A Letter to the King

Bible:

And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. . . . (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.” Ezra 4:6-7, 11-16 ESV

O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. Psalm 71:12-16 ESV

Reflection:

Kit had moved from Barbados to New England as a young woman, and she had a very hard time learning to live in a new place. One of the things that was the most difficult for her was trying to understand the way the Puritans in New England thought and understood the world. The way she dressed was considered wrong and sinful by the Puritans, and one of the friends she made was an old woman who was an outcast in her village. Then a terrible thing happened to Kit. A number of the people in her village got together and accused her a being a witch! This was a very serious thing, and if she were found guilty she might be put to death or banished from the village. At her trial, people she hardly knew made all kinds of false accusations. They said that she had put a spell on one man’s cattle so that they couldn’t move, and that they had seen her dancing around a fire one night, and that she had put a spell on a woman’s sewing so that she couldn’t make the sleeve set into the pattern right. All of these accusations were lies, but Kit was in danger of being found guilty if no one spoke up in her defense.

The people who had returned from exile and were rebuilding their temple and the city of Jerusalem had the same problem. Their enemies did everything they could to make trouble for them. They wrote a letter to the king of Persia saying that the Jews were troublemakers who were planning a rebellion against the Persian empire, and that if the king didn’t make them stop building he would lose his land and subjects in that part of the empire. The men who wrote this letter told the king to look back in history and see that Jerusalem had always been a rebellious city who had fought against foreign control, and that the reason the people were rebuilding Jerusalem was so that they could start their battle for independence from Persia. The Jews weren’t planning a rebellion, but their enemies made up this lie to make trouble for them and try to get them to stop rebuilding their city and their temple.

Jesus faced many false accusations when he was on trial for his life. Many people told hateful lies about him to try to get him into trouble. But Jesus didn’t fight back or try to defend himself. He let himself be sent to the cross to pay for all our sins and bring us back to our Heavenly Father. Sometimes we feel bad about our own sins. Our hearts accuse us of the things we’ve done wrong, and other people point out all the ways we’ve let them down. Sometimes these accusations are lies, and sometimes they’re true. But no one, not even the devil, can accuse us to God. The Lord is with us every day, and he encourages us when we feel worried or sad about our sins or about the lies other people tell about us.  Because of what Jesus did for us, God forgives us all our sins every day, and there’s no accusation that can ever stop God from loving us and helping us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for us, and for forgiving our sins. Please help us and give us strength when we are sad and worried about what people say. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Speare, Elizabeth George The Witch of Blackbird Pond Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958.

Keeping Pure

Bible:

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:1-5 ESV

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 ESV

Reflection:

When doctors and nurses and other medical workers are working with situations where an infection could be very dangerous, such as when they are doing surgery, they have to use something called sterile technique. Sometimes patients have to take care of themselves at home and also learn to use sterile technique. Sterile means that there are absolutely no germs of any kind on the equipment or bandages that are going to be used. There are all kinds of rules in sterile technique. You must never cough or sneeze over the supplies. You must wear a mask and sterile gloves. You must not touch anything that isn’t sterile with sterile gloves. If a person breaks one of the rules of sterile technique, the entire packet is considered to be contaminated, and the person has to start all over again with a new packet. Doctors and nurses simply can’t risk letting contaminated equipment or bandages give a dangerous infection to sick or weak people.

When the people of Judah started rebuilding their temple, the people who lived where the northern kingdom of Israel had been came and said they wanted to help. But the people of Judah said no, they would rebuild the temple themselves. This might seem unfriendly, but there was a good reason for their answer. The people who wanted to help were the descendants of people who had been settled in the land by the king of Assyria long ago. When the Assyrians had taken the northern kingdom away into captivity, they had settled other people in the land who worshiped false gods and goddesses. Because of this, God had sent lions among them, and they decided they needed to learn to worship the God of Israel. So they started to do that, but they also continued to worship idols at the same time. The people of Judah knew that it would be dangerous to cooperate with people who worshiped idols. They knew they or their children would be tempted to do the same thing, and so they decided to keep themselves pure and separate from the other people of the land. They didn’t want to let false gods contaminate them or their worship of the one true God.

