Facing the lions - Daniel 6
It seems that after years of Television and video games dominating home entertainment, the reading of stories is back in a big way.
For example, just this weekend, publishing history has been made, with one particular book receiving the largest single print run ever seen, with a massive 13 million hardback copies rolling off the press! But this is just for the English version, twice as many foreign language copies are set to follow.
The author, who was once an unemployed single mother living off public assistance in a tiny Edinburgh flat, now owns a home in Edinburgh and a fortune of m.
Now if you haven't already guessed, the author I'm referring to is J. K. Rowling, and the book is the latest addition to the World famous Harry Potter series.
Now why is this book such a phenomenon? Why are millions of children and adults alike gripped by these books? Well the answer is this. Despite whatever you might think of Harry Potter, the stories which have been written about him have captured the imaginations of millions world wide, they are great stories and everyone loves a great story! I remember one of my fondest memories from childhood was when mum, used to read me stories by people like Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. I used to love it and still do, although my preference for authors may have widened just a little.
Well tonight we are going to turn again to one of the most famous stories ever told. Daniel and the Lions Den. A story which, like Harry Potter, has gripped and thrilled millions from all around the world, but unlike Harry Potter, this story has been doing it for over 2, 000 years.
If you grew up going to Sunday school, then the chances are you know this story well and even if you come from a non - Church background, the chances are that you, like me, some how managed to hear it.
So, if you haven't done so already, please turn with me to Daniel 6 and we'll try and take a fresh look at this fantastic story and we'll begin with the first 11 verses where we see Daniel...
1. The Faithful Man Of God - Conspired Against.
Well the first thing to note in 5: 30 is that the Babylonian Empire has changed hands again. This time Darius the Mede has taken over and when we get to 6: 1 we see that he is well keen to make a decent go of things. So he sets to work and organises 120 Satraps (which are provincial governors) to rule over the kingdom, and over them he appointed three administrators (including Daniel) so that he might not suffer any loss.
Now as he has already done in previous chapters, Daniel once again shows himself to be exceptional. Look down at verse 3.
Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the King planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
So we see that Daniel is very much a clear cut above the rest. So much so that this new king seems willing to risk his kingdom by placing it in the hands of this foreign man, who comes from a people who had been defeated, had their cities destroyed and who had been carted off to live in exile.
But it's worth noting that Daniel was exceptional in other ways to. You see verse 10 gives us a deeper insight into Daniel's life. He was a faithful man of God, concerned with God's purposes and promises. Verse 10 tells us that Daniel was in the habit of very regular prayer, he involved God deeply in his life, but it's important to note the direction in which Daniel kneels to pray.
Now we must remember where Daniel is. He is in the heart of a mighty Kingdom! The major world power! He is surrounded by might and majesty and impressive buildings. But where does Daniel focus his attention? He focuses on Jerusalem, a defeated lowly pile of rubble. Surely it would be better and easier for Daniel to forget about that place? After all Babylon is where the future is isn't it? But not for Daniel, he is focused on Jerusalem, the city of God, the city from which God would one day send his deliverer. Daniel remembered and looked forward to God's promises and purposes. He prayed with these in mind.
It is interesting that the New Testament picks up and uses the idea of Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon stands for human existence with humanity at the centre, the city stands condemned by God. Jerusalem on the other hand stands for human existence with God at it's centre and God in control. Daniel was focused on the latter.
So here we have this man Daniel, both a faithful servant of God but also an exceptional administrator.
But we quickly see that the rest of Babylon's governors and administrators do not share the kings enthusiasm for this Old Jewish man. In fact it seems that Daniel's exceptional qualities have the opposite effect on them. They become jealous and decide to take him out of the picture. The only problem is that in order to do so they need to find dirt. They have to ruin his reputation.
I don't know if many people here have read John Grisham books before. Grisham writes legal thrillers and in the world of Grisham, one of a lawyer's main tasks is to find dirt on people. If you find enough of the right sort of dirt, you can completely discredit a hostile witness and make sure their testimony is completely ignored. And the good news for lawyers is that everyone has dirt somewhere in their past, you just have to find it.
But it seems that Daniel doesn't have any. Look down at verse 4.
At this , the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of Government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.
It quickly becomes clear that if these guys are going to get Daniel, then they are going to have to do it by underhanded means. So they conspire against him and set a trap. They attack him where they know he will never compromise, they challenge his faithfulness to his God.
Just about every super hero movie has a scene like this, where the villain sets up a trap for the hero. You see the villain knows that if he does a certain thing (like say tie up a beautiful innocent girl to a pole that is slowly descending into sulphuric acid), then the hero will react in a predictable manner (he'll come and save the girl). So with this knowledge the villain can set up an appropriate trap and this is what the administrators and satraps do.
Look down at verses 6 - 7.
So the administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said:
"O king Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisors and governors have all agreed that the king should issue a edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any God or man during the next 30 days, except to you oh king shall be thrown into the lions den...
And we read in verse 9 that the King put the decree in writing. So Daniel has found himself in a sticky situation. Now you might expect him to compromise on this one a little. After all he was probably around 80 years old at this time. But no. As we have already seen he gets down on his knees, facing Jerusalem and prays to God as he has always done. So there we have it, the innocent man of God conspired against and it seems that the conspiracy has worked.
