Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pagans, Persecution, and the Prayers That Saved a Nation



Occasionally, I'll read one of the Bible stories I learned as a child and realize the telling has left out some of the best parts. The story of Daniel and the lions' den is one of those stories.

In case you've forgotten, Daniel was from Judea and in exile in Babylon. He'd been there since he was a youth. All his life, Daniel was faithful to God. He obeyed the rules of God, because he had a relationship with God. Three times a day, he knelt at his window, facing toward Jerusalem. He prayed and gave thanks to God.

Daniel didn't begin to pray in times of emergency. Prayer was his lifestyle, and everyone knew it. What they didn't know was that Daniel's faithful prayers would save their nation.

Daniel had risen to a high position. He was one of the top three men in the country, charged with protecting the king's interests. He was the best of the best, but lesser men became jealous. (Leanna's paraphrase coming up)

"I'm sick of Daniel. He's such a goody-two-shoes. Always praying to that invisible god of his. We can't get away with anything when he's around."

"We should get rid of him."

"Yeah, right. The king adores him. He'd never let us get rid of him."
"We'll have to trick the king."

The men began to scheme. They would get the king to issue a law that no one could "petition" any god except Darius, the king. The king signed it into unbreakable law. 

"We've got him now!" they thought. And they were right. Daniel didn't care about man's laws. He was busy obeying God's laws. He kept right on praying at the window. Three times a day. Just as was his habit.

It didn't take long. The men had him arrested and dragged before the king. By this time, the king realized he'd been tricked, but it was too late. All he could do was obey his own foolish law. 

They threw Daniel into a lion's den and covered it with a big stone. 

In case you've wondered, there is no stone big enough to stop the wonder-working power of our God, the stone-maker.

Here's where it gets interesting. When they threw Daniel into the lions' den, dread filled the heart of the king. The only likely outcome was that Daniel would be eaten by the lions.

But God.

The king had watched Daniel for years. He knew Daniel had something he didn't, and that something was Daniel's God. In an instant, he understood the truth. 

Although he'd set himself up as an idol for the entire country, the king leaned over and spoke powerful words to Daniel. 

"Your God will deliver you."  

Not He might deliver you. Not I hope He can. The king took a stunning leap of faith and declared, for all to hear, "Your God WILL deliver you. No doubt about it."

The king wasn't done yet. I believe he'd seen Daniel fast. He may not have understood why Daniel fasted, but he must've understood there was power in it. The king fasted food, entertainment, and sleep all that night. I image he spent that time praying for Daniel. 

Praying to the God he'd denied until the moment Daniel plummeted into the lion pit.

He was at the stone early the next morning and started shouting. "Daniel, did your God deliver you?"

Daniel called back. "Yes. He did!"

They hauled Daniel out and threw the troublemakers in. There was no angel of God to deliver them.

The best part was still to come. Because of Daniel's faithful obedience to God, and God's miraculous deliverance, the king issued a new decree. From that time on, everyone (including the formerly-pagan king) would fear and serve the God of Daniel.

"I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever. And His kingdom is one which will never be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever." Daniel 6:26 nasb

When we live our lives according to God's ways, when we have a deep and intimate relationship with Him, people can tell it. When we have a powerful prayer life, people know it. 

They will respond to our faith-life in one of three ways. Either they will ignore it as unimportant (as some people likely did with Daniel), or they will fight against it (as his enemies did). 

There's one more possibility. Some people will ponder what they see and, at a divinely-orchestrated moment, they will embrace the truth we've lived out.

Those pagans-turned-believers may not have the power and influence of Darius, but they may have a greater influence than we realize.

Daniel prayed at the window for years, never realizing that, one day, those prayers would end up bringing a entire pagan nation to God.

Today, let's examine ourselves and our own faithfulness. Can people around us tell by our obedience and our prayer life that we serve the All Powerful God? Let's be sure our lives point others to our Lord. 

God used Daniel's faithfulness to bring a nation to Himself, and He can do it again, if we will only obey. Let's be the one He can use.
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photo courtesy of freeimages.com

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's blog post: The Waring Horn Vision and the Ultimate Victory

Here's the link to the prayer guide: The Prayer List



Here's the link to my Global Outreach page: Leanna Hollis MD
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