We were all contaminated by our sin and rebellion against God, and there’s no way we could ever make or keep ourselves pure from sin. But God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, and his death makes us completely clean and pure. When we are baptized, what Jesus did for us becomes our own, and our sins are washed away with the waters of baptism. God sends us his Holy Spirit to keep us faithful and true to him and to help us to stay away from the evil and sin around and in us that would lead us away from the Lord. God will be with us to help us every day and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for making us pure through Jesus. Please help us stay faithful to you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://patienteducation.osumc.edu/Documents/sterile.pdf

The Foundation is Laid

Bible:

Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord. And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers.

And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”

And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away. Ezra 3:8-13 ESV

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south. Psalm 107:1-3 ESV

Reflection:

In the city of Dresden, in Germany, there was once a beautiful church named the Frauenkirche. It was a huge structure towering over the city with a stone bell tower at the top that was a landmark for the people of Dresden. But in 1945, near the end of World War II, allied forces bombed the city of Dresden and tens of thousands of people lost their lives. The city was left in ruins, and the Frauenkirche was destroyed. After the war, the city was rebuilt, but the church was left in ruins for many decades. Finally, in 1990, the people of Germany decided to rebuild the church. The British people, who had led the bombing raids so many years before, contributed a lot of money to the effort, and the son of an English pilot who had dropped bombs on Dresden created the gold cross that sits on top of the church’s dome. When the church was restored to the way it had been before the war, it was a happy day for the people of Dresden. There were people who had seen the first church, and while they knew there was shame in their past, they also were happy that a sense of pride in the good things of their past had been preserved for the young people of Germany.

When the foundation of the new temple in Jerusalem was laid, it was a joyful day for the people. The destruction of Solomon’s temple years before had been a terrible thing, but now they had hope for the future. They sang songs of joy while the priests blew on trumpets and the Levites crashed cymbals to add to the celebration. God had restored the people to their land, and they believed they would soon have a temple again for worshiping the Lord. There were old people there that day who had seen the first temple, and they cried out loud while the younger people shouted with happy excitement. The old people remembered the misery of seeing their first temple destroyed, and felt the pain of all their lost years, and the sorrow for all the time they had spent away from the promised land and from worship in the temple.

When we look at our past, we see causes for shame and sorrow also. We know that we’ve sinned against God and other people, and that there have been hurts and troubles that weighed us down. Looking at our past could be a painful thing if it weren’t for the Lord. He has been with us through all the days that have gone by, loving us and helping us. He has forgiven all our sins of the past because Jesus paid for them when he died on the cross. Because of Jesus, we know that God has worked for our good through everything that is past, and that he is with us every day, forgiving us and restoring us as his children. He will be with us and help us every day in the future, to the end and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being with us through all our past days, and for loving us and forgiving us. Please stay with us now and always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.dw.com/en/landmark-dresden-church-completes-rise-from-the-ashes/a-1758986

Sacrifices and a Festival

Bible:

When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia. Ezra 3:1-7 ESV

The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. . . And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Leviticus 1:1-4, 9b ESV

“You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:42-43 ESV

Reflection:

When the Ingalls family moved from Indian Territory to Minnesota, they rode in their covered wagon for many days. At night they camped out in the open, and when day came they continued to ride across the country. Finally they came to Plum Creek, where they would make their home. Pa would build them a house there, in time, but to start with they lived in a dugout. It was only one small room dug into the side of a hill, with strips of prairie sod making the front wall. The ceiling was made of hay. The dugout was small and dark, but it was warm and safe. The Ingalls family would have a place to stay for the winter before Pa could build them a house. Having a place to live during that first winter was the most important thing.

After some of the people of Judah had returned to their home in the promised land, they got together in Jerusalem and rebuilt the altar there. They wanted to get started right away and make burnt offerings to God every day. They wouldn’t wait for the temple to be rebuilt, although they started on that, too. The most important thing for them was to start the sacrifices again. For many years they hadn’t been able to offer sacrifices, and it had been a sad thing for them. Bringing perfect animals and burning them completely to the Lord was their way of knowing that they were accepted by God as his people, and that God would look on them with favor and hear their prayers. It was a joyful thing for them to have sacrifices being offered on the altar again, and another joyful thing was that they celebrated the Feast of Booths again. This reminded them that their ancestors long ago had lived in tents in the wilderness for many years before God had brought them home to the promised land. Now, after many years in exile, the Lord had once again brought them home, and they shared their joy in this festival.

