November 1, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23
Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23
10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”
The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 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?”
21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
I do not know what the future holds. I do not know what is going to happen on this Tuesday evening with the election. I do not know when we will see an end to the virus or restrictions, or when a vaccine might be ready and effective. I do not know what the long-term effects will be for all the students learning or attempting to learn online. I do not know what is going to happen to all the empty office spaces and large buildings in so many big cities. I do not know who my kids are going to marry or if the even will. And, to be honest, I am not even sure what I will have for breakfast tomorrow.
You have the same kind of list of situations that end with ‘I do not know.’ Your list is tough to carry around as you turn it over and over in your mind throughout the day and into each night. Daniel had a list like that. Daniel from our reading in Daniel 6 had a list. When he was a teenager, his country, Israel, was overthrown by the Babylonian Empire and he was taken to live in a foreign country as an exile, not sure if he would ever return to his homeland. He wondered too when or how the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, would come back from such a decisive defeat. He wondered how many of his friends and family who had also been deported would remain faithful to the nation of Israel and more importantly to God, and how many would just give up and join in the culture of unbelief and rejection of God.
Then, after living in Babylon for years and serving faithfully in their government at a very high position for the good of their nation, he was targeted for his faith. The other officials influenced the King to issue an irrevocable decree that anyone who prayed to any god or human being other than the King of Babylon would be thrown into the lions’ den. And at this point, maybe you would expect me to ask you a question like, “What would you do in Daniel’s position?” But, instead, I want you to think about your response to what Daniel did. After Daniel learned of the decree, he went home to the upper room and prayed to God. You might be thinking, what a coward not to fight against such a foolish, prideful law, not to use his government position for leverage to try and sway the King’s mind. You might also be thinking how smart he was not to go out in public about his faith and do his best to stay hidden until all the potentially harmful situations passed away. Either way, I know I would have found a way to criticize Daniel’s response to the decree. It is all too easy to criticize others for their trust, when I want them to have the same response that I have to a difficult situation and uncertain future, ‘I do not know.’
Daniel did not stop trusting in God even when faced with a life and death situation. He broke the law of his day by praying to God and was reported for his illegal behavior. The King had no choice but to throw him into the lions’ den. And, after spending all night with the fearsome beasts, Daniel was found to be alive because God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. And, now I bet you are thinking what I am thinking, “Well I sure wish God would rescue me like that from the tough situations in my life.” And this response gets at the heart of why you have a long list that ends with ‘I do not know.’ When you do not have confidence in what the future holds in a bad situation, it is because you are only focused on your earthly life and not on God’s kingdom. When you are focused on God’s power to rescue you, you remain confident in the future.
Jesus knows you struggle with your list that ends with ‘I do not know.’ In Matthew 10, Jesus said, 16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” The world is a harsh place for believers, and we must be on our guard. Constant reminders of what Jesus has done for you keeps you ready to face the wolves. For all of the times when you said, “I do not know what the future holds,” Jesus said, “I know exactly what to do so that you have a future.” Jesus knew his path to the cross would be met with criticisms from the religious leaders at the time, from the crowds and from his own disciples. They were responding in fear, not faith. They were responding with “I do not know about you Jesus,” rather than, “I trust you to take care of my future Jesus.” Jesus remained confident that his kingdom was not of this world so that he faced death on the cross to save us. And his death and resurrection are the proof that you are not just part of this world, but you are heading for a very real future in heaven. Jesus has forgiven all your sins and doubts. The Holy Spirit has called you to faith, to trust God has taken care of your future and he will rescue you from this fallen world.
You are a servant in God’s kingdom for his purposes and his glory. Daniel trusted God’s power to rescue him, and he did not lose faith even facing death. He recognized he was a servant in God’s kingdom above all else. And, a servant of God means his power is with you, rather than trusting in yourself or some other temporary, earthly power to protect you. Today we also remember the trust Martin Luther had in God and the Reformation. Luther served God facing death threats for his faith in Jesus alone as his Savior from sin, and rejection of earthly people who would put themselves in God’s place. He along with many others would not put their trust in other people or their own efforts to get them into heaven. They would not be bound by laws, edicts or decrees that contradicted the Bible.
Instead, he stood by faith alone and the freedom of Christ’s forgiveness as we hear about in Galatians 5, 1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” If someone burdens you with a law that goes against God whether inside the church or in society, do not follow it. If laws are enforced inside the church to earn heaven, it removes grace, ruins faith and separates you from Jesus. If you follow a law from the government that goes against God’s Word or give into pressure from society to accept sinful things as good for fear of fine, imprisonment, ridicule, embarrassment, harm or even death, your soul is on the line. Jesus is your rescuer from all of these situations. He has not abandoned you; he is with you.
You do know what the future holds. And when your list of ‘I do not know’ what the future holds seems too much, turn your eyes away from the world and look again to Jesus. And, when others put their trust in God rather than mankind, support them. When others fight with the Word of God and trust the Holy Spirit to win hearts for his kingdom, support them. You may not feel like you have a lot of answers, but you only need one. Trust continually as a servant of God, trust Jesus.Amen.