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TEXT: Daniel 6:1-28
SUBJECT: Daniel #7: Life from the Dead
I hate Old Testament sermons! Don't get me wrong, I don't hate sermons and I've loved the Old Testament all of my life, but most Old Testament sermons are bad sermons, because, there's little or no Christ in them. Oh, He comes up in so called Messianic passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, but, for the most part, Old Testament sermons are about men: Good men like David, bad men like Ahab or the kind of men we ought to be, like the godly father of Deuteronomy or ought not to be, like the fool in Proverbs. To many devout and Bible-believing preachers, the Old Testament is all about men.
Jesus and the Apostles knew better. Not long after He rose from the dead, Jesus met some friends on the long walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. In the hours He was with them, He expounded the entire Old Testament, and much to their amazement, it was all about Him. Not just a handful of verses they might use as 'proof texts' but the whole thing, as He said some time before--
It is they that testify to Me.
The Apostles read it the same way. Study their sermons and you'll see they felt no hesitation to preach Christ from any part of the Law, the Prophets, or the Psalms. Wherever they looked in the Hebrew Scriptures, they found the Messiah.
The Early church followed their lead. Some of the Fathers were more fanciful in their interpretations than they should have been, but their instincts were right. Jesus is on every page of the Old Testament, including the one we read just a few minutes ago. In Daniel's going into the lions' den, and coming out alive, they saw a striking picture of Christ descending into death, and rising to new life.
The story begins with a sketch of Daniel's character. He is now an old man, well into his eighties, and he has lived his whole adult life in the service of Pagan kings whose moral standards were low. The Babylonians fell a short time before, and now the Medes and Persians have taken over, with Darius the Mede in charge.
The new king cares about good government, and no one man can rule an Empire on his own, so he appoints one hundred and twenty satraps to run things and over them, three inspector governors to keep an eye on them.
All the satraps were crooked men, lining their pockets at the king's expense, and two of the three governors turned a blind eye to the corruption. But one man didn't. A lifetime of living with crooks had not made him a crook. The young man who refused to compromise his integrity had aged, but he hadn't changed. The king recognized Daniel's honesty and planned to promote him to Prime Minister.
Daniel was not a product of his environment! No one had lived longer in a worse place than he had, but the evil all around him had not gotten into him. After all these years in Babylonia, he still--
Feared the Lord and kept His commandments.
The Bible often warns of the malign influence of bad friends and colleagues, but it does not say we're destined to be like them; in fact, it says the opposite; it says God has--
Predestined us to be conformed to the Image of His Son.
God's will for us to be like Christ--not only His declared will, but His secret and irresistible will has willed it and what He wills will come to pass!
Remember this: You don't have to be like the people at work, like the kids at school, like the family you live with! The Lord has not promised to take us out of the world, but He has promised to keep us in the world.
In Daniel's life, He made good on His word. Because the chapter is not about Daniel's sterling character, but God's loyalty to His people.
THE SATRAPS' ENVY
When the satraps and governors heard of the king's plan, they knew they were sunk. Daniel would hold them accountable for their actions, and it wouldn't be long till they all lost their jobs or went to jail for their crimes.
To save their own skins, they had to find something on Daniel. I suppose they went through his tax returns with a fine tooth comb and hired a detective to look into his private life, but the closer they looked the better he looked. A seventy year public career without a single misdeed!
The rulers were stumped, until one of them had an idea: Daniel's religion could be used against him. He was a man of prayer and he prayed to no one but the God of Israel. If we could somehow make that illegal, we'd have him.
But how do you do it? The Empire was multi-racial and respected all the gods of all the captive peoples. The Persians and Medes were tolerant men and there's no way they're going to set up a Golden Image like Nebuchadnezzar had done many years before.
THE KING'S FOLLY
Still, the Empire was a relatively new thing and Darius wanted to enhance his public image, to unify the nations under his rule.
What better way to do that than to make him sole Mediator of the gods for a month? The people wouldn't have to worship him, but only worship their gods through him, and no one would protest too much because it was a temporary measure, and when the month was up they could say their prayers any way they wanted to.
They take their plan to the king and he signs it into law, into the law of the Persians and the Medes, a law that cannot be changed, not even by the king.
The trap for Daniel has been set.
And he walks right into it with eyes wide open. It is interesting to note what's not in the chapter. There's nothing about Daniel's inner conflict, his sleepless nights of worry, his begging God for some way out of the predicament. He doesn't even consult his friends for their advice.
He simply goes about his business. I'm sure he was a man of prayer all day, shooting off quick requests and thanks to God when they occurred to him, but he had also been a man of public prayer. Three times a day he prayed in his room, with the windows open, facing Jerusalem.
He did this because it's what Solomon told him to do. When the Temple was dedicated about four hundred years before, Solomon prayed that God would honor it forever, and that when Israel sinned and went into exile, the captives would pray toward the Temple and the Lord would hear them and bring them home again.
The Temple was no longer there, but the Temple site was, Daniel had prayed that way for seventy years, and he wasn't about to quit now. Not even for a month.
This brings up a question about Daniel's wisdom. Since you can pray anywhere, and you don't have to pray aloud or kneeling down, why didn't he just pray in his bed or some other private place?
Was he looking for trouble? Was he showing off? Was he thumbing his nose at the law?