Jesus is our burnt offering. He was completely perfect, and he offered himself totally to God on the cross. Because of his sacrifice for us, we are accepted by the Lord as his people, and we can be sure that God looks on us with favor. He hears our prayers and helps us and cares for us. For now we live away from our home while we are on this earth, but it’s like camping for awhile. Someday we will live with him forever in our heavenly home. We know we’ll go home someday, and we know that God is always with us while we are away from the place he’s making for us in heaven.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for offering yourself for us on the cross, and for the promise that you will bring us home to be with you someday. Amen.

Going Home

Bible:

Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. Ezra 1:5-7 ESV

But fear not, O Jacob my servant,
nor be dismayed, O Israel,
for behold, I will save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid. Jeremiah 46:27 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever met a missionary kid? Maybe you are one, yourself! Sometimes it’s hard for kids whose parents are missionaries and who grow up in a foreign country. They don’t know their own country very well, and are more comfortable in the country where they grew up. Missionary kids can say things like, “You know you’re a missionary kid when you can’t answer the question, “‘Where are you from?'” or, “You know you’re a missionary kid when the majority of your friends don’t speak English as a first language.” Another thing missionary kids learn is how to travel, because they usually have to travel a lot. So they might say things like, “You know you’re a missionary kid when you know how to pack,” or, “Your know you’re a missionary kid when you speak with authority on the quality of air travel.”

Many of the people who returned from exile to the promised land would have been born in exile, and they never would have seen the land where they belonged. It would have seemed strange to them to travel to a home they’d never known. Older people might have been taken captive when they were very young, and wouldn’t have seen their home for many years. They would have gotten used to living in exile, and speaking another language, and having friends and neighbors from a different country. It would have been hard for them, too, to leave the place where they had lived for so long. Not everyone returned to the land of Israel from exile. Many Jewish people stayed where they were. But the ones who returned knew that their prayers to go home again had been answered. Even though they hadn’t lived in the promised land for many years, or maybe never, they knew that this was the land God had promised to their people. They had an important job to do, to rebuild the temple of the Lord. They knew that God’s glory would return to his temple, and they looked forward to worshiping there and knowing that the sacrifices the Lord had commanded would be offered again.

God brought his people home because of his promise to them, that they would be his people and that he would return them to the land he had given them. He had promised that his glory would return to the temple. Most of all, he promised that he would send them the Messiah one day when they were living in their own land. God kept all his promises to his people. He was with them and kept them safe on their journey home. He moved the hearts of their friends and neighbors to give them many gifts of gold and silver, and King Cyrus gave them back the temple vessels. They would have everything they needed to build the temple again. And one day, many years later, he sent Jesus, the Messiah, to be their Savior and the Savior of the whole world. Jesus died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and that we could be his people forever. Because of Jesus, we know that God always keeps his promises, no matter where we go or what the Lord leads us to do.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, our Savior, and thank you for being with us no matter where we go. In  Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/mskid.html

The Proclamation of Cyrus

Bible:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4 ESV

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV

Reflection:

When World War I broke out, Germany invaded the little country of Belgium. The Belgians fought back, but they didn’t stand a chance against the German army. A million and a half Belgian people became refugees and fled their country. Some of them went to France, and some to the Netherlands, and some went to Great Britain. The Belgians worked for the war effort in Great Britain, especially in ammunition factories. When the war was over and British servicemen started coming home, the British wanted the Belgians to return to their own country. They gave them one-way tickets to return, and the refugees went back to a country that had been destroyed by a terrible war, needing to start life again and to rebuild their country.

When the time of exile had come to an end for God’s people, the Lord stirred the heart of Cyrus, the ruler of the Persian empire. Cyrus sent out a proclamation that said the exiles could return to their own country and rebuild their temple. He also said that people who were their friends and neighbors, and people of Judah who decided not to go home, should help them by giving them gold and silver to build the temple, and also animals and money and whatever else they could give the travelers for their journey. God was keeping the promise he had made years before through the prophet Jeremiah, that someday the exile would end and his people would come home again. He was bringing his people home so they would know that he cared for his people, and so that they would trust him and pray to him.

