Daniel is an ordinary man who goes through extraordinary circumstances. Daniel lived in Judah during the time when the Babylonians attacked Judah and captured all of the important national people. Daniel was one of those important people. As a young man, he is captured and taken back to Babylon and put in service for the king. God gave Daniel learning and skill in all literature and wisdom and in visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17). This allows Daniel to give God’s messages to the rulers of Babylon throughout the time of Babylon’s empire. The fifth chapter records the end of the Babylonian Empire and the rise of the Persian Empire. When the sixth chapter begins, Daniel would now be an old man who has lived most of his life away from home, serving foreign kings, and delivering God’s message to them. Daniel has given his life to the Lord in difficult circumstances.
After serving various kings throughout the Babylonian administration, you can imagine the concern that would arise for him now that a whole new government is in charge. The Babylonians have been conquered and now the Persian Empire was in charge. What will happen to those who served for the Babylonian administration? When we look at the changes in our administrations, we know how our peaceful transitions in government work. When we have a new president, no one from the prior administrations remain. The cabinet is changed, the chief-of-staff is changed, and the advisors are changed. There is a widespread change with the new administration put into place. Without a peaceful transition, you can imagine that being fired was not the fear, but death for those who had served the Babylonian administration. The first verse of Daniel 6 shows Darius, the new ruler of the Persian Empire appointing 120 people to be rulers over the whole kingdom and three high officials who were over them so they could give account to the king. So we can see this overhaul of leaders and advisors. But, amazingly, Daniel is made one of the three high officials. He survives the transition of leadership in the empire and becomes distinguished above all the king’s advisors and rulers.
One can imagine the tenuous position Daniel is in, being a carryover from the Babylonian Empire. We learn in verse 4 that the administrators and officials hate Daniel because he is excelling in the Persian Empire. But there is nothing that they can do about Daniel’s authority in the empire because he is a faithful and trustworthy person (6:4). There was no corruption in Daniel and no grounds for complaint. What these officials and administrators know is that Daniel serves his god and the only way to bring a charge against Daniel will have to be regarding his service to his god. Please consider that they all know that he worships and serves God. This is not a secret. Not only is this not a secret, they understand that Daniel’s devotion to God is so great that this is will be the only way to try to get Daniel in trouble.
This is worthy of thinking about for a moment. Would our enemies know that the only way to cause us to be disobedient or bring a charge against us would be because of our faith in God? Would they know that our faith in God is so strong that this would be the point of attack against us? There are two things that we see these officials knowing about Daniel. First, they know Daniel is very devoted to God. Second, they know Daniel’s faith in God in unwavering. But let us explore how this plays out for Daniel.
The Plan (6:6-9)
The officials and administrators of Persia come to the king with their plan. They want to have a very simple decree enforced. Issue an ordinance that for 30 days everyone must make their requests only to the king. Anyone who makes a request to any god or man except the king for these 30 days will have the injunction enforced by being cast into a den of lions. So the king signs the law into effect so that it cannot be repealed. The plan is very simple and the injunction is temporary. The law would only last for 30 days. The law seems fairly innocent. For 30 days you need to make your petitions to the king only. After 30 days, life will return to normal.
The Response (6:10-13)
I want us to carefully observe verse 10. When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where his windows were opened, got down on his knees three times a day and prayed to God, just as he had done before. Please think about Daniel did. Read it again and think about Daniel did. What was Daniel thinking? If you have read this text before, have you ever wondered what Daniel was thinking? What is Daniel doing? What is going through his mind?
The officials of the land determined that for 30 days people should only make their petitions to the king and no one else. The decree was only for 30 days. Think about all the things Daniel could have changed to conform to the government’s rule. Daniel could have closed his windows so that no one would know that he was still praying to his Lord. Daniel could have lessened the frequency of his prayers. He did not have to pray three times a day. Where do the scriptures say that you have to pray three times a day? He did not have to do that! He could have prayed less each day to avoid detection. Daniel could have prayed quietly in his heart and not aloud so that others would not know he was still praying. Daniel could have stopped praying altogether. It was only 30 days that he would have to stop praying and then he could return to praying like he had before. Daniel certainly could have considered making adjustments or modifications to how he approached God.
Rather than making any modifications or justifications, Daniel returns to his home and continues to do “just as he had done before.” The injunction clearly stated that petitions were only to come to the king or else be thrown into a den of lions. Yet Daniel does not seem to hesitate for a moment. Daniel hears the injunction, goes home, and prays. Why wouldn’t he just stop praying for 30 days? Why wouldn’t he just change how he prays? Why doesn’t Daniel try to figure out a way to obey the government order while still obeying God? When the charge is made against Daniel, they state that he “pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day” (6:13 ESV). Daniel changes nothing. It is amazing. Daniel changes nothing. He does just as he did before. So what was Daniel thinking?
