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A messenger who could shut lions’ mouths

December 1, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Daniel 6:2-5, 7, 10, 13-16, 19-23, Hebrews 11:32-38

Daniel 6
2 To set over them three main officers to whom they would report so that the king wouldn’t have to be bothered with too much. One of these main officers was Daniel. 3 Because of his extraordinary spirit, Daniel soon surpassed the other officers and the chief administrators—so much so that the king had plans to set him over the entire kingdom. 4 As a result, the other officers and the chief administrators tried to find some problem with Daniel’s work for the kingdom. But they couldn’t find any problem or corruption at all because Daniel was trustworthy. He wasn’t guilty of any negligence or corruption.
5 So these men said, “We won’t find any fault in Daniel, unless we can find something to use against him from his religious practice” [Or in the Instruction of his God].

7 All the officers of the kingdom, the ministers, the chief administrators, the royal associates, and the governors advise the king to issue an edict and enforce a law, that for thirty days anyone who says prayers to any god or human being except you, Your Majesty, will be thrown into a pit of lions.

10 When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house. Now his upper room had open windows that faced Jerusalem. Daniel knelt down, prayed, and praised his God three times that day, just like he always did.

13 So they said to the king, “One of the Judean exiles, Daniel, has ignored you, Your Majesty, as well as the law you signed. He says his prayers three times a day!”
14 When the king heard this report, he was very unhappy. He decided to rescue Daniel and did everything he could do to save Daniel before the sun went down. 15 But these men, all ganged together, came and said to the king, “You must realize, Your Majesty, that the law of Media and Persia, including every law and edict the king has issued, cannot be changed.”
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and hurled him into the pit of lions.
The king said to Daniel: “Your God—the one you serve so consistently—will rescue you” [Or May your God—the one you serve so consistently—rescue you.]

19 At dawn, at the first sign of light, the king rose and rushed to the lions’ pit.
20 As he approached it, he called out to Daniel, worried: “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God—the one you serve so consistently—able to rescue you from the lions?”
21 Then Daniel answered the king: “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his messenger, who shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t touched me because I was judged innocent before my God. I haven’t done anything wrong to you either, Your Majesty.”

23 The king was thrilled. He commanded that Daniel be brought up out of the pit, and Daniel was lifted out. Not a scratch was found on him, because he trusted in his God.

Hebrews 11
32 What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection.
36 But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 37 They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 38 The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Daniel 6 is similar to Daniel 3, but with Daniel in the lead role. “The practice of praying facing the temple in Jerusalem is mentioned in the Old Testament only in 1 Kings 8:22–54; Psalm 5:7…. Prayer at ‘evening, morning and noon’ is mentioned in Psalm 55:17, but… 1 Chronicles 23:30 refers only to morning and evening prayers in the temple.” * Scholar John Goldingay wrote, “Praying three times a day shows how Daniel is committed beyond anything you could call a legal requirement.” **

  • In Daniel 6:5, we learn that the only thing jealous Persian officers could find to use against Daniel had to do with his faithful spiritual practices. He did not use the position of high trust the king had given him as an excuse to “cut corners.” It made sense, then, that he didn’t even use the king’s foolish decree as a reason to cut corners on his practice of prayer. Have you ever wished you could hide your faith? How did you decide if that was a wise or damaging idea?
  • We wish this story (and Daniel 3) showed that God’s messengers will always rescue good people. But Goldingay wrote, “[The story’s] point… isn’t that God always rescues people; it doesn’t make this claim, and we know from experience that it’s not so.” *** In Acts 12:1-17 James died, while an angel saved Peter. Hebrews 11 listed both happy and tragic outcomes for God’s people. Why be faithful if that doesn’t guarantee an angelic rescue (cf. Romans 14:8, Philippians 1:20)?
Prayer

Dear God, I serve you to return the love you have already extended to me, not as an insurance policy. Shape me into a servant who serves from love, not fear of bad consequences. Amen.

GPS Insights

Lauren Cook

Lauren Cook

Lauren Cook is the Entry Points Program Director at Resurrection, a self-proclaimed foodie, a bookworm, and is always planning her next trip. She has the sweetest (and sassiest) daughter, Carolina Rae, a rockstar husband, Austin, and a cutie pup named Thunder. She loves connecting with others so let her know the best place you've ever eaten, best book you've ever read, or best place you've ever been!

Happy December! It is the time of snowfall (literally, here in Kansas City!), cookies, twinkly lights, cozy fires, movie nights, time with friends and family, and just overall magical perfection! Our children are little angels dressed in adorable bowties and sparkly dresses, we all have endless patience and are perfect gift-wrappers. We cook warm meals for our neighbors that taste better than anything not cooked in December, and we just exude love and joy and peace for 31 straight days.

Anyone else? No? Okay, me neither.

I deeply long for a picture-perfect Christmas every year. Part of that is just my personality type (I long for picture-perfect everything all the time) and part of that is passed down from a mother who also deeply longed for and was always striving for a season that matched her dreams, and the movies.

It seems so easy for us to forget that December is just another month in a year that is our lives. Hard things still happen in December and the fight we’ve been in with our family still exists today, just like it did yesterday. The overwhelming grief we feel from our June loss is still as heavy as it was yesterday, the exhaustion of parenting and the behavior note that was sent home in October is still as pressing as it was yesterday, the anxiety over the February diagnosis is still as terrifying as it was yesterday, and the everyday stressors are still just that: every day.

So how do we do Advent then? How do we hold our own realities against the joy we see splashed around us, the culturally-curated perfect holiday expectations a backdrop against our every days, the wild hope we are supposed to feel in the season? How do we wait for Christmas Day without putting too much or too little in? Advent is exactly that: a season of waiting. But in the words of Kate Bowler, “… the waiting of Advent is one marked by hope. We wait with expectancy. With anticipation for inbreaking of God to make all things new. And yet, hope can feel like a drug that must be carefully administered. Too much and we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment or disillusionment. Too little and we’re freighted with despair.”  

We are humans. We have going to the Advent we actually have, not the one on the other end of your social media feed or on the screen. Some of that will be joy-filled, and some of it won’t. And that is more than okay. Because Jesus is the really real, He is the true hope. He is the hope that goes against the false optimism and the plastic tinsel, He is the hope in the face of the impossible.

While you may not be sitting across from an actual lion today like Daniel, your swirling thoughts might be roaring just as loudly. Take a moment today to reflect on where you are. Hold your tender heart gently and examine it. Where do you need hope? What are you waiting for? What do you need this Advent season to really look like? Today will probably look pretty similar to yesterday, but as you move into tomorrow, wait expectantly for God to burst into your world and fill your heart with hope this season, however that might look.

P.S. If you are looking for some real reflections on this season (without having to add another thing to your calendar), check out the digital playlist of reflections Angie McCarty and I have created just for you based on Kate Bowler’s “Bless the Advent We Actually Have”! 

Sending you the really real joy,
Lauren

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (p. 7475). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** John Goldingay, Daniel and The Twelve Prophets for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016, p. 37.
*** John Goldingay, Daniel and The Twelve Prophets for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016, p. 36.