Daniel 6. Thirty Days of Danger.
Key Notes: A foolish decree. To yield or resist. Defensible positions. Prayer for the nation.
The story of Daniel and the Lions' Den is so simple that five-year-olds know it well. We will try to find its deeper significance for our spiritual lives. We are reminded that Daniel is a book of God, more than a book about a man. God is the operator; Daniel is the servant.
6:1–9 Medo-Persia was now in charge of Chaldea. Darius the Mede set 120 supervisors or governors over the kingdom, and three presidents, of whom Daniel was one. Because of his outstanding performance, Daniel was in line for the leadership of the whole country. The jealousy that was aroused led to a plot. Daniel's weak spot was his devotion to prayer and the Law of God. The other officials flattered Darius by suggesting a 30-day suspension of all petition except to him. The penalty would be death in the lion pit. Perhaps Darius thought that the decree would help unify the country, or perhaps he succumbed to a flush of pride.
The petition was absurd as Darius soon discovered. No contracts could be made. No favors can be asked of a spouse. No worship of Marduk will be observed. How shall we buy food this week? How can I get directions to the park?
Will Daniel submit to coercion? There is no law that one must pray toward the Homeland, but Solomon indicates that it was the common practice. (IK.8:30,38,48). There was no law that one must pray three times a day, although Psa.55:17 mentions praying morning, noon and night. There is nothing in the Law that the windows must be open. Quit praying for a month. Or why not pray behind closed windows?
We must remember who this Daniel is.
In Chapter 1 he moved from prisoner to student to sage.
In Chapter 2–3 he became administrator over Babylon City.
In Chapter 4 he was the spiritual advisor to Nebuchadnezzar.
In Chapter 5 he became third ruler of the Kingdom just before the Babylonians were conquered.
In Chapter 6 he was in line to be over the whole Persian Kingdom.
Will such a man singularly blessed by God and elevated to a position of enormous power give in to threats of jealous colleagues? We probably would. He could not.
When the Roman governor demanded of Bishop Polycarp: "Respect your years. Swear by Caesar's fortune; change your attitude; say 'Away with the godless.'", Polycarp replied, "Away with the godless! For eighty-six years I have been His servant, and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" (The History of the Church. Eusebius; Penguin; London,1965, p.171).
6:10–18 Daniel deliberately faced down his enemies. He prayed three times a day before the open window toward Jerusalem as before. The conspirators observed and happily reported to the king. Darius knew that he had been duped, used to frame Daniel, but he could not think of a way out, even through a sleepless night.
6:19–24 Daniel was apparently accompanied to the place of execution by Darius who prayed that God would deliver him.
So the lamb lay down with the lions until morning. Darius came at dawn hoping against hope that Daniel would still be alive. Daniel said God had sent His angel in defense of his innocence.
Then the conspirators were treated to their own medicine, with their families--as Iraqis still do today.
6:25–28 Darius wrote an open letter to his kingdom that all should fear the living God whose kingdom is eternal. He works wonders and delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
This is the third royal declaration of the Living God to Babylon in Daniel. 3:29; 4:1–27, 34–37.
Daniel and his friends had taken several positions:
*a stand over defiling food (1:8)
*for God's kingdom vs. Babylon (2:44)
*against worshipping Nebuchadnezzar's image (3:16)
*against Nebuchadnezzar's pride (4:27)
*against Belshazzar's blasphemy (5:22).
We in the evangelical church are thinking much about making public stands. We can set up a series of defensible positions.
Shall we support world peace under Pax Americana?
Shall we support legislation in favor of Christian public observance? Public school prayer? The Ten Commandments on the Court House wall? The Christmas creche on the lawn of the Municipal Building? That works only so long as we are in the majority. Actually, evangelicals in England in 16th century fought to break the Crown's control over religious practice, which dictated liturgy, vestments, prayer and spiritual leaders. In northern Nigeria Shariah (Muslim canon law) is enacted as a weapon against Christians.
Shall we support legislation in favor of common morality? There is little disagreement here. We do legislate morality by taxation and civil constraint. We must prevent corporate crime, city corruption, the drug traffic, and prostitution.
Daniel took his last stand on worship, taking perhaps a half-hour three times a day. Where are we on this issue? The Sunday night service, and the midweek prayer meeting are long gone. Most church attenders come to church for less than two hours on Sunday, and are in attendance about every third Sunday. Meanwhile the television is on 7 hours a day. TV time vs. Church time is a ratio of 50:1. If mothers must chose between having their children in Sunday School or soccer game, she is a soccer mom. We are not being prohibited from worship; we are being seduced away, "...dragged away and enticed by our own desire." (Jm.1:14). Nevertheless the church can pray emergently, as it did for the desperately ill 5-year-old son of missionaries. Thousands of people prayed effectively and a little life was spared.
What was Daniel praying about--on his knees giving thanks, making petition and supplication? (6:10). He appeared to be urgent. We have a window into his thought from his later prayer of confession of Israel's sins and pleading for restoration of Jerusalem (9:1–19). Maybe he was already praying for that. How might we pray intelligently for our country now?
•that God will be glorified in all that we do,
•that God will forgive us our national sins,
•that American Christians will return to God in repentance,
•that our President and national leaders will be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led,
•that we will not disgrace ourselves in the World as leaders of freedom and justice,
•that God would be glorified in the Middle East,
•that Europe and North America will be reclaimed for the Gospel.
Let us pray.