It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 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put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.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The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”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!”
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.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
“May you prosper greatly!
26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For he is the living God
and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
What would possess this man to do such a thing? He takes a stand that is not popular at all. He goes up against the governing authorities of his day. If he won’t amend his way of life to fit in with the norm, the possibility of death becomes much much more likely. And yet, he doesn’t change. Why? Don’t you think it has to be something so important and vital that he could not live without it?
That’s the familiar story of Daniel before us today. He is living and working in the kingdom of Persia. He is successful, trustworthy, and powerful. The king of Persia, in fact, had plans to make this exiled Jewish transplant his number two in command over the whole kingdom.
But the other rulers and administrators don’t like that idea at all. You see, they see something odd about Daniel. He marches to beat of a different drummer. He doesn’t play the same political games. He is honest, humble, and upright. Ironically, those are not the traits they are looking for. They want to find a way to get rid of him.
What would possess another man to do something so very similar in a different place and at a different time? He takes a stand that is not permitted by the church or empire. If he won’t amend his way of life to fit with the norm of his day, the possibility of death becomes much much more likely. And yet, he doesn’t back down. Why? Don’t you think it has to be something so important and vital that he could not live without it?
That’s the familiar story of Dr. Martin Luther. He is a monk and theology professor living and working in little old Wittenberg, Germany. He had no power whatsoever, because that was being craved and consumed by the pope and councils in the catholic church and by Charles V, the emperor. But that did not stop him from going against the grain and taking a stand. And because he did, here we stand 500 years later in a different place and at a different time in a Lutheran Church.
What made men like Daniel take a stand? In the 2000 years between Daniel and Dr. Luther, more people were put to the test, more people were persecuted, more people were even killed for standing up in a similar way. What could cause such an uproar that it shook the whole world back then and still does 2500 years after Daniel and 500 after Luther put up those 95 theses? What was so important to Daniel and Dr. Luther that they could not imagine life without it?
It really comes down to a single question: who gets the glory? The rulers who were against Daniel wanted the glory and praise for themselves and for the king. Luther’s opponents in the church coveted and carried supreme authority and control. The glory and praise always went back to Rome.
Today, the question still remains. People take a stand – or they kneel – or they take to social media to put the glory, the praise, the attention where they think it should be. What is important to them, what is praiseworthy, what is vital for life – that is what it’s all about. And the list is extensive: racial equality, justice equality, marriage equality, protecting our natural resources, the end of sexual abuse, fixing the problem of global warming, education and on and on it goes. Many of these things are very worthwhile, very important even. Some would say that life as they know and like it would cease to exist, that the world would be a far worse place without some of these things. Who is getting the glory, when these are the things upon which people take a stand.
What is it for you? What is vital and important? If a person looks at your life or your Facebook posts, what is the thing that you can’t imagine life without? Is it your family – parents, children or siblings? Your job? Your income? Your personal goals? Your hobbies and interests? Your favorite teams? Your pets? Your politics? Your possessions? Your routine? Your religious observances?
If these are the things most important to you, can any of them give you the peace and security you need? Can any of those ideals or goals lead you in a direction that will always keep you safe from the chaos? Can any of those possessions and passions stay with you when everything is falling apart, when people don’t like you, and when your life hangs in the balance? Can any of those things to which we give such devotion and allegiance silence the voices of evil? Can any of those things stand the test of time and cut through the course of history with unequaled power and authority? Can any of those things shut the mouths of lions?
Then, they obviously should not be getting so much glory. They should not be such a huge part of life. They should not be the things that we put on the list of vitally important for my life. There is only one thing that can be on that list.
Here’s what happened to Daniel. At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 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?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions…”
When it comes to the good and honest man that Daniel is, there is only one who gets the glory. When it comes to standing up to the other rulers who are trying to get rid of Daniel, there is only one who gets the glory. When it comes to shutting the mouths of lions, there is only one person who gets the glory. It’s not Daniel, but it’s the Lord God who made him who he was. It’s the Lord God who had the power that Daniel trusted. It’s the Lord God who had to control over his creation and shut the mouths of the lions.
