Sunday, September 16, 2007

Waving the White Flag

Growing up, I loved watching the old westerns with my Granddaddy. Other than the Grand Ole Opry, that’s all he ever watched on TV. The westerns were so simple. If the man wore black, he was bad. If he wore white, he was good. If he had a bandana around his face, he was about to rob someone. If they called for a posse, they were on a hunt for the bad guy. If someone waved a white flag, they had put down their weapons and surrendered.

In many ways, the prophet Daniel was a cowboy. He was set apart. Even the pagan King Darius knew there was something special about Daniel. In fact, the King had such admiration for Daniel that he’d planned to set him over the whole kingdom. But then the bad guys came along.

The politicians of the day didn’t want to see Daniel receive the power to govern them. So they formed a posse, and began to plot as to how they could cause Daniel to loose favor with the King. They knew Daniel, and knew that the one thing that he would never do is surrender to another god. Daniel was a righteous man. He knew God, and he worshipped God from a pure heart, praying three times a day, day in and day out. The one thing Daniel would not do is turn from his God.

So the posse went to the King and said in Daniel 6:6-7 "O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den. “

Well, no doubt the King must have felt…well…like a King! He must have said to himself, “look at all these humble servants wanting to kiss up…err…show allegiance to me!” So the King agreed, and the law was passed. Now, in those days, when a law was passed there was no repeal process. This was part of the laws of the Medes and Persians. The deed was done!

Daniel now had a decision to make. The law was only for 30 days. It would have been easy for any man to have hidden himself away and prayed for the next 30 days. It would have been somewhat understandable if he’d decided to give up praying entirely for just the next 30 days. But Daniel did not conform. Daniel continued to worship the one true God in spite of the law. Daniel took his life into his own hands, and pressed on, praying publicly three times a day.

Now the posse circled, and decided to make their stand! Before the King they proclaimed, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” they said in verse 13. The King was devastated! He’d just sentenced his loyal friend to death. He tried and tried all day to find a way to rescue Daniel from his own words, but could not. Then the time had come. Daniel was before the lion’s den.

Daniel had a choice to make. He could remain strong in his faith, or he could put down his faith, and wave the white flag of surrender. No doubt King Darius wished he would just wave the white flag! “Wave it Daniel! Just wave it!” I’m sure he would have shouted as they looked down on the hungry lions. But Daniel would not betray his God. He would not bend, he would not conform, he would not be influenced by the fear of an impending death, and he would not wave the white flag of surrender. Instead, he relied on the God he trusted. He relied on God to protect him, and preserve him. The Bible has no mention of Daniel screaming in anguish and fear as he was lowered into the den, or any mention of him begging for mercy or pleading for more time to make a decision. He simply went to the den.

At the opening of the den, King Darius said to Daniel in verse 16, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" Now keep in mind, this King was a non-believer. He’d only seen Daniel’s faithfulness to his God. Yet now the King is relying on that same God to save his friend. There, at the opening of the den, with the lions circling below, roaring and pacing, Daniel was thrown in and a stone rolled into place to close the den. No doubt the King must have wept bitterly as he watched his friend be thrown to the lions.

That night the King could not eat nor sleep. He was devastated at what he’d caused to happen, yet he was powerless to change it. Not being able to pray because he didn’t know our God, all he could do is pace, and worry all night long.

The next morning, as soon as it was light, the King ran to the den to see if God had come through. "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?" he shouted in verse 20. Notice that now the King realized that Daniel’s God was something special. Daniel’s God was a living God, not a god of stone or wood. Perhaps that night of worry had taught the King a thing or two. Regardless, words from the den in verse 21-22 are bound to have established the King’s faith! "O 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, O king."

God had caused the lions to become kitty cats! They’d no doubt been very soft, cuddly pillows for Daniel’s sleep that night. God had found Daniel innocent, and because of his loyalty to God, he delivered him.

Unlike Daniel, we Christians often run for the white flag to wave, and we allow this world’s political correctness, condemnation and ridicule to push us to surrender. As long as we surrender, we’ll never grow nor see the lost souls around us come to know our living God.

Endure your trials.
Pray through the storms life brings.
Cry out to God when the pains of this world become more than you can bear.
Walk through the fire if that’s what God allows to be put in front of you.
But never ever raise the white flag of surrender!

Surrender in the old westerns never gave peace for the one that gave up. Instead, they were put in jail! The world and its sin and trials can put you in prison if you allow it. It can bind up the ever-present power you have within you through the Holy Spirit. It can throw a wet towel on the flame within you and douse your fire.

It’s up to you who will win this showdown. Just as Daniel had a decision to make, we all must one day make that same decision. What will it be? Will you choose victory through your trust in God, or will you surrender?

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