Daniel: God Delivers
God is the Hero of Daniel - Demonstrating God’s faithfulness to his faithful few while they are exiles away from home.
Series of stories on a theme - it’s not a history book, it is a book of encouragement with highlights from Daniel’s career.
This chapter compliments chapter 3 - just like chapter 4 & 5 compliment - 3 & 6 compliment how?
The state tries to mandate religious practices,
there are the faithful who are caught obeying God and punished
God protects them and demonstrates he is the true living God with resurrection imagery.
The king declares God is the true god.
1. Laying the Trap v1-9
1. Laying the Trap v1-9
We pick up the story in the reign of Darius - who had taken over from the arrogant and prideful Belshazzar.
Who is Darius?
Don’t know much, but the records indicate that Cyrus was in charge of the Medes & Persians when they took over Babylon, so why would Darius the Mede be king in Babylon after Belshazzar?
He is not recorded in contemporary archaeological evidence outside the Bible,
But! Remember Belshazzar too was not found outside the Bible for some time.
Best guesses are that either Darius was a “throne name” for Cyrus in Babylon, OR Darius (like Belshazzar) was a co-regent or governor who reigned in Cyrus’ stead while he was off gallivanting around conquering people or reigning in other parts of the empire.
Whatever the case, these historical uncertainties do not undermine the Bible - it has a track record of being historically accurate. If something doesn’t make sense, it usually means we just haven’t put the pieces together yet.
This historical issue, certainly doesn’t alter the thrust of the story!
Where does the story start?
It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 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 Daniel is being his usual excellent self - top of the class, best of the bunch, pick of the litter.
Daniel has shown over a lifetime how he can be the best at his job and a faithful follower of God. He just excelled - he did all things well, even in His old age!
Sadly, as is the case even in our experience of life, successful people breed jealous conniving antagonists.
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. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
These guys want to take Daniel down. They didn’t like that tall poppy!
Daniel is great at his job, and a faithful religious practitioner. These guys know they’re not going to be able to undermine his work so they have to hatch a plan to make Daniel’s every day spiritual life a crime.
So they appeal to Darius’ self-interest! Kings were often seen as quasi divine, as ruling because they were favored by the gods, or even somehow imbued with uncommon spiritual power. They were seen as a cut above the rabble.
So these devious manipulative rivals of Daniel appeal to Darius pride and self-importance to put in place a rule that would see Daniel stuck between a rock and hard place:
So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.
Well, the king agrees. He likes the idea of being elevated as a divinity - entreated for prayer as if he truly were a god. And, after all, it’s only for 30 days...
One month and everybody can get back to normal...
So the king makes an executive direction. He signs the new law with the punishment included - death for anyone who will not comply.
In the Medo-persian empire there was a rule that basically said “the law of the kings can’t be changed”. This wasn’t unusual, but it did mean that you couldn’t really back out on the law.
It’s kind of like how the Roman catholic church is known for having Popes that can make unchangeable decrees. When they speak “ex cathedra” (i.e. “from the chair”) in special circumstances, their words are understood as an unchangeable divine message. Similar story here, when the king makes a law this way, it is considered unchangeable.
Now, the trap is set. Daniel’s rivals were so keen to trip up Daniel that they have made their play and swindled the king. That’s pretty bad, when you have to trick the guy you’re supposed to serve, in order to trap the guy you’re jealous of.
How often do you feel some kind of offence or contempt toward people who have been more successful than you? It’s a kind of natural instinct to wish you had their luck, or their abilities or their attitude that helped them get ahead in life.
But that’s not a great place to be! We have to sit back and remind ourselves
a) often we have no-one to blame except ourselves for our present circumstances, or
b) God has put us where we are for a reason, sometimes God wishes to humble us or teach us by holding us back from success that others experience. It might be for our own good because success may go to our heads and make us forget God, like King Saul did!
