As long as we continue in life, the temptation can grow to longer trust in the Lord. This temptation can be particularly true when we have been enduring a life that we did not expect. When life does not go according to plan and when trials are nearly life long, maintaining trust in the Lord can be an increasing challenge. For Daniel, life has certainly not gone according to plan. Who would have visualized as a teenager that you would live a foreign your whole adult life? So how can we maintain our faith and continue to trust in the Lord even life seems to be falling apart and not going according to plan. This is the message of Daniel 6.
Daniel has witnessed the rise and fall of the Babylonian Empire. Now the Medo-Persian Empire is the world power, just as Daniel interpreted in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream recorded in Daniel 2. At the end of Daniel 5 we read about the Medes and the Persians conquering Babylon and Darius the Mede being set in charge over this land. The sixth chapter of Daniel opens with Darius establishing his administration over the kingdom. World history would record that the Medes and Persians seized the kingdom by destroying Babylon. Yet notice what God says happened in Daniel 5:31. “And Darius the Mede received the kingdom.” God gave the kingdom to the Medes and Persians and Darius received it like it was a gift. With the kingdom given to Darius, he reorders the kingdom. Yet again Daniel is selected as one of the three high officials in the kingdom, just like under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. While serving Darius, Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps because of his excellent spirit. This does not sit well with the rest of the officials, especially when the heart of the king was to set Daniel over the whole kingdom. So the officials look for a complaint against Daniel regarding what he is doing in the kingdom. But they could not find any reason for complaint or any fault in him and they knew this would be the case. In verse 5 they state that they are not going to find anything against Daniel unless it is regarding the laws of his God. They knew that if they were going to cause Daniel trouble, they needed to come up with a way for Daniel’s obedience to God to conflict with the laws of the Persians.
The reason they knew this is stated in verse 4, which is the key to this narrative: “Because he was faithful.” No error or fault was found in Daniel’s handling of the kingdom because he was faithful to God. The officials knew that there would never be a basis of complaint against Daniel because of his faithfulness. In fact, they knew that Daniel was so faithful to his God that the only way to bring a charge against him would be to have his faithfulness to God conflict with the laws of the Medes and Persians.
Therefore, the officials come up with a plan that the king should pass a law that no one can make a petition to any god or man for 30 days except to the king. Anyone who breaks that law will be cast into the den of lions. Now think about this for a moment. Why did these officials all come up with this as the law to trap Daniel? Obviously it was because they knew that Daniel prayed to his God. Further, they also knew that Daniel would still pray to his God even though this law would be passed. They know of Daniel’s faithfulness and expect Daniel’s faithfulness to continue even though a law would be passed instructing Daniel to do otherwise. So the king passes the law which could not be revoked (6:8).
Carefully listen to verse 10: “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel knew the document had been signed. Yet he changed nothing in his faithful behavior toward God. He opened his window, got down on his knees, and continued to pray three times a day as he had done previously, knowing that the law had been put into effect. Daniel’s faithfulness is on display.
Please consider that we are being told about the contents of Daniel’s prayer in verse 10. Daniel clearly was praying openly. But there is more to this information. Remember what we learn in 1 Kings 8:46-51.
“If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace).” (1 Kings 8:46–51 ESV)
Daniel is praying for himself and for the people of Israel, depending on the covenant faithfulness of God. God agreed to a covenant with Solomon that when this people turned their heart back toward Jerusalem and prayed, that God who is in heaven would “grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them.” Daniel needs help because these officials are trying to have him killed. Rather than hide, Daniel depends on the faithfulness of God that God would save him. Daniel does not try to save himself. Rather, Daniel opens the windows and prays toward Jerusalem a prayer of repentance and calling on the Lord to have compassion on his people.
By no surprise, Daniel is praying and the officials see him praying, which they knew would happen which is why they asked the king to pass this law. So they tell the king that Daniel is breaking the law that he signed. But notice verse 14 which is very interesting. When the king heard this he was very distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. This Gentile king is concerned for Daniel’s well being. He is so concerned that the king spends the whole day working to get Daniel out of this mess (6:14). But the law is the law and the law could not be changed.
