Daniel: Standing Firm!


Daniel 6

By the time we get to Daniel 6, Daniel is pushing 90.  He had been taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon almost 70 years earlier.  This chapter is probably one of the most familiar chapters in the Bible because in it we read about the day Daniel was thrown into a den of lions.  It was Dr. McGee who remarked:

Have you ever stopped to think that Daniel spent only one night in the den of lions, but he spent a lifetime in the palace of pagan kings?

In some ways, living in the palace was far more dangerous than being in that den of lions!  Daniel lived his entire life in the royal palace, a career “public servant,” surrounded pagans.  He lived long enough to have served under five kings:  Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede and Cyrus.  The amazing thing about Daniel was that even in that heathen environment, he maintained his steadfast faith in God, lived his faith out in the public square, and even led some of these political giants to a knowledge of one true God.

Daniel didn’t have an easy life.  He was a prophet and an interpreter of dreams and he had to balance his service to God with his service to Babylon.  In all, he was able to walk that fine line:  he remained faithful to God, his conscience, and to his fellow men.  Let’s look at some aspects of this man’s sterling character.

1.  His integrity

This made the other presidents and governors very jealous, and they began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs so that they could complain to the king about him. But they couldn’t find anything to criticize! He was faithful and honest and made no mistakes. So they concluded, “Our only chance is his religion!”  (Daniel 6:4, 5  TLB)

Daniel was an excellent public servant and was rewarded accordingly.  He had a proven track record; he had been through many times of testing and he faced one political crisis after another.  But through it all, because he maintained his integrity, his honesty, and his work ethic, he gained a reputation that couldn’t be broken.

Of course, this kind of man really ticks others off sometimes.  To see Daniel about to be promoted yet again was a sight some “other presidents and governors” couldn’t bear.  They witnessed the purity of his life and they saw the blessings of God falling on Daniel and something inside these petty men snapped.

How could they sabotage his career?  This presented a real problem because there were no skeletons in Daniel’s closet—no mistresses, no dirty emails or Tweets, no misuse of government resources.  Here was a true man of integrity.

As a man of faith and of prayer, he was faultless.  This attitude carried over into his career.  As he was in his relationship with God, so he was in his work.  At his core was a pure a heart, and that governed all he did.  This was the real secret of his success!  In living to please God, he excelled in all he did.  This is an important fact to think about, because while many Christians seem able to hold up under severe trials, they stumble and lose faith over trivialities.  In sicknesses and in the death of loved ones, a lot us are able to fall back onto our faith; we have no one to trust so we trust in God.  What gets a lot of believers in trouble is daily life!  Yes, daily life—the grind of our everyday routine—is probably the severest test we will ever face and it’s the test we fail so often.  We can’t possibly get ready to face the routine of the day, for things pop up we can’t prepare for; therefore our heart dictates our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.  If our hearts are right, we will be like Daniel.  If our hearts are wrong, we will be more like Balaam—we will become distracted and seize the wrong opportunity.

2.  His Steadfastness

But though Daniel knew about it, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs bedroom, with its windows open toward Jerusalem, and prayed three times a day, just as he always had, giving thanks to his God.  (Daniel 6:10  TLB)

Notice not only Daniel’s reaction to Darius’ law, but also the words used.  Daniel went and prayed “as usual.”  In other words, faced with an awful situation, Daniel did what he always did; he prayed.  He didn’t rant or rave or demand his rights.  He simply did what he always did:  he did not back down. Some people think Daniel was foolhardy in throwing open his windows to pray, but it was the king who was foolhardy.  Daniel was doing what he always did.  The king, however, behaved in an idiotic fashion.

Now, Daniel could have prayed in secret.  The new law was just a temporary one; it lasted a month.  Surely for one month a man of God could keep his faith to himself.  But that wasn’t the point.  It was a foolish law that demanded people do something for no reason.  Like the nonconformists we looked at previously, Daniel had no reason to change his behavior.  His prayers infringed on nobody’s freedom to do as they pleased.  To obey this foolish, unnecessary law would have meant putting it above God’s Word and Daniel’s own conscience.  This was something the man of God could never do.

So, Daniel prayed as he had been praying for decades.  It wasn’t wrong before; it wasn’t wrong now.

What a boatload of lessons we can learn from this single verse!  Never cease praying, no matter the circumstances.  Never yield your beliefs to any man—or any government—if those beliefs are rooted in the Word of God.  Circumstances, no matter how adverse they may be, do not alter the Word of God and change God’s will.  Courage isn’t always found grasping a sword.  Sometimes courage is simply a matter of carrying on your beliefs and practices when those around you think you shouldn’t.

3.  His sufferings

Babylon had collapsed.  The old king was dead and a new king and kingdom had taken Babylon’s place in the world.  Daniel continued in his position into the new kingdom of the Medes and Persians.  In fact, they highly honored him, probably as the result of his interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, which announced the end of Belshazzar and Babylon. So, even though the last couple of Babylonian kings had ignored Daniel and Daniel had been pretty much forgotten by most Jews living in Babylon by now, God hadn’t forgotten him, and in His providence He saw to it that Daniel was rewarded for his service.

