On lions, confidence, and comfort
One of my favourite paintings at the National Gallery in Washington DC is an illustration from the story of Daniel. In spite of being a bit of an outsider, Daniel moved up the ranks amazingly fast, until he was the right hand man of none other than King Darius himself. Naturally, his contemporaries were none too pleased at his promotion, so they schemed to get the king to sign a law saying that no one could ask anything of anyone - neither God nor man - for thirty days; in that time the only petitions which were to be made could be made to the king. It seems odd to me that the king didn't think it an unusual law, but he probably liked the sense of power it gave him so he thought "What the heck - I'll sign it!"
Daniel, of course, knew that only God could answer prayers, so, looking out his window towards Jerusalem, he prays as he is accustomed to doing. He gets caught, of course, and the king has no choice but to punish him with the prescribed punishment: he is to be thrown into a lion's den that apparently they just happen to have for such circumstances. Darius is not happy about it - he really likes Daniel - but, hey, a law is a law. I don't know if he's just trying to make Daniel feel better about probably becoming a snack, or if he really believes, but he does tell Daniel that he thinks Daniel's God will deliver him. I'm sure Daniel probably would have preferred that he commute the sentence or at least provided him with a big padded anti-lion suit to wear, but it was a nice thought nonetheless.
Well, we know the story: the lions don't munch on Daniel, and the king was "exceedingly glad" for Daniel - the least he could do, I think, given that he had thrown the poor guy in with the lions in the first place.
But back to the painting (from Peter Paul Rubens). In it Daniel (clearly without any lion-protection garb) is clasping his hands in prayer whilst the lions don't seem to take any notice of him. What I have always liked about this painting is the way Daniel is sitting with his legs crossed. I can't say for sure, of course, but I bet if I were thrown in with a pride of lions I would probably adapt a somewhat more defensive pose; Rubens would have probably had to paint me trying to scale a wall in panic if I had been the model. Although Daniel's face is a picture of angst and his hands are clasped in prayer, his legs look like he's having tea at a friend's house. I think it's an amazingly relaxed placement of his legs, given the circumstances.
I suppose it's all about confidence in God. He doesn't need to lace up his running shoes because he knows that God's going to take care of him where he is. His confidence in God leads to comfort.
What a fantastic image with which to end our octave. If the events we commemorate during Holy Week and Easter don't give us confidence in God, what will? Easter is the quintessential Feast of Confidence, for in it we celebrate to what depths our God went to save us. If God desires that we have eternal life, we can be pretty sure that he will not abandon us in this earthly life either. Of that we can be sure.
And so may our confidence lead us to comfort. Life offers enough struggles as it is. This evening - this beautiful, beautiful Easter evening - let's relax, cross our legs, and be comfortable in the knowledge of our salvation. The struggles will always be with us - like lions on a hunt they at times seem to seek us out - but we are confident, we who know that God's going to take care of us where we are.