30 May 2011

Shedding Abroad

Of late, I have been thinking of where love comes from--the kind of love that I am supposed to have in the humility of Christ for souls, for people.

I'm not thinking of the people I naturally connect with, form deep bonds with right from the start, who bless me just by being in the room. No, not those. I'm thinking of the ones Jesus had to tell me to love. The ones who, sometimes or all the time, feel like my enemies, or worse yet, God's enemies.

Meanwhile, I keep chipping away at my long-term memory projects (I hope to post more about these soon), in this case the book of Daniel, one verse at a time. I come to chapter four, where king Nebuchadnezzar has another disturbing dream. He calls all the sorcerers in his kingdom, seeking some kind of interpretation for the dream.

None of them can help.

Just like last time, I think to myself. Why doesn't he call Daniel first, since at least this time he knows Daniel's God was the only one who could interpret the dream last time? Why does he fall so easily back to these vain babblers? He has had all the evidence a person could ask for--even seeing God rescue His followers from a fiery furnace--and yet he STILL goes back to the false gods for counsel? This man makes no sense.

Soon, of course, the king does call for Daniel, in this moment the king's one connection with the Most High. The last resort.

The thought strikes. How many times do I make the true God my last resort instead of my first one?

Daniel hears the dream. It's the huge tree, the strong tree, the tree that bears a lot of fruit and provides shelter for all the beasts and birds, the tree that is so tall it reaches to heaven and can be seen through the whole earth. Yet a God larger than the tree, the God of heaven, decrees that the tree should be cut down, and that Nebuchadnezzar (symbolized by this tree) would be like a wild beast for seven years, with no human capacity to reason.

And Daniel is the one who gets to tell the king this crazy, disparaging news. He pauses. The verse (Daniel 4:19) is long, and I have to take it in small sections to get it into my mind, into my memory.

"Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies."

At this slow-motion pace, the words sink in deeply, and I catch a glimpse of the astonished Daniel that in turn astonishes me.

Maybe it's the hour that it takes for Daniel to speak. Maybe it's the king's plea for him to speak combined with his attempt to assure Daniel that he is brave to hear the interpretation no matter how bad it is. Because I am sure he knows it's going to be bad.

Whatever it is, when Daniel wishes the dream on the king's enemies, I see it: the astounding love of Christ for an enemy. Who has more reason to hate the king than Daniel and his people, who have been torn from their homeland, who have seen the king destroy many of their people as well as the house of the true God?

Sure. I know this king has given Daniel position and honor and education. But Daniel still has every reason to be the one who hates this king. Does he realize that when he wishes, at least figuratively, this dream on those that hate the king, he could easily have been, except for this strange and godly love and forgiveness in his heart, wishing this dream, the seven years of beasthood, on himself?

Yet I see him there. Unable to speak for an hour. More overcome with his grief and astonishment for the king's heart and mind than by the embarrassment of standing before the expectant king without saying anything, not even speaking immediately to prove that the Most High God is the only one who can interpret the dream He has given.

They both know that already anyway, and the king can only take so much of this loving silence. He reaches out to comfort the heart that is breaking for him, and just before diving into the strange and heavy glimpse into Nebuchadnezzar's future, he expresses this soul-love for one who has shunned repeated invitations of grace.

Jesus said to love these enemies, but how did this happen in Daniel's heart? How can this happen in my heart? Can this happen in my heart?

Well, we know the answer to the second question right away: "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

I turn to Romans 5:5, studied with my Sabbath school class a few weeks ago, where I find the answer: "...the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

This is how my heart gets love for souls. I cannot generate it. All I can do is see how empty my efforts are to obtain it and follow Christ's command, and ask by faith for the Holy Spirit, who is promised to me when I ask. And when He comes to my heart, one of the things He does there is give me Christ's love, filling my heart to overflowing.

This is righteousness by faith, new birth. This is the faith that lives and produces good fruit, good works, a deep love for even the enemies.


  1. Oh, Heidi, this is SO beautiful. It was a big blessing to me, and I shall remember it. Thank you very much for sharing!

  2. This post is one of my favorites!—I'm printing it out. Thank you for this beautiful glimpse into the meek and compassionate heart that I am called to have for the unredeemed.

    I look forward to the promised post on your memorization endeavors!


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