In the Lion’s Den. Daniel 6

Posted on 29 Jan 2017, Pastor: Rev Hans Vaatstra

Series on Daniel.

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

Reading: Hebrews 11: 32-40

Text: Daniel 6

We’ve come to the end of what is often referred to as the historical portion of the book of Daniel, chapters 1-6. King Nebuchadnezzar, responsible for the first exiles of the Jews out to Babylon in 605BC and the fall of Jerusalem in 586BC, died in 562BC. He was succeeded by King Merodach, who was succeeded by Nabonidus and Belshazzar until 538BC. That’s when Babylon was overtaken by Cyrus king of the Persian Empire. At the end of chapter 5 we read that Belshazzar was slain and Darius the Mede received the kingdom presumably from Cyrus. According to Esther 1:1 Cyrus’ empire controlled the nations from India across to Macedonia in the West the Northern part of Africa and all the territory in between. So from that information we can safely assume that Darius ruled Babylon under the great king Cyrus.
So Daniel at the age of around 80 had already seen some fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the statue, that kingdoms rise and fall but the kingdom of God which fills the earth endures forever. But what is particularly of interest to us here is that through the change of kingdoms Daniel’s witness was unswerving. He stood boldly and uncompromisingly for his God and his religion and God saw to it that Daniel was protected and promoted to responsible positions in the Babylonian kingdom. Why did God protect Daniel? He did so for the sake of his covenant promises and the glory of His name.
So here in Daniel 6 we find that the living and enduring God protects and blesses those who trust in him from their enemies. We’ll look at it in three parts.
1. The law of the Medes and Persians, 2. The protection of God and 3 the encouragement to an unswerving trust in God.
1. The law of the Medes and Persians
In verses 1-3 we read how Daniel was promoted to the position of commissioner with two others under king Darius. The three of them had were in charge of 120 district officers called satraps. It soon became evident that Daniel had something the other commissioners and officers lacked. He possessed the Spirit of God. You could say he was regenerated or born again. He was also endowed with other spiritual gifts which enabled Daniel to excel in his work. As a result Daniel was a man whom the king could trust and eventually Darius made Daniel second in command over the whole kingdom of Babylon.
However according to verse 4 this promotion aroused the envy and hatred of the other commissioners and satraps and they began looking for ways to get rid of Daniel.
What seemed to especially irk Daniel’s opponents was his faithfulness in prayer. Three times a day he could be seen sitting at the window of his house which faced Jerusalem praying. Daniel was a good citizen in Babylon. He had lived there most of his life. He understood their culture, spoke their language, rose up through the ranks in the public service he was very much Babylonian except for one thing. His spiritual orientation was Hebrew, and towards his God, the temple of God and the people of God. Though Daniel worked for the well-being of Babylon he did so in obedience to God and for the sake of his people and his prayer was that God would restore his people, his city and the temple.
The other commissioners and satraps knew about Daniels’ faith. He was open about it however it was really this loyalty to God and his people that made the other powerful leaders in Babylon hate Daniel. It wasn’t just because Daniel was a foreigner or because they were jealous of his ability and success. The point of offense was that for Daniel there was only one way of salvation and that was through faith in YHWH alone. .They knew that Daniel thought that their gods were worth nothing.
It was then and still is today, offensive! Jesus warned his disciples that if they proclaimed Him as the only way of salvation they would be hated for it. If they preached that Jesus alone is the good shepherd and that all others who claim that title are thieves and robbers they would be hated. The message of reconciliation between God and sinners through the cross of Christ as the only way is offensive to idolaters.
And so the commissioners and satraps began looking for ways to discredit and accuse Daniel because they wanted to get rid of the offense he represented. However given Daniel’s popularity with King Darius they sought to devise a way to kill Daniel without having to resort to a dagger in the back as the Roman senators did to Cesar. So they changed the law in order that Daniel might be condemned under the law. This law as we see in verses 7&8 forbade anyone from praying to any god or man other than King Darius himself. The penalty for breach of the law was death by the claws and teeth of starving lions.
King Darius may at the time have been flattered by such a law and without thinking about
Daniel, signed the document. After all there were all kinds religions and pagan god’s in the ancient Middle East and wouldn’t it be wonderful if the kingdom Darius reigned over could be united around the worship of Darius himself?
So he signed the law and any law passed by the king like that was to be irrevocable according to laws of the Medes and Persians.
Terrible injustices have been perpetrated against innocent citizens because of such laws. I can think of the laws enacted to confiscate land from farmers in Zimbabwe or laws which prohibit Christians from gathering for worship in Saudi Arabia. We all know about the ‘final solution’ which was legislation designed to exterminate the Jews during the Nazi Holocaust. Were these laws in harmony with God’s law? No. They were self-serving rather than God glorifying and man liberating laws. They harm and persecute innocent people rather than help and promote freedom. Sadly here in New Zealand we have similar laws such as those which legalise abortion, same-sex marriage, prostitution and homosexuality. These laws promote harm rather than good and have the potential to persecute those who want to consistently obey God’s law as it happened to Daniel.
Tragically the king realised his mistake too late and Daniel faced that unjust penalty for his crime of praying and giving thanks to the one true God. He was thrown into the lion’s den. Satan the father of lies and the author of sin seems to have had a victory. Just as Satan seemed to have the victory when Christ was also falsely accused of breaking the Pharisees interpretation of the law blasphemy and was crucified for it.
It I s true that sometimes the law of the land is not always in harmony of the law of God. If we are consistent as Daniel was in obedience to God’s law then we may be hated and even persecuted for it.

