171029 Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23

Last Updated on Monday, 30 October 2017 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23
Theme: Here I Stand!

Today is a wonderful day, a beautiful day, a day to celebrate. This week Lutheran Christians around the world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. And I am honored that you have invited me to be a part of the festivities. This morning I want to tell you about the defining moment in my life, about how I was willing to risk everything, even my life, for what I believed in. When I was forced to decide between obeying my government and obeying my God, the choice was clear.

Before I get into the details of my story, I should introduce myself. I am NOT Martin Luther, although Luther and I have quite a bit in common. My name is Belteshazzar, but you might know me better by my Hebrew name, Daniel. My journey began (literally and figuratively) when I was a teenager, when the Babylonian armies devastated our land and deported our people. I was one of the lucky ones who was chosen to enter the service of King Nebuchadnezzar, but luck really didn't have anything to do with it.

I ascended to a high government position because the Lord was with me. He gave me wisdom, so much wisdom that the king declared that I was ten times wiser than all the wise men in the land (1:20). My superior intelligence was a great asset, but it wasn't my greatest gift. The Lord also gave me the ability to understand visions, and when the rest of the king's royal advisors failed God gave me the opportunity to use my gift to interpret the king's dream.

When I was finished King Nebuchadnezzar, arguably the most powerful man in the world, the man who commanded others to bow before him, bowed down before me. He lavished me with praise and gifts and appointed me to rule over the entire province of Babylon.

I would have been content to live out my days serving my God and my king, but that's not what happened. When I was an old man mighty Babylon came crashing down, and a new king and a new kingdom took its place. Darius the Mede not only spared my life. He made me one of his most trusted advisors. Unfortunately some of the other royal advisors were not worthy of his trust.

A group of wicked men tricked the king into trapping me. They forced me to make a choice: obey the royal edict (and forsake God) or obey God (and die). With my faith and my life hanging in the balance, I made my decision. I didn't use the same words Martin Luther used when he found himself in a similar situation, but by my actions I made this bold declaration...

HERE I STAND!

Actually, in my case it might be more accurate to say: "Here I kneel!" Allow me to explain. Even though I was about eighty years old at the time, even though I was a foreigner and a holdover from the previous administration, Darius made me one of the most powerful men in Persia. And that made other people jealous.

Some of the king's administrators were so envious and so devious that they decided to get rid of me. First they tried to dig up some dirt from my past, but that didn't work because no matter how deep they dug they couldn't find anything.

Eventually they gave up their attempts to uncover any corruption, but instead of giving up completely they decided to take a different approach: "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God" (6:5), they said. And then they set the wheels of their wicked plan in motion.

It was brilliant really. As a group they brought a proposal to the king that appealed to his vanity, and what ruler isn't susceptible to the sin of pride? They said: "O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed (I guess someone forgot to tell me) that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den" (6:6-7).

Without hesitation Darius made their proposal into law, which is significant because once the king issued such a decree, according to the laws of the Medes and Persians, that law could never be repealed.

When I learned that the decree had been published, I went home. Not to gather my things. Not to figure out how to escape. I went home to do what I did every day. Three times a day I got down on my old, worn out knees and gave thanks to God.

And my enemies were watching me. They were hoping to use my honor against me. They were hoping that I wouldn't change my daily routine. They were hoping that I wouldn't choose my life over my God. In fact, they were counting on it.

When they saw me praying in the window they went to the king and reported that I had disobeyed the royal decree. And then they reminded Darius that he had no choice but to enforce the law that he himself had made. The king didn't want to do it. He worked until sundown to save me, but in the end the king punished me for his mistake when he gave the order to throw me to the lions.

I would have been willing to die that day, but God wasn't done with me. He wanted to use me to teach the king an important lesson. Speaking of King Darius, he had a terrible night. He couldn't eat. He couldn't sleep. He couldn't think of anything but me. At the first light of dawn, the king hurried to the lions' den, and when he called out to me, a miracle took place. I answered.

Still surrounded by huge, hungry lions, I said: "O 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, O king" (6:21-22).

The Lord sent his angel and saved my life. The fact that there wasn't a scratch on my body proved that there was no truth to the charges against me. I was a loyal servant of my king AND a faithful follower of my God. I was found innocent, but that doesn't mean I was perfect.

I want you to remember that. I want you to remember it because you have probably found yourselves in difficult situations because of your faith. Maybe it wasn't a choice between life and death, but perhaps it was a time when your faith was put to the test and you didn't pass with flying colors. Instead of taking a stand, you stood on the sidelines. Instead of speaking up, you sat quietly.

I don't need to tell you that being a Christian isn't easy. It can even be dangerous to stand up for what you believe. It is much safer to give in, to back down, to keep quiet and keep the peace. But that kind of peace isn't real. That kind of peace doesn't last. That kind of peace can't quiet the conscience, the familiar voice inside of you that keeps reminding you of your failures. And when I hear that voice, when I listen to what my conscience tells me, I can't disagree. I am guilty. I fail. I fall short. If my eternal life depends upon the way I live my earthly life, I'm dead.

It's not just you. It's not just me. No one can live up to God's standard of perfection...no one except the one who lived a perfect life in our place. When Jesus' enemies attacked him, he stood up to them and asked: "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin" (John 8:46)? And the answer was "No." When the high priest Caiaphas asked Jesus if he was the Christ, the Son of God, he stood up and said: "Yes, it is as you say" (Matthew 26:64). When Jesus was lifted up on the cross for the sins of the world, he prayed for his enemies: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

And by his perfect life and his sacrificial death, Jesus did just that. He has forgiven our sins. He gives us real peace. He gives us real hope. And he gives people like you the strength to stand up with people like me and say: "Here I stand!"

When the devil tries to convince you that your sins are just too great or that you aren't good enough for God, you can look down and see that your feet are firmly planted on God's grace, and you can declare with boldness: "Here I stand!"

When the world tries to confuse you by saying that people are basically good or that every spiritual path eventually leads to the same place, when the world openly and actively contradicts the idea that Jesus is the one and only way to heaven, you can set your feet firmly on the solid foundation of God's Word and say with confidence: "Here I stand!"

When your sinful flesh suggests that simply trusting in Jesus isn't enough to get to heaven, that there has to be something else, that you have to do something more, you can steady yourself on God's promise that salvation comes through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8,9), and you can say with certainty: "Here I stand!"

I don't know if my king ever became a believer in God, but I do know this. The Lord used these events to accomplish his purposes. The Lord worked through the plans of evil men to strengthen my faith and bring glory to his name. And as much as I have enjoyed standing before you today, I look forward to the day when I will stand with you and with all the saints before God's glorious throne in heaven. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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