September 18 — Hard Lesson — Dan. 3-4. Nebuchadnezzar proved that it is very hard for proud and stubborn people to acknowledge and submit to Yahweh. He at least recognized God and even called Him “the Most High God” (3:26) but it wasn’t his god. After the deliverance of the three men from the furnace, the king said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” (3:28)—still not his god. Daniel warned and pled with the king to turn from his pride by recognizing “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (4:25). But a year later the king boasted about Babylon, claiming, “which I have built by my mighty power … and for the glory of my majesty” (4:30). After his hard lesson of a period of insanity, he finally “blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever” (4:34). Powerful, rich, smart, and beautiful people often have great difficulty in submitting to God because of their pride.
September 19 — Contrasted Kings — Dan. 5-6. Belshazzar, the final king of the Babylonian empire, dishonored God by drinking from the holy “golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem” (5:3a), and in using them, they “praised the gods of gold and silver” (5:3b). Daniel rebuked him because, although Belshazzar knew about Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling lesson, “you … have not humbled your heart … but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven” (5:22-23). The king paid for it with his life that night in the invasion by the forces of Darius, the king of the Medo-Persian empire. Darius showed a different attitude toward God after he was tricked into throwing Daniel into the lions’ den. After God delivered Daniel, Darius humbly acknowledged a kingdom greater than his, and declared that “people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end” (6:26).
September 20 — Empires — Dan. 7-8. The apocalyptic visions of these two chapters, symbolically forecasting the ultimate destiny of the world, can be understood much easier with the following table from the ESV Study Bible. The vision of chapter 8 closely parallels Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in chapter 2, anticipating the three major human empires to follow that of Babylon: Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman, covering a total period of over 1000 years. Then, the final Kingdom of God will be climaxed: “…with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man … And to him was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom … one that shall not be destroyed” (7:13-14). On “trial” before the Sanhedrin, Jesus claimed to be this heavenly visitor when He told them, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Come, Lord Jesus!
September 21 — Weeks and Angels — Dan. 9-10. Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks has resulted in numerous attempts to understand its intended fulfillment. A good comparison of the major interpretations can be found in most study Bibles but none of them is without problems. The angel Gabriel brought the message of the 70 weeks to Daniel. Only two angels are mentioned by name in the Bible, Gabriel and Michael, and both are mentioned in our reading for today. Both came in response to prayers by Daniel (9:23; 10:12) and both referred to Daniel as one who is “greatly loved” (9:23; 10:11), an expression used only of Daniel in Scripture.
September 22 — The Last Chapter — Dan. 11-12. Much of chapter 11 focuses on “a contemptible person” (11:21), the king of the north, who would be Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek leader of the greatest of four kingdom divisions following the death of Alexander the Great. He killed over 80,000 Jews and profaned the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar and setting up an idol to Zeus, which led to the Jewish Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC). The focus in chapter 12 seems to shift to the end-times “last chapter” with the Antichrist and a “time of trouble” (12:1), the two halves of the 7-year Great Tribulation, and the resurrection (12:2). Maybe you will somewhat identify with Daniel when he said, “I heard, but did not understand” (12:8).
September 23 — Hosea — Hos. 1-4. We go back in time when we read about the prophet Hosea, who lived before the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria. Hosea had a tragic life assignment: marrying, tolerating, and accepting back an adulterous wife. All of this was a picture of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, where there remained “no knowledge of God in the land” (4:1). He said He would punish them “because you have rejected knowledge” (4:6) but He would eventually woo them back to obedience. God’s love is patient but His justice is also perfect. We can avoid punishing periods in our personal lives by remaining faithful to Him.
September 24 — Disconnects — Hos. 5-8. Both Israel and Judah are in view in Hosea, but the emphasis is on Israel, who, because of their advanced sins, would be punished 135 years before Judah. They were “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). Hosea said that “their deeds do not permit them to return to their God” (5:4). Sin broke the connection. They cried, “My God, we—Israel—know you” (8:2), but God replied that “Israel has spurned the good” (8:3). Although they went through the motions of worship, “they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them” (5:6). God broke the connection. That condition would remain “until they acknowledge their guilt and … earnestly seek me” (5:15). Let us evaluate our worship to make sure that we are earnestly seeking God and that we are not allowing and excusing sin, which turns God’s ear from us.