Most of my generation, those who attended Sunday School or received Religious Instruction at a State School in the 50s and 60s, along with those who attended Catholic parish or private church schools, know the biblical story of Daniel in the lions' den. The heroic aphorisms we use in everyday conversation take their cue from this story. "She's confronting the issue by entering the lions' den!" we might say when our work-mate has taken her complaint to our employer, making a stand for justice. And then of course there is the call "Dare to be a Daniel! Dare to stand alone!"
A careful study of Daniel 6 will reveal that on that occasion Daniel was not called to "stand alone" - the "stance" which provoked the king's advisors to set a trap was none other than his daily custom of falling to his knees in prayer to the God of Israel. This trap was sprung because he was on such good terms with the King. The "evidence" of his praying, contrary to the King's recent edict, was revealed, forcing the Babylonian ruler to consign Daniel to the den of lions. But the point is that Darius was trapped because his lack of wisdom was exploited by devious counselors who wanted this valued Jewish advisor put away. Darius was powerless to save Daniel.
This is an amazing story. It tells how the Babylonian King came to political wisdom, by understanding that his power and the laws he handed down were subject to a higher power and a higher law. Not only was he limited; so were his laws. Daniel's prayer was to the Lord Almighty, the King who rules kings. This God answers the prayer of His subjects with decisive action. The lions' mouths were stopped. For Darius the gobsmacking revelation was that the "law of the Medes and Persians" - that code which had trapped him into doing what he knew to be unjust - could be annulled. This is not about Daniel's boast that he "dared to stand alone"; this is the story of how God Himself, through Daniel, brought Darius to a recognition of His power and might. How did Darius respond? This could have been a massive humiliation for the King. His standing among his subjects and those who respected Babylon's power could have been severely compromised. But then along with exacting vengeance on his devious advisors (and their families as well!) he issued a decree, proclaiming his pleasure that Daniel had been spared. He exhorted the people of every language in his kingdom to fear and reverence Daniel's God.
For this God 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. Daniel 6:26-27.
Daniel is famous for the ministry of mercy God called him to provide in the Babylonian court. This is not about some private faith prevailing against the might of the Babylonian court; it is a story of how God, the Lord, through His humble servant, brought a measure of wisdom to the Babylonian ruler's administration of justice. In our reading of Daniel's exploits we should not avoid Darius' vengeance which included the slaughter of women and children. There may have been some amazing consequences that arose from Daniel's service in that court even though we cannot say it resulted in a comprehensive change to Babylon's brutal system of justice.
, a project of Bruce Wearne, aims to encourage a sustained Christian political contribution, heeding the gentle and merciful rule of Jesus Christ, the ruler over all the earth's political regimes.
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