God kept his promises to his people long ago, and the greatest promise of all was to send the Savior into the world. When the exiles returned home, they could once again hope and wait for the Messiah that God promised to send. They waited for many years, but when the right time came God kept that promise too, and sent Jesus, his Son. Jesus came to die on the cross for the sins of all the people in the world, and all people who believe in Jesus have their sins forgiven and become God’s people. We know that the Lord cares for us very much, and we can trust him and pray to him every day. He hears our prayers and helps us and blesses us for Jesus’ sake.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for keeping all your promises to us, and for Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/refugees_belgium

Daniel’s Visions

Bible:

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

[Jesus said;] “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. Luke 24:46b-51

Reflection:

Do you remember Belshazzar? He had been the king of the Babylonian empire when it was defeated by the Medes and the Persians. His father’s name was Nabonidus, and his mother, Nitocris, might have been Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter. Nabonidus had gone into exile, and when that happened he made his son the king by giving him the throne and most of the Babylonian army. Belshazzar and Nabonidus were kings at the same time, and this is called a co-regency. It often happened in the ancient world that a father and his son would be king at the same time. This helped make the son’s throne secure before his father died, and gave the son a chance to learn to be the king. Daniel would have understood a co-regency very well because of this.

Late in his life, God gave Daniel many visions of the future. Some of these visions are hard to understand, but the one we just read is a very important one. It talks about someone called the Ancient of Days, who sits on the throne and rules the whole universe. But then a son of man, a human person, is brought before the throne of the Ancient of Days, and he is given power and authority to rule everyone in the whole world–all nations and languages and people–in a kingdom that will never be destroyed. Belshazzar and his father lost their kingdom, but the son of man would rule forever and ever.

This vision isn’t hard to understand. The Ancient of Days is God the Father, and who is the man who was presented to God to share in his rule? This son of man is Jesus, the promised Savior. Daniel’s vision allowed him to see into the future, to see the promised Savior his people had been waiting for, and to see the him being given authority over the whole world. Jesus came to die on the cross and rise again to defeat sin and death and the devil, and then he went back to heaven and to the throne of his Father. God made Jesus his co-regent, and gave Jesus authority over all people and nations and languages. Before Jesus went back into heaven, he told his followers to tell the good news of the life and forgiveness he had won to people all over the world. When people come to faith in Jesus, they join his kingdom, a kingdom meant for everyone no matter where they come from or what color they are or what language they speak, a kingdom that will never end.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for winning the kingdom for us and for making us a part of it. Please help us share that kingdom with others. Amen.

Source:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Belshazzar

The Decree of Darius

Bible:

Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:25-28 ESV

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, 
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. 
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you! Psalm 67:1-5 ESV

Reflection:

In Australia, February 28th is a special day. It’s called National Red Balloon Day, and it’s a day to thank firefighters (in Australia they call them “fireys”) for the heroic and dangerous work they do in saving lives and property. People in Australia fly red balloons from their fences, mailboxes, or in the windows of their business. When everyone sees the red balloons, they remember to be thankful to firefighters for all their good work, and firefighters see the red balloons and feel appreciated and know that their courage hasn’t been forgotten.

After Daniel had been rescued from the lion’s den, King Darius wanted to express his appreciation to the living God who had saved Daniel. He knew that there was no other god in all the world who could have done this amazing thing, and he wanted all the people in his empire, whatever their ethnic or national group or language, to know and tremble with fear before Daniel’s God. Darius said an amazing thing in the decree he sent out to his empire. He might have been a powerful king, but he knew that someday he would die, and that his rule would come to an end. But the rule of the God of Daniel would never come to an end. Darius said, “His kingdom shall never be destroyed.” He knew that there was a God above all gods and kingdoms, and he came to know a little about that God because of Daniel.

The Lord is great and good without our praise and thanks, but when we think of the way he helps us and saves us, we want to give him our thanks and appreciation. He came to us in Jesus and died on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be his people always. Our praise helps other people to see and know what a wonderful God we have. He wants people from all over the world, no matter what their language or what country they are from, to love and serve him the way we do. We are thankful for the work of missionaries around the world who are helping to make this happen, and we add our praise and thanks to God so that many more will hear the good news and come to know the Lord.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your help and your salvation. Help us to share that good news with others around the world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.nationalredballoonday.org/about.html

An Angel Tames the Lions

Bible:

Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. Daniel 6:19-24 ESV

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. John 11:25-26b ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever seen a lion tamer, perhaps at a circus? It can be fun to watch, although many people think that taming lions isn’t a kind or a fair thing to do. The methods of taming lions have changed over the years. Henri Martin was one of the first lion tamers. He introduced himself to the lions very slowly and gradually, gently earning their trust a little at a time until they would perform for him. Later a lion tamer named Isaac Van Amburgh used a very different method. He would use whips and chairs and and guns to control the lions by fear and violence. Today’s lion tamers are more gentle again, and they use a lot of rewards, and most importantly build trust with the lions so that they will perform. They usually work with the lions from the time they are cubs so that the lions know and trust them.