If you find yourself hatching schemes to bring down your work mates, or trying to find fault with someone so you can dob them in, repent! And do it quickly! Recognize what’s going on in your heart, own up to it before God in prayer and then put a stop to what you’re doing.
It may even be appropriate to go and speak to the person you have hated in your heart and tell them that you have sinned against them in your heart. Tell them you love them and are pleased for them and ask for forgiveness.
Galatians 5:19–21 (NIV)
The acts of the flesh are obvious: ... discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; ... I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
2. Springing the Trap v10-15
2. Springing the Trap v10-15
What is Daniel to do? It’s only a month.
He’s not being forced to pray to Darius, he’s just not supposed to pray to anyone else for the month.
He could try and do it in secret, right?
He could pray at night when people can’t see him.
He could pray silently, and with the windows closed so no one knew what he was doing.
What does Daniel do?
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
When Daniel heard, he responded by praying to God.
He didn’t try to go along with the direction.
He didn’t hide his worship.
He didn’t fake compliance.
He simply went about his normal business of worshiping God at those regular intervals just like he usually did.
“Just as he had done before” - 3 times a day, with the windows open so any passerby could see his worshipful service to God.
Daniel didn’t need to pray three times a day. It was not required for him under the Old Covenant. It was simply his regular devotional practice. He would pray toward Jerusalem, because that is where Old Testament believers encountered God - that is where He met with His people.
We don’t need to do that anymore, because God’s presence has been spread across the earth - his Holy Spirit indwells each believer and Jesus himself has become the fulfillment of the temple - so nothing gained by praying towards Jerusalem...
But you can see where Daniel’s heart was in this action. Though living a life in a country that was not his home, under regimes that (for the most part) did not support his religion, Daniel was still looking toward God, seeking His presence and power among st his people.
Daniel could have given up hope, decades ago! But here he was as an old man, still faithfully thanked God, praised Him and sought Him in prayer. His heart was bent toward God first.
Even though he was one of the most powerful men in Babylon, his heart desired His home in the presence of God. He was not overtaken by the pleasures of life, or lost to the hunger for power and wealth. He was a faithful servant of God Most High, even though he was a servant of a pagan king.
Daniel would not change one bit of his regular worshipful service, despite the laws, because changing our service toward God to suit others is to demonstrate that we do not truly hold God as supreme.
Compromising our worship of God to suit the agenda of anybody else, even the Government of the day, implies that they have some power on the level of God.
If Daniel altered his course, he would have compromised his faith.
He would have shown that he feared humans more than he feared God.
Brothers and Sisters I think we have fallen into the trap where Daniel did not. Sure, we’re not being persecuted by jealous rivals, but we are faced with similar dilemmas… (Listen closely, and don’t here words that I have not said…)
The state has regularly tried to impose restrictions on the way we worship - who and when and how. How quick are we to adapt our regular way of worship to suit others who don’t serve God?
Sure, you say that there isn’t a requirement to do church this way, on Sunday mornings in rows with a lectern and band. But as with Daniel, the issue isn’t about whether or not it is God’s law, the issue is about who gets to tell God’s people how to worship?
And you might say, look, it’s not about state interference in worship its about health. But I don’t think that changes the problem! Certainly there is common sense about how we live as a community and love each other under Christ, but the question when is: When we adapt our worshipful service to reduce our own fears, who are we serving first?
Who do you fear more? Our actions speak volumes.
We fear ill-health more than we love God.
We fear state government more than we love God.
We fear fines more than we love God.
We fear what others will say about us more than we love God.
We fear death more than we love God.
Brothers and Sisters, I am guilty of sinning against you. I have feared humans, including what you might think of me, rather than fearing and loving God above all.
Friends, we are in a trap like Daniel - the way that we act will show our true colours. We are damned if we do, dammed if we don’t. Change to suit others and demonstrate God is not our chief priority, or don’t change and stand against the state.
Daniel was stuck, he was damned if he did, dammed if he didn’t.
