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It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 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. Finally these men said, 'We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.'
So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: 'O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den. Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered -- in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.' So King Darius put the decree in writing.
We have come here to one of the best-known stories of the Bible. This is also the end of the history section of the book of Daniel and begins its prophetic section. When we complete chapter 6, we will have completed Daniel's discussion of the head of gold of Nebuchadnezzar's statue ... which represented the Babylonian empire ... as well as its breast and arms of silver ... representing the Medo-Persian empire. Darius, recorded here in chapter 6, is Darius Cyaxares II. Although, historically, he is somewhat obscure, apparently, he was the nephew and son-in-law of Cyrus and was the initial ruler over the Babylonian territory after the fall of Babylon. However, he was a weak ruler under Cyrus and lasted only two years.
Daniel lived through the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, Nergal-Sharezer, Nabonidus and Belshazzar ... all Babylonians ... then, Darius Cyaxares II and on into the reign of Cyrus... who were Medo-Persians. As you can tell from our text above, the Palace was more dangerous than the lion's den! Reminds me of our own Washington DC today. Politics are indeed a blood sport and a rough way to earn a living! Especially, to a man of ability, integrity, and spirituality like Daniel possessed. Psalm 1:1-3 fits Daniel like a glove. It describes him to a tee. And, being that exact kind of committed man of God under the Mosaic Law, it insured him of both promotion as well as intense opposition.
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
The scheme which was concocted against Daniel by Darius' court was quite a set-up. It was designed specifically to entrap and eliminate him. These men were green-eyed jealous of Daniel because he had been promoted to second in command in Darius' cabinet. Not realizing the purpose of their scheme, however, Darius signed the decree and thereby, for all practical purposes, had sealed Daniel's fate.
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. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: 'Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions' den?' The king answered, 'The decree stands -- in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.'
Then they said to the king, 'Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.' When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Then the men went as a group to the king and said to him, 'Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.'
Daniel was caught red-handed giving thanks and asking God for help ... as was his custom ... and thus, breaking the thirty-day law that had been enacted against praying to any other god but Darius. His enemies hastened to bring the news to Darius. From a human perspective, it truly was a black day for this man of God.
However, aren't you glad that no matter the current circumstances, no-one can block or undermine the blessing and favor that God bestows on the life of one of his children! Every child of God has a wall of safety and protection around them ... 24/7! Even Satan himself cannot penetrate that wall without getting specific permission from God first. This wonderful truth is center pieced for us in the book of Job. There, we read,
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Psalm 55:22, says,
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Daniel knew this scripture well ... and he obeyed it. Despite his circumstances, he put the Word of God first and was willing to let the chips fall where they may. Once, I asked my dad, What would you do if you were unjustly thrown into prison for the rest of your life? He answered, I'd start a Bible study. Child of God, never let circumstances or opposition dictate your responses and actions. Always let your faith in God and your knowledge of his Word dictate your responses and your actions. Our God is an impregnable wall of safety around his own. He stands against any scheme of man or Hell that is directed at his children. As you have it in Psalm 34:7-8,
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
The Psalmist goes on to say,
Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:21-22
Now, it is important to understand that the safety and security that is ours in the Lord is not defined by what happens to us down here in this dark world. It is defined simply by the fact that our lives are in God's hands. And, even if we find ourselves in a circumstance that might cost us our physical lives, we don't sweat it. Daniel didn't. Those listed in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 didn't either. Jesus didn't. He said,
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Luke 12:4-5
Psalm 91:1-2, says,
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'
Psalm 62:5-8, says,
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Daniel was such of man. His feet were anchored squarely and solidly on that rock. Throughout his life and his many trials and perils, he simply trusted the Lord and stood firmly on His promises. Being human, he no doubt had his moments but, he simply talked to God about them ... at least three formal times a day! But, How will he deliver me?, we ask. The answer is simple. Never mind, how. He just will. We can take it to the bank. Sometimes he delivers from the circumstance and sometimes he delivers through the circumstance; sometimes from the persecution ... sometimes through the persecution; sometimes from the fire ... sometimes through the fire; sometimes from the mob ... sometimes through the mob; sometimes from death ... sometimes through death; but HE ALWAYS DELIVERS HIS OWN. Daniel didn't know in advance that God was going to save him from the lions in that lions' den. If God didn't, however, Daniel knew that his God would see him through ... regardless. Our courageous brother, Stephen, in Acts 7, comes to mind. Let's look at a bit of that account...
When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:54-60
Daniel wouldn't have obeyed Darius' edict ... even if it had only been for one day. For him, God's Word and God's will over-rule everything else that might come along. He was spiritual, godly and a mature saint.
