Communion isn’t merely about partaking of the bread and wine. As we will see from Scripture, it entails far more. To illustrate some of my points, first let me tell you about my childhood “Anything-Making Machine.” It was a harmless looking device. In fact, it looked as if a broken doorbell had been taped to the handlebars of my bicycle with an excessive amount of tape. But with my vivid childhood imagination, anything could happen when I pressed that button.
Now consider the real Anything-Making Machine – the one true God of the Bible. He is introduced in Genesis 1:1 as “God,” or Elohim, as he speaks the world into existence. Elohim is mentioned 26 times in Genesis 1, and if you have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, this same God hears and answers your prayers.
Communion is also about bringing our petitions in prayer to Elohim to see if He will choose to grant them. We have barely read through one chapter of our Bible before the Holy Spirit introduces us to a different name for God. In Genesis 2, where His relationship with man is introduced, He is “the Lord.” “The Lord (YHWH) God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Gen 2:7). The original Hebrew YHWH was Latinized with vowels as Jehovah and now appears in our English Bible as LORD, in capital letters. Exodus 6:3-4 reveals to us that God isn’t just Elohim the Almighty Creator – He is also YHWH of relationships, specifically covenant relationships. You will note that each time Genesis 1 says that Elohim spoke, things were created, but in Genesis 2, it was YHWH who “formed man” (v7), “put the man” (v8), fed the man (v9), “took the man” (v16), “commanded the man” (v17), and “made He a woman” (v22).
Communion is far more than bringing our petitions to Elohim, or participating in the Breaking of Bread, or studying His Word. It is the close relationship that God has always intended for mankind, from the first chapters of the Bible. Furthermore, the devil is just as intent on sabotaging communion with God today as he was with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. In Genesis 3, the devil interrupts 12 consecutive references to YHWH, and reverts to calling God Elohim, as though he only wants Eve to see God as a relationless Anything-Making Machine. “Hath God (Elohim) said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen 3:1) Eve then adopts this same term through the fall, until they hear the voice of the LORD (YHWH) walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the LORD (YHWH) of relationships calls unto Adam.
This article will seek to present our relationship with God as it ought to be using as our example the man the Lord Jesus referred to as “Daniel the Prophet.”
Communion with God
The Creator desires a personal relationship with us. Daniel was just a teenager, just another prisoner taken captive and brought to Babylon. He marveled that the God of preeminent OT characters like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was also interested in the same relationship with him. We glimpse Daniel’s wonder when we read his prayer recorded in Daniel 2:23. “I thank Thee, and praise Thee, O Thou God of my fathers, Who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of Thee.” He had no idea that his relationship and communion with God would be forever recorded in the OT, serving as an example for us of the kind of close relationship that God desires with His people to this day. Consider the critical ingredients in Daniel’s communion:
Awe – the prerequisite motivator behind Daniel’s close communion with God.
Prayer – daily communication with God marked by dependence.
Reading – disciplined attention to God’s Word, allowing it to speak to him.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, tried to mold the children of Israel to his ways. What was it that compelled Daniel to stand against his commands despite the overwhelming consequences? “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (Dan 1:8). What compelled Daniel to place his trust firmly in God even when Cyrus, King of Persia, then the most powerful person on earth, could do nothing to deliver him from the lion’s den? Again, we read “so Daniel … was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God” (Dan 6:23). He conducted himself blamelessly, so that the men plotting his downfall were forced to conclude, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God” (Dan 6:5).
The answer to these questions, and the secret to Daniel’s close communion with God, seems to be his reverential awe of God. Daniel revered “the Most High.” In fact, Daniel introduces two new Aramaic names for God that are not found in any other book of the Bible. If you search for Strong’s H5943 and H5946, you will find all 14 references are in Daniel, translated “the Most High.” Daniel crosses paths with four powerful, global leaders during his life, yet we don’t see him captivated by any of them. Despite the pressure and influence they tried to wield, they were unable to sway Daniel, who remained in awe of, and resolutely faithful in service, only to “the Most High.” Even Nebuchadnezzar was forced to acknowledge the power of Daniel’s God, in Daniel 4:34. “I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him.”
Daniel had only a fraction of our complete Word of God, and would have had no idea that “the Most High” would seek to restore communion with us, even at the cost of sending His only Son to die on a cross for our sins.
Daniel’s life was characterized by an unwavering cadence of prayer. The whole conspiracy of Daniel 6 was architected around Daniel’s faithful prayer habit. If you have ever made frivolous excuses for missing a prayer meeting, then please consider Daniel’s incentive to skip when it was punishable by death. Yet, what was he doing when they found him? “… and [they] found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God” (Dan 6:11).
