The forbidden food, the difficult dream, the fiery furnace and the writing on the wall. If you’ve been with us over the past few weeks you will know that Daniel and his friends have had some amazing adventures and been through some sticky situations. The year is about 550 BC and Daniel and his friends are in exile in Babylon. They are Jewish people who have been taken captive in their homeland of Israel and transported to a foreign land. Despite all the trials and trouble they have faced, the Jewish boys have survived. In fact, thanks to God, Daniel hasn’t simply survived, but thrived.
Because as we join our story today, Daniel has just been appointed as one of the three most powerful people in the land. The new king, called Darius, has made Daniel one of his chief ministers, one of his top advisors, one of his right-hand men (v.2).
But surely today, Daniel’s luck must have run out, he must have met his match. Because by the end of our story today Daniel is stuck in a lion’s den, a stone has been sealed against the exit, and he has nowhere to run. Surely, it was about to be lunchtime for the lions and death for Daniel?!
Before we see how Daniel ended up in this situation, and what happened next, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, the God of Daniel, please help us to hear you speak to us today through your word, and help us to understand, trust and obey.
- Distinguished Daniel!
As our story starts today, we see that Daniel was a very special man. In verse 3 we are told that even amongst his fellow high-flyers he was “distinguished”. He was a special man, a good man – a godly man in the court of king Darius.
You see, Daniel was a man who loved God and lived God’s way. Daniel prayed three times a day – and when he wasn’t praying, he worked in a way that honoured God. We are told that he was totally trustworthy and hardworking – not corrupt or negligent (v.4).
You see, Daniel worshipped God not just by his prayers, but by his daily life. I hope we all try to do the same. Whether we are children at school, employees in an office, or volunteers in our community, I hope we all want to work hard, be honest and do our best. Like Daniel, let’s worship God with our working lives Monday to Friday, not just here in church on Sundays.
Daniel was so good at his work, that he attracted the attention of the king. We are told that king Darius wanted to make him his number one man. In verse 3 we are told that he was planning to make Daniel his Prime Minister, his most trusted advisor.
But not everyone was so keen on Daniel. Some of his fellow administrators were jealous of Daniel’s success and wanted him out of the way. And so they devised cunning plan to catch him out.
In verses 6 to 9 of our passage we are told that they persuaded proud king Darius to pass a new law:
- A law that said no one could pray “to any god or man” except the king.
- A law that could not be changed.
- A law that said anyone who disobeyed would “be thrown into the lions’ den”.
How would Daniel respond to this deadly decree. Would this distinguished young man worship the king, or keep praying to the one true God?
- Daniel Defiant!
The answer is that Daniel defied the king. Despite the new law he still prayed to his God: “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God,” just as he had always done (v.10). Daniel had decided to do what was right, not what would keep him out of trouble. He had decided to defy the king rather than disobey his God. We might face similar situations in our lives today. For example:
- At school, our friends might tease us for being Christians, but we should keep following Christ and coming to church anyway.
- At work, we might be encouraged by colleagues to cut corners, twist the truth and pass the buck, yet God wants us to do what’s right.
- And whoever we are, society wants us to keep quiet about our faith, to stay silent about Christ, but God wants us to tell the Gospel to the world.
Like Daniel, I hope we will all have the courage as Christians to obey God, even when the consequences seem costly.
For Daniel, of course, the consequences were VERY costly. He had broken the unbreakable law, and had to be punished. Not even the King could cancel his decree (v.15). So Daniel was arrested and thrown into the lions’ den (v.16). It seemed that no one, not even the King, could stop him from shortly filling the stomach of a hungry lion!
- Daniel delivered and death defeated!
But where the king failed, God succeeded. Because neither the king nor the lions were able to eat that night. God sent an angel to “shut the mouths of the lions” (v.22) and save Daniel. We are told that the king had a restless night and could not sleep. But Daniel in the den was at peace, protected by an angel of God. The following morning Daniel tells the delighted king Darius that he was delivered from death by God. Distinguished, defiant Daniel had been delivered by his great God.
As I finish this morning, there is no doubt that Daniel is a true hero. He is a man who knew God personally, a man who worshipped God with his daily life as well as with his lips. Someone we should all look up to.
But we shouldn’t stop there, because Daniel’s life also points us to a man who came 600 years after he was born. Daniel’s life points us to Jesus Christ, the greatest hero anyone could have. Because:
- Like Daniel, Jesus was totally obedient to God. He always did what was right, whatever the cost. He led the most distinguished life that has ever been lived.
- Like Daniel, Jesus’ words and deeds provoked a mixed response. Crowds loved him, and so did his disciples, but he also provoked envy, jealousy and misunderstanding by the religious and political powers of his day.
- Like Daniel, Jesus was also unfairly arrested and condemned. He too was sentenced to execution and left for dead in a stone cold tomb.
- And wonderfully, like Daniel, Jesus was delivered from death. When the stone was rolled back on the first Easter morning Jesus was also alive. As God’s Son he had defeated death, paid the penalty for our wrongs and was now alive for evermore!
So as impressive as Daniel is, Jesus is even more magnificent. He is someone worth trusting, knowing and following forever. Jesus can deliver us from death and give us God’s forgiveness forever. In our Bible story today, King Darius rejoiced to see Daniel alive. We should celebrate even more that Jesus is alive!