Telling the story: Daniel in the Lion’s Den

given on Sunday, February 5, 2012

Telling the Story:  Daniel & the Lions’ Den

Do you know your lions’ den?

 

Today’s Old Testament story is not as difficult to believe as the others we have reviewed, but figuring out how it fits into the New Testament much less into our 21st century lives is a challenge.  Why should we continue to tell the story?

That is how I began thinking about this story.  Why should we tell it to our family and friends much less others who do not have God as part of their lives?  As I turned to my Bible assortment and references, I began searching for an answer.  There it was:  a question:  “Do you sometimes feel like a misfit?”

Daniel was living in exile.  He was making his life away from his large faith family.  He did have his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but they were certainly tested.  Why Daniel’s friends were even thrown into a fiery furnace, but they were delivered because they refused to give up their faith in God.

The people followed pagan practices praying to various gods, golden images and even the king.  They could not understand the faith of the Jewish exiles who were not following the practices of the culture in which they were living.  Much less, these men were finding favor in the king’s eyes.  Jealousy developed and the distrustful local leaders began plotting against the Jewish exiles.

Daniel maintained his own Jewish faith and practices.  These very practices are what lead him in his daily life.  He applied the principles in all that he did, he performed his job so successfully that he continued to outshine all the other government figures.  The king, much less three kings, found that his work was far better than anybody else’s.  The kings learned that he could be trusted, that his superior work led to more success, and even his own demeanor was something to be respected.

Undoubtedly Daniel did feel like a misfit.  He was in an unfamiliar culture, working with pagans, living through one king’s rule after another, and yet he maintained his own faith, his own lifestyle, and his own character.  Even though Daniel was the misfit in the local community, he remained faithful to God.

Here we live in a culture where our faith does not isolate us, and yet we may feel like misfits, too.  How, you ask?

Well, consider our daily lives today.  We live in communities that are filled with problems.  We step out of our homes and go to work where all too often we find our personal ethics challenged.  We get involved in our hobbies—sometimes to excess.  We decide to spend an evening out and are easily swayed to drink too much or to gamble too much, why we even eat too much.

Do we sometimes feel like misfits in any of these situations or do we “join the crowd” and begin doing what everybody else is doing?  Sometimes we do it because we do not see the danger in the behaviors.  Sometimes we do it because we do not want to seem different from the others.  Sometimes we do it because we forget to apply God’s rules.

The result is that we may not feel like a misfit for the moment, but as we review the events we may begin to feel uncomfortable with our choices.  Maybe we even feel guilty and ask God for his forgiveness.  These are the reasons we tell Daniel’s story of being thrown into a lions den.

Daniel did not turn away from God.  Despite living in exile among pagans, and despite working a job where others did not practice ethics, Daniel lived an honest, faithful life.  His work was exemplary.  His interpretations of the dreams were accurate even if it was hurtful.  He was trusted.  He was promoted to the top of the other governors because he was that good.  The kings were able to look past his faith and focus on his work and his personality.  He was not a misfit by the kings’ evaluations; he was a model of integrity.

Today we tell the story of Daniel and the lions’ den as a way to make sure our children and even ourselves remember the importance of remaining true to God.  We all are thrown into a lions’ den.  We all become misfits at some time or another.  Daniel’s story is a model to us of how to keep God-centered.

Living in the 21st century when all the media, all the workplaces, and all the society around us screams at us to follow the crowd.  Do whatever it takes to make a buck.  Take care of yourself only.  We may live in a society that was established on individual freedoms, but we are living like we are slaves to the materialistic culture around us.

Daniel may have been tossed into an actual lions’ den, but I propose that we are all living in a lion’s den—even if it is allegorical.  Can we identify our personal lions’ den?  I believe that maintaining my faith protects me from the lions in today’s culture.

My first professional job after college was to work for a newspaper.  Even though it was just a local paper rather than a nationally known publication, I was proud to be a journalist.  The role was interesting and I did enjoy it until the principles taught in journalism school were challenged.

In 1976, our country’s bicentennial year, I entered the work force firmly believing that I could save the world as a journalist.   I jumped at the chance to work on a local newspaper.  I had been taught the canons of journalism at one of the most reputable journalism colleges in the nation—MU.  I was confident that those principles along with my faith would make it possible to change the world.

At least that is what I thought until I faced the cruel truth of business.  Newspapers can survive, as all forms of media can, based on circulation.  The more subscriptions a newspaper has, the more it can charge for advertising.  The more subscriptions, the more likely businesses will buy advertising.  Even journalism, the fourth branch of government—after legislative, executive and judicial—was dependent on numbers!

Sad to say, after almost a year I discovered that my personal ethics as a journalist were challenged.  I was asked/told to sign a document that verified the subscription count for the newspaper.  The numbers on that document were greatly inflated.  I felt trapped.  Either sign the paper or risk being fired.  Signing the paper went against all my training and my personal standards.

The requirement of a job forced me to reconsider my own career.  I chose to leave the job and changed to teaching.  Surely in teaching journalism I could make a difference in the world.  In teaching, I would not be at risk of being a misfit.

The boss was my lion.  A person who did not follow God’s law was devouring me.  He was lying in order to get more money.  He was placing me in a position of jeopardy, too.  My idealistic world was challenged, and I felt like I had been tossed into the lions’ den.

Each of us is a misfit in today’s society.  Each of us must handle a den of lions at some point in our lives.  Daniel is our model.  We need to tell Daniel’s story as a method to reinforce our teachings.  Our children need to learn how to maintain their values even when living among others who do not.  Our young workers need to learn that being honest and trustworthy on the job is more important than playing games with other workers.  Business leaders need to remember that operating a successful business depends on honest dealings and great customer service rather than shortcuts or shoddy workmanship.

The Apologetics Bible includes four lessons from the book of Daniel.  They may seem simple, but think about what a difference these four lessons would make in today’s culture:

  1. Don’t be surprised when you encounter opposition to your beliefs.
  2. Don’t take what belongs to God and give it to anyone or anything else.
  3. Don’t let the world seduce you away from what you know is right.

Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a furnace.  All were misfits, yet they lived by their faith.  God is by our side all the time.  His commandment is our overriding principle under which all decisions should be made.  If we truly live our faith and practice, we are rewarded.  Others can reward us in our earthly lives for jobs well done, but most importantly God rewards us with eternal life.

Jesus, himself, knew Daniel’s story.  He was thrown into the lions’ den after just three years preaching, teaching, and healing.  His lions were even his own people—the Pharisees and the priests.  He was thrown away on a cross, but even then God lifted him up into heaven beside him.  Are you able to keep your faith among all the lions of today?  The reward is priceless.

Dear Loving Father,

We know lions are living all around us,

     help us identify them.

Once we identify the lions,

     help us stay strong in our faith.

Guide us daily to develop our practices

     so we can testify to others

     the rewards of loving one another.

May we be 21st century Daniels

     working to transform this world.

Amen

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