This was the worst night of his life! He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t stop pacing. He–the powerful ruler of the greatest kingdom in the world–had been duped. And there was nothing he could do to undo the diabolical deed. He had spent all day frantically trying to figure a way out, but his hands were tied. Even the king was bound to the law that declared once an edict was in effect, it could not be altered.

Those two-faced officials from the highest ranks in his government had successfully sprung their trap. Now he saw all too clearly how and why they had outsmarted him.

Getting wind of his plan to make Daniel prime minister, they had reacted with fear and trepidation. They had foreseen that Daniel, a man of impeccable character and integrity, would always unmask corruption and hold their feet to the fire. So they had plotted to get rid of him by luring their monarch into a trap.

Those self-serving connivers had preyed on his desire as the new king to get the populace behind him. They had deceived him with an idea for unification which stroked his ego. That was why he hadn’t seen through their scheme.

And they had lied that Daniel also was in favor of the decree they proposed:  No one could make a petition to any god or man for thirty days except to the king. If not obeyed, the person would be thrown into the lions’ den.

How he wished he hadn’t been blinded by flattery! Devout Daniel, who prayed to his God three times a day every day would never have agreed to such a law.

And because he wouldn’t, tonight Daniel was out there shut up in that pit with wild lions. There was no way of escape, for he had pressed his royal seal into the stone lid. But not before he had said to his most trusted advisor: “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” (Daniel 6:16 NRSV).

At the break of day, King Darius hurried from his bedroom, down the staircase, and out of the palace. “When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?’” (Daniel 6:20 NRSV).

Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” (Daniel 6:21-22 NRSV)

God will never be outsmarted!


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Three Years Later

December three years ago I wrote what has become my most popular post. With the hope you have a Christ-filled Christmas, I am reblogging “The Divine Sperm”:

Gabriel had delivered God’s message, but it could not be activated without Mary’s consent. From all the available virgins she was the one who had been chosen; yet she must be willing to submit. Nothing would be forced on her.

The social stigma would be inevitable in her small town. She could expect gossip, suspicion, shame, shunning, possibly stoning. And oh, the pain she would cause her family–her mother, her father–and her fiancé! But there were more lives than hers and theirs at stake.

Gathering up faith to accept the Divine offer with all its known and unknown risks, she gave the waiting Gabriel her answer.  “Then Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said. And the angel left her” (Luke 1:38 AMP). When Mary merged her will into God’s will, the power of the Holy Spirit impregnated her with the Son of God.

Three decades later one man’s worldview was revolutionized when the Son of God discussed supernatural birth with him. Nicodemus, a member of the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body of the Jews, was stunned when “Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 AMP).

To Nicodemus, held captive by his inquiring mind as an Old Testament scholar, such an idea was absurd. But to the Son of God, it made perfect sense:  “What is born of [from] the flesh is flesh [of the physical is physical]; and what is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3 AMP). This rebirth is a choice any individual who wants to become a legitimate child of God can make.

But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to be children of God,
to those who believe in His name,
who were born,
not of blood,
or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man,
but of God.
(John 1:12-13 HCSB)

Did the highly educated and socially esteemed Nicodemus activate God’s promise of a new birth? If so, he could only do it with the key of faith. Did he decide to merge his will into God’s will? You be the judge:

After it was all over, Joseph (who came from Arimathaea and was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly for fear of the Jews) requested Pilate that he might take away Jesus’ body, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took his body down. Nicodemus also, the man who had come to him at the beginning by night, arrived bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. So they took his body and wound it round with linen strips with the spices, according to the Jewish custom of preparing a body for burial. In the place where he was crucified, there was a garden containing a new tomb in which nobody had yet been laid. Because it was the preparation day and because the tomb was conveniently near, they laid Jesus in this tomb.
(John 19:38-42 (Phillips)

Decision time comes at the moment we realize God has chosen us to be born again in a spiritual sense. Will we by faith merge our will into God’s will? If we give the consent for His seed to be implanted in our soul, God’s nature will germinate there and never die.

No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. (1 John 3:9 AMP).

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Hot diggity dog! David was thrilled beyond measure! His idea was so good, he couldn’t wait to tell Nathan. Caught up in the king’s exuberance, Nathan advised him to go for it. Oops!

Nathan, a prophet, should have known better. The Architect should have been consulted. God had not signed off on David’s building plan. Both the king and the prophet assumed He would be delighted with David’s grandiose plan for a spectacular house of worship.

