Living as Aliens Part 5: Faith Vindicated — A ‘Christian Growth’ Message – Hope 103.2

Living as Aliens Part 5: Faith Vindicated — A ‘Christian Growth’ Message

Simon Manchester looks in the Old Testament book of Daniel. You may have heard the story of the lion's den but what else do you know about him?

By Simon ManchesterSunday 31 Oct 2021Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

For more in this series and other series presented by Simon Manchester, visit the Christian Growth podcast page.

Transcript:

Opening prayer

Loving Father, we ask that these familiar chapter would be a light to us to show us more clearly who you are, where we stand, and how we can trust and obey. And we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sermon

One of the most wonderful promises in the whole of the Bible is that Jesus says he will speak up for his people on the last day. Do you remember the Bible says we have an advocate, a barista, somebody who will speak up for us? Of course, on that day, there could be many witnesses against us. Our conscience may be against us. There may be some enemies. The devil himself will be there, but Jesus says he will have the last say. Why will he have the last say? Is it because we are basically good people? No, it’s because he is a great saviour. The one we need and trust.

One writer said in this world we are often maligned and misrepresented. If Satan cannot defile God’s children, he will disgrace them, but God will declare us innocent and cause our names to shine forth because of Christ. And that’s the real message of Daniel chapter 6, the last chapter in this little series of six, and the most famous chapter that hardly be anybody who hasn’t heard of Daniel and the lions’ den. The point of the chapter is that God vindicates his people. Daniel has put his trust in Yahweh. He’s like a small child about to cross a busy road, and he puts up his little hand as if to say, “Would you take my hands and help me to cross this highway?” God takes hold of his hand and he vindicates the trust of the child.

Now I know this event of Daniel in the lions’ den is very famous and you may be tempted to switch off, but I want to remind you that Scripture is like the Pacific Ocean. There is always more to see and to grasp hold of. And the great danger with these chapters, of course, is that we’ll read them like the Book of Daniel is a boys’ own manual, full of stories about being brave. But actually Daniel and his friends traced everything back to God. Their faith, their security, their plans, their rescue, their future was all traced back to God. If the Book of Daniel is like a section or selection of paintings in an art gallery, we’re not meant to admire the paintings as much as the painter, who is Christ, who is God.

Now central to the book we have seen is that God is king. We saw in chapter 1 that he should come first. We saw in chapter 2 that he speaks and says what we cannot work out for ourselves. We so in chapter 3 that he rescues from death, the young men delivered from the furnace. We saw in chapter 4 that he triumphs over proud people like Nebuchadnezzar. And we saw that he has power even over kingdoms. You remember the writing on the wall.

Now, today we see that God vindicates those who trust in him and Daniel did. He must’ve been a very old man. In chapter 6, perhaps he was approaching 90 and he had not stopped trusting God and God had not stopped safeguarding Daniel. I want to think about this chapter under two headings, first of all, the kingdom of helplessness, and then the kingdom of hopefulness.

First of all, the kingdom of helplessness, chapter 6:1-16. Now I think you know the events well enough. Daniel is in the top three in the kingdom of Persia. And he’s about to be made number one under the king, but others in the hierarchy of leadership get jealous and they look for a way to ruin him, but they can’t find anything to bring him down. And so they can only try to attack his faith. The trick of this is that they talk to the king about forbidding prayer. They say to the king, “Look, king, why don’t we set up a rule for 30 days that nobody can pray to any God but you?” It’s a ridiculous law that they try to put in place, but strangely the king agrees.

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Normally, of course, the leadership of the world allows people to have freedom of worship, but occasionally it’s set up against God and believers are caught in the crossfire. Daniel has to decide at this point, having been told by law that he can no longer pray to Yahweh, he has to work out whether he will cancel his devotion to Yahweh or whether he won’t. And it must’ve been a very testing time for Daniel. He might’ve said to himself something like this, “Daniel, you’re pretty old. You’ve been faithful all this time. Surely it would be fair for you to now have just a little compromise.” Or he might’ve said something like this, “It’s only praying. All I have to do is just stop praying in a public place and start praying in my head and all will be well.” Or he might’ve said to himself, “It’s very important, Daniel, for you to stay alive. This is the worst thing that could happen. You need to stay around for the rest of the time that you have to be a witness to God’s people.” But he doesn’t think any of those thoughts. He will not compromise.

