He distinguished himself in his service to the point that Darius contemplated making this twice captive (taken by Babylon and now a captive of the Medo-Persian empire) slave a ruler over the whole realm. Daniel we are told had an excellent spirit, that is, he applied himself faithfully to do his duty to God and the King. He was loyal. He trusted that God was in control. And he did his part to be a good citizen, even in a corrupt political environment.
This excellence led to envy from the other governors and the satraps who were accountable to them. In fact, being accountable to a slave was really irritating these rulers. They determined to investigate Daniel closely to see what they could find to accuse him, smear him, or otherwise discredit him and have him deposed from this position.
But they could not find any fault. Daniel was not perfect, but he was faithful. And they could not dig up any dirt on him to accuse him before the King. They therefore determined that if they could not discredit him or find fault with him then they would have to hit him where they knew he was the most faithful, in the worship of his God.
These evil men devised a plot and persuaded the King, appealing to his pride, to pass a new law. In honor of King Darius, no one was to pray to or worship another deity or any other man for thirty days. These “Thirty Days of Purpose” served one goal – catching Daniel as he broke the new law. Anyone who broke this law would be put to death.
As surely as Daniel was faithful and obedient, they knew they could catch him if they outlawed the worship of God. Daniel was too predictable. The thing that made him an excellent servant and a powerful ruler also made him an easy target for these envious men.
After Darius signed the law, a law which could not be reversed even by his own hand, Daniel went home and did what he always did. He prayed. He did not flaunt it. But he did not hide it. He knew the cost, but was not swayed in the least to give up praying to God. No threat, no plot, no scheme could deter him in his devotion to fellowship with his God. Notice, he did not lobby against the King, petition for his rights, protest the discriminatory rule, or engage in public debate over the merits of this legislation. He simply obeyed God and did what was right. He obeyed God rather than man.
He was caught almost immediately. He was brought before Darius, charged with breaking this law, and sentenced to death. Darius tried to spare him but the law was clear and Darius knew he had been duped. The appeal to his pride had blinded him to the truth that he was being used to destroy Daniel. He did say to Daniel as he was being cast into the den of lions, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.”
Indeed, God did do what Darius and what Daniel trusted Him to do. He shut the lions’ mouths. There in the dark, sealed in the den for the night, Daniel should have been devoured and ripped to shreds. He should have been dead in minutes. There should have been little left in the morning.
After a restless night of mourning and fasting, King Darius went to the den early and cried out to see if there was any sign that Daniel had lived through the night. Daniel replied that his God had sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths and that he had been spared. He was innocent before God and before the King.
Notice, Daniel did not resent the evil men who plotted against him. He did not lash out in pride, responding in bitter hatred because of this sinful scheme. He was innocent before God and men. And God spared his life and preserved him. He suffered no injury.
Darius, relieved, and angered by the deception of the accusers, had Daniel pulled up from the den. Then he had the plotters who had accused Daniel, along with their entire families, thrown into the den. It is accounted that this large group of people who had entangled the King in their plot did not hit the ground before they were dead. The lions killed every single one of them immediately.
After this event, the King wrote a letter to all his subjects declaring the truth that Nebuchadnezzar had learned early in Daniel’s career. Daniel’s God is the living God and His Kingdom is forever.
No matter what men do, God reigns. No matter what sinners plot, God will be with His people. And because of the blood of Christ we, His people, can stand before Him in innocence. In this lesson of excellence, envy, and execution, there are numerous lessons for our everyday lives. This message, titled “Delivered from the Den” will take us through this familiar story found in Daniel 6. To learn more, join us Sunday at 10:30.