Prayer Banned! No Lion!
"It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage." Verse 1-2
I suspect this didn't happen overnight. It takes time to discern leadership needs and fill positions. In time, 120 satraps were appointed, princes. They reported to the three governors, one of them being Daniel. Daniel was an interesting choice, he's from the old Babylonian regime. He's also a Jew. All the others are probably Medes and Persians. You might imagine how there may have been some resentment toward Daniel.
By the way, it's been quite a while since Daniel has held a public office. He's a senior citizen at this point. After Nebuchadnezzar, the succeeding kings weren't interested in him. He got kicked to the curb. Neb's grandson, Belshazzar, finally took interest in Daniel after he interpreted the writing on the wall. He even promised him a position. But Daniel wasn't interested because he knew it was very short term. I mention these things to encourage any who might feel kicked to the curb or washed up. Maybe God has you in a waiting place. He will rise you up at the right time to serve among the right people.
"Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm." Verse 3
Look at this, Daniel is promoted above the other governors. Now they have to answer to him: a Jew, an old man, a refuge. I'm guessing that the other governors, and even many of the satraps, had longer tenure than Daniel. They probably had been with Darius a whole lot longer. How does Daniel get promoted over them? Scripture says he distinguished himself above the others.
Folks, that's how it works in ministry. Resumes, training and experience may be helpful, but that's not what qualifies a person for ministry or spiritual leadership. You must be distinguished above the others.
Remember when the first deacons were appointed in Acts 6? The job description was food service and waiting on tables. What were the qualifications? Must have experience? Must be formally trained? No, they had to be a distinguished people. What were the distinguishing factors? They had to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. The same is true in our text here.
What distinguished Daniel above the other leaders? An excellent spirit was found in him? If God's Spirit is truly in you, then you will be different, set apart from others who do not have the Spirit of God. That's what the word 'holy' means. We're different, not because we do churchy things, but because God is in us. And if God is in us, our character will resemble His. Daniel was a man of character because he had the spirit of God in him. That is how others saw him:
We should all seek to have this kind of spirit. People will look up to you, respect you and call upon you. But I must also warn you, some will have it out for you. They will envy you because while God prospers you,, they're getting left in the dust. They're saying, "Wait a minute, I'm more experienced! I've been around longer! I have a degree! I'm more qualified" But they don't have that excellent spirit. They have whiny and self-serving spirits. They may even have wicked and lying spirits. Let's see how these other governors and satraps feel about Daniel's new promotion.
"Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him." Verse 4
This is a very typical scenario. When the spirit of God is in you, watch out. People will lie in wait to find dirt on you. They will want to accuse you. Though Daniel was well loved by his superiors, his subordinates resented him. You might find yourself in a similar situation. You're not alone. The pages of the Bible are filled with men and women caught in similar predicaments. And there are probably many in this fellowship that find themselves in this same spot. And if it's not true of you, I would suspect that the Spirit of God may not be in you. Jesus said, if the world hates me they will hate you also.
Though the other governors and satraps sought to get some dirt on Daniel, they failed. He was squeaky clean. He was proven faithful and faultless. But his adversaries are not about to give up.
"Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live forever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains, 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, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree." Verse 5-9
Daniel had earned a reputation for being faithful - faithful unto God. His devotion unto the Lord was well recognized by all. Everyone knew Daniel to be a man of prayer. That's how we are to be known. If the Spirit of the Lord is truly in you - you will be!
The only way Daniel's adversaries can nail him is by introducing new legislation that would prohibit him from praying to His God. "He's too clean," they concluded. "But if prayer were banned, even for a month, we could take that old, goodie-two-shoes, Jew down."
But how does one get a law like that passed? Well, you suck up to the king! That's how the governors and satraps did it. "Hey, king, we think you're the best. We propose that all prayers be directed to you for a month. We've all talked about it. We're all in agreement." That was a lie. Did they get Daniel's opinion?
Regardless of that fact, the king was quite flattered by all the schmoozing. He certainly didn't want to deprive anyone from paying homage to him. It's what the people wanted. And if they didn't, feed them to the lions! Sadly, Darius' ego grew ten times larger that day. He signed off on the decree. And once that is done it cannot be undone. Now we have an official ban on prayer, public and private, for thirty days.
