Daniel: In the Den of Lions

Good morning.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors on staff here at Journey.  Before we jump into our last week here on our study of the book of Daniel – I do want to share with you and update.

  1. The schools are still not open to community usage – and so – we are going to continue to meet here at the Embassy Suites in LaVista through the month of September. We’re taking it a month at a time, okay?  But for the next seven weeks we will meet here.  We will continue to offer two services.  Masks required for all attenders at 9am.  Masks recommended but not required at 10:30.
  2. We are going to try to do a children’s ministry here at the Embassy Suites beginning August 23rd. That’s two weeks.  We will offer a room for Nursery and toddlers.  A room for PreK and Kindergarten.  And a room for grades 1-4.  Grades 5-up will meet in here, but they will have Wednesday nights starting up soon enough for them.
  3. We need your help. We need some people who are willing to help us set up stuff, and tear down stuff.  We need help serving in the children’s ministry.  If you are willing – you can call me or anyone on our team.  Text, email, letter write, speak to us in person – hand write – or smoke signal.  Anyway you like – but we will need to set up a schedule otherwise – it’s not going to work.

Finally- a huge thank you to all of you for your patience and understanding.  For your prayers and for your financial support.  Every dollar you give matters to the health and future of our church.  Thank you for giving.  And for caring, and for helping in so many other ways.

Okay – now – let’s talk about Daniel.  It’s a famous story – so famous that you will be tempted to check out – but don’t do it!  Because this story is rich.

We remember that Daniel was kidnapped from Judah as a teenager by Nebuchadnezzar in about 600bc – and that he was brought against his will to Babylon along with thousands and thousands of other jewish people in what became known as the Exile.

By Daniel chapter 6 – Daniel is now in his 80’s.  The year is about 537bc – The Jewish people have lived in Babylon for 70 years.  By this time the Babylonian kingdom has been defeated by the Persian empire – and so – we have a new ruler over Babylon – Darius is his name – and let’s pick up where we left off.  Daniel chapter 6.

Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province.

2 The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests.

3 Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.

This is an example – he is doing exactly what he was instructed to do – he is living a life of integrity in the city of Babylon and working for the good of the city.

Back 70 years previously – as the jewish people were being exiled to Babylon – there as a discussion – like – how are we supposed to live here?  Are we to be a pain in the neck to our oppressors?  Should we separate ourselves from the Babylonian culture – re-create a little Jerusalem – like New York City has Little Italy – or Chinatown?

The prophet Jeremiah – back in Jerusalem – instructed them with a word from the lord about how they are to live…  And let’s read it because it’s interesting…

Jeremiah 29:4 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 

“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren.

Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.

To me – I think it’s fair to say we’re seeing the Old Testament version of a New Testament teaching of Jesus.  As Jesus begins the sermon on the mount- he tells them – that when we place our faith in Jesus and become part of the Kingdom of Heaven – the Kingdom who’s gates have been thrown wide open to the likes of you and me through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus…  When we enter that right now kingdom – we begin a process of transformation that will turn us into – Jesus says – the Light of the world.

So the principle that we’re reading about here in Daniel is simply this.  People who walk with God will always stand out to others.   Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world…  let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

And so the principle we find here is the Stand Out Principle.  Christians will always stand out.  Because we walk with God – makes us the kind of people who work for Him in all we do – we work hard – we respect authority – we are people of integrity and honesty.  And that makes us stand out.

Now – this must be said – that living a life of integrity – living salt and light – that’s a by-product of knowing that God is with you, and accepts you as his beloved son and cherished daughter.

I say that because there are religious groups out there who target moral people – as if to say – we are a group of good people – and we think you’re good enough to be accepted to the club.  That is religion.  And religion will always backfire on you, because it’s dangerous to ride with a gang of goody goodies.  You will likely find yourself on the outside looking in…

Daniel – because of his faith – naturally and easily stood out to Darius, and Darius intended to elevate him above the others who were governing – and it’s always dangerous to be elevated above your piers in a work environment – you will be targeted by the jealousy of your co-workers.

