Kenneth Darter

Writing, Music, and Life

Archive for the category “Drink Deeply”

The Deep Faith

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (hereafter referred to as S, M, and A) were involved in one of the greatest miracles of the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel.  Most everyone who went to Sunday School knows the story of the three men being thrown into a fiery furnace (not a fireplace mind you, a furnace intended for execution and heated up seven times hotter than normal) and the Lord saves them.  Then the king acknowledges the power and authority of the one true God that the Israelites worship.

There is a deeper meaning to the story that tends to get skimmed over to get to the miracle.  S, M, and A were young men in exile from their home.  The Israelites had lost the war against Babylon and were under the subjugation of King Nebuchadnezzar II.  Yet these men were willing to stand up to the King in whatever small way they could.  They refused to bow down to his idols because they had faith in the one true God, never mind the fact that God hadn’t kept them from losing to Babylon!

When the three are sentenced to death, they tell the King that their God COULD save them if He wanted to.  They also tell the King that if God doesn’t save them, they STILL won’t bow down to His idols (of course, they’ll be dead, but still it’s the thought that counts).

This is the kind of faith I want to have.  It’s not dependent upon on what God does or doesn’t choose to do; we don’t even come close to comprehending God’s reasons or methods.  The faith of Daniel’s young friends is the deep faith that holds you through the fires of life and keeps your head held up no matter what.  You see, the important message from S, M, and A is that they refused to forsake their God.  The miracle is almost an afterthought.

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The Smart King

I’ve been reading in the book of Daniel, but I’ll spare you my thoughts on what Daniel says about the end times.  The past few weeks have shown me that figuring out exactly what prophecy means isn’t the point.  I think most Christians understand that, but it’s the few that don’t understand it that get all the press (I guess they make better headlines, but check out this post by Seth Barnes for a more up-lifting outlook).

There are some wonderful stories in Daniel aside from the verses of prophecy.  One that intrigued me was the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 (in order to avoid spelling that name again, I’m going to call him the “Smart King”).  The Smart King has been having strange dreams and wants the “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers,” to tell him what they mean.  But the catch is that he won’t tell them anything about the dreams.  They have to first tell him what he dreamed and then tell him what the dream means.

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My guess is that this Smart King has been fed a lot of bull in the past from astrologers and the like.  This time he wanted to make sure that whoever interpreted his dream was telling him the truth (that’s what makes him a smart king).  Of course, no one could tell the Smart King what he dreamed so he just kills them all (he must have been really tired of the bull).

I used to work near a mall where several fortune tellers worked.  I wonder what they would have said if I sat down one day and said I would only pay them to interpret my dreams if they could first tell me what I dreamed about?  If they tried to make up something to get my money, I would be hard pressed to say whether or not it was truly something I had dreamed!  The King in Daniel though is certain about the dream he has been having and we see throughout the Bible that great rulers have important dreams about their empires.

Now, you might think that the sorcerers and astrologers couldn’t tell the Smart King his dream because they didn’t have any power.  But make no mistake, over and over again in the Old Testament, we see stories of sorcerers and astrologers having some sort of mystical power – it’s just never greater than the power of GOD and I believe this is still true today.

The end of the story is that Daniel is able to tell the King what he dreamed and what it meant because GOD reveals it to him.  This story shows that GOD’s adversary only has limited powers.  Just as I found in Job, it appears that GOD’s adversary needs permission before he can get in your head (kind of makes me think of vampires being stuck outside your house unless you invite them in).  If you don’t reveal your dreams, the adversary doesn’t know what they are, only GOD knows.

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Daniel Praying

The Yearning of Job

It constantly amazes me to read the Old Testament.  As Christians who live under the covenant of the New Testament, I think we oftentimes dismiss or skim over the OT and many Christians begin and end their study of the scripture with the gospels (but that’s just my very unscientific assumption; I’d love to be proven wrong).  If we do skip over it or just skim it, then we miss the whole point of the scripture.  There is so much in the OT that needs to be unpacked and studied in order to truly understand what the NT says to us.

