The God who rescues people from impossible situations - Daniel 6:1-28
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We make wrong judgements all the time. Me in Leeds at Fat Chops.
Danger in our lives is that we write off certain people as impossible cases. They will never be interested. Implications? We don’t pray, we don’t invite, we don’t speak – we don’t expect anything to happen.
I’m not encouraging us to think everything will change in the next 24 hours but we do need to remember that the God we believe in is a God who rescues people from impossible situations. Let me show you this from the book of Daniel.
o You’ll know from the end of chapter 5 that there has been a change of empires. For many years the Babylonians were in power but in 5:30 we are told that at the end of drunken booze up Belshazzar, the last king of the Babylonian empire, was slain and Darius the Mede (or Cyrus the Persian as he is called in a different place) took over the kingdom, at the age of 62.
o What are you planning to do at age 62? Perhaps the retirement plans are out on the table. More holidays to Spain – moving to Spain.
o Not King Darius. Look at what he does at the beginning of chapter 6. “It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps [that is, regional governors] throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel.” Then we’re that these regional governors were made accountable to the three administrators so that the king would not suffer loss – so that they wouldn’t rip him off.
o Told the reason why Daniel is to be exalted to such a high position in verse 3. He had distinguished himself above all the others. He had exceptional qualities. He was top of the class. He was the blue-eyed boy. And so therefore King Darius wanted to promote him to the very top of his government.
o I often find the Bible has a realism to it. There is a ring of truth about its description of human beings. That struck me again as I read verse 4. Listen to what the other administrators and governors thought about Darius’ plan. “At this, the administrators and satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel, in his conduct of government affairs.” In other words they were jealous of the favouritism shown to Daniel.
o What did they do? Well, they launched a dirty tricks campaign. If they were alive today they would have been tabloid journalists. They wanted to rake up some mud on Daniel, smear his reputation and make sure his promotion was stopped.
o So no doubt they went through his personnel files, checked his phone records, checked his emails, looked at his expense forms – anything to rake up some dirt on Daniel.
o And yet what did they find? End of verse 4. “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”
o So then verse 5 they change tactics and say to themselves, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
o Come up with a plan and they decide to go on mass to see the king. And they say to him, “O King Darius, live for ever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisors and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except you, O king should be thrown in the lion’s den. Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered – in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.”
o Very smart move. Very clever plan. Of course it was a lie. Not everyone had agreed. Daniel would not have been at the meeting. Perhaps they made up a good excuse why he was absent. Very smart move. New King in town. New empire.
o What a way to unite the empire by making sure they all worship this new king for a period of 30 days. Massages the ego a little bit. Flattered him. And only temporary. Only for 30 days. So Darius put the decree in writing.
o Trap is all set and all we need is a victim. And we discover what he does in verse 10. No fool. He could smell a political stitch-up from 50 paces but notice what he does. “When Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room, where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
o Doesn’t do anything new. He just carries on as before.
o This section of the Bible is not particularly about prayer but in passing let me make a few comments.
o When he prays. Three times a day. Unlike in Islam there is no prescribed times but discipline can be good. Often we don’t pray because we don’t plan to pray.
o How he prays. He kneels down. He would not fit into many of our churches who adopt what I call the evangelical crash position. Not necessary but it says something about who you are praying to.
o You stand or kneel before royalty you don’t slouch.
o Sometimes we become too pally with God. He is the awesome God who sovereignly controls his universe. He is our Father but he is also our Father in heaven.
o And this is the God Daniel continued to pray to throughout this developing crisis.
o We discover what happened in verse 11. “Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king [and sprung their trap]: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except you, would be thrown in the lion’s den?” The king answered, “The decree stands – in accordance with the laws of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
o Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.”
Have you ever had one of those moments in life when you have been made to feel extremely foolish? No one likes to appear foolish, do they? And yet this is exactly the situation facing Darius in verse 14.
No doubt if the civil service was behind him they could have organised a cover up, no public enquiry for sure. But they had planned the whole sting operation. He has been manipulated beautifully.
