Title: In spite of appearances—trust.
Text: Daniel 6:1-27
Truth: In spite of appearances, God is in control. Keep your trust in God.
Aim: I want the church to remain faithful when it is difficult.
If you had to summarize your life in six words, what would they be?
John Ortberg tells of an online magazine that asked that question several years ago. It was inspired by a legendary challenge posed to Ernest Hemingway to write a six-word story. He wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
The magazine was flooded with so many responses that the site almost crashed. The responses were turned into a book by the title, count the words, Not Quite What I Was Planning. Some writers were famous and others were unknown. They ranged from humorous to heartbreaking. For example:
• “One tooth, one cavity; life’s cruel.”
• “Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.” (That was written by a nine-year-old boy.)
• “Found true love, married someone else.”
I wondered what the characters of Scripture might write for their six-word memoir?
• Adam: “Eyes opened, but can’t find home.”
• Noah: “Hated the rain. Loved the rainbow.”
• Moses: “Burning bush. Stone tablets. Charlton Heston.”
• Daniel: “I won’t eat. Neither will lions.”
You might say that Daniel’s life was not quite what he was planning. He could never have predicted that, as a teenager, he would be a captive alien serving the government that destroyed his nation. He could have never imagined he would be the advisor to the most powerful men of his generation, and reveal the sovereignty of the living God of Israel to his captors. He was neither the author of his life nor the pawn of fate. Instead, as he followed and trusted God, he became a partner in what God was accomplishing. An example of this is the story of Daniel in the lion’s den.
This is the most famous story in the book of Daniel. Why did the writer include this story? This is the question to which we have been seeking an answer as we have looked at other famous Bible stories: David and Goliath and Joshua and the fall of Jericho. The answer about why Daniel and the lion’s den was included is easy: the entire book of Daniel is about the sovereignty of God. The first half of Daniel is made up these famous stories, each story being a testimony that God is in control. The second half of Daniel is predictive about future kingdoms. They all pass away but there is one kingdom that remains and rules all kingdoms; God’s kingdom. God is in control.
Because Daniel and his three friends are convinced of the sovereignty of God, they trusted God. Even when it puts their lives in direct conflict with the demands of the culture, they obeyed God and trusted Him to care for them. This is the message of Daniel. It is memorably demonstrated by the story in chapter six.
There are four major movements to the story: the enemies’ plot (vv. 1-9), Daniel’s persecution (vv. 10-18), Daniel’s protection (vv. 19-24), and the king’s praise (vv. 25-28). Let us briefly examine these, and then conclude with what it means for God to be in control and for us trust Him.
I. THE ENEMIES’ PLOT (DANIEL 6:1-9)
(1)Darius decided to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, stationed throughout the realm, (2) and over them three administrators, including Daniel. These satraps would be accountable to them so that the king would not be defrauded. (3) Daniel distinguished himself above the administrators and satraps because he had an extraordinary spirit, so the king planned to set him over the whole realm. (4) The administrators and satraps, therefore, kept trying to find a charge against Daniel regarding the kingdom. But they could find no charge or corruption, for he was trustworthy, and no negligence or corruption was found in him. (5) Then these men said, "We will never find any charge against this Daniel unless we find something against him concerning the law of his God."
The Persian kingdom stretched from India to North Africa. Alexander the Great’s kingdom was larger only because he conquered Persia and Greece. The king had the realm efficiently organized, not so the people would have justice or prosperity, but so his treasury would be full. This was all for taxes. Of all these government officers, Daniel, a holdover from the previous empire, was clearly superior to all the others. What made him outshine the others was an “extraordinary spirit.”
The Hebrew word means Daniel not only did his work correctly, but he did it with a winsome, pleasant spirit. Have you ever worked with someone who did the right thing in an irritating sort of way? Have you ever worked with someone who is the nicest person you would ever want to meet but, bless their heart, they do not always do the job correctly, or you cannot always depend on them? Every once in a while, you work with someone who does excellent work, and they do it with an infectious joy. We will learn later in the story that the source of Daniel’s commitment to excellence and enthusiasm was found in his sincere devotion to God.
If the current political climate teaches us anything, there are no perfect candidates. Each opponent has a team of people who does nothing but research the weaknesses and faults of the other candidate. The word “charge”, in verse four, speaks of a legal indictment. Daniel’s colleagues did not want to find an accounting error or point out a better way to manage the work: they wanted to involve him in a legal action that would take him out of the running. Imagine one of those opposition teams turning in their research, and on one sheet of paper is the single sentence, “We can find no charge or corruption or negligence. He is clean.” Wow! Daniel lived out his faith.
They knew that Daniel’s religion was the fundamental guiding principle of his life. He would betray the king before he would betray his religion; that is where they lay their trap.
Their approach to the king is a masterpiece of political deception to achieve their illicit ends.
