Focus: So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.”… 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 6: 16, 23
While there is a lot of potential backstory around Daniel in the lion’s den (the Persians had defeated the Babylonians and were now masters over the Jewish people, the jealous political machinations of the other officers of the court who saw Daniel as their chief rival, the exploitation of someone’s religious beliefs to get rid of a political rival, etc), I feel God is leading me to focus on an area that is a bit different for this reading.
You can see a pretty sharp contrast between the two focus verses. Because of the abilities with which God had blessed Daniel, Daniel had proven himself to be one of the most capable men in the former Babylonian empire; King Darius trusted Daniel and appointed him to be one of the three leading administrators over the provinces. Daniel’s success and the resulting cut-throat palace intrigue led to the other politicians setting Daniel up to be killed. Verse 14 tells us that King Darius was deeply troubled that he wasn’t able to think of a way to save Daniel. The obvious question is why didn’t t the king just repeal the law he made??? The Persian Empire was highly bureaucratic, and once a law was made, it couldn’t be reversed. As we’ll learn in a few weeks when we read Esther, Queen Esther’s husband finds himself in a similar dilemma when he writes a law ordering all the Jews in the empire to be killed. Verse 16 provides the climax for today’s reading – Daniel was arrested and thrown into the lion’s den. While the most powerful earthly king on the planet at that time (King Darius) couldn’t save Daniel; we learn in verses 20 – 23, that an even more powerful King, God, could and did save him.
I think this is always a good lesson, but it speaks particular volumes to me right now during a hot and heavy presidential election season when we have a variety of politicians promising to save us from a variety of woes. While policy does impact us (for good and ill) and I believe we as Christians have a responsibility to be active in the political process of determining who will govern us, today’s lesson reminds us that trusting in God is the only thing that can truly save us.
We know from just this reading alone that Daniel was a man of great faith who served God even under the threat of death; this raises some obvious questions. Why would God allow someone who obviously loved Him so much face this humiliation and the dread of potentially being eaten alive? Why would an all-powerful God ever allow His servants to face pain and suffering?
I think we can accept that the Apostle Paul was also a loyal servant of God; however, he too faced humiliation and suffering beyond what I can imagine (read 2 Corinthians 11: 21 – 29 for a laundry list of beatings, imprisonments, stonings, starvation, etc that Paul suffered). Paul ends this litany of suffering with verse 30: “If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.”
After asking the Lord to remove something in his life that had long been tormenting him, Paul gives us God’s answer in 2 Corinthians 9 – 10: ‘Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’
Daniel 6 ends in a similar fashion. After seeing that God’s strength saved Daniel when no one else could, King Darius made a proclamation in verses 26 – 27 glorifying God in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had King Darius or Daniel himself been able to devise a way to save Daniel; it was only possible because God’s power was able to shine in Daniel’s weakness:
“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.
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.”
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You speak into and that You act in my life. Please help me to accept with humility and grace the areas where I am weak. I offer my whole life to You so your power and glory can shine through my weakness. In Jesus’ name… Amen