The world keeps changing. There are always new ideas, new challenges, new battles to fight and new leadership to follow. Even when people welcome change and thrill with the idea of something new, we long for the security of something constant. We want to “hang our hats” on something dependable and stable.
The constant in the book of Daniel is Jehovah God. Kings come and go, kingdoms and empires come and go, but God’s faithful people continue to worship and serve the God who is the same – yesterday, today, and forever.
There is, however, a learning curve in the change of kingdoms from the Babylonian Empire to the Medo-Persian Empire. How will life be under King Cyrus and Darius the Mede? God has yet another opportunity to show His sovereignty. Daniel has yet another challenge to meet in adapting to a new regime. We have yet another dramatic story to enjoy. This is one of the most famous stories in Scripture. Certainly our children never tire of the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. We will see how it fits in with the larger story of the Jews’ 70-year stay in Babylon. There is a surprise connection between Daniel’s new position and the visit of the magi at the birth of Jesus! Scripture is amazing.
DAY ONE: DANIEL SERVED UNDER A NEW REGIME.
Read: Daniel 6:1-3
A. KING DARIUS’ IDENTITY IS DEBATED.
Those who would like to discredit the authenticity of the book of Daniel have suggested a problem here. Secular records do not mention a king by the name of Darius the Mede. The new empire is called the Medo-Persian Empire, and Cyrus is the king. Some have suggested that Darius is a man who was a trusted lieutenant of Cyrus whose common name was Gubaru. The name Darius could be some kind of title since other Persian rulers were also called Darius.
According to Babylonian inscriptions, Cyrus made Gubaru governor over Babylon after he conquered it. Cyrus often put great trust in his subordinates, giving them much leeway. For the purposes of rulership, Gubaru acted as a king in the province of Babylon. Daniel 9:1 said that he was made ruler, not that he became ruler by right of conquest or by some natural succession. In this verse, Gubaru is identified as a son of a Mede by birth.
B. DANIEL’S DIFFICULTY IS IDENTIFIED.
Darius was a competent administrator. He appointed 120 officials to serve under him to help him govern the former kingdom of Babylon. The ancient Annalistic Tablet of Cyrus stated that Gubaru “appointed governors in Babylon.” Then he appointed three men to be heads over the 120 officials. It was the responsibility of these three men to oversee the work of the officials, especially in the area of tax collection.
Daniel was one of these three supervisory officials. He performed so much better than the other two officials that the new king was pleased to make him superior over all of the others. This is amazing considering that Daniel was at least 80 years of age by this time. God’s spirit was giving him supernatural enablement. Of course, from a human standpoint, when one human being is promoted over others, there is always a risk of jealousy.
- How did the king describe Daniel’s performance as an administrator?
- What does scripture say about how we are to behave as an employee? (Colossians 3:23)
- What kind of reputation do you have at your workplace or volunteer job?
- Do you daily ask God for help in your performance?
- Have you ever experienced jealousy when someone was promoted over you? How did you or how will you overcome this kind of jealousy?
DAY TWO: DANIEL’S PROMOTION CAUSED JEALOUSY.
Read: Daniel 6:4-9
A. DANIEL WAS A TRUSTED EMPLOYEE.
Daniel was a man of absolute integrity. He was serving in a position that could have lent itself to bribes, kickbacks and deception. But his enemies could not find a single charge against him. He was one politician who had been impeccably honest.
B. DANIEL WAS A MAN OF PRAYER.
Just as Daniel had been faithful to his employer, he had also been faithful to his God. Some leading men decided to use this faithfulness against him. Perhaps they knew of his habit of praying three times a day at an open window with his face toward Jerusalem. This may have been as a result of the prayer of Solomon when the temple was dedicated. Solomon prayed:
“When they sin against you — for there is no one who does not sin – and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near, and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, ’We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly,’ and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name, then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.” (1 Kings 8:48-49, emphasis mine)
C. DANIEL’S ENEMIES DEVISED A PLOT.
These men decided to use Daniel’s devotion to his God as a weapon against him. They devised a plot and then obtained an audience with King Darius. They suggested that the king pass a decree that anyone who would make a religious request of any god or man except the king for thirty days should be cast into the lion’s den. This appealed to the king’s vanity. In effect it made him a god for 30 days.
