, after them, from the medieval Catholic Church, lately from Muslim terrorists - even from Muslim states. But it is hard to find a period in history without Jews praying toward Jerusalem, or at the Wailing Wall. Christians have also been persecuted during the whole existence of the church, but there's been always a knee which bows and a tongue which confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the greater glory of God the Father. Observe the Word of God to Christians enduring persecutions, which we find in Hebrews 10:35-36:
"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised".
There is a reward to our faith. The only requisite is that this faith of ours must be genuine, real. It doesn't matter how many attacks will come to us because of our faith; it doesn't matter if we are even killed because of our faith. On eternity, the faith in Jesus Christ will save us, and not believing in Jesus Christ will send us to hell.
If you have not yet received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, there is time yet! The day will come when this act will be impossible, but if you are reading this words, that day hasn't come yet. Your salvation and the blessing of God upon your life are at a prayer's distance, if this prayer is done with your heart.
May the Lord bless you!
In the love of Christ, your brother
PS Jesus is coming soon!