Summary: Canadian Thanksgiving sermon about how Daniel could give thanks to God, even when faced with lions - real one, political ones, relational ones.
Daniel 6:1-10 – I Can Feel the Rush of Lions’ Breath
(NOTE: most illustrations are borrowed from others, as is the section on the relevance of Jerusalem in Daniel’s prayers.)
Several churches in North Dakota were being served by a clever old preacher. The people were always amazed, for no matter what the circumstances, the preacher could always find something to give thanks for. As he made his rounds one cold December morning, he was late in getting to worship because of excessive snow drifts. As he began the service with prayer, the parishioners were eager to see what the old preacher could come up with to be thankful for on this dismal and frigid morning. "Gracious Lord," his prayer began, "we thank you that all days are not like today.”
That kind of gratefulness is worth noting. Today, in the midst of our Thanksgiving celebration, we will look at one person who too was thankful, even when faced with difficulties. It’s the OT prophet Daniel. Read Daniel 6:1-5.
Here’s the scene. By this time, Daniel was in his 80’s or 90’s. This runs contrary to how we usually picture him, as a strong and good-looking teenager. But no, he had lived his whole life as an exile away from his homeland. And all those years of standing up for what was right would now come to a dramatic climax. God would ask him to lay down his life.
Daniel was, besides the king, one of the top 3 people who ruled the kingdom. It was his job to make sure the 120 rulers beneath him wouldn’t take bribes and further their own causes, undermining the king’s success. His integrity in matters put him where he was, but it was also going to be used against him.
Because, the other 2 administrators were jealous of Daniel. The king favored Daniel, and the others didn’t like the idea that he might be promoted. They knew that the only way to get to Daniel was to make him choose between the laws of the land and the laws of his God. So they devised a scheme: either pray to the king, or be thrown into the lion’s pit – v6-9.
So this is what Daniel was facing: either be faithful to God and die, or lose his integrity and live. Perhaps, at 80 years old, a man shouldn’t have to make that choice, but nonetheless he did have to choose. I guess you’re never too old to be faced with temptations to compromise.
Well, we know what Daniel decided to do – v10. He continued his tradition of opening the window, praying 3 times a day, and giving thanks to God. We know at least in part what he was praying for – v11. That’s a logical prayer. “God, I need help with this. Can you give me a hand?” That makes sense. But, the question is, what was Daniel thanking God for? What could he thank God for?
I’m not sure that his situation is much different from what we face today. Have you ever had people rise up against you? Have you ever had people talk about you behind your back and try to figure out a way to get rid of you? Have you ever felt that everybody was out to get you? Most likely, you have at some point felt that some conspiracy was going on to force you to do something.
And, knowing the current situation in Parliament this week, as our country prepares to advance in discussions regarding same-sex marriages, maybe you feel increasingly boxed in by our culture. Maybe you feel that the country is not what it used to be or how it should be. You are aware that the world is becoming increasingly hostile to those of us who take the Bible seriously and literally. And it hurts you, maybe even scares you, to see your nation in the mess we are in.
Maybe you’ve heard the story of how, on the sixth day, God turned to the Archangel Gabriel and said, “Today I am going to create a land called Canada. It will be a land of outstanding natural beauty. It shall have tall majestic mountains full of mountain goats and eagles, beautiful sparkly lakes bountiful with carp and trout, forests full of elk and moose, high cliffs overlooking sandy beaches with an abundance of sea life, rivers stocked with salmon. I shall make the land rich in oil so to make the inhabitants prosper. I shall call these inhabitants Canadians. They shall be known as the most friendly people on the earth.”
“But Lord,” asked Gabriel, “don’t you think you are being too generous to these Canadians?”
“Not really,” replied God. “Just wait and see the neighbors I am going to give them!”