Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Praise to the Living God

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Have you ever thought about how living your life of faith brings glory to God, and causes others to give Him glory? After re-reading the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, I’ve come away with more than the lesson about trusting God and being true to His name. Daniel’s faith caused the King to praise the Lord and publicly declare His goodness; not to mention, declare that everyone in His kingdom should worship the One True God!

The story starts when Daniel is appointed by King Darius to be one of the 120 men serving over the kingdom. Daniel distinguished himself as one having “an extraordinary spirit” (Daniel 6:3) so the King planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom!

Well you can imagine how that made the other 119 men feel – quite jealous and indignant. So look at the plan they came up with:

Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, "We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God." Daniel 6:4-5

Daniel was a man of integrity, and they could not find any reason why the king should not appoint him over the whole kingdom. So instead of looking for something related to his appointment and his governmental affairs, they decide to look at his spiritual life and his relationship to God. They knew that Daniel worshiped the Lord, so they undertook a plot to test his mettle and his faithfulness. So they came before the king and said:

“All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions' den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked." Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction. Daniel 6:7-9

We’ve already established that Daniel was a man of integrity and faithfulness, and here we have the proof: even after Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he still entered his house and kneeled to pray, giving thanks before His God, as he had been doing even before the injunction was signed.

Well, the other leaders saw Daniel doing this and went straight to the king:

"Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions' den?" The king replied, "The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked." Then they answered and spoke before the king, "Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day." Daniel 6:12-13

Now remember, the king is a fan of Daniel’s. He had decided to appoint him over the whole kingdom. So he was not very pleased to hear this news that essentially backed him into a corner. In fact, he tried to think of everything in order to not have to follow through on the injunction.

Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. Daniel 6:14

Well, there was no back door this time, no loophole, no way out. The men reminded the king that his statute couldn’t be changed.

Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions' den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you." Daniel 6:16

Wow! Look at that! The king, who had willingly signed the injunction that the people of the kingdom were to make petitions to no one but HIM, now is consoling Daniel(and himself, presumably!) that his God will deliver him! So Daniel was put in with the lions.

A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel. Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. Daniel 6:17-18

Clearly, the king was affected by this turn of events as he fasted and couldn’t sleep. When he got out of bed at dawn, at the break of day, he quickly went to inquire of Daniel in the lions’ den.

When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?" Daniel 6:20

What an opportunity Daniel has now!

Then Daniel spoke to the king, "O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime." Daniel 6:21-22

Well this pleased the king to no end, and he gave orders for Daniel to be released from the den. He was not injured because he had trusted in God. So Daniel was preserved and the king set forth to punish the malicious men who accused Daniel. They weren’t as fortunate.

The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions' den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Daniel 6:24

Wow. That is proof of God’s protection and mercy. Those lions were just fine, and totally capable of harming humans. And they did, when God wasn’t shutting their mouths or calming their “lion tendencies.”

Here’s the part I love – the King now makes a decree that all people of his kingdom should fear the God of Daniel. What a change of heart – and due to Daniel’s faithfulness and letting his light shine!

Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: "May your peace abound! I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel;
For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions."

Daniel 6:25-27

It is not very likely that you or I will ever face a choice about worshiping God or being thrown in the lion’s den. Our choices are much more subtle: worship God or face embarrassment or ridicule; stand up for what is right according to God’s word or go along with the crowd; display great faith and perseverance in the midst of trials or give up easily for our own fleshly comfort.

Our choices have a tremendous power to influence those around us: just look what happened to king Darius. After seeing Daniel’s display of faith, he not only worshiped God himself, but decreed all the people in his kingdom to, as well. You can have that kind of influence by living out your faith in your choices and daily interactions. Let’s all resolve to let our light shine ever more brightly that others may give our great God the glory!

Praise to the Living God
Words From The Yigdal of Daniel ben Judah, a Jewish judge in Rome, circa 1400; translated to English by Newton Mann (1836-1926) & Max Landsberg (1845-1928)

Praise to the living God!
All praised be His Name,
Who was, and is, and is to be,
And still the same!
The one eternal God,
Ere aught that now appears;
The first, the last: beyond all thought
His timeless years!

His Spirit floweth free,
High surging where it will;
In prophet’s word He spoke of old;
He speaketh still.
Established is His law,
And changeless it shall stand,
Deep writ upon the human heart,
On sea or land.

He hath eternal life
Implanted in the soul;
His love shall be our strength and stay,
While ages roll.
Praise to the living God!
All praised be His Name,
Who was, and is, and is to be,
And still the same.

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