Toorak Uniting Church

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In de Lion’s den

Daniel 6
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
29 October 2006


We start with some drama:

In the Den with Daniel

Scene: Daniel is already in the pit surrounded by the lions who are sitting and lying around him like a family of lions would in the wild. As he starts speaking they rouse themselves slowly moving ever closer to him until at the end of his speech but before he stands they are almost on top of him. This pattern repeats leading up to each of Daniel’s chants.

Daniel Good evening cats. May I call you that? That’s what you are after all, just overgrown and if I may say rather underfed cats. I’m having a real sense of déjà vu here. Does that ever happen to you? I mean here I am again fighting for my life just for trying to do the right thing!

I have served three Kings here in Babylon. I’m from Judea originally but I was captured as a youth and I’ve never been home since. A bit like you guys really I bet you would all just love to go home to the wild.

I remember the first time I had a brush with death. That was at the hands of old King Nebuchadnezzar. Boy was he a wacko jacko. He did some crazy things. One day he had a dream except he couldn’t remember any of it. It was driving him round the bend. He summoned all of his advisers and magicians and demanded that they tell him the details of the dream. They couldn’t do it and they were brave enough to admit it! That was fatal. He ordered that they be executed. Every one of them! God got us out of that one. He told me the dream and what it meant and old Neb was happy for a while. Not that he got the point. He didn’t understand faith not even when God was this close to him. (at this point Daniel realises that the lions have advanced and are almost on top of him. He stands and recites the following)

Lions of Darius this dark pit we share
Your instincts say eat me
My flesh you would tear
Lions of Darius you swagger you strut
But God He defends me your mouths he has shut

As Daniel makes this announcement the lions move back and start to circle. A drum beats out a rhythm with the final beat coinciding with the word "shut". Upon this word all lions stop circling and put their hands to the mouth on their masks to indicate how their mouths are closed.

Daniel sits back down and the lions move back watching him.

Old Neb didn’t learn much from this encounter. Next thing I know we are all ordered to worship this almighty giant of an image in gold as if it were God can you believe it? Well my mates and I refused. We knew Moses’ commandments; one true God and no idols. How could we? It was unthinkable.

So it was into the furnace for me and my mates. Was that thing hot! They must have felled a whole forest to get it to burn like that. Do you know my friends and I came out of that furnace without even a singed eyebrow! God shielded us from those flames …rather like He’s shielding me- from-your- teeth- now! (Again the lions have moved closer and closer and are almost on top of Daniel who stands and says;)

Lions of Darius this dark pit we share…

After Neb came Belshazzar. He wasn’t quite as potty as old Neb but he had his moments. He was vain and power hungry. One night he and his hangers on had been seriously partying, drinking out of the sacred cups from the temple in Jerusalem mind you. No respect! Well there’s a lull in proceedings and lo and behold this disembodied hand starts writing on the wall! Talk about sobering up fast. Belshazzar and his mates were totally spooked. What really had them rattled was that even the most sober of them couldn’t figure out what the words meant.

Eventually the Queen Mum (may she rest in peace) remembered that good old Hebrew Daniel. Me! So I obliged and gave old Shazzer the bad news about what the words meant. In fairness he took it fairly well. I mean had it been old Neb I would- have- feared- for- my- life…

Lions of Darius this dark pit we share…

And now here I am sentenced to death yet again by Darius the Mede. I reckon I’m due a get out of jail free card by now!

Darius, you know he’s really not a bad old stick. I think he’d like to show some spine but when it comes to those scheming advisers of his he’s just a big pussy Oh sorry guys! They set him up and he took the bait like a bit fat fish.
You see they appealed to his ego which is always a sure bet. "Oh mighty Darius" they said "We propose a law that for the next 30 days should anyone ask for anything except from you the king they will be thrown to the lions!

Well they knew that the law wouldn’t stop me from praying to the Lord as I do every day. So they watched and waited and caught me out quickly. Darius wasn’t happy but here I am with you waiting for you to eat me.

And Darius? Well I reckon he isn’t getting much sleep right now.

Back on the altar Darius paces back and forth. The bells start to play "Morning is Broken" When it ends Darius speaks.

The sun has risen is it possible that Daniel has survived the night? I can hardly bring myself to break the seal but I must

Daniel breaks the seal and moves the stone to find Daniel asleep on his chair with the cats curled up at his feet.( Some of the cats are at this stage bell ringers but they will leave their masks behind carefully positioned to represent the lions) He is overjoyed saying;

Greetings I decree that everyone shall tremble and fear before the God of Daniel in every part of my kingdom. For his God is the living and unchanging whose kingdom shall never be destroyed and whose powers shall not end.