Think about how much you would miss if you read just The Return of the King and or just The Dark Tower and skipped the rest of the books in the series.  (Of course, no one but a dedicated scholar with a degree in Middle English history could read the Silmarillion, but the first ten minutes in the movie pretty much sums it up).

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(source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hand_of_Sauron.jpg)

In Job, there is a constant yearning for someone to intercede on man’s behalf.  Job is righteous – he has not wronged God, but God is too big for Job to approach on his own.  Job is seeking an arbitrator, an intercessor, a redeemer, or just a even just a friend.   (See Job 9:32-35, 16:18-21, 19:25-27)

Job 14: 15-17 says:

You will call and I will answer you

You will long for the creature your hands have made

Surely then you will count my steps

But not keep track of my sin

My offenses will be sealed up in a bag

You will cover over my sin

Job understood the creation and fall of man.  And though he was “blameless and upright”, he still knew he had sins that needed to be covered.  He was searching for the son of God who was also the son of Man, the bridge between God and man.

In the end of the book, after God speaks to Job from the storm, Job’s response is very simple and I believe this is the same response we should have in front of the cross:

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you

Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:5-6)

Blake Lord answering Job

Gambling with God

The prologue in the Book of Job is truly amazing.  In it, we get one of the few small glimpses in the Bible of the heavenly realm through the eyes of the writer of the book, and what a truly remarkable place it is.

At center stage, we see God in His splendor observing all creation and celebrating the righteousness and goodness of his servant Job.

Enter from stage left, the Adversary (aka Satan).  The Adversary has a wager for God, he bets God that he can make Job curse God, that Job is not truly righteous but only acts that way in order to receive God’s blessings.

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Now, I don’t know about you, but personally, I would not gamble with someone who not only set all the stars in motion, but also knows the future as well as the past.  Psalm 147 says:

“He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name
Great is our Lord and mighty in power
His understanding has no limit”

Dice

So why did the Adversary make this wager against the creator of the universe?  I can think of a couple of reasons although there are probably more:

  • He wanted to be able to touch one of God’s servants, this could imply that he needs permission.
  • He really thought he could beat God, this could imply he’s not very smart.
  • Perhaps, it’s just his nature.  After all, the name of Satan is the word Adversary, implying that Satan is defined by being against God.  In the same way that antimatter is the opposite of matter, the Adversary is the opposite of God by definition.

These reasons tell us some very interesting things about God and the Adversary.  But they don’t tell us WHY God would let the Adversary attack Job in the way that he does – why did God accept the wager.

After all of the soul searching and seeking of wisdom is done, Job finally hears from God and his life is restored to him.  But God still doesn’t tell us the why.  It makes you wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, even though we get a glimpse of the heavenly realm through the book, we still can’t handle it in the here and now.  Perhaps, like Job, we don’t have to understand, we just have to say, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours will be thwarted” (Job 42:1).

Dialogue at a Funeral

Imagine a funeral where there’s only one family member grieving because the funeral is for his entire family – a catastrophic event destroyed the family and left only one survivor.  Unfortunately, there are all too many stories in the news these days that could create this horrible situation.

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The survivor’s friends have flown into town to be with him in his time of need.

But it’s uncomfortable in the funeral home, because this survivor has issues to deal with and he’s understandably very angry at God, the universe, and everything.  So he sits at the funeral home surrounded by his friends while he weeps, and then he looks at them and says he wishes he had never been born and that it would be better to be dead then to still be alive.

And his friend says, “Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty”

I think maybe that friend would be tossed out of the funeral home on his ear.  Would anybody really say this to a friend who had just lost everything he ever loved?

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In the book of Job this is what one of Job’s friends says after Job had lost everything and been afflicted by Satan.  In Job’s time of trial, four friends come to visit him.  They mourn and sit in silence with him for seven days.  Based on the very long speeches they give after that, maybe they should have just kept sitting quietly.

Job’s friends bring their intellectual understanding of God.  In the face of real life tragedy, their words are empty and meaningless.

Job says, “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all!  Will your long-winded speeches never end?”

Dig into the book of Job and you will find a man who not only lives by the words, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”, but also truly understands them.

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