Daniel in the Lion's Den

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We're going to unpack this passage as we follow three characters. First of all we're going to follow Daniel and see…

1) The Peace of Knowing that God reigns

Look back at 5 v. 30-31. Do you remember what happened at the end of last week?... One king dies and another one replaces him. One empire comes to an end and another stands in its place. Kings come and kings go, we've had Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar (and probably a few in between) and now we have Darius. But one thing stays the same, v. 1-2a… Daniel, who by now was probably around 60 or 70, who by now had been in exile for around 50 year. The times have changed, but Daniel hasn't, v.3… All his life Daniel has been an exemplary servant. It doesn't bother Daniel who the latest king is, or which empire is in charge, he simply goes on humbly serving, v.4… Now that is a remarkable thing to say isn't it? There was nothing in his character or his conduct that they could fault. He was trustworthy and honest in every way. And in v.5 we are reminded why, v.5… Daniel is such an excellent servant of the king, because he doesn't serve the king, he serves God. Do you see? Knowing that God reigns, and rules over the kings of this world, doesn't mean that Daniel ignores earthly kings or rejects their authority. No, it means Daniel recognises that God has given them their authority. And so he serves them, better than anyone else in the kingdom, because he serves God.

That's worth thinking about next time you're tempted to disobey your parents, or disrespect your teacher, or undermine your boss, or belittle your husband. And notice something else. Because Daniel knows that God reigns, he is unlike any of the other officials.  They hate Daniel. Why? Because he finds favour in the eyes of Darius and is expecting a promotion. And they hate him because they want power and they want position and they want influence and money and prestige. But Daniel doesn't. Do you remember what Daniel said to Belshazzar last week in 5 v.17… Daniel doesn't crave money to make him feel secure, or status to make him feel important.  Why? Because he knows that God reigns. Daniel is at peace, his life is at peace, he's safe and secure, because he knows that God reigns.

And did you notice that his colleagues know the source of Daniel's peace? They know why he serves the king so well. They know in v.5 that Daniel lives for God and puts God first. Now, how do you think they know that? Well, we're not told explicitly but it seems fair to me to assume that Daniel told them. Perhaps when things went well, instead of taking the credit for himself, Daniel thanked God? And perhaps when things went badly, instead of being angry or anxious or lashing out at others and blaming those beneath him, perhaps he remained calm, because he trust God?

Whatever it was Daniel's colleagues knew that above anything else, even the king, Daniel worshipped his God. And somehow Daniel had communicated that to them. And how is it that Daniel had the confidence and composure and courage to be such a witness in his workplace? Because he knew that God reigns. Daniel possessed the peace that comes from knowing that God reigns. And so, when all the court officials hatch their plan to get rid of him, when they trap the king into making it against the law and punishable by death to pray to any god or man except to king Darius, what does Daniel do? Look at v.10… He did exactly what he'd always done!

He doesn't panic, he doesn't run home and find a new place to pray, somewhere quieter and  more discreet. No, he goes home just as he has always done, at the same time as he has always done, and he prays just as he has always done. Daniel is not an idiot. He knows what Darius' new law means. He is not naïve, he knows that he will be killed if he continues to faithfully follow his God. So what does he do? He goes home to the upstairs room and he prays three times a day just as he has always done. He is not afraid. That is the peace of knowing that God reigns. And look at v.16…

Even when Darius and Daniel are standing on the edge of the lion's den and Daniel is about to be thrown in. It's not Daniel who is distraught or making desperate pleas to God. It's Darius! Daniel says nothing! In fact Daniel doesn't say anything at all during this whole time, as far as we know, until we get to v.21-22. The next day when Daniel is lifted up out of the lion's den he says this (v.21-22)… Do you see? Daniel wasn't afraid, and I don't think Daniel was ever afraid. Why? Well I don't think it's because Daniel knew that God was going to save him from the lions.

This chapter is paralleled to chapter 3 where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. And do you remember what they said before they were thrown in? 3 v.17-18…

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

I don't think Daniel knew he was going to be saved. But what he did know, just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, was that God reigns. So why should he fear? If God wanted to save his life from the lions, he could. I don't think Daniel was surprised when God saved him, why should he be? God reigns. But he also knew that if the lions were to kill him, well then he would be dead in a moment, and then be welcomed into heaven for eternity. He had faith in God, and so he had… The peace of knowing that God reigns. Secondly in this chapter I think we see…

2) The Joy of Realising the God reigns

This time let's go through the story following Darius. At the age of 62 Darius the mede became the ruler of the greatest empire on Earth, the First Persian Empire. And because Darius is king, he can do as he pleases, v.1… But we see Darius' attitude most clearly in v.6-9. First of all look at v.6-7…

Now it's not entirely clear exactly what Darius' officials are suggesting here, but the main idea is clear. No one is allowed to worship any god or pray to anyone else apart from Darius. For one month everyone in the empire must acknowledge that he, Darius, is their god. If they worship something, they worship him and if they want something, they come to him, because he reigns. It is, of course, an outrageous thing to say, and in v.9 Darius makes it law without batting an eyelid. Of course the empire should worship him! After all, he think, he reigns. But just a few days later Darius discovers that that's a lie. Darius has walked into a trap, and in v.13 he realises his mistake.

