NEW TWIST ON AN OLD TALE
I’ve discovered that many of the stories I learned as a kid were only partially taught. Why? Because they are brutal! They were written at different time and with a different understanding of God, power, justice, and mercy. As I studied the book of Daniel, I realized I’ve focused way too much on Daniel and those lions. The story of Daniel is about so much more! Let’s move our focus from Daniel and those lions to another person central to the story: Darius.
With Darius we have a front row seat to what it means to be a conflicted leader – to experience confusing voices and a lack of clarity.
Darius has appointed 120 leaders to help rule his Kingdom. But there’s a pecking order–three of them appointed as leaders over leaders. Daniel is one of the three. Quite a few years have passed from the beginning of the story of Daniel, and Daniel is now an older, wiser leader – maybe even in his 80s – working under Darius. And with that much experience and leadership, Daniel is head and shoulders above the rest. And the other administrators and satraps don’t like it. Daniel has himself some haters! So, they devise a plan to get rid of Daniel. That’s where Darius becomes the main character in the story:
“So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May 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 human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 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put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing. 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. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 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.” (Daniel 6: 6-12 The Message).
Darius has gotten himself in real pickle. He listened as the leaders around him piled on the flattery – boosting his ego and confusing his brain. These leaders have devised a plan to trap Darius in his own pride and it worked like a charm! As a result, these voices in his head lead Darius to confuse his values, diminish his relationship, and ultimately jeopardize his Kingdom. It’s a cacophony of confusion.
THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD
Are you feeling confused, too? Internet and globalization gives us access to so much information! So many voices! There is no shortage of advice from folks of influence these days – from twitter to Facebook, Instagram, the political rhetoric and beyond. But what about the people a little closer in – those you work with, family, friends, folks that you genuinely respect and look up to—what about their voices in your head? Who are you listening to?
Have you ever made a decision in your job, in your marriage, with your kids or even with your faith because you let the wrong voice become the dominate voice in your brain? You took that position, you fired that employee, you left that spouse, you ignored that caution, you stopped going to that church—all because of the voices in your head?
Just like Darius, we allow these voices to inflate our ego, compromise our character, and confuse our clarity. When we make mistakes, we need to be quick to admit our wrong and tune our ears (heads and hearts) to the ONE TRUE VOICE.
THE ONE TRUE VOICE
Darius realized his mistake right away. Darius just signed the death sentence of his most trusted, humble and courageous adviser. And he’s sick over it!
“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. 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. 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 6: 17-20 The Message).
Suddenly Darius understood the limits of his personal power—Darius cannot go against his own edict, cannot shut the mouths of lions, does not have the power to change Daniel fate, but God can!
Darius came to the end of himself – and that’s where many of us find ourselves today: at the end of trying to live a Christian life without real direction; At the end of making decisions based only on trying to make ourselves look better; At the end of trying to keep everyone around us happy.
Whose voice are you listening to? There is a voice that will not steer you wrong, there is a voice that deeply wants your life right now, there is a voice who brings hope and clarity in our most desperate situations—are you listening to the voices in your head– or are you seeking out the One True Voice?
Sometimes it’s hard to discern which voice is which.
But Jesus promised in John’s gospel, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10: 27 NIV).
Here are some quick tips to know the difference between the voice of God and the pizza you ate last night:
1. Words of Wisdom
When we read and reflect on the Bible, we begin to develop a picture of who we are and Whose we are. The Bible helps us discern the voice of God through the person of Jesus—we read the whole of the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ life and words. Jesus is the living Word. He is the lens by which we read the Bible! If you are confused as you reading Daniel, go back to Jesus—what did Jesus say, what did Jesus do? Jesus is the Word of God—we read the word through the WORD. You’ve got the One true voice speaking through scripture.
Another way to recognize the One True Voice is to remember that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in you.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14: 26 NIV).
2. The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is our teacher and helps us discern the voices in our heads. If you have said yes to Jesus, Jesus promised to give you the gift of the Holy Spirit—teaching, empowering, leading you into a healthy future. And the more you pay attention, the more you’ll recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit on the inside.
3. Healthy People
One of the gifts of being a part of a community of faith is healthy people to rely on when you are attempting to live the Jesus life.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4: 14-15 NIV).
Healthy people are placed in Your path to build up and empower you to grow in faith and courage. These are the folks who, when helping you make a decision aren’t focused on what they can get, but on how you will grow.
A podcaster once asked me, “Rachel what’s your dream for Dayton and the Miami Valley?” My answer—that people would operate out of their beloved identity. When I look around our region, country and throughout the world, much of the brokenness I see is because people are confused. They are believing the lie of scarcity—there isn’t enough, there aren’t enough resources, money, positions, influence, power, you name it. And when boiled down—we believe we are not enough.
When people operate out of a deep trust in God—they realize they are beloved, they are enough, and not merely selves but every single human around them. Trust in God changes their perspective, their worldview—they see differently—they gain clarity. What about Darius? What happened? Well, verse 27 he saw God at work in Daniel’s life and he declared, “He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:27 The Message).