The Church’s Call to Truth in a Den of Lions
First Sunday of Advent
Daniel 6:6-27; Matthew 10:26-33
Our Old Testament text for this coming weekend, from Daniel 6:6-27 (the famous story of “Daniel in the Lions’ Den”), is what biblical scholars refer to as “apocalyptic literature.” It speaks of end times, whether the end of all earthly empires or the very earth itself (cf. Daniel 3:8-30; Matthew 24:1-44; Revelation 18). The book of Daniel as a whole challenges us with a “wake-up call” … to attend to all the false gods and vain authorities who strut and fret, but actually, in the end … will signify nothing (Shakespeare).
This text from Daniel, comes together for this first week of Advent, with Jesus’ Word of reassurance in Matthew 10:26-33; that despite persecution of those who trust and give allegiance to God alone – “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” and the God of "our crucified yet risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" – will be saved. You who march to a different drummer than those of Rome’s Caesars, of Hitler’s Third Reich, or even the Neo-Nazis in the news this past week (with their goose-stepping “Heil!”) … be not afraid. Continue as the church to proclaim the Lordship of Christ the King, love one another, share the gospel in word and deed. As Jesus reassures us once more in St. John’s gospel: “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Yes … each of us confronts the world with all of it possibilities of gain and loss. Risk and anxiety attend our every move. Therefore, the crucial question facing all of us – in every moment – in every time and generation – is the matter of trust. What or who can we finally trust? What is our foundation for hope in the midst of “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6)? This is the question of all existence. It is this question which gives all of life its religious dimension. In the face of such risk and insecurity we place our trust here and now there. We are tempted to place our trust in the ways of ourselves and the world – of materialism, nationalism, nuclear build-up, some political party or messiah figure who promises to “save the day.”
Yet, again and again we discover our trust betrayed. Is there anything, anyone finally trustworthy ... that from which we are given a foundation for hope – even in the darkest of times? To seek what is fundamentally and finally trustworthy is to come before Christ’s cross that points us toward a future … one which, as with Daniel and Jesus’ disciples of every age … has the power to reveal strength even in the midst of weakness, hope even in the midst of hopelessness, and life even in the midst of death … of a cave (note the revelation even to ol’ King Darius in Rembrandt’s sketch depicting “Daniel in the Lions’ Den”), a tomb that stands empty (read Matthew 27:62 – 28:10) … because God’s truth will always overcome any and all “lion” (lyin').
dr. j.r. christopherson