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 lion's den and apply the lessons learned to our world today.
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Daryavesh decided to set over the kingdom 120 viceroys to rule throughout the entire kingdom, with three chiefs over them, of whom Dani'el was one, so that these viceroys could be responsible to them and so that the king's interests would be safeguarded.
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.
But because an extraordinary spirit was in this Dani'el, he so distinguished himself above the other chiefs and the viceroys that the king considered putting him in charge of 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.
The other chiefs and the viceroys tried to find a cause for complaint against Dani'el in regard to how he performed his governing duties, but they could find nothing to complain about, no fault; on the contrary, because he was so faithful, not a single instance of negligence or faulty administration could be found.
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).
Then these men said, "We're not going to find any cause for complaint against this Dani'el unless we can find something against him in regard to 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 Yeshua. There are those who seek to use our faith against us to accomplish what they want.
So these chiefs and viceroys descended on the king and said to him, "King Daryavesh, live forever! All the chiefs of the kingdom, along with the prefects, viceroys, advisers and governors, have met and agreed that the king should issue a decree putting in force the following law: 'Whoever makes a request of any god or man during the next thirty days, except of you, your majesty, is to be thrown into the lion pit.' Now, your majesty, issue this decree over your signature, so that it cannot be revoked, as required by the law of the Medes and Persians, which is itself irrevocable." So King Daryavesh signed the document, and the decree became law.
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.
On learning that the document had been signed, Dani'el went home. The windows of his upstairs room were open in the direction of Yerushalayim; and there he kneeled down three times a day and prayed, giving thanks before his God, just as he had been doing 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 descended on Dani'el and found him making requests and pleading before his God. So they went to remind the king of his royal decree: "Didn't you sign a law prohibiting anyone from making requests of any god or man within thirty days, except yourself, your majesty, on pain of being thrown into the lion pit?" The king answered, "Yes, that is true, as required by the law of the Medes and Persians, which is itself irrevocable." They replied to the king, "That Dani'el, one of the exiles from Y'hudah, respects neither you, your majesty, nor the decree you signed; instead, he continues praying 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 report, he was very upset. He determined to save Dani'el and worked until sunset to find a way to rescue him. But these men descended on the king and said to him, "Remember, your majesty, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or edict, once issued by the king, can be revoked."
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 Dani'el and threw him into the lion pit. The king said to Dani'el, "Your God, whom you are always serving, will save you." A stone was brought to block the opening of the pit, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing concerning Dani'el could 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 Yeshua 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. He spent the night fasting and refusing to be entertained, as sleep eluded him. Early in the morning, the king got up and hurried to the lion pit. On approaching the pit where Dani'el was, the king cried in a pained voice to Dani'el, "Dani'el, servant of the living God! Has your God, whom you are always serving, been able to save 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.
Then Dani'el answered the king, "May the king live forever! My God sent his angel to shut the lions' mouths, so they haven't hurt me. This is because before him I was found innocent; and also I have done no harm to you, your majesty." The king was overjoyed and ordered Dani'el taken up from the pit. So Dani'el was taken up from the pit, and he was found to be completely unharmed, 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.
Then the king gave an order, and they brought those men who had accused Dani'el, and they threw them into the lion pit - them, their children and their wives - and before they even reached the bottom of the pit, the lions had them in their control and broke all their bones to pieces.
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.
King Daryavesh wrote all the peoples, nations and languages living anywhere on earth: "Shalom rav! [Abundant peace!] "I herewith issue a decree that everywhere in my kingdom, people are to tremble and be in awe of the God of Dani'el. "For he is the living God; he endures forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed; his rulership will last till the end. He saves, rescues, does signs and wonders both in heaven and on earth. He delivered Dani'el from the power of the lions." So this Dani'el prospered during the reign of Daryavesh, and also during the reign of Koresh 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.