What a powerful lesson for us. Prayer is so much more than just supplication with requests to God. Daniel’s communion in prayer was taken up first with awe for “the Most High.” But then, urgent needs arose as in Daniel 2:18, and we read “that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” The very next verse describes the Divine response, and Daniel’s prayer immediately reverts back to awe. “Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven” (Dan 2:19).
We can learn another lesson in prayer from what we DON’T read in Daniel 3. Daniel’s friends clearly stated their confidence in God when they said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace” (3:17). No doubt, Daniel also prayed fervently, expecting God to deliver his friends right up until the last moment. Yet, as his friends were cast into the furnace, we don’t read of Daniel taking matters into his own hands. He maintained implicit confidence in the plans of the Most High, whether that plan aligned with his expectation or not. Sometimes God does not answer as we expect, and as in Daniel’s time, although it seemed headed for disaster, in reality God had a much greater purpose in mind.
In Daniel 1, when the three year indoctrination program for Daniel and the other youths was supposed to be complete, we read that the king communed with them. The next verse clarifies that he “enquired,” so this communion is simply a two-way conversation.
Now consider our communion with God. Reading the Bible is essential in our personal communion with God. After all, it’s God’s Word, and the written means by which He speaks to us. Daniel didn’t have the complete Bible, the Word of God. God spoke to him in dreams, or night visions, which are now recorded in the completed Word of God we have today.
When we pray and ask for direction on a decision or situation in our lives, we must diligently read God’s Word to hear His voice. That same pattern is demonstrated when we see Daniel and his three companions praying in Daniel 1:18. The very next statement tells us that then, and only “then was the secret revealed.” Pray first, and then read God’s Word to find His answer.
Opposition throughout life
Our communion with God will be tested and opposed throughout every phase of life. When Daniel was a youth, the test was to see if he would start doing something that God had forbidden, and defile himself with the king’s meat. It came at a time when teens are most vulnerable to peer pressure, and there were no parents around to restrain him. A normal teenager in such circumstances might ordinarily have cleaned every morsel from the table, and quite possibly might have also then raided the king’s pantry. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (1:8).
As we know, Daniel faced another huge test in chapter 6, this time as an old man serving Darius faithfully. This test was aimed at stopping his communion with God. Faced with the prospect of a lion’s den as a frail senior citizen, the timing could not be worse, and Daniel’s chances for survival were certainly slimmer than had this test happened in his youth. But Daniel passed the test. He did not stop praying, and we read “so Daniel …was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God” (6:23).
Our communion with God will be tested by the onslaught of worldly opposition throughout all stages of our life. We might be tempted to make seemingly small concessions, to cease resisting, or to stop spiritual habits altogether. Might we learn the lesson from Daniel and maintain our communion with God, and our trust in Him no matter what the opposition or the consequences.
Daniel prayed with his three friends, who are described as “his companions.” There were many other fellow captives from the children of Israel, but what seemed to mark these three out as “companions” was their like-minded convictions and their reverential desire to obey God even amidst strange surroundings.
When we come to the NT, companionship is further clarified as fellowship. “That ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1John 1:3). When we are saved, there is a new birth via adoption into the family of God, and the Lord is the basis for that fellowship. The Lord Jesus described this increase in family in Mark 10:30. “He shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children.” God places us in a local church so that we can enjoy the company of like-minded companions. What better way to enjoy communion with our Lord than to gather together with these companions on the first day of the week, in simple obedience to His word, “this do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19)? This is not “The Communion,” as some religions might describe it, but is rather just one precious aspect of our communion with the Lord.
True communion with God will always take effort. There is always opposition, whether from the devil seeking to break it, from the pressures of the world seeking to interrupt our habits, or from our own fleshly desires causing us to pursue self-serving alternatives. May we “purpose in our hearts not to defile ourselves.”
Are you not feeling motivated? Read the gospels. The prerequisite for Daniel was a reverential awe of God, and what better place to marvel at our God than the gospel accounts of the life of the Lord Jesus.
Next, establish a regular cadence of prayer, in the same place at the same time each day. Combine this with reading. For new believers, this will mean a lot of reading, to build a familiar foundation from God’s Word. For example, if you’re a smartphone user, get a smartphone app like OliveTree, sign up for a daily reading program, and continue whenever you have downtime. Reading will naturally turn into study, as He speaks to you.
I am thankful the Almighty Creator is my Lord and my personal Savior, desiring such a close relationship that He died on the cross for me. Just as He surrounded Daniel with like-minded companions, God has provided a place for each of us in a local church, where we can enjoy fellowship with other like-minded believers, following the New Testament pattern, and together enjoying communion with Him until we see Him face to face.