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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Daniel and the Lions Den



Daniel and the Lions Den



Over fifty years have gone by since Daniel and his people, the Jews, have been in Babylon and Daniel is now an old man. As our story begins he has already served two Babylonian kings and he is now serving a third king- King Darius the Mede.  The year is 538 B.C. and Babylon has been taken over by the Medes and the Persians. 


Over the years Daniel had built up a reputation in Babylon for being a wise and helpful man of integrity. And word spread around the royal family in the palace that God was with him. In the past King Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed dreams that none of his soothsayers or fortune tellers could interpret for him.  But Daniel had prayed to God and God had given him the meaning of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams.  And the king had received God’s messages through Daniel.  Daniel’s faithfulness to God had inspired this mighty king who ruled the whole known world to also believe in God. 


The new king – King Darius – was so impressed with Daniels’ long record of faithful public service that he made Daniel governor of a third of his kingdom and was thinking of setting him up as governor over his whole kingdom.  But Daniels’ new prominent position caused the administrators working under him to become jealous. Why had Daniel been chosen over one of them?  Why was Daniel so special any way?  It wasn’t fair!    


The envious administrators fussed and fumed for awhile behind Daniel’s back and then finally got together to work on a plot that would bring Daniel down.  They planned to all go together to the king and accuse Daniel of something bad or illegal.  So they met to decide what their accusation would be, but no one in the group could think of any fault to accuse Daniel of.  Finally one of the men in the group spoke up, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the laws of his God.”  (Daniel 6:5)  So they would have to figure out a way to use Daniel’s faithfulness to his God against him!  But how would that work? The group was silent for a long time trying to think of a way.


Finally one of the men in the group spoke up and mentioned that Daniel always prayed to his God several times a day.  Could they use that against him?   The group continued plotting how they could get Daniel in trouble for praying to his God and then one of the men jumped up with an idea: “Ah ha! I think I have the perfect plan!  We know that Daniel prays every day to his God.  If the king were to make a law stating that it is illegal to pray to any god but to the king, then Daniel will break that law!  We can spy on him and catch him praying to his God and then we can get him in trouble!” 


Everyone in the group liked the plan but they knew they would have to sell King Darius on it.  Darius was an arrogant and conceited king, so maybe if the group appealed to the king’s ego they could pull it off.   These administrators went as a group to the king and bowed before him saying, “O King Darius, Live forever!”   Then they told the king that all of his administrators and governors had agreed to a plan they had thought of.  This was a lie since Daniel had not even heard of their plot much less agreed to it. 


The plan they told King Darius was this -that since he- Darius was such a powerful king, no one in the country should worship or pray to any other god except to him for the next thirty days. They would have a statue of King Darius created for everyone to worship since he was such a great ruler.  And then they asked the king to make a decree that this plan of theirs would become the law of the land.  And if any person disobeyed this law and prayed to any other god except the king during the next thirty days then that person would be thrown into the lions’ den. 


King Darius was pleased that so many of his administrators wanted to worship him.  Such a good idea, why hadn’t he thought of it himself?  So the king did what the group wanted and signed a decree stating that for the next thirty days anyone caught praying to any other god besides King Darius or his statue, would be thrown into the lions den.  This law would be in effect throughout the land for thirty days.  And this law could not be changed because the Medes and the Persians have a law stating that after a law is made by the king it cannot be changed!


So what would Daniel do when he learned about this new law of the land?  Couldn’t he pray secretly to God and not get in trouble? Would he take the chance of being thrown into a lion’s den just to pray openly to God for the next thirty days?  What would we do in a situation like this?


Scripture tells us what happens next.  “Now when Daniel learned that the law 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 6:10)


The group of administrators snuck over to Daniel’s house and hid in the bushes and spied on him. They knew that Daniel would continue praying to his God so they watched and waited.  And they didn’t have to wait long before they could see Daniel at his window praying to his God as he always did.  Their plot had worked!  Overjoyed, the group rushed back to the palace to tell King Darius what they had  seen!