2. That then brings me to the second point the protection of God for those who trust in him. Daniel obeyed God rather than men and was thrown into the lion’s den because of it. A stone was placed over the entrance and sealed. The distraught king who knew Daniel was a good man returned home hoping that God would deliver Daniel but even so he went home troubled and unable to eat or sleep.
On the other hand the prophet Daniel seems to have spent a much more peaceful night than Darius did. The text tells us that Daniel was protected and comforted by an angel of God.
At dawn the next day Daniel heard the king calling his name. Daniel replied. He was calm and respectful. “O King live for ever, My God sent his angel to shut the lions mouths. They have not harmed me. I am innocent towards Him and you O king. I have committed no crime!”
Clearly as the psalmist puts it in Psalm 46, God was Daniel’s refuge and strength ever ready to help him in his time of trouble.” How did this come about for David.
The answer to that question is found in the passage we read earlier from Hebrews 11 verse 32 and following where it says this. “Time will fail me if I tell of Gideon. Barak, Samson, Jephthah David Samuel and the prophets who BY FAITH conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness obtained promises and shut the mouths of lions.” Now looking at that list of names mentioned in Hebrews 11 these men were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They displayed flaws such as lust, poor judgment and weakness as parents etc. These are flaws we all struggle with but what was it that they needed? What were they commended for here in Hebrews 11? FAITH in God. And what does the believing man women and child of God do by faith? Well we pray, we entreat, we implore, we ask, we plead our Almighty God for his mercy, his help, his deliverance and his strength. We do so on the basis of that promise, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.”
This is what Daniel did 3 times a day and God heard and answered. A similar example is found in Acts 12:5 where the church prayed fervently for Peter who was imprisoned by Herod and an Angel of the Lord came and his chains fell of and Peter was free.
Even so we shouldn’t think that God will always answer our prayers in the same way. Many are not released from their earthly perils. There have also been many martyrs for the faith. If anything the experiences of Daniel and Peter were exceptional. It all depends on what God’s will is and what use he would have for us either here or in heaven. In Daniel’s case we see God’s purpose for Daniel’s deliverance in Darius proclamation where he publically glorifies God saying the God of Daniel is the living God who endures forever His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed and his dominion will be forever.
In any case the saviour of the church was not Daniel or Peter or any other person other than God in the person of Jesus Christ The power that stopped the lion’s mouth wasn’t Daniel’s prayer or faith but God’s power exerted in Christ through his death and resurrection.
So then, Daniel was delivered for the sake of God’s people in Babylon who still needed a prophet to teach them the word of God.
Christ died and rose again for all God’s covenant people that our sins might be forgiven. That means that Christ achieved for us our eternal deliverance by paying that penalty for our sin.
Think of it this way, 1 Peter 5:8 tells us Satan is our adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us, in other words destroy our faith and have us join him in hell for eternity. But if we trust in Christ’s sacrifice for sin then Satan cannot harm us rather God will deliver us from his accusations and his deception and give us the victory with Christ.
We should also take careful note of verses 24. Not only does God deliver those who trust in him but judgment is reserved for those who hate him and work to destroy God’s covenant people. The men who had maliciously accused Daniel and tried to murder him were themselves torn apart by the lions. It’s rather horrible to see that their families were thrown in with them but that happened according to the law of the Medes and Persians rather than God’s law in Ezekiel 18:20 which says “the man who sins will die.” On the other hand the one who turns from his sin and trusts in God will live.
And that brings us to the third point
3. An encouragement to a consistent faith in God.
What might that look like?
a) True faith is evidenced by Discipline. When Daniel knew that the document was signed by the king that anyone who worships any other god or man other than the king, would be thrown into the lion’s den. What did Daniel do? He went straight to his house, opened the window facing Jerusalem according to his custom and prayed. He stuck to the pattern of prayer he had kept to all his adult all his life. The result of his regular habit of prayer was that his mind was illuminated by the Holy Spirit, he was clear about what he needed to do and strong in his resolve.
