A work in progress, Matthew 14:28-33

Before these events, if someone told you that one of the twelve disciples got out of the boat in the midst of a storm and tried to walk on the water, you might not have been able to guess a name. After these events, one name will always spring onto your tongue: Peter. He was a work in progress, and that’s why we love him.

Matthew 14:28-33

28 Lord, if its you, Peter replied, tell me to come to you on the water.

29 Come, he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, Lord, save me!

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. You of little faith, he said, why did you doubt?

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, Truly you are the Son of God.

Commentary

Verse 28 contains one of those if-statements signaling that the starting assumption is assumed true; Peter knows that Jesus is speaking, so he solicits a direct order. A shrewd move.

At first, Peter enjoyed complete success in walking to Jesus (verse 29). When the wind became more fierce and came to Peter’s awareness, fear overmatched faith and a gradual sinking process began. Whatever we may say about Peter’s loss of confidence, he knew who to call on to save him: Jesus (verse 30). Jesus solved the immediate problem, including Peter’s lapse (verse 31). Perhaps we see in this that helping disciples of Jesus become mature is not a sink or swim process. It involves both fast assistance and coaching.

Verse 32 has not received much attention. Most commentators indirectly credit Jesus with the fact that the wind stopped after he and Peter got into the boat. Under my theory that demonic action caused these problems, it seems more likely that, absent agitation by these spirits, the wind and water returned to their normal calm state in the pre-dawn hours. The biblical text does not say why the wind stopped, but most of us will realize that going from high wind speed to still is not normal. And Jesus is not the only person capable of acting in the context, even though his decision will be final.

Basking in their rescue by Jesus, the disciples affirm him as the Son of God (verse 33), and they are not wrong, but it is apparent that their grasp of who Jesus is needs to deepen even further.

Copyright 2017 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Material originally developed for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

Exposition of Daniel 6:19–28, Ranking Guests for Breakfast

Daniel 6:19–28

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
“May you prosper greatly!

26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For he is the living God and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

After spending a sleepless night, at the breaking of dawn Darius goes quickly to the lion-pit holding Daniel (verse 19). Darius at the cistern’s entrance is a picture of both anxiety and hope. Without court protocol he loudly shouts Daniel’s name, calling him “servant of the living God” (verse 20) and reminding us that God’s ability to rescue Daniel is still a question. That issue is quickly resolved when Daniel implicitly prays, “May the king live forever!” (verse 21). This dramatic and moving greeting mirrors the king’s implicit prayer  “May your God … rescue you!” (verse 16) when Daniel was condemned to face the lions.

Daniel is always looking for ways to speak about God, which should serve to remind us not only of our own mission for Christ but also that this book is not primarily about Daniel. He swiftly explains that “My God” — to distinguish Yahweh from the pantheon of Babylonian deities — “sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions” (verse 22). It is ironic that Darius, Daniel and the lions were all without food during the long night. The statement that the angel “shut the mouths of the lions” is figurative of total protection since lions can kill a man in other ways as well.

Verse 22 looks on Daniel as being on trial in two venues, before God and before the king. The angel’s protection proves Daniel’s innocence before God, and he further claims to have done no wrong before the king. Darius had never believed any such thing in the first place and orders that Daniel be lifted out of the cistern (verses 22–23). Daniel is closely inspected and found to be without injury; this state is attributed to his faith in Yahweh, and it shows how completely God has overpowered both wild lions and Medo-Persian capital punishment.

However, the vindication of Daniel is the condemnation of his accusers. When verse 24 mentions “the men who had falsely accused Daniel,” we learn from Miller that “‘falsely accused’ is literally ‘who had eaten his pieces.’”[1] The NET Bible Notes for verse 24 point out that “The Aramaic expression is ironic, in that the accusers who had figuratively ‘eaten the pieces of Daniel’ are themselves literally devoured by the lions.” This is a concrete, if ironic, example of a common biblical principle related to judgment: measure for measure.  Jesus said, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).

That whole families were executed for the guilt of one person was the Persian custom during those times[2], and the practice serves to remind us that our sin affects all we know and love. Proving that they are both vicious and hungry, the lions “crush their bones” before they even reach the floor of the cistern. Dinner had been quite a disappointment, but breakfast proved memorable for all involved.

An empire-spanning decree

Once again one of the greatest rulers in ancient times feels moved to tell his people about the mighty acts of Yahweh (verses 25–27). Aside from being personally awed by the events, the king finds it necessary to explain how unbreakable Medo-Persian law could be overruled in the case of Daniel, which explains why the decree ends with “He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (verse 27b).

