by Daniel Lee
This week Friend Dan Lee brought the message while Katherine was on vacation. Thank you, Dan, for the inspiration and thoughtful connections to early Friends!
When Katherine asked if I’d be available to give today’s message I immediately said yes.
I had no topic in mind, but almost immediately the Prophet Daniel popped into my mind. As a fellow Daniel, I’ve always been aware that the name Daniel means “God is my judge.” That can be a pretty sobering thought. But I will get to more on that in a minute.
In preparing for today’s message, I tried to follow the early Quakers in how to study the Bible.
The early Quakers, George Fox certainly among them, strived to read the Scriptures in the spirit in which they were written. They read Scriptures in a meditative way, seeking to inform them inwardly to then apply that to their outward life.
We saw that approach vividly explained in our reading today from the Journal of George Fox.
“The Lord had said unto me that if but one man or woman were raised by His power to stand and live in the same Spirit that the prophets and apostles were in who gave forth the Scriptures, that man or woman should shake all the country in their profession for ten miles round.”
Throughout my message today, I am going to compare and contrast the experience of Daniel with that of George Fox to show just the amazing potential of this model of Bible study to strength our faith and our lives.
Let’s just say I spent a good bit of time in the past week with Daniel. Last weekend I read the entire book of Daniel from the Old Testament. I listened to a series of sermons on Daniels on a podcast while driving to and from work this week. I read commentary on Daniel, the prophet and faithful servant of God. I tried to imagine what it was like for Daniel, a handsome and promising young man taken away from his own culture by King Nebuchadnezzar.
I’ve always admired highly disciplined people, and Daniel always seemed that way to me. Daniel had the willpower to forgo the King’s royal food and wine for vegetables and water—almost like an elite athlete pushing their mind and body to the next level through self-sacrifice.
Daniel had the courage and faith in God to interpret the dreams, even when failure would have cost him his life.
In short, the Book of Daniel shows us the power of a faithful life… Of a life lived with God as our Judge… A life of integrity, wisdom, courage, discernment, and purpose.
I have come to realize that the power we can glean from the faith and practice of the early Quakers does not come from the early Quakers themselves, but instead from their commitment to live lives in direct communion with the spirit and teaching of God, just as the Bible prophets and apostles did.
Let’s look at the most famous passage involving Daniel. What leads a person to willingly go into a den of lions? What is the source of that courage and clarity? What can we learn from this famous Bible story in how we live our lives? Even when that punishment could have been avoided by a simple change in behavior?
In the story of Daniel in the Den of Lions, told in Daniel 6, we see that King Darius is quite pleased with Daniel’s work as an administrator. Let’s pick up the story at verse 3:
3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 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 human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.
10 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.”
13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
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!”
Of course, we know that Daniel’s God did rescue him.
It is interesting to note that the decree had no effect whatsoever on Daniel’s behavior—it held no authority, because God alone was his judge. Daniel held to his daily routine of prayer. He did not increase it or make it public in a show or defiance, nor did he hide or stop praying to avoid punishment.
Daniel lived under the authority of outside kings. Compare Daniel’s action to that of Peter in the New Testament, who famously denied Jesus three times before the roster crowed. I can only imagine that this story and others in the Bible like it profoundly impact the way in which George Fox lived his life.
In the back of the Journal of George Fox, there is a fascinating chronology of his life. Let me read a few specific dates from it:
- 1649 First imprisonment: Nottingham
- 1650 Second imprisonment: Derby
- 1653 Third imprisonment: Carlisle
- 1656 Fourth imprisonment: Launceston
- 1660 Fifth imprisonment: Lancaster
- 1662 Sixth imprisonment: Leicester
- 1664 Seventh imprisonment: Lancaster
- 1673 Eighth imprisonment: Worcester and London
Fox’s message and methods often incited resistance and violence. Writing in his journal about one of his arrests, Fox wrote: “Now were great threatenings given forth in Cumberland that if ever I came there they would take away my life. When I heard it I was drawn to go into Cumberland.”
Fox continues, “On the first day I went into the steeple-house at Bootle; and when the priest had done, I began to speak. But the people were exceedingly rude, and struck and beat me in the yard; one gave me a very great blow over my wrist, so that the people thought he had broken my hand to pieces.”
That, my friends, is the courage of Daniel.
When you live with the simplicity of God as your judge, you have the ability to become more purposeful and courageous than you ever thought possible.
The most powerful example of this, I believe, comes when we look at the end of the stories of both Daniel and George Fox.
The prophecy of Daniel on the end times closes with this passage, starting at Daniel 12:5:
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time.[b] When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
The great prophet Daniel declares, “I heard, but I did not understand.”
Yet Daniel, who willingly lived his life under God’s righteous judgment, hears only words of reassurance in the final verse. “You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
Now let’s turn to the end of George Fox’s life.
Shortly before his death in 1691, George Fox went to Gracechurch Street Meeting and preached what he called a “long and powerful” sermon. As he came out of meeting for worship, he said he felt “the cold strike to his heart.” Yet he told Friends, “I am glad I was here. Now I am clear. I am fully clear!”
In his final recorded words, Fox said: “All is well; the Seed of God reigns over all and over death itself. And though I am weak in body, yet the power of God is over all, and the Seed reigns over all disorderly spirits.”
Each willingly sought God as their Judge, and in the end each found comfort. “You will rest,” Daniel is told. “I am clear,” Fox said.
What more could we ask for from our God? Perhaps what seems most dangerous—following Daniel into the den—is what brings us the greatest peace in the end.
- OT: Daniel 2:19-23
- NT: Matthew 24:15-16