Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 CEB
This meditation is part of a synchroblog with The Despised Ones
Our Christian experience should be like guitar strings. It should be filled with tension. We should feel the pull between be fruitful and multiply and drop everything and follow Jesus. We should feel the strain when we are called to a new life in Christ while understanding we are daily dying at the foot of the cross. There are so many tensions out there. We should believe God is going to give us the gifts we need to accomplish what we need to accomplish, but we should always be aware we are incomplete and insufficient. While knowing we will never reach perfection in this life, we find ourselves always striving for it. The individual should be in tension with the community. The spiritual should be in tension with the physical. When we don't feel that tension. When the choice is too easy. When we are not being pulled from more than one side. Well, that means something gave and we are no longer completely living in God's will.
So that's where my mind was when the topic of Christian Celebrity was dropped in my lap with not even a scripture to help me out. Then a few weeks back the Daniel scripture was practically handed to me on a silver platter. The pieces began to come together.
Well, in some ways we need to be tread very lightly around our Daniel history. He had quiet the reputation. He was like the Johnny Appleseed of his day. What I mean is, he was so loved by everyone around him, the Israelites and the Babylonians, that tall tales were written about his exploits. He was truly a big deal. I don't say that lightly. He was epic for his time. This was the Daniel who would trust God and keep his life, even among a den of lions. His tall tales are truly wondrous. The biggest being, Bel and the Dragon. To explain Bel and the Dragon I first have to reintroduce Daniel and the Lions Den. In the story Daniel is working for King Darius in Babylon. (Yes this is the same Babylon the Israelites are exiled to, but we will get to that later.) Daniel is the best at what he does and he is so good Darius is considering giving him a promotion over all other people in his field. This makes certain people, who want the job for themselves jealous of Daniel. They conspire to seek a way to get rid of him. These prefects and counselors decide to go to Darius with a plan. They praised the king, raising up how wonderful he was. He was so wonderful everyone should avoid worshiping everything for thirty days and only worship Darius. What's a king to do? Of course that sounds like a great idea so Darius signs off on it. Daniel, knowing the king had signed such a decree cannot keep from worshiping God. He stock was in God and only God. He goes to his room, where there is a window that opens up facing Jerusalem, and prays to God three times a day. Those against Daniel used his prayers to implicate him. Darius wanted to save him, but knew he couldn't. He put Daniel in the lion's den and hoped his God would save him. The next day he came back and found out Daniel was saved, as Angels shut the mouths of the lions so he would be safe.
Now Bel and the Dragon kinda becomes the Tall Tale to Daniel and the Lion's Den. I want to add this before I continue. It's not in our Protestant bible. It is apocryphal. So what I am about to share is considered outside our understood canon as part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) Now, let me tell you the story. Bel, was a false idol. The king thought Bel is real because the offering of food left for it was always eaten the next day. Daniel rightly points out that a clay statue cannot eat or drink. This makes the king angry and he asks his priests to explain themselves. They set up a trap for Daniel. So the kings asks the priests to set the food out again. If the food is there the next day the priests would be executed. If the food was gone the priests would be redeemed and Daniel would be executed. (Beginning to sound familiar?) Daniel takes the bet and sprinkles ash over the floor which capture the priests foot prints and find them guilty. The priests are put to death. Daniel is given permission to destroy the idol.
Following this there is an honest to goodness dragon who is a “real” god. Daniel makes deadly cakes for this dragon which are eaten and causes his death. This angers the Babylonians who insist Daniel should be thrown into the lion's den as punishment for killing the god. (Now it should sound really familiar.) For a whole week Daniel is saved from the lions daily ration of two humans and two sheep. When the king finds out about Daniel's death he goes to the den to mourn him only to discover he is alive. The people who threw him in are thrown in instead and Daniel's story becomes proof of God's greatness. So the story transforms from one night in the den to a whole week. Also, I didn't add this, but an honest to goodness prophet was dragged by his hair to feed Daniel while in the den.
I share these stories and its relation to the Lion's Den story we know to bring home how much the people celebrated and expanded the story of Daniel. This was a man loved by both Babylonians and Israelites. He lived in the palace but was still an exiled citizen. This was Daniel's tension: to be both despised and celebrated at the same time. He interpreted dreams for the King, but these interpretations were really for God and God's people.
I believe God used the dream from our scripture to tighten Daniel's tension a bit. He was probably living a pretty cushy life. He was living in the palace. Perhaps we was beginning to forget his roots. He might have been too comfortable. This would be the reason Daniel was so distressed by his vision. The dream would have jarred him into the reality of the tension he was living in.
The reason I feel so confident in this idea has everything to do with the dream he was having. From the chaos rise up four giant beasts. Now these four giant beasts were metaphorical for four kingdoms Daniel would have been well aware of. They were: Media, Persia, Greece, and Babylon. Yep, Babylon, the very place where he worked and was exiled. As the dream ends even Babylon cannot stand to God and the divine kingdom. Also, unlike the previous chapters where Daniel interpreted the dreams for the king, someone had to do the interpretations for Daniel. In other words, it was a dream specifically for Daniel.
There are two things I think we can do with this today. First, Daniel was extremely popular for the Israelites. Dare I say, he was a celebrity. But, God does not call us to worship a celebrity, God calls us to worship God. When entering a house of worship, God's name should also be bigger than the pastors name. We are not on this journey for Joel Olsteen, or Pat Robinson. We are on the journey for God.
Secondly, we need to be more aware when we are getting too comfortable. My favorite spiritual song lyric comes from Ginny Owens: “But you never said, it would be easy. You only said we'd never go alone.” We grow and learn when we are active, not when we are idle, and most definately not when we become idols. We need to be striving to live in the tension of life. Without that tension how are we to play into the song of Christ's redeeming love? We have to be willing to feel the tension of God's will against our call.
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