If he didn’t worship God, he would be guilty before God of idlolising Darius.
If he did worship God, he would be guilty of breaking human laws.
Daniel didn’t waver. He stood firm. He remained faithful and prayed to the Lord.
The rivals were counting on that, and so when Daniel broke that law they closed the trap. They were ready and waiting!
Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
Here it becomes obvious that Darius has made a big mistake.
Like Jepthah, King Saul and King Herod, Darius has made promises in the spur of the moment, and promises that they would later regret.
Darius has made a decree to suit himself and stroke his own ego, but now it becomes obvious that his spur of the moment decision may lead to the death of his faithful servant Daniel:
Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
Darius starts looking for ways to get around the issue. He is trying to find loopholes, some way to see if he can ensure Daniel’s saftey.
But time is running out. The case needs to be resolved. So after more manipulative talk from the rivals, Darius has no choice but to go ahead. To go back on his word would be to undermine his own authority and destabilize the kingdom.
This passage is intriguingly similar to something that happens in the New Testament, some few hundred years later.
There was an innocent man - who did everything well. He was a distinguished man who was faithful to God in all he did.
He was trapped by jealous and ungodly men, hauled before the authorities and made to answer for crimes that were no crime at all.
He was unjustly accused and the ruler at that time, Pilate, tried to look for a way to set him free.
Do you know who I’m talking about?
Daniel in this story is a foreshadow of Jesus.
Jesus stood firm, faithful to God to the very end. He would not shift from his worshipful service.
Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane after a night of worship with Passover, singing and gut-wrenching prayer.
Jesus was caught by jealous rivals, and they tried to trap him with their false accusations.
Jesus was innocent, and so Pilate tried to find a way to set him free.
Jesus the innocent and faithful one was condemned to death.
3. God’s Deliverance from the Grave v16-23
3. God’s Deliverance from the Grave v16-23
Back to Daniel...
Daniel’s fate is sealed - he is on track to be fed to the lions!
But Darius still holds out some hope! Knowing that Daniel is a faithful servant of the “living God,” he hopes that God may protect Daniel!
So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.
Why did they keep lions? Probably for sport like this, sacrificing political dissidents. They were presumably kept hungry so that they could be relied upon to perform. So it seems that this den of lions was some kind of pit or dungeon that they could block off with a stone.
This was an execution. Daniel was essentially being shut into the grave.
But Darius was not please about this whole affair. It was eating him up inside. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t concentrate.
So as soon as dawn was breaking, he rushed back to the den to see what had happened.
At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the 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?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
God had protected Daniel!
God had delivered Daniel!
He was a s good as dead, but God provided a way of escape. God sent an angel to prevent the lions from eating Daniel.
Our temptation here is to marvel at the way that God intervened in the normal course of nature to prevent the lions eating, but the point is not the miracle over the physical world, but that God opposed the hubris of men setting themselves up against God.
Their power was futile - just like with the furnace - they tried to mess with the worship of God, and God obstructed their plans. He is the one who has all the power.
Did you see the reason why Daniel was saved? He was innocent.
Even though he had broken the laws of a human leader, he was not guilty before God.
And you know, Daniel didn’t break the law to be vindictive toward Darius, he loved and served the authority that God had put over him. The problem was when those laws interfered with the worship of God.
God gave Darius civil authority, but not spiritual authority.
Daniel served Darius as his civil authority, and he did a great job at it too! But he served God over and above Darius, because God is supreme over all rulers. Every authority on earth is subservient to God, and they cannot just decide on a whim to make rules outside their God-given authority.
Anyway, Darius was overjoyed with Daniel’s deliverance, so Daniel was lifted up out of the pit. He was in essence returned from the grave.
No wound was found on him because he Trusted in God.
His trust in God meant an escape from death. He had to go down into the grave and face those lions, but God went with him and preserved him.
Jesus too, like Daniel was sealed in a tomb with a stone rolled over the entrance. The difference being of course that he was proper dead!