(6) So the administrators and satraps went together to the king and said to him, "May King Darius live forever. (7) All the administrators of the kingdom, the prefects, satraps, advisers, and governors have agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an edict that for 30 days, anyone who petitions any god or man except you, the king, will be thrown into the lions' den. (8) Therefore, Your Majesty, establish the edict and sign the document so that, as a law of the Medes and Persians, it is irrevocable and cannot be changed." (9) So King Darius signed the document.
The next movement in the story is Daniel’s persecution.
II. DANIEL’S PERSECUTION (DANIEL 6:10-18)
(10) When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house. The windows in its upper room opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (11) Then these men went as a group and found Daniel petitioning and imploring his God. (12) So they approached the king and asked about his edict: "Didn't you sign an edict that for 30 days any man who petitions any god or man except you, the king, will be thrown into the lions' den?"
The king answered, "As a law of the Medes and Persians, the order stands and is irrevocable."
(13) Then they replied to the king, "Daniel, one of the Judean exiles, has ignored you, the king, and the edict you signed, for he prays three times a day." (14) As soon as the king heard this, he was very displeased; he set his mind on rescuing Daniel and made every effort until sundown to deliver him.
So, how did Daniel respond to the new law by the king? He followed his usual custom. He went to his home and to the room on the roof where a window opened toward Jerusalem. Why did he go? He did not go because he was feeling sorry for himself or was designing a counterplot. It was not an act of defiance against the law. He went to pray because it was his habit to pray. Did you notice that his prayer was thanksgiving? Daniel’s heart was not filled with fear and panic; his heart was filled with gratitude because of God’s goodness to him.
It was common for people to build a room on top of the flat roof with windows to provide circulation. The circulation of the air made it cooler in the hot climate. The windows opened to toward Jerusalem. In Solomon’s dedication prayer of the temple in 1 Kings 8:35-36, he prayed that if God’s people should ever be away from Jerusalem, they were to face Jerusalem and pray. Solomon made it clear in his prayer that the temple did not contain God, but Jerusalem was the place God chose for His people to worship Him. Facing Jerusalem was the way a Jew would convey his longing for God’s presence and the hope that, one day, he would return to Jerusalem.
Why did Daniel pray three times? There were three times sacrifices were made at the temple: morning, noon, and evening. This practice is not required anywhere in Scripture, but Psalm 55:17 says, “Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.”
The conspirators presented the king with the evidence of Daniel’s lawbreaking actions. The king spent the day trying to find a loophole in the law to spare Daniel, but he was trapped by his own unchangeable words. Interestingly, the king, who was the god of the month, could not do what he wanted. I am reminded of the scene from the move The Avengers where the Hulk takes Thor’s brother, who claims to be a god, and whops him back and forth on the ground like a doll. As the Hulk tosses him aside he says, “Puny god.”
(15) Then these men went to the king and said to him, "You as king know it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no edict or ordinance the king establishes can be changed."
(16) 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!" (17) A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing in regard to Daniel could be changed. (18) Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. No diversions were brought to him, and he could not sleep.
The king of the month could not save Daniel; maybe the King of the Ages would do it. Darius was not a man of faith. His words were more a statement of hope than a statement of certainty, but still it is quite an insight that even this God may have the power to stop ravenous lions from devouring Daniel.
On the lips of this pagan was the start of the testimony of Who is really in control.
The Persian king had no interest in wine, women, or song. He was so anxious he could not eat or sleep. But, in the next scene, we see the man of God spent a peaceful night among the lions.
III. DANIEL’S PROTECTION (DANIEL 6:19-24)
(19) At the first light of dawn the king got up and hurried to the lions' den. (20) When he reached the den, he cried out in anguish to Daniel. "Daniel, servant of the living God," the king said, "has your God whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions?"
The king wanted to believe Daniel was safe, but it seemed too much to ask, so he asked a question. He referred to Daniel’s God as the “living God.” Idols cannot move, speak, hear, or respond to a given situation; in contrast, this king knew from the testimony of Daniel: that his God spoke, listened, and acted on behalf of His people. The force of the king’s question was, “Who is stronger: your God or the lions?”
(21) Then Daniel spoke with the king: "May the king live forever. (22) My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths. They haven't hurt me, for I was found innocent before Him. Also, I have not committed a crime against you my king."
Daniel assured the king he was safe, and asserted he was innocent of any crime against the king. We are not told what happened in that lion’s den, but whatever did happen put Daniel at ease. He was at peace.
(23) The king was overjoyed and gave orders to take Daniel out of the den. So Daniel was taken out of the den, uninjured, for he trusted in his God. (24) The king then gave the command, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions' den—they, their children, and their wives. They had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
The Bible does not approve of how the king punished the conspirators. The Persians had a law that if you accused someone of a crime and it was proven they are innocent and you had intended to harm them, you bore the punishment. I suppose you could say that really put “teeth” in the laws.
Have you seen those dogs that catch Frisbees in the air? That is the way I picture this scene. It was to prove the lions had not been drugged or had been fed so full they were not interested in Daniel. The only explanation for Daniel’s survival was God was in charge of the lions. He spared Daniel’s life.
