Monday, January 19, 2009
DANIEL CHAPTER 6:1-28
Preferred above Princes__But not without Lions
Daniel 6:1 - 3
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first; that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
Recently, I was telling a friend that I was going to do a major exposition on the Book of Daniel, and he said, Oh, that's about Daniel in the lion's den. I replied, Yes, but there's much more to the book than that. It appears that just about everyone knows this story. Unfortunately, for many, that's all they know about this mysterious book that provides information on multiplied end-time events that only now, in our generation, are being unsealed-something we'll investigate in greater depth when analyzing chapters seven through twelve.
But we're getting a bit ahead of our story. First, some background. Daniel had now served under six administrations as a faithful, wise, competent counselor-all the more remarkable since he was a Jew, a member of that reluctant group of captives brought from Jerusalem to Babylon, and one who never really fit into this foreign culture. Daniel was a survivor because God gave him the strength and the courage to stand up for his faith. And now, in chapter six, we're going to see that strength tested once again.
For anyone to serve six political administrations is a tremendous feat. That's one of many reasons I admire Dr. Billy Graham and the enormous respect he has earned as counselor and friend to so many United States presidents. That's a long, impressive history of relationships with our nation's top leaders. It was also a long time for Daniel.
For this man of God it had all started with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who ultimately lost his kingdom when Babylon was handed over to the Medes and the Persians that fateful night when Beishazzar was preoccupied with wine, women, and song. Then the handwriting began to appear on the wall and the Medo-Persian conquest occurred as the new leaders immediately executed three thousand political prisoners, including all of Babylon's princes and presidents.
However, as you'll recall, at the last moment of his life, Belshazzar made Daniel the third in command. Imagine this scenario if you were Darius or Cyrus, leaders of the Medes and the Persians: You conquer a nation, rape and pillage virtually everyone and everything in sight, you kill all the country's key leaders-yet despite your best efforts at assuming complete control, there is still this person, Daniel, who is number three in the kingdom-and who seemingly can't be eliminated. Why wasn't he killed with the others? Why was Daniel, of all people, left to survive and to become a nuisance to the new administration?
The only answer I can give is that God always sets up those He wants elevated. God had a plan for Daniel's life, and now even the new kings-Darius and Cyrus-find themselves appreciating Daniel and his administrative abilities, so much so that they make him a president in their kingdom. So, Daniel was one of the three appointed heads of state-at eighty-five years of age.
Daniel 6:4 - 9
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live forever,All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, o king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
In actions that demonstrated the depth of their anti-Semitism, the Gentile administrators compelled to work with Daniel were determined to find a way to put this man down once and for all. How could they tolerate the presence of a Jew in such a high position-one greater than their own? That was the rub. So they pulled Daniel's file. I can just see them scouring the official records looking for just one act of impropriety, for some minute administrative error.
Perhaps they'd find that some unaccounted for, under-the-table money had changed hands. Perhaps Daniel had been derelict in his duties earlier on, but no one had caught the mistake. They searched to the point of exhaustion, only to end their quest unsuccessfully. As much as they hated to admit it, Daniel was apparently as good as everyone said he was.
The only thing they could find wrong with him was that he served God. What a marvelous indictment, and would it. not be wonderful if our detractors were to say the same thing about you and me? But it will only be said about us as we remain people of the Book who live on our knees in devoted worship to our heavenly Father. It's what Luke says as he reminds us of the words of Jesus,And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1).
That's our choice: We can either pray or faint. It's either one or the other, and Daniel never stopped praying. Because of this, his fellow administrators figured they'd finally discovered the smoking gun they were looking for, and that's when their treachery began. Today we might call it bootlicking-cozying up to someone from whom we might want a favor or some special arrangement. This is what Daniel's friends did by going to Darius with their newly-hatched scheme to catch Daniel in the act of praying. It's important to realize that it was not just a few who plotted against Daniel.
Remember, there were 120 princes and three presidents-the first of whom was Daniel. That means there were 122 government servants under the Medes and the Persians who had turned against Daniel. The vote was 122 to 1. How could any politician survive those odds? And it all started with a vile, dirty little sin called jealousy. You might say, Well, I don't go out and get drunk; I don't commit adultery; I don't steal; I have never murdered a person... but if your heart is filled with envy, that not-so-small sin will remove you from the presence of God eternally unless repentance occurs. Galatians 5:19-21 reads,Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
God's Word is constantly reminding us to check out our hearts, and find out if we are envious of the position, wealth, or appearance of others. Daniel didn't compare himself with the Smiths and the Joneses of his day, and neither should we. Daniel had higher goals, and his message to us is that if we are to truly know God, we, too, must have goals and objectives that reflect our love for the Savior. Meanwhile, Daniel's enemies got their way as they pushed through a decree that promised a den filled with lions for those who worshipped any god other than the king. What a fool-proof idea.
