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Lesson: Daniel 6:1-23
It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.
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The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
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.
A college student was given the assignment of preparing a lesson for his speech class. He says, We were to be graded on our creativity and ability to drive home a point in a memorable way. The title of my talk was, "The Law of the Pendulum." I spent 20 minutes carefully teaching the physical principle that governs a swinging pendulum. The law of the pendulum is: A pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. Because of friction and gravity, when the pendulum returns, it will fall short of its original release point. Each time it swings it makes less and less of an arc, until finally it is at rest. This point of rest is called the state of equilibrium, where all forces acting on the pendulum are equal.
He goes on to report.. I attached a 3-foot string to a child's toy top and secured it to the top of the blackboard with a thumbtack. I pulled the top to one side and made a mark on the blackboard where I let it go. Each time it swung back I made a new mark. It took less than a minute for the top to complete its swinging and come to rest. When I finished the demonstration, the markings on the blackboard proved my thesis. I then asked how many people in the room BELIEVED the law of the pendulum was true. All of my classmates raised their hands, so did the teacher. He started to walk to the front of the room thinking the class was over. In reality it had just begun. Hanging from the steel ceiling beams in the middle of the room was a large, crude but functional pendulum (250 pounds of metal weights tied to four strands of 500-pound test parachute cord.).
I invited the instructor to climb up on a table and sit in a chair with the back of his head against a cement wall. Then I brought the 250 pounds of metal up to his nose. Holding the huge pendulum just a fraction of an inch from his face, I once again explained the law of the pendulum he had applauded only moments before, "If the law of the pendulum is true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return short of the release point. Your nose will be in no danger." After that final restatement of this law, I looked him in the eye and asked, "Sir, do you believe this law is true?" There was a long pause. Huge beads of sweat formed on his upper lip and then weakly he nodded and whispered, "Yes." I released the pendulum. It made a swishing sound as it arced across the room. At the far end of its swing, it paused momentarily and started back. I never saw a man move so fast in my life. He literally dived from the table. Deftly stepping around the still-swinging pendulum, I asked the class, "Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?" (Adapted from Ken Davis’, How To Speak To Youth, pp 104-106.)
The story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den is a good one. Daniel’s only crime is that he has refused to worship the king as a god and instead remained faithful to the one true God. Those around him are jealous, so they devise the plan to trap him in order to have him removed. The plan is simple… Have the king pass an edict that for one month it is illegal – punishable by death – to pray to any other god other than himself. Daniel does not make a big show of it – scripture tells us that he went to his room, shut the door, and there prayed to the one true God, but those who want him removed crash in on him praying and report it to the king, who then has no choice but to throw Daniel to the lions.
Now, when you look at the artwork depicting these events you will find a Daniel standing there stoically in defiance of the lions.. or a Daniel on his knees praying with the lions circling him… you get the impression that if Daniel had been the one sitting in the classroom with the pendulum swinging toward him.. he wouldn’t have even broken a sweat or even flinched, much less gone diving out of the way wearing a pair of dirty shorts…. It is true.. the scriptures do not report on Daniel’s state of mind during these events, but it stands to reason that at the first glimpse of the lions he was probably terrified.. who wouldn’t be? Like the pendulum making its return arc toward the teachers head, there has got to be a point when Daniel not only thinks, but knows it’s all over. I don’t think he went screaming and tried to climb the walls, but he was human…
..consider Jesus.. we are told that on the night before he was crucified he was praying in the garden in
Gethsemane.. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground…. “and being in anguish”… the dictionary defines anguish as “excruciating or acute distress, suffering, or pain”.. Jesus experienced this anguish.. so without diminishing Daniel’s character.. we can confidently say that he too experienced anguish as he watched the pendulum on its return arc.. as he watched the lions circling about him… So what kept him from losing his sanity with fear? Why didn’t he go screaming.. trying to climb the walls?... The answer is kind of simple… He knew that he wasn’t alone.
Today is the Sunday of All Saints… It is the day that the Church celebrates those saints known and unknown. I could share with you all sorts of stories about these saints. The ones like Agnes and Francis.. or the ones that died silently in the great persecutions. I could tell you about the great missionaries, healers, preachers, and so on.. but if we were to take them all and look for one similar characteristic.. it wouldn’t be that they never doubted or had difficulties.. .. that they were the holiest of holies never once committing an error or sin.. or that they never experienced anguish or fear… We know that Thomas
Merton one of the greatest spiritual masters of the 20th century, could be vain, impatient, and short-tempered… As a youth, prayed, “Lord, give me chastity… but not yet."… St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, may be the only saint with a notarized police record… the charge.. nighttime brawling with intent to inflict serious harm… St. Augustine wrote, “Unhappy man that I am, who will deliver me from this body death?”.. and citing this passage, St. Josemaria wrote, “Courage! Paul too had to fight.”.. in one way or another.. all the saints had to fight. St. Paul
They weren’t without faults, but there was one piece of knowledge that they all possessed .. it was the same that Daniel possessed.. and that is.. they knew that they were never alone… One of the great nuns and mystics, St. Faustina, wrote, “I know God is in my heart. With Him I go to work, with Him I go to recreation, with Him I suffer, with Him I rejoice; I live in Him and He in me.. I am never alone, because He is my constant companion. He is present to me at every moment. Our intimacy is very close, through a union of blood and flesh.”
.. or as in those famous words of St. Patrick’s Breastplate… “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
.. and.. if you are one of those who only believes it if it is written in red (that’s a joke – red letter Bible… words of Jesus)… Jesus said, “…I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”…
St. Peter writes, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”.. yet with the knowledge of the saints.. the knowledge that God is with you.. then you can stand and face that lion with courage and conviction.... and you can have that same courage when the pendulum begins it’s return arc… because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”.. So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”… Somebody say, “Amen!”… Blessed are you.. for our God is with you.
Let us pray… Almighty and Everlasting God, who dost enkindle the flame of Thy love in the hearts of the saints, grant unto us the same faith and power of love; that, as we rejoice in their triumphs we may profit by their examples, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
TO BE ADDED IN DEER LODGE, ANACONDA AND PHILIPSBURG
Today we celebrate not only those Capital “S” saints, but all the saints of God, which include those in our own lives that have gone before us who now live in the very presence of God. Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, yet that light is not gone when we die, but continues to burn and shine in the heavens. As a symbol of those saintly lights in your own life, I invite you to come forward to light a candle in memory of them.
[after all who desire have lit a candle]
Let us pray… Lord Christ, your saints have been the lights of the world in every generation: Grant that we who follow in their footsteps may be made worthy to enter with them into that heavenly country where you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.