Saved From the Lions: Daniel 6 (Sermon)
Hi, I am pastor Rob. It is great to worship with you.
Could I get a volunteer? Thanks. Can you wear this? This is a target. My kids use it for archery. Don’t worry. In high school, I ran track and cross-country. We would envision runners in front of us wearing targets and try to shorten the distance. Imagine running with this on. That would be uncomfortable. You can take the target off and have a seat. Being at the head of the pack doesn’t mean everyone likes you or supports you. Sometimes it means people will be out to get you. We never cheated, but in the history of competitive sports, people have. In cross-country, you can elbow people, or if you were really bad you can spike your opponent. Here are L. A.’s spikes. Check them out after the service. They are long. Underhanded tactics are not limited to sports, they happen at work, school, and in the home.
What if you were the one succeeding, and those closest tried to make you look bad? What if people slandered you? What if people threatened you? Today, we will hear of such an event. The story connects to the melodic line or big idea of the book of Daniel. Can anyone tell me our melodic line? (Don’t look at the bulletin.) Just shout it out. Great. That is it. Kingdoms rise and fall, remain faithful to the king who rules over all. This phrase is key to Daniel and our story today.
We will be reading Daniel chapter 6. Last week we saw four scenes. This morning there are six. Verses,
Let me say those again for anyone taking notes. I will also have a link on our weekly email if you just want to re-read it then.
I have asked R.S. to read for us. Would you all follow along starting at the beginning?
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Daniel 6:1–3)
Thank you, R. Let’s pray.
Dear, God. We need you. May the Words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts be pleasing to you. You are our Rock and Redeemer. AMEN.
OVERVIEW - CHAPTER 1
Do you remember chapter 1? The year was 605 BC. The Babylonians conquered Israel and enslaved four young boys: Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego. They forced them to travel 900 hundred miles to Babylon. The four, along with others, trained for three years to serve the king. In the end, these four stood out as superior to their peers. They got the job.
OVERVIEW - CHAPTER 2
In chapter 2, the king had a reoccurring dream. It was disturbing. He wanted his advisors to tell him what it was and what it meant. His staff balked. They collectively told the king, no one could do that but the gods. The king was livid. What was he paying them for? He ordered their death. They would be torn limb from limb. Daniel heard about this and agreed he couldn’t tell the king his dream or give its meaning. But his God could, and his God would. So, by God’s power, Daniel gave the king an answer. The dream was about a statue, and the King was the golden head. Daniel’s interpretation saved the lives of all the wise men and secured for himself and his three friends’ promotions.
OVERVIEW - CHAPTER 3
In chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar made a ninety-foot statue made out of gold. He ordered everyone to bow down and worship it. Not everyone did. Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego disobeyed this new law to follow God’s law. The three’s co-workers saw their opportunity for advancement. They reported this infraction. The king investigated and sentenced them to death. Miraculously, God saved them. The king subsequently put them back in their positions.
OVERVIEW - CHAPTER 4
In chapter 4, the king had a different dream. Daniel interpreted again, yet its’ meaning was ominous. Daniel told the king he needed to repent of pride, or else. The king didn’t. After twelve months, God brought the king down. Years later, the king repented, and God restored him to his throne.
OVERVIEW - CHAPTER 5
In chapter 5, we read about the king’s son. He, too, had a pride problem. He had forgotten what had happened to his dad. You see, Belshazzar threw a party using holy objects from the Temple in Jerusalem to worship various idols. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). So God sent Belshazzar a message. The king asked Daniel to interpret this message about his prideful sacrilegious desecration. Daniel did. God was telling the king his time was up, and someone killed him that night. The Babylonian empire was no more.
Abruptly, in chapter 6, we learn a new kingdom was in power: the Medes and Persians. Darius, the king, appointed 120 Satraps to govern the land. Over those, he appointed three: Daniel being one of them. Daniel distinguished himself as he did in chapters 1, 2, and 4. In verse 3, we learn Darius planned to promote him again. This is Daniel’s third king he has served, and he is about seventy years old. This promotion is the impending cause of jealously. One thing we will see today is: God is the great deliverer stopping the mouths of lions and is worthy of trust and obedience. Let me say that again. God is the great deliverer stopping the mouths of lions and is worthy of trust and obedience.
Let me show you. I have asked J.S. to read the next verses for us, starting at verse 4. Please follow along.
Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction. (Daniel 6:4–9)
Here we read about the high officials’ opposition to Daniel’s promotion. It is fascinating the only fault they could find was his “connection with the law of his God.” So they made him look bad by outlawing obedience to God. It was a dirty little trick.