He wasn't. Daniel was a wise man, and he knew there was more at stake than his personal safety. If he let the king bully him into silence, other Jews would follow him, and, more than that, he would dishonor God! If Pagan kings pay tribute to the God of Israel, a son of Israel cannot be ashamed of Him!
Am I a soldier of the cross,
a follower of the Lamb?
and shall I fear to own His cause,
or blush to speak His name?
Many of us feel this way, but not Daniel. He will honor the Lord in public whatever the cost, up to and including the lions' den.
THE LIONS' DEN
Word is brought to the king and he feels like a fool. The satraps have suckered him into signing the law for the sole purpose of destroying the best man he's got. He wants to save Daniel, but in the new Empire, even the king has to obey the law.
That evening, Daniel is brought to him and the king escorts him to the lions' den with the faint hope that--
The God whom you continually serve, will deliver you.
To make sure no one breaks him out of the den, he seals it with the royal seal, a seal no one but the king himself can break, and if it is broken, the king will know.
Here the narrator slows down the action so we can see the contrast between Daniel and Darius and how they spent that night. Daniel isn't scared in the least, he doesn't blame the satraps or beg for mercy, and loudly protest his innocence. He simply walks into the lions' den as if he were walking into his bedroom.
The king, on the other hand, is worried sick. He can't eat or drink or sleep or listen to music or visit his harem. You can imagine him pacing the floor, praying to every god in the book, and hoping beyond hope that Daniel will survive the night.
First thing in the morning, Darius runs to the lions' den and cries out--
Oh Daniel, was the God whom you serve continually able to deliver you?
Expecting to hear nothing but lions, he hears a man's voice, with ringing clarity--
Oh King, live forever!
My God has sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him, and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.
Daniel was quickly pulled out of the den and put into the office the satraps had connived to take from him.
THE SATRAPS' DESTRUCTION
As for the satraps? The king wasted no time sending them, their wives, and their children to the lions, who apparently were angry about missing last night's meal, caught them in midair and killed them all before they hit the ground.
Storytellers often end the tale here, but it doesn't end here. It ends with Darius the Mede praising God just as the Babylonian Emperors had done before. The gods of Medea and Persia are highly esteemed, but none of them ever delivered a man from the lions' den, and from this miraculous escape, Darius drew the proper conclusion--
He is the living God,
And steadfast forever;
His kingdom is the one
which shall not be
and His dominion shall
endure to the end.
DANIEL AND CHRIST
A few minutes ago, I said the Early Church saw the death and resurrection of Christ in this story, and that they saw rightly, because it really is here.
Daniel 6 re-tells the story of the whole Bible. It says, saints are always in the minority and that their godliness stirs envy in the wicked. Think of Cain murdering his brother Abel, or Joseph sold by his brothers into slavery, or David disdained by his own family, or the priests of Judah ganging up on Jeremiah, or Elijah the single prophet of the Lord versus the four hundred prophets of Baal. This is a major theme in the Bible.
Another is God's people putting His honor above their own lives and reputations. Think of Noah laboring on amid the laughter or Esther daring to approach the king.
A third is God honoring the people who honor Him, sometimes by delivering them from giants or fiery furnaces and sometimes by allowing them of privilege of suffering or dying for Him.
A fourth is God's vindicating His people in the end, showing they were in the right and their enemies, for all their numbers and arguments and scoffing, were in the wrong.
This is what the Old Testament teaches in general, and what the story of Daniel in the lions' den so vividly illustrates.
The life of God's People in the Old Testament is re-lived by Jesus in the New Testament. While Daniel and the others were good men, only Jesus fully deserves the name, 'Saint'. What did He put first in His life? Not comfort or ease or popularity or human respect, but the will of Heaven was always first. What did His godliness get Him in the world? It got him hated and despised, flogged, punched, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, and buried.
Then what happened? God vindicated Him. When Christians hear the word, 'justification', we typically think of what God does for the sinner who believes in Christ. When a sinner believes, his sins are forgiven and the righteousness of Christ is charged to his account.
This is true. But we've got to remember, before God justified us, He justified His Son. The people of Israel found Him guilty; the Sanhedren found Him guilty; King Herod found Him guilty; Pontius Pilate found Him guilty. But God overturned their verdicts, by raising Jesus from the dead. This is what Paul means when He said--
The God who was manifested in the flesh was also justified in the Spirit.
With the Resurrection of Christ, God has proven Himself just. Experience tells us the scales of human justice are often rigged. The innocent suffer and the guilty prosper.
We don't like this, and God likes it less than we do. Will He ever do anything about it? He will; the judge of all the earth will do right.
Jesus is already vindicated, and those who put their trust in Him will share His victory. God could no more condemn a justified sinner than He could condemn Christ Himself! That's how secure our union with Christ is. Our lives have not bee like His, or even like Daniel's. But on the Day of Judgment, we'll be fully justified and have a complete share in the joy of the righteous.
But Daniel was not the only man to go the lions. His enemies did too and they were torn to pieces by the huge hungry cats. This is the end for all outside of Christ. Not because God is mean or vindictive, but because He is holy and just.
I always cringe when people demand, 'What's coming to them'. I don't want 'what's coming to me' because what's coming to me is damnation. But my Savior, Jesus Christ, took my guilt upon Himself and bore it in His own body on the tree. And--
By His stripes I am healed.
With all my heart, I commend this Savior to you. 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved'.
Amen. Praise the Lord.
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