St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Preserve Our Great Heritage

Reformation Sermon on Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23

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. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So 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 human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”
The king answered, “The decree stands — in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
16 So 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!”
17 A 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. 18 Then 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.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When 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?”
21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 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, Your Majesty.”
23 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.

Last Tuesday, we observed the 500th anniversary of the day when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This marked the beginning of the Reformation. The significance of this date was observed as being pivotal in both secular and church history. It is a day that we thank God that he brought about, as the truths of God’s Word were again brought to the forefront. Dr. Luther realized the importance of the Scriptures. He stressed that the Scriptures alone are the source and norm of our faith life, not tradition or human pronouncements handed down by church authorities. We are heirs of this thought. We are to hold to what God’s Word says, no matter what others might say. As we take time today to observe the 500th anniversary, it is my prayer that we continue to PRESERVE OUR GREAT HERITAGE. 1. Cling To Its Truth. 2. Await The Victory.

Our text for this morning takes us to the familiar account of Daniel and the lion’s den. To help us better understand what is going on in this account, we need to remind ourselves of the circumstances that led up to it. Daniel was one of the first Jews to be led into exile by the Babylonians. He had served in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. When the Persians defeated the Babylonians, Daniel’s competency was so well-known that he was retained in office. He was then promoted to second in command in the Persian Empire. This caused hatred on the part of those who had been skipped over. Their jealousy led them to try to find a way to discredit Daniel in the eyes of the Persian king, Darius.

Daniel believed in the God of Israel and lived his faith. The conspirators tried to use that against him. So, they went to King Darius and suggested that he make a decree that anyone who prayed to any god or person other than King Darius during the next thirty days would be thrown into a den of lions. This appealed to Darius’ ego and the decree was issued.

What did Daniel do when he heard about the decree? “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.” (Verse 6) He didn’t change his routine at all. He continued to pray to God. We even note that he gave thanks to God, even during this time of obvious persecution. Daniel was not going to listen to the decree, because he knew to do so would be a sin. If he stopped praying, what kind of testimony would that be?

Without intending to do so, Daniel’s enemies paid him a great compliment. They didn’t expect that the decree to cause Daniel to compromise his faith. As a result, it was very easy for them to catch Daniel in the act of praying. They hauled him off to Darius and presented their case against Daniel. Even though Darius tried to look for loopholes, since any decree could not be changed, Daniel was taken and thrown into the den of lions. Daniel’s life was on the line because he would not compromise what God said in his Word.

The same was true of Martin Luther. He had merely wanted to enter into a discussion with the Roman Catholic Church over things that he saw that were wrong. Instead of discussing these points, the Roman Catholic Church began to attack him. They sent people to dispute what he was saying. He was excommunicated from the church. Eventually, he was called to the Diet of Worms where he was asked if he was willing to retract what he had said and written. In response, Martin Luther uttered these famous, brave words, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

As a result, Martin Luther was declared a heretic and an outlaw. Because of this, Dr. Luther’s life was in danger. Anyone who killed him would have the blessing of the church. To keep him safe, Dr. Luther’s friends whisked him away to the Wartburg Castle, where he lived for almost a year in disguise as Knight George. It would have been easy for him to stay there in the safety of the castle. However, when theological problems broke out in Wittenberg, he left the Wartburg. He was not going to let his personal safety supercede the need to share what God’s Word said. Even though his life was threatened, he would not allow anything to get in the way of holding to the truths of God’s Word. Later, he would write, “I will not compromise the Word of God. This is something I would do neither at Augsburg nor at Worms. I was expected to compromise these matters there, but I was more willing to endanger my safe conduct than the Word of God.” In spite of opposition from earthly authorities, Martin Luther held to what was true. He recognized his obedience was to a higher authority.