Finally, the king’s praise concludes this story. It was an unabashed testimony that Israel’s God is in control.
IV. THE KING’S TESTIMONY (DANIEL 6:25-28)
(25) Then King Darius wrote to those of every people, nation, and language who live in all the earth: "May your prosperity abound. (26) I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion, people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel:
For He is the living God,
and He endures forever;
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
and His dominion has no end.
(27) He rescues and delivers;
He performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth,
for He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions."
(28) So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
The whole story was set in motion with a decree issued by Darius that prayers could only be directed toward him as god. The story ends with a second decree, this time promoting Daniel’s God throughout his vast empire.
The point of Daniel in the lion’s den is found in the testimony of the pagan king: the God of Israel is the true God. He is in control. We are to trust Him even when it does not appear He is in control.
Since God is in control in spite of appearances, I want to recommend two truths that help us trust God: God has plans you do not know, and God is the person you must know.
1. God has plans you don’t know.
Times were cruel. The brutality was shocking. At first people denied the possibility of the genocidal acts of the Nazi’s. Even in the cruelty of human evil, God was at work bringing about unexpected good. On her thirteenth birthday, a lonely girl received a red-and-white checkered autograph book she used for a diary. Frustrated by her lack of friends, she decided that her diary would be the one truest friend in whom she would confide the deepest thoughts and feelings no one else would guess lay in her mind and heart. She lived her life behind closed doors and died two short years later. The Diary of Anne Frank has become one of the treasured literary gifts of the twentieth century. After the war, it was discovered and given to her father,—the family’s only survivor. Through the humanity and hope of those words in that diary, Anne has inspired thirty million readers in sixty-seven languages, more than all but a handful of twentieth-century authors. What looked like a small life snuffed out by evil became an inextinguishable light.
We just do not know what God will do with our lives that has an impact out of proportion to the smallness of our lives. We do not know until eternity what, and who, might be affected by our actions. Believers who trust that God is in control do not despair. He can take the smallest acts of goodness or obedience and somehow make them count for all eternity.
When you read this passage as a Christian, you cannot help but see Jesus. Falsely accused by conspirators and a political leader who recognized the treachery against an innocent man but was too cowardly to do the right thing,--He went down into a certain death only to be raised up alive. Everything about the crucifixion of Jesus had “hopeless” written across it, but Jesus trusted that the Father is in control. God had plans that the enemies of Jesus, and the disciples, didn’t know.
When Christians look at the cross, we have this powerful testimony that, in spite of appearances, God is in control. We ask our whys and plead in prayer for God to rescue us from our distress, but, if He does not, we follow the example of our Savior: we trust God. He is good. He is kind. You may not know what God’s plan is for your Garden of Gethsemane, but He has a plan.
2. God is the person you must know.
The contrast between the king and Daniel is stark. One was humble, and the other was an ego maniac who made destructive choices. One was peaceful, and the other was so anxious that nothing could satisfy him. What was the difference between these two men? One knew God, the other lived as if he was god. One believed God is in control and trusted Him, the other wished this was true but trusted in himself.
I enjoy playing Hide-and-Seek with my grandkids, but they are terrible at it! They cheat. We are supposed to count to twenty, and they start out right: 1-2-3-4-5, but then little cheats begin to skip: 10-13-17-20. “Here I come. Ready or not!” they shout. They will also not be quiet. When hiding they snicker and laugh, and I shush them and tell them to be quiet.
My grandkids have taught me something about Hide-and-Seek. I thought as a kid the object was not to be found, but my grandkids have taught me that the fun of the game is to be found. Think about it: what fun is it if you are never found?
There is Someone looking for you. He wants to find you, and your are looking to be found by Him; that is why you are here. God is a person you must know.
We tend to think in order to live a worry free existence there must be a guaranteed outcome. I wonder how long a person has to live to finally realize this is not going to happen in life. Saving for retirement, exercise and diet, and raising our children in church are wise decisions, but no guarantee of a worry free retirement, or health, or godly children. What is better is to know, whatever comes our way, we have One who goes with us.
It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. In spite of circumstances, He is in control. He knows the plan. My best choice, therefore, is to trust Him. The One I am trusting went into the lion’s den for me, and died. You may not be able to discern His plan, but you know His power and love for you. This is One you can trust when things seem to be out of control.
God has a plan for your salvation. It requires you changing your relationship with Jesus; He must become your God. Do not believe the lie of the devil that you can accept Him into your heart and go on living the way you do; that’s the devil’s plan of salvation, not God’s plan.
You say you do not know if you are ready to do that. Is it not worth talking to someone about? Heaven and hell hang in the balance. I will talk with you. Fill out a Connection card.
Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, and the apostles Peter and Paul all had to find out the same thing: they could not depend on themselves. How did they learn that? They were put in circumstances out of their control. Is that the lesson God has been trying to teach you, Christian? Today will you humble yourself and submit your life to obey?
1. John Ortberg, All the Places to Go, p. 1.
2. The Dilemma of Daniel, Fred M. Wood, p. 115.