OT: Daniel 1:1-2:23
WOO-HOO!! We are in Daniel, people! That is so exciting to me.
I enjoyed reading the familiar narrative today, especially in light of all the prophecies we've been reading about the Babylonian exile. We've seen the perspective of Jeremiah, who was left behind with the exiles, and we've seen the perspective of Ezekiel who was taken in the first wave and lived with the "common people." Now, we get to see the perspective of the young, rich men who were taken into the king's service. I have to say, when you think of the big picture, Daniel and his friends had a pretty sweet deal. They got relocated into a (relatively) sophisticated culture, and were given the royal treatment: good education, good food, good wine. On the other hand, though, they were ripped away from their families and all that they knew, and carried into a foreign land. So it was a mixed bag.
Here's a random detail I've always found interesting: Daniel is known by his Hebrew name. And yet, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are known by their new Babylonian names. Why is that? It's not a big deal, but I'd appreciate some consistency here:).
The story of Daniel refusing to eat the king's food has a lot of applicability to teenagers, and so I've heard it used in lots of illustrations in sermons to youth. The idea generally conveyed by the speakers is that, like Daniel, teenagers live in a Babylon, a culture that continually pressures and lures them to conform to its standards. They are also surrounded by their peers, who often wield more influence over them than do their parents. Thus, like Daniel, they need to resist their culture and resist peer pressure, and instead conform to God's standards, the standards that have (hopefully) been passed to them from their families.
In chapter 2, we read the first half of the story of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and we see the more brutal side of the Babylonian culture. Because his wise men could not tell the king his dream, he decreed that all the men be cut into pieces and their houses destroyed. Good grief! That is not great leadership! Thankfully, Daniel prayed to God, and God revealed the dream to him. Tomorrow, we will read the rest.
NT: 1 Peter 3:8-4:6
I enjoyed reading these instructions to Peter's audience. Perhaps my two favorite parts were 3:8-9 and 3:15-16. The first says, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil for evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." The second says, "But in your hearts always set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." I love how both of these instructions emphasize good interpersonal skills. Christian behavior should be defined by love and harmony and compassion and gentleness and respect. Those are such important parts of our witness.
My Church of Christ self has to give a shout out to 3:18-21, which is a good baptism reference.
Chapter 4 again extols the virtues of suffering, which is a recurring theme in 1 Peter. One of the benefits of suffering mentioned today is that suffering strengthens us so that we are more resistant to sin (4:1). That makes sense to me. To withstand physical suffering (and especially to do so with grace and strength) requires perseverance, like James says. And that perseverance can also help people as they fight their own sinful impulses.
Speaking of the goodness of suffering, verse 71 says,
"It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees."
I thought that idea tied in well with Peter.
It's good to fear God, and bad to harden our hearts.