Lessons from the Lion’s Den

Daniel 6

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
August 2018

Today, we come to one of the best-known stories in the OT.  Many have never heard of Nebuchadnezzar’s gigantic statute dream, but everyone had heard of this chapter.  Every child knows this story.  You may wonder what could possibly be said on this story that you have not already heard before.  Today, we will be looking at ten powerful lessons from this story which apply to all of us.

Let’s quickly summarize the chapter.  What happens in this chapter?   A new king takes over.  There’s a new sheriff in town.  Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar are gone.  Darius and Cyrus are in.  The Babylonians are out, and the Persians are in.  When they get power, they reorganize and put three people at the top.  Daniel is one of them, but he is so good at his job that Darius wants to make him number one.  He wants to give him a promotion.

The other two presidents get jealous.  They try to get rid of Daniel.  They look for a way to accuse him but can’t find anything.  He obeyed all of the laws, so they come up with a brilliant plan.  They came up with a way they could FORCE him to disobey a law.

To do it, they had to use his religion against him.  They had to use his prayer life against him.  That would not work against most people today, but it worked against Daniel.  It got him thrown into the lion’s den.  They did not force people to pray but if they did pray, they had to pray to Darius.  They knew that Daniel was a praying man and they knew that he would NEVER pray to Darius, not even for thirty days and they were right.

The king got tricked into signing the law but, once it was signed, he couldn’t do anything about it.  The Persians were not absolute monarchs.  They were not above the law, like the Babylonians were.  That is why they were silver kings, not gold kings.  They did not have as much power.  They had a constitutional monarchy.

Once a royal decree was issued, it could not be revoked, so Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den.  The den is sealed.  The king feels terribly.  He is angry with the other two presidents for tricking him, but he does not have a choice.  He doesn’t eat or sleep.  The king checks on him in the morning and is amazed to find him still alive.  He gets him out and punishes the other two presidents and their wives and children.

Ten Powerful Lessons for Today

What does this story say to us today?  The modern church has made this just a story for children, but it is too graphic and violent for children.  It is pretty gory.  It ends with innocent people being killed.  It ends with wives and children, not only thrown into the lion’s den, but torn to shreds.  Their bones are crushed before they even hit the ground (Daniel 6:24).

What are the applications for us today?  This chapter has some for us from the life of Daniel.  We want to look at ten powerful lessons for us from this chapter.

1. If you want to please God, don’t hide your faith.

You don’t have to be rude and obnoxious, but you should be open about your faith.  It should not be a secret.  Many people try to be secret believers.  Jesus said that if we are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us (Mark 8:38).  Daniel did not try to hide his faith.  He prayed with the window open.  He let people see him praying.  We do not have to do that today.  In fact, Jesus said, “When you pray, shut the door.”

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6 NIV).

2. If you want to please God, serve Him all of your life.

This is interesting.  Daniel was on fire when he was young.  When he was a teenager in the first chapter, he refused to eat the king’s food and God blessed him.  Many people start well but they do not end well. Daniel was in his eighties and he was still serving God.  In fact, he still worked.  He was not even retired.  In America, we retire at sixty-five.  Daniel is in his eighties and he is still working and still using his spiritual gifts. He still sees God work miracles in his life and he still has a testimony with unbelievers.

3. If you want to please God, live a life of integrity.

Daniel was a man of integrity.  There are not too many people today that have this today.  Daniel was a politician and there are few politicians today that have integrity.

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. (Daniel 6:4 NIV)

This is very convicting.  If someone was looking to criticize you, would they have valid grounds?  They looked for grounds to charge Daniel but they could not get any dirt on him.  He was loyal to the king.  He did not badmouth the king behind his back.  He did a good job at work.  He was not lazy.

He did not come to work late.  He was honest.  He was dependable.  He was reliable.  He was conscientious.  He was gifted.  He did not have a criminal record.  He had never been arrested.  He didn’t get a bunch of speeding tickets.  He was moral.  He was not a womanizer.  He did not steal from the king.  He paid his taxes.  He could not be bribed.

He was not sinless, but he was blameless, the same qualification which is used of elders in the NT (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7) but it should also be true of every Christian.  Does it describe you?  Are you blameless?

4. If you want to please God, demonstrate excellence at work.

Daniel did not just excel at dream interpretation and prophecy.  He excelled in his job.  He did an excellent job at work and he worked for unbelievers.  He worked for foreign pagan kings who worshipped idols.

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. (Daniel 6:3 NIV)

Daniel was one of three presidents and he was so good, Darius wanted him to be over the other three.  He was the best one.  If you gave him a job to do, he did it better than anyone else.  He was an over achiever.  We should serve our employers and if we were serving the Lord.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

What does your job performance at work look like?  Do we stand out to our employers?  How many of us do a mediocre job at work? Daniel stood out.  He had “an excellent spirit” in him, as the KJV says (cf. Daniel 4:8; 5:11; 6:3). There was something different about him.  People could tell.

5. If you want to please God, spend time alone with God.

Daniel’s secret was his private devotional life.  Daniel was one of the great men of prayer in the Bible.  Prayer was a big part of his life.  We learn some important things when we look at Daniel’s prayer life.

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).

Daniel’s Personal Prayer Practice

1) Daniel prayed in a specific place

He prayed upstairs.  He prayed in the same room.  It was on the second floor.  It was by a window.  Do you have a specific place to pray?  He did.

