Thursday, November 10, 2011

on Daniel, and great Bible stories

So I've been re-reading the book of Daniel, and just finished Chapter 6, which tells the story of Daniel in the lions' den. I was so struck by the words in this chapter and wanted to share them, but first, it brought to my mind this book of Bible stories I had as a child.

Called The Greatest Bible Stories, it was published by Octopus Books in 1973, and edited by Diana Bremer. Even as a child I was fascinated by the wonderful artwork -- real, proper illustration, without the aid of fancy software -- and now as an adult I still marvel at it. Unfortunately the artist is not identified; the art was simply attributed to L'Esperto S.p.A. Just take a gander at these beauties:

Ignorance really was bliss.

Have you ever seen the Flood depicted like this? In a children's book? Bet those guys there wish they hadn't laughed at Noah.

Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery. I love the way the artist would have one of the characters turn to look directly at the reader.

The night of the Passover, where every first-born creature of the Egyptians was slain.

The death of Absalom, King David's eldest son. His famously thick hair caught in the boughs of a tree and he was swept off his saddle, where he hung till Joab came to kill him.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace.

I actually love this story by the way. When King Nebuchadnezzar asked them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image which I have set up?", they answered, "O Nebuchadnezzar, it is not necessary for us to answer you on this point.

If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up!" (Dan 3:14-18)

So the three were cast into the burning fiery furnace, which got turned up seven times hotter because the king was so mad. But!

"... Nebuchadnezzar the king [saw and] was astounded, and he jumped up and said to his counselors, Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered, True, O king.

He answered, Behold, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt! And the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods!

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God, come out and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the midst of the fire.

And the satraps, the deputies, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered around together and saw these men -- that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed; neither were their garments scorched or changed in color or condition, nor had even the smell of smoke clung to them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who believed in, trusted in, and relied on Him! And they set aside the king's command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.

Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, and language that speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be cut in pieces and their houses be made a dunghill, for there is no other God who can deliver in this way!" (Dan 3:24-29). Isn't that great??

And look!

It's Belshazzar and the writing on the wall. The inscription was MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN -- numbered, numbered, weighed, divisions.

And now, Daniel in the lion's den:

Isn't this great?? And now they've even got the lion looking at the reader!

So okay, as I think most people know, Daniel defied the king's decree that no one was to ask a petition of any god or man -- except of the king -- for 30 days. Anyone who did so would be cast into the den of lions.

"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously" (Dan 6:10) (Note: I think praying through one's day is a great way to stay close to God, to be strengthened and encouraged as the day wears on).

Well, Daniel was cast into the den of lions. The decree had actually been brought about by the connivance of a bunch of envious deputies and governors, and King Darius himself was in fact grieved about Daniel, and sought to deliver him. However, the law was that no decree of the king could be changed or repealed.

So the king said to Daniel, "May your God, Whom you are serving continually, deliver you!", and he "went to his palace and passed the night fasting".

And everyone knows of course that God did indeed deliver Daniel, and he was not hurt by the lions at all in any way (as a side note, the king commanded the men who had accused Daniel -- as well as their wives and children - eep! -- to be cast into the den; the lions "overpowered them and had broken their bones in pieces" before they even reached the bottom).

Which brings me to the decree that King Darius wrote. It was an order that everyone in his dominion must "tremble and fear before the God of Daniel". What struck me were the words of this decree, which were so uplifting, so powerful to me that I made them part of my own prayer; I pray that you will be empowered by them too!

He is the living God, enduring and steadfast forever, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed and His dominion shall be even to the end [of the world].

He is a Savior and Deliverer, and He works signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth -- He Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

1 comment:

Suze said...

This was an incredibly interesting post.

I was born in '74 and I remember this book.


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