Daniel and the Lions II: this time, it’s literal

Yesterday, we left Daniel stuck in the lions’ den. What’s more, we sealed it with all of our signet rings so we’d know if someone had been in to help him. And then we spent a sleepless night wondering if God would rescue him. It’s time for part two:

Daniel 6:19-20 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

I would have shouted “are you OK in there?” but he’s a king, so he’s probably had his speechwriter up all night crafting the perfect soundbyte.

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Daniel and the Lions: a political thriller

As we conclude our tour of the first six chapters of Daniel, we come to the best known story in the whole book: Daniel in the lions’ den. Although we won’t get to the literal den of lions until tomorrow, as we read the set-up of the plot we’ll notice that Daniel’s already very much in a metaphorical den of lions. He’s surrounded by jealous and scheming enemies who wish to do him harm, frequently described as “lions” by David:

Psalms 57:4 I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. (See also Ps 22:13, 21; 35:17.)

The story begins with the new king, Darius,* appointing Daniel as one of his three key administrators – and grooming him for the top job. Which doesn’t go down well with all the others, having this foreigner put in charge:

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Daniel 5 – Part Three-and-a-half

Over the last two days we’ve read the story of King Belshazzar’s feast, a defiant rallying of the troops in the face of a looming Persian invasion – and a brazen slap in the face to Israel’s God, using the temple cups in drunken worship of his idols. So God writes some graffiti on the wall, which no-one can interpret. No-one, of course, except Daniel. Taking Belshazzar’s arrogant and unrepentant attitude to task (in contrast with that of his more teachable ancestor, Nebuchadnezzar), an aging Daniel is about to interpret the writing on the wall.

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Daniel 5 – Part Two (Fresh pants, please)

Yesterday, we saw how King Belshazzar gave a banquet, probably as a rallying-cry to war, with the Persians approaching the gates of the city. During the banquet, he deliberately brought out the gold and silver cups stolen from the temple in Jerusalem by one of his predecessors, Nebuchadnezzar, as a way of reminding the faithful of previous conquests. Belshazzar used them in drunken worship of gold and silver idols (not to mention those made of bronze, iron, wood, and stone). That pretty much sums up his attitude toward God. And, as we’ll see in today’s reading, God’s not impressed.

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Daniel 5 – Part One (Belshazzar’s Feast)

Welcome back to our Daniel series. Today, we begin a three-part look at chapter 5:  Belshazzar’s Feast.

Daniel 5:1-4 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

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Daniel 4 – Part Two

Yesterday, we read most of the way through the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 4:1-33). The king dreamed of a tree – the symbol of created order, given by the gods and maintained by the king. (In other words, he dreamed of himself.) But the tree was cut down, sent mad, and forced to live like a wild beast, in one of the weirdest mixed-metaphors of the Bible. The message to Nebuchadnezzar was: because you’ve been proud-  thinking that your status, power, and wealth is all your own doing – you’ll be cut down, sent mad, and driven out of your position and away from human society. And you’ll live like that until you repent of your pride, and acknowledge the sovereignty of God.

As one writer puts it: “A man who thinks he is like a god must become a beast to learn that he is only a human being” (Danna Nolan Fewell, Circle of Sovereignty, p.101).

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Daniel 4 – Part One

Continuing in our series in Daniel, we begin a two-part look at chapter 4: the story of King Nebuchadnezzar, and his dream about a tree. Today, we’ll mostly just read the story (with a little bit of comment). It’s a long one, but we need the whole story before we can think about what we might learn from it.

Some context: remember that Nebuchadnezzar has twice been forced to acknowledge the power of Israel’s God (Daniel’s interpretation of his previous dream, in chapter 2; and the miraculous preservation of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, in chapter 3). Yet it seems to take this encounter with God, in chapter 4, for him to completely get the message. It’s written in the first person, as a letter from the king to his whole empire, testifying to the lesson God had taught him:

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Daniel 3 – Part Two (Hot enough for you?)

Yesterday, we started the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – three faithful Jews who defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to bow down before a 90-foot-tall golden statue whenever they heard (memory test: can you name all the instruments?). We ended with their expression of loyalty to God – whether he ended up rescuing them or not:

Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

It’s a response that didn’t make the king too happy.

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Daniel 3 – Part One (Idol Threats)

In chapter 2, we saw how Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream led to the king acknowledging Daniel’s God as “the God of gods and the Lord of kings” (2:47). But it seems the king isn’t quite ready to act like that’s the case. As in the very next chapter, we read this:

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.

That’s about as tall as a twelve-storey building. But what’s it for?

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Daniel 2 – Part Three (Paper, Scissors, Rock)

Last week we looked at the story of Daniel miraculously recounting and then interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and how it portrayed him as a “new and improved” Joseph. It gave a model (for second century Jews, and for us) of how to relate to a secular culture in a way that doesn’t sell out to its values, but commends God and his values. Today, we look at the content of the dream.

Gold, silver, bronze, iron & clay… rock!!

Here’s the dream, as described by Daniel:

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