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Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Date: Oct. 1, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

Daniel 6:1-28

Key Verse: Daniel 6:23

“The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den.  And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”

Two weeks ago I was attacked by a dog.  It was a little 6 year old chihuahua that my brother adopted from a dog rescue.  I made the mistake of making eye contact when he was barking at me.  Mistake #2, I got down lower while staring at the growling dog, hoping that the dog will see that I’m a nice guy.  I was secretly hoping maybe God could tell him, but the dog would not stop barking at me.  When I got back up, the dog ran at me and bit me in the foot.  It wasn’t a playful bite either, he made me bleed.  Fortunately, the dog was only 5 lbs, but still, I was bleeding faster than I could blink. The little dog just scratched me.  Imagine now, instead of a 5 lb dog, it was a 400 lb lion.  Did you know that their roar can be heard up to 5 miles away?  They can also run up to 50 mph.  Did I mention they are 400 lbs of pure muscle?  If a lion attacked me, it wouldn’t put a couple of bite marks in my feet.  It would bite my foot right off.  A lion could crush my bones in an instant with its mighty paw or a bite of its jaws.  This was the situation Daniel was in, but he had nowhere to hide.  He was trapped in a lion’s den with several large, hungry and ravenous lions.  Daniel by this time was a frail, old man, perhaps in his 80s, but he lived to tell the story.  It is one of the most famous stories in the Bible.  Today we will see how Daniel survived in a den of lions.

Our passage starts out in the reign of King Darius the Mede.  Last week we learned about the writing on the wall that spelled the end of the Babylonian Empire.  It was in the very same night when a mysterious hand appeared and wrote on the wall during a feast, that Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom at the age of 62.  Look at v.1-2, “It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel.  The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss.”  The Medo-Persian Empire at this time may have been split into 120 provinces, and each of these satraps were like princes or governors, and they would make sure the people paid their taxes.  Above these 120 satraps were the three administrators, so Daniel also held a high position in this kingdom.

Daniel so distinguished himself among the satraps and administrators by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to make him the chief of the three administrators.  Daniel’s skills of administration, his productivity, his effectiveness, perhaps even his uprightness and integrity made such a good impression that the king grew very fond of him, and wanted to confer upon him a promotion.  This drew the ire and envy of some of his colleagues.  It’s not uncommon to find pride and ambition in such high places, but this selfish ambition may have been the root of their hatred.  Verse 4 says the administrators and satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel, but they couldn’t find anything.  Daniel was trustworthy, and neither corrupt nor negligent.  This is an amazing testimony to his integrity.  Usually, if you dig deep enough into a person’s life, you can find dirt.  We saw a lot of mud slinging in the last presidential election.  A video surfaced of lewd, sexist and extremely offensive comments one candidate made over 10 years ago.  The other candidate was caught conducting official business as a public servant in a private email server, up to 7 years prior to the election.  Daniel served in high positions in government for almost 70 years, but these administrators and satraps could find no dirt in all of Daniel’s professional career. 

Finally, these men said in v.5, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”  These men saw two things in Daniel’s life that he was doing well – his work and his worship of God.  Since they could not find fault with his work, they would try to attack his other practice: the worship of God.  They knew that Daniel would not break the law of his God, so they would look for some way to make it illegal to obey God’s law.

The administrators and satraps devised a devious and deceptive plan.  They went as a group to the king.  This was not all 120 satraps, but a select few who wanted to overthrow Daniel. In v.7, this group of people say, “The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.”  Did you catch the deception?  First, they said all the governing body has agreed but Daniel wasn’t there.  This decree, however, made sense to the king.  The kingdom was newly established, so this seemed like a good idea to make the subjects recognize who the new king is.  It is not uncommon for kings to be worshipped like gods.  Even the Roman emperors had temples built to themselves.  The second deception was a hidden motive.  They made it sound like it was for the benefit of the king, but the true motive behind this was to overthrow Daniel.  They asked the king to put the decree in writing, so that it cannot be repealed, according the law of the Medes and Persians.  It was a law that if the king signed a decree, not even he can reverse the statement.  Verse 9 says, “So King Darius put the decree in writing.”

Look at v.10, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.  Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”  Daniel knew that he was in deep trouble, but what did he do?  First of all Daniel went to pray.  He might have been among the smartest, if not the smartest man in Medo-Persia, but first, he went to pray.  His life was marked by prayer.  In Ch. 2, Daniel got all of his friends together so that they could plead to God for mercy to reveal Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  How did Daniel pray?  He set aside time for prayer.  He was the top administrator of Medo-Persia, but he still made time to pray three times a day.  He might have prayed hundreds of times a day, in everything he did.  He might have prayed standing up, walking around, sitting down before meals, but three times he set aside to pray on his knees.  He prayed in an upstairs room – this was a private place, set aside for prayer, to be alone with God.  It was not for show, even though the satraps spied on him.

