Read: Daniel 6
Today we read one of the best known stories from the Bible — Daniel in the Lions’ Den. I say best known stories, but I wonder how many outside the ever-secularized world have actually read the 28 verses that capture the entire story? The brevity of the narrative in no way detracts from the weight of this moment in history, but in our world of sound-bites, I can’t help but wonder.
Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belteshazzar foolishly squandered his heritage and is no longer with us; Darius is now in charge of Babylonia. He names Daniel as one of his 3 administrators to manage 120 regional governors — it’s a big kingdom! As we’ve seen in the previous chapters, Daniel is a man of incredible integrity. As such, Darius plans to promote him one step farther up the chain to rule over all.
Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Daniel 6:3-4
To promote themselves, they needed something that would discredit Daniel, but they could find nothing, so they opted for a different approach. As the sycophants they obviously were, they praised the newly ascended king and flattered his ego with words or praise along with a mere suggestion that anyone who didn’t have the same perspective should be thrown into the den of lions and ripped to shreds.
Sidenote: Who keeps a den of lions around? What would you use this for? If this is their method of keeping order in the kingdom, the long-term viability of this empire is certainly in question.
Anyway, Darius is in agreement and the attorneys quickly create the necessary documents and distribute them around the kingdom without Daniel’s input (not without his knowledge).
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10
Daniel is not acting in arrogance, he is not openly trying to defy the decree, but he is also not about to compromise his devotion to God. It doesn’t take long for this to get reported back to Darius and the law is clear, Daniel must be tossed into our local lions’ den. Darius is grieved by this action, but was unable to see his way around the law; well, he had no advisors to construct a rebuttal.
At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel 6:19-20
Those who created the plot were tossed in and devoured. Suddenly, the lawyers figured out a way to issue a new decree:
“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For he is the living God
and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
In both statements above we read “has your God” and “the God of Daniel.” Interesting. Rulers in that time thought of themselves as appointed by gods, equal to none, so he keeps himself one step away from accepting that God is the God of all, including himself. Did Daniel have heart-to-heart discussions with Darius? Cyrus? Nebuchadnezzar? Belteshazzar? Did they ask him privately about God? It seems like Daniel would have had those opportunities, after all, his fame was not just the miraculous, but it included his uncanny ability to look after the affairs of an entire kingdom with great efficacy. I’m sure these conversations happened with no change of heart, no crack in the wall built to support such a monarchy. That simply could not happen.
So here’s the question I wrestle with this morning, what impenetrable walls have I established that cannot be breached? What monuments have I erected that stand in the way of complete devotion to Jesus? Is there someone trying to speak truth into my life that I simply refuse to hear?
Surely the stories of Daniel are meant to demonstrate great integrity is rewarded, not doubt about that, but I hope I can learn from the kings who refused to humble themselves as well.
Lord, may we all trust that you will save us in the lions’ dens of our world today. Help us as we waver. Strengthen our integrity. May we lean on each other and learn to speak truth in love to keep us from ascending the mount of arrogance depicted in the kings of Babylon.