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!' A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel's situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
You and I can only imagine this scene. Darius' lion pit was a place of horror ... a gruesome place designed for torture and cruelty. A place where cruel men reveled in the short-lived agony and screams of their victims. Daniel was thrown alive into its black hole. However, ... praise God ... even within the blackest hole imaginable, our God is always there! Psalm 139:8-12 puts it this way,
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me,"
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
It would not surprise me if Daniel didn't meditate on those very words of Scripture, while down in that pit of lions. The last words he heard from Darius' lips, after hitting the bottom, were, May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you. Apparently, Daniel had been talking to Darius on the way to the lions' den. Probably, he had been witnessing to him about the one true and living God. Darius' words seem to indicate that. Daniel knew that his God would, in fact, deliver him ... either from the lions' den or through the lions' den. Whichever way God chose, though, Daniel was content to rest in his Lord's decision.
Now Darius greatly valued Daniel. His love and favor towards Daniel are clear here in the text. When you live for God before people, those who receive your testimony will truly love you. You will have shared with them the greatest thing in life, you see. You have introduced them to the one true and living God ... their Creator and their Redeemer. So it was with this King. Whether he had received it or not, we don't know. But we do know that he truly appreciated Daniel, his work, and his testimony. So, at first, he tried to save him. Then, not being able to do so, King Darius went to bed greatly disturbed and could neither sleep nor be consoled.
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 answered, 'O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.' The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
Undoubtedly, the key phrase here is ... because he had trusted in his God. Dear believer, the ability of our Omnipotent God, coupled with the faith of one of his children, is an awesome thing. As we have it in Hebrews 11:33-36,
...who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.
The daily decisions that you and I make in our walk and trust in the living God not only affect those who are watching us but, they affect our eternal standing in Heaven as well. Many a saint has laid down their life, knowing full well that by doing so they were gaining an eternal testimony and a better resurrection! May you and I have the faith and courage to follow in their footsteps should it be required of us. Amen?
Notice, in verse 22, Daniel said that his deliverance was accomplished by God's angel. Daniel must have actually seen him, and they probably conversed together throughout that long night. Angels are awesome spirits with amazing power. Their sole function, according to Hebrews 1:14, is to minister to God's people. Did you know that? Are you aware that your God has assigned angels to minister to you?
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
Remember what Psalm 34, says? ... The angel of the Lord camps round about those who fear him... Awesome! That's real, shoe-leather security, brother and sister! God's care and security is the only care and security you and I will ever need. We are specifically looked after by God directed angels.
At the king's command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions' den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language throughout the land: 'May you prosper greatly! 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.'
So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Don't you know that Daniel's story accompanied this decree and spread like wildfire!
In light of the executions recorded here, let's take a moment. Capital punishment was instituted by God in the Noahic covenant (Genesis 9). At that point in time in human history, and with this covenant (God's ruling directive to man), God delegated to human government the duty and authority to execute murderers. That duty and authority has not been rescinded. There has long been a movement in our country to do away with capital punishment on the grounds that it is barbaric, and, in some cases, innocent people have been mistakenly executed. In some minds, this alone is grounds that capital punishment should never be used again. I couldn't disagree more. God knew what he was doing when he set up capital punishment and delegated the responsibility to human government. He knew human government was imperfect and that it would make mistakes. Regardless, God instituted capital punishment anyway because of the overriding inestimable value of human life made in the image of God. This, by far, trumps any error a given government of man might make, including the abuse of its authority.
Those who do not follow the Bible and disagree with capital punishment, base their opposition on their own personal value system. They argue that when government executes someone it, in itself, is "murdering" and compounding murder. NOT. God determines what murder is and what it is not, written in his Word. Men have not been given the privilege to decide that issue. Even with a casual study of God's Word, we conclude that capital punishment is no more "murder" than killing in war is "murder" or causing accidental death is "murder".
Now, Darius was a dictator and, as such, he was the "government" and had the duty and authority to carry out capital punishment. However, capital punishment is not being carried out when a dictator simply executes people for his own reasons or on a whim, as was the case here. Keep in mind that we are readying history. This is simply what happened. It is not what God directed or condoned. When Darius threw these men and their families into the lions' den ... according to the strict guidelines on capital punishment in the Bible, he was dead wrong. These men were guilty of attempted murder but they had not actually murdered, anyone. And, even if these men were guilty of murder, Darius certainly had no right to execute their families. Such practices were expressly forbidden in God's Law to his Jewish people. As you have it in Deuteronomy 24:16, (along with the entire 18th chapter of Ezekiel),
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.
Take it for what it is worth. Capital punishment, correctly carried out by government, is from God.
Darius got it right, however, in his edict about the true and living God. This edict that went out to all the peoples of his realm, is striking. Frankly, I would not be surprised to meet this man in Heaven one day. He not only believed, you see, but he demonstrated his faith in shoe leather by giving testimony to the Lord God of Daniel in writing before the whole world.
In conclusion, let me re-emphasize that God is a very near and dear God to his people. He is always there for us ... to love us, protect us and keep us. You and I became his own dear children when we believed in his Son, Jesus Christ. As you have it in John 1:12-13,
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
When we believed, we were placed in Christ by his Holy Spirit, and we were home free. We had arrived in port. We were in Christ, God's impregnable fortress. We are on the Rock which cannot be moved. As we have it in Jesus' own words,
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:27-30
And again, in Psalm 118:6,
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
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