Against his desire, the king commands Daniel to be cast into the den of lions. But as he does the king tells Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” With that the stone is sealed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed the tomb with his signet ring. But the king is anxious about Daniel. He does not sleep. He does not eat. He does not accept any entertainment or diversions (6:18). When the morning came, the king runs to the den and cries out as he approaches, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Listen to Daniel’s answer: “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” (Daniel 6:21–22 ESV)
Notice that Daniel tells the king that God sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions because I was found blameless before him and also before you. Then look at verse 23 to see this point emphasized again. “So Daniel was take up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”
Four times this narrative explains the salvation God gave to Daniel. In verse 3, “Because an excellent spirit was in him.” In verse 4, “Because he was faithful.” In verse 21, “Because he was found blameless before God.” Finally, in verse 23, “Because he had trusted in his God.” The message is that God saves those who put their trust in him. God saves those who are faithful to him. The message to the exiles is to remain faithful to the Lord and put their trust in the Lord and he will save them. No one else could save them but God. Not even the king, with all his might and glory, could save Daniel from the lions. Only God was able to save and did save because of Daniel’s trust in the Lord and faithfulness. God saves those who trust in him. This is the repeated message of the New Testament. In fact, this narrative became the basis for the faith of many people to trust in the Lord even through difficulties.
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:16–18 ESV)
Notice that Paul uses the imagery of Daniel 6 that he was rescued from the lion’s mouth. But this led to an important truth for Christians. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his kingdom.” We have been saved from sin and brought safely into God’s kingdom. The writer of Hebrews makes the same note.
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, (Hebrews 11:32–33 ESV)
The writer says that it was through their faith that the mouths of lions were stopped. The point is that their faith brought about their salvation because God saves those who trust in him.
The message for us is to remain faithful to God, even in personal despair, national persecution, or global opposition. Do not be tempted to no longer trust the Lord. Do not give up your faith even when life looks the darkest. Trust in God who enables us to live for him in a great variety of circumstances. For Daniel, a new empire perhaps gave him a hope for new circumstances. But new circumstances do not always give you the relief you crave. You may face the very same troubles. The life of faith must be lived to the very end. Earlier victories and rescues cannot be taken as guarantees for an absence of future crises.
The reasons for faithfulness are declared in Daniel 6:25-28. Tremble and fear the Lord for he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom cannot be destroyed and his rule shall continue to the very end. The Lord delivers and rescues. He works signs and wonders. He has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. But the hope of the cross looms large in this text.
The Hope of Jesus Through the Cross
The typology between this event in Daniel 6 and the cross is staggering. Just as the events of Abraham and Isaac draw our eyes to the parallels in the cross because the connections are so clear, so also it is with the account of the lion’s den. The words that the author uses, moved by the Holy Spirit, are intended for us see the salvation that God would bring 550 years later when Jesus came.
Notice the striking parallels between the lion’s den account and the account of the cross:
1. The officials conspired against Daniel (6:6) and the high priests and elders conspired to kill Jesus (Matthew 26:3-4)
2. The conspirators find no corruption in Daniel (6:4) just as they found no corruption in Jesus (Mark 14:55; John 19:4)
3. Daniel was convicted by deception and trickery (6:7) just as Jesus was with a false charge of blasphemy (Matthew 26:65)
4. Both were found guilty of transgressing the law (John 19:7) though Jesus had not broken any law.
5. Darius unsuccessfully tried to save Daniel (6:14) and Pilate unsuccessfully tried to save Jesus (Luke 23:20; John 19:12; Matthew 27:24).
6. Daniel trusted in God for deliverance (6:23) and Jesus trusted in his Father for deliverance (Matthew 26:39,42; 27:43; 1 Peter 2:23)
7. Daniel is placed in the pit (6:16) and Jesus was put in a tomb (Matthew 27:60).
8. Daniel’s pit/grave was covered with a stone (6:17) and Jesus’ tomb was covered with a great stone (Matthew 27:60).
9. The king sealed the stone on Daniel’s pit (6:17) and Jesus’ tomb was also sealed (Matthew 27:66).
10. Early in the morning the king finds Daniel alive (6:19) and he was taken up from the den (6:23) just as Jesus was found early in the morning Jesus to be alive (Mark 16:2) and the angel declares to the women that Jesus had risen (Mark 16:6).
11. After being taken up, Daniel continues to rule and prosper in the kingdom (6:28) and Jesus, after raising from the dead, continues to rule and prosper in his kingdom (Matthew 28:18).
Everything about the scene of the cross was a scene of victory. Every detail is telling the reader that God will save because his Son put his trust in the Father.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57–58 ESV)
Friends, we have heard the joyful sound. Jesus saves! Oh victory in Jesus, my savior forever.