Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Less of me

Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and am come for thy words. (KJV)

Then he said to me, "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. (ESV)
-Daniel 10:12

In so many ways the bible goes misunderstood, not that I claim to understand it completely. But one thing that can be learnt from Daniel is that he did not think he had it down either. He was constantly making sure that he was correct, abstaining in uncertainty and being diligent to his commitments to God.

When we first meet Daniel, he is proving himself a worthy man to carry the name "Friend of God." In Daniel 1:8 He does not eat the kings food or wine, in fear of defiling himself before the Lord. My question is how did he know to do that? The food was not offered to idols (the text does not indicate that it was) nor was the meat unclean. Daniel just knew to do it, granted that Daniel was "skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning" (1:4) but that does not mean he was Godly.

But as we reach Chapter 10 in Daniel we find out how he became so wise. He did two things and he was heard: (1) He set his heart to understand and (2) He chastened (humbled) himself before his God. It is these two elements that bring forth Godly understanding.

The first thing to notice is that Daniel did not miraculously achieve understanding by himself. He was not clever in his own right, but rather trusted that God would grant him the understanding that was needed. This fits in perfectly with a Christian attitude, as someone who realizes that there is nothing good in them, but all good things can be brought by God. Understanding, that is, true understanding, must come from God.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding"
-Proverbs 3:5
"Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?"
-1 Kings 3:9
" And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore"
-1 Kings 4:29
"Only, may the LORD grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the LORD your God"
1 Chronicles 22:12

So in what manner do we set our hearts on understanding? Proverbs 3:5 indicates that we start out by trusting in the Lord with all our hearts. The amazing parallel here is that we, as Christians, should be invariably gaining some sort of understanding the more we follow the greatest commandment:

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might"
-Deuteronomy 6:5, called the greatest commandment by Jesus in Matthew 22:38 - 39

But there is more to it than simply loving God, therefore trusting Him, we need to set our hearts to understand. This indicates that we do not perform this task reflexively. We are going to have to go against our very nature, which is to put trust in ourselves. We are going to have to put effort in to it. This is going to take some personal sacrifice, which leads into step two.

Daniel chastened himself before his God. This Greek word aw-naw' has so many meanings, all with regard to looking down and putting away, obviously in the context all relating to self. It has a connotation with lowlyness. The word relates to depression. This word is used for humble as well. So when we do not understand, there is no cause for dispair, for God is allowing for us a time of chastening, remember he chastens those He loves (Revelation 3:9). When we do not understand, God is not cursing us, He is blessing us with the constant reminder that He is sovreign! What praise can we give to the God of truth that is so amazing He chooses to share His truth with us. There are harsh reminders of this in scripture:

"Claiming to be wise, they became fools"
-Romans 1:22
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight."
-Romans 12:16
"Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise."
-1 Corinthians 3:18

There is so much in each of these verses, the glory and wisdom of God.

This is what I want to achieve: understanding in my God. This is what it is going to require: a loss of self. How amazing is my God. All the glory to Him forever.

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