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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:In the Lions' Den
Text:Daniel 6:1-28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Like A River Glorious

God Be Merciful to Me

Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

In the Lions’ Den”
Daniel 6:1-28
Augustine, the well-known theologian of the early church, in his classic work entitled The City of God, pointed out how all of history is marked by the great conflict between good and evil, between Babylon and Jerusalem, between God and Satan. In the passage we just read, we see that same truth.
We certainly see the hatred of the world against God and his people. The kingdom of the Medes and Persians was a vast kingdom that spread from the Atlantic Ocean in what is currently Libya all the way east towards India and north towards Turkey. Because it was such a vast kingdom there were 120 rulers, known as satraps, who had jurisdiction over the various parts of the kingdom. Above them were three administrators, one of whom was Daniel.
Of the three administers Daniel distinguished himself with what verse 3 describes as “exceptional qualities”, and so King Darius planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Knowing of his plan, the satraps looked for a way to perform a political assassination; they looked for a way to assassinate the character of Daniel.
However, when they tried to dig up dirt on Daniel verse 4 tells us that they were unable to do so. It says they could find “no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” How would you like to have a politician with those qualifications in our country!
However, because they could find no charge against him with his conduct in government affairs, the administrators and the satraps said to one another, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law all of his God.” (5)
They knew that Daniel was a man of prayer. They knew that three times a day he prayed with the windows open toward Jerusalem. His prayer life was a public matter in that sense, and so they went to King Darius and urged him to make that decree – “in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians which cannot be repealed” – that for thirty days “anyone who prays to any God or man...except to King Darius shall be thrown into the lions’ den.” (7, 8)
They came up with this plot not just because they disliked Daniel. At the root of their hatred was Daniel’s faith in God. They had animosity for Daniel and animosity toward the God whom he served and to whom he prayed.
Their recommendation that anyone who broke this law be thrown into a den of lions has fitting imagery. In the New Testament Peter likens the work of the devil to that of a roaring lion. The animosity of the devil and the world are still aimed against God's people, as we so clearly see in many ways today.
Along with the hatred of God’s people by the world, this passage also shows us the nature and power of prayer, even when confronted with the temptation to commit sins of omission rather than commission.
In verse 10 we read how “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.”
His action is remarkable because the edict that the king issued confronted Daniel with the temptation to commit the sin of omission. In that way it was a different temptation than that of his friends, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego.
In chapter 3 we read how they refused to bow down and worship the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded everybody to worship. The edict of Nebuchadnezzar was a permanent edict – not just for thirty days – and it was an edict that would make anyone who obeyed it commit a sin of commission by worshiping an idol. Anyone who obeyed that edict would have to actively transgress the word of God by bowing down to the image that Nebuchadnezzar had established.
But in Daniel's case there wasn't just the temptation to commit a sin of commission but one of omission. And it would have been easy for Daniel to think of excuses not to pray for thirty days. After all the edict was only for thirty days. He could discontinue his public prayers for thirty days and then go back to them on the thirty-first day. He could also pray with the windows closed so that no one would see him. There were many ways that Daniel could have rationalized in his mind how to obey this edict.
Sins of omission are always easier for us to justify than sins of commission, perhaps especially for those of us who know and rejoice in the sovereignty of God. But Daniel did no such thing. He didn't look for a way to evade the edict. Instead verse 10 tells us that he went and prayed with the windows open toward Jerusalem “just as he had done before.”
The Nature and Power of Prayer
As we picture Daniel kneeling there, offering up his prayer to the Lord, we can learn much about the nature and power of prayer. We certainly learn that we are to make prayer a habit. Verse 10 tells how Daniel had a habit of praying at three set times per day. That doesn’t mean that he never prayed at other times, spontaneously, to the Lord; it just shows that he cultivated a habit of regular prayer.
Spontaneity only comes through a practiced habit. We see that in every realm. For example, every Sunday we are blessed by pianists, organists, and sometimes those with other musical instruments and musical gifts. They make beautiful music, and it seems so easy to produce. Why do they make it seem so easy? It is because they have made music a habit in their lives. They have set aside time during the day and spend hours playing music. And because that habit is woven into their lives it becomes a part of them.
