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Saturday, December 1, 2012

In and Out of the Lions Den

This familiar story is one of the great evidences of God’s power and always worthy of another look. (All Scripture verses mentioned are from Daniel 6.)

Darius I, king over Media and Persia, appoints Daniel as the highest of three princes over 120 princes because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm (from verse 3). Even this heathen king recognized something different in Daniel.

As is human nature, the other princes—it looks like all of them—were jealous of Daniel. They conspire to trap him. They look for faults and scandals in his life and come up with nothing. They say, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God (verse 6b).

So, they come up with a plan. They appeal to the king’s ego. This is what they say: All the presidents of the kingdom (a lie; Daniel wasn’t in on this), the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not (verses 7-8). King Darius signs the decree.

Daniel found out about the decree and did what he always did. He went to his room, left the windows open, and he prayed. He did this, as he always did, three times during the day. (Daniel was not a closet Christian!) Guess who were there to watch! Yes, his co-workers, who had conspired to kill him. They go and squeal to Darius. You can feel their self-satisfied tone of voice. That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day (verse 13b). Oh yeah, this Daniel guy, he’s defying your decree not once, but three times every day! They are anticipating the wonderful event that comes next. They have the king over a barrel. He has to throw Daniel to the lions. After all, the Law of the Medes and Persians can never be changed!

The next verse tells us much: Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him (verse 14). Instead of saying the king was angry with these low-down, miserable, lying rulers, the Bible tells us the king was angry with himself. He tried every way to get Daniel out of the fate that awaited him
                                                  . . . without success.

Daniel was thrown down into the den of lions. As this was happening, King Darius said to Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee (verse 16b). But Darius didn’t really believe it.

The lions den was sealed, and King Darius couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, didn’t want to listen to music. He passed a miserable night. The Bible tells us he got up very early in the morning and went in haste to the lions den. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding 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 manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God (verses 20-23).

What a wonderful God! Such deliverance! What an encouragement!

The Bible says, when the king heard Daniel’s voice, he was exceedingly glad. He was also exceedingly angry—with those who tricked him into getting rid of Daniel. In those days, the king’s word was law, and without trial, the men who conspired to kill Daniel were shown no mercy. They and their families were thrown into the pit with the lions in it, and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den (verse 24b).

Darius has learned a lesson, and he makes a decree: That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions (verses 26-27). (Notice that this decree is very similar to the one Nebuchadnezzar made after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were saved from the furnace.)

I have written several blogs about Daniel because Daniel’s consistent walk with God is such an inspiration to me. Daniel had many factors against him, yet he never wavered from his commitment to God.

Let’s first look at what Daniel had against him:
  • He was stolen from his home and family and taken captive far away.
  • He was schooled in heathen philosophy for three years.
  • He served under ungodly, tyrannical kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius I, and Cyrus.
  • He worked alongside ungodly men (with the exception of his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).
  • He had to nurture his own faith mostly all by himself. He had no church, no family, and except for this three Hebrew friends, no believing friends at all. His faith was dependent on his own personal relationship with God.
  • Many times, he stood alone as a mouthpiece for God. Each time, his life was at stake.

Practical, positive applications from Daniel, for us:
  • It’s possible to live the Christian life in a consistent way, against all odds.
  • A personal relationship with God—in prayer and in the Word—is the greatest factor in our maintaining a strong testimony for God.
  • We don’t have to be like the people around us.
  • We should have fellowship with like-minded friends whenever possible. (Today, the church should be very important to us.)
  • Even if it means death, we need to stand for God, knowing that He is able to deliver us, or not, as He wills.

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