Are you manipulating God?
Daniel 6:17-18 (NIV 16-17)
"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!"
"A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed"
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If you compared the original Aramaic with NIV then you saw a very good translation for these verses. But there is a verb that you can see treated differently in many versions. "May God rescue you", the king's wishes about Daniel, is "yeshezbinákh", from Aramaic "shezíb", in 3rd person, future tense, and with the 2nd person suffix. This should be rendered (3rd p future) "he will rescue"; and with the suffix, "he will rescue you". This conjugation of shezib (to "rescue" or "save") is an irregular one, and an odd grammatical case. That's why you find in many translations "he will rescue you" - as a prophecy - and not "may he rescue you" - as a wish. The first one is the literal one; the other one seems to be more in conformity with the whole chapter. Did the king only wished Daniel to be saved, or did he make a confession of faith in Daniel's God? Many of us shall wait to be on eternity to know the answer to this question.
The conspiracy against Daniel is carried through in these verses, where the prophet is sent to the lions in order to kill him. That lions' den is the place where they were kept when not in use. In ancient times, the kings had savage beasts for their entertainment, even to set them free and then hunt them. Don't think even for a second that we are talking about tamed lions, like those you see in circuses. Those lions in the den had a substancial breakfast with Daniel's enemies at the end of this chapter. When the prophet continued his devotionals and prayers every day, he knew that a possible death was involved in this choice, and he accepted the sacrifice of his own person instead of abandoning his God.
If you read the previous message, we were talking about the difference between "sacrifice" and "manipulation". Daniel, as Our Lord Jesus Christ also, chose the sacrificial way. And as the Lord also, he was delivered by God.
What is the meaning of this for us today?
Read Ephesians 5:2 :
"And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God"
This verse shows Our Lord as an "offering" - Greek "prosforá" - and "sacrifice" - Greek "tusía". This last word means the act of presenting an animal to be sacrificed for our sins, or the animal itself. "Prosforá" means the bloody sacrifices but also any type of "offer": grain, any object, or even money. The verbs "to sacrifice" and "to offer" are in Greek "túo" and "prosféro", from same roots as "tusía" and "prosforá".
Now, "Christ gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice" and this verse commands us to "walk in the way of love... as Christ loved us", Christ loved us to the extreme of giving His life for our salvation. Of course that to offer ourselves to die on a cross shoud save no one, because only Jesus had this ministry in mankind's history, He is the only Savior. What is then our "sacrifice" and "offer"?
Jesus' sacrifice was to die on a cross. And He said to us in Luke 9:23,
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me"
What is your "cross"?
One way to know what something is, is to discard that which it is not. Maybe you drink coffee in the morning - as I do - and eat some cornflakes or müsli with yoghurt, maybe some kind of sandwich... This is no "sacrifice". All these things are food, they are tasty and they are beneficial for our body. I've never heard somebody to say, "I'll sacrifice myself" when eating a good breakfast.
When we talk about a "sacrifice", it means something we have to "endure". Maybe something you don't like to do, or which is very difficult, or hopeless, or painful... Christ's sacrifice included to be unjustly accused, to be badly treated, humiliated, carry a cross to a mount - under the pain of the cruel punishment - to be crucified and to die. Nobody should have chosen this sacrifice but He alone, the one who was called by the Father on eternity and answered, "send me".
Thanks God! Because He chose this sacrifice, salvation came to us, and that's why we are not "sacrificed" because of our sins. Our "sacrifices and offerings" are something different, which you can find in the Word of God:
Observe these verses:
"Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit"
"But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you"
The verses in Romans show us that Paul preached the gospel so that his converts should become "an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit". And Philippians show us the same idea in the same figurative language: the service and worship which is the result of the faith of the converts is an offering, and Paul is "poured out as a drink offering" on it - which means, he is participating of it.