The same is true for us, as well. We may not live in fear of being thrown into a lions’ den or being burned at the stake for being a heretic. We live in a society that has granted religious freedom. However, that does not mean that we are not constantly under attack for holding to the truths of God’s Word. When we say that certain things are sinful, society calls us unloving or bigoted. When we say that there is only one way to salvation and that is through faith in Jesus Christ alone, they tell us that we are being too close-minded. Even some churches are trying to twist parts of the Bible or exclude them, because they do not fit what the rest of society feels. It can be so tempting to just let go of those things that the world finds offensive, so that they accept us and love us. May God help us, as he did Daniel and Martin Luther, to be willing to stand up and confess what we know to be true. May God preserve this great heritage among us.

In account of Daniel, it certainly appeared that all was lost. He was thrown into the lions’ den. A stone was placed over the mouth. They made sure that no one helped Daniel escape. It’s interesting to note the king’s reaction what had happened. After spending a sleepless night, he left the palace at first light. He hurried to the den and asked, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Verse 20) What would cause Darius to think that somehow or other Daniel would still be alive? Obviously, Daniel had been very public about his faith. Darius was aware of Daniel’s belief. Perhaps, Daniel’s God had kept him safe. In response, Daniel said, “May the king live forever! 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, Your Majesty.” (Verses 21&22) When they lifted Daniel from the lions’ den, there was not a scratch on him. Daniel was saved from what appeared to be certain death. God was with him and gave him the victory in the lions’ den.

It’s also interesting to see God’s hand at work in Martin Luther’s life. It certainly appeared that the work that Martin Luther was carrying on would have been severely curtailed by the threat on his life. However, due to threats by the Turks, the emperor was not able to pursue Martin Luther. He had to be concerned with a possible invasion from the east. In addition, the man that was the leader of the state that Martin Luther was living in, Elector Frederick the Wise, was sympathetic to Luther’s cause. He protected him. As a result, Martin Luther was able to cling to the truths of God’s Word. He did so, not just because he believed in the cause. Martin Luther did so because he knew of the eternal victory that was waiting for him in heaven, because of the work of Jesus. In the last sermon that he preached before he died, Martin Luther said, “Let misfortune, sin, death and whatever the Devil and the World loads upon you – assail and assault you! If only you remain confident and undismayed, waiting upon the Lord in faith – you have won already!” At the moment of his death three day later, Martin Luther was still confessing the faith that God had given him.

May God continue to hold before our eyes that victory in heaven that is waiting for us, as well. Yes, the world will continue to attack us for what we believe. That is a given. Jesus said it would be so. However, we have the truths of his Word in our possession. In it we have a rock solid foundation. That Word of God points out our sins in the law. There we see how far short we have fallen of the perfection that God demands. We see that we have sinned against our God in our thoughts, words, and actions. This includes those times when we have been willing to compromise on what God says to appease others. It includes those times when we conveniently forgot what God’s Word said so that we could follow our sinful nature. God’s Word is also clear about the punishment that we deserve because of those sins.

However, that is not the whole of the Scriptures. We also have the beautiful message of the gospel that shows us just how much God loves us. We see that love shown when Jesus left his throne in heaven and was born as that baby in Bethlehem’s stall. That love is highlighted as we read about his life and see that, in every one of his words and actions, Jesus perfectly kept his Father’s will in our place. God’s love for us is in such clear evidence, when Jesus went to the cross. There in the ultimate love that has ever been shown, the Father punished his own Son for the sins that we have committed. We are now perfect in God’s sight. This love was announced for all the world to see when Jesus rose from the dead. God further showed his love for you individually when he brought you to faith and made you his own. Because we are God’s children, we have victory now and eternal victory to look forward to. God makes us this promise, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Revelation 2:10) The victory is ours because of our Savior’s love for us.

This is part of our Lutheran heritage. We know that God’s Word is so important that we cannot let anything or anyone compromise what is taught there. It is the only place that tells us how we are saved. God’s Word is a most precious treasure. May God help us to hold on to it with both hands. We also pray that God would help us to share this wonderful heritage with the generations that follow us. There is no greater gift that we can pass down to them. In addition, we pray that people around the world would also be brought to see the life-giving message that is found in God’s Word, that they would share this heritage with us. May God be with us so that we preserve our great heritage. Amen.