Daniel 6:10-23 Romans 5:1-11 Luke 19:1-10
Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.
Daniel had distinguished himself in the service of King Darius and the king had given him authority over some of the administrators and governors of various provinces within the empire. However these men did not like being under Daniel’s command and they conspired against him. In those days, any written law the king decreed was unchangeable. Even the king could not alter it. Daniel heard about the new law and the consequences of disobedience but he did not waver in his loyalty to God. He knew it was wiser and safer to obey God’s command to worship Him that to obey the man-made law. Daniel did not change his ways, but continued to pray, worship, give thanks and make his requests to God as he had always done.
The trouble-makers found him praying, as they suspected they would and reported him to the king. Darius was annoyed with himself for decreeing such a law. He tried hard for the rest of the day to find a way out of punishing Daniel for ‘breaking the law,’ but he was unsuccessful. He had no option but to give the order to follow the decree through and throw Daniel into the lions’ den.
However, he knew enough about Daniel’s God by the way Daniel lived to believe that anything was possible and he blessed Daniel with the hope that his God would save him.
The king’s reluctance to carry out his decree in the case of Daniel is evident. Once he had given the order for Daniel to be thrown to the lions he had a sleepless night worrying about what was happening.
Spurgeon writes of the sort of night Daniel must have had:
‘In any case (Daniel) must have had a glorious night. What with the lions, and with angels all night to keep him company, he was spending the night-watches in grander style than Darius.’
The story is familiar to us. The king hurried to the den early the next morning to find Daniel safe! Daniel maintains his innocence. He did not dishonour the king in worshipping God, even though he had broken a somewhat rash decree. Daniel’s faith in God had protected him, and God had sent His angel as an instrument of that protection.
Paul has introduced the Roman church to the concept that the only way to salvation is to be justified by grace through faith. He now continues to explain the practical benefits of this truth Through grace, people are ushered into the presence of God and find a safe harbour in the knowledge of what God has done for humankind. Grace comes through Jesus Christ and results in a state of peace with God. This truth means no one has to do anything to be saved other than believe. No work or effort by anyone is required – Jesus Christ has done it all and God loves us.
However, Paul knew that life is not smooth sailing. A Christian life can be a challenge, so he took his readers/listeners through a progression of ideas.
Trouble produces fortitude. The word Paul used for trouble is thlipis which means pressure. Christ- followers face all kinds of pressure from many areas of life. Fortitude (hupomonē) is a strong word meaning a spirit which actively meets and overcomes the challenges of life. Such fortitude produces character (dokimē) which describes the purification that results from a metal that has been refined by fire. Finally, such character produces hope. This is hope in God which will never be disappointed for God will never desert anyone who trusts Him. Christ’s death on the cross for all is proof of this.
So those who believe are changed from ungodly sinners to sanctified, justified believers. God sent His Son to show humankind His love. Such is grace.
Jericho was a wealthy and important town, situated in the Jordan valley on the route between Jerusalem and the place where the Jordan River could be crossed to the east. The city was known as the City of Palms for it had palm forests which produced dates that were exported around the known world. The basalm, which could be smelt for miles around, was also widely exported. There were also beautiful rose gardens.
As a result, it was one of the wealthiest tax areas in the country, and Zaccheus, was a man who had reached the pinnacle of success as the chief tax-collector there. Yet he was an unhappy, lonely man who was hated by the people. When he heard about Jesus welcoming tax-collectors and sinners, he wondered if he would be welcomed by Him as well.
Determined to see Jesus, he took action. It would have been dangerous for him to go through a crowd. People would have taken advantage of the situation and pushed or kicked him. The people made it impossible for him to see anything, so he ran ahead of them and climbed a tree. Perhaps he did not realise his child-like action in his determination to see Jesus was something Jesus taught about. Jesus saw him and called him by name. How did Jesus know who he was? When had Zaccheus last been called by his given name in such a friendly way? (The name Zaccheus means ‘pure one’.) Jesus invited himself to Zaccheus’ home and the delighted tax-collector tumbled out of the tree and opened his home to Him.
Zaccheus’ statement that he would restore his unlawful gains with four times the amount he had obtained, demonstrated the radical change that had occurred in him. Such restitution was only required in the case of deliberate and violent robbery. The rate required for ‘ordinary’ robbery was double the amount stolen. In the case of a voluntary admission of theft, accompanied by voluntary restitution, the full value was to be restored with a 20% surplus payment. Zaccheus was determined to show how meeting and being accepted by Jesus had changed him.
Jesus’ words at the end of this story are profound. The word lost does not mean damned but rather in the wrong place. The people Jesus was describing are those who have wandered away from God, yet who are found when they are restored into their rightful place within the family of God.
Zaccheus was prepared to make a fool of himself for Jesus. When did you last make a fool of yourself (for Jesus or any other reason)? What did you do? Or, perhaps, what stopped you? How did you feel then and now?
- What rituals do you perform in your relationship with Jesus because this is what you have been taught or experienced during your faith walk? How would you feel if you stopped doing them and just believed that belief is enough?
- Do you work for Jesus because you feel you have to in order to show your love for Him, or because you want to as a result of His love for you?
- What does grace mean to you? Rather than giving the answer ‘God’s riches at Christ’s expense’ dig deeper to give your own understanding or experience of God’s grace.
- Where does your power lie? On what is it based? How do you access the power you have in Jesus Christ?
- What makes you feel secure? When you leave your home, how do you make sure it is secure? When you travel or go into risky situations, what gives you security? What part does Jesus play in your security? How often do you rely on Jesus alone?
- What freedom have you gained since you have been following Jesus? What do you do/say now that you would not have done/said before you knew Him?
- How would you describe the peace you have in Jesus and with God as a result of His relationship with you? How does such peace make you feel?
- How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?
Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.
Ask God to give you opportunities to witness to His grace this week as you deal with others in regard to the fact that your power, security and freedom is grounded in Him. Share with one another next week what happened.
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke. The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh. 1981 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The letter to the Romans. The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh 1983 https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/daniel-6/