Summary: This sermon tells how to make sure our names are in the Book of Life.
Do y’all remember way back in elementary school, whenever the teacher had to leave the room for some reason? She’d assign someone to come up to her desk and keep watch over the class, lest they do something they weren’t supposed to - like talking or laughing or throwing spitballs. If anyone started such nonsense, the person sitting up front would write down their names on a sheet of paper, and when the teacher got back, woe be unto them who had transgressed in her absence!
We called this "taking names," and it was common practice when I was a kid. We all hoped to be the one taking names, because not only did it break the tedium of sitting in a classroom all day, it also served to give us a tiny bit of authority - albeit a very short-lived authority. As soon as the teacher came back, our day in the sun was over. All we could hope for was that the teacher would be especially hard on those whose names we had written down, because likely as not, the names we "took" were probably the names of the people we didn’t particularly like anyway.
I don’t know if teachers do this anymore, but for those of us who experienced it, the term "taking names" still holds special connotations. We use it in our everyday language, and it has become a natural part of our vocabulary.
Of course, we all hoped fervently that our name wouldn’t be taken, because it usually meant punishment of some sort. We also hoped that if our name were taken, we could get back at the person who took it. At the very least, we knew that someday we’d be the one taking names, and the person who took ours could count on being on our list.
This practice might well have been the foundation for our desire to avoid being on any list of any kind. Most of the time, when you’re on somebody’s list, it’s not good. Everybody has a list, and this list has a special name that shall remain unspoken from this pulpit. If you’re on this list, it means that the person has something against you and is looking for an opportunity to even the score.
There’s another list, whose names rhymes with this one, and it’s called a hit list. If you’re on somebody’s hit list, that means you’ve been marked for death. It’s a term we commonly think of as being linked to mob activity.
There are good lists, too. Being on the Dean’s List is very good. It means that you’ve excelled at your studies and made the best grades.
Being on a short list means you’ve made the first cut and are a step or two closer to getting the job or promotion that you want.
We’ve all been on a waiting list at some point in our lives. These lists can be good or bad. If we’re on a waiting list for a new car, it’s a good thing. We spend the time thinking about the beautiful new toy we’re going to have shortly. But if we’re on the waiting list for an organ transplant, we’ spend the days in agony, wondering if we’re going to live long enough to make it to the top of the list.
Well, I think I’ve made my point. There are all kinds of lists - some good, some bad. Some lists you want to be on. Other lists you want to avoid at all costs. It all depends.
In today’s scripture, there’s another list mentioned. This list is so large that it has to be kept in a book. Daniel 12, verse 1 reads, "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people - everyone whose name is found written in the book - will be delivered." This must be a really great list. Evidently a time is going to come when the whole earth is in distress. There’s going to be suffering everywhere, and everyone is going to have to go through a living hell. Everyone, that is, except those people whose names are written on this list.
The Book of Daniel is one of the apocalyptic books of the Bible. It contains visions of the future, like the Book of Revelation, only Daniel is not made up solely of visions. The first part of the book tells about Daniel’s life.
While Ezekiel was ministering to the captives in Babylon, Daniel was drafted as a counselor to King Nebuchadnezzar. With God’s help, Daniel interpreted two of the king’s dreams, Daniel’s three friends were rescued from certain death in the fiery furnace, and Daniel himself was rescued from a lion’s den. His life is a picture of the triumph of faith.