We’ve come a long way in biblical history, and now because they broke the covenant, both Israel and Judah have been cast out of the Promised Land.
It seemed like the end of Israel, the end of God’s blessing to his people, and the end of the promise. Ah, but even in exile, God loves his people. In fact, he raises up godly men to serve his purpose while in a far away land.
And that brings us to Daniel.
In chains, he travels across the desert, along with the other children of Israel, all the way to Babylon. How terrifying that with each step he leaves his beloved home behind and inches closer to a land brimming with enemies.
Once in the mighty city, his captors recognize his skills and haul him to the king’s palace to learn the ways of the Babylonians. He excels. The king especially values Daniel’s wisdom and assigns him to lead a certain band of wise men … called magi. Mmm hmm.
I wonder if when he plodded across the desert, his feet aching, his forehead scorched from sunburn, if Daniel ever wondered, “God, what are you doing? How is all of this possibly fulfilling your plan for your chosen people?”
When writing contracts don’t come fast enough, or my husband’s job goes sideways, or my kids fall short of my expectations, I wonder that too. “This isn’t how things were supposed to go, Lord. I thought we were on the same page.” It’s hard to trust that he knows best.
But I need to remember, he sees what I don’t see, and he’s worthy of my trust.
Well, Daniel was pretty good at trusting God, but soon some political officials decided they didn’t like Mr. Daniel and all his religious-ness.
So they got an idea.
“Hey, Jack, do you hate that Daniel guy as much as I do.”
So, they trick King Darius into forging a decree. If someone prays to anyone but him, he will be thrown into…you guessed it…a nasty pit filled with lions.
A death pit.
What happens next? Even though he knows he will be killed, Daniel keeps praying, “just like before.”
Wouldn’t it be hard to pray? This verse makes Daniel seem so calm. “Another day, another prayer time.” If it were me, I doubt I would so easily trust. I tend to question and whine and panic. I’d be thinking, After all You have done to raise me to a position to help help the Israelites, now I face death—for praying? What are you doing, God?
But Daniel doesn’t fret, rather, the one who freaks out is King Darius. He loves Daniel and desperately tries to save him, but even he can’t go against his own decree.
So late that evening, after darkness comes, Daniel, innocent of any wrong-doing, is delivered to the death pit.
That night, the king can’t eat or sleep. What’s going through his mind? Probably the thought of his most-trusted adviser spending the night with a pride of ravenous lions.
Then, at the first light of dawn, the king gets up and hurries to the tomb—I mean lion’s den. Does he find Daniel ripped to shreds?
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.”
So cool. Another resurrection story. In the dark of night, Daniel descends to his death. At dawn’s first light, he’s found to be alive and is raised from the pit. Beautiful. Points us to Christ.
But the story doesn’t end here. What happens next really rocks.
Are you ready?
Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
What? People in every part of his kingdom? But I thought God was only into saving the Israelites. I mean, they are the chosen people. The gentiles aren’t welcomed until the New Testament. Isn’t that right?
Here, in the Old Testament, a Gentile king decrees that everyone—gentiles and Jews—are to “fear and reverence” the one true God.
The promised Messiah was NEVER just for the Israelites. He would come through the descendents of Abraham, but he was to deliver God’s people from every tribe and nation.
God had a plan all along. He used the exile of the Jews, and Daniel’s life—including his night with the lions—to prepare the way for his children from outside Israel to come to him.
Isn’t he amazing?
As for Daniel, remember his job? He was the boss of whom? The magi. Now he not only possessed the freedom to teach them about his God, but the magi must respectfully learn.
The magi? Have you heard of them before?
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Matt. 2:1-2
It’s the same group, descended from those who Daniel taught! And just like King Darius’s edict commands, they honor this new king, bring him gifts and even their worship.
The Messiah’s birth reminds us that God’s promise reaches those outside. He doesn’t forget the far away ones, but sends a star to light their way.
And he doesn’t forget us–no matter how far we fall, how dark our night seems, how impossible our circumstances–he calls us from our place of exile to worship the newborn king.
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph. 2:13
Follow the example of the magi this Christmas. Seek him. Worship your king in humble gratitude and in jubilant rejoicing. Remember how far he’s brought you, and contagious love will spring from your words, thoughts, and actions.
Remember, he loves you like there’s no tomorrow.
Shine your light: What is your favorite part about your worship service? How does God use it to help you grow in your faith?