Sermon 1722 Daniel 6 November 22, 2020
I love living in Las Vegas. We know a little bit about everything—first-hand! Back in Minnesota, lion tamers were pretty hypothetical. The circus never stopped at my little town. I learned about them from maybe a Curious George book. But here, we even have tigers, and if that weren’t enough, white tigers with their trainers! And contortionists, sword swallowers, synchronized swimmers. We’ve got it made, and we’ll have it made once this health stuff gets turned around. There are two big lies in the world. When things are bad the lie is, things are never going to get better. When things are good the lie is things are never going to get bad. But when times get better, many will encourage you to put your money down and see the lion tamers up close.
Well, I would advise you today you can keep your hard-earned cash and simply look in the mirror. You will see
1. Praying to the Lord.
2. Persisting through the Lord.
3. Prevailing by the Lord.
Daniel was in a good place. As he had served well under the Babylonians, he served well under the Persians, under King Darius. Daniel was so true and trusted, Darius was about to make him the vice president of the entire empire. But slash and burn politics are not unique to our country. “The administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God (6.4-5).’”
They come up with a plan. They go to King Darius and ask for an edict, “that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den (7).”
What kind of man would agree to that? Oh, we ask that question only because we have never tasted almost unlimited power. Remember that $6,000 hamburger combo meal at the old Palms? Who would pay that much? Just goes to show you we’ve never had that much money to throw around. Darius had that much power. He didn’t blink at all to think he could overrule the will of the gods themselves. It took a big head to wear the crown of Persia.
But here’s my point. Daniel’s enemies knew Daniel prayed--a lot. He prayed to interpret the dream Nebuchadnezar refused to tell anyone and the Lord answered Daniel’s prayer. Daniel prays that the exile end after he realizes Jeremiah predicted it would last 70 years. The Lord answered Daniel’s prayer.
They say well begun is half done. What does it take to overcome adversity? What does it take to tame the lion? If we are using Daniel as a role model, we would have to say praying to the Lord. That is the preparation, the practice, if you will. We go before the Lord with our fears, with our worries, with our problems. And not only our problems but the problems of those near and dear to us, the problems of our city, state and country as well. Maybe things haven’t been going America’s way for a while because God’s people aren’t praying the way God encourages us to. “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing (1 Timothy 2.8).” God will answer prayer. God will strengthen us in answer to our prayer. Daniel prayed and everything he touched turned out roses and lollipops, eventually. Look how often Jesus prayed! Look at Jesus’ words to Peter. “Pray so that you will not fall into temptation (Mark 14.38).” Peter didn’t pray. Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed twice. It didn’t have to be that way.
If well begun is half done, no wonder Daniel was so successful! The Lord answered his prayers for a pure heart and an ability to be in a position to protect God’s people. If well begun is half done, no wonder Martin Luther, when confronted by an especially taxing daily schedule, said he had to spend extra time in prayer! If well begun is half done, you and I will be wonderful lion tamers. The Lord will go before us and break down whatever opposes us, all the while strengthening us in answer to our prayers.
Lion tamers keep persisting through the Lord.
The trap is set. Daniel’s response should not surprise us. “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before (10).”
The foolish law did not affect Daniel. He continued to pray, just as he had before. He kept “asking God for help.” He persisted.
It is something of a joke when parents get together, let their guard down and reveal how much they knuckle under to a particularly persistent child. Persistence pays! A “no” can become a “maybe” and then a “yes, stop bothering me.” Rain or shine, there’s the request. Night and day, their plea comes before you. Three things are certain in life--death, taxes and a persistent child’s demands. We praise teams that are persistent. They may have their heads handed to them in the first two quarters, but after halftime they come back, dig themselves out of the hole and squeak by with a win. Persistent!
Why should that be news to us as Christians? Why should we think the rules change when it comes to adults and adult problems? Do you remember Jesus’ parable of the unjust judge? A widow comes to him demanding justice. He doesn’t care about her. He doesn’t care about God. He doesn’t care about anybody. But she is getting on his nerves. She’s outside his courtroom every day. He can hear her through the windows. She tails him to lunch. He can bear it no longer. The unjust judge renders a just verdict in her favor. Now, if even an unjust judge can be bent so he grants a request, how much more our holy and loving Lord? “So I say to you, ‘Seek and you will find, ask and it will be given to you, knock and the door will be opened to you.’” Our Lord loves justice. Our Lord loves you. Our Lord will move heaven and earth to answer our prayers, especially when we are taming lions. So keep praying to the Lord.
