In our study of Daniel chapter six, we will look at two opposing forces in pride vs. prayer. We will look at the effects of each in the story of Daniel and the lions' den and apply the lessons learned to our world today.
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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.
We often run right past this opening passage in our rush to get to the story of the lion's den but it is very important to pause here and realize what God has done. In chapter five, we saw the difference between pride and humility as King Belshazzar was judged because of his pride while Daniel was elevated because of his humility. Darius invaded the city and King Belshazzar was put to death but Daniel was spared. He was the number three man in the kingdom and normally the rulers were killed when they were conquered but, instead, Daniel was spared and even elevated to the position of administrator as we see here.
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.
Daniel stood out from the crowd of leaders as the king saw the Spirit of God at work in him. This same thing can and should characterize our lives as Christians. Have you ever had someone stop you and stare or ask you why you are so different? That is the same type of thing that happened to Daniel and, because of what the king saw, he planned to elevate him to be the head of state. We notice that he was not out to climb the political, economic, or social ladder but instead Daniel was a humble servant of the Lord and did his job well. That is what we, as Christians, are called to do in our own places of work.
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.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Daniel was simply doing his job and doing it well but this brought jealousy from the other leaders. They set out to get him by looking for something that he had done wrong at work but could not find anything. You see, Daniel worked for the king as if he was working for the Lord and so he was honest and hard working. We all have to ask ourselves whether we act the way that Daniel did at work and do the best that we can or like the others and try to get by. This is the same thing that Paul was urging the Colossian believers to do (see Colossians 3).
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.'
The enemy could not find anything to accuse Daniel of in his work so they decided they must go after him with his own faith. The same type of thing happens even today as we seek to follow after Jesus. There are those who seek to use our faith against us to accomplish what they want.
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.
King Darius was a "good" man but the rulers knew of his vanity. They played on that vanity by elevating him to the status of a god. The order was that anyone who prayed to anyone but the king for thirty days was to be killed by being thrown into the den of lions. As with any decree in the kingdom, once it was written and sealed it could not be repealed. This passage is a reminder to all of us that pride can bring down the seemingly "good man". It was pride that brought about the fall of Lucifer and it is that same pride that is at the root of our sin.
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.
We see that he did not let the decree stop him from following the ways of God. It is interesting to note that, in the face of the prescribed penalty, Daniel did not pray for protection but instead gave thanks to God. He was not only a man of prayer but also a man of great faith and courage. We also see that he did not go out and disrespect the king by performing his prayers in the public square. He respected the king's authority but knew that ultimately all authority rested in God.
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 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.'
So, these politicians sprung their trap and caught Daniel praying to God as they knew they would. They report this to the king in a detached kind of way as if they were only looking out for the interests of the king. They remind the king that Daniel is not a Babylonian and that he is breaking the law. This is a reminder to us that, like David, we must listen and follow our heavenly King even if that goes against the edict of an earthly king. Daniel knew that there would be a penalty in his choice but he also knew that God was ultimately in charge.
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 the Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.'
The king did all that he could to save Daniel but even he could not change the law. The king was at risk if he did not carry out the punishment that was prescribed by his own decree. This is a picture of the hopelessness of man under the Law of Moses. Like the law of the Medes and the Persians, God's Law could not be changed even by God.
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.
The king obeyed his own decree and had Daniel thrown into the cave with the lions and even "prayed for him". The entrance to the cave was sealed by a large stone and the seals of the king and the nobles. They did this so that nobody could let him out without their knowing about it. This is a picture of what would happen when Jesus was taken down from the cross. His tomb was also sealed with a stone and guards were even placed outside.
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. 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?'
The king truly cared about Daniel as we see that he did not eat or even sleep through the night. At first light, he rushed to see what had become of his friend. It is interesting to see how the king knows that it is only God that could save Daniel. We often wonder (even as Christians) why we go through many of the struggles that we face and I am sure Daniel wondered why God had him in this den. In this passage, we see the answer to the old question: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" This is an opportunity for the king to witness the power of the King of Kings. This is true for our struggles as well. If we are in the "lions' den, we can thank God that someone who does not know Him has the chance to see His power on display as He takes care of His own.
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.
What a witness this was to the king as he could see the power of God's love demonstrated in the safety of Daniel. This is also a powerful witness and reminder to us as well. Daniel was one of God's people and God took care of him so we can trust that He will do the same for us.
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.
The men who had accused Daniel received what they had wished upon him and their families did as well. In this we see the result of pride on the part of the rulers.
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.
Now, we see that God used Daniel's trial as a testimony of His power and presence. King Darius came to believe in the one true God because of the evidence that he saw in the life of Daniel. In this, we see the result of a life of prayer.