More Powerful than Lions

January 23, 2022 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Daniel - ENG

Topic: English Passage: Daniel 6:1-28

The book of Daniel has two major sections. The first section is primarily narrative, and the second section is primarily apocalyptic. The first section, chapters 1-6, is filled with stories about the life of Daniel and his friends in the Babylonian Empire, and eventually the Medo-Persian Empire.

The second half of the book, chapters 7-12, tells us about visions that God gave to and interpreted for Daniel. Those visions, similar to the dreams we’ve already covered in the first part of the book, are dealing with the broad sweep of human history.

But whether it’s through narrative or through apocalyptic visions, God wanted His people to know that no matter how chaotic this world gets, He is still completely in charge and completely in control. God is absolutely sovereign. In the end, His eternal kingdom will triumph. God rules over everything.

This is the message we all need to hear over and over again. We can’t let ourselves forget that truth: God rules over all. That message gives us hope, and that message leads us to holiness.

When we started in the book, Daniel and his friends were only about 13-15 years old. And they were taken from Jerusalem to be trained to serve in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar who was the King of Babylon. There were multiple exiles of Israelites to Babylon, and Daniel was part of the first group. He was exiled in 605 B.C. as Babylon began to take over Jerusalem.

The Babylonian attacks devastated Israel. Just imagine how traumatic it would be to have your nation overrun by a foreign army. Many were killed in battle. Many fled to foreign nations. And many citizens were captive. In 587 B.C., the Temple of Jerusalem, the symbol of God’s presence and protection was demolished. And Jerusalem, the capital city, was destroyed. Israel had completely lost its political independence.

In all, Israel’s captivity was going to last 70 years, and those difficult years were a chance for the nation to repent and return to God. The devastation that came wasn’t because God had abandoned them; it was a result of God’s judgment for continued rebellion. God was still with them. He was going to preserve them. And the story of Daniel is evidence of those truths.

In Daniel chapter 5, we saw a shift take place. That shift took place in 539 B.C., which is about 65 years after Daniel was originally taken to Babylon. If Daniel was about 15 at the start, now he’s about 80 years old.

King Belshazzar was in Babylon having a good old time partying with a thousand of his friends while the Medo-Persian army was invading. And in one night, Babylon falls to the Medo-Persians. And now, there’s a new king and a new Empire.

Look with me at Daniel 6, verses 1 and 2. Daniel 6:1-2.

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss.

There’s a lot of mystery connected to Darius, because he’s not easily identifiable with the kings that archaeology and history have told us about with regard to the Medes and the Persians. For liberal scholars, those who reject the truth of God’s word, they say this is evidence of the many problems in the biblical record.

But just because we can’t clearly identify Darius with a historical figure, that doesn’t mean that the Bible is unreliable. With biblical history, just as with secular history, there are going to be events that don’t have archaeological or historical support, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That’s not the same as finding clear evidence that something didn’t happen at all.

Some more liberal scholars will say that Daniel was written after Daniel’s life, and since there was a king we know of named Darius who came later, these scholars say that the writer simply got confused.  That works if you don’t believe the Bible. But not if you take this as God’s word.

For conservative scholars, there is still some disagreement on who this king might be. Most believe that Darius wasn’t just a name, but a type of title for a ruler. Some believe Darius was one of Cyrus’ military commanders or possibly a governor, perhaps even a former king, appointed by Cyrus to rule over Babylon. Another possibility is that Cyrus and Darius are two different names for the same man.

Scholars who have studied this much more than I have, and who are much smarter than I am, have come to different conclusions. And like all the other mysteries in the Bible, if we don’t know for sure, we can at least be confident that God didn’t deem it essential for us. Understanding the exact identity of this man isn’t essential for receiving God’s truth and responding appropriately. But we recognize that God’s word is true, even when we don’t understand it.

This new regime brings a new administration. One hundred and twenty men are chosen to be local leaders. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the empire was divided into 120 provinces, but that group could include various layers of authority. No matter how they are structured, at the top of that group are three high officials, and Daniel is one of them. These guys’ job is to be good stewards of the riches and the resources of the King. If they do their job properly, the king will suffer no loss.

