Daniel 6 (NIV)
Narrator: 6.1 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3Now 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. 4At 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 …
120 Satraps: 5 “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
Narrator: 6So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king …
120 Satraps: “May King Darius live forever! 7The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
Narrator: 9So King Darius put the decree in writing. 10Now 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. 11Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree:
120 Satraps: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”
King Darius: … “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
120 Satraps: 13 … “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.”
Narrator: 14When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
120 Satraps: 15 … “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
Narrator: 16So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den …
King Darius: “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
Narrator: 17A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.19At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice,
King Darius: “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
Daniel: 21 … “May the king live forever! 22My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
Narrator: 23The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. 25Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
King Darius: “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. 27He 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.”
Narrator: 28So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian
- Do you have a habit, routine, or practice that you would never stop doing no matter the consequences?
In Daniel’s story, we see there was something Daniel would never stop doing, not matter what.
As we live as disciples of Jesus, we are given resources, sometimes people call them spiritual practices or disciplines, that deepen and grow our relationship with God. These practices are things like prayer and reading the Bible, but they can also include fasting or practicing generosity. In Daniel’s story we his commitment to spiritual practices and how they can have significance beyond our own spiritual growth.
Daniel has a lot in common with other stories we have looked at this summer. Like Joseph, Mordecai, and Esther, Daniel is an Israelite living in an unfamiliar culture who winds up rising through the ranks and being trusted with surprising authority and power. Daniel stays faithful to the ways God called him to live, and he was used by God to make a difference in his new place.
Most Bible scholars agree Daniel was one of the last Old Testament books that was written. These stories and prophecies of Daniel and his friends were probably intended to encourage people who were living in exile.
I can’t think of a more anxiety and sadness producing experience than the exile … Imagine being snatched away against your will from your home … from your family … You have no idea when you will be able to go home … and if you do finally get to go home, you know most everything that was familiar has been destroyed. The markers of your identity are taken away … language … government … traditions … favorite foods … maybe even your name has been changed … And then to top it all off, in Daniel’s case, the king who is in charge of everything is weak and driven by the whims of the people around him.
The Israelite exiles were stuck. They had to figure out what it looked like to live faithfully when so much that was key to their faith and identity had been taken from them. Israelite spiritual practices would catch attention and make them look strange. Sometimes Israelites had to choose which practices they would hold on to, which practices would continue to shape their identity, and which ones they would abandon to help them fit in. Sometimes whoever was in charge would make laws forcing Israelites to choose between keeping the practices that marked them and nurtured their relationship with God, or obeying the law of the land. The Israelites had to figure out where to draw the line.
How much could they compromise and still live faithfully?
How far could they bend to accommodate their new culture?
Where would they have to stand up and take a risk?
One of the questions I ask when I study scripture is, “Who changes in this story?” This question can help me to look at a familiar story from a different perspective … maybe even to see that the person I thought the story focused on is different from what I first thought, or that the point of the story is bigger than I assumed.
So often we look at Daniel and only see the part where Daniel is faithful and God is faithful back –this is a big deal and important to our faith, but there is another piece to the story here, there is a part of the story that points us toward change.
So, who changes in this story?
I don’t think it is Daniel.
It is Daniel’s not changing that actually gets him into trouble.
Daniel was exceptional. He was faithful to God. He was honest, trustworthy, upstanding, and responsible. The king couldn’t find anyone like him and planned to put Daniel in charge of the whole kingdom.
The satraps, these provisional local governors, grew jealous of Daniel. They knew they would never find a weakness in Daniel’s character, so they decided to use his character and his faith, his strengths, against him. The satraps approached the king with a plan to trap Daniel. It wasn’t difficult to manipulate King Darius into approving a law that for the next month, anyone who prayed to someone other than the king, would be thrown into the lion’s den.
The satraps set up a conflict between King Darius’ law and God’s law.
Daniel was stuck in the middle.
It was a contest. The jealous satraps bet Daniel would honor God’s law before anything else. Even when so much was at stake, Daniel wouldn’t bend to any law that would undermine his dedication to God.
In his commentary on Daniel, John Goldingay writes,
The Torah prescribes the offering of sacrifices twice a day, at dawn and dusk, and these sacrifices would be accompanied by prayer; most Israelites wouldn’t be present for the sacrifices, but they could naturally make those times for prayer. Praying three times a day shows how Daniel is committed beyond anything you could call a legal requirement” (John Goldingay “Daniel and the Twelve Prophets for Everyone,” Kindle Locations 711-712).
Daniel was devoted to God, above and beyond the required practices.
Daniel would rather die than compromise his relationship with God.
They bet Daniel wouldn’t change.
They were right.
So, who changes in the story?
King Darius was weak. His advisors were crafty and manipulated him into doing something he would regret. When Darius realized his decree would hurt Daniel he was troubled. He tried to figure out a way to save Daniel. But the satraps insisted Darius couldn’t change the decree. (Maybe this is a sign of his weakness and the ridiculous position he put himself in.) Finally, Darius gave the order. Daniel was thrown into the pit with all those hungry lions. And Darius (kind of) prayed for Daniel, “May the God whom your serve continually (the one you wound up in this mess because you are so devoted to) rescue you.”
Darius couldn’t eat. He couldn’t stand any entertainment. That night he tossed and turned and couldn’t sleep.
At the first sign of morning King Darius hurried to the lions’ den. Near the den, he called out, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
Daniel answered that yes, the God he served continually, had rescued him. The lions didn’t eat him. The means of judgement hadn’t harmed him, in fact this was a sign he was innocent before God and even before King Darius. Darius was moved. He got Daniel out of the pit and he made an interesting affirmation of faith –
“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. 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 6.26-27 NIV).
King Darius changes from someone who is weak and lets other people speak for him, to someone who actually sounds faithful to God, who makes his own commitment, and breaks his own unbreakable decree by calling his whole kingdom to honor and revere David’s God.
Daniel teaches that faithful living matters. Daniel is steadfast in his commitment to God, even though it puts him in danger. Faithful living makes a difference, and it even gets the king’s attention and leads the king to something like a faith commitment. Daniel’s faith practices help him to keep his faith, but they are bigger than that and wind up making a difference in someone else’s life.
I hadn’t noticed before how Daniel’s commitment to God is revealed in his spiritual disciplines and how his commitment to these faithful practices that nurture his relationship with God are what get him into trouble. That is such a challenge for me, Daniel would rather risk death than stop praying or worshiping God. So often when I get busy or stressed out, the first things I compromise are spiritual disciplines. When there is a lot to do, I often will accommodate to busyness and catch myself praying less, reading the bible less, making worship a lower priority … maybe you have noticed yourself giving less time to spiritual disciplines when you are busy.
When Daniel experienced pressure and stress, he held tightly to his faith practices. For Daniel, prayer and worship even turn out to be acts of resistance … acts of commitment to God when there is pressure to turn away from God.
This story encourages us that faithfulness to God matters. Even in the midst of threats and pressure, faithfulness is worth it. Faithfulness makes a difference.
One of the claims, this story makes on us, one of the things Daniel’s example points us toward, is the significance of the spiritual disciplines that connect us with God and deepen our relationship with God.