In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. – Daniel 9:1-5


Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

Jesus’ disciples ask him about a man born blind, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1-2). Based on that and a general desire not to have to deal with the consequences of our sins we easily dismiss the idea that troubles we face are a result of our sin. In fact some people go a long way to dismiss such an idea. “God doesn’t punish people like that,” they say.

That is decidedly not the response of Daniel in response to the situation Israel faced while they were exiled and Jerusalem lay desolated. Daniel sought God’s mercy and confessed his sin to God. His prayer is recorded in this chapter. It is extensive and lengthy in repentant ethos and short on excuses and self-justification.

Daniel begins by acknowledging the goodness, grace, mercy, glory, faithfulness and greatness of God. His whole prayer is predicated on these attributes of the One to whom he is praying. Daniel also identifies the One to whom he prays as the Lord his God. He also acknowledges his and his people’s sins.

There are times when our sins lead directly to severe consequences. Rob a bank at gunpoint and get shot by the police: a direct result of your sin. Drink yourself senseless, wreck your car and suffer severe injuries: a direct result of your sin. Clear and direct consequences such as these are easy to identify.

There are more subtle consequences we experience today. Neglect your spouse and children and suffer being estranged from your family. Ignore God’s word and neglect public worship and lose perspective on life, hope, and God himself.

What shall we do when we discover the reality of our sin? Stay strong on God’s glory and eschew excuses. Get real. Get honest. Confess your sin. Seek God’s mercy. Rely on his faithfulness. Pray for forgiveness.

Read Daniel 8

And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end… 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it. – Daniel 8:19, 26-27


Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

I was greatly helped by a fellow seminary student who taught me how to read. You read right: a fellow seminary student taught me to read; but not the “See Jane run. Run, Jane, run,” kind of reading. He helped me to become more aware of what I was doing as I was reading things far more complex than a grade school reader. I would read portions of a story, then zone out while I was supposedly reading, and then a bit later re-engage with the text. The process he showed me enabled me to get a better handle on my reading skills and become a faster reader with greater comprehension.

You do not need to know everything about God, however, in order to believe in him. Francis Rossow, a  professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri is quoted as saying, “We know precious little about God, but the little we know is precious.”

This passage from the book of Daniel fits into the category of knowing precious little, but the little being precious. After all the explanations that Daniel is offered (first hand!) he ends up being sick and appalled. But even though he doesn’t understand what he has been told, he still went about his business. Sometimes we must walk by faith.

Martin Luther is to have said, “When you come to a passage of Scripture that you do not understand, praise God and go on reading.” I am not able to find a source for that quote, but the sentiment rings true to Luther. And it seems to be good advice here.

There is much in this chapter and other chapters of Daniel which are difficult to understand. But the little we do understand lead us well to praise God. Moreover, Daniel’s example of going about his business is instructive for us all. Even though this is a disturbing vision and Daniel fails to comprehend its full meaning, he will carry on. It brings to mind the WWII poster produced in England: Keep Calm and Carry On. We might say, Keep Calm, Praise God, and Carry On.

Read Daniel 7:15-28

“Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
    which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
    and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
    and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
    and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
    and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
    and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
    for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
    and his dominion shall be taken away,
    to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
    and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
    shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
    and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”


Rosebud | Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

There are those who want to make a hard and fast judgment regarding the Antichrist. Is it the Pope? Is it Mohamed? Is it Hitler? Is it Stalin?

To identify one or another as the Antichrist, however, really misses the point. His rule – though fierce and ruthless – will be for only “a time, times, and half a time.” That equals 3½, not seven. Seven is the number of completeness, or the number for heaven and earth (3 for God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – plus 4 for earth – the four points of the compass). Whoever reigns as that fourth beast (be it the Antichrist, or Rome itself – toward which these verses seem to point) will not reign forever. He will give an account. His kingdom will be taken away.

The period of time after the Early Church was founded was a time of ruthless persecution, torture, intimidation, and mayhem. The kinds of excruciating torture and evil treatment people who followed Jesus endured makes the most disgusting horror film pale in comparison. If you wish to read for yourself, check out this article. I recall specifically learning of the persecutions by Nero, Decius, and Diocletian: all of whom were severe.

Jesus took those persecutions to a new ending by his faithful suffering and death. He hwo left his throne on high, emptied himself and entrusted himself to the One who would forsake him in his weakest hour. But he never lost faith. And by that He redeemed us lost and condemned men and women, children and youth. That noble army of martyrs with whom we join in worship on Sunday are those whose deaths reflect Jesus’ perfect martyrdom. He knew Daniel’s vision. He knew God’s power. He staked his eternal glory on the truth of both. Thanks be to God.

“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

13 “I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.



Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

There have been a few times in my life when I knew the outcome of a conflicted encounter would be in my favor. One occasion had me confronting a defiant person, committed to a course of action that I knew was wrong and harmful to his Christian witness. I walked in the door to his greeting, “I know what you’re here for and I’m not going to change my mind.” At that moment, I knew he was going down…that is, rather, I knew that his bravado would bow to the truth. He truly respected me and God’s word. It was simply a matter of getting the truth into his view. He repented of his wayward plans and we left as friends. It was a great day for the rule and reign of God.

Amidst the vision of all the beasts and symbols – horns and teeth of the night vision – comes a very clear expression of simple truth. The Ancient of Days will receive the Son of Man, who will be given dominion, glory, honor, and a kingdom.

