IN THE LION’S DEN
(c) Copyright 2003 Rev. Bill Versteeg
[To children: Who remembers what
happened to King Belshazzar in the story we heard last Sunday Evening?
Now Daniel was an exceptional administrator. Even though he was over 80 years old, he was healthy, he worked hard and he worked honestly. He’d been through a few kings already. He had spent years in government. He could tell when those under him were lying or stealing or cheating the king. And so they didn’t try to get away with anything, though they resented him. When the king saw what an exceptional job Daniel was doing, he planned to make Daniel chief administrator of the kingdom, something like a Prime Minister. If there was one thing all the bureaucrats and the other two administrators did not want, it was for Daniel to become Prime Minister. Sure they were envious of him, but far more, if he became Prime Minister, none of them would get away with anything. There would be no more bribes. They would not be able to take a little here and a little there for themselves. They would all have to start serving King Darius very faithfully.
So they tried hard to find something where Daniel did something wrong, where he failed, where his job was incomplete. They tried hard to find something in his life that would not please the king. But as hard as they looked, they could find nothing wrong with Daniel or the work that he did. Finally, they decided that if they were going to keep Daniel from becoming Prime Minister, they would have to make Daniel do something wrong because he believed and trusted in God.
Together they wrote a new law that would make Daniel’s faith illegal. Together they went to King Darius and they said: "O King Darius, live forever! The 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 man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den. Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered--in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be taken back."
Now this looked good to King Darius. After all, if all of his bureaucrats and even his three administrators thought this was a good idea there were probably good reasons for it. And besides, if there was one way to make sure that everybody was truly loyal to him, what better way then to have them demonstrate it by appeal to him for absolutely everything? So King Darius put what they suggested into written law, law which he, even the king, could not take back. Besides, if he did not like it, after 30 days, it would be discontinued.
Now there was one administrator who in truth had not been part of making this new law, he was Daniel. And of course Daniel, and every faithful Israelite would not have liked this law, it made their obedience to our God impossible because to live with God is to depend upon him. When Daniel learned about this new law he knew what it meant, and with steady feet, he went back to his house, to his upstairs room where the windows were open toward Jerusalem, he went down on his knees and he prayed, asking God for help and wisdom and even blessing on the city of Babylon along with its king. As he had been in the habit of doing all his life, three times a day he would pray. This new law wouldn’t change that. It seemed the habits he had lived with now were a source of strength even if they got him in deep trouble.
And those prayer habits got him in deep trouble. The bureaucrats, the other two administrators were standing near by under his window, they watched him kneel to pray, and with high fives, they marched off to the king to let the king know what Daniel was up to. They said to the king:
Your majesty: "Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions' den?"
King Darius eyed them closely, not really trusting all these men, after all they had once been his enemies. In his mind, he wondered what they were up to now. But he had made a decision and so he spoke: "The decree stands--in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed."
And then they surprised him, they gave him the bad news, something which the King had not thought of, something the king did not expect. "Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day." they responded.
King Darius sat in stunned silence. So this is what they were up to! They were trying to trap Daniel, and now they had him. They were a dishonest bunch and they wanted to get rid of the one who was always blowing the whistle on them. The king understood instantly how they had tricked him but now it was too late! He called in his lawyers and his experts on Median and Persian law, seeing if there was any way that he could change the law he had just made, take it back, just change it a little so that it wouldn’t apply to Daniel but there was no way. Daniel, his most trusted civil servant was destined for the lion’s den.
To drive the point home, the bureaucrats reminded the king: "Remember, O king, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed."
He had no choice. King Darius gave the order. Soldiers got Daniel and brought him to the Lion’s Den. The Lions Den was a large whole in the ground from which the lions could not get out. Because they could not get out, they could never go hunting for their own food. So these lions were constantly hungry, even starving. As the soldier brought Daniel to the opening of the lion’s den, they growled and snarled, fighting with each other for the chance to get the first bite, to rip off a leg or an arm for themselves. But the second Daniel was thrown in, they stepped back, unsure that they wanted to nibble on this man. Daniel could feel their hot breath on his cheeks as they paced around him, eyeing him, licking their lips.
Darius came to the edge of the pit. He called out to Daniel "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" And then they placed a large stone over the entrance to the den, just to make sure that Daniel would never get out. The king and the bureaucrats, along with the two administrators, took wax and poured it at the edges of the stone, and pressed their rings into the wax, just to be sure that while they were not there, the stone would not be touched in any way. Maybe the lions would not attack right away, but in the dark, like the pitch of night, when lions are accustomed to hunting, certainly they would tear him to pieces. Daniel, had been fed to the lions.
Everyone went home happy, except for king Darius. His bureaucrats went to a party, but he went home. He could not eat. He could not sleep. He knew that Daniel had been one of his last defences against the treachery of these men he had hired, but now he couldn’t do anything to save Daniel's life, except maybe ask Daniel’s God to help him. He had read some things about this God who was Daniel’s God. Maybe God would help Daniel now.
With an anxious heart, he tossed and turned. Through the dark hours of the night, his eyes rolled, but they stayed open. At the first sign of light in the sky, king Darius got up and hurried to the lions den. Something in his heart told him that if anyone had a chance of surviving the lions den, it was Daniel. After all, the Medes believed that if a person was guilty, the lions would eat him, but if he was truly innocent, the lions would leave him alone.
He called out.... “Daniel..?”
“DANIEL...?” He heard the shuffling of
And to his absolute amazement he heard Daniel answer.
"O king, live forever! My 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, O king."
King Darius ordered that a rope be lowered for Daniel. Quickly he was lifted out of the den, the lions still licking their chops hungrily looked on. King Darius examined this 80+ year old man called Daniel. There was not a scratch on him. They could hardly believe their eyes. But the king new what this meant. If Daniel had been proven innocent by being spared from the lions, then those who accused him must be the truly guilty ones, at least guilty of trying to kill an innocent person. So he ordered his soldiers to round up all the men who had written the law and had been part of the conspiracy to get rid of Daniel. And, as was the custom of the Medes and the Persian, he also rounded up their families, wives, children and even servants. Now they were thrown in the lions den. Even before they hit the ground, the lions were eating them, crushing their bones between their powerful jaws.
And then King Darius did what King
Nebuchadnezzar had done years before. He wrote a letter to all the
people and all the nations of his kingdom. And in that letter, he let
everyone know that there is no God like the God of Israel, our God. And
he told everyone to give to the God of Israel true respect and
reverence, because his kingdom will never end. And so, at an old age of
83+, Daniel became Prime Minister of the city of Babylon, and he
prospered for all the time that Israel was captive in Babylon.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.