In every kingdom, there is always the risk of government waste, right? We live in California; we have an up close look. And one of the words you hear a lot in discussions about government is oversight or accountability. Citizens and those in charge want to make sure they maximize their funds so that they are working toward their own political goals. That ‘s the same no matter who is in charge.

Over and over again in human history, regimes have changed. New politicians come to power. But many times, despite all the promises that were made, a lot of things don’t really change—at least not in a substantive way.

So, as we work through this story, I’m going to organize our time around some important reminders regarding political change.

To start, we see that there is a new regime, a new empire, but there is the same spiritual reality. We have a new regime, but the same spiritual reality.

What is that spiritual reality? It is that excellence gets noticed. Excellence gets noticed. Those who are better at their job get recognized. That’s not a new principle. It happened when Daniel was young under the Babylonians, and now it’s going to happen again, even when he’s old.

Look at verse 3—Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

This is the same thing we saw happen with Joseph in his relationship to Potiphar, and then later to Pharaoh. Excellence gets noticed. Daniel has “an excellent spirit.” He is wise. He is trustworthy. He’s a good leader. He’s a good administrator.

Parents, this is a principle you need to teach your kids, so they learn to work hard. In Proverbs 22:29, the wise father says to his son, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.

Excellence gets noticed. That is true from an earthly perspective with regard to skill, but it’s also true from a spiritual perspective with regard to holiness. This world should look at God’s people and see a difference. They should see our love, our integrity, our trustworthiness, and it should make them take note.

In Acts 5, after Ananias and Sapphira died, it says the people didn’t dare to join with the church, but they held them in high regard. These people who follow Jesus had a good reputation, even among those who disagreed with them. That’s part of God’s design. Integrity and holiness stands out.

There’s a positive reward for learning to do a good job instead of cutting corners. And there is a positive reward for righteousness and integrity.

But there’s also a negative component. And you and your kids need to be ready for this as well. Negatively, excellence puts a target on your back. Important people want you for your services, but corrupt competitors want to get rid of you. To use the words of First Peter, holiness brings slander and lies. Holiness makes enemies. This world esteems it, but at the same time, they hate it.

This is nothing new. It’s the same spiritual reality Jesus warned his disciples about. He said that their love would set them apart, but He also said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” And He wasn’t just talking about natural disasters or disease. He said, “You will be hated because of me.” This world, under the dominion of Satan lashes out against righteousness, holiness, and integrity. It’s part of the way they silence their own conscience against their own sin, and it’s part of their strategy to bypass you as they climb the corporate ladder.

This is exactly what happened to Daniel. The other guys realize that Daniel is in line for a major promotion, and they’re gonna do whatever they can to put a stop to it. Look at verse 4—Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Commentator Dale Ralph David says that just like this story ends with a miracle, it also starts with a miracle. And that miracle is “a squeaky-clean politician.” That was Daniel. These other guys are trying to dig up dirt on him, and they can’t find anything. And rather than give up, in their hatred and greed, they form a new plan.

Have any of you ever experienced something like this? One the one hand, your integrity and your diligence elevates you in the eyes of this world, but at the same time it enrages people. Have you ever seen that in your life?

That’s nothing new. It’s the same spiritual reality in every culture and in every generation. Excellence gets noticed, for better or for worse. Seek to honor God in all that you do, and this world will come after you.

Let’s see the plot against Daniel. Verse 6—Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

They come to the king with a lie. It’s the same thing we see happen in the book of Esther with Haman. This is a deception intending to get rid of their political rivals. And the king, upon hearing that all his counselors are in agreement, is convinced. He trusts their wisdom. But it was all a lie.

In the eyes of the king, this law, this injunction, was probably a way of helping the people transition to new leadership. I don’t think it’s a prohibition against asking your neighbor for a cup of sugar; it’s a religious prohibition. Nobody can talk to any of the gods without going through the king. The king is now a newly recognized channel to the gods. So, for 30 days, you do not see a priest, you do not talk to a god, you go directly to the king. And, according to the custom, once a law of this kind goes into effect, nobody, including the king, can undo it.