He became the third ruler, behind Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Great.  He was given wealth and luxury and even a choice of where to live:  in Babylon or in Judah under the Gedaliah the governor of that region.

Nothing breeds envy and contempt like success, and some men jealous of Daniel’s success conspired to find a way to do him in.  The only way to attack Daniel was by way of his religion, so they concocted a ridiculous law and foisted it upon Darius, who was completely in the dark as to why he signed it into law in the first place.

…make a law, irrevocable under any circumstance, that for the next thirty days anyone who asks a favor of God or man—except from you, Your Majesty—shall be thrown to the lions.  (Daniel 6:7b)

Darius succumbed to flattery and signed the law.  Today a selling point for this kind of law might be, “do it for the children.”  It was, of course, a nonsensical, ridiculous law, one that Darius would later regret signing into law.  Too late, the king realized he had been hustled and trapped by his governors.

Being thrown into a den of lions was the state-sanctioned form of capital punishment.  Under Nebuchadnezzar it was being thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive.  Curiously, the form of punishment was related to the gods worshiped by the Medes and Persians.  Zoroastrianism, which involved the worship of Atar the fire god, was the religion of the day, so burning enemies of state would have been out of the question.

So Daniel was about suffer greatly because of jealous men, an unjust law that could not be changed even by the king who signed it, and a king’s vanity.

4.  His deliverance

Well, it wasn’t long before Daniel was in trouble.  And it wasn’t long before the king realized he had been snookered.  He didn’t want Daniel harmed.  It’s a classic example of vanity resulting in the law of unintended consequences coming to pass.

Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”  (Daniel 6:14, 15  ESV)

The powerful Darius was trapped by his pride and folly, and he knew it.  But he wasn’t the last king this happened to.  Generations later, another king was tricked into beheading  John the Baptist.

Then the king was sorry, but he was embarrassed to break his oath in front of his guests.  (Mark 6:26  TLB)

It’s funny how history repeats itself, especially in the persecution of believers.  But we have to give Darius some credit because he did say these most remarkable words:

“May your God, whom you worship continually, deliver you.”  (Daniel 6:16  TLB)

And deliver Daniel God did!

Darius asked, “O Daniel, servant of the Living God, was your God, whom you worship continually, able to deliver you from the lions?”

Then he heard a voice! “Your Majesty, live forever!” It was Daniel!  “My God has sent his angel,” he said, “to shut the lions’ mouths so that they can’t touch me, for I am innocent before God; nor, sir, have I wronged you.”  (Daniel 6:20—22  TLB)

When God delivers, He delivers completely!  Years earlier, Daniel’s three friends discovered this.  God kept them from being burned alive in that fiery furnace to such an extent that they didn’t even smell of smoke!  Here, not only did God shut the mouths of the lions, but He actually altered their very natures while Daniel was with them in their den.  This extraordinary miracle will be commonplace in the coming Kingdom Age:

The cows will graze among bears; cubs and calves will lie down together, and lions will eat grass like the cows. Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes, and a little child who puts his hand in a nest of deadly adders will pull it out unharmed.  (Isaiah 11:7, 8  TLB)

Is anything—anything at all—too hard for God?  Understand this:  we are not reading fairy tales; these things actually happened.  If our Lord can work wonders like this for Daniel, He can do it for you, too.  Daniel’s great faith in God is hinted at in the great Hall of Faith in the New Testament:

These people all trusted God and as a result won battles, overthrew kingdoms, ruled their people well, and received what God had promised them; they were kept from harm in a den of lions and in a fiery furnace.  (Hebrews 11:33, 34a  TLB)

Things worked out Daniel because he was a man of faith.  Darius seemed to be very fond of Daniel:

The king was beside himself with joy and ordered Daniel lifted from the den. And not a scratch was found on him because he believed in his God.  (Daniel 6:23  TLB)

But those jealous schemers didn’t fair well at all:

Then the king issued a command to bring the men who had accused Daniel and throw them into the den along with their children and wives, and the lions leaped upon them and tore them apart before they even hit the bottom of the den.  (Daniel 6:24  TLB)

The Medes were not known for their mercy!  It was not uncommon for entire families to be put to death because of the error on one member.  God delivered Daniel, Darius vindicated Daniel, and Daniel was, once again, the recipient of great blessings:

“Greetings! I decree that everyone shall tremble and fear before the God of Daniel in every part of my kingdom. For his God is the living, unchanging God whose kingdom shall never be destroyed and whose power shall never end. He delivers his people, preserving them from harm; he does great miracles in heaven and earth; it is he who delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

So Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.  (Daniel 6:25—28  TLB)

And one other benefit of Daniel’s unshakable faith:  Darius came to recognize the reality of the one true God.

When we, as believers, live out our faith in public, fearlessly and courageously, others will see God in us.

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