Day 331

There Is a God and He Is Great

Wisdom Psalm 135:1–12
New Testament 2 Peter 1:1–21
Old Testament Daniel 2:24–3:12

Introduction

I studied and practised law for nearly ten years. In every legal case, evidence is vital. Evidence matters to me. I could not be a Christian if I did not believe that our faith is based on compelling evidence. There is good evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, there have been a spate of books by the ‘new atheists’ suggesting that there is no evidence for God; that God is a ‘delusion’ (‘The God Delusion’) and that ‘God is Not Great’ (the title of another of these books). While of course, the Bible does not try to provide a scientific proof for the existence of God, it does point to the evidence of ‘eye-witnesses’ (2 Peter 1:16) and proclaims that ‘there is a God in heaven’ (Daniel 2:28) and that ‘the Lord is great’ (Psalm 135:5).

There is good reason to put your trust in God. You will grow in faith as you study the truth of God’s word and boldly proclaim that ‘there is a God’ and ‘he is great’.

Wisdom

Psalm 135:1–12

Psalm 135

  1 Praise the Lord.

  Praise the name of the Lord;
   praise him, you servants of the Lord,
  2 you who minister in the house of the Lord,
   in the courts of the house of our God.

  3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
   sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.
  4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own,
   Israel to be his treasured possession.

  5 I know that the Lord is great,
   that our Lord is greater than all gods.
  6 The Lord does whatever pleases him,
   in the heavens and on the earth,
   in the seas and all their depths.
  7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
   he sends lightning with the rain
   and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

  8 He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
   the firstborn of people and animals.
  9 He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt,
   against Pharaoh and all his servants.
  10 He struck down many nations
   and killed mighty kings—
  11 Sihon king of the Amorites,
   Og king of Bashan,
   and all the kings of Canaan —
  12 and he gave their land as an inheritance,
   an inheritance to his people Israel.

Commentary

Proclaim the greatness of God

‘God’s so good’ (v.3, MSG). This is the claim of the psalmist: ‘The Lord is great’ (v.5). He remembers God’s relationship with his people (v.4). He sees the world that God created and sustains (vv.6–7), and he testifies to God’s wonderful protection (vv.8–11). This range of experience and evidence underpins his belief in the greatness of God.

Respond to God’s greatness in worship. Again and again the psalmist calls us to ‘praise the Lord’ – a call that is repeated, in various forms, five times in the first three verses. Praise the Lord!

Prayer

Lord, today I want to praise you and worship you. I trust you with my life again today.

New Testament

2 Peter 1:1–21

1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Confirming One’s Calling and Election

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Prophecy of Scripture

12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Commentary

Proclaim the truth of God’s word

If you want a closer relationship with God, put time aside to develop that relationship. Spend time with him. As you study his word, your faith grows and your life is changed. The strength of all relationships, including your relationship with God, depends on communication.

In his letter, ‘Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ’ (v.1), writes about his ‘faith’ and the faith of his readers ‘whose experience with God is as life-changing as ours’ (v.1, MSG).

Your faith is precious (v.1). ‘Grace’ and ‘peace’ (v.2) are two of the most precious gifts you can ever experience in life. Peter says that they are yours ‘in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord’ (v.2).

Your faith is not irrational. It is ‘the truth’ (v.12). Some people today think that the Bible is full of ‘cleverly invented stories’ (v.16). But Peter writes, ‘We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty’ (v.16). Peter is talking particularly about the transfiguration (vv.17–18), when he witnessed the revelation of Jesus’ glory and identity (see Mark 9; Matthew 17; Luke 9). He testifies, ‘We saw it with our own eyes’ (2 Peter 1:16, MSG).

A witness is a word used for someone who gives evidence in a court of law. The evidence about Jesus is more akin to legal evidence than mathematical or scientific proof. There is evidence from eyewitnesses. Faith is not irrational; it is based on what they saw. Peter asserts, ‘We couldn’t be more sure of what we saw and heard’ (v.19, MSG). There are good reasons to believe.

Peter also reminds them of the power and trustworthiness of Scripture: ‘The main thing to keep in mind here is that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private opinion. And why? Because it’s not something concocted in the human heart. Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God’s word’ (v.21, MSG). The Holy Spirit still speaks through these words of Scripture. As you experience his presence and power through them, they reinforce the truth of your faith.