But give him credit he at least tries to rescue Daniel from the fate he has condemned him to. He is greatly distressed and is up all nights with his lawyers. Is there anything we can do? No, King. The law cannot be changed. The die has been cast. The punishment must be carried out. So with a heavy heart and a feeling of great impotence, the King finally gave the order. With a final farewell he said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually rescue you!” and then Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den.
Seems that King Darius held out some hope. He knew he was powerless but maybe this God of Daniel could actually rescue him from this impossible situation.
Look what he does in verse 19. Restless night. No entertainment for him and no food. Complete contrast to those civil servants who would be partying the night away.
But look what he does in verse 19. “At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lion’s 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?”
Not told if Daniel played a trick and didn’t say anything. Probably not. “O king, live for ever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions [by this point Daniel was in his eighties!]. They have not hurt me.”
King is so overjoyed. Daniel is lifted out and there was not even a scratch on him.
Then we see some of the brutality of this king. Ring of truth. This action is not commended but recorded. The people involved in the plot are rounded up with their wives and children and they are thrown into the lion’s den, and before they reached the floor of the den, the lions had overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
Then Darius becomes an evangelist for the cause of Daniel’s God. I want to end by focusing on what he says about him.
Writes to all the people in his kingdom and he tells them to worship the God of Daniel – no mention of sanctions if they didn’t so no idea how many people decided to follow what was said. But listen to how he describes the God of Daniel.
“He is the living God and he endures forever; 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.”
Take each of these line by line and see how they can encourage us to keep on trusting that the God we believe in is a God who rescues people from impossible situations.
1. God is the living God who will endure forever.
Not just the God who is alive but the God who gives us everything and who is also in the business of giving new spiritual life to the dead.
I pinch myself sometimes when I remember what I get paid to do for a living. I get paid to tell people the best news in the world. No greater joy than to see new life given. The eyes see. They finally get it.
I remember it’s not me. “What after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
2. God’s rule will never end.
Sobering thing for those who rebel against his rule because it means we will be held accountable.
When I was a student I used to watch a cartoon called Pinky and the Brain, some of you may have seen it. It had two main characters, both of them were mice, one was called Pinky and the other was called Brain. Pinky was stupid and Brain was a genius. And they had a catch phrase which was an integral part of every episode. Brain would turn to his companion and utter the memorable words: “Come Pinky, we must prepare for tomorrow night.” And Pinky would reply, “Gee, Brain, what are we doing tomorrow night?’ “The same thing we do every night Pinky – Try to take over the world!”
That’s what we do to God. Massive consequences for this crime of treason against God.
We accept God’s gifts. We ruin his world. We patronise his instructions. And we declare ourselves masters of our destiny.
We sing the Frank Sinatra Sin Song: “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few too mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption. I planned each chartered course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
Will there be no consequences? Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” A day of judgement when we will suffer the eternal penalty for our wickedness. And we can do nothing about our predicament.
We have been found guilty of treason against God and God’s courts are just and pure. No dodgy deals.
We were an impossible situation. Many of our friends are still in this impossible situation.
But thankfully God is also the God who loves to rescue people from an impossible situation. And this is what he sent Jesus to do 2000 years ago.
3. God who rescues and saves.
Jesus – means God saves or God to the rescue.
Set up something called the Kingdom of God. Two ways to get rid of enemies. Wipe them out or offer them terms of surrender. Become friends.
Jesus formed a new community and promised that all those who deserved to be judged would be forgiven.
How? He went to die on a cross. Stood in the place of his followers so that they would be rescued.
If not a follower of Jesus today then you are in an impossible situation but God has made it possible to escape through Jesus.
His primarily means today? As we speak the message about Jesus. People understand it and respond by changing their lives.
This is our privilege and our responsibility.
It is God’s way for spreading his rule or his kingdom.
Lord’s Prayer – we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…”
Right to pray that God’s Kingdom would be extended.
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