then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. as he came near to the den where daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to daniel, “o daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions? [daniel 6:19-20]
a living God.
isaiah the prophet describes the absurdity and the folly of idolatry:
all who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. let them all assemble, let them stand forth. they shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.
the ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. he fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. he becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. the carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. he shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. he shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. he cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. he plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. then it becomes fuel for a man. he takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. half of it he burns in the fire. over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. also he warms himself and says, “aha, i am warm, i have seen the fire!” and the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. he prays to it and says, “deliver me, for you are my god!”
they know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. no one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “half of it i burned in the fire; i also baked bread on its coals; i roasted meat and have eaten. and shall i make the rest of it an abomination? shall i fall down before a block of wood?” he feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “is there not a lie in my right hand?” [isaiah 44:9-20]
and so, in detail, the prophet illustrates our foolishness when we glorify celebrity, fashion, sex, money, power, job: these are dead Gods, they hold no real, lasting power, they are easily discarded on trash heap of history. when something novel comes along, we flee to our next ‘god.’ we cannot deliver ourselves, we have the ashes of lies on our hands.
but we who abide in Jesus Christ are servants of the living God: he saved us from turning to our dead idols:
and you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— [ephesians 2:1-5]
hallelujah! like daniel, we have been saved!
saved from the lion’s den,
saved from the pit,
saved from wrath,
saved from the evil one,
saved from our idols,
saved by the living God,
by the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ–
saved by grace!