Category: <span>Bible</span>

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer.

Daniel 9:3

What was Daniel’s life really like? He was abducted from his homeland as a young man, probably in his early teens. He and his friends were put under the Chief of the Eunuchs – the logical deduction is that as part of Daniel’s incorporation into the retinue of the king of Babylon he and his friends were made eunuchs. Daniel was also a slave. No matter what position he was given it didn’t change the fact that he was owned by the king. Reading between the lines of the book of Daniel he was down more than he was up – at times of crisis he was remembered, at other times he could be completely forgotten. With every change of regime, and Daniel suffered quite a few, Daniel would have lost whatever position he had (apart from the Belshazzar/Darius change, where things went the other way).

Why the background? To show that Daniel didn’t ‘have it good’. He wasn’t recognised by all around him as some giant of faith and righteousness. He was often hated, occasionally recognised, but mostly it was just him and his God. But God recognised him as a giant of faith and righteousness (see Ezekiel 14:14,20)! We need to understand how he came to be who he is while under the constraints that he suffered. We need to know that we have the same access to the same God that Daniel did, if only we would avail of that access.

It’s strange, but I struggle to read books on prayer – they just don’t seem to work. In one sense, it’s such a simple act that I wonder how someone can write a book about it, and yet in another it’s one of the most difficult acts for a believer to truly indulge in. I’m not going to write a book on it, but I do think Daniel exemplifies how we should go about it when we don’t know how to pray.

Daniel was at his wit’s end, he couldn’t see a way out of the domination by a succession of superpowers. He himself was powerless and subject to the whims of those superpowers. Where could he turn, where did he turn?

He turned to God’s word! “I, Daniel, perceived in the books” Daniel 9:2. We’re often told that we should listen before we speak. This is all the more vital with prayer. How can we worship aright if we don’t first remind ourselves of who God is. How can we ask aright if we don’t read of God’s sovereignty and grace. How can we seek God’s plans if we have not first imbibed them into our own souls?

Before we turn to prayer we must turn to the word.

Then, like Daniel, we can turn our faces to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer. Daniel used what he learned in God’s word to direct his prayers. He confessed not only his sin, but that of the nation. Remember that God chose a people, not just persons; we should pray for God’s people as a people. Daniel reminded God of the promises made in his word and asked God to fulfil them. We need to be seekers after God’s plans and purposes so that we can pray that God would fulfil them, we need to understand the times in order to see God’s providence in them and seek the progression of his kingdom.

Most of all, we need to seek God’s glory in our prayers, because in that is everything else made right. Our peace, our prosperity, our salvation and redemption, our future hope are all bound up in the God of this universe bringing about his plans and purposes. As we see the reality of this we will see the part that our lives play in the greatest story of all: God and his people. As we look at the world around us, and the church, which is God’s dwelling place on earth, till he comes, we can honestly pray with Daniel:

Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your sake O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. Daniel 9:17


The golden image had been raised, the command had gone out, the music played. A sea of humanity as one has rushed to comply, to bow down, to worship this idol, this golden image of a non-god as commanded by their megalomaniac king. Still standing among this wave of bent backs are three young foreigners: exiles, slaves, God fearers. The Bible tells us that these three were right, and the rest, the majority & the leadership were wrong.

The Babylon of Daniel’s day presented the same choice that Christians face in the world today. For many today that choice, to follow Christ, is also, similarly a matter of life and death. For those in more moderate regimes the choice is still one of whether to conform to, to bow down to this world order or to stand.

When all those around us are bowing down to the world, to tradition, to the lie of self importance to anything and anyone but God, the simple, solitary question sticks out just as clearly as did Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah on that provocative day: will you stand?

These three godly men had no guarantee of God’s deliverance from the fiery furnace. All they had was a clear understanding of right and wrong, of who was God and who was not. They stood because God is God and the golden image was not, and Nebuchadnezzar was not. They stood on principle and in faith that obedience to God and service to God was of more value than their lives. A careful reading of the text would point to Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogant challenge to God as the provocation to God’s miraculous intervention. Many believers before and after have lost their lives in similar situations. This isn’t about miraculous intervention, it’s about standing, regardless of the outcome. The question remains: will you stand?

And yet, if they hadn’t stood they never would have experienced God’s intervention in their lives and in history in such a wonderful way. Not only to be cast into the fiery furnace and survive without even a whiff of smoke, but to be joined in their ‘demise’ by one ‘like a son of the gods’ is more than they could have imagined. The truth of the matter is that many of us will miss out on the extraordinary experience of God because they failed to take a simple stand.

In a godless world with godless leaders and a culture that would drive you to bend the knee to that which is not God the question still remains:

Will you stand?


“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20 ESV

Five times in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus uses a particular word. In every case Jesus and his disciples are looking forwards to the end. Four times the word is translated as ‘the close of the age’, in the last instance it is translated as ‘the end of the age’.

In English we tend to think of the word ‘end’ in terms of something coming to a close, a finishing of something – it is a negative concept along the lines of ‘the movie has ended’ or ‘my job has ended’. It’s got a sense of finality and lacks hope. It looks back, not forwards.