"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did formerly." Verse 10
I wonder if there were other believers who followed Daniel's example. Or did they say, "Hey, it's only for thirty days!" Daniel couldn't go one day without prayer. This was the secret to that excellent spirit within him. Unless we spend time with the Lord, unless we make that top priority, that excellent spirit will not be found among us. That's what's on the line here. Can you go thirty days without the spirit of God? That's the real question. That's what's at stake.
Daniel did as he always did, according to his custom since as far back as he could remember. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed toward Jerusalem. This tradition began after Solomon completed the temple. As part of the dedication prayer, Solomon prayed that God would hear those who prayed toward the temple. He gave this as instruction to the Jews who would one day be carried off by foreign captors. They were to pray a prayer of repentance and deliverance. That's what we see Daniel doing here.
Daniel also included a time of thanksgiving in his prayers. This doesn't seem like a time for giving thanks when you think about all that is going on in Daniel's life. He's being set up and he knows it. He's an outlaw now. He's committing a capitol offense, punishable by death. But no matter how bleak things may look, God is always worthy of our praise. We're always on the receiving end of a lot of grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. Thank him for that.
"Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spoke before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not." Verse 11-12
Can you believe these squealers? They saw Daniel through the window and shouted, "We're telling!" Then they run to the king, "Hey, didn't you sign that paper with our new prayer policy? The one that promised the lion's den for those unwilling to cooperate?" Darius said, "Yep, it's the law of the land!" You can see these squealers rubbing their hands together and winking at each other.
"Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day." Verse 13
"That Jew, Daniel, has no respect for you!" they sneer. "He prays to another God, not once, not twice but three times a day!"
"Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him." Verse 14
Darius was very fond of Daniel. He's now asking himself, "What have I done? Why did I ever sign that stupid decree?" I think it is at this point he sees that he's been used as a ploy. He's very disappointed in himself for signing the decree and for being so foolish and egomaniacal. Now he's trying to find loopholes to get Daniel off the hook.
"Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed."
The rats tell Darius, "There's no going back. We already got your signature. Your decree cannot be reversed! Now, kiss Daniel goodbye."
"Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spoke and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee." Verse 16
Don't you love this? Darius is trusting the God of Daniel to spare him. He has no other choice. It's out of his hands.
"And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel."
Once the king sealed the stone it was not to be removed. This is how they would seal the fate of the condemned.
"Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him." Verse 18
I don't think this was a religious fast. Darius was too upset to eat or sleep, or even to be entertained.
"Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spoke and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt." Verse 19-22
Now we come to the happy part of the story. Darius seems to have high hopes in Daniel's God. He refers to Him as the living God! "Helllooo, down there!" he calls. "Daniel, servant of the living God! Did your God deliver you?" Imagine how he felt when that voice came back, "O king, live forever! And, by the way, I don't have a scratch on me! God sent His angel to shut the lion's mouths." This may have been the same angel that stood in the furnace with the three Hebrew children in chapter two - Jesus Christ!
Daniel goes on to say, "I'm unhurt because I was found innocent before God." Have you been found innocent before God? I have. I didn't say I'm sinless but God has found me innocent. All my sins were removed once I placed my faith in Jesus. Like us, Daniel is found innocent before God because of his faith, not because of a clean record.
"Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God." Verse 23
See, I told you! He suffered no injury because of his faith. He believed in his God. Folks, it's in the lion's den when our faith is put to the test. We all have faith when everything goes our way. What about when we're being attacked? Do you still believe in your God?
"And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and broke all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den." Verse 24
Their plan backfires, blows up in their faces. Darius wept at the thought of losing Daniel. He can't wait to lose these other creeps.
"Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast forever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions." Verse 25-27
This is a real turn-around. Darius has been humbled. "No more of this business of worshipping me," he declares. "My rule is limited, temporary, nothing! My kingdom will one day fall. Let's worship the true king, the living God. His reign is forever. And he is faithful to save!"
"So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." Verse 28
Daniel prospered because an excellent spirit was found in him. That excellent spirit was a product of his devotional life. Press into God, my friends. Seek Him and serve Him continually with all your heart. An excellent spirit will be found in you and you will also prosper!
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