After a long day at work, Daniel entered his small Babylonian apartment and noticed the curtains gently floating away from the open window. He moved toward the window facing Jerusalem to pray and paused only for a second. A simple question crossed his mind. Should he close the window before praying, or leave it open?
Rarely had such a minor decision occupied more than a passing thought in his mind. But after today, Daniel knew the consequences could be deadly.
It was no secret to his friends or foes that Daniel was a faithful and blameless man. He had always been fastidious in obeying the law, but this new law was aimed directly at him. Would he continue to openly pray to the God he loved, even if it could cost him his life?
It all started when rumors spread that Daniel would soon be elevated to the second-in-command position in the kingdom. His colleagues, who wanted this position, knew the only way they would get it would be to eliminate Daniel as competition, so they manipulated the king into signing an irrevocable law making it illegal to pray to any god but him for thirty days. The consequences of not obeying this law meant being eaten alive by a pack of underfed and angry lions. Knowing the law had been signed, and that eyes were probably on him, Daniel left the window open, got down on his knees, and gave thanks to God (Daniel 6:10).
Daniel could’ve prayed in the privacy of his room with the windows closed. But for him, that would’ve been a spiritual compromise. For sixty-five years, he had lived in Babylonian captivity and risen in rank and favor as a man with an excellent spirit (or more accurately, Spirit). Unlike the other corruptible satraps, Daniel’s incorruptibility made him threatening. His only weakness, if you could even call it that, was his faith.
Yet what the satraps misunderstood as weakness, was Daniel’s true strength. Daniel refused to obey any human law that put him in opposition to God’s law, even if that meant he had to face the lions. And so, despite king Darius’ unsuccessful efforts to overturn his own hastily-made law, they dropped a blameless 80-year-old man into a den of lions and sealed it with a stone.
Daniel’s Answer to the King (1890) by Briton Riviere, Public Domain
It’s hard to imagine a man like Daniel today: a high-ranking public servant with not one skeleton in his closet, not one unpaid parking ticket, not one cent taken in bribes, and not one favor owed to anyone. They had absolutely no way to manipulate him because Daniel viewed obedience to God as more important than his career or his life.
His name, which means “God is my judge,” indicates his uncompromising character. His political enemies prowled around like roaring lions, seeking to devour him with laws he couldn’t obey, but we know how the story ends. God delivered Daniel by an angel who shut the lions’ mouths, while his enemies and their families were cast into the lions’ den and torn to pieces.
This reversal of fortunes begs the question, “Who was more dangerous in this story: the satraps and their evil plot or blameless Daniel?”
Do you know a blameless man or woman like Daniel? Despite appearances, the people who live like that are the dangerous ones to the world system. Not because they have the power to make laws or throw others into prison, but because they refuse to compromise. They willingly face the lions because they don’t care what people think, and they know, like Daniel, that God is their judge. Sometimes these saints are rescued from their lion’s dens, and sometimes they’re not. But they win regardless because they’ll either be delivered or they’ll be with the Lord.
For all the familiarity and fame this story holds in our minds, we must remember that Daniel was a real man, who was confronted with hundreds of decisions that tested his spiritual fidelity over the course of his life. Would he continue to pray publicly in a hostile pagan society? Would he eat the king’s food? Would he interpret dreams? Would he bow down to idols? Would he close the window?
Daniel, a type of Christ
Despite our best intentions to live like Daniel, we know we more often fear man and distrust God. Thankfully, we have one even more blameless, and more faithful than Daniel to stand in our place. Daniel in the Lion’s Den is more than just a Sunday School story. Daniel is a type of Christ, pointing us to the Blameless One who was judged as faithful by God.
Jesus was also thrown into a den of lions when he faced his civil and criminal trials before his crucifixion. The Psalmist, prophesying of the verbal abuse Jesus would endure said, “Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me” (Psalm 22:13). Jesus and Daniel remained silent before their accusers, and were led like sheep to slaughter (Daniel 6:16, Isaiah 53:6). A stone was rolled in front of the lion’s den and then sealed by the king (Daniel 6:17), and a stone that was rolled in front of Jesus’ tomb and sealed by Pilate (Matthew 27:60,66). While Daniel didn’t have a scratch on him (Daniel 6:23), Jesus’ flesh was ripped apart and his body bore all the marks of his sacrifice (Isaiah 53:5). And finally, both men, came out of their tombs victorious and brought glory to God (Daniel 6:26-27; Col 1:18-20).
The lions of God
We can’t help but read this story and realize this was an extraordinary man, whom God used in extraordinary ways. While he’s not mentioned by name in Hebrews 11, he’s referenced in the great Hall of Faith as one, “…who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, and stopped the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:33).
People who live like Daniel are the real lions. Meek and mild, yes. Obedient to authority, yes. Excelling in their work, and earning favor among men, yes. Blameless in their conduct, yes. Willing to bow to the idols of culture, no. Willing to suffer the consequences that may bring? By God’s grace, and with his help, yes. These are the real lions because they are a threat to the world’s system.
Do you feel inadequate to live as fearlessly and uncompromisingly as Daniel? The good news is that we have a true and better Daniel, who was blameless and suffered the stripes of the lion’s den on our behalf. It’s because we love him, that we can open our windows, and live an uncompromising life. One decision at a time.
P.S. Life is made up of tiny, and seemingly inconsequential decisions like, should I subscribe, or not subscribe? That is the question.
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