They specifically made this law because they knew that Daniel was a man who prayed. That was his consistent pattern, as we’ll see in a moment. So, how does Daniel respond. He clearly wasn’t part of the group that went to see the king when the law was made, but soon after, he finds out what happened. What’s next?

What comes next gives us a second reminder: We might see a new king, and a new regime, but we also see the same faithful righteousness. We see the same spiritual reality, and we see the same faithful righteousness.

Verse 10—When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

I don’t think Daniel’s motivation was blatant defiance. He simply continued doing what he used to do. That’s what the end of verse 10 says. This is what he had done previously. That’s his faithful righteousness. In an expression of humility, he kneels before God. In an expression of his dependence, he does it three time a day. And as an expression of his hope, he prays facing Jerusalem with the window open.

Now, nothing in the New Testament mandates any kind of special posture in prayer. But at this time in history, remember, the Israelites are waiting for God to restore them to their land, and for the city and the Temple to be rebuilt.

Back in 1 Kings 8, when Solomon builds and dedicates the Temple, he specifically mentions the Israelites praying toward Jerusalem. And then he talks about Israel being carried away into a foreign land as part of divine judgment. Solomon prayed, “Lord, if they are taken captive and if they repent and pray to you toward this land, toward the city you have chosen, forgive them and be gracious toward them.”

That was Daniel’s hope. He was living out his hope by praying toward Jerusalem. And in order to stay focused on his dependence, Daniel had set apart specific times of prayer, maybe even following the words of David in Psalm 55, when he says he calls out to God evening and morning and noon.

In the New Testament, we see something similar when Peter gets the vision of the white sheet. It says he was on the rooftop at the hour of prayer. There was, either culturally and/or individually a recognized hour of prayer.

Does your prayer life look like that? I’m going to guess we generally pray before meals, but for many of us that’s just a brief prayer to say thank you. But how much more beneficial would it be to have a dedicated time of prayer to focus on something specific. That was Daniel’s pattern.

Even after all of God’s blessings, even after God had exalted him in the political arena, he still completely depended on God, and He knew there was still more that God was going to do. Even with a new regime, we see the same faithful righteousness.

Daniel’s faithfulness was so consistent, his enemies knew exactly where to find him. That reminds me of Jesus. Judas knew exactly where He’d be in the garden of Gethsemane because that was Jesus’ consistent pattern.

Let’s see what happens with Daniel. Verse 11—Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

This is their tattletale moment. They go whining to the king, “Daniel didn’t listen! Daniel isn’t following the rules!”

And this por king is now trapped. He signed a law that cannot be undone, and now Daniel is getting thrown into the lion’s den.

Verse 14—Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

When Nebuchadnezzar threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace, he did it willingly, but this is different. The king cares for Daniel. He is an elderly man, over 80, who has proven that he will faithfully acts for the good of the king and the good of the empire. But now, the king’s hands are tied. There are no loopholes to exploit. He has to go through with this.

There is some historical and archaeological evidence helping us understand what this lion’s den might have looked like. From the ground level, it was probably like a well, with a short stone wall around it. And you could look down into it. It’s like a cave with a skylight. But there was also another side entrance that allowed people to enter. And there was probably a series of gates to help keep people safe. You lure the lions to one part of the den, then you shut the appropriate gate, and then you could go in to clean up or do whatever else. This is where Daniel had to go. This was the completion of his enemies’ plans.

Verse 16—Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

This king wants to see Daniel make it through this. And it’s very likely he heard about his friends being saved in the fire and about Daniel’s ability to interpret dreams. He is aware that Daniel has some connection to his God.

When was the last time you went a night without dinner, without sleep, and without music or television? If that’s ever happened to you, it was probably something really distressing. That’s how this king feels. He is consumed with worry. He’s heartbroken for Daniel. But finally, the sun rises the next morning. And the first thing this king does is go look down into the lion’s den.

Verse 19—Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”

Again, even the king recognizes Daniel’s integrity and faithfulness. “Has God come to rescue you?” he asks. Verse 21—Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever!