Who was he going to obey, God or king? The stakes were high; his life was on the line. Would he compromise to save his skin? Perhaps he wrestled in his mind, “How could I help my people if I am dead? How could I be a positive influence on the Gentiles if I am eaten? His mind must have been swimming with a thousand excuses. Let’s keep reading and see what happens next. Look at verse 10.
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. (Daniel 6:10–11)
Daniel read the document stating, “That whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions,” and what did he do? He prayed. He didn’t just pray. He prayed in a semi-public way and prayed three times a day. Not only that, this was his habit before this new regulation. He wasn’t doing something to get attention or being contentious or being foolish. He was doing what he normally did. He prayed. He read this new mandate, and he prayed. Why?
I remember working at FedEx and being conscious of bowing my head at lunch in front of my computer. What would people think? It wasn’t illegal or against policy. Fred Smith, the CEO, was not going to get upset. My boss wouldn’t care. But, I struggled to pray. I was afraid of what people would think. Daniel was not. He was brave, and he prayed.
Note he prayed in the direction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was where God had commanded Solomon to build the temple. The Jews called Jerusalem the city of God, Zion. Daniel prayed in that direction. Why? If you have your Bibles, turn to 1 Kings chapter 8, and we will see why starting at verse 46. King Solomon was praying for his ancestors.
1 KINGS 8
“If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them. (1 King 8:46–50)
Daniel obeyed verse 48 of 1 Kings chapter 8 when he prayed toward Judah, Jerusalem, and the Temple.
Also, notice in Daniel 6, he got down on his knees. The Bible talks about praying while kneeling, standing (Mark 11:25), sitting (2 Samuel 7:18), laying (Psalm 66:4), and bowing (Psalm 138:2). Using our bodies in prayer and worship can help focus our hearts and minds. Why? Our bodies are connected to our souls. What we do affects our hearts, souls, and minds. For example, we tell our kids to bow their heads or fold their hands and pray before eating. Why? It helps them not play with their hands or be distracted by what is going on around them. My kids get their distractions, honestly. I am a distracted person too. I think Daniel had the habit of praying out loud. Verbalizing prayers helps focus one’s thoughts. Maybe that is why Daniel prayed out loud. What we do with our bodies connects to our souls. At men’s prayer, sometimes people kneel. I know a few people will raise their hands in worship. We don’t want to be a distraction to others, but I think at the same time, in prayer and worship, we are meeting the living God. If we can hoot and holler for our grandkids, or favorite big-10 football team, we certainly should be able to show some enthusiasm for our Creator and King. Using our bodies in prayer and worship can help us meet the Living God instead of going through the motions.
THREE TIMES A DAY
Also note, Daniel prayed three times a day. Psalm 55, verse 16, is a prayer of King David. He prayed,
But I call to God,
and the LORD will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
David prayed three times a day so did Daniel. He probably got this practice reading this Psalm. Do we have to pray three times a day? No. The Apostle Paul said we must pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Scheduled prayer makes prayer happen. Sometimes we need a schedule and order to keep us on track. We can have good intentions, but a plan and pattern can serve to make prayer happen. I find a commute is a good time to pray. I love praying when I run or go on walks. We have times at church to pray together (before, during, and after our service. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and in our small groups). We can and should also pray privately as Daniel did. We can have spontaneous times to pray and structured times in a group, and times by ourselves to pray.
WHAT DID HE PRAY? THANKS
That raises the question, “What did Daniel pray?” Do you remember? What did verse 10 say? He kneeled and thanked God. Is that what you would think he would have done after reading that new regulation? Is that what you would do? The New Testament teaches, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). Wow!
WHAT ELSE? PLEADING
That is not all he prayed. We read in verses 11 and 13 that he petitioned or plead to God. The NIV and New Living Translation say he asked God for help. (See Psalm 35, verses 11–18 for an example). It is okay to ask God to help. God commands us to (1 Peter 5:7). Why does he want us to ask for help? It is not for information; rather, it is for transformation. It develops our relationship with him. The Creator of the Universe wants a relationship with us. We must tell him what is on our hearts and minds and tell him regularly as Daniel did. Daniel 6 can help us pray.
Look at verse 12. I am going to have M.H. read for us.
Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. (Daniel 6:12–18)
I find it fascinating that the king could create a law that he could not revoke. Instead, he had to follow through. (The law was king; instead of the king was the law Lex Rex, not Rex Lex). The king realizing what this meant, “was distressed,” “set his mind to deliver Daniel,” and “he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.” He realized he could not deliver Daniel but hoped his God could.
