Let's get right in to our work today. From long ago I have heard of the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den, even though I never went to church until I was twenty-one years old. The setting for the Book of Daniel is the Babylonian exile. One thing we have not really asked is the question; "Who really was Daniel?" Yes, we know that he was among the exiles, along with the "three Hebrew children" that were cast into the fiery furnace. We also know that he "had it all going on" so to speak as far as build, looks, and smarts. Wow! What would that be like to have all three of those traits? Or, maybe even two of them. Well, how about just one of them? We actually don't know that much about Daniel from the Book bearing his name. However, thanks to other sources that we won't necessarily get into we can discover more. In fact, other documents attest to the fact that Daniel may have even been a king. But, again that is for a more lengthy discussion. How old was Daniel? Well, if we compare the dates of when Daniel was first taken into the king's court and when he went into the lion's den we discover that when Daniel slept with the lion's he was a much older man. Well, let's look at the story.
"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 ...tried to find grounds fro charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him." (Daniel 6:1-4a)
Again, I remind you. Daniel did not have a rough time in exile. He was elevated to a position of high authority in the king's government. The king liked Daniel. The fact that Daniel worshipped Yahweh was not the real issue. They really did not care as long as he did everything else he was supposed to do for the king. The king had even made it illegal to say anything against Daniel's God. So what is the problem? These administrators are jealous of Daniel's promotion. That's it! It's the age old problem of jealousy. They can not find one single thing to charge him with, therefore they must concoct another charge. What can they come up with? "We will never find any basis against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God." (Daniel 6:5) They have to make something up. What do they come up with? A decree stating that for thirty days no one is to pray to any god or man except to the king. If caught doing so that person would then be thrown in to the lion's den. Oh, the king liked that plan and signed the decree. Guess what Daniel did anyway? He went to an open window and prayed...three times a day...to Yahweh. Poor king! What, poor king? What about poor Daniel? Well, Daniel was just like the three Hebrew children. They weren't worried about the fire; Daniel wasn't worried about the lion's. It was the king who was in distress, because he liked Daniel. He even tried to spare Daniel. But, the people held the king to his word.
"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lion's den. The king said to Daniel, 'may your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you." (Daniel. 6:16)
Wow! Let me propose to you that this king was not a bad guy. In fact, he was probably a better king than many of the Israelite kings. He wanted no harm to come to Daniel. Keep in mind, he was tricked into doing this. Also, he believed that God could perhaps deliver Daniel. He was trusting God to rescue Daniel. I wonder why the king himself did not begin worshipping Daniel's God. After all, what's one more god when you already worship many? Besides, he seems to believe in this God.
Well, Daniel was thrown to the lion's. The poor king was so distraught, he couldn't eat, sleep, nor party. Poor guy! While he couldn't sleep for worrying about Daniel, Daniel fluffed up one of the lion's and made it into a pillow. (My imagery) It was sweat dreams for Daniel. The next morning the king hurried to check on Daniel, and what did he yell out? "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you form the lion's?" (Daniel 6:20b) Wow! Think about that? The king has faith that God intervened. Daniel let out a big yawn (again my imagination at work here) and declared: (paraphrasing) "Don't worry, king, I slept like a baby. So did the lion's" Daniel had not a scratch on his body. The king then ordered the troublemakers to be thrown in, with their families. The same lion's that had purred like a kitten for Daniel "overpowered them and crushed all their bones." (Daniel 6:24b)
So, was Daniel persecuted? My answer is "No." He just rubbed some co-workers the wrong way. The king was tricked into signing the decree. Daniel was never in much danger. "Oh," you may ask. That's right. Not one time did Daniel ever seemed worried. What is this story really about? Well, we could say that it wants us to see that when we are thrown to the lions God will protect us. Perhaps its to assure the people that God is with them wherever they are, even in exile. Maybe, it's goal is to remind us to simply keep the faith. Oh, but could it also have something to do with the king recognizing Israel's God through all this? After all, the story ends with the king issuing a new decree that "every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel." (Dan. 6:26b)
Tomorrow, we will take a look at Daniel and the end times. Please join me. -Pastor Rick