The first thing we see Daniel pray is giving thanks to God.  Even in this situation where prayer could literally cost him his life, he gave thanks to God.  What can we give thanks to God for?  If you think about it, you can probably list dozens of things daily.  If you can’t think of anything else, listen to Ps 136:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.”  The rest of the Ps 136 has even more reasons for thanksgiving.  If nothing else, simply give thanks to the Lord, because he is good.  Give thanks to the Lord, because his love endures forever.  Daniel believed this, even when his enemies set him up for death.  What else did he pray for?  Verse 11 says he asked God for help.  Daniel, a man of such extraordinary ability, asked God for help.  How much more should we, of lesser abilities, seek God for help?  We will always need help, every day.  If you don’t know what to pray about, Daniel here shows us 2 things: thanksgiving and help.  Jesus himself encourages us to pray and not give up, telling a parable in Luke 18 and closes it by saying, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” 

The administrators and satraps knew where Daniel prayed every day, and sure enough, at the right hour, they found him praying.  Three times a day even, they found him praying.  Day after day.  If they had cell phones they would snap a picture each time.  So after they had evidence, they went to the king and asked him a devious question.  They asked, “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”  They had in mind to accuse Daniel, but they knew the king favored him.  So before they brought him up, they made the king recite his decree so he would have no way out.  The king answered, “The decree stands.”  Then, their evil intent was revealed.  They said, (paraphrasing) “Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, violates your decree.”  They didn’t even call Daniel “one of the administrators,” or “one of your servants, Your Majesty,” but called him an exile, a contemptuous slave.  

When the king heard this, he was shocked.  Verse 14 says he was greatly distressed.  He may have been distressed because he had only realized now he was responsible for the death of a great man, or he may have been distressed because he realized he was tricked and could do nothing about it.  He worked tirelessly until sundown to try to save Daniel, indicating they came to him during the day.  Even after making every effort, he could not rescue Daniel.

When night came, the sinister group of men came back to the king, like a scene out of a scary movie, or a scene in the world of the Upside Down: “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”  The king no longer had control, but was manipulated by these men.  There was nothing else he could do, so he gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den.  The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”  Though King Darius did not exclusively worship God, he may have heard stories of the God of Daniel rescuing his friends out of the furnace, or how Daniel’s God predicted the fall of Babylon at the hands of the Medes and Persians.  Maybe, thought the King, the God of Daniel can rescue.  A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles.  The seals would make it illegal for anyone to move the stone later to try to rescue Daniel.

After this was done the king was still distressed.  He went back to his palace and he couldn’t eat, he couldn’t enjoy any entertainment and he couldn’t even sleep.  He was really concerned about Daniel.  At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.  When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”  The kings ears were attentive and anxious for a reply, not sure if there would be one.  Suddenly from inside the lion’s den comes a sound for sore ears, a joyous shout of victory amidst the quiet backdrop of the sunrise, “May the king live forever!”  It was the voice of Daniel, and he survived the whole night in the lion’s den!  He did not complain, even though the king put him there.  He did not say “Go away, you murderer!”  This was not a fake or forced greeting to the king, he meant it.  “May the king live forever,” or  “God bless the king.”  Daniel rejoiced and testified.  When God saves in such an amazing way, how can you hold any grudges?  Daniel wanted to tell about how God saved.

  He explains in v.22, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.  They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.  Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”  Daniel tells the king that he had done nothing wrong from the beginning.  God has vindicated him.  He did not even do wrong to the king.  How could this be?  Didn’t he disobey the king’s decree?  Daniel did violate the king’s decree, but that was to worship God.  If he obeyed the king’s decree he would have sinned against God.  God’s law is higher than man’s law.  But still, Daniel did nothing wrong before the king.  Daniel did not rebel against the king, he did not form a revolt against him.  Daniel never tried to harm the king, he had no malice or hatred in his heart towards the king, and he never tried to deceive the king.  He served God, and he served the king, but where God’s law comes into conflict with man’s, then God’s law overrules.  It was not Daniel who did wrong before the king, but the other administrators and satraps.

Look at v.23: “The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den.  And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” He trusted in God to help him.  For over 70 years, in a foreign land, he still prayed three times a day in the direction of the city of God.  When he prayed, he would sometimes plead for mercy, or pray for help.  He didn’t trust in his own abilities, he trusted in God.  He trusted in God to save him from death. He did not trust in the king to spare his life.  In fact the king could not.  He trusted in God to give him eternal life in his eternal kingdom, so he could continue to worship God even at the threat of death.  He reasoned, even if God should not spare him in the lion’s den, his life is still safe in God’s hand, and somehow, someday he will live again in God’s eternal kingdom.

