Daniel's Story: A Lion's Tale
When people feel like they are under attack they usually do one of two things: they fight their way out, or they run away.
Personally, I believe that we are living at the fringe of eternity. Soon Jesus will come soon. , but just before that happens the Bible describes some challenging events. Jesus tells about a lot of this in Matthew 24 and John adds detail to it in Revelation 15 -16. They describe natural disasters. They talk about political upheaval and warfare. But the big issue that contributes to the most significant end-time prophecies is the issue of worship. Will you follow the lamb, Christ Jesus, or will you give your service and worship to the agents of Satan? Revelation 13 says this divide between worshiping the Creator God or worshiping a man-made God will result in a world-wide division.
God’s people have a choice in how they respond in difficult situations. Should they stand up and fight for their rights? Should they band together and attempt to force lawmakers to make policy that favors their beliefs? Or, should they run and hide, living as long as possbile in isolation from those who disagree with them?
I want to tell you two short stories from the Bible, one where God’s man ran and hid, and one that shows us the impact of faithful service.
The story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17-19 Is a story of grand victories for God, but also a missed opportunity.
God was determined to turn the hearts of His people back to their Creator from the worship of the false gods, Baal and Ashtoreth. So, Elijah made a bold decree in front of the king and then God hid him away and provided for him for 3 1/2 years. During that time the people learned they couldn’t trust their made-up gods. When they had had enough, Elijah reappeared, called for a contest, proved the God of heaven to be the only true God, and then killed the prophets of baal and Ashtoreth. Except he didn’t finish the job. The rain came, he ran down to the city with the king, and then he sat against the outer wall. The king’s wife, the chief priestess of Ashtoreth was fuming inside the city walls. When Elijah was given the message that Jezabel wanted to take his life for what he had done, he fled in fear. During his flight, God provided food, and gave him endurance, and even met with him on the mountain. God was merciful, but it doesn’t seem that this was God’s original plan. What would have happened if Elijah had not fled? Would Jezabel’s influence in the nation have been curtailed earlier? Would Naboth’s vineyard have been preserved? Would the next kings of Israel have followed after God?
Only God knows what a faithful Elijah would have accomplished. What seems to be true is that God COULD have done something amazing if Elijah had remained courageous and trusted in God’s deliverance. Running and hiding was not a faithful solution to his trouble. I’m thankful that God was merciful with Elijah, but I wish he had stayed strong.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time to hide. It’s when God says, “Go and hide.” But most of the time our hiding is in fear. Our retreat is because we lack confidence in God.
But do you know what’s worse than hiding when God hasn’t said to hide? Standing up to defend ourselves and fight for our “rights” in our own wisdom and strength. When we do that God is not glorified. We fight a battle in His name that only defames Him and makes Him look ugly to the world.
Christians throughout history have made a mockery of God in their self defense. This past week a Canadian pastor, Artur Pawlowski, was arrested again for violating the laws of the land. Artur strongly believes that his church is doing the right thing, and I’m not here to suggest they are doing something wrong—I haven’t looked into it enough to have an opinion. What I did notice about his arrests — a couple of them are recorded on video—is that he was defiant towards the police. He called them unkind names. He refused to cooperate and forced them to carry him to the nearby squad car. As they arrested him he kept shouting, “Do it the Nazi style! Taze me!”
Artur’s clash with the government is not the kind of attitude I see the Bible encouraging.
So, if running in fear isn’t the ideal Response to persecution, and standing up to fight back isn’t the right solution, then what is?
We’ve been looking at the story of Daniel, a man who was exiled in A totalitarian, pagan government, but he remained faithful to God. Each of his stories are windows into how God relates to His people in crisis, and how His people should relate to their God and their government when their freedom of conscience is threatened.
We first found Daniel and his friends politely asking for a more acceptable diet, and God gave them favor with their overseer. They took a polite and reasoned stand in favor of God’s counsel on food. And notice how God provided for them in that process. They didn’t need to defend themselves. God did that for them.
Then we found Daniel facing the death penalty because of a dream the other wisemen couldn’t tell the king. He didn’t resist, he just asked for time. During the reprieve he prayed, and God revealed the mystery to him. Again, God provided for His people, and the result was that Daniel and his friends were promoted to positions of influence and God’s truth found a wider distribution as a result.
