But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself…
Resolve is to settle firmly on a course of action, it is firm determination. What have you resolved to do? Who have you resolved to be? Daniel resolved to not defile himself in a pretty difficult time. But, it was in his resolve that he was able to make it through the chaos and achieve an incredible amount of success and influence.
Daniel made this resolution, this firm course of action, at the beginning of what would end up being 70 years of captivity. You see, the Israelites had fallen into disobedience, again. This time it divided them and destroyed them. The kingdom was divided, the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom had been conquered by the Babylonians. Many of the Israelites were carted off to Babylon to live as exiles and slaves in a foreign land. They were basically right back where they started.
During this time Daniel and some of this friends were invited (perhaps forced) into the king’s palace. Here they would be taught, for 3 years, the ways of this culture and kingdom. The king even tried to force them to eat his food. But, Daniel, in his resolve refused the food because it had been offered to idols and never caved in his commitment and obedience to God and God’s law, even though everyone and everything around him was pulling him away. He stood strong.
So, I ask again, what have you resolved to do? Who are you when you find yourself right back where you started (stuck or enslaved in a place you don’t want to be)? Who are you when everyone around you is trying to tell you how to live your life and what to do? Do you give in and do what everyone else is doing? Do you stray form what you know to be right? How is your resolve?
God blessed Daniel’s resolve. Twice in the opening chapter of Daniel we read the words God gave. God gave Daniel favor with his guards and God gave Daniel a ton of wisdom and knowledge. This favor and wisdom is what really equipped Daniel and his friends to be successful and influential in this chaotic time of exile. If we will resolve to not be defiled – to live totally sold out to God, He will give us what we need to be successful and influential. He will give us what we need to be who He wants us to be. So, what will you resolve to do today?
Clouds and Thick Darkness
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
A couple of weeks ago I was out in the woods doing some hunting. We were about 2 miles in and it got dark. Luckily we had a road to walk on to get back to the truck – and a flashlight! At one point in our walk in the dark I turned off the flashlight. It was dark! Very hard to see where we were going. When it is dark it is hard to move, especially when you turn off the light. It can be very disorienting and scary. I didn’t leave the light off for long before turning it back on – maybe just a step or two.
Many of us might find ourselves in the dark. We might be having great difficulty moving forward either in life in general or forward through a particular problem or season of life. In those moments who or what do you turn to for light – for direction? How do you know they are leading you in the right direction and what do you do when they are not around – when the light goes out?
What really strikes me about this Psalm is that it says God is surrounded by clouds and thick darkness. God knows what it is like to be in the dark. He is in the midst of our darkness. He is with us on that journey with us. I know we might be tempted to turn to someone or something other than Him for direction. We might even find that we have put our hope for salvation from the darkness in a human made system, a person, or even a substance. But, none of those things or people can offer what God does. They aren’t always in the darkness with you, but God is.
The last time we see God in the darkness He brings forth life (Genesis 1-2). He brings order to chaos. He declares light where there once wasn’t any. We can, and should, ask other people for help and invite others to join us in our darkness so they can help us out, but ultimately our hope should reside in God. Ultimately, He is the only one who can truly transform the darkness into light.
Your road might be pretty dark today, but know that God is right there with you. Trust Him for the light you need so you don’t get lost and can keep moving forward.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.