"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Raising the Standard: Decisiveness is Making Present Commitments to Avoid Future Failures

A young man committed himself to a course of action which he knew would avoid future failure. Based on the Law of God, this man fortified himself with a standard so high that even under the vengeful scrutiny of enemies who sought his life, no fault could be found in him.
How Does Scripture Illustrate Decisiveness in Making Commitments for Future Success? One hundred and twenty-two fearful men secretly worked out their evil plot. Any previous arguments which they may have had among themselves were set aside in an effort to protect their present power and influence. Their futures depended on successes in finding some fault in the life of one man who was mighty in spirit.
They interviewed those who knew him, investigated the records of his previous activities, listened to his words both in public and in private and observed his actions. But early in life this godly man had made a vital decision which was to frustrate their efforts. After a diligent search, the disappointed men gathered for their second meeting. "They could find no occasion nor fault: for as much as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him." His godliness forced them to reveal their ungodliness, since their original plan had failed, they devised a new scheme. When it backfired, they were killed by the king whose favor they were trying to preserve. Their power and honor were given to the one whom they had tried to destroy. But what was the decision which enabled him to avoid destruction in later years? As a boy he had been challenged by the courageous pronouncements of the prophet Jeremiah against the wickedness of the king and the nation in which he lived. His people refused to change their ways and scoffed at the punishment which the prophet predicted. A few years later that very judgement fell on the nation as foretold. Their king was chained and led from his country with thousands of others to a heathen land. This young man was among the captured group. Everything had been taken from him - his home, his family, his possessions, his freedom. But these circumstances revealed what was of lasting value. He observed that compromise with evil always results in punishment to the compromiser and to those around him. He visualized the compromises which he might face himself or violate God's Word in any way. In so doing he chose to be governed by a higher and stricter law than that which the one hundred and twenty-two men followed. Not only were his standards higher but his motivation to keep them was stronger. He was keenly aware that God was watching and evaluating every one of his words, thoughts, actions and attitudes. His very name Daniel means, "God is my Judge." ~ From Daniel 6 An Early Commitment Enabled Daniel to Avoid Four Failures Daniel is the only man in Scripture other than the Lord who was called "beloved" in a message sent from heaven (Daniel 9:23; Matthew 3:17). His record is without blame. Just as Pilate had to proclaim to the Lord's accusers, "I find in Him no fault" (John 18:38) so did Daniel's accusers "sought to find occasion against Daniel... but they could find no occasion nor fault... neither was their any error or fault found in him." (Daniel 6:4)
Discipline During A Time of Plenty
The key to Daniel's truly successful and prosperous life can be traced to an important decision he made as a young man. "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself." (Daniel 1:8) His career can be outlined by describing how he remained firm to that early decision on four separate occasions scattered throughout his long life. When Daniel was found to excel in appearance, intelligence, understanding and discernment he was placed in a three-year training course to prepare for service in the king's court. Because of his privileged vocation he was offered endless varieties of meats, fish and game from the table of the king. His first test involved deciding whether or not to eat this food which had been defiled by contact with the Babylonian idols and which was unclean according to the list of prohibited animals in the Mosaic Law (cf. Leviticus 11). Daniel did not use these unusual circumstances to make provision for his appetite but creatively substituted unquestionably clean vegetables for the unclean foods.
Boldness in the Face of Danger
His second test consisted of deciding whether to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar an extremely pessimistic interpretation of one of his dreams. Daniel tactfully but boldly told the king that he would become insane for a period of seven years as a consequence of his sin and iniquity. Apart from the protection of God such a prediction would have meant certain death.
A Forecast of Defeat
His third test was similar to the second when he faced Nebuchadnezzar's grandson years later to interpret a strange inscription written on the palace wall. He predicted his defeat by the Medes and Persians and rebuked him for pride, immorality, idolatry and blasphemy.
Death Rather Than Disobedience to God
His final test occurred when he was an old man during the reign of Darius. The king had been tricked into signing a law which in effect prohibited prayer to God. Although the penalty for disobedience was a violent and certain death in a lion's den, Daniel decided he could not conform. He chose to face lons rather than displease his God. Again the Lord miraculously honored Daniel's decision by sparing him from the jaws of death. Because of the commitment which Daniel made as a youth and his faithfulness tothat decision, he was a blessing to the world and to his exiled people for over seventy years.
Why Did Daniel's Associates Want to Discredit Him?