And as soon as he hears the law, chapter 6 verse 10, he goes to his little room upstairs and he continues his plan of praying. This room we’re told faced Jerusalem and Daniel got down to prayer facing Jerusalem.

Now it’s significant that we’re told that his window faced Jerusalem because Jerusalem was now rabble. He was in the most splendid city of Babylon, but Daniel knew that the future lie with Jerusalem, that eventually God’s people would be out of Babylon, back to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt because God had promised. And so Daniel has two marks of faith. One, he trusts the promises of God. And the second, he expresses his faith in prayer.

The great proof of faith for a Christian is that you trust the promises of God. You trust the God of promises and you express your faith in prayer. The first prayer goes up to say, “Please save me.” And then having been saved, we continue to call to him or to give thanks to him or to confess to him. Now how significant that Daniel chose to keep praying in a way that could be seen. He would not become a private believer.

Every now and again, I meet somebody who says, “I am a Christian, but my Christianity is private.” I want to say that is not New Testament Christianity. New Testament Christianity means that you’re salt, light, and a city on a hill, and you’re meant to be distinctive and you’re meant to be noticed in wise and wonderful ways. Somebody has said that if you are private about your discipleship, your privacy will kill the discipleship or the discipleship will kill the privacy. How disgusting too that the enemies of Daniel went to his private room to witness him praying. Obviously Daniel was not afraid or ashamed of God.

I remember saying to my daughter, one of my daughters, many years ago when she was at school and there was a little group of Christians in the school. And I said to her, when she met with the other Christians, “Do you really talk about Christian things?” She looked at me and I never forget this. She said, “We’re not ashamed of Jesus, dad. We’re not ashamed of Jesus.” And I thought what a very wonderful thing, because it’s the easiest thing to be ashamed. You can even be a male, powerful and very influential and still be ashamed shamefully of your relationship with Christ. Well, Daniel makes his stand, continues his prayer, and he’s caught. And now he’s trapped. But you’ll notice also the king is trapped. The king is distressed to hear that Daniel has been caught. The king doesn’t want Daniel to die, but he’s trapped by his own stupid law. And for all his power, this king is helpless.

These friends, is a little window into all human leadership. All human leadership is limited and helpless. It cannot do everything it wants to do. It cannot get everyone to do what it wants them to do. It cannot get everyone vaccinated. It cannot get everyone to stay home. It cannot get everyone to cooperate. Leadership, human leadership cannot hold onto its position. It cannot stay in place. It certainly has no answer to the big questions of life. And it has no answer of course, to death.

Well, we see in Daniel chapters 1 to 6, as we’ve been in our little series, that the human kings keep facing impossible situations. They can’t work things out. They can’t get people to die. They can’t get people safe. They cannot solve everything. And we see here in chapter 6 verse 16, that this king of Persia now admits that he cannot keep Daniel from going to the lions’ den. And all he can do is to call out, “May your God rescue you.” In other words, “I’ve run out of options. I’ve run out of power. It’s now up to your God.” That’s the kingdom of helplessness. All earthly kingdoms are limited. The person who you know, who has great power, great money, great status, eventually will come to the point of helplessness. The government that’s just moved in with a landslide victory will soon be removed. The helplessness, the kingdom of helplessness.

Secondly, the kingdom of hopefulness, and this is chapter 6, verses 17 to 28. We read in verse 17 that a stone was placed over the mouth of the den. And we can’t help, but those of us who are Christians, see a preview here of the resurrection, where a stone had been placed over the tomb of the Lord Jesus and rolled away.

There are many parallels between Daniel and Jesus. Daniel was convicted by a secular law. Jesus was convicted by a secular law that said you cannot claim to be king. Daniel had a leader who was helpless to help him. Jesus had in Pilate, a leader who was helpless to help him. Daniel was sentenced to death and a stone was rolled over the den. Jesus was sentenced to death and a stone was rolled over his tomb. Daniel had angelic help in the den. Jesus had angelic help in the garden. Daniel had somebody rush down to the tomb in the morning to see if he was okay. Jesus had people rush to the tomb to see if they could put spices on the body. This is a preview of a real deliverance, not just being pulled out of trouble, but being taken through.

