Home > Uncategorized > Reading the first chapters of Daniel, Acts

Reading the first chapters of Daniel, Acts

I spent about half an hour today actually reading three passages of scripture: the 19th chapter of II Chronicles along with the first chapters of Daniel and Acts. I’m using the King James Version Zondervan Study Bible. I also like to use the New Open Study Bible, King James Version, but my old one wore out. One of these days I’ll purchase a large print from Ebay or someplace. Story of my life, really: everytime I find a Bible or pen that I really like, the powers-that-be in their wisdom choose to discontinue it.

What a joy it was to return to reading Scripture. I know some may scoff at that children’s church song “Read your Bible, pray every day and you will grow; neglect your Bible, forget to pray and you will shrink”, but I’ll tell you from personal experience–it is absolutely true.

Daniel 1: This prophet, whose name in Hebrew means “God is (my) judge”, is the first of the Minor Prophets. I’ve always been intrigued by Daniel for a few reasons: there’s nothing negative about him recorded in the book (unlike Jonah, whom we’ll be talking about a month or so down the road), and he had practically no ego. When we as Christians look for a Biblical example to follow, Daniel comes to mind. We’ll later learn about how his enemies searched vigorously for dirt to use against him, and found absolutely nothing; Daniel was squeaky clean.

On his legal documents, I wonder if Daniel had to list himself as Daniel or as Beltashazzar

In the first chapter, we learn that God punished Judah and Israel by allowing the country to be ransacked with most of the people deported to Babylon. The smartest and most useful are for use by King Nebuchadnezzar.

In retrospect, as we read this account, God’s plans are very clear; however, with the current crisis going on in Haiti, it is very unwise to rubber stamp the earthquake and the endless tragedies as God’s judgment for sin since we don’t have the whole picture yet and may not have the whole picture until many years down the road. There are godly Christians serving in Haiti, and it is stereotypical to believe that all Haitians practice voodoo.

Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were among those slated for special service. Their names were also changed. Daniel became Beltashazzar (which apparently meant “Bel, protect him”), Hananiah (“The Lord shows grace”) became Shadrach (apparently “Command of Aku”), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”) became Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”) and Azariah (“Lord help us”) became Abednego (“Servant of Nego”).

As I read, I thought to myself, most of us know that Daniel’s friends’ Babylonian names were, but how many know what their original Hebrew names were?

When I see Daniel, I see a tremendous leap of faith. He and his friends were to eat the king’s food and drink the king’s wine, but Daniel saw it as ceremonially unclean. The food and wine, ostensibly, had initially been offered to idols while some of it probably wasn’t kosher. Despite how delicious the food must’ve smelled, to consume such food and drink was forbidden by Mosaic Law. Refusing it, though, would create massive problems. Melzar, who was in charge of Daniel and his friends, explained to Daniel that if Daniel and his friends ate pulse (the Hebrew word זֵרְֽעֹן, zeroa, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “vegetables”) and water, they would look physically undernourished and Nebuchadnezzar would literally call for Melzar’s head.

So, Daniel compromised: give us pulse and water for 10 days, and if we look less healthy than the others, we’ll eat the king’s food. And indeed, after 10 days, Daniel and his friends looked even healthier. So, they continued eating the food acceptable to them.

Nebuchadnezzar then found that these Jewish kids were 10 times smarter and wiser than their counterparts. Being the “end justifies the means” pragmatist that he probably was at the time, he then promoted Daniel and his friends into higher positions. Looking at this, we can really see something that Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20: What man intends for evil, God can use for harm. One has to think that with Jews in positions of authority, it would make it far less likely for these exiled Israelites to be exterminated.

Acts 1: This first chapter of Acts reminds me of that debate among Christians (primarily Baptists): did the Church begin in Luke 6, when Jesus gathered/assembled His disciples together, or did it begin in Acts 2, when Pentecost took place? One Baptist minister I remember said this: “I believe Pentecost was the birthday of the church, but I believe it was the third birthday.” On this issue, while I believe the church began in Luke 6, I would add that godly Christian men and women will study this issue and will differ.

Acts marks a transition for the early church as Jesus prepared to ascend up into heaven while assuring the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come. The disciples, like so many love to do now, asked if it was time for Jesus to set up His kingdom. They were told this: the time will come when it comes. Meanwhile, all of you are to go out and evangelize the world.

Including–GASP!–Samaria!

(We remember, of course, that the Jews didn’t care for the Samaritans and vice versa). I suppose this would be like telling a newly-minted Israeli Christian to share the Gospel with a pro-Ahmadinejad Iranian.

A vote is taken to replace Judas, and we find from this chapter that the details of Judas’ death were pretty gruesome. It is indeed a pity: Judas spent three years with Jesus and probably got to know Our Savior on an intimate level, but the Bible suggests very strongly that Judas never knew the Lord. It reminds me of a story a residence hall manager (one of my Facebook friends) told at Pensacola Christian College. He spoke of some students leaving PCC and how they told him flatly that they were not saved and didn’t want to be.

With Judas deceased, a vote was taken to replace him. It came down to Joseph Barsabas Justus and Matthias. Lots were cast, and Matthias was elected. I imagine the confusion since Matthew the disciple’s name meant “Gift of Jehovah” and Matthias’ name meant “Gift of God”. Perhaps if the other disciples referred to them as M1 and M2.

Since lots had to be cast to decide between Joseph and Matthias, I wonder if perhaps some disciples thought, “Oh no! Isn’t one Matt among us enough?!”

Interestingly enough, Acts 1 is the very last time in Scripture that two things are mentioned: Mary the mother of Jesus and the tradition of casting lots. It’s also the only time in Scripture (at least in the King James Version) that we see the term bishoprick.  This word, which comes from the Greek word ἐπισκοπή (episkopē), which probably means overseer or the office of a bishop. It has to do with allowing someone worthy to take over Judas’ position with the disciples.

Richard Zowie is an active blogger. Post comments below or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

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