The wildly fluctuating status of Daniel may provide the occasion for the decree, but the heart of the king’s message is designed to make sure that the people of the empire do nothing to offend “the God of Daniel” (verse 26a). HCSB gets the right sense by saying “people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel” (verse 6:26a). Trembling before God and being afraid before God are Aramaic participles that imply continuous action. Darius offers five reasons that make this ongoing attitude an absolute necessity:

“he is the living God and he endures forever” (verse 26)

“his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (verse 26)

“he rescues and he saves” (verse 27)

“he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth” (verse 27)

“he has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (verse 27).

If there is one thing our contemporary world has forgotten, it is the absolute need to fear and tremble before the living God, the enduring ruler who holds the power of life and death. We who have been rescued by trusting in Jesus must remember that, even in his own family, our God disciplines those he loves.

We have said before that we consider Darius the Mede to be the same person as Cyrus the Persian, also known as Cyrus the Great. This issue arises again in verse 28, where Miller explains: “If one holds that Cyrus and Darius were the same person … the phrase may be translated ‘during the reign of Darius, even (namely) the reign of Cyrus the Persian.’ If [this] view is correct, Daniel was thereby specifying for the reader the identification of Darius the Mede — he was the same person as Cyrus the Persian.”[3]

While the identification of Darius is interesting, it is not vital. What we must never forget is that God rules in heaven and on earth. He is the only one who can rescue and save, and he has done so through Jesus Christ!

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Miller, Daniel, 187.

[2] Wood, Daniel, 174.

[3] Miller, Daniel, 189.

Exposition of Daniel 6:10-18 An unbreakable web of lies

Daniel 6:10-18

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions den? The king answered, The decree stands in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.

13 Then they said to the king, Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day. 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions den. The king said to Daniel, May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniels situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

The publication of the decree affecting his prayers to Yahweh was not the first restrictive edict Daniel had faced. During his first days in Babylon he had been confronted with eating food and drink from the kings allotment (Dan. 1:8). Daniel had quietly resisted that seductive diet, and God had enabled him to prevail during his earliest days in Babylonian captivity. Now, under the reign of Darius the Mede, a much more powerful Daniel faces a situation where his normal prayer life will lead to his death. Daniels enemies were counting on his integrity and faithfulness to Yahweh.

As was his open custom, Daniel continues his daily prayers and praise without using Darius as a mediator (verse 10). Predictably, the same conspirators who had approached Darius with their deceptive proposal burst in on Daniel while he is praying for Gods help (verse 11). Armed with this direct evidence, the conspirators promptly approach the king and first get his confirmation of the irrevocable decree. The king naturally declares that the decree stands and cannot be repealed (verse 12).

The conspirators have very carefully teed up their accusation, but they cannot resist the temptation to enhance it with another provocative lie. While NIV says that Daniel pays no attention to you (verse 13), the verb means has no regard for you,[1] as if the king and his decree are the object of Daniels personal contempt. This is an attempt to inflame the kings emotions against Daniel.

When the king grasps the situation, he is exceptionally distressed (verse 14). Wood observes, This was not the kind of reaction by the king for which the accusers had hoped.[2] The conspirators had previously lied by saying that Daniel had no regard for the king, and that very same Aramaic verb is used in verse 14 to say that the king has regard for Daniel to the point that he wants to rescue him from death! The kings high opinion of Daniel has not changed. He makes every effort to save Daniel until the setting sun marks the time for execution. Wood observes, This is a remarkable example of an absolute monarch being bound by a law still more absolute.[3]

The conspirators had passed the point of no return long ago, and together they approach the king again to demand enforcement of the royal decree (verse 15). Having no choice, the king orders Daniel to be taken to the cistern — a rock enclosure below ground — where the lions were kept. Daniel is cast into the cistern. With sharp irony, the king, who had appointed himself the sole mediator to the gods for others, now utters what amounts to a prayer on Daniels behalf: May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you! The king is calling on Yahweh to do what he could not do — rescue Daniel!

A stone is placed over the mouth of the cistern and sealed with the rings of both the king and his nobles (verse 17). Daniels fate is apparently sealed. The cistern is silent and nothing more is said about it. But the king, in the confines of his palace, shows every evidence of great anxiety: no appetite, no interest in diversions, and no sleep (verse 18). The question we must ask ourselves is: Why is the king so anxious?

Copyright 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] HALOT, sam, have regard for, q.v.

[2] Leon J. Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1998)165.

[3] Wood, Daniel, 166.