August 30, 2012

Whom Shall I Fear? Rescuing Daniel from the Children’s Books

by George Lawson

flannel graph danielOf course you know about Daniel and the Lions’ Den.  Even if you didn’t grow up with a high-tech flannel graph presentation in your Sunday-School class, or use your creative genius to turn a paper lunch bag into a ferocious man-eating beast, you could rehearse the story in vivid detail.

But although we are familiar with Daniel’s rescue from the Lions’ den, he still seems to be trapped in children’s books, and is placed on the shelf between Mother Goose and Aesop’s fables.  The 6th chapter of Daniel is more than a bed-time story, and if I can be honest with you, for a long time I missed the main point.

• The main point of Daniel 6 is not Daniel’s example.

paper bag lionWas Daniel a great servant of God? Is he worthy of imitation?  Absolutely!  And there is nothing wrong with imitating the faith of faithful men.  That’s what we are instructed to do throughout Scripture (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; Philippians 4:9).  We need to live lives worthy of imitation and find those who are worthy of imitating.  The author of Hebrews reminds us to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).  That’s an application of Daniel 6, but it’s not the main point.

• The main point of Daniel 6 is not Daniel’s faith.

Daniel's courageThat’s another application that we can rightfully draw out of this great narrative and that is the aspect that is highlighted in Hebrews 11.  In that chapter, known as the hall of faith, we read of men “who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:33). Daniel is a model of strong and robust faith in God.  There is no question that we can learn to trust God from Daniel, but again that is not the main point.

• The main point of Daniel 6 is not Daniel’s courage.

Where's God when I'm scaredThe VeggieTales Daniel helps us answer the question, “Where’s God when I’m s-scared.”   Is Daniel an example of courage?  You better believe he is.  In Daniel 6:10,  after he learned about the king’s decree, his very first act was to pray.  If that’s not an iron will, I don’t know what is.

All of these are lessons that we can learn from Daniel 6, but if we miss the point at the end of the story we are missing the main point!  What was it that struck King Darius as he walked away from the lions’ den?  What words did Daniel record, as a fitting conclusion to this chapter? What are we supposed to take away from this narrative?  Listen to this…

“Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound!  I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel…” (Daniel 6:25-26).

• The main point of Daniel 6 is Daniel’s God!

That’s the main point that Darius walked away from the den with, and that’s the main point that Daniel wants us to walk away from this chapter with.  The great impression on Darius was not Daniel’s example, Daniel’s faith or Daniel’s courage, but rather the sovereign God that Daniel served.   Do you fear and tremble before a sovereign God?  Is that what you usually think of when you think of Daniel and the Lions’ den?  I’m all for helping kids get a good night’s sleep, but let’s not be satisfied with answering the question “Where’s God when I’m afraid?”  Let’s ask the more important question, “Who’s afraid of my God?”

George Lawson

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George is a graduate of The Master's Seminary and will be the Pastor-Teacher of Baltimore Bible Church in Baltimore, MD (a new church plant scheduled to launch in 2013). He is currently an elder at Hope Bible Church of Columbia, MD.
  • Creighton Ring

    Well put. The miracles of deliverance recorded in Daniel are staggering. Consider that the same God that orchestrated the exile of His people, is the same God who was preserving his chosen servants and simultaneously causing the earth to continue to rotate on it’s axis and provide breath to both Daniel and the Lions in that den. The terrifying systems of execution in the Persian culture aren’t quite represented by a flannel graph or lunch-bag are they? On a much larger scale, the might of our Creator is impossible to grasp. Thanks for reminding us of where our true fears are to reside George. We serve an awesome God, indeed.

    • outreaching

      Amen! Thanks Creighton.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jimkorth Jim Korth

    Excellent. For too many the stories of Noah, Samson, Daniel, etc., are nothing more than moral tales and they fail to capture the fact that it is all about revealing God to us first.

  • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

    “Who’s afraid of my God?” Well said George. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.swift.77985 Michael Swift

    What a great article. I agree with what
    you have said, and Jim is right in saying that many other biblical
    stories, like Noah are also trapped in the child books. It is
    important that as we read the Bible, we remember that it is
    ultimately a book about God. Its not about man, but rather about the
    holiness, the justice, and the mercy of God. The way we read the
    Bible is completely changed when we remember that the main character
    is God and not us. We are so blessed that God has chosen to reveal
    himself to us through his word, but yet so many try and make the
    christian life about themselves rather than glorify our creator and
    redeemer.

  • Brad

    I agree with you George. But it seems to me that the biblical writers have no problem saying that the main point of Daniel is to imitate his faith and courage, as you noted in your Scripture references. I noticed that the only section that didn’t have any Scripture attached to it is when you said that the main point of Daniel 6 is Daniel’s God. That seemed a little inconsistent.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      The Scripture reference came just before the section title:

      What was it that struck King Darius as he walked away from the lions’ den? What words did Daniel record, as a fitting conclusion to this chapter? What are we supposed to take away from this narrative? Listen to this… “Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel…” (Daniel 6:25-26).

      • Brad

        Thanks Mike! I missed that!

        But I would be curious to talk about why that is the main point of the story. I guess that is a hermeneutical question. Perhaps I tend toward seeing that there are many main points in a passage that God can use and we don’t have to get too excited about determining what is the ONE MAIN POINT.

        At the same time I have to admit that it is very powerful when a preacher shows how a passage fits together.

        Brad

  • Bill Dodrill

    Isn’t this suppose to be the main point of all our lives.

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  • Sherri B

    awesome point about an awesome God!! I never really thought about it that way. I always thought “HA! He showed them!” But this is a great reminder that God is the greatest character in any story/piece of history…not the men who serve him.