How had he forgotten Daniel? His most trusted servant. Daniel wasn't there when the rest of his officials came, and of course Daniel kept on worshipping his God, even Darius knew that's what Daniel always did. The king of the greatest superpower on earth "made every effort". And what did he achieve? Nothing. And for the first time, perhaps in his life, it dawns upon Darius that he is not in control. There is nothing he can do, he is powerless.

Have you ever felt like that, or realised that? The phone call comes from your doctor, a conversation starts with the words, "I've got some bad news…", you can see the accident about to happen, but you're too far away to help?  Darius begins to realise that he's not in control. There's nothing he can do, because he doesn't reign. But look at v.16, not only does Darius realise that he doesn't reign, certainly for the first time in his life, he begins to hope that the God of Daniel does reign, v.16… That evening the king can't eat. That night the king can't sleep. With his own ring he knows that he's sealed Daniel into the lions' den, he drove the nail into his coffin. And nothing can save him, unless… Unless the God of Daniel really does reign. And so next morning, v.19, Darius runs to the lion's den. And hoping beyond hope, he calls out to Daniel, (v.20b)… Do you see what's happened? Not only has Darius realised that he does not reign, now h is pinning all his hopes on the fact that the God of the Bible does reign! And Daniel answers, "O king, live for ever!" And finally look at v.25-27… That is the joy of realising that God reigns.

It's not an easy journey. It starts with the humiliating step of admitting that you are not in control and that you do not reign, even over your own life. But you have to acknowledge that before you can realise that God reigns. Yet when you acknowledge that God reigns, and when you discover what an amazing and loving God he is, well… That is the joy of realising that God reigns.

And it leaves us with just one more thing to see in this passage. As we follow the court officials through this story, finally we see…

3) The Danger of Denying that God reigns

Back in v.4 we saw how the administrator and satraps began to hate Daniel because he finds favour in Darius' eyes. They want to rule. And so, as we've seen, they hatch a plan to get rid of Daniel. They devise a way to flatter the king into making a law that they know Daniel will break and which will have him killed. It's called conspiracy to commit murder. And they are ok with that because they think they can do what they like. They don't believe in God and so they think they are accountable to no one. They can do whatever they like and get whatever they want. Why? Because they think that they rule their own lives. They think that they reign. But they don't.

The plan comes together, Daniel is caught in the trap and Darius has no choice but to throw him to the lions. But then God rescues Daniel, because God reigns. And after Daniel has been pulled up out of the lions' den, in v.23, look at what we read in v.24… It is a devastating scene. And that is the danger of denying that God reigns. The sobering truth is that if you deny God and live your life acting as if you reign and that he doesn't exist. Well then, you may live your life in blissful defiance… But the Bible tells us that when you die you will stand before the God you have denied and you will have to pay the price for your rebellion.  That is the danger of denying that God reigns.

Is that a risk you are willing to take? Is that a danger you're willing to expose yourself and your family to? You probably know the story of King Canute, or at least you probably think you do. The story that most people know is that King Canute once ordered for his throne to be set up on the beach so that he could command the waters not to rise believing that even the sea would obey him. Well, I don't know how that version of events became so famous, but let me read you the earliest record of what happened that day. It's from a book called The Chronicle of the History of England, written by Henry of Huntingdon in the 12th century. Here's what is says.

"When King Cnut had reigned for twenty years, he died at Shaftesbury and was buried in the ancient monastery at Winchester. About the power of this king a little should be stated. For no English king ever had such wide-ranging authority. For he was at once the lord of all Denmark, of all England, of all Norway, and also of  Scotland… …with the greatest vigour he commanded that his chair should be set on the shore, when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to the rising sea saying "You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord". But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked his feet and legs. Then he moving away said:  "All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and that none is worthy the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws". Therefore King Cnut never afterwards placed the crown on his head, but (put it) above a picture of the Lord nailed to the cross, turning it forever into a means to praise God, the great king."

How are you living your life? Are you still pretending that you're in charge? Then you are in danger of denying that God reigns. Are you reading to admit that you are not in charge, but that God is in charge? Then you will discover the joy of realising that God reigns. Or do you believe in your heart that God rules your life? Then enjoy the peace of knowing the God reigns.

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