The officials suggested that an immediate decree be written and signed. They counted on the king’s quick agreement before he had time to consider the wisdom of this kind of action. In the Medo-Persian Empire, a royal decree was irrevocable. The king was supposed to be inspired by the gods, and this made all royal decisions law. Once a decree was made and signed, not even the king could change it.
- On what character trait of the king did the success of this plot depend?
- On what character trait of Daniel did the success of this plot depend?
- How might Christians be put in this kind of dilemma today?
- Have you ever been persecuted because of the practice of your faith?
- What kinds of temptations does it bring to you when you face this kind of practice?
DAY THREE: DANIEL’S GOD WAS PUT TO THE TEST.
Read: Daniel 6:10-12
A. DANIEL SOUGHT GOD’S HELP.
When Daniel learned of the new decree, he promptly went to his home and prayed to his God for help. He continued his regular practice of praying a prayer of thanksgiving three times a day. What a wonderful practice to remind us of God’s ongoing blessing in our lives. We sing the song “Count Your Blessings,” and it always reminds us of where our focus should be each day of our lives. Life may be hard at times, but it is always filled with good things from God.
We may be a closet Christian and avoid some opposition or persecution from those around us. However, when we become a committed Christian who practices consistently the things that please God, there will be some conflict. Scripture promises that the world will hate us.
B. DANIEL’S ENEMIES ENTRAPPED HIM.
Daniel was very faithful in his prayer life. This is a wonderful characteristic to have as we serve God. It means that we have constant access to God’s wisdom and enablement. In this instance it meant that Daniel’s enemies would have a sure means to accuse him to the king. They did that very thing, and then asked the king to remember his decree. He is forced to enforce it by having the perpetrator thrown into the lion’s den.
- What was Daniel’s posture in prayer?
- By going into his home, was Daniel trying to hide his behavior?
- By asking for help in this persecution, God is now a player in this battle. It appears to be an unsolvable problem. On what character traits of God would Daniel depend by appealing to Him for help?
- What emotion is evoked in you when you face difficult or impossible troubles?
- We often don’t know how to pray in situations because we can’t see an acceptable solution. Memorize a promise from Jesus to use in hard times. (Matthew 5:11-12; 11:28-30; John 14:1-4; 27, etc.)
DAY FOUR: KING DARIUS DISCOVERED HIS DEEP DILEMMA
Read: Daniel 6:13-18
A. DANIEL’S ENEMIES PRESSED CHARGES.
Darius now realized that he had been manipulated into doing something he didn’t want to do. Daniel was his most loyal and capable official. A great deal of the success of his administration was dependent on Daniel. The king spent the whole day trying desperately and vainly to figure out how to get himself out of this mess. But there was no way. All decrees had to be carried out immediately (on the day they were decreed), so sundown brought the final order.
B. DARIUS PUT THE BURDEN ON DANIEL’S GOD.
Darius had no choice but to have Daniel cast into the lions’ den. Lions were common in this part of the earth. They often roamed wild and were greatly feared by the people. Some kings hunted lions for sport so they kept large pens of lions that were fed and attended until needed. Throwing people into the lion’s den was an easy way to execute people who were out of favor with the king or the government. It was a quick and brutal death.
Darius apparently had heard stories of the power and protection of Daniel’s God. The best he can do at this point is to call on this God to rescue him in light of the fact that Daniel has been found faithful continuously. We might wonder what he thought God would do as he witnessed the fierce and hungry lions that could hardly wait to pounce on this easy target.
