July 8, 2018— Rev. Lamar Robinson
This morning we continue our adventure of re-visiting some of the classical stories of our faith, coming out of our Judeo-Christian traditions. The stories you learned as children and never forgot. The stories that give some direction to our lives, help to form our values, and even focus our identity.
Call it a refresher course, “Biblical Stories 101” so to speak. All of these are “once upon a time in a far away place” stories, but they are also the story of life and of our lives.
We have given these remarks the title “Dare to Be a Daniel”, ands we revisit the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den.
The setting of the story takes us back thousands of years ago, to the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. Daniel is a highly intelligent and capable young man who has been brought as a Jewish exile to the capitol city of Babylon, where he has been trained to serve in the court of Darius, the king. Daniel so distinguished himself among the others serving the court that he rose quickly through the ranks and was given authority and irresponsibility. Others became jealous of his rapid ascendancy and began to look for flaws in his character, so they could bring him down a few pegs. However, there was nothing with which they could find fault.
They did discover one rather odd thing which he did religiously each day. Three times a day, he knelt toward Jerusalem and prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God of his people. Those other jealous rulers realized that this faithful practice might be used to bring about his downfall, so they schemed together and set up a foolproof plan to trap him.
First, they advised King Darius to decree that during the next thirty days, anyone who prayed to any God except the king would be thrown into the lion’s den. Then they sat back and waited for the trap to be sprung.
Daniel was undaunted by the new edict. He knew where his first loyalty was. He continued to go to his upstairs room three times a day and kneel in prayer before an open window “giving thanks to God just as he had done before”. Daniel knew what was right for him to do and he trusted God completely.
Daniel’s outward circumstances became bleak indeed. The jealous rulers caught him, as they (and he) knew they would. They went running to King Darius with the news that Daniel had transgressed his new law. Darius was quite upset, for Daniel was a great favorite with him, but he had given his royal word and the Law of the Medes and Persians was absolute. There was no way out. Daniel, a faithful servant, was thrown into the lion’s den – a sure death sentence, everyone naturally assumed.
Things looked tough all over. So, how did God help Daniel in his life-threatening situation? And how could God let this happen in the first place? Where does the story go from here? As we continue to follow the unfolding of this drama, we find out that although Daniel vividly experienced a night in the lion’s den, he was not devoured by the lions. He emerged safely. He had trusted God, and God had delivered him from the jaws of the lions.
What application can we make of this story for our own lives today?
Have you ever been in the lion’s den? I don’t mean the four-footed kind with fur and a long tufted tail. I’m talking about facing circumstances which seemed difficult if not impossible. I am talking about the pressure cooker, when the threat seems so great, and the stress level is so high, you really can’t see a way out.
And so, I repeat, have you ever been in the lion’s den? You bet you have! Maybe real lions would have seemed preferable to circumstances we have all faced. Daniel wasn’t the only one. We know about lion’s dens. We have spent more than one night there!
And, like Daniel, God may not spare us from being thrown to the lions. That’s just life. But, like Daniel, with faith we can call upon God and experience delivery from becoming devoured by the lions. We can emerge even from these frightening experiences, as did Daniel, wiser, more thankful, and more aware of our dependence upon a faithful God.
Can we remain faithful to God even when the nights spent with lions stretch into weeks, or months, or even years? Can we reach out and receive the grace and strength God offers in these tough situations? If so, in the midst of our trials, in the thick of the lion’s dens of life, we can actually emerge with a stronger faith and a greater measure of peace and joy.
Some of the practical applications of this ancient story will begin to come into focus when we realize this is not just an ancient story. It’s also about today. And it’s not just Daniel’s story, it’s our story, too.
I once read a book called “Living in the Lion’s Den”. Its subtitle is “How to Cope With Stress”. It was authored by a clergyperson, and it approaches its subject from a faith perspective. It points out some of the lions of stress we all have to encounter, and it suggests ways our faith can help us to avoid becoming devoured by them.
What are some of the “lions of stress” that have the potential to devour us, to squeeze the life out of us? You will recognize their names. They are called: Too-Busy, Resentment, Depression, Anger, Worry, Guilt, Doubt. And I’ll bet you know a few other lions by a few other names that you could add to our list…
All of these lions have sharp teeth. They can wound us deeply, even sometimes fatally. They are a threat to the spirit and sometimes even the body. But, we can be delivered, not devoured. We can emerge “in one piece” from their encounters, if we will receive the grace of deliverance which God offers.
Some of those old Bible stories, which most of us learned in childhood, give food for thought, when we go back and consider them from a perspective of maturity. We learned a lot from them long ago. Perhaps we can grow from them even more today.
Daniel and the Lion’s Den! A story for now! But, more importantly, a faith for now. The God who delivered Daniel in the days of the Medes and the Persians can deliver now. Trust it. Try it. Dare to be a Daniel! You’ll see!