But some might respond, “That’s just the problem. It was Daniel praying that got him into trouble!” They are mistaken. Daniel was safe in the Lord’s hands. The Lord had something else up his sleeve.
Our Lord is powerful to save. It hit me when I least expected it, while I was reading the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” David wrote, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies (5).” Any team can have an undefeated season if the league calls off all the games because of COVID. Every ship is unsinkable in dry dock. What kind of person buys an expensive car and then is afraid to drive it? A person who doesn’t have enough money to buy an expensive car, that’s who! What kind of God would we have if the only way he could keep us safe was to always keep us locked away in monasteries, in little religious communities, far away from the wicked people of this world? He would be a pretty weak God, that’s who he would be. And he wouldn’t be all that smart, because when you try to keep a Christian community safe by locking the wicked world out, you end up locking the sinful human nature in! The only way God could keep his people safe from their sinful human nature would be to take them to heaven as soon as they were baptized! After the pastor baptizes the little one, they squawk and fuss a bit and then breathe their last. What kind of God would that be?
No, the Lord shows his power by protecting his people right in the midst of the wicked and ungodly, right under the devil’s nose, all the while the sinful human nature is trying to knock the ball out of your hand. To stand in the pocket of temptation confident that the devil won’t touch you, to dash to the goal knowing the world poking you in the side isn’t going to make you miss your shot, that’s something to watch. That’s a champion at work. That’s persistence. Persistence pays. Lion tamers keep persisting through the Lord.
Lion tamers keep prevailing by the Lord.
Daniel’s enemies barge into his room right as he is praying. They bring charges to the king. Darius feels terrible, but there is no way he can help Daniel. The Medes and Persians believed their kings were so wonderful, no law they established should or could be revoked. By the end of the day Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. Darius doesn’t know whether there is a greater danger for Daniel inside the den or outside it. “A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed (17).”
At the crack of dawn, Darius hustles to the lions’ den. “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions (20)?” He would know pretty soon.
“Daniel answered, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king (21-22).'"
Lion tamers keep prevailing by the Lord. Daniel was victorious. Daniel was saved from the mouth of the lions. All night he had been among the lions, big lions, hungry lions. All night long he kept his vigil with the lions breathing down on him, sniffing him over. But an angel of the Lord made sure they didn’t open their mouths. They didn’t lift a paw against Daniel. When they brought him up out of the lions’ den, “no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God (23).”
The Lord worked blessings through Daniel’s rescue. King Darius was humbled. He issued a new decree. Throughout his empire (from India to Greece), “people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions (26-27).”
Daniel and Daniel’s people, the Jews, would be protected and prosper in the early years of the Persian rulers.
Throughout this sermon I have been alluding to something which I now need to bring out explicitly. We are lion tamers. Our battle is not with maw and mane. Our battle is not with four hundred pounds of leonine muscle. We battle the devil. That’s what God instituted in the Garden of Eden. “I will put enmity between you and the women, between your offspring and hers (Genesis 3.15).” That’s what Peter warns us of. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith (1 Peter 5.8-9).”
We resist the devil. We don’t have to fall for all his temptations. Every time we do not succumb to temptation, we prevail by the Lord. Even when we fall the Lord raises us up through our repentant faith and his loving forgiveness. We prevail by the Lord. We stand firm in the faith. The devil is not content to make us a little naughty. He is not satisfied to make us a little guilty. He intends to drag us down to hell. We are kept in the faith by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel in Word and sacraments. We prevail by the Lord. The Lord rescued Daniel from the lions. The Lord will rescue us from the roaring devil. And one, fine day we will walk out of that lions’ den, never to face temptation or suffering, sorrow or sin again.
1. Praying to the Lord.
2. Persisting through the Lord.
3. Prevailing by the Lord.
Yes, indeed, this town has everything--especially Christians who recognize what they are up against, know where their strength comes from and are determined never to walk away without a victory. If that show didn’t last eighty years or longer, people would pay good money to see it.