In order to understand these passages we need to know the concept of sacrifice and offering of Paul, a Jew and former Pharisee who became a Christian Jew, when he is speaking about these things. He was an expert in the matter. The offerings were "sanctified", it means consecrated to God and especially treated so that they should fill their purpose. In Leviticus 1-7 you can read about many examples of these procedures. The "drink offering" was a wine offering which was offered together with the sacrifice and was poured before the Lord (Numbers 28:7) Both offering and drink offering are symbolic for NT believers and mean "that which we offer".
That which Christ offered was Himself, and Paul talks about our faith as to "offer" ourselves to God. But if we are not about to be crucified, because it would be useless, what is our sacrifice?
In Romans 8:29 can we read, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters"
This verse is talking about those who have been chosen to salvation, the "predestined" ones. For those who should receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, God predestined a way: "to be conformed to the image of His Son". The salvation that God gave us free in the death of His Son finds a sinner who repents and turns to God. But from now on, what are we gonna do? How shall we live?
To be conformed to the image of the Lord we need the Spirit of God. That which the Word of God says to us, God's voice, is revealed by the Holy Spirit. And in the Word we find several verses talking about us as a "sacrifice" and about "our sacrifices".
See Romans 12:1,2 : "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will"
This passage calls us to:
- "offer" our bodies as a "living sacrifice". Well, this is weird. The "sacrifices" were burnt on the altar; to present an animal as a "sacrifice" was to kill it because of our sins. We know nothing about some bull coming back from the tabernacle and telling to his mates about his experience there, "Do you know what ? I was sacrificed yesterday!". How could a "sacrifice" be "living"? Thanks God who gives us the answer as we continue reading.
- We will "not conform to the pattern of this world" ("world" comes from Greek "aión" which means an age, century, a very long period of time) This aión is used by Paul mostly to describe this times we are living in, on this earth full of sin and under Satan's control, contrasting it with the garden of Eden and with the Millennial Kingdom which is about to come with Our Lord Jesus. This is the "world" - a part of mankind - which rejects God and His ways (in Galatians 1:4 we can read that this aión is an "evil age")
- We shall be "transformed by the renewing of your mind". "Mind" comes from Greek "noós" which means understanding, mind, reasoning, intellect, thought. Our mind shall be changed to think like Jesus did (1 Corinthians 2:16) if we wanna know God's thoughts.
The knowledge of God's will which these verses are talking about produces in us a diferent life, Jesus Christ's life in us, through the Holy Spirit. This "new life" - as it is called in Romans 6:4 - means to die to sin (that's why we are certainly a "sacrifice") and to live for Christ, which we can read in Romans chapter six. Ephesians chapter four shows us that this life means to stop quarreling and to forgive each other, in the same way that God has forgiven us. And Colossians chapter 3 says that we will no longer lie and speak blasphemously, instead shall we speak truth and praise God.
When we leave the life in sin and begin to live in conformity to our new mind (Christ's mind) then we will serve God - as He did - and praise God. Hebrews 13:15 says,
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that openly profess his name"
To praise God is a "sacrifice" that we bring. It doesn't matter if you "feel like" praising Him or not, if you think God is being fair with you, or too severe. We have been "betrothed" to God (2 Corinthians 11:2) so we are supposed to praise Him "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health". There is a great power in praising God, which is unbound specially when we praise in a state that nobody should do it (as Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16)
A last example - last by now - of "sacrifice" is our monetary offering. Observe this verses:
"I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God"
Paul is talking to the Philippians about the offerings they sent to him. One reason to offer is that God's servants who preach the Word of God need a salary. Other reasons include to keep the temple, to help the needy, and more.
"Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made"
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
This example is about the offering that Paul took from Gentile churches to help Jerusalem. Christianity had reached them because of Jerusalem's Jews, where the church was born (Romans 15:27) and because of it, Paul preached that it was just to bless Jerusalem's church financially also.