Finally, they would get this Jew who had been elevated to such a lofty position of leadership. Yes, a den of lions. That would surely do it. Not even a praying Daniel could extricate himself from those hungry beasts. Something else: They reminded the king that when a decree is signed, it is an irrevocable law of the Medes and the Persians. The king knew this, but because of the pressure of virtually his entire administrative staff, he complied with their wishes, signing the document on the spot.
Daniel 6:10 - 15
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
Then thy came near and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of and God or man within thirty days, save of thee O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, not the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.
Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him.Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
These verses are a mini-treatise of what true friendship is all about, even though it may seem to be expressed in a context we might not expect. Here is a powerful king, Darius, who has signed a decree under considerable duress, now only to be made aware that his friend, counselor, and confidant, Daniel, has been caught in the act of praying to the God of the Hebrews. I've seen some Christians scratch their eyebrows as they bowed their heads and intoned a quick prayer in a restaurant, hoping that no one would see them praying before eating their food. Not Daniel. No secretive scratching of Jewish eyebrows for this saint of God.
Daniel knew the decree had been signed, and that his life was on the line. Yet, he continued to pray three times a day, as was the Jewish custom, and not just pray, but pray before an open window! He wanted everyone to know what he was doing and to whom he gave his allegiance as he bowed his head humbly toward Jerusalem, not toward, the headquarters of the Medes and the Persians.
Matthew 10:32-33 reminds us that,
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
It was true in Daniel's day, and it is true in ours. God doesn't put much stock in would-be believers who quietly scratch their eyebrows for fear of being caught in the act of praying.
Later, Jesus added,Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38).
While the first six chapters of Daniel are more historical and devotional, do not forget that the essential content of Daniel- seen more graphically in the last six chapters-is about the return of Messiah, the coming again of Christ, a moment in time when Jesus will remind us that if we have been ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us. It cuts both ways.
The crown hangs forever heavy on the head of any ruler, and this night the head of Darius was heavy indeed. He realized he'd been tricked by his own staff just so they could get their man. The problem was that their man was also Darius's man- but for completely different reasons. Darius loved Daniel. It didn't matter that Daniel was a Jew in exile, that he was well up in years, or that he continued to worship the God of Father Abraham. Daniel was his friend, and Darius loved him.
But now his friend was about to be thrown into a den of lions-and it was all his fault. Love-real love-seeks to overrule even the strictest, most binding decree. But, in this case, not even Darius's friendship with Daniel would be enough to save the day or the man. He had signed the proclamation. He had bowed to the pressure of putting himself in a position to be worshipped. Now, he would pay the consequence by losing his dear friend.
That evening, the kingly head tossed and turned, unable to sleep. Darius wished he could undo his terrible decree, but it was a law that could not be altered. An eighty-five-year-old saint and friend was about to be devoured by hungry lions, and that's all Darius could think about throughout the long, painful night.
Daniel 6:16 - 18
Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God who thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting, neither were instruments of music brought before him; and sleep went from him.
Darius found himself between a rock and a hard place. He had to do the deed, and Daniel was brought to what all assumed would be his imminent death. But note what the king said in verse 16, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. What a vote of confidence for Daniel. Darius was rooting for his friend Daniel and was praying that his God would see him through the disastrous ordeal. But would it be enough to spare Daniel the pain and physical destruction of his body?
Many people have asked me, Why did Darius use a lion's den when the fiery furnace was still in existence? This is because the Babylonians-the former rulers-made it their practice to use a furnace as the primary vehicle to execute dissidents and enemies, as they'd attempted to do with the three Hebrew children. But now, under a new administration-the Medes and the Persians-this was not the appropriate means of execution. Here's the reason.
The Medes and the Persians gave their allegiance to a religion called Zoroastrianism, and they worshipped the fire god, Atar. For them to use fire to execute their enemies would be to desecrate their teachings, putting them on the verge of religious sacrilege. Their alternative to fire was a large den of ravenously hungry lions, not the cage of sleepy beasts we might see lying about when we visit the lion section of a local zoo. This lion's den was an immense square cavern carved out of the ground to about the size of a large home. In the middle of the cavern was a partition with doors.
From above, the workers could manipulate the doors to make them open and close. When they wanted to clean the den, they would jump down on the one side in safety because the lions were held back by the partition. When they wanted to throw raw meat-or their screaming enemies-to the hungry beasts, they would do just the opposite. Now, it was Daniel's turn to be lowered to the floor of the cavern below. The lions were hungry, pawing at the partition, ready to eat whatever would be placed on the other side of the door. We can only surmise what was in Daniel's mind as he waited for the panel to open.
