One of the traditional stories that we hear in children’s Sunday School is the basis of our study today: Daniel in the Lion’s Den. I’m not sure I ever really understood what Daniel had done that being thrown to the lions was his punishment. I guess that makes sense because as a child, we have a hard time understanding why someone would be punished for doing right.
Indeed, Daniel is a good guy, he was above reproach. He was doing so well at his work, that he was to be promoted. His co-workers even set eyes out to watch for something that they could get him for. His co-workers knew Daniel’s convictions and that they could not change them. He was truly honest in all matters and constant in his actions. Were the co-workers envious of the oversight that Daniel would have or were they afraid of being caught in wrongdoing? Perhaps the other rulers of the land wished to lie, steal and cheat, improving their own standing in some way, but knew that Daniel would not allow it.
There was nothing they could find to destroy Daniel, so they decided to attack his strangeness as a God-follower and God-worshipper. They finally resorted to manipulating the king into setting a trap for Daniel. They exaggerated the number of people who agreed to the new decree by saying that ‘everyone’ agreed. They also played to king Darius’s ego, that he was ‘next to gods’ and could hear petitions. So now the complaint against Daniel would be that he was doing what was right even when it was wrong.
It would not be an exaggeration for Daniel to think that everyone was out for him and that he should lay low for a month. He could keep his head down and the window closed when he was praying. Instead, Daniel went home to pray when he heard the decree had passed. He went to that room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem and he prayed three times a day.
People were talking about him and looking for ways to take him down. Daniel prayed. He continued to stand in the Lord. He must have been afraid, for people could have taken the law into their own hands and simply thrown him to the lions. He showed no fear, but took courage in the face of the enemy with God at his side.
King Darius was quite taken aback when the satraps came to him and reminded him of the decree, he affirmed that it was still in place for the full 30 days. Then he realized that they were saying that the best man in the kingdom had gone against the decree. His right-hand man was guilty of this. He even pleaded Daniel’s case for the whole day. Could the king possibly go against his own decree, imply that one man is above all laws? The law lacked mercy, though Darius wanted there to be mercy. Darius had no choice but to trust that all would be well. Darius even had to seal in Daniel, as it must have been clear that he could have asked servants to sneak out that night and release him. Darius’s own mistakes cost another, a loved one, to suffer. And he in turn suffered through the night sleepless. Even when we make mistakes that hurt others, we must be willing to face the difficulties and support the ones we have hurt. Darius was the one who fought for Daniel to be spared and lost. He tossed and turned all night and went early to check on Daniel.
Daniel was not spared the ordeal and was sent to the lions. He was not spared the lions but was spared from lasting harm. We too find ourselves in the midst of trials, see them coming and pray and yet we are not spared the difficulty. We are not spared the lion’s den, but we are spared lasting harm and restored what we have lost.
Even as Daniel was in the den, he was surrounded by the protection of God. In our trials, we are protected and cared for. Even here, Daniel apparently did not cower in the corner and have a sleepless night but seems well-rested and of good cheer in the morning. There was nothing left for Daniel to do but kneel and pray. Kneel, pray and trust in the Lord because we are cared for and protected.
When Daniel is brought out, not only is he restored to the position that he had before, but he ‘prospered in the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.’ The faith and courage that Daniel had led to a life which prospered. It was not a life without trouble, as we read through the book of Daniel. It was a life of obedience to God and faith in Him carried out in daily service to others. God has our back, trust Him to carry us through and restore our lives.