Then we saw Daniel’s friends stand when the king told them to bow to an idol. He gave them another chance but they unflinchingly told him no, they didn’t need another chance. Their minds were made up. They said that if God wanted, he could save them, but even if He didn’t deliver them they would not worship a false God. They didn’t mobilize a rally or stage a protest against the false religious worship that was being mandated by the king. They simple obeyed God’s revealed will and didn’t bow to an idol made by man. The result was incredible: God delivered them from the middle of an execution and as a result the stage was set for God to win the heart of the greatest monarch of the world at that time. And don’t forget what was happening in the cities and towns of Babylon to the Jews—the people of God struggled less because the polite yet unwavering faith of these men led the king to make policies in favor of the worship of God.
Then we explored the story of the king who thought he ruled of the world. He was so proud that God couldn’t reach his heart. So God humbled him so that He could save him. In doing so He demonstrated, yet again, that the God of heaven is the Creator, the Lord over everything, and that He rules over the affairs of the people of earth. Daniel’s part of this story was simply to be faithful in telling the truth God had revealed. His faithful truth-telling led to the repentance and conversion of his king.
Last week we heard about a king who boldly defied the God of heaven when he knew the Jews were excited that Cirus, the deliverer that Isaiah had promised, was at the city gates. In his pride, Belshazzar was confident that the Medes and Persians would be unable to penetrate the defenses of the city, and so he mocked the God of Israel. When God wrote on the wall, Daniel interpreted the message faithfully. Belshazzar would be killed that day for his pride, and the prophesied deliverer of God’s people would walk in and take over. Because God rules over the affairs of men.
In all these stories we learn that God is the ruler. God is the one who governs the affairs of men. God’s predictions come true. God can be trusted. And that God is faithful to His people. Knowing this about God should impact how we relate to the crisis and conflicts in our lives.
If one day we loose everything, God still has our future in His hands, and He has promised to provide.
If we face death, God is the life-giver. We don’t need to worry about death.
If we experience ridicule and persecution for Christ’s sake, Jesus himself experienced that too. We can rejoice that we suffer with Christ.
In other words, we have the most powerful ruler of the universe on our side, what can mere, mortal men really do to us? We can face tribunals and rulers with a quiet, polite, confidence. There is no need to run and hide, and no need to stand up in defense of ourselves when our God is our defender.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Just imagine what would have happened if Daniel and his friend ran and hid themselves when the king had the dream. Would Nebuchadnezzar be in heaven? Or what if they tried to hide when they were required to come to the plain of Durah? Or what if Daniel had tried to stay out of the room when Belshazzar called for him?
The glory of God is not revealed when His people slink into the shadows, nor is it proclaimed when His people rise up as protesters or violent rioters. His glory is ONLY revealed when His people follow Jesus closely and with quiet consistency they worship him in spirit and truth. And in bold and polite ways they tell the world the truth about God.
A Lion’s Tale
A Lion’s Tale
And that’s exactly what happened when Daniel faced the anger and jealousy of a bunch of politicians in the new kingdom of Medo-Persia. You can follow the story in Daniel 6.
Before we start this story there is a bit of history untangling we need to do. Historians tell us that Belshazzar was the co-regent of Babylon under his father Nabonidus, the presumed son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar. When Nabonidus’ and Belshazzar’s reign ended with the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and Persians, Cyrus the Great—a Persian—became the ruler of the new empire. But Daniel 5 and Daniel 6 describe Darius the Mede as the one who overthrew Babylon and became the king of Babylon. The Bible is a trustworthy account of history, so why the discrepancy?
Historians dismiss Daniel as a reliable source of history, so they simply overlook the evidence that Daniel suggests. Cyrus was the ruler of the Medo-Persian empire when Babylon was overthrown, but he was not present for the siege. The army was led by his Median general, Gubaru. Financial records from that time, as well as the Nabonidus Chronicle which Cyrus the great commissioned, both tell the story of a period of 14 months when Cyrus made Gubaru a regent king over the Chaldeans—King in Babylon. Cyrus was still king of the Medo-Persian empire, and adopted the additional title of king of Babylon after Gubaru’s death a little more than a year after the overthrow. Gubaru’s throne name was Darius. It is during this first and only year of Darius’ reign that the story of Daniel 6 takes place.
Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province. The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests. Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire. Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.”
Satan has been the architect of many harmful conspiracies through the years, and this is a good example of how they work:
First, you have a faithful follower of God who is trustworthy, diligent, and excellent in their work. Satan stirs up jealousy or hatred. Pretty soon you have a group of people conspiring to harm the people of God. This happened over and over again in the Bible—Daniel, Esther’s uncle Mordecai, and even Jesus Experienced conspiracies against them because of their simple yet faithful service of God.
Notice how the governors couldn’t dig up any dirt on Daniel. He remained faithful to the principles of heaven even at the top echelons of a pagan government. This fact leads me to believe that a person can be a faithful follower of Jesus and a good citizen in all sorts of environments.
Do you think you could be a faithful follower of Jesus and a good citizen in communist China? How about in Venezuela, or Taliban-led Afghanistan, or South Korea, or the United States? Daniel handled himself with diplomacy and tact, making king after king trust him. He gave his input and didn’t shy away from the truth, but also didn’t make a nuisance of himself. He genuinely cared about the monarchs that he worked for, and they seemed to recognize his wise and loving character.
Take note of this: obedience to the principles of God will bring earthly as well as spiritual blessings. You might be tempted to play by the rules of the world in order to succeed in the world, but don’t give in to that mindset. Living by the principles of God is the only sure way to long-term, satisfying success and joy.
The jealous governors decide to come together and get Daniel out of the way.
So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” So King Darius signed the law.
Notice that this conspiracy to overthrow Daniel focused on two important things: 1) a coercive government policy about worship, and 2) the threat of death for disobedience. Let’s be honest about something; God has not prohibited governments from making laws that force their population to do something. Some of those laws will be just, and some will be unjust, but the fact that governments have the authority to make laws is validated in the Bible.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Whether its tax laws, or traffic laws, or public health laws, whatever law is not expressly against God’s revealed will is a law that God asks us to obey. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make your own choices and take advantage of every loophole in the law that you can to ensure that you’re following your conscience. I’m simply saying that Daniel was obedient to his pagan nation’s laws.
Until those laws prevented the faithful worship of His God. When his government made a law against worship, Daniel didn’t change a thing about what he was doing.
But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.
Notice Daniel’s reaction to a law that was both unjust and religiously coercive: nothing. He didn’t make signs and protest his government. He didn’t go argue his case before the king. He just continued being faithful to God: the God who promised to provide for Him, who said he is the one who governs in the affairs of men. He didn’t have to go to the king because he could pray to the God who put that king in his position.
A man whose heart is stayed upon God will be the same in the hour of his greatest trial as he is in prosperity, when the light and favor of God and of man beam upon him. (Prophets and Kings, p 545)
Daniel’s faithfulness was rewarded with a very brief trial and then an execution.
That sounds bad. And the story would be quite uninteresting if it weren’t for the God who governs in the affairs of men.
The Bible tells us that the jealous officials went to the king to report Daniel’s treason. The king at once understood the jealousy that he had failed to see at first. He set about to try and free Daniel from the deadly night in the lion’s den that the law required. But he couldn’t. The law was immovable. And so he watched with regret as Daniel was tossed into a den of man-eating lions.
Just before he went into the lion’s den, Darius gave this encouraging wish:
Daniel 6:16 (ESV)
“May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”
Darius didn’t sleep well that night, but apparently Daniel did. When Darius showed up very early the next morning he commanded the stone to be roled away and then he called into the den,
Daniel 6:20 (ESV)
“O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
You can’t escape what’s happening in this king’s heart. The night before he expressed a faithful hope that the God of heaven would save Daniel. And now he’s calling into this lions den with a sincere hope that his wish came true and Daniel would answer him. Darius was beginning to be a believer in Daniel’s God.
To his great relief, Darius heard Daniel call back,
Daniel 6:21–22 (ESV)
“O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”
Darius had Daniel carefully pulled out of the lion’s den, and then he went and threw Daniel’s accusers, and their families, into the lion’s den.