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In Darkness 17th July 2005 am

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In Darkness

Daniel 2 22

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23 I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

No one will dispute that these are dark times.  Recent events have caused us to look into the abyss of human depravity, to contemplate the awful acts of a group of fanatical murderers[1].  There is still great danger and the possibility of further acts of terrorism.

It was at just such a time that Daniel – about whom we shared a short study recently – was confronted with the unreasonable demands and the awful threats of the Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar.

He calls his friends to a time of prayer – and God shows him the way forward – so Daniel responds in these striking words of praise.

We are given a view of the Sovereign Lord:

21 He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.

This morning Daniel reminds us that God is in charge – and that HE UNDERSTANDS WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS and LIGHT DWELLS WITH HIM.

So let us spend a short while considering what the prophet is saying.

He reflects on his own experience:  .

19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.

He shares that experience with Paul who in a number of instances in Acts proves God in the darkness – The man from Macedonia, with Silas in prison, The city of Corinth,

In prison in Jerusalem, and on the ship in the storm.

God enjoys breaking in on our darkness

22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.

But this morning I want to draw on the Gospels to illustrate this theme – and although the narratives will speak of real darkness – we need to apply what we learn to the darkness of UNCERTAINTY or of DOUBT or of TROUBLE.

I want you to be reminded that the Gospel records remind us that:

1.                At times of CRISIS                         

2.                At times of fear

3.                At times of danger                          God illuminates the darkness

4.                At times of betrayal

5.                At a time of disappointment

As we briefly remind ourselves of these familiar narratives we shall see Daniel’s words made “Yes” and “Amen” in Jesus.

At times of crisis

It is striking that at critical moments in the ministry of Jesus the darkness is transformed:

Incarnation

Transfiguration

Crucifixion

Resurrection

God chose a DARK TIME in which to reveal HIS LIGHT!

But the Gospels also contain other striking reminders of this principle – that God delights to ILLUMINATE THE DARKNESS OF OUR EXPERIENCE

Our Lord who frequently chose the dark night hours for prayer also revealed Himself to others in the darkness:

At times of FEAR

On of the most famous encounters is that recorded in John 3.

John 3:1-19

        1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

Undercover of darkness – because he was afraid of others – at night he comes to Jesus.

When John refers to him later he speaks of him as the one “who came to Jesus by night”

Jesus did not reject him – or challenge him to come at in more sociable hours – he spoke to him in simple direct personal ways that opened the heart of this man to the spiritual truth and LIGHT that He Himself is.

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

That very first coming of Christ’s light into our lives is a SPIRITUAL NIGHT-TIME

Nicodemus would agree, I think, that God does some of His best work in the dark hours!

At a time of DANGER

Mark 6:45-52

        45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

        47 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

        Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

It was a time of –       adversity

                                Misunderstanding                                                                                       apprehension

                                Danger

About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.

Perhaps like me, you have your own experiences to compare with theirs?

I am not suggesting that He only comes in the darkness – that is obviously not tru, but He does come then – and when He does He TRANSFORMS IT.

Several narratives provide the next illustration:

At a time of BETRAYAL

JOHN 13 30:

30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

And

MATTHEW 26 31:

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

        “ ‘I will strike the shepherd,

                and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

Of course you could add the experience of Peter illuminated by the flames in the courtyard of the High Priest….

In the matter of JUDAS somehow the deed and the time go together

Betrayal – or as in the case of Peter – denial – is a thing of the night.

And the darkness accentuates the sense of tragedy and failure.

JESUS knows the secrets of the darkness – for He has been that way – shared its betrayal and its disillusionment

Only Jesus can transform such darkness with the light of His LOVE and His FORGIVENESS!

And after His death there was a darkness that seemed to colour even the daytime.

 

 

At a time of DISAPPOINTMENT

Here you can blend together the significance of the Two EASTER night-time experiences:

LUKE 24, 29

29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

        30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

JOHN 21 3

3 "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

In both instances the sense of DISAPPOINMENT blends with the spirit of DISENCHANTMENT

How can such gloom be lifted?

“He knows what lies in darkness”

On the Emmaus Road He is known in the breaking of bread

On the beach he invites to a meal…

Whatever the root cause of any spiritual or psychological darkness in your life

Whatever it be…

Fear

Danger

Betrayal

Disappointment

Or any other Crisis

Daniel’s words are true and made Yes and Amen in Jesus

HE KNOWS WHAT LIES IN DARKNESS – AND LIGHT DWELLS WITH HIM….


Daniel 2:1-22

            1 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, 3 he said to them, "I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means."

            4 Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, "O king, live for ever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it."

            5 The king replied to the astrologers, "This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. 6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honour. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me."

            7 Once more they replied, "Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it."

            8 Then the king answered, "I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realise that this is what I have firmly decided: 9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me."

            10 The astrologers answered the king, "There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No-one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men."

            12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

            14 When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. 15 He asked the king's officer, "Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?" Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

            17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

            "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;

                        wisdom and power are his.

            21 He changes times and seasons;

                        he sets up kings and deposes them.

            He gives wisdom to the wise

                        and knowledge to the discerning.

            22 He reveals deep and hidden things;

                        he knows what lies in darkness,

                        and light dwells with him. (NIV)

John 3:1-19

            1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

            3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

            4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

            5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

            9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

            10 "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No-one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven -- the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

            16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (NIV)

Mark 6:45-52

            45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

            47 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

            Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (NIV)

30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

            31 Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

            " 'I will strike the shepherd,

                        and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'

29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

            30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

3 "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.


----

[1] The London Bombing 7/7 2005

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