The word Jesus uses is quite the opposite. It comes from the the Greek word ‘telios’ which is the normal word for end, but this word has more the sense of a goal achieved than the close of something. It is this word that Jesus uses on the cross in the perfect tense when he says ‘it is finished’. Again, we often think of this as an exclamation that it’s over when in fact a better translation would be a single word: ‘Accomplished!’. Jesus wasn’t indicating that his life was over, but rather that he had accomplished his goal: redemption!

So, when we consider the word for the end of the age it has this positive connotation, but it has more. The word for end, ‘telios’ is prefixed with ‘syn’ – this is in common use in English, indicating a bringing together, for example in synthesis, or synagogue (the Jews coming together). So, the word for the close or end of the age is talking about a bringing together of all things to a final accomplishment: a consummation!

If you think of the picture of Christ and the Church as a marriage, then the consummation day is the day of the wedding. It’s a bringing together of all the plans and hopes of the two parties towards that one day when hopes and plans are fully realised! It’s a day when love is fulfilled and a new, complete relationship dawns. It’s what the Groom has been working towards since he promised to prepare a place, it’s what the Bride has been living in expectation of since the promise was made.

The story is told of an evangelist who was being interviewed on radio – the interviewer thought he had the killer question for the evangelist: “Surely, he asked, once you’ve got them to become Christians that’s the end of it?” The evangelist thought for a moment and then replied: “Your right, it is the end: it’s the front end!” The end of the age is the front end of a hope that goes on for all eternity! The end of the age is the consummation of our hopes and of God’s plans for his Bride: the Church.

As you read Jesus’ last words to his disciples on that mountain in Galilee, be comforted; not that he’s here until it’s all over, but that he’s with us until that final consummation, the wedding supper of the Lamb, when all things will be brought together for God’s glory and our full marriage to Christ. It is a full and final and complete consummation of all things: this is why Jesus encourages his disciples with these words.

As Christians we’re not just fighting it out until it’s all over, we’re pursuing God, seeking Christ, living in him here and now, hoping in the Consummation: that great and glorious Day when God in Christ brings all the strands of history, both seen and unseen together in his new creation. Our hope is that, as his Church, his people, on that day we will fully and completely know him as our God, forever!


And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

Ezekiel 22:30 ESV

In exile, still, God declares “me you have forgotten” (Ezekiel 22:12), but the ultimate guilt is laid on the prophets and priests. They have acted selfishly (22:25) and presumptuously (22:26).

The irony is that these priests are so full of their own opinions that they fail to realise what they are doing. God’s accusation is that they “have done violence to my law”. To the extent that as church leaders we propound our own opinions and not God’s we are doing violence to his law. Yet it can be done in all sincerity, due to proud lives that fail to wait on God – we think we are speaking God’s word but we speak of ourselves.

The result is a whitewash – a thin veneer of superficial religion glossed over that which is insubstantial and godless – self centred and self serving. As a result of this failure of leadership the people fall away. The awful truth of the situation is expressed in verse 30 “I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land … but I found none.”

There are two requirements for this role: godliness and willingness.

Firstly, the man of God must listen to God, and God alone – not speaking of his own, but faithfully doing justice, and not violence to God’s law. As with Ezekiel, and Jeremiah before him, these men wait for God hear what he speaks regardless of what everyone around them is saying.

Secondly, the man of God must be willing, like Ezekiel and Jeremiah to speak into a society that rejects God’s law and in an environment where, for whatever the reasons, Christian leaders are speaking ‘of themselves’ and not faithfully speaking God’s word.

The young Samuel was told by God that if he faithfully spoke everything that God gave him to speak, without watering it down or changing it not a word would fall to the ground. This is the Hebrew concept that words ‘do things’ – they go from you, achieve their purpose and return, or just fall to the ground and fail.

The good news is that God is looking, seeking for those who will build up the wall and stand in the breach. The question to this generation is: are you listening, are you willing, am I?


But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt.

Ezekiel 20:9 ESV

Where God is concerned, relationship comes first, rules follow. God, in the Biblical prophets, such as Ezekiel is dealing primarily with relationship: idolatry breaks the relationship with God first, and breaks his law second. Israel disobeys the law because it has already broken with God – law breaking is the natural expression of that broken relationship.

God acts firstly for himself: he has made a covenant with his people before the nations, therefore he will redeem them. It is for his name’s sake that he makes and keeps covenant.

God’s actions reveal his nature to the nations, not just to Israel. Salvation, redemption is always a testimony to God’s grace to all people, and an invitation.

God made himself known to his people in the act of redemption! God reveals himself most personally and intimately in the act of ‘bringing out of the land of Egypt’. This pre-emptive act of redemption is a commencement of relationship, or more accurately a re-commencement, a restoration of what was and what was always intended. In revealing himself in this way God reveals his character and restores the relationship, giving us the reason to obey: our redemptional relationship with God.

It is truly awesome that the God of the universe should choose to make himself know in and through this very act of redemption! That such a sacrifice, such a turn around, such a transformation of our position before God should not only allow us to know God, but actually reveal him to us. Have you been ‘brought out of the land of Egypt?’, then that is the point at which God first makes himself know.

Lord, thank you, praise you for this grace, this making yourself known to me in your redemption of me – to the praise of your glorious grace!