Let’s fast-forward to an imaginary 2020 election …
America is the world’s sole power: with twenty extra senators to represent Washington DC; Dominican Republic, Guam, Puerto Rico and other US protectorates; and overseas military personnel and diplomats.
To expedite decisions and to minimise politicking, the presidency – long-recognised as beyond one person alone - is now a joint Republican-Democrat office. Until a refugee from Haiti is suddenly added - to lead this office!
Imagine voters’, pollsters’ and political kingmakers’ unrest: “Ohhh No! Who does he represent?”
Let’s rewind to similar anxiety in a sixth-century BC superpower…
Political aspirants today could never imagine controlling military, legal, economic and media issues, but that’s routine for Babylon’s King Darius. However he knows he can’t do it all alone.
So who to trust?
Reshaping his empire into one hundred and twenty provinces, each with a governor, Darius picks a three-man supreme council with Daniel – a Jewish refugee – as its leader!
Babylon is abuzz. Powerbrokers, trawling for scandal, return empty-handed. This guy is so clean that the bemused wife of one frustrated governor coins her sisterhood’s secret nickname for him: “T’ephylon,“ after the oil their cooks use to keep utensils free of food residue.
The governors are of one mind: “Ohhh! Daniel’s too good to be true. Maybe we could nail him through his religion; but how?”
“By forgetting him!” comes a voice.
“Ohhh sure; let’s forget our careers too!”
“No, let’s make Darius an offer he can’t refuse!” An ingenious scheme fuses their attention with their egos…
They unanimously ooze into Darius’ throne room; mildly distracting his fantasies of cunning new ‘divide and conquer’ games to play one’s jealousy against another’s. But one of them is clearing his throat …
“Ohhh, beloved Darius, live forever! We are offering you a thirty-day, no-obligation, free home-trial!”
“Ohhh?” Darius is smiling. “Tell me more."
“You control our army, our economy and all publishing rights! Your wisdom is irrefutable and your laws cannot be changed. But you are still yet human!
“We implore you to sign this scroll. It declares you as our god for one month. Your lions will consume anyone who worships another god!”
Ohhh! thinks Darius, for a month I could live with that!
Signing the scroll into law, and basking in the anticipation of such unlimited power, he watches them file out. To start joyously broadcasting an edict that cannot be revoked.
That afternoon they’ve returned: less servile; almost assertive: “Remember that new, unchangeable law, Almighty One?”
Darius nods, but his brow is furrowing.
“We regret to inform you that we’ve just noticed that troublemaker Daniel praying to Jerusalem – ignoring you and your law! Ohhh beloved Darius; what must we do?”
Dismay floods Darius’ ego with dazzling clarity: Ohhh! How blind have I been? His chagrin at being outsmarted contrasts with their ill-concealed ecstasy yet, helpless against his own power, he reluctantly imposes Daniel’s sentence.
In the fetid air at the mouth of the lions’ den, he whispers to Daniel: “Ohhh, I know I’m no god, but may the God you serve deliver you!”
Darius replays one constant thought throughout a long, fitful, sleepless night: Ohhh, what a fool I am! Daniel was the only one I could trust!
At first light, around Babylon’s palatial Hanging Gardens, everyone’s sleep is shattered by shouting. But none dare complain, for Darius is the one disturbing their peace!
Outside the lions’ den he is yelling - not caring who hears - “Ohhh Daniel! Has your living God kept you safe?”
“Ohhh Darius! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths. I am safe, because I am innocent before him and before you!”
Even as Daniel is being lifted from the den, Darius is dispersing soldiers to arrest every governor and their entire households - hangovers and all - for they’ve also been awake all night. Celebrating.
And now the lions are celebrating, for an apparently endless supply of humanity is being tossed to them; as deceit receives its due reward.
Darius’ recognition of “Daniel’s God” has grown. At first a whispered one-on-one admission; then a desperate shout at dawn; and finally the confidence to enact a new law that his whole empire should worship this God.
Author’s note: How Daniel survived the lions’ den is ohhh-nly part of a bigger agenda in Daniel chapter six; for God fashioned Daniel’s integrity as a bridge, across a minefield of political ambition and intrigue, to reach a very powerful, very lonely man with his grace.
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