First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sunday Sermon Notes (February 23, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Daniel 6:10-18; 2 Timothy 4:16-18
The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is one of the best-known and best-loved stories in all the Bible. Needless to say, little children love it and Sunday school teachers love to tell it. The story has encouraged the people of God for thousands of years. As you can tell, the story is filled with unexpected twists and turns, but God’s faithfulness to His people is evident all the way through.
Before we jump in, let’s remember two important facts. First, Daniel is now an aged man. He came to Babylon as a teenager. All his adult life has been spent serving in the courts of various pagan rulers. Now Daniel is a little bit over 80 years old. Second, He is now serving under a new king named Darius who rules over a new kingdom, the Medo-Persian Empire. The names have changed but the spiritual challenge is the same. Will Daniel remain faithful when the pressure is on?
The King’s Decree As Daniel chapter six opens, Daniel is once again about to be promoted to high office. Apparently, King Darius recognized Daniel as a man of integrity and wanted to make him second in command over the entire kingdom. That’s when the intrigue begins.
At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally, these men said in Daniel 6:4-5, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” This is what his enemies discovered when they examined his life: He was faithful in his duties. He was faultless in his character. He was fervent in his prayers.
Daniel’s One “Flaw”
But Daniel did have one “flaw”; his daily prayer life. He prayed every day at the same time in the same way so that his enemies realized this was where they could catch him. So Daniel’s enemies asked King Darius to pass a 30-day law forbidding anyone to pray except to Darius himself.
Darius signed the law, knowing that it could not be repealed, not even by himself. He had no idea that Daniel was the intended target. Meanwhile the satraps are chortling together. They knew Daniel would break the law. That is, they knew Daniel would keep on praying just as he had always done. Daniel was a victim of his own integrity. He was predictably faithful to God. If he had been a flaky believer, this evil plot would never have worked.
Daniel’s DevotionSo what do you do when you discover that your enemies have passed a law aimed at one person, and you are that person? In fact, how you respond at that point tells a great deal about your character. Daniel 6:10 states, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
“Just as he had done before.” For over 80 years Daniel had prayed three times a day. I did the math and asked myself, “How many times would Daniel have prayed if he prayed three times a day for 85 years?” The answer comes out to over 90,000 prayers. No wonder he simply went back to his room and started praying. An 85-year habit is hard to break. For him, prayer was like breathing. He wasn’t about to stop praying just because he is being threatened.
King Darius now realizes he has been tricked. He likes Daniel and immediately begins seeking loopholes to prevent him being thrown to the lions. But even the king could not repeal his own law because that would make him look weak and ineffective. No, the law must stand, and Daniel must go to the lion’s den. But Darius is rooting for the old man. In Daniel 6:16 he wishes Daniel well with these words, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” What a testimony this is to the reality of Daniels faith. Even unbelievers recognize true faith in God, and they respect it.
Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den, which was a pit dug into the ground with an entrance from the side for the lions and with a huge boulder placed over the top so there could be no escape. It was a crude and very effective form of capital punishment. No one ever got out alive. And certainly not an aged man over 80 years old. Daniel was as good as dead the moment they threw him in or so they thought. As we know from the story, God did it and He saved Daniel.
Lessons for Modern-Day Daniels
As I conclude, let’s wrap up this study by highlighting two important lessons for modern-day Daniels who find themselves facing the lions every day. First: It is possible to live a pure and holy life in the midst of a thoroughly pagan world. Daniel’s story demonstrates that if you make up your mind (or “purpose in your heart") to serve God, to live faithfully, you can do it even in the very center of paganism, in Babylon. There is always a way to compromise for those who want to compromise. And there is always a way to obey God for those who want to obey and follow God.
Daniel managed to survive and thrive in a spiritually hostile environment. In some parts of the world, standing up for Christ means suffering and death. In the United States of America, it means ostracism, ridicule, scorn, being left out and perhaps being passed over. It often leads to tension at home and on the job. Be ready to fight the good fight and to stand your ground.
Second: Let’s remember that when we face our lions, we are not alone. If God delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, he can surely deliver us. Generations of Christians have taken strength from this story because in the end, the hero isn’t Daniel, it’s actually Daniel’s God. That same God is same today and yesterday and forever. He is sovereign over the lions who surround us. Take heart and trust in God. Writing from his prison cell in Rome, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4, “At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me … But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength … I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom.”
But I also want you to know that God always delivers in His own time and in His own way. Does God always deliver His people? Yes, indeed, but not always in the way we expect. Not all our prayers are answered in the way we pray them. Paul himself was executed in Rome shortly after he wrote those words in 2 Timothy 4. Yet, he realized the nearness of God’s presence and that He rescued him, in God’s own way, from the Lion’s mouth. Friends, in the end, we must rest secure that God makes no mistakes and (as King Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way) “everything he does is right” (Daniel 4:37). Glory be to His name. Amen.