And that’s what happens…  Daniel – did everything right.  Lived a righteous life.  Good and godly and yet – he is targeted…

4 Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn.

They thought that Daniel was like them, right?  But he wasn’t.  There was no dirt on the guy.

He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. 5 So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” 

6 So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius!

7 We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced.  They appear to be speaking on behalf of Daniel – but they are simply manipulating the King here.

Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions.

8 And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” 9 So King Darius signed the law.

10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.

As usual – Daniel prayed.  Now there is no law in the Old Testament about how many times a day you pray – Daniel had made a habit of praying three times a day – and he made it a habit to pray in the direction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

So the conniving advisors report to the King – uh oh!  Daniel broke the law!  And you signed it!  You wouldn’t want to make a law and then make exceptions, would you?  This bothered the king tremendously – because he had great respect for Daniel.  But he felt compelled to uphold the law.

This brings us to the second principle we find here about how the world interacts with people who live the “with God” life.

  1. People who walk with God will always be strange to others.

Matt 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Don’t miss this statement from Jesus – spoken exactly one verse before he tells us we are the salt and light of the world.

Jesus tosses these two statements out there in the same breath.  You are the light of the world.  People will see you and bless God that you are in there life.  And also – the world will hate you.  You are strange.

Author Timothy Keller says, There is something about Christians that is irreducibly strange.  We are unavoidably and understandably strange.  The world can’t understand us and we can’t get upset about that. 

I’ve always been comforted by a quote I read by journalist Nicholas Kristoff – who has dedicated his life to traveling to the – what he calls – the hell hole sof the world.  And he writes that every time he ever went to a place of great humanitarian need – he arrives to find that followers of Jesus are already there.

And yet – he writes – when I travel to these high class cocktail parties – all I hear is people who have little regard for these Jesus people.  And he struggled to understand the gap – well – he’s seeing these two principles at work in the world.

Followers of Jesus are the salt and light of the world.  And Christians are dismissed and despised and persecuted.  Why?  For the same reason some of you are reluctant to call yourself a Christian.  Because the world looks at Christians as arrogant.  Intolerant.  Why?  Because we think – we in fact know beyond a shadow of a doubt – that there is a God.  And that Jesus is God in the flesh.  And so – we’re intolerant.

And the world that seems to claim tolerance as the most important virtue – cannot see the incongruity of their worldview – tolerance is most important – except for people who are not tolerant.  We cannot tolerate intolerant people. There’s a gap in being able to see that – a natural blindspot in human beings that is a difficult but important incongruity to recognize.

This is how it’s been always.  It’s what threw Shadrach and Meshack and Abednego into the fire.  They were intolerant.

And of course, there is an enemy involved… who is working against followers of Jesus – but it’s part of the natural brokenness of humanity to look at Christians as being intolerant or arrogant for feeling we are right.

We are in the world but not of the world.  We don’t really belong – we don’t belong to a political party.  Followers of Jesus will have to deal with our political system in America that – no matter what party you choose – you will not line up eye to eye on every issue.

It would be good to remember – as we head into the election cycle – that there are followers of Jesus on both sides of the aisle and both will have biblical reasons for it.  And it might be beneficial to even ask them why they are voting the way they are.  Promote civil discourse.  Does such a thing exist anymore?  I don’t know.

I think that one thing ought to be clear though.  You can live a life of salt and light and still be on the outside.  Still be talked down about at work.  Be the target of unfair criticism.  Be seen as arrogant or intolerant – and we just need to be able to not be greatly offended by that.  If it happened to Daniel it can happen to us.

And by the way – it happened to a man much more devout, much more loving, much more honest and good – five hundred years after Daniel – we find Jesus – set up on trumped up charges – persecuted in the middle of the night – and unjustly nailed to a cross.

