Daniel in the Lions Den


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1 Good morning! We are taking a break from Genesis this morning and moving over to Daniel. We are in Daniel chapter 6 which could be one of the most famous stories in all the Bible. Daniel and the Lion’s den.  Scripture Intro:  Just for some context here. Daniel is an Israelite who was taken captive as a young man by the Babylonian Empire under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel has lived for decades as a captive and has risen to the highest levels of the government. Nebuchadnezzar was replaced by Belshazzar. The Babylonians were overrun by the Persians. Darius is now king and Daniel is about 80 years old.  For about 65 years Daniel has been a foreigner in a foreign land trying to to be faithful to the God of Israel.  Sermon Intro:  I certainly don’t know what it’s like to be a captive, but I do know what it feels like to be a foreigner. Interesting fact. Do you know that just about every train station I have been in overseas has a McDonalds in it? It’s funny to see Americans in Italy, France and Germany (places that have some of the best food in the world right outside the train station) lining up for some McDonalds. Do you know why they do this? Because it reminds them of home. Before I was married, I was living in Pisa, Italy and some Saturdays, my American friends and I would wake up early and take the train over an hour away to Florence because if you got there before 10 am, their McDonalds, unlike ours, served breakfast. So we would go over there excited about a taste of home and we’d order these lame plastic tasting sausage McMuffins that were often cold in the middle. Ironically, every time we did that instead of leaving satisfied we left just a little more aware that this was not our home. C.S. Lewis has this really famous quote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” This world is not ultimately our home and it will not satisfy us the way we want it to. And the reason I love Daniel 6 is because in Daniel we see a beautiful picture of what it looks like to remain faithful to God in a foreign land. There are five things I want us to see in this passage about being faithful in a foreign land. I know five points is more than you’re used to. Don’t worry though, I will have you out of here in plenty of time for dinner.  Let’s go. 

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I. If you are faithful as a foreigner, you will be distinguished Daniel followed God and it shaped the man he was. Verse three says, Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him. Daniel was wise. he was about to be named as the number two in all the Persian Empire. The Persian Empire spanned three continents from Greece to India. It was a massive empire that required massive administration. We know there was also massive corruption throughout the empire. Surprise, surprise. And King Darius believes that because Daniel is there, there is less corruption and more prosperity. That is what the text means when it says Daniel protected the king from suffering loss.  What do you think was Daniel’s motivation to live such a distinguished life? I think we get the answer in his name. Daniel in Hebrew means ‘God is my judge.’ He knew even if he could get a way with it, even if no one was looking, he would ultimately answer to God who sees everything. Can the same be said for us? If we represent a kingdom of righteousness, living in a kingdom of darkness, shouldn’t we stand out?  Do those who hold responsibility over us feel like the quality of the work place, the quality of the home, the quality of the fraternity or sorority or sports team is better because you’re there? Would people look at you and consider you distinguished?  Does that shape our decisions? If we know God is our judge, then we will make different decisions when no one is looking. And those choices we make when no one is looking is what truly defines our character. Then, we will be distinguished. But as we become distinguished, we will also become despised. Second point.  II.    If you are faithful as a foreigner, you will be despised.  If you are really good at what you do, your boss will always like you, but those you get promoted over often won’t. When you get promoted, sometimes you see who your real friends are. As Daniel was recognized for his outstanding character and abilities, people began to resent him for it.  Now, just to be clear, I think you can be morally distinguished and at the same time condescending about it. I know people who talk about the persecution they receive because they follow Christ and I want to say, “You’re despised because you are an arrogant jerk, not because you follow Jesus.”  But, we have no reason here to think Daniel is that kind of a person. It seems that Daniel is humble. Even so, people hate him for his morality and success. The high

3 officials and the satraps (which are basically governors) looked for some reason to get him in trouble. Anything. But the text says that no error or fault was found in him.  How would we fare on the same test? If someone disliked us because we follow Jesus and set out to find something about us, would they be able to do it? If they saw you on an out of town trip? If they found your phone and looked at your internet history or text messages? If they looked at your bank account? I was with a pastor once, not in Oxford, and someone told us that one day, he felt sure the internet would be hacked in a way that would reveal everything pastors have done online. The other pastor very solemnly and honestly said, “That wouldn’t go well for me.” And I think the Lord really used that conversation in a healthy. But the point is that had he been put to the same scrutiny as Daniel, he would not have passed. Would we?  The world will despise us and look for ways to bring us down. Not only that, but they will cheer as we fall. We have all seen this. In Daniel’s case, I think they want him to fall for two reasons. First, they are just jealous of the favor he has received with the king. He’s getting the attention and the promotion and they are jealous. Secondly, I think they felt very uncomfortable about the statement Daniel was making that only his God was the real God. Only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the true God and Daniel’s life testified to his belief that their worship was false. Have you ever noticed how those who wave the banner of tolerance the highest are usually the most intolerant to the Christian world view? I had one guy years ago tell me that he hated me because I was intolerant. I was like, “I’m pretty sure your are currently showing more intolerance than I am.” He was tolerant to anything that doesn’t try and tell him he’s wrong. I read one pastor who said, “No one has any problem with the first part of John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life.” It’s the second part of the verse that flies all over them. “no one comes to the Father, except through me.”” Don’t be surprised if your devotion to God causes people to despise you. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you…and utter all kind of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad…” So, the question we need to ask ourselves is this: Are we despised for our faith? Again, not because we are jerks and we bring it on ourselves. But because we are serving the one true God in a foreign land. If you don’t see opposition to your faith somewhere, it might be time to reexamine your faith.  So, if you are faithful in a foreign land, you will be distinguished, you will be despised and thirdly, you will be prayerful.  III.  If you are faithful in a foreign land, you will be prayerful