In Ephesians 6 we are called to put on the full armour of God that we may be able to stand firm against the devil’s schemes. The devil doesn’t want us to be disciplined in prayer. He doesn’t want us to pray at all. He didn’t want Daniel to pray but to deny his faith and capitulate to the wishes of his enemies to get on with them and act like them. The devil likes it if we are undisciplined in the exercise of our faith and never or rarely pray or open God’s word, or attend church and Bible study to learn more about God’s word.
The exercise of faith requires discipline and good habits especially those of prayer because faith is not something we produce. It is the gift of God. Furthermore we need God’s help to live faithful lives which give glory to God and therefore we must, and God is pleased when we ask.
b) Faithfulness. Daniel as an old man gives us an idea of the kind of courage, moral stability and spiritual vigour many of us need. Often people clamour for new spiritual experiences, new forms of worship spontaneity and creativity in worship because everything has become so routine and dull. But in the long run we find that such experiences won’t make any difference spiritually unless your spiritual life is cultivated and protected by discipline especially the discipline of ordinary everyday steps of faithfulness such as; private devotions, regular prayer times and faithfulness in attendance at church. On the other hand, that kind of discipline also requires less time in front of the television, the computer screen or in bed. less time pursuing our own novelties and instead setting aside regular times in God’s word and for prayer. If we are in a family situation a great way of doing that is through daily family devotions.
c) Unswerving faith also possesses an extraordinary spirit. Chapter 6:3 says that Daniel was distinguished from the other commissioners and satraps because of his extraordinary spirit. This fine spirit can only come through regeneration or being born again by the Holy Spirit. That means that everyone who is a born again Christian who confesses Christ as Saviour and Lord (and you can only do that if you are born again) possesses that spirit.
The Spirit sets us apart from the world and places us in the church. He makes us different from the world so as to make a positive difference to the world as Daniel did in his day. So if we are in business then we don’t adopt the world’s practices by taking whatever we can get our hands on but demonstrate an excellent spirit in fair dealing, love and concern for the well-being of others.
Or when we associate with unbelievers and befriend them we draw the line when it comes to joining in an activity which would transgress the Law of God. According to 1 Corinthians 2:12 the Spirit of God makes us take seriously the word of God and as its put in the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s day 47 directs all our living , what we say think and do so that God’s name might not be blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised.
d) Faith of God’s people can elicit praise even from the mouths of those outside the church. In Romans 15:1-12 we find that the faith and love of God’s people doesn’t just bring about unity in the church but can also cause the Gentiles to glorify God for his mercy and that certainly seems to be the case with Daniel and his effect on King Nebuchadnezzar and Darius and even Cyrus. The power of God was evident through Daniel’s life of faith and it cause Darius to make a decree in Babylon that Daniels God is the living and enduring God His kingdom endures for ever he performs signs and wonders in heaven and on the earth.
e) Finally the reward of faith. Verse 28 says that Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. In Isaiah 44:25 it says that Cyrus is God’s anointed who was appointed shepherd and liberator of God’s people he was eventually used by God to liberate the Jews from their exile in Babylon and enabled them to return to Jerusalem. That shows us how God’s providence can work all things for the wellbeing of his people how he can move rulers like Cyrus to rule in such a way that God’s people get justice and it shows us how people of faith and courage like Daniel are used by God to help bring that about
Few of us rise to such heights in public life as Daniel did although it’s a great thing to aspire to but in our own sphere and vocation we can still have that kind of influence as Daniel did if we life by faith and seek to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.
In conclusion them we find here in Daniel 6 how the living and enduring God protects and blesses those who trust in him from their enemies. That Satan and his accomplices try everything to undermine and destroy the church that God protects those who trust in him and that protection is ours by faith in the living God, Amen