Sunday 3rd January 2021

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unday 3rd January 2021

Lyrics to help us focus on our aim for 2021:

Over all the earth, You reign on high,

every mountain stream, every sunset sky.

But my one request, Lord, my only aim is that You'd reign in me again.

Lord, reign in me, reign in Your power;

Over all my dreams, in my darkest hour.

You are the Lord of all I am, so won't You reign in me again.

(Brenton Brown  © 1998 Vineyard Songs)

There is a theme uniting both our Sunday & Wednesday messages throughout January. They will be based in the Old Testament book of Daniel. We all know how Daniel’s faith was tested when faced with the prospect of spending time in a lion’s den, but that event happened many decades after we first encounter him as a young teenager. He was taken against his will from Israel, arriving in Babylon to find that people dressed differently; they spoke a different language, ate different foods and worshipped a different God. Are you beginning to see why I have entitled this series: ‘Remaining faithful throughout testing times’

I am hoping that you have already read Daniel ch.1, because we are going to read some background to those events from the prophet Jeremiah. He was old man at the time when the Babylonians invaded Israel so he was left behind when Daniel and many others was taken to Babylon. Jeremiah then wrote to the Israelites in Babylon giving them a message from God. This letter mentions the word prosper / prosperity, but the word Jeremiah wrote is shalom, so the passage isn’t talking about financial prosperity, but the prosperity God offers to each of us enabling us to feel secure, content – whole - through our faith in God. Read Jeremiah 29: 1-13

I know many of you are familiar with verse 11 “plans to prosper you” - It get used in all sorts of situations, but here it is in context and the setting tells us that even when your circumstances are such that you can’t see where God is – if we continue to trust God, He will help us to prosper – to know Shalom – to know peace, security, contentment – wholeness! That’s the promise Jeremiah brings from God to the people of Israel who are stuck in circumstances they don’t like - in exile in Babylon and Daniel through his words and actions shows the truth of Jeremiah’s message. From the moment we first encounter him right through to the end of his book - Daniel remains faithful to God throughout testing circumstances and his faithfulness brings him shalom – peace, contentment – wholeness.

When Daniel and his three friends arrive in Babylon, they are given new names which I’m guessing they were reluctant to accept because the names praised the gods of Babylon whereas their Jewish names praise the God of Israel - but they had to accept this. They willingly received instruction in the wisdom of the Babylonians - these are teenagers who are being given insight into the latest technology! But then, having accepted so many changes it perhaps seems strange that they won’t eat the meat and drink the wine being offered to them.  

We know that Jews had strict rules about what they can and can’t eat – perhaps most famously that they don’t eat pork - but probably the crucial fact behind their refusal to accept the meat and wine offered to them is that these items would have been offered to the Babylonian’s gods before being brought to the royal kitchen. Accepting this meat and wine would be seen as honouring the idols worshipped in Babylon and so Daniel negotiated a way out of this situation.

Daniel and his friends recognised that God was still who they knew him to be when they were worshipping in the temple in Jerusalem. Just because they were now in a place where they felt isolated in their worship of God didn’t mean that they should stop trusting God to be the faithful God he has always been. So, are we identifying with Daniel? Are we feeling that we are in circumstances which we don’t like and would like to change, but have no control over them? We can’t come together to worship God, bur like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah we can say God is still the God we have always known - faithful & father-like.

The faith and actions of these young men stands out as a challenge to us, to trust that God is able, that God is more powerful than any troubles we face. If we trust him and honour him whenever we can, then we will prosper - we will know shalom – a satisfying wholeness not based on circumstances, but rooted in who we know God to be. We have a huge advantage over Daniel and his friends. They had only heard Isaiah’s message that God would send a Saviour, whereas we are able to trust that Saviour to help us to remain faithful throughout testing times. Use these lyrics to lead you into prayer:

In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song;

This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, firm through the fiercest drought & storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.

(Stuart Townend & Keith Getty  © 2001 Thankyou Music)


Page last updated: 5th January 2021 7:35 PM