No Trash, Just Truth! - Proverbs 9:10 Ministries

Episode 106 - A Corrupt Political Agenda - Reading Between the Lions Part 6

September 27, 2021 Chris Paxson & Rose Spiller
No Trash, Just Truth! - Proverbs 9:10 Ministries
Episode 106 - A Corrupt Political Agenda - Reading Between the Lions Part 6
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we tackle another very familiar story in Scripture - Daniel in the Lion's Den. This story has been retold so many times and in so many "cutesy" ways that it has become more fairy tale than theology! But this is way more than a story of how God saved Daniel from getting eaten by lions. 

Daniel chapter 6 shows us that politics matter. They mattered for Daniel and the rest of the Jews at that time, and they matter for us now.  Many Christian brothers and sisters all over the world face persecution and discrimination every day. For us in the United States, it is a very new concept. A year and a half ago we would never have believed that the government would recommend closing our church doors to flatten the curve of a virus spread. What happens if they decide they want to do that again, for as long as they want to. What if they require vaccine passports to go to church? What if they decide you always have to wear a mask and can never sing in church? We would never have believed that in Canada people would be arrested and churches would lose their property because of government laws telling them they could not meet. Are we prepared to meet the obstacles and persecution that may be coming our way?

Episode 106 – A Corrupt Political Agenda

          Welcome back! Today we’re taking a look at Daniel chapter 6, the familiar story of Daniel in the lion’s den. A story, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the furnace, that is so familiar and told in so many cute ways, its almost become a fairy tale. This chapter forms another part of the chiastic literary structure we keep talking about. And just as a reminder, we put the chiasm from Daniel chapters 2-7 on the homepage of our website, www.proverbs910ministries.com so that you can see what we’re talking about. Chapter 6 shows God’s deliverance of His servant, Daniel, which lines up with chapter 3 showing God’s deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; something you’ll see if you look at the graphic on the website.

When we ended the last episode, King Cyrus of Persia (with the help of Darius the Mede) had captured Babylon and Darius was placed as ruler over Babylon. This is confirmed by historical records that we mentioned last time called the Nabonidus Chronicle, a clay tablet from that time that’s now in a British museum. Part of that clay tablet says, “On the 16th day, Gubaru (Darius the Mede) the leader of Gutium along with the army of Cyrus entered Babylon without any opposition. … On the third day of the month of Arahshamnu, Cyrus marched into Babylon, and they laid down green branches in front of him. The city was no longer at war, Peace being restored. Cyrus then sent his best wishes to the residents living there. His governor, Gubaru, then installed leaders to govern over all Babylon.”

And that’s where Daniel’s story continues. I’ll read chapter 6:1-3, “It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”

Even if we didn’t know Daniel’s story at all, we could see there’s a possibility of a problem arising. Three officials of the same rank are given the same authority; then one of them outshines the others, is going to be in charge of the other two because of it, and there’s money involved.

 Daniel had served in the kingdom of Babylon for almost 70 years by this time. He’s got a good reputation. Most commentators agree that Darius probably set up the 120 satraps (who were regional rulers throughout the country) within the first few years of conquering the city of Babylon. It’s likely that the satraps would not only rule over portions of the kingdom but would also be responsible for collecting the tribute taxes. You can understand why you would need trustworthy people set over those regional rulers…. It would be easy to pocket the money without someone trustworthy looking over their shoulders! 

With Daniel’s good reputation, it’s not surprising that he was one of the top three set up over the others. But God does something more. He makes the promise of the dead, wicked king Belshazzar from chapter five become a reality for Daniel. If you’ll remember from last episode, king Belshazzar promised anyone who could interpret the writing on the wall would become third highest ruler in the kingdom. And now King Darius has done that; there’s king Cyrus, king Darius, and Daniel in order of ruling. And the other high officials and the satraps were not too happy about the situation. In fact, they plan to do something about it 

          We aren’t told for sure why the other high officials were taking such a dislike to Daniel. Money could definitely be the thing that caused the trouble. It could be that Daniel was in the way of them pocketing some of the tribute money for themselves. But it could be that they were just incredibly jealous of Daniel’s position. Or it could be they were just disgruntled because they really didn’t want to be subordinate to someone who was supposed to be the same “rank” or position as them. Regardless, Daniel is in their line of sight – they’ve got to find a way to get rid of him. 