King Darius immediately became distraught when he heard that the group had caught Daniel praying!  He paced the palace floor shaking his head and crying out that he could never allow Daniel to be killed by the lions!  Daniel had been such a help to the king that surely he would find a way to get around this law and save him.  But the group who wanted Daniel dead was determined to stop the king from doing that.  They reminded the upset king that, “According to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”  (Daniel 6:15b)  The group had trapped King Darius in a corner by his own law!


So King Darius was forced against his will to give the order to arrest Daniel.  And as the soldiers were bringing Daniel in and throwing him into the pit with the lions the king shouted out to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”  (Daniel 6:16b)  “A stone was placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s fate might not be changed.”  (Daniel 6:17) 


The king was so devastated by all of this that he couldn’t eat.  His head hung low as he left the lions’ den and trudged back to the palace. And he stayed awake all night nervously pacing the floor. At the first light of dawn King Darius rushed back to the lions’ den and called out to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”  (Daniel 6:19-20) 


And would you believe, the king could hear a voice calling back to him from inside the lions’ den!  It was Daniel and he was answering: “O king, live forever!  My God sent his angel and he shut the mouths of the lions…” (Daniel 6:21) Amazed and overjoyed, King Darius shouted out the orders to have Daniel lifted out of the lions’ den!  And when Daniel came out he did not have even a scratch on his body! 


Daniels’ faith in God inspired King Darius to believe in God too.  The king issued a law that everyone in his kingdom, the Empire of the Medes and Persians which was the entire known world, should worship the God of Daniel.  And the news spread throughout the whole empire that Daniel served a living God who will endure forever.  And all the people in the empire –(the known world of 538 B.C.) were urged to serve Him too, - a God who rescues and saves and whose dominion will never end!


Perhaps we can see that Daniel’s separation to God – his absolute refusal to stop praying to God openly, even if it could mean his violent death- offers an inspiring example for us to follow.  Daniel’s commitment to God presents us with the challenge to never compromise, conceal or pervert our testimony for Jesus Christ. 


The story of Daniel and the lions’ den is a favorite children’s Bible story.  But what can we learn from this story?  Some peoople do not believe the story.  They do not believe in Gods’ ability to perform miracles or that God saved Daniel from the hungry lions as Scripture says He did. They say that others who trusted God have not been saved when they have faced enemies or wild animals.  So why would God save Daniel when He doesn’t save every person from physical harm?


It is true, not every person who has trusted God has been rescued from a violent death like Daniel was.  When it comes to Gods’ actions, we can not pin God down or put Him in a box.  Or believe that God must do everything the same way on every occasion!  Gods’ ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) And His ways are past finding out. (Romans 11:33)


 We can trust that God is good and He always operates out of love and justice and mercy.  And He can work all things together for good to those who love Him, even when we can’t imagine how. (Romans 8:28) Surely if God can put in place the rules that cause the universe to run, He can change the way those rules work on occasion – or do what appears to be a miracle to us.  When we try to put limits on what God can do I think it shows that our understanding of God is too restricted!  Someday when we cross over to the other side we will see things as they really are.    


We have stories of many godly people throughout history who were saved miraculously by God like Daniel was. We think of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who God delivered from the fiery furnace.  Or Sarah who God miraculously gave her the ability to become pregnant and give birth to baby Isaac when she was ninety years old.  And we remember Jonah who God rescued out of the belly of a whale!   


But then the Bible also tells of John the Baptist, a man very close to God, who was not rescued by God when Salome asked Herod to cut off his head. And we remember Stephen, a devoted Christian, who was not saved by God when the mob surrounded him and stoned him to death.  Or James, one of Jesus’ disciples, who was put to death by the sword because of his faith.


God seldom needs to rescue believers today from real lions (physical lions).  But God enables us to overcome otherwise impossible circumstances,-or (spiritual lions).    Scripture says that our enemy, the devil “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8)  God helps us when we come against spiritual lions that would eat us up.  And Scripture says that if we “resist the devil (the roaring lion) he will flee from us” (James 4:7)


God is still in the miracle-working business.  He delivers us many times from spiritual dangers and difficult circumstances, sometimes when we don’t even realize it. And when we go through trials and sorrows and even death He promises to be with us and uphold us.  The Bible reminds us of this. “Fear not for I am with you, be not afraid for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with the right Hand of My righteousness.”  (Isaiah 41:10)       






















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