And so here’s Daniel 6. The king is very anxious in the morning. He runs down to the tomb and he asks this question, “Could your God save you?” And back comes this very significant reply in verse 22, “Yes, because I was innocent.” When I first read that little phrase, “Because I was innocent”, I thought what an unhelpful thing to say. It just sounds all wrong that Daniel would be boasting about how great he was in the tomb. And of course, that’s not what he’s doing.

What does Daniel mean when he says he’s been kept safe because he was innocent? It doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect. We know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We know that in Daniel chapter 9, he confesses his own sins and the sins of his people, but Daniel was innocent in the crime of switching gods. He was innocent of the crime of switching gods. He was told that he must switch his faith from Yahweh to Darius. And in that, he was innocent. He would not do it. When the law came out saying, “You must do it”, he refused. He was convinced that God was trustworthy and God vindicated his decision. Daniel was saying that he would not leave the safe hands of Yahweh and God, Yahweh kept him safe in his hands.

Now, dear friends, when the time comes for us to enter the grave, unless Jesus comes first, there will perhaps be some things that we are completely innocent of. You may get to the end of your life, for example, and you may say, “Well, I’ve never robbed a bank.” But there will be thousands of things that we are not innocent of. We won’t be innocent of some thoughts, some words or some deeds. And therefore we’re going to need a better answer than to say, “Well, here’s one thing I didn’t do.” We’re going to need to be totally sinless to meet a perfect God safely.

And there are two ways to be spotless before God. One is to live a perfect life like Jesus. And friends, we have not done it. So plan A will not work. B is to find a perfect savior. That’s Jesus. The one who will forgive our undeserving and who will give to us the robe of righteousness. And that’s what Jesus did. He died for the unrighteous, offering to be unrighteous in order that he might give to us his robe of righteousness. And so the person who throws their confidence onto Jesus will find themselves kept from danger and brought safely through the grave.

Well, Darius, of course, was thrilled to hear that Daniel was safe and you notice his reaction so typical of a dictator. He got all the accusers of Daniel and the families of the accusers and threw them to the lions’ den. It’s the most vicious verse. Just remember the Bible doesn’t condone that kind of violence. It’s merely describing what a dictator is like. And then also, Darius says that all the nations of the world are now to reverence the God of Daniel because, says Darius, “Yahweh lives, he lasts, he rescues and he saves.” It’s an amazing word, although it seems to me that Darius is only respectful towards God. There’s no indication that he repents and becomes a believer himself.

Well, do you notice then the distinctive mark of chapter 6? This is not just another Hoham chapter, all goes well, et cetera. This is the doctrine of vindication that God sustains his people to the end and make sure that they will not perish. We might say that the faith, which God put into Daniel and is expressed by his trust in the promises and his prayerfulness is not going to be snuffed out. Even if it’s attacked, even if it’s sentenced to death, God will vindicate on the last day, and he being the saviour will make sure that his people arrive safely.

We may find this of course, moderately interesting, mildly interesting, but think of the people, the Christians who are in Afghanistan, who were watching the Taliban take over their country. Who are perfectly capable, the Taliban, of enforcing religious servitude. The West, of course, is hoping the Taliban will be peaceful, but the Qur’an doesn’t call for peace. Islam actually means surrender, and militant Islamic leaders are quite happy to force surrender. Well, the clash that we see in Daniel 6, as I say for us may be irrelevant, but will be very relevant to the Christians in Afghanistan. I can imagine them perhaps this country at this very moment, reading this chapter with an intense interest and saying, “We must not compromise and switch gods at this point. We must keep trusting the God who will vindicate his people. We know that he can be trusted.” And God can be trusted. As I say, not always to deliver out of trouble, but to deliver through trouble.

Jesus said in Luke chapter 21 to his disciples, “They may put some of you to death.” But then he said, “Not a hair of your head will perish.” What an extraordinary combination of concepts. “They may put some of you to death, said Jesus, “but not a hair of your head will perish.” What did he mean by that? He meant death may come, but it is impossible that you will perish because, say Jesus, “I will vindicate you.” He’s able to vindicate us because he is the king forever. The perfect and permanent king and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame. He will vindicate you, my friends, if your trust is in him and we will stand before him one day spotless and joyful. Let’s pray.

Closing prayer

Thank you our gracious God for the proof in this chapter that you stand by your people. We thank you for your promises that you will stand by your people right to the end. And we ask that you would help us to stay faithful and trusting, that we might one day stand before you without fault and with great joy. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.