During Israel’s exile, the Medes overcame Babylon and king Darius began to rule. He appointed 120 leaders to govern the land, one of whom was Daniel. Daniel distinguished himself among the other governors, and king Darius planned to install him over all the other administrators as his executive assistant Grand Poobah. The other governors were jealous, and tried to find grounds for getting Daniel fired. But they could find no such grounds.
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.” (Daniel 6:4-5 NIV)
So they hatched a plan. They went to Darius and convinced him to pass an irrevocable law of the Medes and the Persians (no take-backs, king!). The law said that anyone who prayed to any other god or human for the next thirty days except to Darius would be thrown into a den of lions.
Daniel was not only a man of integrity in his official duties. He was a man of integrity in his faith in the God of Israel. Here was his reaction:
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 NIV)
The jealous administrators caught Daniel praying, and reported him to king Darius. The king was distressed. He valued Daniel. He sought every avenue to save Daniel’s life the rest of the day. But he could not simply let Daniel off the hook without violating his own law. Finally, at sundown, this happened:
Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.” 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!” (Daniel 6:15-16 NIV)
The king sealed the lion’s den with a large stone and the seal of his own signet ring, and then went back to his palace and spent a sleepless night without food or entertainment. At the first light of dawn, king Darius approached the lion’s 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, “May the 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, Your Majesty.” (Daniel 6:20-22 NIV)
The king was overjoyed! He ordered that Daniel be lifted out of the lion’s den. Daniel was inspected, and there was no wound on him. God had protected him. Then the king did something unexpected. He ordered that Daniel’s accusers, along with their wives and children, be thrown into the same lion’s den.
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. (Daniel 6:24 NIV)
The thing that challenges me in Daniel, chapter 6, is the strength, character and consistency Daniel showed by continuing to pray openly to his God in the face of a threat of execution. When the pressure is on, do I tend to cave in or stand up? I think we all think we know the answer to that question. But I also think we don’t really know the answer until we are faced with the temptation and pressure to compromise our faith.
You see, most of us will never face an either/or, in-your-face kind of martyrdom choice. Instead, we are tempted to compromise in the face of the daily struggle to make our faith in Jesus the central thing of our lives. We don’t stop praying because we face the lion’s den. We stop praying because we’re too busy and too tired to get up an extra half hour early to keep a consistent, daily prayer time.
The thing that encourages me in Daniel, chapter 6, is the same truth that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found out in the blazing furnace. Wherever God puts you, He can keep you. Whatever storms or circumstances we face, God is with us. Things that are too big for us to do anything about are not beyond His agency. We can remain faithful. God can shut the mouths of the hungry lions that would seek to devour us. It’s called walking by faith, and it’s the key to living in victory and not victimhood.
Here’s my strategy: live faithfully in the small things, and when the big things happen, remain faithful then. Nothing can destroy the one who walks by faith in Jesus Christ!