          There’s only one problem: there is no dirt to dig up on him. As hard as they try to find something to use against him, Daniel is in the words of verse 4, “faithful, and no error or fault was found in. him.” Without any personal moral failures or political moves to get him out of power, the men realize that the only way they’ll be able to bring Daniel down is to figure out some kind of new law that they know he will break because it will go against Gods Law. 

          And that’s exactly what they do. In verses 6-9 we’re told, ““Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.”

          In chapter 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were told they had to worship a gold idol. The historian Josephus says this edict in Daniel’s story was to be a government-appointed command to take a break from any worship at all. But in reality, under this edict, Daniel and everyone in the kingdom were supposed to direct all of their prayers to king Darius. He would, in effect, act as a mediator between the entire realm and the gods, (Little g.) No one was to make a request of any god or man for 30 days. No on was to bring their prayer directly to their gods or go through any holy man who represented their gods, except for one person, king Darius!

          We don’t know why king Darius went along with the idea. Most commentators agree that this would have united the kingdom somehow under King Darius, or at least that is what he thought it would do. In the Ancient Near East a king was seen as the earthly representative of that nation’s gods. So the idea that for 30 days Darius would be the sole earthly representative of the gods (kind of like  30-day priest) who was the only one who could be approached by anyone in the empire for any reason would in that respect “bring everyone together.”

          For everyone but the Jews, this wouldn’t be a big deal. The original inhabitants didn’t have to renounce their faith in their other gods, and they weren’t breaking any religious rules by doing it. The gentile people had no problem accepting everyone else’s gods right along with their own. So Darius acting in a priestly manner for a month wouldn’t be a big deal. But Jewish law doesn’t permit worship of any God but Yahweh, so prayer to anyone else would be a sin. 

          And that puts Daniel in the hot seat. We also know that King Darius likes Daniel and he knew that Daniel was loyal. But for some reason, the king doesn’t think about the position the edict puts Daniel in, and so, he signs it into law.

          If you’ve ever studied the book of Esther, you know that according to Median-Persian law, when the king signed a decree the law became irrevocable. They would never see someone come into office and spend the first umpteen important hours just signing his name to reversals of law. As we see in Esther, it can’t happen that way.

          Notice that the law will only last for thirty days. They know Daniel! They know his prayer habits and they know his devotion to God. So they were confident 30 days would be plenty.

          These guys say something in verse 7 I’ll read again:  “All the royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers, and governors have agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce a decree that for thirty days anyone who petitions any god or man except you, O king, will be thrown into the den of lions”  They lie and say that ALL of the high officials agreed to this. These guys are trying to obscure from King Darius’ mind that Daniel would be affected by this. And by saying “all of us agree” it would help the people of the land to submit to it. People are much more than happy to follow along never questioning what they’re doing when they think the leaders and the majority of the people are like-minded about it! 

          If they were trying to explain secretive about it, they weren’t doing a very good job going behind Daniel’s back. Daniel knows about the decree. Scripture tells us, “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.” according to Daniel 6:10-11. 

Daniel could have decided to just refrain from prayer for 30 days. Daniel could have come home that day from the edict signing and closed those windows. He could have said to himself “it’s only 30 days; God will understand.” But for Daniel this would be sinful. Let’s stop and talk about why for a moment. 

There are sins of commission – sins of transgressing God’s Law by doing something we’re commanded not to do. That’s how we often think about sin. But there are also sins of omission – things we know we are supposed to do, but we don’t. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any lack of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God” (WSC 14). Brian Cosby of Ligonier Ministries puts it this way: “Put simply, a sin of omission is any lack of conformity to God’s law, or failing to do what God commands, which is as grievous as actively transgressing what He commands.”  

