As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:17
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith. 1 John 5:4
In the last two posts, we have considered two ways that our Lord uses faith as His means to develop our character. First, He requires us to soberly acknowledge that we are not in control by placing us in situations that only He can understand and master. Next, He leads us to deepen our understanding of that fact by learning to rely on Him day by day in spite of the cost that our reliance may require of us. Now it’s time for the crescendo. How does Our Shepherd weave these two aspects together to produce a maturity that is truly remarkable, a life characterized by radical faith?
The Third Invitation: The Question of Conclusion and Closure
Gone are the days when we made our own clothing. For most of us, the quest for new clothes involves a trip to the store or website rather than a long period of toil at the loom. Nevertheless, the weaver and his loom endure as powerful metaphors for life and it’s not difficult to see why. Seated before the loom the weaver has in view two opposing yet inseparable fields. The first field is the warp, a series of threads stretched skyward, positioned perfectly before the eyes of the weaver. Opposing the warp yet integrated with it is the weft, a horizontal matrix that develops as the weaver weaves crossways into the threads of the warp. In a slow series of quiet, precise choices and movements the weaver achieves his design, integrating each thread into a locked pattern of beauty and integrity.
Who is moving, the weaver or the fabric? Well, both! The metaphor carries over to Christ’s work both in us and through us. On the one hand, the Lord unapologetically demands and assumes full control. He is sovereign and does what is best regardless of our strong opinions and strident efforts. However, we find that He consistently uses His divine prerogatives for the express purpose of creating situations where we have the power to choose! He stretches us out upon a difficult framework defined by set limits so that we can learn to follow Him within the features of those limits, in and out of opposing threads, ending in the addition of another cross-thread to the fabric. Thus, in the opposing fields of divine control and human choice God begets and trains up grown children, prepared to enjoy the deep and open relationship that He will have with us in eternity.
Daniel chapter one demonstrates what this process looks like on the ground level. Amid the din and dust of daily life, it is easy to miss the most fundamental truth of all: that God exists and His divine purposes are at work right here, right now. This chapter demonstrates that the daring faith of Daniel and his companions was not the product of one difficult choice but several made without knowing how would all turn out in the end. As such it provides a fine preface, giving us the backstory to the kingdom conquering faith that emanates throughout the rest of the book. Before the fiery furnace, the den of lions, the writing on the wall, or the astounding end-times visions, there were simply four boys who chose to believe God by eating beans.
Illustration by Kitti Touzeau