But the news gets worse when we turn to verses 11 - 18, because here we see the
2. The Faithful Man Of God - Condemned
It seems that straight away the conspirators run off to the king and remind him of his decree in verses 12. This reminds me a bit of children trapping their parents in to buying them something, I even recall doing this myself once. The trick works like this. The kid walks up to his mum in the shop and says something like:
"Mum, you really like it when I play outside don't you? You think it's better for kids to play outside instead of playing Play Station don't you?" To which the unsuspecting mother replies "yes dear that's right." The kid then has her right where he wants her and says, "well if you bought me this Super Soaker water pistol I'd play outside all the time".
And this is what the conspirators do to the king, look over verses 12 - 13, they remind the king of what he decreed and then hit him with the fact that Daniel has disobeyed.
Now the king clearly doesn't want Daniel dead, in fact verse 14 tells us that the King was greatly distressed and made every effort to save him. He knows that Daniel doesn't deserve death, he knows he's innocent and the object of foul play. But he's not willing to go against the laws of the Medes and the Persians and seem weak, so he sentences Daniel to death and Daniel is thrown to the Lions.
Now it's important for us to try and grasp the gravity of what's happening here. Imagine that you are a Jew, the promised land, your country is in tatters and you are subject to a mighty Godless ruler! But there's hope, look at Daniel, the faithful man of God! He's exceptional, look over chapters 1 - 5, look at the powers God has given him, look at the way God uses him! Surely here is a man who can bring Israel hope! Babylonian rulers come and go, but not Daniel, he remains! But read chapter six...
Daniel is doomed...Israel's hero is going to die...The faithful man of God is condemned.
But when we get to verses 19 - 28, we get a big surprise, because...
3. The Faithful Man Of God - Overcomes
You see this seemingly hopeless situation, this condemnation of the man who seemed to be Israel's hope in a foreign land, ends up having a very different outcome to what Daniels enemies expected.
Daniel's enemies had not taken God into account and The Lord was to use Daniel's ordeal for quite a different purpose than that intended by the Satraps and administrators. God brought Daniel out of his ordeal and look at the result in
verses 25 - 27...
Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: "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 for ever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 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.
Do you see what God has accomplished through the condemnation of Daniel? All people throughout the land now fear and worship the one true God! It truly is an incredible story. But before we leave Daniel 6, we must think about one last thing. You see Daniel points us towards another man and if we do not understand him, then we will have missed what God is saying to us through the book of Daniel so let's look at...
4. The Faithful Man Of God - Fulfilled.
When we reach the New Testament, we encounter another man. This man seems to be truly exceptional. Oh how God works in this man. This man does more than simply interpret dreams, he knows the future, he knows what people are thinking.
He can heal paralytics and calm storms, he can even bring people back from the dead. There is certainly no corruption in this man, surely he is trustworthy, never was he negligent. But, not only was he exceptional in all of these areas, he too was a faithful man of God. In fact this man was so faithful to the plans and promises of God, that he sacrificed his whole life for them. This man had potential far beyond that of Daniel, he could have ruled an empire far greater than that of Babylon, but he had his sights fixed firmly on the will of God.
When reading about this man you can't help but think "finally, someone who can save Israel.
Surely this man has everything required to deliver Israel from her oppressors, to give Israel hope?" But like Daniel this man was envied, despised and conspired against. Like the conspirators in Daniel 6 This man's enemies turned the Law against him. Like Daniel this man was condemned to die by a judge who knew he was innocent and didn't deserve such a fate and like Daniel, this man was handed over for execution. But, as in the story of Daniel the moment when everything seems lost, the moment when God's enemies seem to have overcome, is the moment that God reveals his power. The faithful man of God overcomes and as in Daniel 6, people from every nation and language throughout the land, reverence and fear the One true God as a result. But this time it is not just the Babylonian Empire, but the entire world!
You see Daniel points us to an even greater Faithful man of God. Jesus Christ the ultimate man of God, because he is God! Because of him one day every knee will bow before the true God and everyone will declare that he is Lord! This should give us hope.
You see just like the Jews of Daniel's day, we are God's people living in a Land that is not our own. We live in a land that rejects God's Kingship. We live in a land where humanity is at the centre and where humanity reigns. We live in Babylon; and can't you feel it? Can't you feel it when you look around at work, or School, or University and everything seems to be telling you that God is irrelevant, and that if you really want to be happy you will need to chase after money and fashion and career, like the rest of Babylon's inhabitants? Don't you feel it when you go to the houses of some of Babylon' s inhabitants or see them in magazines, and it draws you to think that real success is when your house looks like theirs, and your kids wear what their kids wear and you feel a sting because you can't have these things because you use your time and money differently.
Don't you feel it when you meet that non - Christian boy who you fall in love with? And everything seems to be telling you that it's right and if you're ever going to have a chance at being happy then you must be with him..
but God's word says you shouldn't, and it hurts and Babylon tells you you're stupid for breaking up...
Don't you feel it when you devote so much time and energy to trying to tell people about God and live the way he wants you to, but no - one seems to care and sometimes they seem better off for it. Can't you feel it? I do.
Well Daniel 6 says to you press on! God is far more powerful than Babylon. It is worth sticking with him. In the story of Daniel and ultimately in the story of Christ, we see Babylon do it's best to get rid of God's faithful servant. But Babylon fails. It so often feels like we're slogging away at a hard, difficult job. Sometimes it's as though we never get anywhere. Maybe you've never seen anyone become a Christian and the whole thing seems pointless. Don't give up, because of the faithful man of God. The Lord's name is praised all over this earth and because of the faithful man of God, there will come a time when every knee will bow, whether they want to or not and one day, everyone will see God as he truly is.
He is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed his dominion will never end.
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