You’re going to hear a lot of talk about resolutions – promises people make, usually about how they’re going to better themselves in some way – this time every year. For a lot of us resolutions aren’t the start of something new. Rather, they’re a rededication to something that once was.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, I was in the habit of writing for at least 3 hours a day. All of the things that accompanied the move to St. Louis, the holidays and the blessing of getting to see family for an extended amount of time prevented me from doing much writing at all.
The same goes for my prayer life.
To be honest, no one prevented me from doing anything. I used my situation as justification for not doing what I know I should; what God has called me to do.
So, I’m studying the story of Daniel to remind myself that greater men than me have allowed their situation to justify their inaction, and that things don’t have to be this way next time around.
Lewis, every picture Bible you have tells the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. They even tell you it was his resolve to continue praying to his God, even though prayer to anyone but the king had been outlawed, that landed him in the den. What’s not there, or in my big-people-no-cool-pictures-Bible, is an explanation of why Daniel was so resolute, so unwavering, so bold to the point of being blatantly obstinate with his prayers.
Can I ask you for a favor, Lewis? Can I suggest something that may be completely and utterly untrue? Can I tell you a story that might make Daniel punch me in the face when I talk to him someday in heaven?
What if the reason for Daniel’s steadfast dedication to worship the God of Israel instead of the king of Persia was that once before he’d chosen to worship Babylon’s king instead of Israel’s God? What if Daniel had failed in this arena once before and refused to let it happen again?
The first two chapters of the book of Daniel show us a man who was “handsome, had an aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand,” (Daniel 1:4), who had “resolved not to defile himself,” (1:8) whose wisdom, along with his three closest friends’, was unequalled in all of Babylon (1:9), and who eventually became “ruler over the entire province of Babylon…in charge of all its wise men” (2:48).
But something strange happens in chapter 3. Daniel is nowhere to be found when his three closest friends find themselves in the fiery furnace.
By the time you’re old enough to read this letter you will have heard the story of how Babylon’s king set up a giant golden image, and then required every single person in the country to bow down and worship it when they heard music begin to play. Daniel 3:8 says, “…all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold…” except for three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
The king was told these three weren’t worshiping the image, which made the king “furious with rage” (3:13). He gave them a second chance, but still they refused. The king then asked, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (3:15) Their reply was beautiful: “…The God we serve is able to save us…from your hand…but even if he doesn’t…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold…” (3:17-18)
The only thing hotter than the king’s fury was the fire in his furnace. The Hebrews were thrown in, but they did not burn. They came out of the furnace “and there was no smell of fire on them” (3:27). The king’s anger was extinguished, and he decreed that “the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of [the Hebrew boys] would be punished” (3:29).
One of the most famous stories in the whole Bible, told in a book baring his name, and Daniel is absent. Why?
Could it be that Daniel, in spite of his experiences and dedication, doubted God? Did he maybe think to himself God allowed me to be captured by the Babylonians, which I thought would never happen. Would God allow me to die by the hand of its king? Could the years of studying the might and conquests of Babylon have planted seeds of doubt in Daniel’s mind as to whether or not Israel’s God could go toe-to-toe with the empire? Or was it as simple as Daniel was a thinker, but not a fighter; a genius, but a wuss?
I have no idea.
But what I do know is that Daniel witnessed firsthand the power and love of his God. Even Babylon’s king had no choice but to admit, “No other god can save in this way” (Daniel 3:29). And I know that Daniel’s life was forever changed that day, because now he truly believed and understood the power of God.
I would be willing to bet that Daniel waited expectantly for another chance, not to prove his dedication to God, but to allow God to prove his dedication to His children before the eyes of the world.
Lewis, years later another king, of another foreign empire, made another decree: “Anyone who prays to (worships) any god or man during the next thirty days, except [the king], shall be thrown into the lions’ den” (6:7).
This time Daniel is front and center, the main character in the story of God’s incredible love and power.
Daniel 6:10 fills me with hope, with resolve, that even though I have failed God in the past I don’t have to do so again:
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
Of course, Daniel was caught in the middle of prayer and sentenced to death in the lions’ den. The king actually liked Daniel, and “made every effort until sundown to save him” (6:14).
But he didn’t.
But God did.
The three Hebrew boys gave a spirited response to the king of Babylon before being thrown into the furnace. The Bible doesn’t have Daniel saying a single word before being thrown into the lion’s den. Instead, Daniel let God’s actions speak louder than his feeble words.
The next morning, Daniel was found alive and well. If Babylon’s king would have been standing there I imagine he would have turned to the new king and said, “You tried to save him, but couldn’t. Don’t take it personally; no other god can save in this way.”
Lewis, Daniel is one of my heroes. It’s not because he was smart, or successful or powerful. It’s because Daniel did not let one, single failure set the course for the rest of his life. It’s because Daniel made a mistake, but then resolved to never let it happen again.
Did it happen again? I don’t know. Again, everything I’ve written to you today may be nonsense. But I think it makes sense.
I love you, Lewis. Be brave enough to make resolutions. Don’t be afraid of breaking them. When you do, look to Daniel for inspiration that things don’t have to be the same next time around.
How does Daniel’s story inspire you to approach previous failures?
How could God use your resolve to overcome failure to show the world His love and dedication?
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