DANIEL: FAITH REFUSES TO COMPROMISE

 

Week of June 11, 2006

 

Bible Passages:  Daniel 6:3-5,10-13,16,19-23,25-27.

 

Biblical Truth:  By developing a consistent life of integrity and devotion to God, believers can avoid compromising their faith even when they are under duress.

 

Background:  In 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian commander, came to Judah and Jerusalem to put down Jewish rebellion against the authority of the empire. A few young men (including Daniel) from the leading families were taken as hostages, but the nation was left relatively undisturbed. In 597 B.C. the treatment was harsher. More people were deported to Babylon, including king Jehoiachin and the prophet, Ezekiel. Finally, in 586 B.C. the Babylonian patience was exhausted. The temple of God was burned, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the people were virtually all killed or deported to Babylon. God judged Judah for seventy years (from 605 B.C. to 536 B.C.), a period called the Babylonian captivity. In 536 B.C. Babylon was defeated by a new world power, Persia. Cyrus, the Persian ruler, allowed the Jews to return to Judah. Daniel’s ministry in Babylon extended through the entire seventy year Babylonian captivity and on into the reign of the Persians. Even during the period of Judah’s humiliation God’s voice was heard in the courtroom of the emperor in the person of Daniel.

 

Daniel wrote this book not to glorify himself but to exalt the Lord. In every circumstance, in every crisis, Daniel points us to a God who is sovereignly at work in human history. To say that God is sovereign simply means that nothing happens that is not planned or permitted by God. That is true of kingdoms, and it is true in our lives. Daniel’s God is not a weak, frustrated deity who sits in heaven, wringing his hands, hoping everything will turn out right. He is a God who orders all events according to his own will. The book of Daniel is written in a literary form known as apocalyptic literature which speaks to us in those times when God seems to be absent. The crushed people of Judah in Daniel’s day were saying, “Where is God?” Daniel answers their questions by showing them that, even in a national catastrophe, God is working out his purpose and plan. Daniel is able to resist compromise because of his relationship to a sovereign God. His obedience was simply an expression of God’s kingship in his life. Daniel’s courage to proclaim God’s message came from his allegiance to a sovereign God. He saw the Lord as the one who was King over the earthly kings of Babylon.

 

Demonstrate Blameless Character: Daniel 6:3-5.

 

[3] Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. [4] Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. [5] Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”  [NASU]

 

One of Darius’s first responsibilities was to appoint administrators over the entire territory won from the Babylonians. The 120 satraps chosen by him must have been in charge of all the smaller subdivisions. But over these 120 there were three commissioners of whom Daniel was chairman. The administrators and satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs. Undoubtedly the great majority of his enemies were race-conscious Medes or Persians, and they did not take kindly to the elevation of one of the Jewish captives. The elevation of a Jew to the place of prime minister was so disturbing that they made a thorough investigation of Daniel’s management of public affairs. But all their investigations proved fruitless. Daniel’s integrity was beyond question. The only way to get at Daniel was to place him in a position where he had to choose between obedience to his God and obedience to the government. Somehow a new statute had to be devised that would seem merely political to Darius but would impose a religious issue for Daniel. So they proposed that for the period of one month all petitions and prayers throughout the realm had to be directed toward Darius alone. This not only flattered him personally but also served to impress on the whole population of his empire that they were no longer under the Chaldeans but the Persians. It was proposed that this be done in a most binding way, according to the laws of the Medes and Persians, which could not be annulled.

 

Exercise Undaunted Faith: Daniel 6:10-13,16.

 

[10] Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. [11] Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. [12] Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, “Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?” The king replied, “The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” [13] Then they answered and spoke before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.” [16] Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.”   [NASU]

[10] The new ordinance mandated a very severe sanction: death by caged lions. When Daniel received notice of this new law, which had been enacted without his knowledge, he was faced with a dilemma. It was this prayer-fellowship with Yahweh that had safeguarded Daniel from the corrupting influences of Babylonian culture. To be sure, he might have compromised his integrity by ceasing to pray to God during the month the decree was in effect – or by praying privately, perhaps in the night, when no one could see him worshiping at his window. But Daniel could not compromise. For him the issue was whether he was going to please man or obey God. Daniel had to choose between loyalty to his Lord and obedience to a sinful government commanding him to perform idolatry. So he was willing to risk his life for the Lord, trusting him for deliverance even as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been delivered years before. Daniel went to the roof chamber of his house which had open windows facing Jerusalem. The custom of facing Jerusalem in prayer began after the dedication of the temple by Solomon. In prayer Daniel kneeled, as a sign of humility and abasement before God and prayed three times. In his prayer there was nothing forced or mechanical, but he uttered his petitions as in the very presence of God.

