May 20, 2018
Pastor Bryan Watson
Good morning. Please open your Bibles, if you will, to Daniel Chapter 6. Our scripture passage for today is found in Daniel 6:22 – “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.”
Today, I am going to speak to you from Daniel 6. I have titled this sermon, “Kitty-Cornered.” This is the famous story, often delivered as a children’s story, about Daniel in the lions’ den. Although, as we will come to see, these aren’t your ordinary cartoon-like kitties, and this really isn’t a children’s tale. Also, this is the last historical narrative that I will be speaking about in Daniel. After this, the book of Daniel shifts dramatically to Daniel’s prophetic visions, and so we will be unpacking those in the weeks ahead.
Daniel 6 actually begins at the end of Daniel 5. As you recall, Belshazzar, the final Babylonian king, is having his grand party in the face of an imminent invasion, including his act of spitting in the eye of the God of Israel by having his party-goers drink from the Jewish temple treasures. Suddenly, a hand appears and delivers a message for Belshazzar. And the message, interpreted by the long-forgotten prophet Daniel, was that God was finished with Belshazzar. That very night, Belshazzar was slain, and in walks Darius the Mede, a proxy for the Persian king Cyrus the Great. In the blink of an eye, without even firing a shot, the Head of Gold; the Babylonian Empire; falls and gives way to the chest and arms of silver, the Medo-Persian Empire.
Yet, through this, God preserves His people through the rise and fall of empires, demonstrating His provision through the fact that Daniel maintains prominent positions in BOTH kingdoms.
You know, we worry about the future of Canada; and we worry about the future of America. And rightfully so. But in reality, what happens with these nations is insignificant in the light of God’s plan for humanity.
Isaiah 40:15 says “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”
The nations are truly insignificant. A drop from a bucket. A speck of dust on a scale. They don’t factor in at all! But God’s plan drives right through all of that, regardless of which flag is flying where! We need to focus on “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”, because He’s going to take care of all that other stuff that we see in the news.
Through all the ebbs and flows of the nations, we see how God used Daniel to preserve the Jews in Babylon until their appointed return prophesied by Jeremiah.
Now, I just want to talk a little bit about Darius. Who exactly was Darius the Mede, anyway? There are several viewpoints on this, including that he was Cyrus himself, or a general by the name of Gubaru. The fact is, as of this date, there is no archaeological evidence for the existence of Darius the Mede. In fact, critics say that Darius never existed, and the entire Book of Daniel was a work of fiction.
On the other hand, there is another group of people who believe that Darius the Mede was the historical Cyaxeres II. This makes some sense based on part of the family tree of Cyrus the Great, which Gary is going to put up for us now. Follow with me now:
Cyrus the Great’s father was Cambyses I. He was a Persian king, and therefore, it follows that Cyrus would become a Persian king himself.
Cyrus’ mother, however, was a Mede named Mandane. Mandane had a brother, Cyaxeres II. This man, Cyrus’ uncle, was a King of the Medes. It is this man who several historians believe is Darius the Mede.
As we’ve seen several times throughout history, it is not unusual for a person to have 2 different names. Daniel was known as Belteshazzar. Jacob was Israel. Abram became Abraham. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul. So it shouldn’t be too remarkable to consider the possibility that Cyaxeres II was also known as Darius.
This fits perfectly with the description of Darius and the alliance with Cyrus to form the Medo-Persian Empire. Darius is older than Cyrus, and would make a perfect proxy king at the beginning of the Persian takeover of Babylon, while the younger Cyrus was tying up a few loose ends somewhere else. And this theory is supported by the Biblical commentaries of people like John Calvin, Adam Clarke, and others. It is also supported by the Greek historian Xenophon, and also by Berossus, who was a Babylonian historian born around 340 BC. In addition to being an actual Babylonian historian, Berossus was an astronomer, an astrologer, and he also established a school of astrology. He is credited with inventing the semi-circular sundial. His works are referenced by Pliny the Elder and Flavius Josephus, among other historians. So this was a smart man… an intelligent man. He also lived a mere 200 years after Darius and Cyrus’ reign in Babylon, so I am comfortable with his take on the situation.
