Greetings! Welcome to the show today.
Heroes-- You know, I think it is very important for each and every one of us to have heroes; men and women of God we look to to inspire us and show us how to truly live for God. One of the heroes of scripture who inspires me the most is the prophet Daniel; a man taken into captivity to Babylon, which was the reigning world empire and forced to live amongst a strange people in a strange land surrounded by all sorts of false gods and various temptations. And yet in the midst of all that, he remembers to whom he really belongs and remains true to God in the face of (what seem at least to me to be) insurmountable difficulties.
Backdrop-- Now, just to give you a little background, Israel (because of their unfaithfulness to God) had been sent into exile. God had made a covenant promise to His people to be faithful to them; to prosper them; to bless them. Yet that covenant was contingent upon obedience to Him. They were to remain consecrated, set apart for Him. It was their obedience to God that would allow His presence to dwell with them in the temple; and it was that presence that would bless them. But if Israel was unfaithful to God, then God promised judgment on them. We see this clearly in Deuteronomy 28, which says…
Deuteronomy 28:15 (ESV)— 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
Deuteronomy 28:36a (ESV)-- 36 “The Lord will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known….
Deuteronomy 28:64a (ESV)-- 64 “And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other,…
Temple Destroyed-- Now Israel, unfortunately, did not pay heed to this. They began worshiping the same gods and engaging in the same practices as the pagan nations. So God had to bring judgment. Israel was attacked and many Israelites were carried away into exile into Babylon. And we know that Daniel was among them. And not long after that the temple in Jerusalem, the center of their worship and the zenith of their faith; the very temple that was built and dedicated by Solomon, was destroyed.
What This Did to Them— Now we cannot even begin to imagine what this was like. Jerusalem and particularly the temple were the heart of Jewish worship. In Jerusalem you had the monarchy, which had now ended. The temple in which the presence of God dwelt was destroyed (something they thought could never happen). And with the temple went their ability to function the way that God had intended them to. With the temple went the sacrifices and the priesthood. They lost everything. And eventually that is where all sin leads us; it leaves us destitute. It takes away everything from us.
Unpopular Themes-- Now we often do not like to talk about the judgment of God on sin. In fact in many churches nowadays if a pastor wants to start talking about judgment or sin, he probably ought to start packing his bags; because he very likely will not be at that church very long. Judgment and sin are very unpopular topics. Yet both are necessary before we can begin to understand God’s grace and redemption. Because the message of Grace isn’t that God overlooks sin, but that God’s righteous judgment on sin was born by Jesus Christ.
God’s Judgment is Always Redemptive-- Furthermore, those who look negatively at this biblical theme of judgment don’t understand the true nature of God’s judgment, which is always redemptive. God judges us (ultimately) because He wants to preserve us. You see, it is sin that destroys. And therefore God’s judgment is always aimed towards liberating us from bondage to sin. It is always redemptive. Many of us love…
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)-- 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Written to Those Under God’s Judgment-- Many of us know this verse by heart. But what many don’t realize is that this verse was written to a people who were in exile; right in the center; the very heart of God’s judgment. Even Daniel’s name means “God is my judge.”
The Promise of Restoration-- And this reveals something remarkable to us about the way that God judges. Whenever God judges, He always leaves His people with hope; the promise of their restoration if they but turn back to Him. Even in His judgment He already begins to show them His mercy; His promise. And this pattern stretches all the way back to Genesis to the Fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden.
Skins of Grace-- Now usually when we talk about the Fall in those first chapters of Genesis we focus in on this theme of God’s punishment. And I don’t want to downplay that. But I think what we often miss is also a deep expression of God's loving provision. Adam and Eve had sinned against God; they had turned their backs on Him; and the Bible says they realized they were naked and hid. And God comes to them and lovingly leads them to acknowledge their sin. And afterwards He must, because He is a Holy God, deal with their sin. They are cast out of the Garden of Eden. Yet God does not send them out of the Garden naked and afraid, covered in nothing but the fig leaves they had tried to manufacture to cover themselves, though He had every right to. Rather, He takes an animal and kills it; He removes the skin of the animal and clothes them with that skin (foreshadowing the whole animal sacrificial system). I just think, what an amazing picture; that even though sin brought upon them shame (justly), God covers that shame with the skin of an animal. The death of that animal removed their shame. Even in the skin of that animal God was giving them hope; because He would eventually allow another to have His flesh torn and pierced; His very Son. And that death would be the death to end all death; to completely remove our shame and unite us again with the presence of God. As the skin of the animal covered them, foreshadowing sacrifice and the whole sacrificial system, so also it foreshadowed the day when we would be covered by the blood of Christ.
