We had a lion in a box at the Family Service this morning at St Mary’s Easton! Tim Clapp was leading the Band and also preaching on Daniel. It was a hugely entertaining service and we all learned a lot about the prophet Daniel and how God can help us through our fears.
Tim’s talk was as follows:
Today we are learning about Daniel as documented in the Book of Daniel from the Old Testament. When Alex asked me to talk about this some months ago it came with some fear and trepidation. It is quite some responsibility talking here but as I have found over the last few weeks and months this is an amazing story that has real relevance for today as it did some 2,500 years ago. That’s right this was written 2,500 years ago. Children can you imagine how long ago that is? Well let me help you… Recently I was visiting a California with work for a week and we realised that we had a window in our schedule – this meant that we had the opportunity to visit the General Sherman tree. Now the General Sherman tree is the largest tree in the world it is simply massive and I can show you some pictures of it after the service. You find it in the valley of the Giants in the Sierra Nevada – Massive trees everywhere much bigger than anything you have ever seen and then you come to they General Sherman which even dwarfs the other huge trees. Beside it is a piece of trunk that has been cut through to show it tree rings and there are 2,500 thousand of them so we know that tree was around when Daniel was alive.
So then, who here knows the story of Daniel and the Lions’ Den? Let me help you with a small multiple choice question. Was it:
- The lions ate Daniel for their tea and then had a nice long sleep
- Daniel invited the Lions round for tea and biscuits
- A very different story
Well that’s correct it was C, it was a very different story.
Before we get to the Lions I think it is very important that we set the scene and understand a little more how Daniel got to be in Babylon with King Darius and the Lions.
Now Daniel was a very important person who lived in Jerusalem in Judah. He was a noble person, like royalty and when he was a teenager Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked and conquered Jerusalem and captured Daniel and his friends and took them many hundreds of miles away to Babylon what is now right in the middle of Iraq.
Now Nebuchadnezzar was not a nice king in fact we was a very scary one, ruthless and not pleasant at all . In fact adults if you want to understand how nasty he was the you should read 2 Kings 25. I am sure a court in The Hague would want to have a word with him if he was alive now.
The King wanted Daniel and his friends to be trained and learn the Babylonian language for 3 years.
After this training the king met Daniel and his friends and he was so impressed with them they entered his service. In fact the king found them 10 times better than all his magicians and enchanters that worked for the King. So you can see Daniel was an impressive guy.
So we will get too the lions in a very short while but I wanted also to tell you about Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Now the king had a dream and he was very worried about it and wanted it to be interpreted. so he had a cunning plan which he would ask all his wise Men – he decided that they not only had to tell him what his dream meant but also they had to tell him what his dream was. That’s right he didn’t tell them anything. To make matters worse he decided that if they couldn’t tell him this then he was going to have everyone one of them killed, in fact chopped into pieces and their houses torn down. This was because the king had simply got fed up with his supposed wise men misleading him. Now these wise men asked the king for more time and said there wasn’t a man on earth that could do such a thing which made him angrier and angrier. So the king told his chief guard to go and kill all the wise men and he set off to go and find them which included Daniel and his friends. When he found Daniel, Daniel asked to see the king and ask him for some time to interpret the dream – I think he would have been pretty frightened at this stage. That night he returned to his friends and they prayed for mercy from God, interestingly he asked God this and not the King. In the night god told him the dream and what the interpretation was. The following day he went to the king and also said there is no man that can reveal this to the king but there was a God who could reveal this to him. And so Daniel told the king his dream and its interpretation. And the bible then says
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of Lords.
He made Daniel ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.”
So we are starting to understand a little about the world Daniel was in…
The third story of Daniel is the story of Daniel in the Lions den. Daniel had become a significant person in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar but he dies and Babylon came under the rule of his grandson King Belshazzar. Belshazzar dishonoured god and as a result Babylon fell to the Persians – King Cyrus.
Cyrus made Darius king after this and interestingly he appointed Daniel one of 3 administrators over 120 satraps or governors. Now I find this interesting as I think this tells us something more about the character of Daniel.