Daniel wasn’t a lion tamer, and the lions he was thrown to were hungry and dangerous and wild. When he was thrown into the pit with the lions and a stone was rolled in front of the opening and sealed with government seals, it should have been his death. There was no way he could have come out of that situation alive without a miracle from God, and that’s exactly what happened. God sent an angel to stay in the den all night with Daniel, and the angel kept the lions tamed and stopped them from hurting him in any way. There wasn’t a single scratch on his body when the happy king brought Daniel out of the den the next day! We don’t like to think of what happened next. Justice for the officials who started all the trouble and their families was swift and very cruel. But from this we can be sure that these were hungry and wild lions, and that what had happened to Daniel was definitely a miracle.

After Jesus died on the cross, his dead body was put into a grave, a huge stone was rolled over the opening of the grave, and it was sealed with a government seal. There was no way a person could come out of that grave without a miracle from God. But that’s exactly what happened. Jesus walked out of the grave, alive forever, the first Easter Sunday, and an angel rolled the stone away from his grave so that his followers could look in and see that it was empty. He had battled with death, and he had won. Jesus tamed death as if it were a wild, dangerous lion, and because of that, we don’t have to be afraid of death. When we are put into our graves someday, Jesus will be there with us, and he will bring us out alive again on the last day. We know that we will live with him forever in his heavenly kingdom.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for taming death for us, and for giving us the promise of life forever with you. Amen.

Source:

http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/circus-arts/lion-taming2.htm

Helpless under the Law

Bible:

Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. Daniel 6:14-18 ESV

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 ESV

Reflection:

In 1919, the United States passed some laws known of as Prohibition. These laws said that alcoholic drinks, such as wine, beer, and whisky, could not be made, transported, or sold in the United States. These laws seemed to be a good idea at the time. Alcohol caused a lot of problems with fights and accidents and men spending all their money on drinks and not bringing their paychecks home to their families. People who drank too much also didn’t work well in the factories. Prohibition seemed like a very good idea, but it wasn’t. People still sold and drank alcohol in places called “speakeasies,” and people made alcohol illegally, sometimes bad alcohol that was poisonous. It was very hard to enforce Prohibition laws, and they led to a big increase in crime and violent activities by gangs who fought over who would control illegal alcohol businesses. In 1933 the United States repealed the Prohibition laws. This meant that it was legal to make, sell, and buy alcohol again. Lawmakers came to see that the law really wasn’t a good idea, and that it had made more trouble than it had tried to fix.

The legal system in the Medo-Persian empire was different. Once a law was made, even if it was a bad law, it couldn’t be changed, not even by the king himself. When the government leaders told Darius that Daniel had broken his new law, the king was very upset. He understood that he had been trapped, and that there was nothing he could do. Even though he had made the law, he had no power to change it. He had no choice but to throw Daniel into a den of hungry lions, and to seal the opening to the den with a stone, as well as official government seals, so that no one would be able to rescue Daniel. King Darius was terribly upset by all this. He didn’t eat anything, and wouldn’t listen to court musicians or watch court dancers or have any other entertainment, and he couldn’t sleep that night. He was completely powerless to save Daniel, but he had one small hope that the God Daniel served might be able to protect him.

We were also completely helpless under God’s law, and we had no way to change that or to free ourselves. God’s law is holy and good, but we were under its power because of our sins. People who don’t obey God’s law perfectly are under the power of death, and nothing we could do would change that. But God was not powerless to save us. He didn’t change his good law, but instead he came to us in Jesus to keep the law perfectly for us. Jesus obeyed God’s laws, and he died on the cross and rose again to break the power of sin and death in our lives. Because of Jesus we are free from being condemned by the law, and he forgives our sins every day. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us walk in his ways, and we are free to serve the God who loves us.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for keeping the law for us and for setting us free from sin and death. Amen.

Source:

http://www.history.com/topics/prohibition