The Lion's Den
I do not know of an OT Scripture that illustrates better the effect of the Word of God on a believer than Daniel 6. Here is a man who can spend a night without fear among lions. How? Because he has had to do with the living God. He has heard His voice, and his simple reaction is to do His will. Now since this and many other things “have been written for our instruction” (Rom. 15: 4), the question immediately forced upon writer and reader alike is this: What effect has God’s Word had upon me?
Daniel was a man of God. He was by this time becoming an old man but he had never wavered from that purpose of heart (see Dan. 1: 8) that had first marked him out years before. He was a man who clung to God, and who loved, honoured and obeyed Him. Faced with that which would be awful for any mind to contemplate, he felt that to obey God was his safe path in spite of all the consequences. A remarkable judgment, but a sound one!
Let us now look at the details of the chapter. Daniel had a position of authority in the kingdom of Darius. The king had recognised his worth, and had given him the highest position among his top officials: “Now this Daniel surpassed the presidents and the satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to appoint him over the whole realm” (Dan. 6: 3). His behaviour and walk were thus so exceptional that for the second time in his life he was once again put in the remarkable position of being second only to the king himself. This roused the enmity of the others in the court and they “sought to find a pretext against Daniel with respect to the kingdom; but they could not find any pretext or fault; inasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (v4). Remarkable words! What would those around us say of you and me? Here was a man walking in blameless service. It is reminiscent of Paul in Acts 24: “I also exercise [myself] to have in everything a conscience without offence towards God and men” (v16). Daniel walked, evidently, on the same lines. I feel rebuked in reading the account of this man’s life. It was not even that his position was an easy one. He had a high place in the world, and the higher you go the more difficult it is. He prospered because his eye was fixed on his true Master.
There was only one way to get rid of Daniel, and that was through what he believed: “Then said these men, We shall not find any pretext against this Daniel, unless we find [it] against him touching the law of his God. Then these presidents and satraps came in a body to the king, and said thus unto him: King Darius, live for ever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects, and the satraps, the counsellors, and the governors have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, except of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions” (Dan. 6: 5–7). Now look at the man of faith: “And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and, his windows being open in his upper chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled on his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (v10, my emphasis). The Holy Spirit distinctly states that Daniel did not act ignorantly. At the time he bowed in prayer he knew about the new law. He knew he would have to obey the decree, or be cast into the den of lions, and I have no doubt he considered the consequences of his actions. What would modern Christianity have done in the circumstances? Would it have closed the shutters and said, ‘I will not pray here, where everyone will see me’? Daniel would have had no truck with that. It is said pointedly that he prayed with “his windows being open in his upper chamber toward Jerusalem” (my emphasis).
Why did Daniel pray that way? The answer lies in the fact that Daniel believed what God had said. The Bible is not only for soul salvation but for guidance in the pathway ever afterwards. What then led Daniel to open his windows and pray in the direction of Jerusalem? He was acting on the Word of God. When Solomon dedicated the temple he prayed in regard to the nation that “If they have sinned against thee (for there is no man that sinneth not), and thou be angry with them, and give them up to the enemy, and they have carried them away captives unto a land far off or near; and if they shall take it to heart in the land whither they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done iniquity and have dealt perversely; and if they return unto thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, whither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land which thou gavest unto their fathers, and the city that thou hast chosen, and the house that I have built unto thy name; then hear thou from the heavens, from the settled place of thy dwelling, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their right, and forgive thy people their sin against thee” (2 Chron. 6: 36–39, my emphasis). A captive in the land of captivity, Daniel would know all about this prayer. In Daniel 9 you get him confessing his sin and the sin of his nation, but here it is simply that he went to his house “his windows being open” to pray “toward Jerusalem” (Dan. 6: 10). He was acting in accord with the divine instruction.
What would the half–heartedness of the present day have suggested? ‘It would be a good idea Daniel, to go where no one will see you. God will hear you just as well in a back room as in the front’. ‘Ah, no’, Daniel says, ‘I must look towards the city, and the house of God, no matter who sees me’. I have no doubt he knew he would be seen, but he said, in effect, ‘I cannot help that. God has told me to pray that way. I cannot pray in any other direction than towards Jerusalem if I am to expect an answer to my prayers, and I am not going to budge one inch from the Word of God whatever the consequences’. Nor is that all. He prayed “as he did aforetime”(my emphasis). He was not driven to his knees by the emergency, nor was he driven from being a prayerful man just because it was a moment of intense difficulty. Prayer was an integral part of Daniel’s life. Evil men might scheme his downfall, but he would proceed as before. The man could not be moved from the pathway of obedience to his God. And so “those men came in a body, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God” (v11).
“Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast [him] into the den of lions” (v16). Imagine the scene as the man of God is laid hold of, and cast into the lion’s den. Well might his heart have been afraid, but no, for the fear of God was in it instead. He had walked with the living God from his youth, and of one thing I am certain—the living God went with him to the mouth of the den that day. Once again it reminds me of Paul: “At my first defence no man stood with me, but all deserted me … But the Lord stood with [me], and gave me power … and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim. 4: 16, 17). As Darius said (though his faith did not match his words): “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will save thee” (Dan. 6: 16).
Scripture is silent as to what transpired that night. We are only told that God’s angel was with Daniel in the den—no doubt a visible manifestation of God’s presence—and that the lion’s mouths were shut (see v22). Picture the scene. There he is, a feeble and aged man, surrounded by hungry lions. What chance has he got? But he is not alone. The One who silenced the wind and the waves (see Mark 4: 39), has power enough to close the mouth of the king of beasts. So it is that Daniel emerges utterly unscathed: “they have not hurt me; forasmuch as before him innocence was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt” (Dan. 6: 22). He simply states what his walk before God had been, and what his conduct had been in relation to the king. “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him”. Why? “Because he believed in his God” (v 23, my emphasis). His faith had “stopped lions’ mouths” (Heb. 11: 33).
Let me now summarise the lessons of this remarkable story—lessons that believers today would do well to heed. Firstly, here was a man who was whole–hearted in his faith. He had neither a selective belief, nor a selective obedience. If an instruction was given in God’s Word, then he believed it, and he demonstrated what he had believed by obeying it. Naturally speaking, there was every reason for Daniel to pray in secret—why bring danger upon oneself unnecessarily? Ah, but God had said that prayer was to be made from the land of captivity towards Jerusalem, and what was the king’s decree in the face of a word such as this? How many Christians today would act as Daniel acted? Too often the Bible is treated like some worldly catalogue from which items are selected or rejected at will. Oh the arrogance and wilfulness of the human heart! We have to do with GOD, and if we really believe that the Bible is HIS Word, then we shall know that our only place is to OBEY it. Few it is of whom it can be said as it was of Daniel “Thy God whom thou servest continually”!
Secondly, here was one who was not diverted by circumstances from the path of obedience. Daniel knew that his circumstances had changed, and that to pray “as he did aforetime” was to invite certain death. Yet he also knew that God would have him continue to pray three times a day with his windows open towards Jerusalem. Thus since he feared God more than he feared man, he went on with his normal practice. He was certainly not unaware of the changed circumstances, but he was not diverted from his pathway of whole–hearted devotion. Circumstances changed, his practice did not. No wonder that the heavenly messenger addresses him as “O Daniel, man greatly beloved” (Dan. 10: 11)! And yet we in our day, and with much less reason, are constantly being told that the teaching of Scripture must be accommodated to suit modern trends! This is being governed by circumstances and not by God, following fashion rather than the Word. Sadly it is the route down which many have gone, and results in the exchange of Biblical Christianity for what, in truth, is really mysticism.
Last of all, here was a man who was prepared to stand alone. Earlier in his life he had companions to share the difficulties of the way (see Dan. 2: 17, 18), but now, at the end it is just Daniel and God. And yet there is no diminution in his faithfulness. Others might have buckled under the pressure (and, without question, it was severe) but Daniel is not swayed. He is no less prepared to stand at the end when he is alone, than at the beginning when he has those like–minded with him. Is there not a salutary lesson here? You and I may never face a lion’s den, or anything remotely similar, but we are responsible to walk as Daniel walked. When halls are crowded with brethren it may be relatively easy to walk in the way of truth, but how much ‘giving up’ takes place the moment numbers fall away! As one has said, if you are not prepared to stand alone, then you are not prepared to stand at all. Be thankful if God, in His grace, gives you companions on the pathway, but your faith must be in God alone. As the old hymn says:
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm,
Dare to make it known!