Given Daniel’s amazing track record on matters of history, if Daniel says that Darius the Mede was a real person, then I’m going believe that he was a real person, and that maybe people just haven’t scratched around in the dirt enough over there to find what they were looking for. As far as this Pastor is concerned, Daniel called him Darius, so Darius it is!
In verse 1 , we get a picture of Darius as a skillful administrator. We see that he sets up 120 satraps, or provincial governors, over the newly acquired Babylonian territory. In verse 2, Darius also sets up 3 governors to rule over the satraps, with Daniel being 1 of the 3 governors. Obviously Daniel is right in the middle of God’s plan for Israel. How else can you explain a captive boy becoming a Prime Minister of the most important empire on earth, and later on 1 of 3 governors of the very empire that overthrew the previous empire that he was the Prime Minister of? Amazing! And a testament to Daniel’s skill and personality to be able to demonstrate such leadership for various kingdoms.
In verse 3, we see that Daniel is outperforming his peers, and the king recognizes it. It says that Darius was thinking about giving Daniel another promotion and putting him in charge of all of Babylon. This, and yet Daniel is pushing 90 years of age by this point! That should encourage all of the people with grey, white, or no hair in here today that God still has a purpose for us, and He’s expecting us to fulfill it!
But as is often the case, Daniel’s success leads to envy amongst the peer group, and so in verse 4 we see the governors and satraps looking for something that they can blame Daniel for. Now, the word used here is plural, and since there are only 3 governors, and Daniel is one of them, that means that both of the other governors, along with an undisclosed number of satraps, were conspiring against Daniel. But they couldn’t find anything to pin on him “because he was faithful. Nor was there any error or fault found in him.” Like John MacArthur said, “when a man is 90 years old, and he gets all of the people in political office around him digging around to try to find something and they come up zero, that’s an honorable man.”
But these governors and satraps aren’t idiots. Verse 5: “We shall not find any charge against Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” O, that that would be said about me!
Verse 6 says that they “thronged before the king.” It’s always easy to be a rabble rouser when you have company. Gossip. Protests. Pride parades. As despair.com puts it:, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” And here they go with the flattery: “King Darius, live forever!”
Verse 7, they continue their lament to Darius, “All the governors of the kingdom…” well, that’s a lie. Daniel was a governor, and I don’t think he was in agreement. I don’t think he was even consulted! But the rest of them, and the satraps, and other officials conspired together to come up with the idea of a law that nobody could pray to any god except Darius for 30 days. Talk about flattery! O Darius, we want YOU to be god for 30 days. Why only 30 days, I have no idea. Maybe he turns back into a pumpkin on day 31.
In verses 8 and 9, they continue to implore Darius to sign the decree, and so he does. And according to Persian law, once the king signs a decree, even he cannot change it. Click… the trap is set.
So, how did Daniel respond to the law to not pray to any God except the king? Verse 10 says he prayed. To God. Just like he’d always done. You know, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this is exactly what Solomon was referring to in 2 Chronicles 6:36-39 - 36 “When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near; 37 yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness’; 38 and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: 39 then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.
Even Solomon prophesied.
Under the threat of death of being ripped to shreds by lions, Daniel went and prayed, just as he’d always done. That’s how important Daniel regarded prayer to be. We could take a lesson from that.
Verse 11, the men assembled and found Daniel praying. How did they know their trap would work? Because Daniel had a track record of being faithful to God, and he was consistent in the practice of prayer. They knew where to find him, and they knew when to find him.
In verse 12, they run to the king in order to make sure they trap the king in his own words. “Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, 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 does not alter.”
Verse 13. Cue the whining: So they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah,” Now why would they say that? He’s been there for 70 years already. Their venom for the fact that he is in authority over them is spilling over! That foreigner…“does not show due regard for you, O king,” Really? Is that true? Daniel has served with faithfulness through his entire life in Babylon… “does not show due regard for you or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
Verse 14. “Then the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself.” At that point, Darius knew exactly what had been going on all along, and he knew he walked right into the trap. You know what I appreciate? He took responsibility. He was mad at himself for being so STUPID. He let his pride lead him astray, and he knew it!