But in the same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, “Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’”’
(2 Samuel 7:4-7 NASB)

And David would hear more from Nathan:

The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
(2 Samuel 7:11-13 NASB)

Not only did God stamp an absolute no on David’s plan, He inserted a promise to make David a house. That is, a dynasty.

This was a lot for David to take in. So he went to the tent of meeting–the tabernacle God designed. David craved to connect with God one-on-one.

At the house of prayer, did he stand with hands and eyes lifted heavenward to praise God? Or did he look down with bowed head and closed eyes in submission? Did he drop to his knees in repentance? Did he prostrate himself and beg?

None of the above. “David the king went in and sat before the Lord” (2 Samuel 7:18 NASB). Alone with God, he sat on the dirt floor, where he meditated in a prayer of gratitude.

“Oh, the thought of having God all alone to myself and knowing that God has me all alone to Himself!” (Andrew Murray)


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I See You

She was pregnant and scared. If only she could get back to the place of her birth, she would be safe. Far from the abuse. From conflict’s slippery slope. So she ran away.

She never wanted to become a surrogate mother. But whatever happened to her had been and always would be at the whim of that bitter battleax. She owned her–body and soul. It was her idea that she become the secondary wife to that old husband of hers. Her way of getting what she wanted most in all the world. Mr. Abram didn’t have to go along with it, but he didn’t have the courage to tell his wife no.

Yes, she would be honest and admit she had brought some of this on herself. As soon as she had found out she was pregnant, she gloated. A smirk,  a dropped insult, a curled lip–all intended to send her mistress the message. She, a slave, could have something that the high-and-mighty Sarai could not. A baby.

How foolish was she to think she could get away with rubbing it in her face! Oh, Sarai knew how to make a life unbearable! So she was hightailing it back to Egypt. But now she would stop and rest at this spring for a while and put it all behind her.

That, however, was not to be. For Hagar had an encounter there that changed her plan. Someone met up with her in her distress.

But the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, on the road to [Egypt by way of] Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress, and submit humbly to her authority.”
(Genesis 16:7-9 AMP)

Why would she do that? Because the One speaking to her saw her past, her present, and her future:

The Angel of the Lord continued,
“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall name him Ishmael (God hears),
Because the Lord has heard and paid attention to your persecution (suffering).”
(Genesis 16:11 AMP)

When the encounter ended, Hagar spoke of this messenger as “El Roi.” El Roi is the name for God that means “God who sees.” The all-seeing God was looking after Hagar, watching out for her in her suffering.

The One who sees us is El Roi. He meets us in our place of desperation in order to reach out and help us. El Roi always sees, always knows, and always understands.

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No Buts

Whoopee! Finally, something was going to be done! He was all in on the plan until it suddenly became personal: “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10 NASB).

But God was making a mistake! Who was he for this momentous undertaking? When God’s answer dismissed that, Moses produced another objection.

But he didn’t know enough to handle the questions that would be thrown at him in Egypt. God met that objection and Moses had another.

But he would be discredited. God then endowed Moses with three signs to demonstrate divine power. Again, Moses argued with God.

But he was not eloquent. He did not have talent to match the task.

God said, “And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12 MSG)

His bag of buts now empty, Moses resorted to begging. “But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else’” (Exodus 4:13 NRSV).

Unlike Moses, Isaiah was desperate to go when he heard the word “send”:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NASB)

Isaiah volunteered. And that was before he knew the job description! Isaiah was willing to serve God no matter what, no matter where, no matter how. No buts.

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Hiding and Hoping

The marauders, swarming like locusts, would be here any day now. Maybe any moment. For seven years they had raided at harvesttime, pillaging and plundering. When the last camel was out of sight and the sand settled, nothing was left. No livestock. No crops. A pitiful existence.

This year, hoping beyond all hope those destroyers would not notice him, Gideon hid in his father’s winepress. Not to squeeze grapes but to beat wheat on the stone bottom. He was desperate to eke out what little food he could for his family.

Hitting the wheat again and again with his staff, Gideon constantly looked over his shoulder. Suppose he was discovered. Oh no! He already was! Someone was sitting up there under the oak tree. Gideon stood still, his arm and staff freeze-framed in midair.

And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O brave man” (Judges 6:12 AMP).

Who me? You’ve got to be kidding.

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this strength of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14 AMP).

Me strong? I’ve got my doubts about that. I’m a nobody. How can I do anything?

But Gideon said to Him, “Please Lord, how am I to rescue Israel? Behold, my family is the least [significant] in Manasseh, and I am the youngest (smallest) in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15 AMP).

