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
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?
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.
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:
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
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?
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?