So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve, continually rescue you.”
~ Daniel 6:16
While Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied back in Israel, Daniel continued his ministry in Babylon where he and his people remained in exile. As Daniel had prophesied, the Babylonian empire was eventually conquered by the Medes and Persians, but because of Daniel’s excellence as an administrator and man of God, he not only survived, but maintained his favored status under Darius the Mede and then Cyrus, King of Persia.
Darius exercised his rule through 120 satraps who oversaw the kingdom. Over the satraps, he appointed three administrators, one of whom was Daniel. “Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” Daniel 6:3. In a fit of political jealousy, the remaining satraps and administrators sought to undo Daniel, but they could find no corruption or negligence in him. They finally settled on a way to cause Daniel’s downfall, or so they thought. “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” Daniel 6:5.
The administrators and satraps went to King Darius and preyed upon his pride. They suggested that the king pass a law prohibiting anyone in the kingdom from praying to anyone other than Darius for thirty days. Darius put the decree in writing, and according to the laws of the Medes and Persians, the law could not be repealed, even by Darius.
Daniel was a faithful servant to Darius but more faithful to his God. He disobeyed the decree and continued to pray to God three times a day. His political rivals brought him up on charges and Darius reluctantly enforced the law. Darius was distraught, he had been fooled, but he was constrained by the laws of the land.
You know the rest of the story. Daniel’s sentence was to be thrown into the lion’s den overnight, but God shut the mouths of the lions. In the morning, after a sleepless night, Darius rushed to the lion’s den and cried out, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.” Daniel 6:20-21.
The king then punished Daniel’s rivals by throwing them to the lions, and the lions consumed them before they touched the floor.
In contrast to my mental images of this event, Daniel was actually an old man by the time he was thrown into the lions’ den, probably in his 80’s. Throughout his life he exemplified excellent and faithful service to his king, but he saw God as his highest authority. If I were Daniel and I was in my 80’s, looking back over a life of faithful service, I would probably have been pretty frustrated with God. “God,” I would have said, “what’s the deal? I’ve always been faithful to you, always served excellently, never complained. But now I’m getting thrown to the lions? Are you my God or aren’t you? Where’s my reward? I’m old now, why can’t I just have peace?”
But that’s me. There’s no indication that Daniel complained or lamented his situation. He persisted in faith and in service. God did reward him, and supplemented his already extraordinary life with another tremendous story that continues to minister to us today. I long for a life more like Daniel’s. I pray that it will one day be said of me that there is no fault to be found in me except as it relates to my enduring faithfulness to God in the face of adversity.
Lord, let my faith always persist in the face of adversity. Amen.
~ Stephen J. Peterson