Satan’s Voice vs. God’s Voice-- When God judges us, He always leaves us with hope. In fact, some time ago I found myself sharing with somebody something my own mentor had told me years ago about how to distinguish in my mind between God’s pointing sin out in my life and Satan’s trying to condemn me. And that is a real struggle for many Christians; and it may be for you as well; knowing when God is trying to correct you and when it is really Satan trying to tear you down. The acid test is this; if the source is Satan, it will leave you with a feeling of failure and the claim that you will never escape. But if the source of that voice is God, though the failure may be pointed out, He will always leave you with hope; hope that by His power, He can enable you to overcome. Because God always gives (even in His rebuke) the hope of future restoration if only we will repent and seek God (as Jeremiah 29:13 says) with all our hearts.
Repentance is the key to redemption— And repentance is key to redemption. And repentance means more than saying I’m sorry. No, the Greek word “repentance” (μετανοέω) means a change of mind; a change in the inner man. And the Biblical Hebrew word for repent is שׁוּב (SHUB <phonetic: shoob>), which means “to turn back, return.” It is directional. So it is more than confession; more than just being sorry and expressing it. No, it means to change your direction. You are going one way and now you begin to go the opposite way. If we want to be saved, we must μετανοέω; we must שׁוּב; we must change in the inner person and we must change our direction. And I want to encourage you today that, no matter how far you may have fallen, if you are willing to repent like that, God will help you to repent and God’s promise of restoration will be available to you.
The Temple Dedication-- When the temple was first completed, Solomon (I think with amazing wisdom and foresight) prays this incredible prayer of dedication. And in it he seems to anticipate a time when Israel might turn from God. Listen to what he prays in…
1 Kings 8:46-51 (ESV)-- 46 “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, 47 yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace).
Daniel turned his eyes toward Jerusalem— Isn’t it interesting that the Bible says (when Daniel is taken captive and placed under the charge of the chief of the eunuchs)…
Daniel 1:9 (ESV)-- 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,
What had Solomon prayed for? That when Israel is taken captive, God might…
1 Kings 8:50b (ESV)-- grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them
God is answering Solomon’s prayer. Why? Because Daniel (who knows what Solomon wrote) is doing exactly what Solomon said would be their visual act of repentance.
1 Kings 8:46-51 (ESV)-- 48 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name,
Remember King Darius’ edict that all people in his kingdom (Israel included) should worship no other god except him as king? When Daniel hears that edict, how does Daniel respond? It says in…
Daniel 6:10 (ESV)-- 10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
Deliverance through Cyrus-- You see, Daniel is modeling what real repentance looks like at that open window. And it is interesting to note that not long after this God does bring deliverance to His people through the hand of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian empire, which we will talk more about in the coming weeks.
A feeling of hopelessness-- You know, In general I sense this general feeling of hopelessness among Christians. I have even heard it said that America is too far gone to be able to turn things around. Now I understand that viewpoint, though I believe our passages today reveal to us another, more accurate way of seeing our current predicament. Yes I believe the time is fast approaching when God is going to judge this nation. But what I want you to see today is that this is not something we should dread, because (although it is going to be difficult) it is going to be redemptive. And if we individually and collectively repent, God will restore us. God always offers the hope of restoration to those under judgment; if they but turn to Him.
And so this week, let us commit to live lives that are characterized by true repentance. May we seek God with all our hearts. And may you experience (in every way) His love, His redemption, and His restoration in your own life. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.