Monday, June 29, 2020

“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.” —Daniel 6:22

Several hundred years before the birth of Jesus, God’s chosen people suffered a traumatic experience. For many generations, the nation of Israel, and later the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, had been struggling in a variety of ways with antagonistic nations and empires beyond their borders. As large empires rose, the political independence of God’s people was threatened. Eventually, the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrian Empire. Later, the ascendant Babylonian Empire defeated the southern kingdom and took God’s people into exile.

The Jews in exile in Babylon were faced with the complicated and heart-wrenching decision of how to respond to this exile. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God called the people to work for the good of the city of Babylon. Even though they were in exile, in the capital city of their conquerors, the people responded by working for the well-being of those they might consider enemies, trusting God that the good of their neighbors/enemies (or “neighnemies”) would work out for their own good as well.

In this context, Daniel prospered as he worked with diligence and integrity for the Babylonian Empire. He ended up in a position of great authority and power. But this did not exempt him from the difficulty of being a Jew living in a foreign empire. Jealous enemies of Daniel set him up and sold him out. Daniel had continued to worship the one true God, even after a law was put into place outlawing such worship. Despite his service to the empire and the king, Daniel was sentenced to spend a night in a lions’ den.

What was intended to be a death sentence instead ended up pointing to the power and faithfulness of God. The plots of Daniel’s enemies were no match for the power and faithfulness of Daniel’s God.

Our faithful God calls each of us to faithfulness. We’re called, like Daniel, to be diligent. We’re called to have integrity. We’re called to work for the good of the places we live and the people we live alongside. We’re called to have single-hearted devotion to our God.

And God promises to make a way for us through all the schemes of the enemy. God promises to make a way through the wickedness of the human heart. God promises to make a way and to remain faithful even when our own faithfulness falters.

To be sure, we cannot always see the way through when we’re on this side of the grave. Many of God’s faithful people have lost their lives, martyred for their faithfulness and devotion to the Lord. But in Christ we know that even then—even in the very worst this world can throw at us—we are not beyond the scope of God’s faithfulness. And so we, like Daniel, rejoice because our God has claimed us, has led us, has protected us, and has made a way for us.

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