After Daniel was lifted out of the lion’s den, the king ordered that those who falsely accused Daniel be thrown into the lion den, along with their wives and children.  It may sound harsh to thrown in the rest of the family as well, but this is in accordance with Medo-Persian law.  The Mosaic Law prohibits this act – only the transgressor is punished.  The fact that the lions crushed their bones before they hit the ground shows the real danger that Daniel faced.  These were not satisfied, lazy lions.  They were ravenous beasts but God had shut their mouths.  It was truly a miracle that Daniel survived.

King Darius was so impressed by what God had done that he issued a decree to his whole kingdom.  Verses 25-26 says, “Then King Darius wrote to all nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: ‘May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.  For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.”  Here is now another decree that cannot be reversed.  He commanded his whole kingdom, this world-power Medo-Persian kingdom, that the people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.  Unfortunately, Darius still calls God the God of Daniel, he does not accept the fact that there is only one God.  But he does give God the highest honor, and instructs his people to fear and reverence the God of Daniel.  Why?  For he is the living God and endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.  Fear God, and reverence him, because he is the Eternal King.  King Darius was one to be feared, but he says, “Fear God.”  Fear God, who is the King of kings, and who is the judge of all the earth.

Fear God also, because in v.27, “He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.  He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”  Fear God because he has power over nature.  He controls the lightning.  He can tell the great hurricanes to calm down, and they obey Him.  The earth trembles under his feet.  He can shut the mouths of lions.  But above all, fear and reverence God because of this: he rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.  Let his signs and wonders be proof that our God does rescue and save.  He will rescue and save us.  Even if it’s not from the jaws of a lion, God will save us from the clutches of death and the trap of sin.  He will free us from sin, this misery, this weakness, this wretchedness, and from death.  God has given us this sign: that he raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  In fact, the story of God’s true salvation, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is foreshadowed in this story of Daniel’s salvation in the lion’s den.  The story of Daniel’s salvation is real history, it actually happened.  Daniel is so famous that there are 8 cities today that claim they have his tomb.  The main one is in Susa, Iran.  Not all of the details perfectly match the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection, but again, these were just a shadow, a glimpse into the real salvation of God, which was to happen 500 years later.  These are signs given by God so that you can trust that he can and he will rescue and save you.

Look again at Ch.6, and what do you see?  You see a praying man Daniel, who has entrusted his life to God.  I’ve heard some people say it’s hard to relate to Daniel because his life is so exemplary.  He’s still a good example to follow though.  Daniel here is a foreshadow of Christ.  Daniel was not sinless, he died, like us, but in all he did he was blameless.  The angry mob had no basis for a charge against him, so they made up fake charges to condemn the innocent man to death.  King Darius was a type of Pilate.  He wanted to help Jesus, but he was powerless to do so.  Daniel was led to the lions den, but he did not resist.  Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isa 53:7)  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Per 2:23)  He was thrown into the den, a stone rolled over its mouth and sealed by the king.  Jesus was laid in tomb, with a stone rolled over the entrance with a seal over it.  And Daniel was delivered, as he said in v.22 “They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.”  Death could not take a hold on Jesus, because he was innocent in God’s sight.  Just as Daniel was lifted out of the den, Jesus walked out of the tomb.  Jesus bore all of our sins on the cross, so that we can receive the righteousness of God, and be found innocent in his sight.  Daniel was not innocent by his own ability, but he was innocent because he trusted in the salvation of God.  So you too, when you trust in the salvation of God, namely, in Jesus Christ, you will be called innocent, you will be lifted out of the grave without a wound on your body, and all who see you will rejoice as you receive a warm welcome into the eternal kingdom of God, because you trusted in Him.

The last verse, verse 28 tells us how Daniel prospered greatly during the reign of Darius and Cyrus.  We may or may not prosper in terms of riches here on earth, but in the Spirit we will definitely prosper and bear fruit, and ultimately, we will all prosper greatly as we enter the eternal kingdom.  Trust God in these promises.  He will repay us multiples of what we have lost here on earth, for the sake of his glory.

Through Daniel in this chapter we learned how God is pleased with true worship and prayer.  Romans 12:1 says “in view of God’s mercy (emphasis), offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”  Daniel offered his life in the service of God as a living sacrifice, quite literally as well.  We may not need to go so far, but we can still offer ourselves as living sacrifices, dying to sin, and living to serve the living God.  We also see prayer as a way to deepen our relationship with God.  And there’s no limit to the depth of that relationship.  Pray daily, giving thanks, and asking for help.  God will give us his Spirit through Christ, and keep us blameless until that day when He comes again.  The deeper our relationship grows with God, the more we will be able to trust him in any circumstance.

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