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Dan's Den - Where does the name come from?

Overview of the Book of Daniel
The book of Daniel can be found towards the end of the Old Testament in the Bible. The Bible tells about the journey of faith that a group of people called the Israelites travelled on. They were God's chosen people, with a centre of worship in Jerusalem. However, at the time that the book of Daniel takes place, Jerusalem was no longer ruled by their own leaders, but had been invaded by the Babylonian Empire. Many of the Israelites had been taken into exile where their skills were used by the Babylonians to further their empire.

For the Israelites this was rather distressing as they missed their home country and their familiar places of worship. Gradually over time though, they became assimilated with the new culture, married into it, and set down roots. When they had the chance to return to Jerusalem and their former lives, many were then to find it rather difficult to leave!

Daniel's story is about the time the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. It tells how Daniel and his friends were well respected by the leaders of Babylon for their wisdom and hard work, and were often called upon for advice by the King. Alongside this they were also devoted Jews who took praying to God seriously. This was opposed to the Babylonian culture and so brought Daniel and his friends to various crunch points; should they do as the Babylonians do, or should they stand up for their Israelite faith?

Daniel is a book therefore about how to be a believer within non-believing culture. It addresses questions such as how far you should alter your beliefs to fit in with the culture you are living in; or what important aspects of your faith would you be prepared to take a stand on; or how to have faith in God that his purposes are greater than the circumstance you may find yourself in?

The book speaks loudly to us today as we as Christians live in an increasingly non-Christian society where fewer and fewer people are part of a church community. Do we have patience enough to wait for God to act; do we trust in his timing? What things are there that make the church feel like it is in exile now? What areas of faith can we take out into our community, and when should we stand up and be different? Can worship still take place even if it is not in a dedicated building? Who are the prophets speaking to our society today?

Daniel encourages us to make prayer central in our lives and to bring the glory of God into the community around us. God will be God, and the world will know it.

Daniel in the Lions' Den
One chapter of the book is taken up with one of the better known Bible stories – Daniel in the Lions' Den. Daniel is now in his eighties, and despite earlier successes through him for God, kings and leaders change and so there is no guarantee future crises won't happen. The new king Darius planned to promote Daniel to a very high position in government, but other leaders were jealous of this and tried to bring about his downfall. They could not find anything wrong when they searched through his history, so they came up with a new plan. They tricked the king into passing a law that required all people to pray only to the King, and not to anything or anyone else, or they would be thrown into the lions' den.

Despite this new decree, Daniel still prayed three times a day, as was his custom as a Jew. The leaders of the country came and found him and reported his disobedience back to the king. King Darius was upset, for he valued Daniel's expertise, but he had no choice but to decree that Daniel should be thrown into a den of lions.

So Daniel was thrown into the lions' den, and a stone was placed over the entrance. “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” cried the king.

The following morning King Darius ran to the den and called out, “Daniel, has your God been able to rescue you from the lions?”

And Daniel cried out that yes God had come to his rescue by sending an angel to shut the lions' mouths. He was brought up out of the den, and not a scratch was found on him. The king was delighted, and passed a new decree that his subjects should all worship Daniel's god, “for he is the living God; he rescues and he saves.”

And so the name, “Dan's Den” came out of my reading of this book. I thought a den sounded like a fun place to be for young children, and so would be appealing as a name. Dan is also a recognised name in current usage, and so could be related to by our current society. And the two images of lions and angels seemed likely (horribly stereotypically!) to appeal to both boys and girls.

Dan's Den could also be read into on a deeper level – we all live with lions around us, things that scare us, things that frighten us. Sometime we've put them there ourselves, sometimes they are there because that's what life has thrown at us. And yet in Daniel's den, there was calm and security, there was safety and peace. For God's angels protected him. In a similar way I hope and pray that Dan's Den in Ilkley may be a place where people can find protection and a safe haven from anything that troubles them. I pray that God's angels (maybe more recognisable as staff who work here, but maybe someone else) will bring God's peace and love into this place. 

Margaret Whitton
Leadership Team: Nurture
October 2013

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