And so when history leads us to a similar man, who gets the glory? When it comes to boldness to stand up to the corruption and false teachings of the church, when it comes to the authority on which this whole movement began, and when it comes to the message that could not be quieted or quashed in Wittenberg and Germany and throughout Europe, there is only one who gets the glory. It is the Lord God who stand up to the corruption and false teachings. It is the Lord God who has supreme authority. It is the Lord God who has a message that will not be removed from this world until he says it’s time.
500 years later, nothing has changed. The Lord God, and he alone, gets the glory. We are not here today to praise Daniel. We are not here today to praise Dr. Luther. We are not here today to praise any pastors, teachers, or missionaries who have gone before us. We here to give all our best praise and glory to God alone.
And do you know why? It’s not just because he can do cool things like shutting the mouths of lions for a night. It’s not just because he can turn a lowly priest and professor named Luther into one of the most influential people this world has ever known. Those things are certainly impressive, but there is more. God alone gets the glory because of the things we have been talking about this past month, the essential truths of God that have been boldly presented, professed, and proclaimed by prophets and priests of the Old Testament, missionaries and ministers of the New Testament, professors and princes of the Reformation, and still to this day by people just like us.
Remember back to the beginning of this month, what were the children of Israel doing? Nothing that deserves the glory! They were wallowing and wailing at the Red Sea. But God showed them how he saves people when told them to be still and parted the sea, let them go safely through, and then swallowed the Egyptian army up entirely. Only the Lord saves people. It’s Christ and Christ alone. Then, we saw a much smaller group of Israelite people after they had returned from exile. They heard from God’s Word and saw how it stands alone, not as a book of rules or advice, but as the Words of a God who loves you, forgives you, and powerfully protects you. Only God’s Word proclaims those things for someone no matter what the circumstances. It’s Scripture and Scripture alone. Next, we saw King David get a bold promise from God, not because he earned it with a good life or deserved it because he was king. Instead, God gives his undeserved, unearned, unconditional love to people because that’s who he is and what he does. It’s called grace and it’s God’s free gift of salvation. It’s grace and grace alone. Last week, we saw Abraham get a much bigger perspective than he could ever come up with on his own. God showed him how when he makes a promise he keeps it even if we can’t understand how or when it will work. God still does that same work through the Word and sacraments when he plants faith in people. Only trusting the Lord will give you this bigger perspective and usher you to eternal life in heaven. It’s faith and faith alone.
Notice, that the focus for Daniel, for Martin Luther, and for us on this 500th anniversary is not “I hope God still gets all the glory.” It’s not “God should get all the glory.” It’s not “it would be nice for God to get all the glory.” It’s not even “I hope God gets some of the glory.” No! the phrase is: Soli Deo Gloria – To God Alone Be Glory.
This is the God who not only shut the mouths of lions for a night but has also silenced the voice of the one who still prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Lutherans loves to sing it this way: “He’s judged the deed is done. One little word can fell him.” God not only protected Daniel and Luther from physical danger, but he provided the one word that saves us from eternal danger, CHRIST! We have a God who has stepped into history for us. He has conquered our enemies. He has removed our fears. He has provided an eternal home for his people. And he gets all the glory.
Daniel was willing to do that even though it meant a night with the lions. And because he did, do you notice what happened? The great king of Persia, Darius, wrote to all the nations in all the earth a note this note that gives God all the glory: “May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
That lowly German professor was willing to give all the glory to God along. And because he did, do you notice what happened? With his nail strokes on the church doors 500 years ago, God shook the foundations of the church with reverberations the whole world has heard ever since.
I guess a good question to ask yourself on this 500th anniversary of the Reformation is: who will do that now? Who will be like Daniel and Luther? Who will give God and God alone all the glory? Who will shout his praise and his glory with their words and in their life? Who will give God alone the glory by saying God still gives, God still works, and God still speaks? Who will give the glory to God alone by telling their friends, relatives, and acquaintances that we are saved not by what we do, but by his grace alone through faith alone? Who will give the glory to God alone by sparing no expense to send well-trained pastors and teachers, maybe even your own children, into our communities across America and around the world with the same message that went out from King Darius: The Lord is the living God and he endures forever… He rescues and saves…? Who will do it? Brothers and sisters in Christ, and fellow members of the church of the Lutheran Reformation… we will!
To God Alone be Glory! Amen.