Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries



Politics in the Lion's Den  audio (7MB) (NB this audio is from the 2pm Mandarin service and currently includes the Mandarin translation)
Daniel 6

It feels like every time we turn on the TV we're reminded that the world is full of conflict.  Some conflicts are small, but many are huge.  Some conflicts are so big they involve entire nations, even the whole world.  If you turn on the TV tomorrow morning at 5:00am you'll see one of those nation, in fact world-wide conflicts.  Argentina and Germany are facing off against each other to see who will claim the World Cup!  Throughout Daniel we’ve seen a more important conflict being waged, the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man.  The conflict continues on multiple fronts in Daniel 6, between the people of the kingdoms, between their laws, and between the Kings themselves.


As we saw at the end of last week, Darius the Mede has conquered the Babylonian empire.  As he begins to take over his vast new kingdom he makes some sensible changes.  He sets up a new leadership structure.  He appoints one hundred and twenty satraps to administer different regions, to enforce law and order, and to collect taxes.  And over them he appoints three presidents, including Daniel.  And we read in verse 3, that Daniel distinguishes himself above all the rest.  That’s no surprise to us, throughout the book Daniel seems to be the only person who knows how to do his job!  His outstanding character, his faithfulness and his dedication have been clearly displayed.  Darius observes all this and plans to appoint Daniel to be in charge of the whole kingdom. 

But there’s a few people who aren’t happy at this news.  The other presidents, and at least some of the satraps are threatened.  They feel Daniel’s promotion equates to their demotion.  They can’t celebrate his success.  So instead, they begin to plan his downfall.  They begin by digging into Daniel’s life, trying to find something to use against him.

But there’s a problem.  Despite their best efforts they can’t find anything incriminating!  Daniel’s been completely faithful in his duties.  He’s not been negligent or corrupt.  He’s the very model of a public servant.  Late in the exile the prophet Jeremiah brought this message from God:

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.  (Jer. 29:7)

It’s clear that Daniel has been doing this from day one.  He’s been faithful serving God by faithfully serving those in power in Babylon.  There’s nothing the other presidents can accuse him off in regards to his service to the King Darius.  What a great testimony to have!  What a great example Daniel is to us, to as Peter says:

Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. (1 Peter 2:12)

The conflict between Daniel and the other presidents and satraps is no real contest.  Daniel’s faithfulness to God means his life is above reproach, while the conduct of those who live for themselves is hardly admirable. 

The other presidents aren’t able to find any fault in Daniel’s conduct or behaviour, but they’re not deterred.  They know there’s another avenue.  They say, ‘we shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel, unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.’ (v5)  And so they begin to conspire.  They concoct a plan to trap Daniel between his obedience to the kingdom of God and his obedience to the kingdom of man.

Then they begin to put their plan in motion.  It’s a simple plan that involves making a new law.  They begin by sidling up to Darius, buttering him up as they go, ‘O King Darius, live forever!  Why don’t you make a law that no one can pray to any one, divine or human, except for you for a month.’  On the face of it, it seems like a great idea and must’ve been appealing!  Enforcing religious uniformity will help unify the kingdom that Darius has just taken over.  And it’s a good litmus test of people’s loyalty.  Plus, it’s pretty flattering to have people praying to you.  They probably weren’t trying to deify Darius.  They were more likely setting him up as the high-priest, the one an only mediator between god and man.  It’s still pretty appealing.

And did you notice how else they tried to sell the idea?  They said, ‘all the presidents, the prefects and the satraps, the counsellors and the governors are agreed this is a good idea.’  Did you notice they lie here?  It’s unlikely they’ve been in contact with all those officials and there’s no way that Daniel was on board with their plan!

But the King doesn’t notice and he buys it.  He’s so enticed that he doesn’t even object to their suggestion that he sign the document according to the law of the Medes and Persians.  It’s set in stone.  The trap is set.  The conflict between the law of God and the law of man has been setup.  What will Daniel do?

Daniel could’ve taken the easy way out.  He could’ve taken a month off from prayer.  He could’ve prayed in private, where no one could see.  He could even have [Pause for a minute here] prayed in the privacy of his own head, as I just did, and no one would be the wiser!  But Daniel sees things differently.  He knows there’s a lot on the line in this conflict.  So, despite the danger, Daniel continues to go to the upper room in his house and prays three times a day to God.  Daniel knows the Psalms, including Psalm 119, which we read out today.  

110The wicked have laid a snare for me,

but I do not stray from your precepts.

