The Lion’s Den

            My life has been significantly impacted by hospitals and the staffs that work in them.  In high school alone, I had 4 arthroscopic knee surgeries for torn cartilage that occurred during basketball and baseball.  Then there was a window of time when I worked in the maintenance dept. of a hospital in Wis.  As a sales manager and administrator of Assisted Living communities, I was in contact regularly with hospital doctors and nurses.  And of course as a pastor, I have a lot of contact with them all.  I am thankful for each and every one of them.

            In one conversation with a nurse, she explained a particularly difficult experience.  She arrived at work one day to learn that there was a registered sex offender on her floor in need of medical treatment.  A mother of two teenage girls, she and others were responsible for the well-being of a man who had been (and could potentially be again) a threat to others. 

            You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions within her as she walked into his room.  She had to fight the desire to walk out and deny him care.  But she didn’t leave.  God provided her the strength to overcome her emotions and do what was right.  While she struggled with the sins of this individual, she also knew that he needed care.  She didn’t allow her emotions in the moment to prevent her from doing her calling, to be a nurse for those in need no matter their history.

            The story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den is very similar to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from last week.  Daniel was an Israelite held in captivity with some authority from King Darius.  And when the locals were angry that an outsider had power, they searched a way to undermine him.  Recognizing that Daniel served a different God than the king, these locals encouraged the king to pass a law that would result in the Lion’s Den for anyone who didn’t worship the king. 

Upon passage of the law, they spied on Daniel and turned him in the first time he was seen praying to the God of Israel.  The king who liked Daniel, had no option but to have him thrown into the den.  The locals had set up both King Darius AND Daniel.  So Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den and a stone was rolled over the entrance.

But the next morning Daniel was alive, the lions hadn’t attacked, and he recognized the king with respect.  He had every reason to hate the king for giving the order to have him killed.  He had every reason to point fingers and blame those who put his life in danger when he did nothing wrong but worship his God in the privacy of his home.  Yet Daniel came out of the den and gave respect to the king, a king who continued to hold the Israelites in bondage.  And because of Daniel’s faithfulness, the king and others became believers in the God of Israel.

Sometimes we are thrown unfairly and unexpectedly into our own lion’s dens where we are surrounded by threats to our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves.  And at other times we are so focused on the issue at hand that we don’t recognize that we are walking into a lion’s den by our own efforts.

How would you have handled the nurse’s situation in her lion’s den?  Would you have shown the grace necessary to follow through with medical care?  How easy it would be to point out the sins of this man who would not deserve compassion.  And yet in that very act, we are just as guilty of sin. Jesus calls us to love God above all else and our neighbors as ourselves.  And when we want to use righteous exceptions, He extended that grace to love even our enemies. 

Daniel had every right to hate the king!  He supported Daniel and put him in a place of authority in his govt.  Kings overturned laws all the time.  But in this case, King Darius may have been more interested in his image, not to be seen providing grace to an outsider.  Yet when Daniel was released from the den without harm, he gracefully presented himself to King Darius with respect and honor.  “O King, live forever!  My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me because I was found blameless before him; and also before you.” 

Life is a winding journey that is influenced by the people and environments in which we live.  We really have very little control and there are no guarantees and no easy answers.  We are broken people living in a broken world due to the sin that we brought upon ourselves.  Yet the God of Israel is alive and well today and Jesus, who died and resurrected so that we might be reconciled to the same God that we consistently rebel against, loves us and has forgiven us.  Let’s walk this journey, which sometimes includes lions’ dens, confessing our fears and sins while experiencing Christ’s healing love and peace.  Amen