The Biblical book of Daniel tells the story of a young man, Daniel, exiled from Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar troops besiege the city. From early upon his arrival, he caught the eyes of those in power, as one of the young men who could be taught the customs and traditions of the land they were exiled to and serve in the king’s court.
He quickly stands out by choosing healthy food over the one offered. Later, Daniel interprets the king’s troubling dream. Other young men become jealous of him, convincing King Darius to make it illegal to worship anyone other than the king. With the penalty for those who violate the law to be thrown into a den of lions. But, Daniel, being a person of deep faith, knowing the consequences, still continues to worship God. As the story unfolds, Daniel is caught. He is arrested and thrown to the lions, there to meet his fate. When morning comes, Daniel has survived the night, saying. “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him.” Daniel 6:22
Greg Jacob, a lawyer working with Vice President Pence during the January 6th insurrection, made a reference to the story, at the January 6th Committee Hearing this week. After the Vice President, his family and staff had been safely evacuated from the House Chamber, Jacob said he opened his own Bible, began paging through it, until he reached the 6th chapter of Daniel. He went on to share a bit of the story of Daniel who defied the king, and instead chose to be faithful to God.
I thought of what a fitting text that was for the moment, when the Vice President was being pressured by the president to violate his oath, a crowd was chanting “Hang Mike Pence” and people who knew better were insisting that he could throw the election into chaos, by refusing to count votes from some of the states. I was grateful that he chose his oath of office over loyalty to the president. Grateful that he, like Daniel, chose being faithful to God over retaining power.
The words of James Russell Lowell’s hymn, “Once to Every Man and Nation,” came to mind. Lowell’s hymn was written while the country still struggled with slavery. It is an appeal to act on truth and righteousness. The hymn begins with these words:
“Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side.”
“Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside.”
May all of us, be people who seek the truth and act in righteous ways.