Reflection "In de Lion’s den"

Just a few thoughts this morning on the story:

I wonder what it was like for Daniel. Far away from home in exile he does his best to make the most of it. And through hard work and with God’s blessing he becomes one of the chief advisers of the King. He has done well, even where he is a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land he uses his talents and skills to serve the people where he is and gets rewarded with the respect of the King.
There are others however who find this difficult. Others who get jealous of Daniel’s success and find it difficult to accept that somebody from outside, a mere "Judean" would be appointed in the highest position of all.
I assume that long before they present themselves to the King with their interdict (an official paper telling people what to do in the Name of the King) they have been harassing and bullying Daniel. Trying to bring him down.
I wonder what it was like for Daniel in the time before the Lion’s den. How it feels to be surrounded by people who are "out to get you", to be bullied and harassed. Perhaps you have been at some time in your life. At school, or at work, dreading the sight of your bullies, waking up with a knot in your tummy each day, feeling threatened and insecure.
It must have been like that for Daniel. He was doing well, he "had made it", his service to the Kingdom appreciated highly by the king, but alone, and lonely, surrounded by people who were intend on bringing him down.
I wonder how Daniel found the courage to stay true to his faith and kept his integrity in the face of all that. I wonder if he ever lashed out at his tormentors, or if he was able to bear it with equanimity.

I wonder what it was like for Darius. I wonder how he felt when he found out he’d been duped. His advisors cleverly using his pride and desire to be most important against him to bring grief to one of his best friends. He must have felt really very stupid and probably very angry. And helpless as well. There was nothing he could do!
I wonder if you have ever been that silly, said yes to something and realised later that you had not thought the consequences through because you didn’t have your priorities right at the time. Perhaps your pride has got the better of you sometimes, or maybe your desire to be important has helped you make some bad decisions!
Poor Darius, victim and perpetrator at the same time!

I wonder how God felt. God is very much put on the spot in the story (and it is a story! don’t forget that, lots of Christians died later on in the Lion’s den at that wasn’t for lack of faith!) but he comes through brilliantly. It is an Easter story, complete with sealed and rolled away stone. Long before Christ the people of God knew that even death could not separate them from the love and care of God (Romans 8). And through this story they testify to that.

I wonder how Daniel felt in the Lion’s den. My guess is it was probably only an intensification of what he held felt before: surrounded by nasty animals ready to tear him to pieces.
He must have been really scared. And I just wonder if you have ever felt that scared. Felt that you were about to be torn to pieces? Felt that there was no escape from some very dreadful thing threatening your existence?
I wonder. Did Darius feed the Lions? It didn’t say in his interdict the King could not feed the Lions before he tipped somebody in the den! Did he help God to help Daniel?
It doesn’t say and it is a story anyway. But somehow I would like it if he did. If he found ways around his own laws and stupid interdicts to help his friend.
I wonder if you have ever been in a situation like that. Caught between a rock and a hard place. And helped a friend by bending the rules a bit…….

I wonder how the satraps felt when the stone was rolled away and Daniel climbed out of the den. Can’t imagine they liked what they saw! I wonder how Daniel felt when he saw them again. Smug? Angry? Still scared and not sure if it would really be over now?

I wonder where the story connects to you, where it connects to the world around us, how it speaks to us?
Bullying and harassment are unfortunately things that happen frequently. Doesn’t matter if you are young, old, hold an important job or not. And it is a horrible thing when it happens. It helps to talk about it and perhaps the story would have turned out differently if Daniel had talked to Darius long before it got out of hand.
Reading about what happened in Werribee in the paper reminded me of the story. One girl in the lion’s den and a group of predatory animals circling around to get her down.
Making her suffer in a way that will probably scar her for the rest of her life.

I wonder how courageous we are when it comes to sticking to our guns and living out our convictions and faith, even where it doesn’t seem to offer us any rewards. How strong our integrity is when faced with adversity. That may be something to think about and to reflect upon. Also when it is time to chose who we will chose to be our leaders and for what reason.

And in the middle of all that: There is Easter, and the rolled away stone and the conviction that whatever happens and however bad it gets, God is in there with us. That somehow death and destruction, violence and abuse won’t have the last word, but integrity and a righteous, God fearing life will.
Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2006


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