THE GOD OF DANIEL
Bible Background: Daniel may be ‘the most unusual book in the Old Testament’. The first half of the book reads like folk stories of Jews in exile. The second half of the book is full of apocalyptic writing (similar to Revelation) that uses vivid images to help faithful people live in threatening times. Part of Daniel was written in Hebrew, part in Aramaic. The time is the time of exile, in the Persian Empire around 530-490 B.C. The story of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” reveals the power of God!
Digging Deeper: 1. The story is similar to the story of the Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace in chap. 3. Daniel is a faithful, Jewish exile and public servant. Enemies dislike him. Does he make them look bad because he is diligent in his work? Do they not like his religion? Do they not like it that he’s an ‘outsider’ and could end up ruling over them? So they get the King to sign a bad law into effect, to trap Daniel. Does anything like this happen in ‘hardball’ politics today?
2. Daniel’s offense? He refuses to stop practicing his faith. He prays 3x’s a day, facing Jerusalem. While he is a diligent public official, his ultimate loyalty is to his God. (1st Commandment!) How does our worship of God define who we are? How does our temptation to worship lesser things/gods deny who we are called to be?
3. King Darius is susceptible to pressure from his underlings. After he signs the law, they spy on Daniel, turn him in, and tell the King he must enforce the law. The King seems to favor Daniel, but nevertheless has him thrown into the Lion’s pit–reserved for political enemies. He hopes God will deliver Daniel! God does!
4. The King, somewhat surprisingly, now issues a new order calling for everyone in the kingdom to revere the Lord God. (He also exterminates Daniel’s opponents.) The simple ‘moral’ to the story seems to be that “If you remain faithful to God-like Daniel, you will prosper-like Daniel.” What’s the truth in that statement? Where does that line not tell the whole story? Did Jesus adopt this approach when he told his disciples to “take up your cross and follow me?” Or does Paul’s conviction in Romans 8 that “nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” address those times when faithful people are not spared disaster?
5. Some timeless issues this story raises could be: a) How are we to be faithful to God when the culture opposes that? b) How can faithfulness be lived-out in public service? c) In what ways can one Christian, living his/her faith, change a home, workplace, school, institution, community? d) And the classic question: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”