So here is Darius, coming from a different culture, conquering Babylon and appointing not a Persian, nor a Babylonian but Daniel from Judah to his highest position – I may be wrong but this strikes me as something out of the ordinary and reflects further the character of Daniel. He was a very striking person.
This was so out of the ordinary that the wise men under Daniels leadership resented him and wanted him gone, but the problem was they could stick anything on him, there was no dirt nothing. Drat!
The bible says “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.”
But there was one thing he did have and that was belief in God. So what to do, what to do and then they had it – they would catch him in a trap!
So they tricked Darius into agreeing that for 30 days everyone would have to pray to the king Darius and no other god or that they would be thrown to the Lions den.
And so the story unfolds – Daniel unswervingly continues to pray to god and the Satraps catch and then spring their trap.
“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.” 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.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.”
So Daniel is thrown into the Lions den.
Now here is another interesting point. Clearly Darius recognises that God is capable of how he can protect Daniel because the following morning what does he do?
“At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 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?””
There was Daniel unscathed- not a mark on him
“Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 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.”
God sent his angel to protect him and in fact the Lions must of been quite hungry because the king then pulled Daniel out and then threw the satraps and their families into the Lions den who “overpowered them and crushed all their bones”. In other words they ate them all up.
So here we understand more and more about Daniel, clearly he was exceptional, clearly he was Godly and clearly he put his trust in God.
So what does this story teach us about today?
Well we have a man who was abducted from Jerusalem, forcibly removed from his home and taken to another country, had his life threatened by a viscous and ruthless king and then in his later years was tricked by wise men and thrown into the Lions den. Well I don’t know about you but I think the first thing I would have been was very afraid and frightened. I would have been in a permanent state of fear.
Fear is described as a feeling induced by perceived danger that can cause a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behaviour. So what types of behavioural change can happen? You might run! Or Hide! Or freeze! Or you might even fight.
There are also things known as phobias – these are irrational fears. So who knows what the top 5 phobias are:
1 Arachnophobia – a fear of spiders. I know two people who don’t like our downstairs loo because “there are spiders in there”
2 Ophidiophobia – a fear of snakes. Only recently I was told “you will be careful of poisonous snakes in America”
3 Acrophobia – a fear of heights. Guilty as charged my lord. I hate those YouTube videos of people doing acrobatics on the top of skyscrapers
4 Agrophobia – a fear of open or crowded places
5 Cynophobia – a fear of dogs
6. Scotophobia – fear of the dark
So we can often feel fear but arguably not as real as Daniel might have experienced.
So to try and understand what fear can do to us we will try a little experiment!!
At this point Tim asked Antonia, our wonderful singer, to stand on a box, surrounded the box with safety tape and put on a yellow vest and a hard hat ‘to keep the children safe’, took her pulse and…..the sound of lions roaring filled the church…from speakers in the box….!
Hopefully we now understand a little more what the effect of fear can do to us and how debilitating it can be and of course it can take over our lives and become a negative influence.
So what does Daniel and the bible say about this? Well firstly it says we need to ask God for help:
For Daniel in the case of the dream he pleaded for mercy not from Nebuchadnezzar but from God.
In the case of the Lions den it also says he was praying to God for help
Even Jesus prayed for help ““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.”
Luke 22:42-44 NIV
So we need to ask for help
The second point is that we can have confidence in the Lord to support in times of need:
The term fear not is used over 80 times in the bible – God knows how destructive fear can be and wants us to feel safe in his presence
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.””
Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
Isaiah 43:5 NIV
“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. What can mere mortals do to me?””
Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV
And the final point is to make these real we need to come closer to God:
The bible says
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.
James 4:8 NIV
How do we become closer to him – it is simple, we need to spend time with him. The more time we spend the closer we become. If we spend 30 minutes a week with our families the result will be we don’t have a great relationship so spending time with God is really important. Remember we have a relationship with him, he isn’t an acquaintance. And of course we can spend much longer discussing this in full but I hope you get the point.
So in summary what have we learnt?
- Daniel was a special man.
- He lived in a scary frightening time.
- He wasn’t eaten by Lions
- He trusted God
- Fear can be debilitating and take over our lives
- God doesn’t want us to fear
- God will help us if we ask.
So we can be free from fear with Gods help. So next time we feel this way we know what we need to do!