If it happened to our Lord, we should expect that some will come our way as well.

Well – let’s read the exciting finish…  what happens to Daniel…

16 So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the tomb – excuse me – the den of lions. The king said to him, if you really are the son of God save yourself….  no – excuse me…  he said… “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” 

17 A stone was brought and placed over the tomb.   No – excuse me – sorry about that – the stone was placed over the mouth of the den. The king made the tomb secure by sealing the tomb with his seal – excuse me – I mean – sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel.

18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night.

19 Very early the next morning, the women came to the tomb –  sorry – I mean  the king got up and hurried out to the tomb – lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God!  

Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”

21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king!  22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.”

23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.

Daniel is a foreshadowing of the cross.  You know the Bible has stories that are foreshadows of the story of the cross.  Job – for instance – in the belly of the whale for three days and nights.  Some say Job was one of the earliest writings in the bible.  Thousand years before Jesus.

Daniel – sealed in a tomb?  He’s certainly dead, right?  No – Daniel is alive!  Rescued from death!

Third principle we pick up?  People who walk with God will always be safe in his hands.

Now I want you to listen very carefully here – it would be a great mistake to read the story of Daniel and the Lions den and walk away thinking – or believing – that the moral of the story is that if you trust God then nothing bad will ever happen to you.  That’s not what the moral of the story is here.

Daniel knew that he was safe in God’s hands no matter his fate.  He was safe in God’s hands even if the lions ate him in that den.

Remember – again – Jesus suffered and died a real death on that cross.  So if Jesus suffered – we can count on us participating with him in suffering at points in this life.

But the third principle is – that whether we live or die – we are safe when we walk with God.

Can I bring your attention to something we talked briefly about a few weeks ago when we talked about Shadrack and the boys being thrown into the fire?  Remember what Nebuchadnezzar sees?  The fourth man is in the fire.  The Angel of the Lord.

We talked about this strange Angel of the Lord.  He shows up from time to time and he’s different than all of the other angels ever mentioned.  Every other time that an angel shows up – people naturally want to fall down and worship the angel – but the angels say – get up – I’m not God.  You’re going to get me in trouble here!  I’m just an angel.

But the angel of the Lord is different.  When he shows up he says – like he told Moses at the burning bush – the place you are standing is holy ground.

He shows up in Numbers 22 – the story of Balaam and his donkey (If you don’t know what I’m talking about – you can read it it’s interesting)- and when Balaam sees the Angel of the Lord he bows down before him. – there’s no get up –

And here in Daniel – it’s not just an angel in the lion’s den, is it?  Its His angel.  the Angel of the Lord – once again – when he shows up with Balaams donkey – he opens the donkeys mouth so the donkey can speak.  (I told you its interesting) – Here he shows up and tells the lions to keep their traps shut.  He tells them – no dinner for you, but you’re going to get a big breakfast.

Who is the Angel of the Lord?  It’s a pre-coming to earth as a human being Jesus.  It’s Jesus.  Now that doesn’t mean he is an angel.  They just called him that because he looked glorious – and it’s also interesting – there’s another time when Jesus is talking to the disciples on top of a mountain in Matthew 17 and they said – Jesus appearance changed and his face shown like the sun and his clothes became white as light and begins to speak with Moses and Elijah – why?  That’s how they know Jesus – that’s how they met him…

What’s the point?  Listen to Jesus’ last words – according to Matthew.

Matthew 28:20  And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

God’s in control – in spite of appearances – the ‘with God’ life is available to all of us through faith in Jesus – and it assures us that we never walk alone.

So I’d like to close out our series on Daniel by reading out loud Darius’ decree.  I think it perfectly sums up the series. –

26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.

For he is the living God,
and he will endure forever.
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
and his rule will never end.

27 He rescues and saves his people;
he performs miraculous signs and wonders
in the heavens and on earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

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