Prayer is the same way. The Christian who sets aside time during the day for prayer, will naturally go to the Lord in prayer spontaneously, at any time, because prayer is woven into their life just as music is woven into the life of the musician, or sports into the life of the athlete.
Verse 10 also shows us that we are to make use of biblical aids in prayer. Position in prayer does matter. In this instance, Daniel kneeled in prayer. The position of kneeing humbles us as we come to God in prayer. It helps us to acknowledge our complete dependance on God and our weakness and inability apart from his enabling Spirit.
Verse 10 also notes that Daniel’s windows were “open toward Jerusalem.”  His focus was on God and his enduring city, the heavenly Jerusalem. Looking toward heaven, or looking at God’s creation, in personal prayer, can be helpful. When you are walking on a beautiful day, or even on a day with a brisk wind and dark clouds, consider the world God has made and spend time in prayer as you walk. 
Daniel's prayer also reminds us that no matter what our circumstances, our prayers should always be filled with thanksgiving. Verse 10 is remarkable in that it tells us that Daniel prayed prayers of thanksgiving even though he was a captive in a foreign land. He prayed with thanksgiving even though he knew of a deadly conspiracy against him. Even though he knew of the animosity people had toward him because of his faith, he still prayed prayers of thanksgiving! That principle of praying with thanksgiving is vital if we are to understand the nature and power of prayer.
In the New Testament we have a corollary passage that teaches the same truth. Paul, writing from prison in Rome, expresses no anxiety, but joyful trust in God’s presence and power. He wrote to the Philippians and to us: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:5b-7). Likewise, the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us in Lord’s Day 45 that “prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.”
God’s Eternal Kingdom
This passage also teaches us the sovereign power of God over the transient kingdoms of this world. Daniel was an elderly man when this chapter was written. He had been brought to Babylon as a prisoner when he was a teenager. He had served in the administration of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and now Darius.
What a reminder that kingdoms of this earth are transient! The average world power lasts 250 years, then another nation comes to power until it too declines and is stripped from its power.  Yet God’s kingdom and his rule never end. King Darius finally acknowledged that. In verse 26 and 27 he issued this decree: I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
  “For he is the living God
      and he endures forever;
   his kingdom will not be destroyed,
      his dominion will never end.
   He rescues and he saves;
      he performs signs and wonders
      in the heavens and on the earth.
   He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”
Looking to Jesus
How do we apply this unusual yet familiar account of Daniel in the lions’ den? This passage is, after all, one of the best known passages in Scripture. It has many practical applications for us, but it also points us to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The experience of Daniel being sealed in the den prefigures Jesus being sealed in the tomb.  Did you notice the imagery of verse 17? It says: “A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.”
You recall what the chief priests and Pharisees said to Pilate after Jesus was crucified and buried. They said, “We remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. (Matt. 27:63-66)
And just as the sealing of the lions' den points us to the sealing of our Savior's tomb, so also the deliverance of Daniel from the lions' den points us to the resurrection of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. As we see the power of our resurrected Lord prefigured in the deliverance of Daniel from the den of lions, we should be greatly encouraged knowing that we are justified by his resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus stands as the “stamp of approval” by God the Father on all the redeeming work Jesus has done for us. The resurrection verifies that the Father is completely satisfied with the atoning work of Jesus, both his sacrifice on the cross and his life of perfect obedience which is imputed – credited – to us through saving faith in him.
But the passage also applies to us in a number of other ways as well. For instance, it gives us an example of Daniel being trustworthy and honorable in all things. We have seen how Daniel’s accusers could not find anything against him. Verse 4 and 5 describe how the other rulers were trying to dig up dirt on Daniel, much as politicians dig up dirt on each other today and then smear their character assassinations with innumerable commercials preceding an election.
