Ep.062: Daniel and the Lions.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

I asked my parents once why they named me Daniel.  They said “Because we liked the name, and because it’s in the Bible.”

The Book of Daniel tells stories about his life while he served in the court of Babylon. He interpreted bizarre dreams for King Nebuchadnezzar and mysterious handwriting on the wall for King Belshazzar. Daniel’s three friends were thrown into a raging fire but were unharmed. Daniel was thrown to the lions but was not eaten. Daniel had a series of disturbing dreams about an apocalyptic future where evil dictators persecute the saints, where the whole earth experiences disaster and chaos, and finally a son of man comes riding on the clouds of heaven to sort it out. I can see why the Hebrew Bible doesn’t group Daniel with the prophets, but with the Ketuvim which are books of miscellaneous writings and poetry and history and stories.

Today we look at Daniel in the lions’ den. An upper class Jewish exile serving in the Babylonian court, he was a true survivor. He outlived King Nebuchadnezzar’s mental health problems and transitioned successfully to the Medo-Persian rule when they deposed the Babylonian king and claimed the empire. King Darius the Mede made Daniel a chief ruler in his administration, where Daniel gained both power and powerful enemies. His enemies scrutinized Daniel’s administration for signs of corruption or negligence, but when they came up empty, they decided to go after his religious life. (In my years as a working man, I’m fortunate that nobody scrutinized my management or my religious practices for corruption and negligence).  

Meanwhile, Daniel’s enemies arranged for King Darius to proclaim a new law: For 30 days, no one could pray to any god or human except the king. Violators would be thrown to the lions. Daniel, of course, ignored the law and continued praying three times a day at an open window facing Jerusalem.

When Daniel’s enemies reported this to Darius, the king realized he’d been had. But it was “the law of the Medes and Persians” that even the king could not immediately repeal his own law. So he regretfully threw Daniel to the lions, spent a sleepless night worrying, and in the morning hurried to the lions’ den and shouted “Daniel, has your God been able to rescue you?”

Daniel replied, “My God sent his angel and shut the mouths of the lions.” The happy king had Daniel pulled out and the tricky advisors thrown in. When I was a child, my favorite bit was the statement that  “Before [the advisors] reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones” (Daniel 6:24). I wonder if I should talk with my therapist about why I found that so satisfying?

Instead of drawing lessons from Daniel’s experience, I give you two pictures from his story.

First, the classic picture of Daniel standing safely among the lions. It has inspired many artists.

And second, the picture of Daniel praying at his window. Over the years, my religious life has shifted from fantasizing about becoming a major Christian politician like Daniel, giving dream interpretations and advice in the high courts of international intrigue, to a more simple vision of a life spent praying at some window. I hope your life takes a similar direction.

Let’s pray.

Our father, we see the picture of Daniel standing quietly among the lions. Teach us to live among our lions with faith and wisdom and integrity.

And we see the picture of Daniel praying at his open window, facing Jerusalem where your temple was in ruins and your people lived in poverty.  May we pray faithfully as he did.

Amen.  

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

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