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The high officials and satraps couldn’t find anything on Daniel so they came together and found a way to use his character against him. They talked Darius into signing an order that mandates everyone worships him and no one else for 30 days under threat of being fed to the lions. Because of the nature of Persian law, no one, not even the king himself could revoke this injunction.  Daniel, knowing all this, did the only thing he knew to do: he prayed. He went into his upper room, which had windows, he faced Jerusalem (which was common practice during the exile), he got down on his knees and three times each day he would give thanks to God and pray for his people (9:3-19).  Now, I want us to see three things about Daniel’s prayer life. First, he humbled himself before God. He was on his knees. We can so often see God as our errand boy we call when we really need something, but that isn’t Daniel. You don’t go to an errand boy on your knees. Daniel knew God god as his only hope in life. He wasn’t making demands, he was making humble requests.  Second, we see that Daniel had a habit of prayer. Verse 10 says he gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Praying wasn’t something he just did now that he saw he was in trouble, but something he had always done. This kind of humble, serious prayer was something he was used to doing. Let me ask, if someone came and told you that for 30 days, you couldn’t get on your knees and fervently seek God, would that require any change in your life?  So much has changed for Daniel. His home, his language, many of his customs, probably the way he dresses. But not his convictions. Hi sprayer life didn’t change. The things his parents taught him as a child back in Israel stayed with him.  I was thinking this week likely no one will come and take away my kids when they are 15 like Babylon did to Daniel, but, if all goes well, my kids will leave me when they are 18. Will I have given them the tools to have habits that will carry them through the rest of their life wherever they live? Will I have taught them all they will need to know to be consistent when it matters the most? I pray so. Alistair Begg says, “This crisis didn’t produce character, it revealed it.”  Thirdly, we see that Daniel prayed openly. He wasn’t trying to make a spectacle of himself like the pharisees that would follow him. His upper room had windows though. He could have gone to a different room. I feel certain he could have covered the windows, but he didn’t. He wasn’t afraid to pray openly. In our quickly changing culture, it can be hard to know when to be public and when to be private in our prayer. Do you pray before a meal with non-Christian friends? Do you pray before a meeting? In the hospital? In your Greek house? I know I have been guilty of being public when I should have been private and private when I should have been

5 public. Here is the best test I have heard. If you feel the temptation to pray in private, pray in public. If you feel the temptation to pray in public, pray in private.  Daniel probably felt the temptation to pray secretly, but he resisted and prayed in the open just as he had always done. He prayed humbly, he prayed habitually and he prayed openly.  IV.   If you are faithful, you will have trials.  The high officials and satraps waited to see Daniel pray as they knew he would, they caught him and they turned him in. It’s interesting that the King worked the rest of the day to get him out of trouble. But even he couldn’t make an exception to the law he had invoked. So the king walked out to the lion’s den and his last words to Daniel were somewhat prophetic, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” I was talking about this story with my kids this week at dinner and one of them asked, “Why did the king have lions just sitting around? That’s kind of weird!” That’s a good question! It was a part of their sport hunting. Like the aristocrats in England might have kept a fox den stocked for fox hunting. Persian royalty would do the same with lions. They were also pretty handy for James Bond like executions.  I know this is not news to many of you, but there are those out there who say if you have enough faith, bad things won’t happen to you. Trials won’t come. Unfortunately, we see something very different in the Bible. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Peter was crucified upside down. Stephen was stoned. And Paul was ship wrecked, beaten, imprisoned and beheaded. Not to mention that thorn in his side the whole of his ministry.  Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 that Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. When Paul the Greek word for ‘all’ here, do you know what that means? All! Regardless of where you live, when you live or who you are. If you desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus, you will be persecuted.  Jesus says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”  Do you see what he’s saying? If you build your house on a rock (aka Jesus’ teachings), the rains are still going to come! The floods are still going to come. Winds will blow and beat on your house. The promise isn’t that trials won’t come, but that you won’t fall. You will be sustained in your faith regardless of what happens to your body. I know at least someone here is thinking, “Yeah, but Daniel wasn’t harmed by the lions.” Good point. But here’s the problem with using that statement. You’re not Daniel. It’s good to look at moral lessons we can learn from in Old Testament heros. That’s

