Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Daniel

Daniel

This morning you heard a passage from the book of Revelation. We are fascinated with the book of Revelation because of bizarre accounts such as this one. We have a dragon whose body parts are made up of parts of other animals. This dragon has great power and great words and because of its size and ‘proud’ words people decide that the dragon is worthy of worship and loyalty. And what else we learn about this dragon is that it has it out for God’s people and wants to destroy them so it takes the people into captivity hoping this will be the end for them - but we read that God will be with is people and God’s people are called to ‘patient endurance and faithfulness’ during this season of the dragon.
Now this is not a story of a real dragon who has body parts of other animals, but is a picture of an evil empire that is made up many nations who war against God’s people. This evil empire will capture God’s people and keep them captive. But through this devastation, God will be with them and God will free them - and all they need do is trust in God and remain faithful.
This is what happened in the life of Daniel.
God’s people in Judah had sinned greatly against God so God allowed the evil nation of Babylon to come and capture God’s people and take them into captivity to Babylon. Once the Babylonians had God’s people in Babylon, they selected several young boys who were the best and the brightest and put them into a training program to become government officials.
Daniel was one of those chosen for this great honor along with his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego whom you have heard of because they were the ones thrown into the furnace of fire and survived.
So the four young men go into the kings training program where they are to learn the language, the history and the culture of the nation of Babylon. Included in this training program was the privilege of eating at the Kings table. Now this was a real honor and very few people were ever afforded that opportunity and the young men were expected to be grateful for this entitlement.
But Daniel had a very strong faith and followed all of the strict Jewish dietary laws and the foods at the King’s table were not foods allowed by Jewish law. Daniel went to the food steward and told him that he was not going to eat the King’s food because it was against his beliefs. Now the King’s steward was very perplexed by this. Why would anyone jeopardize the honor of eating at the King’s table. Surely Daniel could make an exception.
But Daniel held fast. The Steward continued to argue with Daniel and suggested that if Daniel didn’t eat the King’s food, they he would start to look unhealthy and then further displease the King. So Daniel makes a deal with the Steward - let’s have a contest. Let everyone else eat the King’s food and I’ll follow God’s diet and we will see who is the healthiest.
The steward agreed to this. The contest was to last for 10 days. At the end of the 10 days - who do you think was the healthiest? Of course, Daniel, who had been willing to jeopardize his future in the King’s service to be faithful to the ways of God!
The King actually admired Daniel for his steadfast faith and Daniel went to the head of the class.
Not only was Daniel one of the best of the brightest of Israel’s youth, but Daniel had also been given the gift of being able to interpret dreams. The King, Nebuchadnezzar, was plagued with bizarre dreams - not unlike our reading from Revelation - and he was not able to carry out his duties because of worrying about these dreams. Daniel was brought to him and Daniel was able to tell the King what the dream meant. So Daniel gets another promotion.
This happened more than once and each time Daniel told the king the meaning of the dream and each time Daniel received more accolades and another promotion.


So unlike Samson last week who trivialized his gifts, Daniel used his gifts where and when God led him.
Time passes and all is going well for Daniel as he worked in the Babylonian government for the King. Nebuchadnezzar passed away and King Belshazzar began to reign. Now, Belshazzar liked to host parties and he would have huge parties for a thousand people where there would be much wine, women and song! At one of these parties, after everyone had plenty to drink, Belshazzar began to see this giant hand, floating all by itself, writing words on the wall and he was so terrified he passed out.
When he came to he called in all his advisors and none of them could figure out what this was all about - and then they remembered Daniel. If he could interpret dreams then perhaps he could figure this out as well. And of course Daniel was able to tell the king what this was all about - a warning from God that Belshazzar had angered God and God was going to end his kingdom…. which of course happened that very night.
And now there was a new King - King Darius. Darius was easily influenced by the people around him and the people around him convinced him he was a god and as a god he should have a huge statue of himself built - big enough that everyone in the whole country could see it. And Darius did it.
Now, the king’s advisors said, you need to make a law that everyone who comes near the statue must bow down and pray to it. Not only that, but it is now illegal to pray to any god other than Darius. Daniel hears about this and immediately goes to his room and publicly before his open window, bows down and prays to God. Daniel thanks God for being faithful to him and asks God to give him strength to not abandon God during this dangerous time for Daniel. Because Daniel was not going to bow down to the Darius statue and Daniel was not going to pray to Darius and Daniel was not going to stop praying to God - no matter what the penalty may be.
Daniel is then drug before the king and accused of not praying to the statue and praying to his own God. And Daniel is unapologetic and therefore thrown into a den of lions. Well, we all know how the turned out. The next day the King himself went to check on the lions, and Daniel was still there. Sitting among the lions, with not a scratch on him.
“How is this?” the King exclaimed. And Daniel told the King about the wonders of his God and how his God had protected him because Daniel had been faithful. Darius, then, became a believer in the one and only God and declared that all of Babylon must fear and reverence the one and only God - the God of Daniel. And the King gave this great testimony: (Read Daniel 6:26-27)
As I worked on this story of Daniel, I couldn’t help but notice that the message of Daniel was much the same message as we heard last week from Samson - while Samson was a negative example and Daniel a positive example and both remind us of the same bible passage we started with last week and won’t hurt us to read again. (Read Romans 12:1-2).
While Samson succumbed to the culture around him, Daniel shows us that it is possible to not give in to the pressures of fitting in. Daniel is a perfect example of someone who took his ordinary life and placed it before God as an offering. Daniel stood fast to God regardless of what he was threatened with. Daniel stayed steadfast to God regardless of all the people around him who were doing the exact opposite - who were participating in whatever was popular at the moment no matter if it was Godly or not.
And what is also important to us is that every step of the way, Daniel prayed. Daniel prayed. Every time he was confronted with a problem, Daniel prayed. Every time Daniel was confronted with a decision, Daniel prayed.
The message for us - the way to avoid the temptations of the culture around us; the way to stay faithful to God despite the problems and decisions - is prayer.
The Apostle Paul tells us - “Pray without ceasing” and Daniel is the example for us of how a life of prayer can make a huge impact on our life.

Amen.