- What characteristics do you see in King Darius in this whole story?
- Do you think Darius was operating from self-interest or did he genuinely care about Daniel’s fate?
- Darius put the burden on God to solve his problem. Do you think God was “obligated” to save Daniel because of Darius’s challenge or did He have other reasons for intervening?
- Sometimes we feel that God’s timing is too close! We want Him to send a solution before we have to suffer greatly. What is your typical emotion when you see disaster staring you in the face?
- One of the greatest verses in scripture is given by Paul when he says that God’s grace is sufficient for whatever comes into our lives (2 Corinthians 12:9). How does this verse give you peace to face hard situations in life?
DAY FIVE: GOD PROVED HIS SOVEREIGNTY ONCE AGAIN.
Read: Daniel 19-28
A. GOD SENT ANGELS TO PROTECT DANIEL.
God could have done any number of things in this situation. He could have caused all of the lions to die suddenly of some mysterious malady. He could have had them escape in some unexpected way when the door was opened. He could have had Daniel float up just out of reach of the animals. We could let our imaginations run away from us. But it is true that God has unlimited resources to carry out his will. In this instance he sent angels to protect Daniel. We don’t know exactly how they did this, but we do know that the mouths of the lions were shut.
B. KING DARIUS AWAITED THE OUTCOME.
After Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, the gate was sealed, so that no one could rescue Daniel. The end result is left in the hands of Daniel’s God.
The king spent a sleepless night waiting to see what would happen. He was so upset that he couldn’t eat or enjoy the evening’s planned entertainment. However, he seemed to have faith that a miracle could be accomplished. At the first sign of daylight, he went to the den and called Daniel’s name and asked if Daniel’s God had accomplished the impossible.
Only then did Daniel reveal his loyalty to God and to the king. He gave credit to his God for the miraculous deliverance. He spoke respectfully to this man who had ordered his death. Darius had Daniel lifted from the den and inspected. No wounds were found on him.
C. KING DARIUS PUNISHED THE OFFICIALS.
Darius had the plotting officials along with their wives and children thrown into the lion’s den as punishment for trying to kill a faithful government official and for trying to manipulate the king. The historian Herodotus and other ancient writers have revealed that Persian rulers executed all of a man’s relatives when a man committed a crime worthy of death. This was a protection on the life of the king so that disgruntled relatives might not attempt to assassinate the king in future years. These people were dropped into the den through the top and the lions ferociously attacked them. This emphasized the true miracle that had occurred.
D. KING DARIUS ISSUED A NEW DECREE.
Like King Nebuchadnezzar, Darius now issued a decree to the whole kingdom praising Daniel’s God. He emphasized the eternal kingdom of God and His power to do wondrous things on behalf of his faithful servants. The last verse is a summary statement acknowledging Daniel’s continuous service and success in the reigns of Darius and Cyrus.
- How had God prepared Daniel for such a severe trial as this?
- Do you think Darius truly believed that Daniel would survive? Why?
- What kind of person was Daniel that he could speak kindly and respectfully to a person who had ordered his death less than 24 hours earlier?
- How does Daniel remind you of Jesus Christ?
List the attributes that Darius attributed to God. Which ones give you comfort and courage?
This is one of the most magnificent stories in the Bible. We would wish that all of our trials would end in dramatic rescues with not a hair of our head harmed. We would wish that the end result would be that we continue to be prosperous and safe and live happily ever after. Things don’t always turn out that way. The constant in this story with our stories is that we serve the same God and His answers to our prayers are always in His wisdom to accomplish His greater goals in our lives and in the world. We must be like Daniel and simply put our needs in His hands and move forward with perfect peace.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK: God answers our prayers with either mercy or grace.
He can be trusted to accomplish the greatest good in our lives as we serve Him faithfully.
CHALLENGE: Begin a list of things for which you are thankful to God. Add one new thing three times a day for the entire week.
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