When King Darius appointed three commissioners over the one hundred and twenty governors of the various Medo-Persian possessions, his motive was to prevent loss of revenue through political corruption. Since each governor had a fixed levy to collect, it was easy for him to collect more than required and pocket the difference unless properly supervised. The only way the governors could continue their thievery was to bribe the commissioners. Daniel would not tolerate dishonesty in himself or in others. When King Darius considered setting him over the entire kingdom, the governors and other commissioners feared that their corruption would be exposed. Since they couldn't accuse him of dishonesty, their only alternative was to find something against him in regard to the law of his God (cf. Daniel 6:1-5).
Couldn't Daniel Have Continued to Pray in Secret?
The fact that Daniel knew that the law against prayer had been signed but continued to kneel and pray three times a day indicates that he was well aware of the consequences of his actions. Daniel knew that the law was unjust. The king had been deceived by his counselors. But Daniel was willing to test the law by accepting the consequences and appealing to the very court of God Himself. There was another stronger motive for Daniel to maintain his daily prayers toward Jerusalem. When Solomon dedicated the temple there, he prayed that when the nation would be taken captive and the people would pray toward the Temple in Jerusalem that God would hear their prayer and have compassion on them (I Kings 8:48-50). Although unquestionably loyal to his foreign king Darius, Daniel's heart was with his people and the land of his birth.
How Was Daniel Prepared for Difficult Tests?
Daniel was born into a prominent Judean family probably about the time of godly King Josiah's reformation in 621 B>C> He was raised in an atmosphere where idolatry was condemed. Obedient worship of God was encouraged both by family and government. Daniel was just a teenager when the beloved King Josiah was killed in a battle against the Egyptians. Three months later the nation lost its independence. Heodoubt was familiar with the prophed Jeremiah's early warning about the developing Babylonian threat to the north, and he may have at this ti9me decided what he would do if taken captive by an ungodly nation. His worst fears materialized in 605 B.C. when he was among the first group of Jewish captives taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, but he was both mentally and spiritually prepared for the tests that lay ahead. The magnificent osprey has a wingspan of six feet and inhabits those areas which furnish it with a sufficient stock of fish, its major food source. Admired and appreciated more than any other hawk, the osprey continues to decline in number in spite of man's efforts to save this bird.
How Does the Osprey Illustrate Decisiveness in Making Commitments for Future Success? A piercing, shriek-like whistle betrayed the presence of the osprey. The bird was silhouetted against the blue sky as it searched for food high above the lake. Its quest was becoming increasingly difficult. The supply of fish which had abounded for years had drastically declined that spring.
The previous winter had been long and severe. Early in November, freezing weather had arrived and heavy snows covered the lake until the final April thaw. Since the lake water was not particularly deep, the premature freezing had stilled its surface. Without the tumbling motion of the waves the fish were prohibited from receiving any further oxygen. The oxygen supply underneath the ice would still have continued to support life despite the early freeze had it not been for heavy snowfalls which blocked vital rays of sunlight. Water plants which depend on sunlight normally produce a sufficient amount of oxygen to support aquatic life. But without sunlight the plants died, and competition among fish for the limited oxygen had caused a winter kill which greatly reduced their numbers. The osprey would be forced to work harder to find and catch the fish necessary for survival if it were to remain in this lake area. Not only was the osprey affected by this shortage, but other wildlife inhabitants were suffering as well. Soaring up to two hundred feet in the air, the osprey scanned the water below with its acute vision. Spotting a dark object, it abruptly changed direction, circled and descended about fifty feet. Having seen just enough to determine the position of the fish, the osprey half-folded its wings, locked them into position and quickly lowered its head. It dove decisively for the fish with its sharp talons outstretched. Faster and faster the hawk's momentum increased as it plummeted toward the surface. With a burst of spray the bird's breast struck the water. Disappearing for a moment, it emerged with its talons securely clasped around the body of a rainbow trout. On powerful wings it soared upward to its perch where it could safely eat the catch. As it gained altitude, the hawk was suddenly overshadowed by a huge form in the air. The threatening bird swiftly swept down from above. Startled and intimidated by the powerful wings and talons of this intruder, the osprey released its prize. Sailing down after the fish, the bold thief grasped it in mid-air and then flew towards shore to enjoy the stolen catch. The bald eagle, another bird that lives largely on fish, had compensated for its own inadequate technique by capitalizing on the unerring decisiveness of the osprey. Deprived of its rightful catch, the osprey would resume its vigil relying once again on its ability to make swift and accurate decisions in flight.