Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daniel and the Lion's Den

Everyone knows the story of Daniel and the lions den. It is another of those Bible stories that is a favorite of Sunday School teachers everywhere. But, of course, like every other story from the Bible, it is equally edifying for adults.

The background to this story is that Daniel was one of those who had been brought as a young captive from the tribe of Judah to Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. But soon Daniel and his friends found favor in the sight of the Babylonian rulers.

Daniel 6:1-5 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.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.

You see, Daniel had come to his position of importance in the government without compromising or hiding his belief and trust in the God of Israel. How different that is from most politicians today. They will dodge questions and do their best to avoid giving straight answers about their beliefs about God, lest they should offend anyone who might otherwise vote for them. But not Daniel.

Knowing that Daniel would not hide his faith, those princes who were jealous of him, found it easy enough to set a trap for him. They went to king Darius and convinced him to make a decree that for the next 30 days no one was to make a petition to any man or any god except to Darius himself. I have to think that they were playing on Darius' pride, flattering him into going along with it. So without considering the consequences for his friend Daniel, Darius signed the decree ...and the penalty for not observing it was to be thrown into the lion's den.

Daniel 6:10-11 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.

Daniel didn't just fall into the trap. He saw the trap as if it were set in broad daylight, and he walked willingly into it! Now, couldn't Daniel have just followed the decree and given up his prayers for 30 days? After all, it would not be a permanent thing - he just needed to take a month off from his prayers. Or he might have even continued to pray, but done it in secret.
But there is a phrase in that last passage that make a big difference: "as he did aforetime." Daniel was in the habit of praying 3 times a day, and he was in the habit of doing it with his windows open. Everyone knew he prayed in such a manner. If he had stopped, it would have been tantamount to his denying his God.

In Matthew 10:33 Jesus said "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."

[In modern day America, facing the possibility of death for refusing to deny Christ is a little hard to relate to. Such is not the case everywhere however. Nearly every day, Christians in other parts of the world face the very real possibility of dying for their faith. If you think "that could never happen here," you are naive. The religious freedom we enjoy here has never been the norm throughout world history.]

By continuing in prayer, despite the decree, Daniel displayed two things. One was that he feared God more than he feared man. He would rather face death than deny his God. The other was his faith that God was able to deliver him, and when I say deliver him, I don't necessarily mean from the mouths of the lions. There is really nothing in the text to suggest that Daniel knew that God would stop the lions from eating him. But we do know that Daniel shared the same promise all Christians have: that no matter how difficult our fate here in this world, we have a glorious future awaiting us in heaven. As Paul said, "... the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Daniel 6:16-23 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 whom 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 musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste 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 for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceedingly 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.

"No manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God." There we have the gospel message from this story of Daniel and the lion's den. Daniel was saved because he believed in his God. The same is true for you and me. We find it over and over in the New Testament:

In Luke 7 we read of the woman who anoints Jesus with costly perfume. That incident ends with these words from Jesus, "... Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."

In Luke chapter 18 we have Jesus healing a blind beggar, and in verse 42 Jesus said to him, "...Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee."

In Mark 16 Jesus tells us: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

In Romans 10 verse 9 Paul tells us that "... if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

God has told us, by means of the Bible, that he sent his Son to pay the penalty for our sins. He told us that his Son, who was without sin, died on the cross in our place. Do you believe him? Daniel was saved because he believed God. You too can be saved if you believe God.


Dennis said...

Another good message! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great post! It is amazing how easy it is to bow before an idol. This is a great reminder to guard our hearts.