What Was Daniel Thinking?
First, Daniel understood that we obey the government until it conflicts with our faith. It is clear from Daniel 6 that Daniel obeyed his king and government in all he did. Daniel had distinguished himself in the kingdom so that no charge could be found against Daniel by his opponents (6:3-4). Daniel was not a disobedient person. But when the law was given which meant that it would be illegal for Daniel to pray to his Lord, even though it was a temporary order, he could not obey the government. He could not change anything that he had done in his worship, service, and love for his God. This is a very important principle for us to understand. Yes, we are called to obey the governing authorities because they are given to us by God (cf. Romans 13:1-2). But the scriptures are filled with instances where God’s people disobey the governing authorities because it goes against God’s will.
The Hebrew midwives are praised for not carrying out the orders of Egypt to kill the male babies when they are born (Exodus 1:17-20). Rahab does not carry out the orders of the city, to turn over the Israelite spies (Joshua 2:4-6). Daniel’s three friends disobey the order of Babylon to bow down to an image (cf. Daniel 3:16-18). The apostles were directly told by the governing authorities of Jerusalem to not talk about Jesus (Acts 4:17-18; 5:28). But the apostles made a very important response, “We must obey God rather than people” (Acts 5:29). We are being faced with a challenge of faith right now. Two weeks ago the mayor of New York City said that if people went to worship, he would permanently close those churches. Governors in various states have declared that you will be fine or arrested if you go to worship God. About four weeks ago an arrest did happen in the Tampa area for holding worship services. Even churches that are maintaining social distancing guidelines are being threatened. Even churches where they are staying in their cars and listening to a sermon on FM transmitters have been targeted by the police and officials. We need to check our faith at this moment and ask ourselves if we are going to obey God or if we are going to obey people. Are we going to cave to social pressure and scorn or follow our faith? Being prevented from worshiping God is no longer a theoretical that we have talked about in the pews for years. Now various authorities are saying not to worship and breathing threats if you do. We must look at God as Daniel did. We cannot change what we are doing for God and we must obey God rather than people. We will obey the government as long and as far as we can until it conflicts with our spiritual pattern with God. This is why Paul instructed Timothy to pray for our leaders and rulers so that we can live a quiet and peaceful life with the goal of spreading the knowledge of the truth about Jesus (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Second, Daniel understood that God was more precious than life. Daniel shows that he was willing to die for the ability to continue praying to his Lord three times a day. It is a challenging thought: Daniel would rather die praying than live not praying for 30 days. Daniel would rather die maintaining what he had always done in his worship and devotion to the Lord than live by changing his spiritual routine. Do we feel as strongly about our relationship with God as Daniel did? If we were told to not pray for 30 days, would this be a problem for us? Prayer is supposed to be so vital to us that we would never consider stopping. Worship is supposed to be so vital to us that we would never consider stopping. Everything about God is so critical to our lives that we would never change, alter, or stop what we are doing. God was more precious than life to Daniel. This is why the apostles died for following and proclaiming Jesus. This is why the Christians in the first, second, and third centuries died for their faith. They understood that God was more precious than life.
Life is not the highest priority; faithfulness is. Faithfulness is our highest priority. Life has never been the highest priority. We gave examples earlier in this lesson of that truth. This is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians Christians in 1 Corinthians 7 about their impending crisis and why they would want to not marry at that time. Their faith was going to be challenged and protecting life is not our highest priority. Faithfulness is our highest priority. But Paul knew that holding to that truth was harder when you have a spouse and family. Faithfulness to God is the priority. We must be willing to die being faithful than living being unfaithful. Daniel would rather die praying than live not praying for 30 days.
Third, Daniel understood he belonged to a different kingdom. He lived in the kingdom of Persia but he was a citizen of the kingdom of God. He knew that he belonged to a different kingdom. We cannot be ashamed of this truth or hide this truth. We belong to the kingdom of God and not the United States of America. We live here but obey God because we belong to God. This faith will be tested and Jesus knew this.
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26 ESV)
Daniel shows that God is to be our very lives. Jesus is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat (cf. Isaiah 55:1-2; John 4:13-14, 32-24; 6:55-56). We would rather die than have any aspect of our spiritual life be subtracted from us. Daniel was willing to be thrown to the lions and his friends were willing to be thrown into the fiery furnace because God was their treasure and their very lives. They belonged to a different kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, and so do we when we walk by faith like these.