“He set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him.” Daniel was to be executed at sunset, so Darius had a bit of time to try to find a way to save Daniel.
This whole time, Daniel is silent. He doesn’t defend himself. He’s placing himself into God’s hands and letting God be his defender. Me? I’d be pleading my case something fierce. Getting eaten by a lion just isn’t on my bucket list, if you know what I mean. But really, Daniel is guilty of breaking the King’s decree, and he knows it, even if it is a sham. So he remains silent. Like Christ, he is dumb before his shearers and opens not his mouth.
Verse 15, Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed.” You know, these guys are pretty gutsy. They know the king is mad. They know the king has spent an entire day trying to save Daniel. Yet they still have to poke, poke, poke, until they get their way. But they are right about one thing: there are no loopholes. Daniel is doomed.
Verse 16 - “Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions.”
Folks, these aren’t pussycats. These are lions. Hungry lions. Man-eating lions. Lions purposely starved for the purpose of conducting a horrible execution. Daniel is a dead man.
Verse 16 continued… But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” Now WHERE did Darius get THAT? I’m confident that Daniel, in the course of his day job, had a testimony, combined with excellence in his work, that rubbed off on Darius.
Verse 17. Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed. Sound familiar?
Verse 18. Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. Darius spent the entire night pacing back and forth. He didn’t eat. He didn’t listen to music. He didn’t watch any sports on TV. He fretted. What a long night for the king.
Verse 19. Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. Hoping; wishing that Daniel was ok, but probably expecting the worst.
Verse 20. And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” That’s quite an acknowledgement for a pagan king to be ok with the fact that Daniel’s ultimate loyalties lie elsewhere. Especially considering that the very reason we are in this situation is because Daniel disobeyed the king’s order to worship the king alone.
Verse 21. “Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever.” I’m not sure I’d be quite so prim and proper with Darius after surviving a night in a den of lions. “I’m fine. Now get me out of here!” is probably what would be on my mind. But Daniel respected Darius, and the way he greeted Darius here is a lot different from the way Daniel addressed Belshazzar in Chapter 5.
Verse 22, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths,” and, I suppose, took care of their paws too, because they could have ripped him to shreds. “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.” Daniel drives home his point.
Verse 23, Now the king was exceedingly 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 injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.
But it doesn’t always happen that way, does it? Believing in God doesn’t mean that the lions aren’t going to eat you. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is filled with the stories of people who died for their faith. And we see it played out the Voice of the Martyrs ministry every day. The issue is that we accept God’s will. If it is to live, it is to live. If it is to die, it is to die. Either way, we win. As Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Verse 24. And the king gave the command, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions—them, their children, and their wives; and the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den.
Such an awful end to these schemers. And to those critics who think that Daniel survived because the lions were old, or weren’t hungry… they were hungry! They were killers! And Darius’ wrath was great.
Verse 25-27. Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth:
Peace be multiplied to you.
I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
For He is the living God,
And steadfast forever;
His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed,
And His dominion shall endure to the end.
He delivers and rescues,
And He works signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
Wow. Darius almost sounds like King David writing Psalms here. And this is now the second king, and the second empire, to issue a decree about God Most High to the entire empire because of the life of Daniel. And what did Daniel do except live a faithful life to the glory of God?
And throughout the Book of Daniel we have seen God’s sovereignty and will played out across multiple pagan nations. As we read in Psalm 2:1-4
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Verse 28, So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
I love the mocking humor in this verse. Remember the accusation: “That Daniel!” So, “This Daniel… he prospered….”
So, what are some lessons we can take from this:
Lesson 1: Who is the final authority in your life, God or man? Remember Acts 5:28-29 “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Here in Canada, I have great respect for those organizations who refused to compromise on their values by checking the box in the summer jobs grant application. We need to pray for those organizations and support them.
Lesson 2: Looking at Daniel, how does your own testimony stack up? Does it glorify God?
Lesson 3: Will you trust God no matter the outcome? Heb 11:32-38. 32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
Will you trust Him no matter the outcome? Amen. Let’s pray.