Readings: Dan. 6:10-23 / Luke 23:26-56
Today we have the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den side by side with the crucifixion and death of Our Lord Jesus. The parallels between these two accounts are stunning: the persecution of a righteous man, the sealing of a tomb with a rock, followed by a mighty deliverance and rescue!
In our day and age it’s a good time to reacquaint yourself and your loved ones with the book of Daniel. It’s a book for our time giving instruction and encouragement on how to live a godly life by faith in the Gospel while living in a sub-pagan world. Daniel and his three friends, renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were among those brought into captivity by the Babylonians and refused to worship those false Babylonian gods. Even when threatened with incineration Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They spoke right to the king, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace...and even if not (that is, even if we are burned alive!), be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
They refused to worship any God but the true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When the king’s men bound them and threw them into the burning furnace, what happened? All saw a fourth man walking in the midst of the fire, one like the son of the gods, one who indeed WAS the Son of God, Christ our Lord! By God’s merciful protection they walked out of that furnace without a single hair singed, without even the smell of fire touching them, because God was with them.
Even Nebuchadnezzar had to acknowledge that this was the work of the true God, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were actually promoted to places of greater authority within the province of Babylon.
Daniel was a teenager when he was taken from Jerusalem into captivity by the Babylonians, and now in our reading tonight, he’s serving faithfully under Darius, King of Persia. An excellent spirit was within. He’s successful. He’s talented, loyal, and trustworthy. Therefore, the king has special plans for him – to set him over the whole kingdom! But the haters come out, perhaps mostly because he’s excelled in a culture that isn’t his own (we can learn from this!). But like our own time, it’s political season, and after unsuccessfully trying to find dirt on faithful Daniel, they have to resort to other means. They make a law forbidding prayer, essentially requiring that all bow down and worship a pagan king. Now, let’s be clear! Daniel would have given his life up if called upon by Darius his king. He’d serve him faithfully with every thing he’s got! But deny His God in the process! No way!
Daniel continues to do what he’s always done. To pray toward Jerusalem - toward that place where the redeemer of the world would come to save fallen man. When Daniel was thrown to the lions, a pit of death and destruction, what did he have to fear? He trusted in the God who rescues from death and destruction! He trusted in the God who walked in the fire to rescue Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Just listen to the 23rd verse here “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” Daniel trusted in the mercy of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the destroyer of death.
Folks, these events are a preview of God’s ultimate triumph over all the forces of evil. As you saw this past Sunday, Jesus laid down on the altar that Isaac escaped from. Today we see Jesus gasping for breath between two criminals on the cross absorbing the fiery furnace of God’s wrath for all sinners, all so that we would be forgiven, set free, and find refreshment by His words of pardon. He is placed in the pit of death, but those lions of destruction couldn’t consume Him, and so the stone was rolled aside, and He was vindicated by His Father, with death and hell all lying at His feet.
Deliverance and rescue is EVERYWHERE in the Bible. It’s big, bold, and permeates everything. Your life too! Whatever it is—you’ll get through. Pandemics? God delivers. Famines? God feeds. We fear the depression will never lift but it will. The anxiety never end but it will. The pain will never leave but God gives relief. We wonder, will this gray sky ever brighten? But it will!
It was out of the whale’s belly for Jonah. It was out of the lions' den for Daniel. It was out of Goliath's shadow for David. Out of the storm for the disciples, the disease for the lepers, doubt for Thomas, and the grave for Lazarus. It was out of the prison for Peter and the shackles for Paul. Folks, God gets us through! He saves and delivers!
Through the wilderness, through the valley of the shadow of death, God delivers. “Through,” “out of”, and “up” are some of God’s favorite phrases. Thus says the Lord, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Is. 43:2-3). In the name of Jesus. Amen.