Old Testament reading: Daniel 1-2
Daniel’s life and work spanned the entirety of the seventy year captivity. Taken in the first carrying away (1:1-6), he lived through the fall of Babylon and into reign of Darius (Dan 5:31-6:2), who restored Israel to their homeland (Ezra 6). As a kid, Daniel was far and away my favorite book of the Bible. I never tired of Daniel and “the Hebrew children” (a.k.a., Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego), their refusal to eat the king’s food and the matter of the fiery furnace. Daniel in the lion’s den was another personally captivating account. The book still thrills me today, but for different reasons. One of these is seen in today’s reading of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of Daniel 2. Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s “forgotten dream” foretells of the coming of four great earthly kingdoms followed by one spiritual kingdom that will supersede all earthly kingdoms. These four kingdoms were the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman. In the days of the kings of Rome, an everlasting spiritual kingdom would be established. That kingdom is the church of Christ, established on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
New Testament reading: Romans 15-16
Romans 16 contains two “problem passages.” In verses 1-2, Phoebe is called a “servant of the church.” The word there is the feminine form of the word translated “deacon” in 1 Timothy 3. Thus, some have tried to make her an office-holder in the church. The original word appears 30 times in the New Testament, but only 3 times in connection with the office of a deacon (cf 1 Tim 3:8, 12, and Phil 1:1). Most other renderings appear as “minister” or “servant” in the general sense, twice referring to civil government as “God’s minister” in Romans 13:4. The word is also used of Satan’s “ministers” in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15. Our second “problem passage” is akin to the first, and appears in verse 7. “Junia” is a feminine name, and some have tried to identify her and Andonicus as apostles. However, the entire tenor of Scripture runs contrary to such. An apostle is an authorized messenger. No commissioned female messengers are seen elsewhere in the New Testament, not in the Commission of Matthew 10, the Twelve, Paul, Barnabas, or James the Lord’s brother.