Do you ever find that rereading the “famous” stories of scripture always end up leaving you with a something new to meditate on?
Well, it happened to me tonight. I was reading Daniel 6, the Daniel in the Lions’ Den chapter.
Here are a couple of things that I have preached in the past or have heard many preachers bring up when they recount the story:
- Daniel had an excellent spirit. He did things the right way, all of the time.
- The people who worked for Daniel were jealous of his position, prestige and authority. The scripture says they were looking for his mistakes, but were unable to find any.
- The “bad guys” in the story appeal to the king’s pride and it works. The pride of life is probably the strongest motivator on male flesh.
- Daniel continues to pray, with the windows open, 3 times a day – just like before. He didn’t pray more, he didn’t pray less. Verse 10 concludes with “as he did before”.
- Daniel doesn’t try to fight the verdict, work his relationship with the king or cry out to God for mercy. He just makes his stand; believing that what he had done was right in the eyes of the Lord.
- The king, Darius, makes a proclamation of his faith in God’s ability and willingness to deliver Daniel. “Daniel, thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.”
- The king fasts the evening meal and entertainment and was unable to sleep.
- Daniel is brought out of the den of lions, delivering the news that an angel of God had been sent to shut the lions’ mouths.
- The king kills Daniel’s accusers, their wives and their children by placing them in the lions’ den.
- The king decrees fear and trembling of the God of Daniel throughout his kingdom; citing Him as the living God who rescues and delivers.
Let’s think about this in the professional environment that most of us live in today. Daniel had a great job because he had done a great job. The beginning of the book lists Daniel as one of the captives (nice word for slave) that had been brought back from the military campaign that Babylon had waged against Judah. Daniel was chosen to be a part of a special program for exceptional (smart) captives. He was groomed, fed and educated to know the ways of the kingdom. During this time he interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar; a feat that none of the other “wise men” were able to do. As a result of this he is elevated to a position of prominence, making him wealthy, the governor of the province of Babylon and the chief of the wise men.
The next big dream we read Daniel interpreting has him telling the king that he is going to lose his mind, behave like an animal, living outside and eating grass for seven years. One year after the interpretation the dream comes to pass. Daniel’s next act is with a new king, Belshazzar. “The handwriting on the wall.” Daniel interprets, tells the king that he has been weighed, found wanting and his kingdom will be lost to the Medes and Persians. That night Belshazzar is killed and Darius the Mede takes the kingdom.
Darius promotes Daniel even further, making him President of the Presidents who rule over the 120 Princes who rule the kingdom. Daniel’s job is not really like most of our jobs. He’s an executive with real authority, real responsibility and his actions affect the lives of many, many people. Yet, he is not power-hungry, prideful or self-sufficient. He fulfills his duties but prays three times each day facing Jerusalem (the country he was born in and forcibly removed as result of a war lost to Babylon). He lives at the top of the culture of his day. He makes policy, judges situations and leads the leaders of the country. His faith is known by the king and those who work with him and for him. His character is known by the king and those who work with him and for him. He has made friends in high places and well as enemies.
His opponents are looking for the weakness in his life. They cannot find it on the job. They cannot find it off the job. The cannot find it in his faith. So, they come up with a way to manipulate the legal system of the day and use his faith against him. It seems to me, these guys really did not like Daniel. When people get a law made that requires you to violate your faith just to get you; they really don’t like you.
The scripture says, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree…”
Jealousy gave birth to hatred. Hatred concocted a plan. Daniel knew what they had plan and then knowingly sprung the trap. He resolutely faced conviction and a death sentence. He then stood and watched his opponents and their families executions.
Questions that come to mind:
- Did Daniel know the end from the beginning; did he know he would survive?
- Did God kill the bad guys and their families?
- Was this simply a test of faith?
Some answers (not THE answers, but my thoughts):
- Doubtful. Scripture gives no indication of prophesy concerning the outcome of this event to Daniel. Daniel had a history of doing the right thing. He had a history of prayer. Daniel had a knowledge of and relationship with God. Daniel had a history of delivering unpopular news and taking unpopular stands because they were right. In my opinion Daniel lived his life to please God first and had settled it in his heart and mind that the consequences would be what they were. This is a powerful way to live, especially for a governmental official. If a political leader was led by his faith in God, his excellence of spirit and his conviction of truth regardless of the consequences how do we measure up?
- The lions killed them after Darius ordered them thrown into the lions’ den. Ancient mid-eastern culture had a very vicious and swift system of justice. God had not intervened in Daniel’s conviction or sentence only the execution of the sentence. God did not intervene in these people’s conviction, sentence or execution. This is the most powerful lesson of the story to me. Your actions significantly affect your own life, the life of your spouse and the lives of your children. Daniel received mercy in the face of a just conviction from an unjust law. Many of the waves of trials crashing upon the shores of today were created by the sins we have committed in the past. The law of seed-time and harvest was established by God. We cannot expect deliverance from every situation that causes us a problem. Millions have died a martyrs death with great faith in God. Millions live today and face persecution in various forms with great faith in God. “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” (2 Timothy 3:12).
- Sure, this was a test of faith. This wasn’t a game show, this was real. Daniel prayed to God after the king made it a capital crime to pray to anyone other than himself. Daniel did this praying with the windows open in the same way he had always done. This reminds me of the fiery furnace that Daniel’s 3 friends faced. Their attitude was our God is able to deliver us, but if He does not we will still not bow to your decree. The test of our faith normally comes with a lower initial consequence. Compromise is easier when the consequences are less severe. Do not let your need to be accepted, liked, loved or promoted cause you to violate your relationship with God. He is the only one who needs to be pleased with us and we are already accepted in the beloved.
Daniel served at the top of government and delivered the word of the Lord to 4 kings of pagan kingdoms because he remained resolute and faithful. You can be in the world but not of the world because greater is he that is in you than he who is in the world.