Faith is not just a set of ideas – it changes the way you live your life. Peter explains that through the Holy Spirit ‘[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness’ (v.3).

In light of this he explains that you need to ‘complement your basic faith’. Then Peter lists various qualities you need to seek to develop – ‘good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others’ (vv.5–7, MSG). These things will keep you from being an ineffective Christian (v.8), and help you to remain strong in your faith until the end (vv.10–11).

Prayer

God, thank you that our faith is based upon the solid testimony of eyewitnesses and upon our experience of a relationship with you. Help me to grow in that relationship as I trust the truth of your word.

Old Testament

Daniel 2:24–3:12

Daniel Interprets the Dream

24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:

29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.

31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands —a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honour and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery. ”

48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.

The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace

3 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

8 At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego —who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Commentary

Proclaim that ‘there is a God’

Refuse to conform to the standards of the world. Have the courage to proclaim that ‘there is a God’ in spite of what others may be saying and doing.

I once knew a godly man nicknamed ‘Gibbo’ who, when he was young, worked as a clerk at Selfridges, the London department store. One day, when the owner Gordon Selfridge was there, the telephone rang and Gibbo answered it. The caller asked to speak to Gordon Selfridge. Gibbo passed on the message and Selfridge replied, ‘Tell him I’m out.’ Gibbo held out the receiver to him and said, ‘You tell him you’re out.’ Gordon Selfridge took the call, but was furious with him. Gibbo said to him afterwards, ‘If I can lie for you, I can lie to you.’ From that moment onwards, Gordon Selfridge had the highest regard for and trust in Gibbo.

Daniel and his three friends believed that ‘there is a God’, and therefore they refused to compromise. By their lives and their lips, they boldly proclaimed, ‘there is a God’.

Daniel was convinced that ‘there is a God in heaven’ (2:28), and this conviction underpins both of the stories in today’s Old Testament passage. In chapter 2 we read of Daniel’s conviction that this God ‘reveals mysteries’ (v.28), and his willingness to act on that belief. In chapter 3, we see his three friends willing to risk death because of their conviction that God exists, and their commitment to worship him alone.

Daniel was humble enough to recognise that the interpretation had been given, not because of his wisdom, but because of the grace of God (v.30).

God told Nebuchadnezzar three things, which are true for you also (vv.36–38): First, all you have has been given to you by God. Second, God has placed you in the position that you are in. Third, God has made you who you are.

Therefore, there is no cause for pride, arrogance or self-satisfaction. Your abilities, gifts and resources are all given to you by God.

Daniel continued to interpret the dream: There will be a succession of kingdoms (probably Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek under Alexander the Great and Roman). The key point though is that all the empires of the world – be they Babylonian, Roman, British, Soviet, American or Chinese – all come to an end. None are eternal.

Daniel then spoke of a kingdom that will never be destroyed and will endure forever (v.44). This kingdom is based on the rock cut out of a mountain not of human hands (v.34), a rock that broke the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold to pieces (v.35).

This rock ‘struck the statue’ and ‘became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth’ (v.35). Now, through the lens of Jesus, we see that the rock is Christ (see Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:4–8; Psalm 118:22–23). He has divine origin. He is the Son of God (‘a rock was cut out, but not by human hands’, Daniel 2:34). His kingdom has seen phenomenal growth (‘filled the whole earth’, v.35).

There are now over two billion people in the world who profess the name of Jesus. His kingdom has an eternal quality (v.44). It is, ‘The eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:11).

Daniel’s own position was achieved, not by worldly ambition but by divine intervention on behalf of someone whose aim was simply to obey God rather than human beings. He didn’t seek or crave human affirmation like the magicians of Nebuchadnezzar’s court, but knew his Father and sought his pleasure.

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego remained committed to God and were ready to die for their beliefs (Daniel 3). They were willing to stake everything on the fact that there really is a God and he is great.

Prayer

Lord, help me to proclaim to the world, by my life and my lips, that there is a God and that you are great.

Pippa adds

2 Peter 1:5–8

If we don’t want to be ‘ineffective and unproductive’ in our faith, we need to keep adding: more knowledge, more self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. We should never be satisfied by where we are, but always seeking an ‘increasing measure’.

Verse of the Day

2 Peter 1:2

‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’

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References

Nicky Gumbel, The Jesus Lifestyle (Hodder & Stoughton, 2018), p.113–114.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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