But wouldn’t it be wonderful testimony if those words in verse 4 and 5 could be said of every professing Christian, including you and me? Consider what powerful testimony it would be if no corruption could be found in us. That instead we were always trustworthy in every single aspect of life, faithful in the “little things” as well as the big, for as Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
You know as well as I do that often professing Christians, including ourselves, have glaring lapses of trustworthiness, of diligence and faithfulness. That is one reason unbelievers love that charge of hypocrisy, because, unfortunately, due to our sinful ways, all of us are in some ways hypocrites. Not so with the record of Daniel. We know that he was a sinner saved by grace; only Jesus Christ has the perfect record that we should desire. But Daniel sets a wonderful example; and as he does so, we are reminded to strive to follow that example even as we follow the example of Christ Jesus. (1 Cor. 11:1)
Yet, as we strive to follow the good examples held out for us in Scripture, we recognize with sincere humility and deep gratitude that we are only innocent in God’s sight through saving faith in Jesus Christ. In verse 22 Daniel describes how he was found innocent – blameless (ESV) – in God’s sight. In the immediate context it refers to his conduct through the false charges made against him, but in the whole of Scripture it points us to the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.
You and I always fail to perfectly follow the good examples in Scripture. But Jesus never failed as he lived a life of righteous perfection to every nuance of his Father’s law and revealed will. If by grace through saving faith you believe in him, you are not only forgiven, but credited with that perfect righteousness of Christ. It is his imputed righteousness alone that makes us innocent and blameless before the judgment throne of God.
This chapter also teaches that sinful plots backfire, if not in this life, then in the judgment to come. In verse 24 we see where Daniel’s accusers and their families were thrown into the lions’ den and killed by the lions. It is always that way: Sinful plots will backfire.  All the sinful plots of this world against God’s people will backfire, if not in this life, in the judgment to come.
It is true, as the Psalmist points out in Psalm 73, that often it seems as though the wicked prosper and get away with their evil plots. But a day of judgment is coming, and if the sinful plots and actions don’t backfire in this life, they will catch up the evil doers in the judgment to come. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7: God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”
A third application: It is better to face a den of lions and be a child of God than to dwell in the king’s palace without faith in the Lord. At first glance one might think that King Darius had it made. After all, he was in the palace; he had wealth, power and prestige.  Daniel, on the other hand, was nothing more than a captive from Jerusalem. In verse 12 he is accurately described as “one of the exiles from Judah.” Yet as the chapter unfolds, clearly Daniel was way better off than Darius.
We have every reason to believe that Daniel slept just fine in the lions’ den. After all, he knew the Lord was with him, in life, in death, always. Daniel had prayed faithfully to the Lord, and entrusted his life to Him. Why should he worry? He knew he was in God’s hands.
Darius, on the other hand, received no sleep. Verses 18 to 20 describe how Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’”
There are a number of Proverbs that begin with “better” and contrast the life of a believer, showing it to be so much better than the life of an unbeliever. Proverbs15:16 is just one of many: “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” You can live in the palace of the king and be far worse off than the pauper who has few worldly goods but has the Lord. It truly is better to face a den of lions and be a child of God than to dwell in the king’s palace without saving faith in the eternal Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Ever since Adam and Eve were deceived by the evil one there has been great hostility towards God's people, just as Augustine pointed out in his classic work, The City of God. We see the hostility of the world unleashed against Daniel here in Daniel 6.
Opposition to believers is inevitable. Jesus himself said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-20)
No matter what opposition you may face because of your faith in Jesus, I trust and pray that you and I strive to follow the good example of Daniel, to be honorable in all things and be a person of prayer. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in all the circumstances of life, just as the peace of God was with Daniel even when he was thrown into the den of lions. Amen.
Sermon Outline:
“For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not
be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves;
He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He
has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” - Daniel 6:26b-27
                                    “In the Lions’ Den”
                                          Daniel 6:1-28
I. This passage teaches:
    1) The hatred of the world against God and His people (1-16)
    2) The nature and power of prayer (10), even when confronted with 
         temptation to commit sins of omission rather than commission
    3) The sovereign power of God over the transient kingdoms of this
         world (26-27)
II. The experience of Daniel being sealed in the lions’ den (17) prefigures
     Jesus being sealed in the tomb (Matthew 27:66). His deliverance from
     the den foreshadows – is a type – pointing to the resurrection of Jesus.
     The passage also applies to us by teaching:
     1) Daniel’s example of being always honorable and trustworthy (4-5)
     2) Sinful plots backfire, if not in this life, then in the judgment to come
         (24; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
     3) It is better to face a den of lions and be a child of God than to dwell
         in the king’s palace without faith in the Lord (18-22; Prov. 15:16) 


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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