2) Daniel prayed on a regular basis

He did not pray like many people.  Many only pray in a time of crisis.  It is not wrong to pray to God in a time of trouble.  God tells us to do that (Psalm 50:15) but it is wrong to only pray during that time.  Daniel prayed every day, not just when there was a crisis,  and he did that for years.  His prayer was not occasional but regular.  He prayed daily, not because he had to but because he loved to pray.  He had a personal relationship with God and enjoyed daily communion and fellowship with Him.

3) Daniel prayed in a persistent manner

He did not just pray once a day.  He prayed three times a day.  Many Christians today barely pray once a day.  He prayed three times a day (morning, noon and night).  Daniel must have been extremely busy.  He had a top government job, but he found the time to leave his office and go home and pray.  We are not told how long he prayed.  It doesn’t say he prayed three hours each time, but he prayed three times a day.

4. Daniel prayed in a specific posture

He prayed kneeling.  He was in his eighties but still prayed on his knees three times a day.  He must have had some good knees.  I recommend buying a good prayer mat.  It is true that God can hear you regardless of your posture in prayer but often your physical posture reflects your inward attitude.  Kneeling shows humility.  It shows submission.

5. Daniel prayed in a specific direction

He prayed facing Jerusalem.  He prayed in the direction of the old temple.  Should Christians do that today?  Do we need to pray to Jerusalem?  We do not need to do that.  There is no command for us to pray in a particular direction.  The only direction we pray is up.

Now, when Jews were kicked out of the land, they were told to pray toward the temple (I Kings 8:33-34; II Chronicles 6:24-25), because God’s presence was located in the Temple, but the Temple was destroyed.  It is gone.  God no longer dwells in temples.

That is why Jesus says in John 4 that true worshippers are not people who worship in this place or that place geographically but are people who worship “in spirit and in truth.”  You don’t have to take a pilgrimage to Mecca or Jerusalem to worship.  You don’t have to pray in a particular direction to get God to listen to you.

Prayer was important to Daniel, but it was not the only thing he did.  Daniel was also a Bible student and we can prove that.  In fact, his Bible study only led him to pray even more.

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:1-3 NIV)

Here Daniel read the book of Jeremiah and it led him to prayer.  When did he do this?  In the first year of Darius (about the same time frame we are dealing with in Daniel 6).

6. If you want to please God, don’t compromise your faith.

Daniel had a chance to compromise his faith.  He was told that he could not pray to anyone but Darius.  How did he respond?

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).

When he learned about the law, what did he do?  He didn’t call his lawyer, he prayed to God. He could have compromised in a number of ways.  He could have tried to pray silently.  He could have prayed out loud but shut the window, so no one heard or saw him.  He could have prayed in a different room.  He could have followed the law, since it only involved thirty days.  It was only temporary, but he refused to compromise his faith.  Daniel would rather die than miss one prayer meeting.

7. If you want to please God, expect to encounter opposition.

II Timothy 3:12 says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted” (NIV).

This is a promise.  If you follow God, you will be watched, and you will be persecuted.  That’s what they did to Daniel.  Daniel encountered opposition.  He encountered persecution.  Daniel was persecuted for his prayer ministry.  Very few people would be persecuted for this today

He not only had enemies, he had people who HATED him, and these were people at work.  These were his co-workers.  They were his colleagues.  They did not just want to get him in trouble or get him fired.  They wanted to get him killed.  Why did they hate him?  Jealousy.  Jealousy is a serious sin.  People kill out of jealousy.

Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego experienced persecution in Daniel 3.  They were thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to a gigantic image.  Where was Daniel?  No one knows but he did not get off.  He faced persecution as well.  He is thrown in the lion’s den in Daniel 6.  Daniel did not just face one lion but a den of hungry lions.

8. If you want to please God, you may need to do some radical things.

In this chapter, we not only see Daniel the prayer warrior, we see Daniel the lawbreaker.  He commits civil disobedience.  He broke a law deliberately, intentionally and without apology.  He prayed.  This was a defiant prayer.  Daniel prayed when it was against the law to pray.

Christians are supposed to obey the law.  Romans 13:1 says that we are to submit to the governing authorities.  We are commanded to obey the government in power.  There is one exception.  Any time you are given a choice between obeying God and obeying the government, we are to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).

This is the second time in Daniel we have seen this.  Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego disobeyed a Babylonian law.  Daniel disobeyed a Medo-Persian law.  They did not just disobey these laws because they did not like them and thought they were bad laws.  They disobeyed them because they commanded them to sin.  Both times, they accepted the consequences of their actions.

9. If you want to please God, expect to see him work in your life.

Daniel saw God work a miracle in this chapter.  God shut the mouth of hungry lions.  God is not only sovereign over nations, and kings, He is sovereign over the animal kingdom.  God kept Daniel alive that night and controlled the lions.  We are not always delivered from death.  Many Christians in ancient Rome were fed to the lions and died.

We may not encounter a real angel, like Daniel did but we should see God work in our life.  We should see real miracles.  We should see our prayers answered.  We should see God do amazing things in our life. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Daniel is pictured as one of the great men of faith.  He is mentioned in the Faith Hall of Fame in the NT and we should be people of great faith as well.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (Hebrews 11:32-34 NIV)

10. If you want to please God, you will make an impact on those around you.

If you are salt and light, if you have a good testimony, people will be affected.  Darius saw what God did through Daniel and he was affected.  He witnessed the miracle in the lion’s den and became a believer. Nebuchadnezzar issued a negative decree.  Darius issues a positive decree.

Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: “May you prosper greatly! 26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

“For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 27 He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:25-27 NIV)

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