[11-13] A group of the hostile officials had waited for Daniel to pray and then had burst in on him to catch him violating the new decree. The despicable character of the accusers is brought to light by the manner in which they make their accusation. They describe Daniel as an exile, rather than as the appointed head over the presidents and satraps in order that, by calling to mind the fact that he is a foreigner, they may insinuate that he is politically unfaithful to Darius. Furthermore, they first state that Daniel has been unfaithful to the king and then that he has broken the law. The matter is thus presented in as bad a light as possible.

[16] The king is thus forced to carry out the decree which he had made. Perhaps he has heard of the wonders which God has already performed through Daniel and so utters the faint hope that God will deliver Daniel.

Daniel knew at once what the king’s decree meant and where it came from. For thirty days Daniel would need to abandon his customary practice of praying thrice daily before his open window in the direction of Jerusalem, or else be thrown into the den of lions. All he had to do was stop praying openly for one month. Indeed, he could be subtle. He could close his window so his prayers would not be seen or, better yet, pray in bed at night. He could let his devotions slide for a month. We may think like that. But not Daniel. He was not going to allow his relationship to God to change regardless of the shifting circumstances. Here was one man standing alone in the midst of an utterly pagan culture. But he knew that there was a true God, and he knew who that true God was. He knew that God was powerful. He knew that God could deliver him, if he chose to do so. Above all, he knew that obeying and serving the one true God had to be the supreme goal in his life. Instead of hiding his convictions, Daniel knelt before his window in the sight of Babylon and prayed as he had always done.

 

Trust God Fully: Daniel 6:19-23.

 

[19] Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. [20] When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” [21] Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! [22] My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.” [23] Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.  [NASU]

 

So anxious was Darius for Daniel’s safety that he spent the night fasting and unable to sleep. The king arose at dawn and rushed to the lions’ den. He called out Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions? Notice the emphasis on Yahweh as the living God. Clearly the king regarded Daniel’s fate as a test of whether his God was really alive or just an unproved supposition, like all the deities the non-Jews worshiped. If the Hebrew God really existed, he would preserve his faithful servant from death. Then Darius heard Daniel’s voice from the bottom of the pit telling how God has sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths. With great joy Darius had Daniel brought out of the lions’ den and examined for any injuries. Not a scratch was found on him. The evidence was incontrovertible. The God Daniel had remained faithful to had kept him safe.

 

We must say in all honesty that God does not always rescue his servants in this fashion. God calls some to win by living. Others are called to win by dying. But in life or death God rules and we are called to serve him. Will we do it? The world needs those who know God and who will live for his righteousness even when the entire culture turns ferociously against it.

 

Give a Powerful Testimony: Daniel 6:25-27.

 

[25] Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! [26] I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; For He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever. [27] He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”   [NASU]

 

Much as Nebuchadnezzar had done in chapter 3 and again in chapter 4, Darius issued a decree to be sent throughout his entire domain calling on men everywhere to fear the God of Daniel. The inscription in which the decree is addressed to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land is quite similar to Daniel 4:1. In both cases, the king took for granted that the world was at his feet, and he used extravagant language including the entire world in his address. The expression May your peace abound is identical to that found in Daniel 4:1.

 

The decree was short and to the point calling on men everywhere in the kingdom of Darius to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel. Daniel’s God is described as the living God, one who is steadfast, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed and whose dominion continues to the end. The point is that in a rapidly changing situation God does not change. In substantiation of this ascription of sovereignty and power, God is described as one who is able to deliver and rescue, who is able to work signs and wonders both in heaven and in earth, and who has confirmed this by delivering Daniel from the power of the lions. Once again throughout the world of Daniel’s day, the tidings were carried of the great God who is living, powerful, everlasting, and greater than the gods of the pagans.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1.   What do we learn about Daniel’s character from the results of the investigation by his enemies?

 

2.   Daniel made no attempt to hide his daily prayer routine from his enemies in government, even though he knew he would be disobeying the new law. Why did Daniel act in this way? What further information does this give us concerning Daniel’s character?

 

3.   What specific aspects of God’s character can you discover in Darius’s decree praising the Lord “God of Daniel” [25-27]?

 

References:

Daniel, James Boice, Baker Books.

Daniel, Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

Daniel, John F. Walvoord, Moody Press.

The Prophecy of Daniel, Edward Young, Eerdmans.