Sunday

Sleeping with Lions – An Up Close Look at Daniel


Vacation Bible School has a way of making you think. And since I just spent a few days in VBS, I’ve been thinking a bit more than usual.


Our theme for this year was Daniel’s Babylonian Adventure. The week culminated with King Darius’ nefarious hirelings dumping Daniel into the lions’ den because he continued to pray to God despite a kingdom-wide, pray-only-to-Darius prayer Initiative.

One image, a photograph of a ferocious lion roaring, lingered with me long after the projector light dimmed. Those cats have really big teeth. I’ve seen a lot of choppers in my 35 years as a dental hygienist, but for a feline, their canines are immense. Not to mention that a full grown lion’s mouth is cavernous.

So we have big cats (the average male lion weighs 420 pounds), with big mouths, filled with big teeth.

I also discovered that lions often suffocate their prey by covering its mouth and nose with its mouth (picture the lion-tamer with his head in the lion’s mouth – Now close, please). If that doesn’t work, a huge paw (8-12 inches wide) over the mouth and nose is their effective, suffocating, Plan B.

If that still doesn’t work, there are the claws. Eight of them. Each an inch and a half long and razor sharp. They’re retractable, too, which means they don’t get dulled from walking.

And did you know the average male lion is eight feet long? Picture the tallest basketball player lying down, and you’re still a foot too short.

Are you intimidated yet? Multiply these lion facts by three, or four, or six, and you’ve got the makings of a true horror flick.

This is what Daniel faced as he decided whether to continue praying three times a day to God.

If I was Daniel, I’d be thinking:

This prayer-to-King-Darius thing only lasts for 30 days. I can skip praying for that long, can’t I? God will understand. After all, what good am I if I’m dead?

Where does it say I have to pray aloud? Or kneel down? I can pray silently all day long and the bad guys’ll never know it.

But not Daniel. His prayer time with God was his joy. His delight. Pass up a chance to talk to the God of the universe? Are you kidding me? It was a privilege, one which he would never take lightly.

Maybe he remembered the courage of his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so many years ago. Punished for not bowing to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, they were spared when God delivered them from the fiery furnace. Now Daniel risked punishment for bowing to the true and living God. Perhaps God, in his great mercy, would also spare Daniel’s life.

What was Daniel thinking as he made his way toward home and his prayer chamber, knowing that the instant he bowed his head, he would seal his own death sentence? Did he see the villains skulking in the shadows, following him like dime store detectives? Did he walk hesitantly, heart beating hard with fear? Or did he walk resolutely, head held high, and stride long and determined?

And when he prayed that fateful day – what did he say?

Father, protect me?

Save me from this hour?

Forgive them?

Glorify your name?

How long did it take his jealous colleagues to report to the king and return with Daniel’s death sentence? An hour? Two?

Hurried feet, a clamor at the door, and shackles.

"May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" King Darius cried as they dropped the aged statesman into the pit.

“Roll a stone over the mouth,” the king said reluctantly, then pressed his ring into the wax that sealed Daniel’s grave.

In the damp darkness of the den, furry bodies cushioned Daniel’s fall. Warm breath heated his fear-frozen flesh. A wet nose snuffled his ear. But nary a tooth shone in the feeble light that ringed the rock-covered entrance. The angel of God had shut the lions' mouths.

Groping gingerly for the floor, Daniel felt a tail, then a paw, then a velvety side, rising and falling like a gentle wave. Exhausted from his ordeal and weary from the adrenaline rush that had suddenly left his veins, he lowered himself to the ground. 

Warm bodies drew close, piling around him like kittens, It was hard to tell where one body ended and the other began. Determined to stay awake and watch until morning, he sat, still and erect, praying for God’s protection.

Soon, however, fatigue won the battle over fear. His head began to nod, then dropped to his chest. Gravity pulled him forward until his face touched the shaggy mane of the largest lion. In Daniel’s semi-sleep, it felt like the coarse tapestry that surrounded his bed. With a sigh, he drifted off, lulled to sleep by the gentle rumble of the lion’s purr.

Hours later, with dawn barely ringing the edges of the stone- covered mouth of the den, a commotion arose, awakening Daniel from his sleep.

“Lift it off. Quickly man, or I’ll have your head. ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’

 “O king, live forever!” Daniel shouted. “My 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."

 “The 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 (Dan. 6:20-23).

“At the king's command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones (6:24).

“Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: 

‘May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.’"

 “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Dan. 6:24-28).

I don’t know what lions are trying to devour you right now. Maybe it’s a difficult spouse. Or a dangerous illness. Or bills piled to the ceiling and no job in sight. Remember Daniel’s example. Pray and don’t stop. Call on the God of heaven. Ask him to meet you where you are and fill you with courage and conviction. 

Claim King Cyrus’ words as your own:

“He is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions,” and he will rescue you, as well.

Perhaps, like in Daniel’s den, God might even use the same lions you fear for his glory and your deliverance.



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