Prayer is a Dangerous Thing

| Daniel 6:3-7,10-11,16-23

Daniel now is serving under the third ruler since his exile from Judah: Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar during Babylon’s dominance and now Darius, and eventually Cyrus, under Persia (6:28). Daniel was a wise counselor, a gift of sovereign grace from Yahweh (2:19-23), and to whom was given unique authority by earthly sovereigns (1:19-21;2:48; 5:29). He received revelations of God’s immediate purpose with these earthly sovereigns (e.g. 4:24-26; 5:25-28; 11:1-4) and, at the same time, revelations concerning the eventual reign of the absolute and eternal sovereign (7:13, 14). A long-term message of Daniel is that earthly powers will grow and decline, conflicts will be unceasing, even after Messiah accomplishes redemption (9:24; 12:10), and continue until the dead in Christ shall rise (12:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:11).

I. Daniel’s devotion to God provides the occasion for a snare from his enemies – 6:1-9

A. Daniel is given a position under Darius and excels all others appointed to similar positions. 1-3

    • He was one of three satraps to watch over the kingdom so that no one would defraud the king of his rightful property. Again, we see that, in harmony with Romans 13, it is not wrong for a sincere disciple to work for unbelievers and help them achieve any legitimate goal concerning their secular affairs.
    • The divine blessing on Daniel and his peculiar gift of insight quickly made him far superior to the other satraps, making him a candidate for the investment of all sub-royal power.

B. His amazing success, competence, and character caused great jealously arising from the coveting of power and an investigation of Daniel to see if there might be some way to accuse him of malfeasance in the execution of the king’s business.

C. His enemies concluded that Daniel could only be accused if they could somehow render his devotion to God criminal. In this, Daniel serves as a type of Christ, for Jesus was hated by the powers of his day for his unflinching testimony to the truth of his own relationship with the Father (John 8:54-59).

    • In an attempt to overcome the devotion of Daniel to the one true, living, and eternal God, they appeal to the misguided vanity of a sixty-something king (5:31).
    • The absurd irrationality of paganism inflamed by petty and malicious jealousy is seen in the scheme they devised for confounding Daniel. For thirty days none were to pray to any God, but all requests were to be made to Darius the Mede. Thirty days! A law about prayer limited to thirty days? Can a god who is worthy of only thirty days devotion and petition grant eternal life? When the Jews wanted to turn Pilate against his judgment of innocence toward Jesus, they reminded him that if he did not consent to their accusations, it would be perceived that he was no friend of Caesar. Worldly power and true faith have virtually nothing to do with each other. Jesus assured Pilate that he had no plan of resistance because his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:33-38).
    • The enemies of Daniel manipulated the situation so that the decree was unalterable. The evil man never considers the true long-term results of his actions but feels that if he just has his way immediately then he will be satisfied. “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust” (Proverbs 11:6).

II. Daniel’s devotion to God was more precious to him than the favor of any earthly power – 6:10-13

A. Daniel, knowing the document has been signed and according to the rule of law could not be overturned, nevertheless did not submit his conscience to the ephemeral authority of men, but only to the eternal law of God. He kept up his regular practice, established long before this law. His continuation was not an overt attempt at disobedience done as a protest for the moment, but the calm spiritual habit of thanksgiving to God and of prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem.

B. The perpetrators of this idolatrous malignity planted themselves in view of Daniel’s window at his appointed time for prayer. They turned knowledge of his devotion into an opportunity for treachery.

C. Upon gaining their evidence with sufficient eyewitnesses, they reported to the king. Before pointing to Daniel as a violator, they reaffirmed the king’s signature establishing a “law of the Medes and Persians” with a penalty for violation affixed. Not until the king reaffirmed, “The thing stands fast,” do they reveal Daniel, trusted and divinely-equipped Daniel, as the first violator of the law. They must have an airtight case with predetermined consequences, for their hatred was complete and their consciences were seared.

D. The schemers presented Daniel’s unperturbed obedience to God and consequent disobedience to the law a matter of personal animus toward the king. Of course, the king knew better, for he had seen the loyalty of Daniel in extremely important matters and he “planned to set him over the whole kingdom” (4). Like Moses before him, Daniel considered the reproach of Christ of greater worth than the treasures afforded by earthly powers.

E. In a sermon on this text, Alexander Maclaren said, “His silence meant, among other things, a quiet, patient, fixed resolve to bear all, and not to deny his God. Weak men bluster. Heroic endurance has generally little to say.”

III. Daniel’s Devotion to God seals his apparent Doom – 6:14-18

A. The king finds this news distressing, but even the king finds himself in the clutches of these evil men. He fumes and wrings his hands and seeks a way out of the foolish proclamation into which he was tricked by flattery. Men of no transcendent conviction will ever find it hard to rise above the forces that dominate an evil world.

