Friday, March 27, 2015

Daily Lenten Post, Day 32 and 33

I didn't post yesterday, so here are some thoughts for yesterday and today.

Daniel 6:10-15--Daniel prays
I like that it tells us Daniel had an upper room. I mean, it may not be terribly important, but it does make me think of next week, when we'll talk about another upper room, anyway.

What do we think of the suggestion that Daniel prays three times a day toward Jerusalem? In his time and context, that would seem appropriate, but don't we get suspicious of people who pray multiple times a day, facing toward a particular place? Maybe we need to rethink that...

It tells us in verse 11 that the men all saw him praying, and I wonder if they just broke into his house, or what. Did they sneak up on him and leave quietly, or did they confront him so he knew they were going to the king? I'm sure he knew the situation well enough to know they were plotting against him by getting this edict made, anyway, but I'm still wondering about some of the details here.

Is it really a surprise that the king gets trapped by his own edict? I mean, he's also trapped by his own pride and vanity--how shocking! When you say, "Worship me, or else..." someone's gonna get stuck with the "or else," ya know? Maybe when you have the power of a king it's easy to forget that.

Daniel 6:16-24--Daniel in the lions' pit
OK, not that I didn't already know this story, but it continues to make the king look like a total jerk. On sort of a side note, why do they seal the lions' pit? Wouldn't that cause the oxygen to become depleted? Maybe that's irrelevant.

Anyway, the king admits that Daniel's God will save Daniel--even though the king wanted to be the only god--but then he worries and stews about Daniel all night and rushes to check out if he's OK the next morning--not very brave and kingly of him! Then, when Daniel is OK, he puts the bad guys and their wives and kids in there and they all die. I mean, it does prove that Daniel's being untouched by the lions wasn't just a fluke, but good grief! ...then the king won the award for most despotic ruler of the year...

It's interesting that Daniel still speaks with deference to the king after that. Wouldn't it be difficult to find a way to be even polite, let alone act like he's a great person? Maybe you just do that when you are talking to a king, especially a king like this.

Note that God is at work in a way that's not really surprising here, but is impressive. Just like this story sounds like what we've seen earlier in the book, so God again sends a holy messenger into the space of punishment to protect one of God's own people. That's pretty cool.

Daniel 6:25-28--A new decree
King Darius says, "I wish you much peace," in his edict for the whole kingdom. Really, Darius? You don't seem much like the peaceful type!

He kind of understands God, I think, but does he really believe what he says about God? It's hard to say.

Today I read Daniel 7:1-8, "Daniel's vision: four beasts." I don't really know what to say about this. With my study Bible's explanation of what everything in the vision stands for, I feel like I kind of know what was going on in this passage. It bears some resemblance to the book of Revelation. I've never been a huge fan of apocalyptic writing or of fantasy/science fiction literature, which is kind of what this seems like to me. I am tempted to switch to something else, at least until Easter, but I guess I'll stick with Daniel and see what comes of it for me. I think it is interesting that the people of Daniel's time would have understood the four beasts as four particular kingdoms that they already knew about, but we tend to take apocalyptic writing and assume it's about things today or things to come. I guess that goes back to one of those debates about scripture--does context matter, or not? I think it does, but that's just my opinion. Maybe having studied literature makes me biased. If we take Daniel and the prophets (and Revelation) as speaking more about the situations they found themselves in than about something that will happen at some "future" time, how does that change our interpretation? Just something to think about...

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