Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
Dn 1 — FAITH AND FOOD
"Please test your servants for ten days. Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then see how we look in comparison with the other young men who eat from the royal table." Daniel 1:12-13
Success depends on obedience to the Lord and not on education or worldly power. Obey the Lord in all things, including eating.
Prayer: Father, be Lord of my diet.
Promise: "In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom." 1:20
Dn 3 — AIR-CONDITIONING
"But the angel of the Lord went down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions, drove the fiery flames out of the furnace, and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it." Daniel 3:49-50
King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue and forced everyone to bow down before it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to pay attention to the king's order. In punishment, they were thrown into a furnace to be burned alive. As they praised the Lord, the Lord miraculously delivered them from the fire. In fact, a person who looked "like a son of God" walked amid the fire with the three men (3:92).
Prayer: Father, in times of persecution, may I stand firm even if it costs me my life.
Promise: "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who sent His angel to deliver the servants that trusted in Him; they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God." 3:95
Dn 4 — DRIVE MYSELF CRAZY
"Nebuchadnezzar was cast out from among men, he ate grass like an ox, and his body was bathed with dew of heaven, until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle, and his nails like the claws of a bird." Daniel 4:30
The book of Daniel was probably written during the persecution of the Jewish people by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (167-164 B.C.). The message is that God's chosen people will be victorious, and God will punish their enemies. " 'Vengeance is Mine; I will repay', says the Lord" (Rm 12:19).
Prayer: Father, may I repent before my sins come down on me.
Promise: "Therefore, O king, take my advice; atone for your sins by good deeds, and for your misdeeds by kindness to the poor; then your prosperity will be long." 4:24
Dn 5 — THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
"Suddenly, opposite the lampstand, the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall in the king's palace. When the king saw the wrist and hand that wrote, his face blanched." Daniel 5:5-6
In his pride, King Belshazzar was using the gold and silver vessels from the Temple for his party. The hand of God appeared and wrote three words on the wall. "The same night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was slain" (5:30). The Lord and His people are victorious again. "In all this we are more than conquerors because of Him Who has loved us" (Rm 8:37).
Prayer: Father, if necessary, shock me into repentance while I still have time.
Promise: "I have heard that the spirit of God is in you, that you possess brilliant knowledge and extraordinary wisdom." 5:14
Dn 6 — CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
"Even after Daniel heard that this law had been signed, he continued his custom of going home to kneel in prayer and give thanks to his God in the upper chamber three times a day, with the windows open toward Jerusalem." Daniel 6:11
King Darius banned prayer. Daniel openly broke the law and was thrown into the lions' den. The Lord saved him. What should we have done when prayer was banned in the public schools? What should we do now?
Prayer: Father, help me to obey You rather than men (Acts 5:29).
Promise: "He is the living God, enduring forever; His kingdom shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be without end. He is a Deliverer and Savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, and He delivered Daniel from the lions' power." 6:27-28
Dn 8 — STRIKE THREE
"While I, Daniel, sought the meaning of the vision I had seen, a manlike figure stood before me, and on the Ulai I heard a human voice that cried out, 'Gabriel, explain the vision to this man.' " Daniel 8:15-16
For the third time (see chapters 2, 7, 8), God assures us He is the Lord of all worldly empires and all history. Even Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Judas, Hitler, or Stalin can't stop God. The Lord's love triumphs over even the worst persecution. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rm 8:31)
Prayer: Father, may Your love overshadow even my greatest sufferings.
Promise: "Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the end time." 8:17
Dn 9 — DESPERATION AND REVELATION
"When you began your petition, an answer was given which I have come to announce, because you are beloved. Therefore, mark the answer and understand the vision." Daniel 9:23
Gabriel revealed to Daniel the meaning of Jeremiah's prophecy that the exile would last seventy years. This revelation again assured Daniel that God's people would be victorious over Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Prayer: Father, assure me of Your victory in the most desperate situation in my life.
Promise: "I was still occupied with this prayer, when Gabriel, the one whom I had seen before in vision, came to me in rapid flight at the time of the evening sacrifice." 9:21
Dn 10 — "ST. MICHAEL, THE ARCHANGEL, DEFEND US"
" 'Fear not, Daniel,' he continued; 'from the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard.' " Daniel 10:12
Like Mary (Lk 1:26), Daniel received a special revelation from the angel Gabriel. This revelation concerned a great war. The revelation was delayed twenty-one days because of demonic interference until the archangel Michael cleared the way.
Prayer: Father, send angels to fight through a phalanx of devils and tell me what I need to know.
Promise: "I shall tell you what is written in the truthful book. No one supports me against all these except Michael, your prince." 10:21
Dn 11 — VISIONS AND REPETITIONS
"At the appointed time the king of the south shall come to grips with him, but the king of the north shall overwhelm him with chariots and horsemen and a great fleet, passing through countries like a flood." Daniel 11:40
Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 11 come to the same conclusion: Antiochus IV Epiphanes will be defeated. In times of persecution, the Lord will repeatedly assure us.
Prayer: Father, thank You for picking me up and carrying me at the worst times of my life.
Promise: "Of the wise men, some shall fall, so that the rest may be tested, refined, and purified, until the end time which is still appointed to come." 11:35
Dn 12 — "A TIME UNSURPASSED IN DISTRESS" (12:1)
"At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book." Daniel 12:1
Matthew, Mark, and Luke use the fall of Jerusalem as a prefigurement of the end of the world. John, in Revelation, uses the fall of Rome the same way. Here Daniel uses the fall of Antiochus IV Epiphanes to prefigure the end of the world.
Prayer: Father, prepare me for my death or the end of the world whichever comes first.
Promise: "But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever." 12:3
Dn 13 — ANOTHER IMPOSSIBLE VICTORY
"Hilkiah and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, as did Joakim her husband and all her relatives, because she was found innocent of any shameful deed. And from that day onward Daniel was greatly esteemed by the people." Daniel 13:63-64
These last two chapters serve as appendices to the book of Daniel. Susanna was rescued from an impossible situation because of her faithfulness and Daniel's wisdom. If the chosen people seek God's wisdom and do not compromise with the world, they also will be victorious in even the worst circumstances.
Prayer: Father, may I resist sin "to the point of shedding" my own "blood" (Heb 12:4).
Promise: "Thus was innocent blood spared that day." 13:62
Dn 14 — MEALS ON WHEELS
"Daniel he took out, but those who had tried to destroy him he threw into the den, and they were devoured in a moment before his eyes." Daniel 14:42
Daniel ends a very serious book with a couple of jokes. (God has an amazing sense of humor.) The "punch line" is that Yahweh is the only God, the only living God.
The Babylonians didn't like God's and Daniel's off-beat humor, so they threw him back into the lion's den. But, of course, the starving lions wouldn't touch Daniel. In fact, Daniel even got "meals on wheels," compliments of Habakkuk.
Prayer: Father, may I laugh when You tell a joke. May I laugh even in persecution (Ps 2:4).
Promise: "The king cried aloud, 'You are great, O Lord, the God of Daniel, and there is no other besides You!' " 14:41
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, April 3, 1997
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 8, 1997
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