6 basically all I have done up to this point. But when we start looking at the story and put ourselves in as the hero, we miss the main point.  The question isn’t where I am. The question is where is Jesus. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…” The Old Testament exists to point to Jesus. Three days after Jesus had been crucified, two of the disciples were walking to a village called Emmaus. They were discouraged because Jesus, who they believed was the Savior, had died. The resurrected Jesus then approached them, but the disciples didn’t immediately recognize him. Jesus then said this:  “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 26 k

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Jesus began to explain all the places the Old Testament is directly pointing to him! That is the question we need to ask. So, where is Jesus in this story? It’s easy to see once we ask the right question. In Daniel we have a man who lived a righteous life. A man who was despised for that life. A man who was falsely accused, arrested, and thrown into a tomb covered by a stone. But that tomb couldn’t hold him. When everyone returns, against all odds, they would see that he was still alive.  Remember when I said I love Daniel six because in it was see a beautiful picture of a man remaining faithful to God as a foreigner in a foreign land? Well, no one has been more faithful as a foreigner than Jesus Christ. He left al the comforts of his home land to come down here into this fallen world to save those He loves. The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is pointing to Jesus. Jesus who was persecuted on our behalf. And because Jesus was falsely accused, he has sabotaged the way trials are supposed to negatively affect us. Trials will still come, but now they only work to make us stronger, more like Jesus himself and more fruitful in our ministries. Jesus doesn’t take away our trials, He uses them. Some people point to Hebrews to make the case the we are Daniel and physical safety and health are promised us.  And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 32  h

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7 Now, that certainly sounds like faith brings physical deliverance in this life. That is, unless you keep reading. Two verses later, same context. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Their faith didn’t keep them from trials, it brought them home. Our hope in Jesus is a better life after we rise again. John McArthur who does have a tendency for the controversial said, “If your best life is now, that means you’re going to hell.”  Our faith sustained in this life so that we might be completely freed in the next. One pastor said, “God calls some to win by living. Others are called to win by dying.’ But in Jesus, we all win! This is a story about Jesus who has overcome our greatest trial for us: death.  If we are faithful, we will be distinguished, we will be despised, we will be prayerful and we will have trials. Lastly, there is, as Allistair Begg calls it, a dark side to Daniel that we can’t overlook.  V. The Dark Side to Daniel After Daniel is delivered, we read that The king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions - they, their children, and their wives. and before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. This isn’t a fun part of the story to read, but it’s there so we can’t overlook it. Had this taken place in Israel, the families would have been spared, but not in Persia. There will be judgment for all those who oppose the kingdom of God. They will be cast into a pit far worse than the lion’s den. Revelation calls it the Lake of Fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth forever.  One day Jesus is coming back and every knee will be thrust to the ground. Some will bow in joy and love and some will bow in fear and anguish. There is this really interesting verse in John 16 that I think gives a picture of what will happen on that day. Jesus has been praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and Judas leads a band of soldiers to arrest Jesus. As they arrive, Jesus asks them this:  “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 5 

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Simply at the words “I am” they were thrust to the ground. That is how it will be when he returns. There have been all these movies that portray these long drawn out battles between good and evil at the end of time, but do you know how it will really go down?

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8 Jesus will return from the sky, dressed in white, tattooed “Lord of Lords. King of Kings” and he will simply say, “I am” and it will be finished.  The question the story of Daniel in the lion’s den wants us to ask is this: What is our relationship with the Better Daniel, the Truer Daniel? On that day, will our knees bow as loved children or will they bow as fearful enemies?  Conclusion:  If we follow Jesus, to whom Daniel points, we will become citizens of a new country just like Daniel. Paul calls us citizens of heaven. Do you know, really know, that this not your home? That the longings you have will never be satisfied by things of this world? Money, jobs and degrees are good, but they aren’t ultimately going to satisfy us any more than a sausage McMuffin in Florence.

Our church is on average what I would call a younger church. We young and we are growing which is great, but a real challenge for us is that we don’t feel like foreigners. Most of us are young enough, healthy enough and maybe successful enough to feel like Oxford is home. But, I promise you that will change. You can probably ask anyone in this room with gray hair.

Angela and I lost a good friend this week to cancer. She was about our age. But something really eery happened two days later. A good friend of ours and our friend who had just died went and got a new phone. And apparently it’s not uncommon that when you get a new SIM card and download everything from the cloud, old messages can pop up as if they were just sent. So he turns on his new phone and a message pops up from our deceased friend. You know what is said? I’m home.

I don’t know how to make you long for your real home in a way that really makes Oxford feel foreign. But I have thought a lot about our friend, Shasta this week and what it must feel like to finally be home. And, at least for me, it has helped prioritize what really matters in this world.

What we long for is not found here. It is only found in the better Daniel, Jesus Christ. And my prayer is that God would work in our hearts and make us faithful servants in a foreign land while we wait for the home we long for.

As we prepare to take the Lord’s supper together, let’s take time to think about that. Think about how Jesus is bringing us to the home we long for because he went to a place much worse than a lion’s den in our place.  Let’s pray.