With the stone on the den now firmly in place-sealed by the king and then again by his officials-the drama was ready to unfold. Apparently Darius did not choose to see what he feared might be the inevitable. Instead, he returned to his palace where he spent yet another sleepless night. The usual dancing girls, animated orchestra, rich foods, and night of revelry were canceled. Instead, Darius fasted-praying, in his own way, for the God of the Hebrews to put His cloak of protection around his friend.
I'm OK, O King.
Daniel 6:19 - 23
Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in hast unto the den of lions.And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel; and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever.My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouth, that they have not hurt me: foreasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.
Perhaps you've had a loved one who was sent to the hospital emergency ward. You prayed all night for his or her recovery. But you've received no word. All night you wondered, worried, and prayed for the one you loved. Then, early the next morning, you jumped into your car and rushed to the hospital to check on the person for whom you cared so much.
Well, that's how Darius must have felt when he rose from his bed at the breaking of dawn the next morning. He didn't stay around for his usual bath or breakfast, or to be waited on by his servants. He had only one objective: to go to the lion's den and check on the condition of his friend. I can almost feel his heavy breathing as he made the trek from his sleeping chamber to the large cavern where the lions were kept. Would Daniel be alive? Or would there only be a few scraps of bones?
When he arrived at the den, his voice cracked and trembled as he cried out, Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? The time between the king's cry and Daniel's response must have seemed like an eternity to Darius. Then, the king heard what he wanted to hear-what any friend wants to hear about a friend in trouble-that he was all right. The score was:
It's no accident that the writer of the Book of Hebrews would later write about this victorious deliverance when he stated: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions (Hebrews 11:33). God had indeed paralyzed the mouths of what may have been as many as two hundred hungry lions, and Daniel's life was spared. Picture the scene: A king and his friend are reunited, as Daniel is pulled back up through the opening in the cavern. The prayers of both men were heard as God again venerated Daniel's loyalty, faith, and allegiance.
Keep the Lions Handy - and Hungry
And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
The wheels of justice moved swiftly that day as the king commanded that all 120 princes, two presidents, and their families be rounded up and brought to the cavern. The law of the Medes and Persians stated that whatever punishment was meted out to a leader, his family would also experience. So if we consider an average family of the day to be four persons, there could have been as many as five hundred individuals dropped through the ceiling into the lion's den, where the beasts-thwarted from having a good meal the night before- ripped their prey to shreds. Some, in fact, were killed mid-air since the verse says,the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den (6:24).
No more would Darius be subjected to their jealousy and rage. The punishment they'd designed for Daniel was now their own undoing. By also killing his leaders' families, the king had eliminated the possibility of reprisals, and even potential assassination attempts on himself.
These were not toothless lions as some have suggested. They were the same beasts that had simply skipped a meal to be used to destroy the jealousy-filled conspirators against God's prophet. The message of this passage? Be careful not to attack the prophets of God-God's duly ordained ministers. Psalm 105:15 says,Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.
It is your duty and mine to obey God, and to give honor and respect to those who declare the word of truth. Some of today's lions waiting to devour God's servants may not be of the four-legged variety, but they, too, will surely pay the price if they demonstrate by their actions that they are failing to live in obedience to God's warning about His servants.
A New Proclamation Is Issued
Daniel 6:25 - 28
Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Zoroaster and Atar, the god of fire, could not do the job. The lions couldn't do what the enemy had set them up to do.
Treachery born of avarice had not won the day. It was the living God who again stepped in and reminded the Gentile establishment that enough was enough. I've always wondered why Darius did not fall on his knees and get converted right there on the spot. Perhaps he did, and we just do not have the written account. But I have a sneaking suspicion that as he made his decree for all his subjects to serve Daniel's God, in his heart he may have said, My beloved Daniel, I want your God. I want a God in my life who can paralyze the mouths of two hundred hungry lions. I want a God to do what Zoroaster and Atar cannot do. I want a God who is faithful and true, and not subject to human whim.
Have you ever been there? Where all your best laid plans, investments, manipulation of people and events have simply not given you what you really wanted from life? I'm sure we've all had those experiences. That's why we must remember that there comes a time when only the Holy Spirit can do the job. Jesus said, in John 6:44,No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.
This is one of the key messages of this chapter. You see, this is more than simply a story about Daniel in a den of hungry lions. It's a narrative of God's enormous power, great love, compassionate mercy, overwhelming friendship, and the timeless reality that He will always have the last word in every situation-lions present or not. These first six chapters are prologue to the great prophecies yet to come-simply reminders that earthly kingdoms will always come and go, but the kingdom of God is an eternal one, the warm-up message for what we will now begin to analyze in chapters seven through twelve, the prophetic portion of the Book of Daniel.
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