B. When he is unable to find a loophole, and evening has come, the schemers come to remind him that now is the time for the execution of the sentence. The conduct of this king is so filled with weakness that he is to be both pitied and ridiculed. He has allowed perfect evil to capture him so that he finds himself unable to do what he knows is right. Like John the Baptist with Herod, and Jesus with Pilate, so is Daniel with Darius. To be weak in the face of treacherous evil is to be wicked oneself.

C. Into the den the ninety-year-old Daniel was cast. Paul, in prison, certainly had in mind this event when he wrote Timothy, “So, I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Timothy 4:17). Daniel had no guarantee that his deliverance from the success of his enemies would be of the sort that preserved his physical life. He had no promise that deliverance of the sort that his three friends had experienced would be God’s will on this occasion. So Paul knew that “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” Like Paul, the most grand deliverance already had occurred—Daniel had been delivered from unbelief, fear, disloyalty, the assaults of a guilty conscience, from sin, and from eternal condemnation. This is the driving motive of his prayer in 9:4-19, uttered probably just before these events of deceit and treachery. If he were delivered from this world and into the heavenly kingdom, that would be grander than the sustaining of temporal existence. But it was God’s purpose to confound the evil in this world and wring from the mouth of a pagan king a confession of His might and dominion.

D. The king, eager for Daniel’s life and for some intervention to rescue him from the pusillanimity of his own will, invokes a blessing from Daniel’s God (16). How often do we wish for outside intervention to remove the consequences of our weakness? We hope for sanctification without mortification and for divine intervention without unalloyed devotion to and trust in God.

E. (17) – The den was sealed with two seals, that of the king and that of the “lords,” that is, those that used deceit to bring about this apparent destruction. Even in this harshest of moments and apparently incontrovertible event of Daniel’s quick demise, no trust existed between the cooperating parties. While the seal might indicate if the stone had been tampered with, it could not exclude the loving omnipotence of Yahweh from calming both the lions and the mind of Daniel. Schemers also sealed the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 27:66) and set guards at its mouth, but human plans and great care will never prevail against the sovereign purposes of God.

F. (18) – The text says nothing about Daniel’s unquiet spirit, nor his mental terror, nor any regrets that plod through his conscience. The text focuses on the anguish of the king. Those that know not God have no reason to be quiet of conscience, but to the degree that they have not seared it, it will ever gnaw at them and make every pleasure into an occasion for regret and every sin a deeper burden of guilt. For the moaning king no food, no entertainment, no sleep.

IV. Daniel’s Devotion “stopped the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:33) 6:19-24.

A. The king after the restless night, hurried to the den where Daniel had spent the night with lions and with the greatest of irony shouted out a question. It is perhaps natural that he would seek to learn what had happened by posing a question to Daniel. If he did not answer, then the question would be determined by the silence. If he spoke at all, no matter what he said, then the king would have the answer in a positive way.

B. Daniel answered respectfully (21)-“O king, live forever.” On the mouth of Daniel this protocol carried a more sublime and absolute reality than any verbal contrivance of haughty worldlings could ever imagine. It constituted a prayer. He answered with courtly demeanor to the king for his position, he honored God by affirming his providential care, he proclaimed his ultimate and unbroken devotion to Yahweh as the only God, and he asserted his own innocence in all matters related to his legitimate obligations as a servant of the king (22),

C. Darius was exhilarated with relief.

    1. Daniel was released from the den.
    2. He had not even been touched by the lions because he trusted in God.
    3. The ire of the king turned toward those that had plotted the entire scenario that resulted in this fiasco and cast them, their wives, and their children into the den (23). That the lions were not placid was immediately seen in their quick work of destroying their appointed prey. Note that Daniel’s protection physically is emblematic of the preserving grace of God to his people. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith . . . and after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:8-11) “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God [Jesus Christ] protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. . . . The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” [1 John 5:18, 19]

V. Daniel’s devotion became an occasion for the knowledge of divine power – 6:25-28.

A. Darius was obviously impressed with the power and purposeful intervention of Daniel’s God.

B. Contrary to his former decree that glorified himself and disallowed calling on any god other than himself, he decrees that all are to tremble before the God of Daniel (26). This decree, though recognizing the power of the one true God, manifests as little true spiritual knowledge of this God as did the former decree (3:29). Worship is not generated by human decree or threats of human authority. Only the effectual call of God creates true worshippers and the attempt of the arm of flesh to establish that worship is a rejection of the gospel’s power, a contradiction to what Darius had just observed and an insult to the power and purpose of Christ in building his church.

C. The decree emphasized several of the attributes of God Darius learned from this encounter.

    1. Unlike idols, Daniel’s God is living, he is eternal, and he will never forfeit control of the world.
    2. He is not a distant God unconcerned about the daily lives of his people but intervenes to rescue and deliver his people—“delivers, rescues, performs signs and wonders.” So has he done in the work of his Son; “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Colossians 1:13