October 29, 2023
Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23
The Time In Between—
A Time for Steadfast Faith!
10Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”
The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
16So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
17A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
21Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! 22My 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, O king.”
23The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. (NIV1984)
Dear fellow heirs of the Lutheran Reformation,
Are you familiar with the poem called The Dash? It was written by Linda Ellis. It goes like this:
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning to the end.
He noted first came the date of birth and spoke the following date with tears.
But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between the years.
For that dash represents all the time that they spent life on Earth.
And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash.
What matters most is how we live and love, and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real, and always try to understand the way other people feel.
Be less quick to anger and show appreciation more, and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?
Every time we read an obituary, every time we look at the gravestones as we walk through a cemetery we cannot help but see a person’s “dash.” If we know that individual we know a great deal about what their “dash” includes. If we do not know that individual we do not have a clue about what their “dash” includes.
Today we are beginning a new sermon series which reminds us that this world as we know it has a “dash.” In other words, there are two eternally important events which serve as “bookends” for this world. The first event is Christmas— when the Son of God came into this world to serve as our Savior. The second event is Judgment Day— when the Son of God will return to this earth as the Judge of the living and the dead. The overall theme of this series is The Time In Between— the “dash” we might say. While we don’t know exactly when Jesus will return to this earth, while we don’t know exactly when the “dash” will come to an end, we do know precisely what our Savior wants us to be doing during this “in between” time, during this “dash.” Today let’s see how our Savior encourages us to remember that The Time In Between includes: A Time for Steadfast Faith!
As we gather together on this Reformation Sunday we are going to look at two very good examples for us to follow, two men who had a steadfast faith, two men who found themselves in situations that were very similar to each other. Those two men are Daniel and Martin Luther. Let’s begin with Daniel.
Daniel was one of three administrators whom King Darius had appointed to rule over his empire. In the opening portion of Daniel 6 we are told that Daniel had so distinguished himself as an administrator that King Darius planned to “set him over the whole kingdom” (6:3). There were other administrators and other government officials, however, who were so upset about this and so jealous of Daniel that they tried to find some grounds to bring a charge against Daniel in order to discredit him in the eyes of the king. What was the result? Scripture tells us, “They could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.’” (Daniel 6:4-5) These men then conspired against Daniel by convincing King Darius to issue an edict. The edict proclaimed that “anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lion’s den” (Daniel 6:7).
How did Daniel respond to this edict? Did he obey it? Did he simply stop praying for the next 30 days so as to not violate the edict? Did he suddenly try to hide his faith so as to not anger the king? Look once again at what we are told in the opening verses of our text, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
This was exactly what Daniel’s enemies had expected! So as soon as they witnessed Daniel praying to the Lord, the God of Israel, they went back to the king, reminded him of his edict, and then informed King Darius that Daniel refused to obey the edict. Daniel was given every opportunity to change his mind. Daniel was given every opportunity to bow to the authority of the king. We might even say that Daniel was given every opportunity to “recant.” But like Martin Luther Daniel refused. Like Martin Luther Daniel all but said to the emperor, “Here I stand! God help me! Amen.”
Why? Why did Daniel refuse to obey the edict of the king? Why did Daniel refuse to pray to King Darius? The answer is simple. Daniel’s steadfast faith would not allow him to compromise his trust in the Lord. Daniel’s steadfast faith would not allow him to go against the Truth proclaimed in God’s holy Word! Daniel knew the command of his God, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me” (Hosea 13:4). Even though Daniel knew that the consequence for disobeying the king was to be thrown into a den of hungry lions, Daniel also knew that the consequences for disobeying the Word of the one and only living God were much much worse! Daniel is truly a powerful example of someone who had a steadfast faith— even in the face of catastrophic consequences!
Some 2,000 years after Daniel we see another powerful example of steadfast faith. It is the example of Martin Luther. The day was April 17, 1521. The place was the City of Worms in the land of Germany. Martin Luther had been summoned to the Diet at Worms by Emperor Charles V. John Eck, who was both the representative of the Roman Catholic Church as well as the chairman of the meeting turned to Luther and said, “Martin Luther, you are here by invitation of the emperor and the diet. You have just two questions to answer.” Then, pointing to a pile of books on the table before him, John Eck asked Luther, “Do you admit that you have written these books? And do you defend them all, or are you ready to recant what you have said in them?” Luther answered yes to the first question. He had indeed written all the books piled on the table. As far as the second question was concerned Luther asked for time to think before he gave an answer to the emperor. He was given 24 hours.