Daniel’s determined not to be deterred.  He prays with the window open and facing Jerusalem, as a sign of his hope that God’s city and God’s temple will be restored.  He demonstrates how we should respond in situations like this.  Whenever there’s a conflict between the law of the land and the law of God, we ought to ‘obey God rather than any human authority’ (Acts 5:29).  If the law of the land hinders us from loving God with our whole heart, and from loving our neighbour as ourselves, we ought to obey the law of God.

The conspirators weren’t in any doubt over what Daniel would do.  They knew when and where Daniel would be praying and they easily bust him.  They’re overjoyed their plan has worked!  But they’re cunning.  First they say to the King, ‘Didn’t you make a law that no one can pray to anyone but you, unless they want to be lion food?’  They get Darius to affirm that the law stands fast and cannot be revoked.  They trap the King so that he doesn’t have a way out.  It’s only then that they let fly with their accusations!  Daniel’s shown how untrustworthy he is by ignoring the King’s law and praying to God!  What’s worse, he’s been doing this three times a day!  This isn’t an innocent mistake, it’s wilful disobedience, an act of rebellion!

Darius doesn’t see it like this.  Immediately he realises his mistake.  He’s allowed himself to be duped by the satraps and presidents.  They’d never really had his best interests, or those of his kingdom at heart.  They only wanted to get rid of Daniel.  But it’s obvious that Darius considers Daniel a friend.  He labours in vain to find a way to save Daniel.  He gets his experts to see if there’s a way around the law, a loophole they can exploit to save Daniel.  The clock is ticking, because according to Oriental tradition, a sentence must be carried out on the day the accusation is made.

But in the end there’s nothing the King can do, despite all his efforts and all his power and authority.  Darius ‘advisors’ rub the King’s impotence in when they remind him that the law stands, it’s irrevocable.  The King’s hands are tied, all his power amounts to nothing.  So reluctantly he orders the sentence to be carried out.  But as Daniel’s lowered into the lions’ den Darius does the only thing he can.  He turns to God and he prays.  Darius knows that he’s powerless to save Daniel, so he says ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’  Then Darius goes home and has a restless night.  He fasts, from food and sleep!  You can picture him there worrying about Daniel, wondering if the lion’s have torn him to shreds or if God has managed to save him.

At the first hint of light the King rushes out to the tomb.  He calls out anxiously, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God been able to deliver you where I couldn’t?’  Then there’s a pause, which must’ve felt like an eternity.  But then Daniel replies!  He’s alive!  He calls out calmly and clearly, ‘O King, live forever!’  Then he explains what’s happened, ‘my God sent his angel and shut the lion’s mouths so that they would not hurt me.’  And then Daniel gives his only defence, ‘because I was found blameless before him, and also before you, O King, I have done no wrong!’  Despite the accusations, Daniel is innocent.  He’s survived his trial by ordeal.  In fact, when Daniel is brought up there’s not a scratch on him.  He’s completely unharmed.  The conspirators don’t fare as well.  According to Persian law, the King orders that they, and their wives and children are thrown to the lions.  Before they even hit the bottom we read they’re torn apart.  The lions clearly were hungry! 

I wonder if the book of Daniel, and this chapter in particular has reminded you of another story?  Not the story of Snow Bear and Scruffy Dog that we heard in the kids talk.  There’s another story, of another man who was completely innocent, but who was falsely accused by his opponents.  Who faced trial and was punished.  Who was also placed in a tomb that was sealed by a stone.  That man didn’t escape death though, he faced it.  He did die, but then he rose again to new life!  That man, wasn’t just an ordinary man, he was God the Son.  He wasn’t just a servant of the King, he is God’s Chosen King!  He is the King who lives forever, who’s kingdom will never fall.  Did you notice that?  Throughout the chapter people address King Darius with the words ‘O King live forever,’ but in the end Darius confess that God is the true King, and that only God lives forever, that only God’s kingdom will never end.  In fact, in the end the conflict between the kings fizzles out.  Just as Nebuchadnezzar had done before, in the face of God’s amazing power, Darius writes to all the people, singing God’s praises.  He reverses his previous law, that everyone in his kingdom should tremble and fear the living God.  King Darius knows who the real power is.  It’s God alone who had the power to save Daniel.  It’s God alone who has the power to save his people.  

 Darius’ words are ones that we should pay remember.  Even in the darkest moments, whether it’s in the despair of exile, in the middle of a fallen world, or even at the bottom of the lion’s den, we’re to continue trusting in the living God.  The God who isn’t dead, who isn’t hopeless like the gods of stone and wood.  He is the living God.  We’re to trust in the King who died and who rose again, who lives no more to die. The living God who saves and rescues his people.  We’re to do what Daniel has done throughout his life – wholly and completely trust our whole being to the living God.  We’re to trust in Jesus!  Let’s pray, asking God to help us do just that.

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