Jesus was innocent, but killed and entombed.
But, like Daniel before him, Jesus was not stuck in the grave. He rose after three days!
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Jesus de-fanged death! If we could mix our metaphors, Jesus has shut the mouth of death. It cannot swallow up the people of God because we have received the innocence of Christ.
Despite the fact that we have sinned against God’s holy law that (unlike Darius’ law) truly does not change, despite the fact the we are guilty, and deserve death, Jesus will give us his righteousness! He will take away your sin and give you his perfect innocence.
You can be justified before God! Just as if you had never failed God!!
One day soon all of God’s people will return from the grave just like Daniel returned from his pit!
Yes, many of us will likely go down into that pit unless Jesus returns before then, but it will be a short stay, because for those who trust in God, they will come back in resurrection bodies, they will be unharmed by the effects of death!
God delivers his people!
4. Appropriate Rewards v24-28
4. Appropriate Rewards v24-28
SO what happens next in our story?
It’s the part of the story where we tie up loose ends. What happens to the bad guys? What happens to the guy who was tricked?
At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
Well, the bad guy get it. They get their just reward for both trying to manipulate the king and for their plot to condemn an innocent man.
It may seem harsh that so many in their families suffered along side those evil actors, but it is worth remembering that a) this was mean to be a disincentive from anybody else rebelling against the king, b) that they had a much higher view of family, and so they were dealt with as a whole family unit rather than as individuals.
Regardless how you feel about the families suffering alongside them, it is quite clear that the manipulative rivals got what was coming to them. They received justice. The punishment fit the crime.
Having disposed of the bad guys, the King now sets to proclaiming Good News, a gospel, across his Kingdom. He has a letter drafted:
Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: “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 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.”
Darius does what is natural for anyone who has come to know the living God, he proclaims his Glory! He praises the Lord! He recounts God’s might deeds of deliverance and power!
This is why we are always singing and sharing the Gospel - it is the natural outflow of who we are as God’s people!
God rescued, and so God gets the glory. God showed that he is the one who rules over even the most powerful rulers in the world, and so he is glorified and honored.
This is the natural course of what happens when God saves people, they go and tell people about it! They try to spread this good news to all the nations!
One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess Christ is Lord - and each one of them must hear this Good News, that God delivers from the consequences of sin and the power of death!
The world/Satan is out to ensnare God’s people. We are being deceived! Satan tricks with half truths and nice-sounding ideas.
We will face traps all the time, and are called to remain faithful even when it costs us dearly.
Even if we are condemned to death for our actions, there is deliverance from the grave!
Jesus is the greater Daniel who was innocent and faithful, and God delivered him from the grave!
God delivers through Jesus! We who are joined to Jesus in faith receive his righteousness, despite our past and future sin, we are found innocent in God’s sight!
Even if we fail, and fall prey to the traps of sin around us, we are not looking to ourselves for rescue, but rather God’s Angel - Jesus our Saviour who will rescue us from the grave!
Those who stand against Jesus will receive their just desserts. God is just, he is kind, and he is long suffering. God is clear - he patiently provides you with opportunities to align yourself with him, to join up with his team! But if you will not humble yourself before God, and accept his government over your life, he will treat you as an enemy and criminal. You have after all broken God’s divine laws, which unlike those of Darius, are perfect and unchangeable.
There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.
Even though God provides punishment, he is good and just. He is fair. There are those who will reject God’s deliverance, and in fact actively work against God’s people, and when God brings their judgment on them, it is good.
We praise God for his Justice and Mercy. We want our judges in civil courts to be fair and just, but when we stand before the judge we are also keenly aware of our desire for judges who are appropriatley merciful and gracious.
God is our just and merciful Lord and so we should rightly respond by recognizing that. We should bring our prayers of thankfulness and appreciation. We will naturally praise and honour him! Like the church will in the eschatological vision of Revelation:
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Revelation 19:6–7 (NIV)
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!