1 – Ezekiel 43:25-27 (ESV) 25 For seven days you shall provide daily a male goat for a sin offering; also, a bull from the herd and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided. 26 Seven days shall they make atonement for the altar and cleanse it, and so consecrate it. 27 And when they have completed these days, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on the altar your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, and I will accept you, declares the Lord God.”
RAF: There is an inherent dualism in the sacrificial system that is reinforced and made quite explicit in this passage. Amidst this vision of rebuilding Jerusalem’s Temple and the restoration of its sacrifices, we see that one whole set of sacrifices is aimed at making atonement “for the altar”, to “clease it, and so consecrate it.” Such atonement here is not for the people, but for the altar. And the reason is stated explicitly: “then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer on my alter YOUR burnt offerings and YOUR peace offerings, and I will accept YOU.” (Emphases mine) There is a dimension of the sacrificial system which makes God willing to accept our offerings, and, we are to bring our offerings – in Christ. The mere making atonement for the altar is not the sum of the situation. We cannot rely only on its having been done, we now must bring our own sacrifices of worship. Nor can we bring them and have them accepted until the atonement for the altar is done. Christ must do His full work – both in propitiating the Father, and, in being the only sacrifice we may bring to be accepted. In Him alone is salvation. In Him alone, is the full work done. What a wonderful and complete Savior He is!
2 – Ezekiel 46:9 (ESV) 9 “When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, he who enters by the north gate to worship shall go out by the south gate, and he who enters by the south gate shall go out by the north gate: no one shall return by way of the gate by which he entered, but each shall go out straight ahead.
RAF: True worship ought to change us. To go out, the same way we came in, is to fail to have met with the living God. It is to fail to have encountered His glory – and through it – to be changed from glory to glory ourselves. Oh how we need to prepare ourselves for worship that it might have its work in us. That we might be one step closer to Heaven, and in some aspect of our souls, more like our Savior. Heavenly Father, never again let us enter upon the high honor of worship with the saints, without being mindful of the true glory of it, and being wrought upon intentionally by Your Spirit in becoming more like Christ. May we never again waste a single moment of it.
3 – Ezekiel 47:21-23 (ESV) 21 “So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. 22 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord God.
RAF: What a stunning picture of the fulfillment of Genesis 18:18 – Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.
And, it is an exposition of Galatians 3:14 (ESV) 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:29 (ESV) 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Ephesians 3:6 (ESV) 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
4 – Daniel 1:6-7 (ESV) 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7 And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
RAF: The World is always trying to give us an identity more compatible with itself, than with our God. As others have noted, Daniel – whose name means ‘God is my judge’, is renamed: Belteshazzar – Bel being the name of one of the Babylonian gods. Hananiah, means ‘Yah has been gracious’ – Mishael, can be rendered ‘Who is what God is?’; and Azariah, ‘Yah has helped’. In each case, bits and pieces of the names deities such as Bel, Nabu and possibly Aku are assigned to them. And while the World may well want to think of us certain ways and even want us to take on those reshaped identities, it is one of our battle fronts to keep always in heart and mind – a clear conception of who we are in relationship to Christ Jesus. That is our true identity. It is the true identity of every human being. For better, or for worse.
5 – Daniel 1:8 (ESV) 8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.
RAF: There is remarkable wisdom, nuance and instruction in the way Daniel and his companions responded to this extremely hostile environment into which they were thrust. Note some of the attitudes and approaches they adopted as you work through the passages. Perhaps you are in a hostile work environment or some other difficult organizational framework – these are wonderful insights into managing them well before God.
6 – Daniel 1:21 (ESV) 21 And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
RAF: The first year of King Cyrus was 538 BC. Daniel had been captured and exiled in 605 BC. He was probably somehwere between 15 and 17 when he was captured. If we take the low end, 15 – then we know he survived in captivity until at least the age of 82. He lived long enough to see the beginnings of God’s promised restoration, though it is almost certain he did not experience the return from exile first hand. As a close contemporary of Ezekiel, he probably died in Susa somewhere around the age of 85. Note – as a faithful man of God:
He lived the vast majority of his life in captivity.
He lived the vast majority of his life in an unstable environment.
He lived the vast majority of his life in danger.
He lived the vast majority of his life surrounded by hostility.
He lived the vast majority of his life knowing his work, position and usefulness were not founded upon his natural gifts or abilities, but in reliance upon God’s gracious provision, especially at crucial times.
7 – Daniel 2:1 (ESV) In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him.
RAF: This is his second year of reigning as the sole ruler. Up until the death of his father Nabopolassar, he was a vice-regent with his Dad. After his father’s death, he reigned completely alone. This then is nearly four years after the sacking of Jerusalem.
8 – Daniel 2:24 (ESV) 24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
RAF: What an example of both wisdom and compassion. I would have made it clear that MY God could answer this thing alone, and made the case for letting them continue to execute all the rest, except for myself and my 3 companions. Not Daniel. He intercedes for his enemies as well as for himself. Father, give us such hearts. Make us to love our enemies, even as you loved us while we were yet your enemies.
9 – Daniel 7:2-3 (ESV) 2 Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.
RAF: This is a wonderful depiction of how it is that when God is at work (the 4 winds of heaven), so it is there is action among men (4 great beasts coming up out of the sea). We are not to view geo-political upheavals and movements apart from understanding God is at work, and at the same time see men and nations rising and acting on their own.
10 – Daniel 9:18-19 (ESV) 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
RAF: What a wonderful impetus to prayer is given to us here. We do not present our pleas before God because of OUR rightouensess, but because of His great mercy.
Perhaps dear saint you have forsaken the prayer closet because of your sins and failures. Maybe you thought you needed to clean up your act before you can come to Him again. But I tell you He is ready to receive you always. Most certainly, He expects your confession and repentance, but He does not expect you to come in your own righteousness. Confession is always received – there is nothing to be done which precedes it. And confession is itself – prayer. It begins there. Built on the foundation of His character, not our own. Built upon His being a God of mercy, not we being a people with our own righteousness. In fact, we come even to seek the very hearts of repentance we so desperately need – for repentance is a gift itself! (See: 2 Tim. 2:25)
11 – Daniel 10:15-19 (ESV) 15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”
18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
RAF: We see here how the fear of the Lord is not incompatible with having the favor and love of God. God is terrifying. We are so bereft of concepts of what it must be like to encounter pure and infinite power and holiness, that we cannot conceive of how terrifying it must be to be met with visions so far beyond the scope of our present experiences. No matter how He condescends to us, to see Him as He is, to to be awed beyond words. His glory can be understood as nothing less than terrifying to the soul of man – especially when we are still infected with the remnants of indwelling sin. It is infinitely greater than being thrust into the belly of the sun, with only a thin gauze robe for protection – and yet not being consumed. So glorious and so terrifying all at once. This is what Daniel is trying to sort out on his own mind. This is what awaits us all.
12 – Hosea 1:1 (ESV) The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
RAF: The one-word theme of Hosea is: Adultery. Throughout its chapters, the imagry is that to forsake God is spiritual adultery. Such is His relationship to His people. It is not merely a God/People relationship, it is intimate and exclusive. And any violation of it is equivalent to adultery – the ultimate betrayal. Hosea’s focus is upon the northern Kingdom of Israel as opposed to Judah. Though Judah is mentioned at places. And within Israel, the focus is upon Ephraim. Originally, Israel’s largest and most infuential tribe, it was also the tribe which led the rest in pursuing idolatry.