Daniel's Faith And God's Providence At Work
There are many characters in the Bible that intrigue the human mind of the present economy. There are those who are mentioned many times and then there are faithful servants of whom we hear little about. As a youngster, I had a Bible with portraits scattered throughout the pages. I found myself going back to the scene of Daniel in the den of lions over and over. It was not to see what Daniel looked like, because even then I had been taught that modern portraits were without valid foundation. But the serene pose of a servant of God standing midst a violent army of starved, flesh eating animals was enough to make me stare for a while. I gazed with awe at a character, unafraid and waiting for deliverance. At the time I know I didn't understand the significance of it all, but it really took me back. Through the years I have found it comforting to spend some time getting to know this character better through the pages of the inspired record. And though being dead many years he has helped me become a better servant of the God of heaven.
The relationship between God and Daniel was one for every person to sit up and take notice of. Daniel from a child loved God with all his heart and soul. Jesus expressed this attitude to his disciples and for good cause. It was the very attitude of all who faithfully served Him. This scene in the lion's den really begins in the first chapter of Daniel where he was brought to Babylon with other Hebrew children to serve in a barbaric system far remote from what they had ever been accustomed to. Yet as a child, he brought with him more than hands to grind with and feet to trod with. He brought his undying faith in the Creator. His backbone and sense of loyalty to God earned him the position of leadership in a godless kingdom. The doors of opportunity were obvious on every hand and Daniel used them all to glorify his Master. With God's help he stood for his convictions, revealed the meanings of dreams and won the respect and admiration of men even in thresholds of great power. The king denied his own philosophers just to hear the words of the servant Daniel.
By the time chapter 6 comes to view, Daniel has seen plenty. He has survived the bungled leadership of Nebuchadnezzar and his son, and now finds himself under new management with new rules live by. Nevertheless, Daniel's purpose and convictions have remained unchanged and without compromise.
There are several points in chapter six that are especially interesting however. Darius was the king of a new empire, Medo-Persia. The laws of the new kingdom were brutal and discriminatory. Yet, Daniel through it all seemed to prevail. Being the chief of three presidents which held rank over 120 princes and other counselors, Daniel's faith was the most apparent. Out of jealousy the leaders under the king devised to destroy Daniel but knew that the only way they could be successful was to "find occasion concerning the law of his God."
Isn't it obvious the influence Daniel had on everyone? These men knew that Daniel was so faithful to God that he would never compromise his worship. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all Christians today influenced others in the same way. The boss would always know without doubt where his Christian employee would be when the saints were assembled. The coach would always know where Johnny would be when the saints were worshiping and would not fathom that he would show up to play when he could be worshiping with the saints. The keeper of the dock would know that the Christian's boat would be idle, that the Christian's golf clubs would be neatly tucked in the trunk of the car, and relatives would not question where there folks were during the time of worship. It would be understood by others that Christians are determined to serve God at all cost without compromise.
This was the case with Daniel and everyone knew it! After the king naively signed the decree that no one was to worship any person or object except the king for thirty days, Daniel just did as he always had done. He simply knelt in prayer where he had knelt yesterday and the day before. Daniel knew the consequences of violating the decree. But he knew more of the consequence compromising would have on all who esteemed him and the affect it would have on his Father in heaven.
This is one reason why I love Daniel and thank God for the example left to imitate. It is also interesting to note that the decree was only for thirty days. The law stated that a decree once signed by the king could not be changed. Yet this law would only last for thirty days. Daniel's enemies knew it would not take more than this to indict him. In fact they probably knew it would take no more than a day. Daniel's history had been proof of it. Daniel could have reasoned in his heart as many Christians do today. He could have looked at it as only thirty days that he would have to stop worshiping and then he could safely continue on as he had before. But it is obvious that Daniel's faith was so great that there was no room for one compromise in his life as a servant of the Lord.
How many Christians today would just sit it out for the thirty days and wait for a more convenient time to worship? This was not an eternal decree, just thirty days! What would thirty days hurt? I can hear the reasoning now. By the history of some, I am persuaded that the numbers would be few on the Lord's day if such a decree were signed today. However, there would be those few that would show up to worship and all who knew them would not be surprised because their lives have shown nothing short of determined faith and loyalty to the Lord. Yes, they would be thrown in the den of lions and possibly lose their lives, but only to live forever in the bosom of God. To many, compromise for thirty days would seem justified, but to God, Daniel and others like him, unacceptable.
Verse 20 reveals the influence Daniel had on the king. Darius said, "is thy God whom thou servest continually able to deliver thee from the lions?". Darius knew that Daniel was a servant of the Lord even in a kingdom that wanted nothing to do with his God. He had been impressed by the character of Daniel in such a way that he became almost submissive. The sleepless night and fasting was probably new for the king in such a situation. No doubt, countless people had been thrown to these lions before and no sleep was lost by the king in those cases, or at least that is my speculation. But Daniel was different. He went against everything that the king stood for spiritually and yet he was his closest confidant. He served the God of heaven among a world of pagan idols and still the king rejoices over his deliverance. You have to ask yourself, What kind of man can accomplish so much and influence so many? It is a man determined to serve the Lord, period!
Finally, Darius made comments which imply certain knowledge of specific details which pre-dated his reign. He called upon the people to tremble before the God of Daniel. He called him the "living God, steadfast forever". And made mention to the "kingdom which would never be destroyed" (v. 26). It is evident that the message of king Nebuchadnezzar's dream was known even by Darius. Because of Daniel's faith and influence the king issued a life-long decree, unchangeable. Talk about providence! Unknown to the king at the time that his kingdom was quickly fading away and about to enter the hands of another tyrant, he sought to glorify the Creator of all things as it should be.
I'm certain you have your favorite readings and passages to soak in at times, and this is one of mine. There are many servants to look to from days gone by as well as the present. Daniel is a hero of faith that will stand the test of time as one of God's beloved. I want to be that kind of servant, don't you?
By Tony Ripley
From Expository Files 6.2; February 1999