OT: Daniel 2:4-3:30
Today, we read the exciting conclusion of the Nebuchadnezzar dream story. After giving all credit to God, Daniel proceeded to relate Neb's dream of a four part statue, which represented four major kingdoms of the world. The dream also foretold of God's kingdom, which would be established in the time of the fourth kingdom, and which would last through eternity. In Sunday school, I learned theories of which kingdoms were represented by the statues, but I can't remember them right now. I do know that the Medo-Persians were involved.
In chapter 3, we read the story of the fiery furnace. I've always wondered where Daniel was during this time and why he was not defying the king's orders along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Regardless, it is a good story. My favorite part is the quote from the three men to Nebuchadnezzar: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (3:17-18). To me, that is the ultimate statement of faith. Their faith is not dependent on God's actions. He can save them or let them die--it doesn't matter. They will choose to have faith and to be faithful either way.
NT: 1 Peter 4:7-5:14
I deduced from this passage that Peter shared the belief of many NT Christians that Jesus was going to come back very, very soon. My deduction stemmed from 4:7, in which the author declares, "The end of all things is near." Well....not really....
I do agree that the end of all things is near fore each of us personally, though, which makes the instructions that follow that declaration pertinent to all of us. In light of the brevity of life, we do need to "be clear minded and self-controlled so that [we] can pray" (7). And we should "offer hospitality" to each other and "use whatever gift [we have] received to serve others" (10). I love that reminder that our gifts and talents and resources are not given to us for our own sake, but for the sake of the larger body of Christ. Also, I like the idea that God's grace comes in various forms, and those forms are the different gifts that He gives each of us (10). In lavishing love on my family this week, my parents are administering one form of God's grace to us. In hosting a gingerbread house party for the kids at my church, I am administering another form of God's grace to them. In teaching God's word to others, the teachers at my church are administering yet another form of God's grace. You get the point. The list goes on and on. But the bottom line is that when we do these things for each other, we are showing God's grace to one another.
Verses 12-19 continue the theme of suffering. In chapter 5, Peter gives some advice to elders and to young men, respectively (1-5). He also tells his audience once again to "be self-controlled and alert" and to be aware of/resist the devil (8-9). He closes with the reminder that God will help them stay strong (10).
Psalm 119: 81-96
In these two stanzas, the psalmist emphasizes that he would have died without his love for God's word.
Against wicked rulers.