What Gideon missed in the word “strength” was that God was speaking of  the future Gideon, not the man who was holing up in a winepress pit. One person plus God always equal a majority.

The LORD answered him, “I will certainly be with you, and you will strike down the Midianites as [if they were only] one man” (Judges 6:16 AMP).

And it was so.

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The Ongoing Opening Statement

On that hill where He was lifted up, Jesus was higher than anyone. Some eyes turned upward in grief. Some eyes looked at the ground, following the casting of dice. Some eyes studied the crowd for any sign of protest. Some eyes gazed in derision.

Jesus’ eyes took them all in. His opening statement from the rugged cross has never expired: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV).

Did you catch that? Jesus Christ died for those who know they are sinning and for those who do not! What a Savior!

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The Forgotten Day of Creation

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. (Psalm 33:9 NIV)

God spoke the world into existence. He did it in six equal morning-and-evening divisions. His total creative activity, except for the making of mankind, occurred by simply speaking the word. God said it and it was so. In making the crown jewel of His creation, however, God got His hands dirty.

On the sixth day, after speaking into existence all the creatures that live on dry land, “the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7 NIV). Then, like every good builder, God assessed His completed work:  “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31 NIV).

Creator God finished the world in six days, but there was also an additional day in His creation design. It was the capstone. “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:3 NIV). God set apart the seventh day to be a memorial of His creative power.

This day in His creation week was so important in God’s eyes that ages afterward He wrote in stone a law for it:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
(Exodus 20:8-11 NIV)

God appointed that day for humankind to purposefully acknowledge and reverence Him as Creator . . . Sustainer . . . Sovereign . . . LORD of all. And to experience Him as Benefactor.

For when Christ, straight from the heart of God, walked on earth, He clarified:  “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NIV). Creator God made it for our good–a day of rest for mind, body, and spirit. This day, the only day in His creation week that God blessed, was intended to give His image-bearers a more abundant life.

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Postscript to “Good Intentions Gone Awry”

More happened to Obed-edom than being the man King David had singled out when he was in fear of what Almighty God might do next (Good Intentions Gone Awry). Hurriedly depositing the holy ark in Obed-edom’s house, David got himself back to Jerusalem, where he could regroup.

Three months later he received uplifting news:  “Now it was told King David, saying, ‘The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.’ David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness” (2 Samuel 6:12 NASB).

While the priests properly carried the ark from his house to Jerusalem, Obed-edom played the harp and sang in the band that escorted it. When the ark was placed in its tent home, he was a part of the celebratory music service. Then, as the day of rejoicing closed, the king honored him with an assignment:

David left Asaph and his coworkers with the Chest of the Covenant of God and in charge of the work of worship; they were responsible for the needs of worship around the clock. He also assigned Obed-Edom and his sixty-eight relatives to help them. Obed-Edom son of Jeduthun and Hosah were in charge of the security guards. (1 Chronicles 16:37-38 MSG)

The day that God struck Uzzah dead on the spot and had King David shaking in his royal sandals was the day that He escalated blessings to Obed-edom and his family.

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Good Intentions Gone Awry

Their beloved king stopped dead in his tracks. Hands with clashing cymbals, tambourines, and castanets froze in space. Fingers which a moment ago were gaily plucking harp strings now hushed them. Singing lips let the song’s next note die. Silence rippled through the throng of thirty thousand.  All was still.

King David was angry–mad at God, actually. A corpse lay beside the holy ark of the covenant. Why had the Almighty struck down this man? Uzzah meant no harm. He had had nothing but the best of intentions when he put his hand on the ark to keep it from falling. It wasn’t his fault the oxen stumbled and the cart swayed. What he did was natural.

This was to have been a day of rejoicing. A glorious day of celebration for God. David had planned it to a T. All praise and honor would be lifted to God as the ark, the symbol of His presence, was brought to dwell in Jerusalem. There, he was sure, it would  revive his nation’s waning worship of Yahweh. How could God be displeased with making that happen?

David gasped as fear’s icy fingers clutched at his heart. Was he next? “So David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD come to me?'” (2 Samuel 6:9 NASB).

Executing a quick decision, he motioned for Obed-edom to approach. This Levite lived close; so the ark would stay in his house while David returned to Jerusalem and figured out why God had turned joy into terror.

Three months later King David knew and was ready for a redo. Changing course, he brought the ark to Jerusalem God’s way:  “The sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles thereon, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 15:15 NASB). David also realized from Moses’ writings that God had forbidden bearers of the ark to touch it “or they will die”  (Numbers 4:15 NIV).

Thus David learned to revere the Holy God with obedience.

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