By Paul Koch –
I have grown quite fond of viewing my role in worship on Sunday morning as entering the lion’s den, but not in the way you might think.
If you recall the famous story of Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6) you will remember that Daniel’s enemies came up with the idea of having Darius make a decree that anyone who prays to any god or man other than the king for the next thirty days will be thrown in to the lion’s den. Now this is no run of the mill decree; it is a decree set down in writing which according to the law of the Medes and Persians cannot be repealed. So, long story short Darius makes the decree, Daniel is caught praying to the true God and is seized. Now Darius tries as hard as he can to get Daniel out of this but the law is the law. It is binding – there is no way around it. Justice must be handed out and so into the lion’s den goes Daniel.
Now usually we hear this text as some great call to trust in God. We are reminded to obey God rather than the government or some sort of temporal peer-pressure and God will not abandon you in your time of need. Like Daniel you do not need to fear even if you are cast to the lions, for your God is with you. But the problem here isn’t really the government, Darius wanted to free Daniel but he was trapped by something more powerful than him: something even the king couldn’t ignore. He was trapped by an unyielding decree. The problem is the Law itself.
Here we can see that the lion’s den and Sunday morning worship are not that far apart. Yet this time it is not some fabricated law of the Medes and Persians. No this time it is the pure and just Law of God himself. This law demands the death of a sinner. It declares us to be guilty, and for the guilty there is only one answer – death. And so we rightly confess that every attempt at works righteousness, every form of Pelagianism, every crass and subtle antinomianism it all is silenced and held guilty by an unyielding law which gives no shadow of change.
But where Darius and Daniel could do nothing about it, our God can. In the text God allows the Law to remain intact and sends and angel to shut the lion’s mouths. And yet in a much grander fashion he shuts the mouth of the law itself on the cross of Calvary. He who knew no sin became sin for us. Our Lord and Savior, the only begotten Son of God took all the sins of the world and bore them in his flesh. He became your sin so that when the just and holy Law of God looked upon him it had to do the only thing it could, it had to kill the sin. And so your sin has been judged in your Lord, but he has risen again nevermore to die. And you as his children have died and risen with him the waters of your Baptism. Therefore we can shout out with St. Paul himself and declare, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
So you see it is in this light that I see my vocation as preacher. I’m called to enter the lion’s den with you. Not to overcome the fear of being devoured, but to shut the mouths of the lions for the sake of my brothers and sisters. For the Law of God, unyielding and powerful, binds their consciences and terrifies their souls. And there is only one way out, a simple Word of hope and life.
God will continue to send those who will enter the lion’s den. His word will certainly shut the lions’ mouth, for you. Let us give thanks that God’s Word returns again and again to proclaim the good news and save us from death.