Ash Wednesday – Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

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Why Serve the Lord Continually?

This isn’t working. All of us in our lives know of examples where we try, but it doesn’t seem to work. There is the old quote that insanity is taking the same action, over and over again. And when it keeps failing, we keep doing it. This evening, that is the sort of question that God’s word asks of you. We are just about to hear a king ask one of the Lord’s people why he serves the Lord continually. And through this king, God’s word asks us the same question: Why would you serve the Lord continually? In Daniel 6, we read: 15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.” 16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”” (Dan. 6:15–16 NIV11-GKE)

King Darius has his hands tied. He was tricked into putting into law that anyone who worshipped any other gods than the one Darius followed would be put to death. Daniel didn’t follow the rules. He worshipped his God even when all the laws of the land told him not to. And it made no sense to Darius. No one could help Daniel.

But Daniel knew that Darius did not. He knew that human seals could not stop the Lord. Daniel knew that there would be one of two outcomes. Either the lions would devour him. Or he would be saved. He knew that if God allowed the tragedy to happen no human seal could stop the Lord from using it for good. He knew that the opposite could be true too. He knew that the Lord was perfectly able to rescue him from the mouth of the lion. He knew this because no human seal could stop the Lord in what he wants and promises to do.

And it’s good for us to talk about Darius and Daniel this evening because the attitude that Darius has is the same attitude the world around us has. They look at you and say in their hearts, “Why bother? Why do you continually serve Jesus?” But my dear friends, we know the truth, don’t we? We know that no seal can stop our God. No seal in Daniel’s day could keep Daniel in the deep, dark, well in Daniel’s day.1(Dan. 6:17 BHS-T)}} And no seal could keep Jesus in the deep, dark, tomb in Jesus’ day.

And we learn so much from this. It is not stupidity to continually serve our Lord. For no human seal can stop him. And what that means is that there will be times in our lives when the Lord allows trauma and tragedy into our lives. But we, like Daniel, have the promise that no seal or law of the land can keep the Lord from using the hardship for our good, or even from taking the tragedy away entirely. But there is more to learn from these words: 17 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. 18 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. 19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 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?” 21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”” (Dan. 6:17–22 NIV11-GKE)

Darius isn’t done. He stays up all night. He has no food or drink. He wants—needs to know why Daniel is so faithful to this god. Why would Daniel so continually serve him? And we already have an answer: No human seal can stop the Lord. But there’s more. A seal from the Lord can and does save.

The context here is important. Daniel says to Darius that he is not guilty. But there’s a very specific context to these words. He is not guilty of being put to death for worshipping the one, true God. But my dear friends, Daniel was guilty. He was guilty of having the same sort of sinful nature that we have. And for that reason he was guilty of death and hell after death. Later on in this same book, Daniel prays for his people and says, “we have sinned, we have acted wickedly.” (Dan. 9:15 CSB17)2(Dan. 9:15 BHS-T)}}

And in that context Darius and every unbeliever on the face of the planet has the right to ask us why we serve the Lord so continually. Because it doesn’t just seem as if the Lord doesn’t help us with tragedies that come from out there. It also doesn’t seem that he helps us with tragedies from in here—our own sinful desires and dreams. My dear friends in Christ, how many years have you travelled through lent? Has it actually worked? Doesn’t it seem as if your life is a sort of insanity? You keep doing the same thing. And yet you still have the same sinful dreams and desires. Your lies, your lusts, your laziness—they stay there year after year. And you repeat them year after year. Why would you serve a God so continually who doesn’t seem to be there to help?

What would you say to Darius or any other unbeliever if someone said that to you right now? First, my friends, we can say that human seals do not stop the Lord. But we can say more. His seals—the ones he creates do save and sustain. After all, what is a seal? A seal is a way of putting your name on something so that it belongs to you and you protect it. Can you think of a time in your life when someone spoke God’s word to you and put the name of the Triune God on you? In those waters of baptism the Lord gave you salvation. He delivered to you all the forgiveness that Jesus won for you on the cross. But that seal of baptism contains more. It also contains strength. It contains the power and ability to say no to sinful dreams and desires and follow Jesus.

This is what we learn from Daniel and his life. When he was thrown into the deep, dark well, full of lions, he was deep into his 80’s. He had 80+ years to “act wickedly.” But he had the promise that not only would the Lord forgive him, he would also fortify him. We too have that promise. And that promise is so serious and sincere that God gives it to us in the form of a seal.

And so, my fellow weary wanderers, my fellow continual and constant believers, serve your Lord. No human seal can stop him. And the seal he gives to us in baptism saves us. Amen.

1 ”לְגֻבָּ֖א“
2 ”חָטָ֖אנוּ רָשָֽׁעְנוּ“

Pastor at Immanuel, Steve Bauer

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