In our second message from this series, I mentioned how when we live according to biblical principles, working “as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23), that we will receive God’s favor and be promoted to a place of prominence. I also cautioned that those who are favored by God are hated by the world; and that you must never let your guard down, because the Enemy will always be watching and waiting for the first opportunity to strike. In our message today, as we look at the character named Daniel, we will learn some more tactics that the enemy will use to discredit the Lord’s people; and we will learn how to withstand these attacks, which will often result in deliverance and God’s glory.
Some Government Officials Fear God (vv. 1-4)
1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.
We read here of King Darius who promoted Daniel. So how did Darius, who was a Mede from the Persian Empire, ever become the king of Babylon? How this happened is the Babylonian king Belshazzar had profaned and disrespected the Lord, even though he knew the fate that had befallen his father Nebuchadnezzar. The Lord debased Nebuchadnezzar because of his pride and arrogance. He was knocked down, and “deposed from his kingly throne” (Daniel 5:20). When Belshazzar refused to heed the warning and refused to respect the Lord, he was judged and sentenced by God; and the Scripture records: “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old” (Daniel 5:30-31).
Now, the identity of Darius the Mede is a matter of debate because of some dating discrepancies. There have been attempts to identify him with King Cyrus (Donald Wiseman, 1957). History records that “Cyrus the Great was the king who took over the Babylonian Empire. Cyrus was also married to a Mede, and had a Median mother.”(1) The book of Nehemiah points to Cyrus as the first Persian king over Babylon; and Nehemiah also identifies him as the king who issued a decree allowing the Jews to return home and begin rebuilding the Jerusalem temple (Ezra 1:1-3). We can easily get caught up in debating the identity of Darius the Mede, and miss the message that the Lord wants us to grasp.
Darius appointed Daniel as one of three governors over the entire kingdom. I stated in our last sermon that if we serve as faithful messengers of the Lord, speaking out against sin and being a bold witness for truth and justice, that God will see to it that we are promoted. Those of us who are good stewards with the task set before us, no matter what the size or level of difficulty, we are setting ourselves up to be given more. For example, in Luke 19:17, Jesus declared, “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.” In our main passage, we also read that Daniel was selected to assume great responsibility because he was noted as a man of integrity, and one who had “an excellent spirit . . . in him” (v. 3).
Daniel was appointed a government official, primarily because he feared God; and there are two important insights we can glean from these verses: 1.) There can be no doubt that there are individuals in public office today who walk in obedience to God, and who stand up for what is right. We need to pray for them, because the Lord has positioned them strategically to work on His behalf. 2.) If you happen to be someone who’s in a position of government, or an area of high profile leadership, then you must be certain to walk blamelessly. In reference to Daniel, we read, “But they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him” (v. 4). The only way that you can hope to maintain your position is to be above reproach, and remain faithful to the Lord at all times.
Kneel in a Time of Moral Attack (vv. 5-10)
5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” 6 So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: “King Darius, live forever! 7 All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the written decree.
10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
It’s apparent that some people, with whom Daniel worked, did not fear the Lord. They despised Daniel, for the very reason that his faith and moral convictions held them accountable to a higher standard. They couldn’t find any fault in him, because he had moral integrity; therefore, they attacked his God (v. 5). People today despise Christians, because they stand for morality; and human nature is to live selfishly, serving the lusts and passions of the flesh. The moral compass to which Christians adhere is derived from a faith in Almighty God, and obedience to His precepts found in the Bible. The principles which Daniel upheld were found written in the Torah, which was the Old Testament law as set forth in the first five books of the Bible.
When you are living for the Lord, then you need to watch out for ungodly factions. They will aim straight for the heart of your moral convictions, which is God; and then go in for the kill. They will try to knock you out of the running by discrediting and mocking your religious convictions; calling your faith a religious bias which cannot be trusted. They will punch the “separation of church and state” card over, and over again. They will call God a crutch and a weakness, or even an illusion. They will declare there is no God, and say that anyone who believes in the Lord is psychologically unstable to be in a leadership role. In our Darwinian, survival of the fittest culture, Christians are seen as the weaker species to be devoured and destroyed.
The way they attacked Daniel’s faith was by lobbying for a new law that would contradict his religious beliefs (v. 7), and they persuaded the king to sign it into action (vv. 8-9); which leads me to ask, “How many manmade laws are enacted today, which contradict the morals set forth by the Word of God?” The Lord said, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13); and since abortion was made legal back in 1973, nearly four thousand babies are sacrificed each and every day. In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul said that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God, and yet gay marriage is being legalized in many states. If Christians should express an opposing opinion to any of these socially acceptable practices, then they can lose their job or even their position in government.
What was Daniel’s first reaction when he realized that this decree had been signed into law? He knelt down and prayed (v. 10). There are many of us who want to get all up in arms by the atrocities that surround; and as I said in another message from this series, there is “a time to stand.” However, I also mentioned that our first course of action should be to pray. If you’ll recall, Jeremiah told the captives of Babylon to pray for the peace of the city in which they found themselves, for in its peace they would find peace (Jeremiah 29:7). You see, there is indeed a time to stand, but there is also a time to kneel. Prayer should not be our first response and then abandoned when we finally stand, and it definitely should not be our last resort that we turn to when nothing else seems to work; but it should be our continual course of action (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
What I want us to notice is that even while on his knees, Daniel stood; or rather, he took a stand. In any post-Christian nation, or any country that is opposed to God and His Son, Jesus Christ, even private devotion becomes a crime. It is at such a time when we will be faced with a choice – to deny our faith and evade persecution, or to continue in our faith and risk severe punishment, or even martyrdom. In a time when Christianity is not the norm, and the “in thing” to do, we will find out what our faith is really made of. Daniel knew the consequence, which was being cast into a den of lions (v. 7); nevertheless, he knelt down and prayed to the Lord. Daniel actually stood for his faith while on his knees, and he continued in his devotion because he was willing to die for what he believed in.
