We read from several prophets today, as we will again tomorrow. Are you enjoying these recaps? If you are, please share them with your friends, and be on the lookout in 2016 for a book of these summaries. I am currently writing two books; one will be a summary of the Bible. After this 30-day plan is over, I will go over the Bible again, and expound on each book. The recaps are currently simple and quick, but the book will provide a working storyline of each book of the Bible, including its history, geography, authorship, transmission, and the flow into the rest of the biblical and extrabiblical histories available, especially the Biblical Canon. It will be a helpful book to read for the Bible student who is slightly or greatly intimidated by the size of God's word, and will concisely present each book's storyline in a way that's easily accessible. Think of it as a sort of Bible sparknote (though not exactly that, as I believe there actually are Bible sparknotes).
Likewise, as I read through the Bible this time around, I'm taking note of every single appearance of the Holy Spirit, as the second book I'm writing and researching for will be about the Holy Spirit, focusing mainly on his deep, intricate involvement in history, the nation of Israel, the work of the righteous, and much more. Contrary to popular belief, the Holy Spirit works constantly and powerfully through the entire Bible, not just the New Testament, and he appears more times than I can count. Here is my Bible on my desk, which notes the times the Spirit has worked or been referred to in the Bible so far in our reading, which currently ends at Obadiah.
Now, to briefly summarize today's reading.
The book of Daniel is exciting, and includes many different types of literature: history, prophecy, and apocalyptic literature. Many of us know the story of Daniel in the lion's den, and the decree by King Darius, manipulated by Darius' satraps, that whoever petitioned to any god or king other than Darius should be thrown into the lion's den. We also know that Daniel continued to pray and was thus thrown into the lion's den. We are probably also well aware of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into a blazing furnace and leaving unsinged, and Nebuchadnezzar seeing a fourth man in the furnace that protected the three faithful men. Daniel also interpreted dreams throughout the book and translated the mysterious writing on the wall in Daniel 5. Daniel was also visited by the angel Gabriel, and was shown many visions of the future.
Along with the incredible stories that reveal the power of prayer and God's power working through righteous, faithful men, there are several other things in Daniel revealed, even about the coming Messiah.
Daniel authored his book, which was written around 530 B.C. 530 B.C. and fell right into the heart of the Babylonian exile under Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was himself an exile in Babylon, and wrote of his faith in God in the midst of captivity. Just as Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in chapter 29, telling them to make a life for themselves and to sit tight, to hope, and to have faith, so Daniel is a working example of a captive being faithful.
Daniel is an example of remaining loyal to God first, even when popular culture (or the law) demands otherwise. In the west, we have a hard time wrapping our minds around disobeying laws in order to please God. Usually the laws here allow us to live our lives in complete devotion to God. Our problem in the west tends to be that we simply don't live our lives in complete devotion even when we have all the faculties we need to do so, and more. However, in countries like China (especially Northwestern China), and Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Libya-- these countries that are lately volatile or politically demanding, among others-- disciples are sometimes forced to choose loyalty to God or government. Daniel chose God, even when the consequence was death (a lion's den sentence is supposed to kill you). How can we learn from Daniel's example?
What about the many prophecies in Daniel? Daniel 2 is an interpretation of a dream from Nebuchadnezzar that foretells of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires that were to come. What about the seventy-sevens? Or the sixty-two week period that lasts over 400-years? The prophecies in the book of Daniel are detailed and refer to the developments in history that would directly affect the Jewish people.
Please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for detailed information about the prophecies in Daniel if you're interested; because this is a recap, I don't have quite the time to develop the thoughts here and now. Dr. John Oakes has a great book about Daniel if you'd like to learn more about the prophecies.
Hosea is the first of the minor prophets in the Protestant Canon. Hosea was written around 715 B.C. and tells of the Northern Kingdom of Israel falling into the hands of Assyria in 722 B.C. Hosea, a prophet called by God, is told by God to find a harlot and marry her. This imagery is meant to satisfy the illustration of God's hurt by Israel's adultery. Israel was characterized at this time as an adulterous generation (Hosea 5:7) and God wants Hosea to feel what he feels about Israel's adultery. Hosea, marrying Gomer, begins to understand empathetically what God feels, and preaches to Israel that they should repent and turn to God.
Imagine your husband or wife sleeping with other people, over and over and over again. Imagine that they didn't keep it a secret, but that they simply didn't care that you knew, and didn't care how it made you feel. This is the illustration God tells Hosea to illustrate his heartbreak by the nation Israel. This is also how God feels when his people (us) commit adultery with him by devoting ourselves to foreign idols.
Hosea 11 is a beautiful chapter of how God viewed Ephraim (Israel) as a son. God taught Ephraim to walk, to eat; he held Ephraim in his arms, and loved him. God loves his people deeply, and Hosea is a perfect book to read to understand God's love more intimately.
Joel was written before Hosea, and before the fall of both Northern and Southern Israel at around 840 B.C. Like the other prophets, Joel calls Israel to repentance. This is a huge theme in the Bible. God's people sinned, and prophets told them to repent. If you're ever asked to provide a book that's a good example of repentance in the Old Testament, just pick any of the Old Testament books and you got the answer right. Peter quoted Joel in Acts 2:17. Joel prophecies of the Pentacost in Acts 2, when the Spirit was poured out. The significance of this scripture being in Joel is to show that God always wanted all the nations to follow him. Just as the gentiles would eventually be reached and given the Spirit, so Israel would be judged impartially with the rest of the nations. Joel pierced through a paradigm in Israel. Israel often began thinking that, because they were chosen by God, they would be held to a different standard than the other nations. However, God would punish them just as he would the others, and he would later bless other nations just as he had blessed them.
Amos was another prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Like the other prophets, he called the nation Israel to repentance. God didn't have to keep sending prophets to Israel, and God didn't need to give them so many chances to repent. Often times I am asked "Why is God not as merciful in the Old Testament?" God is overly merciful and gracious in both testaments! God wanted Israel to be righteous and he gave them countless chances to repent. In fact, even after the Northern and Southern kingdom were exiled into Assyria and Babylon, God continued to give them prophets, providing mercy and grace. Further, he continued to tell the nation to have faith and trust in him. To divide God between testaments, arguing the inconsistency of his nature, is to completely misunderstand the flow of the Bible.
Tomorrow, we finish the Old Testament.