The next day Luther came back to the diet and explained that his books could be divided into different categories and therefore he was not able to give one answer to cover them all. The emperor, John Eck and the other officials did not like Luther’s answer. So John Eck looked at Luther and said, “Martin, we are not interested in your argument about what the Bible does or does not say. Hus, Wyclif, and other heretics have always talked about this. What gives you the right to think you know more than all the popes, church fathers, and councils? I now ask you, Martin— and answer clearly and without any double-talk— do you or do you not recant your books and the errors in them?” Luther responded with those now famous words, “Since Your Majesty and your lordships want a simple, clear, and true answer, I will give it. Unless I am convinced by the teachings of Holy Scripture or by sound reasoning— for I do not believe either the pope or councils alone, since they have often made mistakes and have even said the exact opposite about the same point— I am tied by the Scriptures I have quoted and by my conscience. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither safe nor right. Here I stand. God help me! Amen.”
Luther was so firmly convinced that what he was teaching and preaching was the Truth, God’s truth, that Luther was willing to suffer whatever consequences came his way for telling the emperor, “Here I stand!” Why was Luther so convinced? How could Luther be so sure? Luther’s courage and Luther’s confidence came from the fact that he was standing on and he was standing up for the Truth of God’s holy inspired Word! That Truth is what gave Luther such a steadfast faith!
Reformation Sunday, my friends, is a very good day for us to look at the example of men such as Daniel and Martin Luther and then look in a mirror and ask ourselves: How steadfast is our faith? How boldly are we standing up for God’s Truth in our day and age? Do we have the kind of confidence in God’s Word that enables us to say, “Here I stand! God help me! Amen”? Or are we a little unsure about what we believe? Are we a little uncertain about what the Bible does or does not teach? If faced with a situation even remotely similar to Daniel’s situation or to Luther’s situation would our faith be as steadfast as theirs?
Deep down inside of each and every one of us there is that nagging notion that if we want to be saved —we must do something! We must at least try to obey God’s Law! And yet in our epistle lesson for today Paul nailed that nagging notion right between the eyes when he said to the Romans, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:19, 20). When someone then tells us that there is something that we need to do in order to be saved— some act of penance that we need to carry out, some decision that we need to make— do we boldly proclaim the Truth of the Bible and steadfastly maintain that we are saved purely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our own works? In our Gospel lesson for today (Matthew 10:16-23) Jesus Himself tells us that boldly and faithfully standing up for the Truth can result in persecution, in arrest and even in hostility from our own family. Are we ready to take our place beside men such as Daniel and Luther? Are we prepared to look our persecutors in the eye and steadfastly say, “Here I stand! God help me! Amen”? When someone tells us that the Biblical accounts of things such as Creation and the Flood are just “stories” made up by men, when someone tells us that the Biblical accounts of the virgin birth of the Christ-Child and the physical resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday were “added” to the Bible years and perhaps even decades after Jesus walked on this earth in order to make the Rabbi from Nazareth seem more impressive than He actually was, when someone tells us that the Bible’s stand on “hot button” issues such as homosexuality, human life beginning the moment of conception, the seriousness of sin and the reality of hell are all “outdated” and “obsolete” teachings that no longer apply in our “modern” and “science-based” society— how do we respond? When we are questioned or perhaps even challenged about what we believe and why we believe it do we tell people what we think we remember from Confirmation class 30 years ago and say, “Here I stand…I think!”? Or do we boldly share with them the Truth of Scripture and steadfastly say “Here I stand! God help me! Amen”?
The heritage that we have been given as heirs of the Lutheran Reformation, the heritage that Luther received from men such as Daniel leads us to go back to Scripture, see what God Himself proclaims to us here and then steadfastly take our stand on the foundation of God’s holy Word— no matter what the consequences might be! That, of course, means that we are to be in God’s Word on a regular basis, doesn’t it? That, of course, means that we are reading our Bibles at home, studying them in Bible class and Sunday school and hearing God’s Word as it is proclaimed to us either here at the house of our God or in our Zoom worship services. Only by knowing what the Bible teaches will we be able to stand up for the Truth with the courage and with the conviction and the steadfast faith of men such as Daniel and Martin Luther.
Someday someone is going to write and/or read our obituary. That obituary will include two important dates— the date of our birth and the date of our death. In between those two dates will be our “dash.” What will people— especially the people who know us best— what will people include in our “dash”? We also know that on the second date of our “dash” we will find ourselves standing before the One who has done so very much for us. (Pointing to the cross) What will He say about what is included in our “dash”? My prayer is that for each and every one of us our “dash” will include: He/she had a steadfast faith!
To God be the glory!