Looking back these 2500+ years, we are able to see Jesus as the fulfillment of this vision. Jesus has come to the Ancient of Days. He has been given a place of honor at the right hand of God. His reign is forever and ever.

The question for us is not whether Jesus will be given honor; he has been given that honor. The question is not whether all nations will bow down to him; they will. It’s clearly expressed in the New Testament: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11).

The question we face is when and how we will embrace that truth – and how our friends and neighbors will embrace it as well. Will it be under duress – having to admit how wrong they were, or how oblivious they were to have ignored or resisted his reign? Or will it be the delightful expression of joy and happiness in seeing our Savior face to face? Will it be in humble faith or resentful submission?

It’s gonna happen: kingdoms will come and empires will go, but Jesus reigns forever. We have been given the privilege of seeing it, and knowing it to be reign of grace, mercy, truth, and righteousness.

Read Daniel 7:1-10

 “As I looked,

thrones were placed,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
    its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
    and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
    and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
    and the books were opened.         – Daniel 7:9-10



Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

I attended a funeral at which an acquaintance who happened to be a pastor of a non-liturgical church presided. It struck me that there was very little “weightiness” in that service. It seemed to me (although it may have been quite appropriate and normal to him) that on the occasion of this funeral some ceremony or liturgical element would have been appropriate. Some events call for those moments of importance; the weightiness of the occasion welcomes an acknowledgement that something of significance is happening.

In this passage from Daniel the phrase, “and the books were opened,” surely conveys a most auspicious moment.

We have here a picture of the eternal celestial judgment hall, with the Ancient of Days presiding. There will be none who will forgo their moment of reckoning. There will be no failure to uncover whatever was theretofore hidden. This is a moment of eternal significance. This is the judgment of God.

Some want to think of God only as One who helps us in our time of need. But that does not go far enough. Truly God is gracious, merciful, kind, and compassionate. God is also just, mighty, holy, pure, and righteous. He does not wink at sin. He does not gloss over failure. A brief look at the events of Good Friday will bear this out quickly.

Don’t think too quickly of God’s mercy on that Great Last Day. God’s mercy will indeed come our way, and we can anticipate it with joyful hope. But we must stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of our ways and words, our thoughts and actions. Thrones will be set. Mirriads of servants will gather. The books will be opened.

What will you say? May I suggest that you say, “My account has been paid by Jesus. It was a horrific price that he paid. But he paid it and declared it finished. I am eternally grateful to him and delight to call him my Lord and my God.” You might simply say, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” And at that auspicious moment the Ancient of Days will look to the Son of Man and for his sake, welcome you into his very presence. That will be the most auspicious moment of all!

Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”

23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
    enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
    and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
    he works signs and wonders
    in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”

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


Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

I was never tempted in the slightest to try LSD or other mind-altering drugs. I was simply too afraid of the potential negative consequences! I had heard of genetic damage, and that was at least somewhat of a deterrent. But when I heard of a person who had a “bad trip” on the hallucinogen, and jumped out of a fourth floor window (to his death!), I was sufficiently afraid of the danger.

Too bad that more people are not sufficiently afraid of things like bad drugs, sinful activities, bad decisions, and God himself. It seems, in fact, that people today are counseled away from fearing God. God is not to be feared. He is love, kind, gentle, and merciful. While all those descriptors of God are true, they are not all that God is. He is also holy, just, righteous, and mighty. God is not to be trifled with.

This is what Darius experienced as they encountered Daniel’s rescue from the lion’s den. He decrees that all people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. Then he expresses the reasons for this call to fear: God the living God, never to be destroyed, delivering and rescuing, saving Daniel from the power of the lions.

Fearing God comes from an acknowledgement of his power; this is certainly true. But without God’s mercy, grace, and love, such fear becomes abject and pitiable. The Psalmist says, “There is forgiveness with you, therefore you may be feared” (Psalm 130:4). True fear of God is not only about being destroyed by his holy retribution. It is about failing to be rescued, being devoid of his mercy: eternally lost.

For the moment at least Darius has such fear in his heart. Will that be the case in the future? An even better question: Do you, dear reader, have that true fear in your heart toward God, that allows you also to love and trust in him?

Read Daniel 6:10-18

Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.


Bottlebrush-II | Henry Leu Gardens | Orlando, FL | January 2018

I have had seasons of restless non-sleep. I somehow manage to take hold of worries, troubles, trials, challenges, and difficulties – some of which belong to me – but over which I have little or no control. I will often lay in bed and pray the Lord’s Prayer during those sleepless nights…over and over again until I finally do fall asleep. The Serenity Prayer is also appropriate: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

It is not clear whether King Darius prayed that night is not recorded. We do know he fasted. He didn’t tune in the ancient near-eastern equivalent of HBO, or login to Facebook the night that Daniel spent in the Lion’s den. No diversions were brought to him, we’re told. He anxiously awaited the morning light. He fasted and waited.

We may find ourselves captive to decisions we have made too hastily, or been forced into situations not of our own choice. It is during those times that the blessings of prayer, and the gift of God’s word will be all the more precious to us.

Many years ago, during the lead-up to a major decision our church was making, one long-time and very wise member said, “If we are to accomplish this we will need to fortify ourselves with the Word of God and Prayer.” How true. In fact if we are going to follow the path of God’s blessing we will need to fortify ourselves with the Word of God and prayer. That’s better than any diversion we might offer ourselves.