This was quite a predicament. Imagine going to Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City. The sun has set. The lions haven’t eaten for days. They are hungry. They like people. They like the taste of people. You are in trouble with the law. You have a death sentence. The police lower you down into the pit. A light passes near the edge of the cavern. You look into the darkness. The eyes of these beasts glow. Their lumbering silhouettes and protruding ribs cages don’t comfort you. You are praying more than ever. Your heart is racing. You imagine them sinking their claws and teeth into your skin. You have only seconds before you are gone—what a horrible reality.
Let me draw this out more. Did you know males lions can grow up to ten feet long and weigh up to 550 pounds? They can run up to fifty miles per hour and jump thirty-six feet. Their claws are about an inch and a half long. Their bite can be the force of 650 pounds per square inch. Males daily eat sixteen pounds of meat. People are on the menu in Daniel chapter 6. These are not stuffed animals or man’s best friends. (https://www.lionworldtravel.com/news/who-knew-12-amazing-important-lion-facts)
This is the climax of the story we know so well. Look at verse 19. D.H. will read for us.
Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” (Daniel 6:19–22)
What happened? Daniel survived. God sent an angel to save him. God intervened. He preserved Daniel’s life. God is the great deliver stopping the mouth of the lions. That is amazing! Daniel was not bitter towards the king. He persevered. We can read Daniel 6 and learn about perseverance.
How did the persecuted church read this? Some would face a lion’s den themselves. How do you think they dealt with God choosing not to deliver them in their circumstances? The reader must have remembered that our delivering king hasn’t always delivered as we expect. I say that because God allowed Daniel to be enslaved, possibly made a eunuch, removed him from his family and his homeland for probably the rest of his life, decade after decade. He suffered slander, religious persecution, and death threats. So how did the persecuted church read this? They keep reading. Look at verse 23. I am going to have L.S. read for us.
Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,
for he is the living God,
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:23–28)
Why was Daniel not harmed? He was blameless (verse 22). He was innocent (vs. 22). That is what he told the king. Yet, that is not the only reason we see God’s deliverance. Why else did God save him? Look at verse 23. Daniel reflected and saw that God delivered him ultimately because he trusted. In the New Testament, it says by faith God shut the mouths of lions (Hebrews 11:33). What was this faith in? Was it in God’s deliverance from the mouths of the lions? Was it in God’s mercy? Was it in God’s justice? Was it in God’s power? Hebrews and Daniel point us back to our melodic line as the reason for Daniel’s faithfulness. The coming kingdom and coming king who rules over all (see Hebrews 11:13–16, 39) motivated Daniel’s trust and obedience.
The king went from being exceedingly upset to exceedingly glad, from sentencing Daniel to death for following God’s law to sentencing the legislators to death with their families. The reversal was stark. Darius called God.
“For he is the living God,
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth.”
God is the deliver when Darius couldn’t.
Why is this chapter here? We can learn about prayer from Daniel, yes. We can learn about perseverance from Daniel, yes. But more importantly, we see God on display fulfilling his promises in chapter 2 and raising up a new king and new kingdom that are not forever. This new king, with new laws, and a new kingdom will pass away, but God, his law, and his kingdom will never pass away. God is greater than any king in the whole world. God is the great deliver stopping the mouth of lions and is worthy of trust and obedience today. Who are you going to trust and obey? What will you do when you are slandered or stabbed in the back? Who will you run to when times are tough, or you are thrown to the lions? Trust in God. Maybe you struggle with that. That isn’t easy. Maybe you have trusted in yourself. Maybe you have not been blameless. Let me encourage you to run to the communion table. This morning, we have communion. It is a tangible demonstration of God’s love and forgiveness, and provision for broken people.
Let’s pray as the worship team comes up here to lead us in song.
Today we celebrate Jesus’s death and resurrection. The only way we can come before God is not our moral purity. It is by Jesus dying in our place. He gave his body and blood for you. Do you believe it? Maybe you have never thought of it that way. You have tried to live a good life and know you come up short. You admit this morning you have failed. You can be honest with yourself and us. We all have failed to live up to our own standards, let alone God’s. We are broken people. I am a broken person. Communion gives us an opportunity to repent. We can turn to God, be honest, and ask his forgiveness and help. The Bible says this is more than a tradition. This is a spiritual practice. Maybe you have sinned not just against God but against someone else here. Is there someone here you need to apologize to or make amends with? Let us pause and consider. We will reflect in song and ask God for forgiveness and the power to obey him moving forward.