In Chapter 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were supposed to commit the act of spiritual adultery and worship the idol or else be killed. If Daniel followed the law, his sin would be an act of omission – in other words, he would sin by not doing something. Now, we’re not commanded in the Bible to pray three times a day the way Daniel did. We’re going to talk about why Daniel did in a minute. But this 3x/day prayer was his normal routine. If he had changed it, it would have been sinful for him because he would’ve been doing for reasons that were wrong – forsaking God due to fear of man. James 4:17 says, ““So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” 

I want to quote a little more from the Ligonier ministries article on this. “While it is certainly true that we can sin without realizing it, sins of omission are intensified by knowledge. When we know what God has commanded us in His Word and we fail to do it, then we have silenced the voice of conscience and sinned against Him.” Mr. Cosby goes on in that Tabletalk article to say we commit sins of omission when we lack conformity to God’s law in our thoughts and desires; when we fail to love God with all our hearts and minds, when we don’t take every thought captive to obey Christ, and when we don’t rejoice in the Lord always. 

Ouch. Those are definitely words for all of us to think about! Let’s take a moment and talk about why Daniel prayed three times a day, windows open facing Jerusalem. Like you said, this is not prescriptive for us in any way. 

No, it’s not. Daniel did that because when the Temple was completed under King Solomon, Solomon petitioned God, “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them … if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul … and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause…” There’s a lot more to that prayer that’s found in 1 Kings 8:44-53 

The point is Daniel is facing toward Jerusalem because he’s following the petitions of Solomon’s prayer. Daniel didn’t have to pray three times a day, windows open facing Jerusalem. At this point the city is destroyed and the temple along with it. He was praying towards a heap of stones and rubble! He’s doing it, as we will see in Chapter 9, because he’s following that pray of Solomon, not only in the manner in which he prays, but also following what Solomon said they’d pray for.  

Let’s read on to see what happens, Daniel 6:10-11. “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.” He could have done a lot of things to keep himself out of trouble leading to death, but he didn’t. Like Shadrach, Meshach and. Abednego, Daniel knows who holds his life and everyone else’s in Their hand – it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzer, and it isn’t King Darius now.  

It’s ironic that the high officials have tried to make King Darius a 30-day intercessor for the people of the land – the ONLY intercessor for them for thirty days – to get to Daniel, who was truly intercessing for his people. Daniel was an intercessor for gods people. He prayed intercessory prayer for them, as we’ll see when we get to chapter 9. That’s another picture of Jesus, Who is our intercessor now. 

 On this particular day, verse 10-11 tells us “He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.” There’s something about the way that Daniel handles himself that we should take note of. After the edict is signed, he goes home and prays as usual. Not only does he not hide it from anyone; he also doesn’t flauntingly go out in the public square and do it. He just keeps going about his business as usual. 

          If our churches get closed again, we don’t have to make a public spectacle of going to worship. The watching world will eventually take notice. Throwing our disdain for unjust authority in the face of those who don’t agree with us usually leads to nothing but fights and quarrels. But our peaceful, confident, trust in God as we go about our normal routines can speak volumes.

    Daniel had to choose between following God’s law or following man’s law. Romans 13 is one that’s gotten thrown around a lot this year because of they Covid 19 closures. Should we always follow that? No. We should not just blindly obey everything our government tells us or might tell us to do  Not when it goes against God’s law.Acts 5:29 says, “we must obey God rather than men.” And we should really put a whole lot of thought into it and all of the aspects of it when it’s questionable at all. We can’t just buy into the narrative. We need to think deeply. 

          Daniels enemies go in like tattle tails and tell the king Daniel was praying to God. But this king likes Daniel. He doesn’t really want to put him in the Lions den! But that’s what it’s supposed to happen because he signed the edict and it can’t be reversed! And these guys remind him that Persian law can’t be changed just to make sure that Daniel is on the menu for the lions that night.

          This king really seems to like Daniel a lot! The text says that he labored until the sun went down trying to rescue him! That’s truly caring about someone! There are allusions to Jesus before Pilate here. Jesus was brought before Pilate by unjust men with unjust charges. And Pilate tried to find a ways to save Him.