In a former message (Daniel 5:18-19) we were talking about some Jewish celebrations, where they thank God because of His blessings and because of Israel's deliverance. The main three celebrations are established by God in the Bible, and you can read about them in Deuteronomy 16 (Passover - our Easter, the Feast of Weeks - our Pentecost - and the Feast of the Tabernacles) Observe now Dt 16:16-17, the passage in this chapter talking about offerings:
"Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you"
Do you appear before the Lord every day? Or every Sunday, or three times a year, or by Christmas and Easter?
Do you "sacrifice" praise, do you glorify God and bless Him even when you are in trouble?
Have you "sacrificed" yourself about sin, have you consecrated your spirit, your soul and body to serve God and not Satan?
Do you bring some gifts to God, from that He provides for you?
OR ARE YOU MANIPULATING GOD?
If you wonder why is this last question highlighted, let me tell you. We live in a "relative" world with "grey nuances". "Black and white", "good and evil", "God and Satan" are absent in the minds of most people. This world doesn't have Jesus Christ's mind.
But God is not in submission to this "evil age". The Lord has always established through the whole history of mankind what is good and what is bad, what is correct and what is improper, since he ordered for Adam and Eve the kind of things they could do and the ones they wouldn't. He did the same thing with Noah, Abraham, Moses and all the OT prophets, and with Our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles in the NT. God has never stopped speaking, and He has never stopped calling the human beings He created, so that they follow Him and get saved. You can read in this site that we have treated how to hear God's voice (see under Daniel 4:10-13, or Daniel 5:18-19)
People manipulate God in many ways. For some, "God is good and He will save everybody". But this "universalism" is a satanical lie. If God should save genocides and terrorists who never repent their sins, especially their crimes against other human beings, God could hardly be called "good". There is no goodness without justice. There is other group that state that "there are many ways to interpret the Scriptures, and all are legitime". They should better pray to the Holy Spirit to talk to them, because twisting the Scriptures is a sure way to hell. It causes that we can't hear God's voice. A third group "follow their heart", they do or don't do things because they "feel" to do them - many have a special "spiritual" expression to this, "I feel from the Lord". Let me tell you that it is a sin to take the Name of the Lord in vain, and that your heart is "deceitful above all things and beyond cure". Because I believe it, that my heart is deceitful, I don't follow it. I follow Christ. He gave me His Spirit to set me free from evil, including my own.
There are a thousand ways to not do God's will. But obedience is evaluated black and white. If your boss asks you, did you finish the task I gave you? then you have two answers: yes or no. If it is done to the 99%, YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED.
Many people don't want to manipulate, but they know they have failed God and are very distant from God's expectancy. Let me tell you, I'm in the same situation. Even more, the great apostle Paul said he had not arrived yet to his goal (see Philippians 3:12-13) But God doesn't condemn us because of our failure. God has adopted us as His children. You know that all children learning to walk eventually fall, the ones learning to speak say wrong things, and the ones learning to play football eventually shatter the window pane. The act of having commited a sin doesn't lead us directly and without remedy to condemnation.
What shall we do to avoid falling in condemnation?
Before the creation of the world, God knew already that we should sin, and He prepared a salvation, a way to set us free from our sins. There is a gate to this salvation, which is called "REPENTANCE". This word comes from Greek "metánoya" which means "repentance" or "change of mind" or "change in the inner man". Most people think of repentance the act of deploring something wrong they did. The most noble ones include in their notion of "repentance" to apologise to the affected one. But "metánoya" reaches beyond this. To "repent" in the Word of God means to regret the sin - after we acknowledge it for what it is - to make up with the affected one(s) and, a very important clause, to MAKE THE DECISION not to do it again. A sin which returns over and over again is a sign that there is no real "repentance". The real repentance is in the words of Our Lord to the woman who was caught in adultery, "Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin". This is what God "feels" in His heart, "I forgive you, but REPENT. Stop commiting adultery".
Jesus didn't come to this world to condemn it, but to save it. If you have not yet received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, today is the day! Don't wait any longer! The Lord is waiting for you with open arms, to say to you, "I forgive you".
In the love of Christ, your brother
PS. Jesus is coming soon!