Trust the Lord for His Deliverance (vv. 11-17)
11 Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. 12 And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king’s decree: “Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” 13 So they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
14 And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. 15 Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed.” 16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” 17 Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed.
It’s important for leaders to walk in integrity at all times; to do what’s right no matter what the cost. We see here that Daniel took a stand for his faith by continuing to seek the Lord in prayer as he had done for many years, “since early days” (v. 10). We also read how King Darius realized that he had made a mistake in signing the decree, and that he sought hard to exonerate Daniel. But when he was confronted with the law; he knew he had to do the right thing according to Persian custom, which was to uphold the law. Both Daniel and Darius did what was right and honorable according to their own laws and customs, trusting that the Lord would intervene in His own way and timing.
We read in verse 12, “The king answered and said, ‘The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter’.” What exactly is this law? We read in Esther 1:19, “If it pleases the king, let a royal decree go out from him, and let it be recorded in the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it will not be altered.” The only thing scholars can conclude is that “whatever is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring no one can revoke” (Esther 8:8). This law is actually attested by early Greek writers. “For example, Diodorus Siculus describes the attitude of Darius II toward the sentence of death upon Charidemos. He claims that the king, after pronouncing the death sentence, repented and blamed himself for having greatly erred in judgment; yet it was impossible to undo what had been done by royal authority.”(2)
King Darius upheld the law; nevertheless, he stated, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you” (v. 16). Both Daniel and Darius chose to do what was right, trusting in God’s deliverance; and that’s all anyone can do in such trying times. The Lord will either deliver us physically, by rescuing us from torture or imprisonment; or He will deliver us spiritually by taking us home to heaven. The most important thing to remember is that adhering to our faith and convictions will ultimately lead to God’s glory, as people are impressed to learn more about the Savior whom we serve (John 12:32). Daniel held firm to his beliefs and was sentenced to pay the ultimate price, which was to die in the lion’s den (v. 16); and as the stone was marked with the signet rings (v. 17), his fate was “apparently” sealed.
God Is Faithful to Save His People (vv. 18-23)
18 Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.” 23 Then the king was 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 injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.
Most people will focus on Daniel’s faith here, but consider Darius; he refused to give up. Anyone else would have thought, “Well, that’s it. His fate is now sealed, and no one can survive being thrown into the lion’s den.” But instead of abandoning hope, Darius spent the night fasting (v. 18). Fasting is not relinquishing hope, but holding onto it; it’s about demonstrating our sincerity in believing, and our faith that God will intervene in a situation; and fasting is usually accompanied by intensive prayer (cf. Matthew 17:21; cf. Psalm 35:13). When Darius fasted, he interceded for Daniel, demonstrating his faith in the saving power of Daniel’s God.
Darius also demonstrated faith in another manner. We read how he ran to the lion’s den the very next morning, believing that Daniel had somehow been spared (v. 19). He also spoke down into the pit, saying, “Has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” (v. 20). The guards could have thought the king had gone mad and was talking to some imaginary person; but Darius didn’t seem to care how he might be perceived by anyone around. He was only concerned about seeing what the Lord had done for Daniel, for he wanted to behold a miracle; and a miracle is exactly what he got, for Daniel’s voice rang out from the darkness, saying, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him” (v. 22).
In verse 23, we read this: “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.” Now, it’s true that King Darius demonstrated faith by fasting and interceding for Daniel; however, the Bible actually attributes Daniel’s deliverance to his own faith. Daniel had been fed to the lions; however – though the Scripture doesn’t provide all the details – he likely knelt down in prayer once again, and the Lord surrounded him with His hedge of protection (Job 1:10). In another message from this series, I stated that “our God is mighty to save whenever we are faithful to stand.” The Lord is indeed pleased by our willingness to stand, but He’s more impressed by our willingness to humble ourselves before Him in submission; and we demonstrate our submission to God as we get down on our knees in prayer.
Jesus once said, “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22). Whenever we pray in faith then God will move mountains, and even close the mouth of lions. Remember, that as we live for the Lord and stand for what is right, that we will face mountains of opposition. We will also be confronted by many hungry lions; ungodly factions that will attempt to devour us and silence our witness, better known as “the spirit of the Antichrist” (1 John 4:3) Peter cautions us to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Nevertheless, even though persecution will arise, we must not be afraid. God will deliver us just as He delivered Daniel, so long as we walk by faith; and the first act of faith is to kneel down in submission before the Lord.
Time of Reflection
Daniel was saved from the lion’s den “because he believed in his God” (v. 23). The point here is that belief leads to deliverance and salvation. Daniel was cast into a pit to die; and we who are lost without Jesus are stranded in the deep, dark pit of sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If we are walking in disobedience to the Lord, then we are living in sin. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin leads to spiritual death, but we can be saved from death by believing in God; more specifically in His Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9 declares, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
(1) “Darius the Mede,” Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darius_the_Mede (Accessed December 15, 2012).
(2) “Commentary on Daniel and Revelation,” The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary (Review and Herald Publishing), p. 812.