          But for Daniel, when the men came a third time and told the King that the edict could not be changed,  the king had to command that Daniel be brought and cast into the den of lions. And the King declared to Daniel “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

          Daniel was as good as dead when he was thrown down into that pit. A stone was rolled across it to seal any chance of escape. Similarly, to Jesus’ dead body being put in the tomb in the stone rolled in place, and guards placed there to make sure that nobody stole the body, Daniel is in his own stone tomb, as good as dead, and his fate sealed with the signet rings of the king and that of his lords so that by human standards, nothing could be changed about his fate.     

          Interestingly enough, the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting with no diversions and no sleep. This guy really did want to see Daniel survive. At the break of day, the king ran to the den of lions.

          The kings spent the night worrying, and fasting, unable to sleep. The Scripture never says that Daniel did sleep, but he certainly could have knowing that the angel had closed the mouth of the lions. The point is one spent a wakeful, fretful night in the lap of luxury while the other had a peaceful night in the midst of trial. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Certainly, this is the kind of peace Daniel must’ve had that night. The heathen impenitent people have no such comfort when trials come.

          Daniel 6:20-23  says, “As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “Oh Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the Lions?” “Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” 

          It was common Practice to say the words “oh king live forever.” When addressing the king. The man who had Daniel put in the Lions den address the king that way at first. The next two times they come to the king those words are not recorded. Did they really care if the king lived forever? Probably only if it was going to benefit them. Daniel Exclaimed “oh king, live forever!” But goes further. Daniel told the king Who is truly able to save… The one true God. It’s likely that Daniel would have liked king Darius to live forever. Did King Darius ever believe in the One True God? He says some things similar to Nebuchadnezzar, but still refers to God as “the God of Daniel”, not as his own personal God.

          Daniel 6:25-27 says, “Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”

          What happened to Daniels false accusers? They, their children, and their wives or cast into the den of lions and were overpowered by the lions before the even reached the bottom of the den. The Bible says the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. Why did their families get thrown in the lions den to? That was in accordance with the common principle in the ancient near East that anyone who made a false charge against someone should be punished by receiving receiving the same fate. It was a practice of the Persians to carry that edit out on the families of the guilty. Danield said, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”The fact that the accusers and their families were killed by the lions is proof that they were guilty before God.  

          Verse 28 ends the chapter, “So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” Daniel spent most of his life as an exile in Babylon. God preserved Daniel‘s life throughout that whole time and he ended up being a an intercessor for the people of God who are exiled with him. It’s soon after this under the authority of king Cyrus that the exiles will go home. They won’t all go because they won’t all choose to go. But they will have the opportunity to go home and rebuild the temple and the city. 

          Some takeaways… Daniel as a consistent prayer life. He is not only on his knees when the trials come, he’s on his knees before during and after the trials. 

          He also never loses faith when his prayers don’t seem to be answered. God doesn’t promise as a comfortable life, that we won’t suffer persecution, even to the point of death. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book, The Cost of Discipleship, wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” He explains that this is not, for most Christians, a literal death, but rather a death to self. But it could be a literal death. Are we up for that???

          Politics matter. They mattered for Daniel and the rest of the Jews as we saw in the story, and they met her now. Our votes matter. A year and a half ago we would never have believed that the government would recommend closing our church doors to flatten the curve of a virus spread. What happens if they decide they want to do that again, for as long as they want to. What if they require vaccine passports to go to church? What if they decide you always have to wear a mask and can never sing in church? We would never have believed that in Canada people would be arrested and churches would lose their property because of government laws telling them they could not meet.

Just this past month we witnessed the president of our country make a decision that left Christians and women and children in a position of life and death by pulling our military out of a country in one fell swoop without a plan they could’ve saved many. 

      If you’ve never been able to imagine a time when we could possibly see legalized persecution of Christians in any country, including our own United States, it’s time to wake up.

          There is only one judge who will determine our eternal fate. Daniel was found innocent in God’s sight. We can be found that way too if we’re trusting in Jesus’s death on the cross as payment for the punishment we deserve for for our sin. It is only by the blood of the Lamb that we can be found not guilty.

          And that’s where we have to end today. Don’t forget to check out our website www.proverbs910ministries.com to for information and resources. If you like what you’re hearing, leave us a review on whatever podcast platform you’re listening on!

          Have a blessed day, everyone!