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Reading between the lions

Daniel 6 records a story that is near and dear to the hearts of believers.  It is the account of Daniel in the lions’ den.  Our congregation is participating in the E 100 Bible reading program this year and this was one of our readings for this week. 

For anyone needing a quick review, the essence of the story is that Daniel has served King Darius well and is about to be promoted to CEO.  This has sparked jealousy among Daniel’s co-workers but they are unable to dig up any dirt against him.  Knowing that he is a follower of Yahweh, they somehow manage to talk Darius into signing a decree which forbids prayer to anyone other than Darius for the next thirty days. 

Knowing everything that has transpired, Daniel goes about his normal business --- which includes praying to God.  He is brought before the king who is greatly distressed by the turn of events.  He looks for a loophole by which he might release Daniel but there is none. Because the Medo-Persians hold to the rule of law over even the rule of the king, Daniel is thrown into the den of lions as Darius offers his own petition, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (v. 16 ESV). 

A large stone is put over the den so there is no way for Daniel to escape.  A seal of the king is stretched across the stone so it cannot be tampered with.  Darius returns to the palace and spends a sleepless night in anguish over what has happened.   Apparently though, he is not without a glimmer of hope that his prayer might be answered since at the break of dawn he hurries to the den to find out what has happened.

He isn’t disappointed --- an angel has shut the mouth of the lions and Daniel has been delivered!

It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to see the story of Jesus in all of this.  Pilate wasn’t as noble as Darius but he did make an effort to set Jesus free because he recognized those who had brought charges against Him were acting out of jealousy/envy (Matthew 27:18).  And although he probably didn’t lose any sleep over Jesus, his wife clearly did (v. 19).

We also have a tomb (the lion’s den), a large stone that is placed over it, and an official seal to make sure the stone isn’t moved.  But the best part for me is that the death dealing lions are absolutely powerless against the righteous man.  In the same way, Jesus Christ went into the den of death and walked back out again --- death was left with an empty stomach!

“He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” Paul says (1 Corinthians 15:4).  I’m not convinced that the phrase “the Scriptures” has to be limited to the Old Testament (Paul speaks of Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:8 when he is referring to Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7).   Nonetheless, we’d do well to thoughtfully consider such stories as Joseph’s imprisonment, Jonah’s time in the fish, and Samson carrying off the gates of the city (Matthew 16:18).

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself,” (Luke 24:47). 
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