That’s a standard greeting for a king, and it shows us just how calm Daniel was. He didn’t scream back, “I barely made it! Get me out of here fast!” No. He just matter-of-factly answers the king’s questions. And then he explains what happened.

Verse 22—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.”

Do you remember when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire? It said they didn’t even smell like fire or smoke at all. Not even a thread of their garments was singed. In the same way, Daniel, at over 80 years of age, comes out without a single scratch. God took care of him. For all we know, Daniel might have even had a good night’s sleep, unlike the king. I think he trusted God that much.

And maybe, since Daniel mentions God’s messenger, there was some visible angelic being there with him keeping the lions away. If that’s the case, I think the lions would have been terrified. It might have been like the man that appeared in the fiery furnace, radiant and glorious. I can even imagine this magnificent, powerful being saying, “Daniel, you’ll be fine tonight. You go to sleep, and I’ll take care of the lion.” I don’t know exactly what happened, but we can ask Daniel when we see him. However it happened, God was faithful to reward Daniel for his righteousness.

And now that Daniel’s sentence has been carried out, the order given by the king has been completed. And now it’s the king’s turn to give orders.

23Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

This is the ruthlessness of the new regime. You cross the king, and it will cost you. It also proves that these lions weren’t sick or anything like that. They were hungry and powerful. And in the providence of God, what Daniel’s enemies were hoping for him ended up happening to them and their own families. Just an absolute, horrific end. You see the same thing in the story of Esther, when Haman gets hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.

This is another vivid example of the principle we see in Proverbs 26:27—Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.

Daniel’s story ends with his own vindication, with a horrific judgment upon his enemies. But there’s one final element before the story closes. And this is not like and end-credits scene. This is not a postscript. This is the key to the whole story.

Like I’ve said before, the main character in the book of Daniel isn’t Daniel. Who is it? It’s God. It’s Yahweh. It’s the God of Israel.

Obviously there are some good, important reminders in this story for us, but we don’t want to lose sight of the main point of the story. And here’s what it is. It’s our final lesson for today. Even under a new regime, we see the same eternal Ruler. We see the same eternal Ruler.

In other words, no matter what things look like from an earthly perspective, no matter who comes into power, God is still on His throne guiding human history to its final destiny. God is still the Sovereign king.

Nebuchadnezzar came to recognize that many years ago. Belshazzar had forgotten that and lost the empire. But now, it’s time for Israel to be reminded again. God is still in charge. He is the eternal Ruler.

Listen, there’s no guarantee that you and I are going to be spared like Daniel was. The Bible and history are full of faithful men and women whom God didn’t spare from a human perspective. Many died as martyrs. Many even died in a horrifying way. But even in those seemingly tragic circumstances, we know that God is still on His throne.

Let’s wrap up by reading the final verses of this story starting with verse 25. Again, this is the whole point of the story, and just like we saw Nebuchadnezzar make a proclamation, now King Darius is going to make a similar one.

Verse 25—Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Daniel’s rescue from the lion’s den wasn’t ultimately a testimony to Daniel’s greatness, though he was a righteous man. Daniel’s recue was a testament to the power of the living God. He endures forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed.

Human nations, human governments, human kingdoms will have their day, but they will all come to an end one day. And the eternal kingdom of God will last forever.

Doesn’t that fill you with hope? The God who rescued Daniel will rescue us from this world as well, right? We don’t need to live in fear. Whether we’re under the threat of some virus or the threat of some government, we can live with hope.

We’ve already seen God rescue us from sin, haven’t we? He did it through our King, Jesus the Christ. He defeated sin and death through the sacrifice and Resurrection of His Son. And King Jesus will return one day to rescue everyone who belongs to Him, and He will cast into an eternal fiery pit all who rebel against Him. Our Lord knows how to rescue His people.

If you have never surrendered you life to Jesus, the Great Rescuer, God is calling you to do that today. Talk to someone after the service. We’d be glad to answer any questions.

For those of us who have already trusted in Christ, let’s allow the story of Daniel’s rescue to serve as one more powerful testimony of God’s power to save. Like Daniel, we ought to live with confidence because no matter what happens in this world, nothing can change the plan and the power of our God in Jesus Christ.

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