didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel? (preaching to the choir)

DSC_0025
the choir at WFPC

This is one of those blog posts that is a response to a question. And, like most such posts, I’m probably giving a bigger answer than the question begs. But I’m an over-thinker; always have been; that’s just what writers do.

The question came out of a hymn. Or, more properly, a spiritual. Here’s the text (I’ll paste in the whole song at the end of this post):

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel?
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
But why not every man?

The question concerns the phrase “But/and why not every man?”

IMG_0455Obviously, this song emerged from the context of oppression and slavery; not just one individual’s experience, but a systematic oppression that was the living reality of an entire people. The idea that their God – the same God who kept Daniel safe in a den of lions, protected three men thrown into an incinerator, and facilitated the safe passage of Jonah in the belly of a huge fish – offers hope and the promise of deliverance to people bound in slavery, is a beautiful and transformational truth on every level.

PROBLEM: The problem with a song like this comes when we apply the story of Daniel as a prooftext, as a formula, or as a “name it and claim it” principle.

But the Bible is not a handbook of magic spells, nor is it a recipe book that details how God is supposed to respond if we line things up just so; it’s not a talisman, and it’s not a document we can use to manipulate God into giving us what we want. No, the Bible is a collection of writings that tell the ongoing story of humankind’s struggle to know, to understand, and to follow the Creator.

Sometimes that struggle yields epic tales, but the point of these stories is not the fact that things worked out nicely for the heroes, the point is that they were courageous strugglers. You see, the Daniel story is more about obedience than it is about deliverance.

Daniel didn’t enter the lion’s den with the expectation of deliverance so much as he was thrown in as a consequence of obedience.

“The Hebrew children,” were dumped into the incinerator because of their faithfulness to God; had they died, the story would have been just as powerful. Jonah didn’t survive three days in a fish because he prayed correctly, or did things right – he lived because he couldn’t escape the reach of God’s claim on his life.

WilliamTyndale1THE POINT: Yesterday evening my men’s group talked about the death of William Tyndale in 1536. He was burned at the stake because he translated the Bible into the English language (more about this in tomorrow’s post).

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel? But why not William Tyndale?

The point of these stories is not escape, but obedience, love, grace, and faithfulness: Daniel’s obedience, the Hebrew children’s uncompromising love for God, God’s grace toward Nineveh, William Tyndale’s faithfulness.

The point for the enslaved people who first sang the spiritual was God’s greatness, their hope, their trust in God, their spiritual deliverance; the point for all oppressed peoples today remains the promise of God’s love and grace.

WHY SING IT TODAY? The point of singing such a song in the air-conditioned comfort of a prosperous church in a free country is this:

  • To remind ourselves that God’s love is not exclusive,
  • To remind ourselves that God’s promises are for all people,
  • To remind ourselves that nothing human beings do to one-another can imprison a soul,
  • To remind ourselves that we, too, can be enslaved by sin,
  • To remind ourselves that God is not finished with us yet,
  • and – maybe most importantly… to remind ourselves that there is nothing we can do to free ourselves from what binds us, only Jesus can do that.
Rebekah enjoyed singing with the chorus
Rebekah enjoyed singing with the chorus

And, finally, the point for me is the integrity of my witness to God’s faithful love. That’s my struggle.

– DEREK

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel?
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
And why not every man?

He delivered Daniel from the lion’s den
And Jonah from the belly of the whale
And the Hebrew children from the fiery furnace
Why not every man?

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel?
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
And why not every man?

The moon runs down in a purple stream
And the sun refused to shine
And every star did disappear
Yes, freedom shall be mine

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel?
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
And why not every man?

Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel?
Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel?
And why not every man?

The Church The Story writing life

derekmaul View All →

Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there's always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor's degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men's Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

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